The day of the chase. Six hours ago.
The illustrious singer stopped singing. His voice had already left the audience enchanted. The orchestra stopped playing with a final flourishing note. The singer took a bow and left the stage. Outside, Dhanbad slowly immersed itself into a calm and black night. The distinguished host made his way up to the podium to conclude the memorable evening. He was dressed in the blue blazer that he had preserved all these years. The blazer was his identity. It bore the insignia of that institution which defined what he was today. My alma mater embroidered in gold. “I thank one and all for joining me in this celebration. I will retire soon but these twenty five years at office culminating with this lovely evening will never be forgotten.” The host, now in his early sixties, still maintained a robust physique and a warm smile. He quickly made his way down the stage amongst the elite guests who had gratified him by being a part of the occasion. The guests included directors, CEOs and technical and managerial heads of most of the public sector oil, energy and power organisations that operated in the country. The controllers of the blood veins of the nation. The ceremony had concluded and they started to leave. Only the chosen ones shall remain. He moved in and out of the gathering, seeing his guests off and within the next hour, the courtyard was almost empty and his mind was at peace.
The night had settled in and the new moon shone clearly in the Dhanbad sky. The flood lights in the courtyard created ghostly shadows of the few people that remained. They all moved in a group towards the General, for that was the name he preferred to be used among his corporate compatriots. One of them, a short and balding man in a dinner jacket spoke: “we received your message and have been waiting to speak to you. What is it that you wanted from us?” The General replied after a moment of silence: “Follow me for I desire privacy in what I wish to impart.”
The General lead the group away from the courtyard and into the central arched corridor. The red stone walls of the central complex were very similar to the architecture of the School. The elite group formed a huddle and followed the General. They were visibly uncomfortable at this pretence of secrecy. However their respect for the man who was senior to most of them made them follow his request. The General lead them to the southeast corner of the central complex to a small open space. He bent down to the cemented piece of land and seemed to slide his fingers across a rectangular patch. There was a click and the entire rectangular patch gave a upside down spin to reveal an electronic access lock. Access to the crypt. The General punched in the access code and quite predictably, the cemented patch slid across revealing descending metallic stairs. Down the rabbit hole. One of the followers sniggered: “I never knew the General had a taste for theatrics.” The General laughed: “Presentation is something you can never underestimate.” They climbed down the stairway into the basement. It was more of a cellar partitioned into two large rooms. The cemented walls and open electric connections showed signs of recent renovation. The two rooms were connected by an electronically locked doorway. The General exclaimed: “Welcome to my little private space. I call it my Inner Sanctum. As you must have deduced by now, it has been constructed recently. Would everybody be kind enough to join me in my study and begin the conclave?” The General lead them to the room that faced them. The simple study had a large central table with thirteen chairs surrounding it. The Last Supper. The invited guests, twelve in number took their respective seats and waited with utmost curiosity for the General to speak.
The General remained standing.”Questions must be preserved till the end. My brethren, my fellow batch-mates and juniors, this is the utmost honour that I can address you with. The twelve of you are my peers who now control the driving forces of this nation through various public sector organizations. What is even more honourable is the fact that we share the same alma mater. We have toiled for years to make the nation self dependent but to what effect? I ask you, are we the real decision makers of the country. If we are the driving forces then are we the ones who guide the nation? You may accuse me of being over ambitious but know this: the past twenty five years that I have spent in my office, in reality, all my decisions and attempts have been scrutinized and criticized by false leaders of the nation and private western parties and so have yours. When we studied at the School, we had this insatiable zeal of changing the system. I ask you, now we have the power, why don’t we set ourselves to the task now. I propose the onset of a regime in which the public sector workers have the ultimate control and we shall be the forerunners of the movement with the help of our Chinese allies and finally when we take over the government, the power shall rest in the hands of the people who have been serving the nation selflessly since decades. ”
The General stopped. His palms were covered with sweat and they shivered with nervous excitement. He continued further: “This Inner Sanctum that you see is one of the thirteen such locations spread all over the country from where the movement shall be controlled. The other twelve lie at secret locations close to each of the headquarters that you control. Currently the locations are being used to store weapons supplied by our international allies. As you can see, it is a thirteen node failsafe strategy. If one sanctum is discovered, the remaining twelve expand their powers to fill its place. If you see what I see and dream what I dream, then I implore you to enter into a pact with me and you shall be given the control of your own Sanctum to lead the charge.”
The audience stared at horror at this devilish scheme while the General uttered these final words: “We have been dealing directly with the grassroots since decades. Join the charge and I shall give you the control of the greatest Militia ever formed. If the radiance of these thirteen suns were to burst at once into the Indian sky, that would be like the splendour of the mighty one.”
The world spun around the guests as if in slow motion. One of the guests, shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He confirmed: “So, this next room is the weapons storage for this location?” The General smiled and nodded in agreement. A third member, who hadn’t spoken so far stated: “Your master scheme is flawed. Even if we follow you, what is the guarantee that our successors won’t drive the country into total chaos? The present democratic system is designed to prevent this. We cannot risk a civil war. I am sorry but I do not see the sense in this madness. ISMites have been men of power but the only reason that we have been successful is the fact that we have worked in the shadows, in the background. What you propose may tend to a totalitarian regime. We may initiate a socialist propaganda but our successors might always want to assume total control. “
The other members of the conclave nodded vigorously in agreement. However, none of them dared to look at the General in his face. The Genera started to speak: “My dear fellows, you fail to understand my motives- oh wait, what is that noise? Something is going on at the surface. One of my convoys is about to arrive. Maybe when you behold the arsenal you shall appreciate the work that I have done. Come with me.” The General lead the huddled group of ashen faced men to the next room. They followed him meekly and with visible apathy on their faces. The next room was the weapon storage facility. It was slightly larger than the meeting room and was equipped with a modern surface surveillance system. The remaining room was storage to the weapon convoys, waiting to be shipped to Sanctums across the nation. However, none of these interested the present group of onlookers as their gaze was transfixed onto the screen of the surveillance system.
The screen showed a moving object. A grotesque vision. One of the onlookers whispered “It is a man but he is clothed from head to foot. What is it?” The man had just got down from his bike and was slowly walking around the courtyard looking for something. The General’s cold voice shattered the silence across the room: “He looks suspicious. He must have followed the convoy. Gentlemen, you will not leave this place until we have come to a decision. You owe me blood for all that I have shared tonight and blood if not consent is what you will repay me with.”
The guests were visibly shaken at this night’s misadventures did not seem to come to an end. The murmured among themselves while the man on the screen clearly showed signs that he knew where to go for he was slowly walking towards the southeast corner of the campus. He will never get past through my security access. The man now stood over the entry to the Sanctum. His composure was somehow eating into the mind of the General. Who is this man?
To be continued.
On the next installment: The finale.