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GOD of a man

Eternity Versus Eternity

 

“No decision is bad provided one pursues any outcome towards a positive conclusion.”

 

Chapter Twenty Four: Decisions to destiny

Dated: 22nd - 23rd December, 2459

 

Every decision is a choice made out of a given set of options, and every decision is a precursor to a result out of another set; of possible outcomes. The classification of a decision as a good or a bad decision is a retrospective defining of that choice, based solely upon the evaluation of the immediate outcome. Life is too complicated to allow one a largesse of evaluating a vast stretch of it, but often it is just one particular decision that had turned the course of future for them; a single choice, any other outcome to which could have landed them a completely alternate reality. But the real question is; “Could it really be just the outcome of one particular decision that changed the course of one’s life, or was it the follow up post the choice that designed the future for them?” Perhaps it might be better to ask, “Can a person determine their future? Is it that a decision within itself is neither a good decision, nor a bad decision, but merely a choice relevant at the time and in the situation it is made in?”

 

While the answer to the first one is not direct, the one to the second, even though not hard to describe, is subject to social morality and responsibility. The future is a dynamic mix of decisions being made day in and day out, with each decision making a step of the ladder leading towards the end of the life path. The outcome of any one of these can alter the direction the next steps in the ladder might take, but the choice always rests with the individual. So in a way a person can indeed determine their future, to an extent bound by the possible outcomes. Of course it is possible for an individual to make decisions whose possible outcomes will only lead their life in a direction they want it to take, irrespective of which of the many outcomes actually transpire.

 

However, a single decision within itself, and along with its’ outcome, is unimportant. What determines the significance of a decision is the subsequent development of any result that transpires, into a meaningful and welcome direction. A decision might not have provided a preferred outcome at the time of relevance. It might even have created a bigger issue to be dealt with in the immediate aftermath. But a choice can only alter the course of future, sometimes only temporarily, as in a delay to the inevitable, not jeopardise it. What will however certainly jeopardise it is an unwilling protagonist who refuses to stretch their limits and work new avenues out of the fallen ruins. Every setback is an opportunity; an opportunity to improve, improvise and hone one’s skills, thus bettering their future.

 

Men of honour often make judgement calls in circumstances a true warrior cannot run away from. When dignity is at stake, they cannot refuse to answer the call, even if it puts their life and liberty at risk. History is always written by brave. Nobody remembers cowards. It is martyrs like Bhagat Singh, Udham Singh and Chandrashekhar who are remembered. Nobody remembers their dead adversaries. Their decisions might have cost them their lives, but the legacy they left behind helped create two new vibrant nations, and their stories motivated youth into positive action long after they were gone. Who will call their decisions bad? The great warriors of New Saisho face a scenario nothing could have ever prepared them for. All their learning is through first hand first time experiences. They have been forced to make decisions on the call of conscience and intuition. How can their decisions be called wrong?

 

In the close confines of a room, if there is no movement by a life, everything can appear so still as if somebody had pushed a pause button. The little child was comfortably asleep on his mother’s soft bosom, but the wide open mouth of his mother and the almost muted sound of the television reporter gave the room an eerie feel. Elisa’s faint voice could be heard from the phone receiver that was hanging by the side of the centre table.

 

The news reporter was presenting the breaking news as reported from ‘NSS – The Mighty’ again and again, as if to milk the last remaining bits of freshness left in it, “As you can clearly hear ‘The Daily Times’ chief correspondent reporting from ‘The Mighty’, two officers onboard the fateful warship have been confirmed to be involved in an unfortunate accident involving a nuclear device. One of them is the Captain of the ship Captain Aman Ahluwalia, who has a long history of relinquishing his charge in search of thrills, and thus jeopardising the lives and safety of his men and ship. And the other officer, whose rank could not be confirmed, is James Michigan. You will remember how only recently Captain Ahluwalia was involved in another accident that had raised serious questions about the task he and his men had been instructed to perform. The Government and the army alike, are tight lipped about the current incident as well, but our experts on the subject believe the current incident is linked to the mysterious black holes that have been sucking up objects in and around Earth, which they believe to be the likely reason for the emergency evacuation of the suburbs on the periphery of the metropolis. The Government however maintains that the evacuation was done due to a recently discovered fault in the tectonic plate that could cause unexpected sinkholes in the area. Who these scientists are and what organisation they work for, was however not disclosed by the Government. We will now play you the interrupted call from ‘The Daily Times’ correspondent again, and you can clearly notice how he was interrupted midway during the relay of information, by an unknown army officer.”

 

And then the television channel replayed the recorded phone call of ‘The Daily Times’ correspondent, “I just landed onboard ‘NSS – The Mighty’ a couple of minutes ago and already the things are not looking good. Even though I have been temporarily barred from entering the control room of the ship, or to talk to anyone, I can confirm there’s a major incident about to happen. A nuclear device is set to explode in, under five minutes time, and at least two officers lives are in jeopardy. One of them happens to be the Captain of the ship Captain Aman Ahluwalia himself, and another officer whose rank I am unaware of, is James Michigan. How this incident happened, and why our ship is looking for a nuclear device in the first place, are the questions I am yet to find answers to. Is this incident linked to what has been happening elsewhere, that I am not sure of yet.” At this point his call was interrupted by an officer who could be heard ordering him in a stern voice, “Excuse me sir, but you are not allowed to make any phone calls without the Captain’s permission. I need your satellite phone.” The faint sounds of someone physically trying to snatch the phone and someone resisting the attempt could then be heard. “You cannot take my personal phone. I represent the media and this will not go,” were the last words the correspondent could be heard saying when the call got disconnected.

 

The television presenter continued on with the story, “We are trying to get back in touch with the correspondent, but without any luck. We will keep you updated on the issue but let us talk to our experts on army matters, who are with us in the studio right now.” And the presenter started skinning the hair with the discussion panel in the studio.

 

“Krystal, are you there? Hello! Krystal!” Lisa’s voice coming out of the phone’s speakers tried to break the trance Krystal had been lost in since she saw the news for the first time. Lisa tried again, “Krystal, please answer me!”

 

Krystal finally came out of her stupor and picked up the phone to say, “Don’t you worry child, I’ll try and call the ship.”

 

“No use,” Lisa replied, “I’ve already tried calling the ship but either the call is not getting through due to busy communication channels, or no one is answering it.”

 

“Have you tried the headquarters?” Krystal asked.

 

“I just did, but they wouldn’t tell me anything, not even which one of our two men is involved,” and Lisa broke down, “I am his girlfriend and they say they cannot give confidential information to outsiders.”

 

“Outsiders, my foot,” Krystal was straight on to her guns, “I want to know where my man is and I will get them talking. Or I will walk in there and breathe down their necks so hard their blood will dry in their jugulars. You just watch girl.” And Krystal laid her baby on the couch, and picked up her telephone diary to search for the number for the naval headquarters.

 

Communication is the bloodline of a relationship. If it stops, the relationship perishes. If it becomes malevolent, the relationship withers like a flower plucked off its’ shoot. Signs can be confusing, signs might not even be noticed, but honest communication makes sure the two sides are on the same side, and it keeps the nasty surprises out of frame. Silence of one can suffocate the feelings of the other, and suffocated feelings cloud rational thoughts; which leads to irrational acts. And irrational acts can destroy the trust in any kind of relationship. What is bothersome in a relationship is meant to be brought out in the open, to be thrashed and sorted.

 

As Anne waited impatiently on the deck of ‘NSS – The mighty’, her heart was getting pulled in different directions by the burning thoughts about the safety of Aman on one hand, and a badly bruised ego and mutilated feelings of a jilted heart on the other. She desperately wanted Aman to return safe, as much as she wanted to confront him for his rudeness. The detonation of the device had got delayed by nearly ten minutes for some unknown reasons, almost like a divine intervention, thus giving both ‘NSS – The Mighty’, as well as Aman, a better chance to escape from the direct impact zone. And as predicted by Aman, the strong shell of the ‘INS – Ranjit Singh’ made sure the initial shock wave was restricted in its’ reach to a great degree. However, as the darkness had engulfed the seas, and since none of the men on the motorboat, including their captain, had any flares or firearms on them, their search and rescue was taking time. Aman and his men didn’t know the exact co-ordinates or direction of the location they had escaped to, and wireless was their only mode of communication. They needed to be directed back to the ship, and in the absence of a helicopter, a vertical lift jet wasn’t exactly the best option.

 

“Yep Captain Davis, we can see your jet now. You line of light is about five minutes away from our location. Look towards you right side Captain,” Aman’s reply finally calmed everybody’s nerves in the control room, while his men alongside him maintained their silence, as they had for the last hour or so since they had been picked up by their captain.

 

“Yes Captain Ahluwalia, I can see your boat’s search lights now,” Captain Chris Davis spotted him as well. He then turned his aircraft around and co-ordinated with Aman to set his boat in correct direction. Twenty five minutes later they were all back on board ‘NSS – The Mighty’.

 

“Thank GOD you are alright,” Anne rushed to Aman as soon as he boarded the ship.

 

“Thanks for your concern Miss De Villiers,” Aman was formal in his recognition of her concerns.

 

“Sir, what are the orders for me now,” Lieutenant Schneider was the next one to seek Aman’s attention.

 

“Prepare paper work for immediate release of Corporal James Michigan,” Aman replied to everyone’s shock, “He will be leaving as soon as Captain Chris Davis is ready to take off for New Saisho.”

 

“Sir,” Corporal James Michigan was taken aback by the sudden development.

 

“Corporal James Michigan, you stand suspended for disobeying orders with immediate effect,” Aman cut his pleadings short, “I will recommend your immediate release from service by the high command. You have ten minutes to pack your stuff and report back on the deck to be escorted back to New Saisho.”

 

“Yes sir,” Corporal James Michigan accepted the orders with a ceremonial salute as everybody else watched in pin-drop silence.

 

Anne however had to raise an objection, “You can’t do this to him. He just put his life to risk and saved so many men!”

 

“Miss Anne De Villiers, you are henceforth declared a person non-grata onboard ‘NSS – The Mighty’, and ordered to be deported back to the New Saisho shores as soon as the next flight is made available by the headquarters,” Aman’s reaction left everyone shell shocked, and Anne fumbling for words.

 

“What? You can’t be serious,” Anne fumbled with a meek reaction, “You cannot order me to leave.”

 

“Lieutenant Schneider, in case Miss De Villiers causes any problems or refuses to co-operate, you are ordered to immediately arrest and confine her until such time when a plane is available to deport her,” Aman however meant business. He finished his directions with his trademark flare and walked away towards his room.

 

“But,” Anne tried to rush behind him, but Lieutenant Schneider held out his arm to stop her. “I just want to speak to him for a second,” Anne pleaded to him before turning to address Aman, who had almost walked away, “Can I talk to just once, please?”

 

Aman paused in his step, thought for a quick micro-second, turned around and gestured with his thumb and nod, “In my office!”

 

Lieutenant Schneider stepped out of her way as Anne rushed behind Aman.

 

“Why are you doing this,” she was almost in tears as she spoke to Aman.

 

“Miss Anne De Villiers, this is Navy, an armed force, not a political party headquarters or a conglomerate,” Aman retorted back, “I am the Captain of this ship and I have over a hundred and fifty men under my command. This is the second time in a day you have undermined my authority. How am I supposed to command my men and expect them to obey my orders if anyone can come in and challenge my authority like you have done? Your actions are detrimental to both my authority, as well as my standing in the eyes of my men. Men have egos that don’t yield to the authority of weak men!”

 

“I am sorry, I didn’t mean that,” and suddenly Anne realized what she had done wrong.

 

“Look Miss De Villiers, I know I have been rude to you, but I can assure you, I mean no disrespect to you. But you need to understand, you have no authority on this ship,” Aman explained his position to her clearly, “This ship is under my command, and the only person other than myself who can decide as to who comes and goes on this ship, and who does what, is either someone appointed by me, or someone who is my superior in the Navy, and only Navy. Not even an officer senior in rank to me but from a different branch of the armed forces can order me or my men anything that has not been authorised by my superiors in the Navy, and pre-relayed to me. The only person other than these is the President, who is the Commander-in-Chief of all forces. By making decisions without my permission you have not only undermined my authority in front of my men, but also created a scenario that I will be held accountable for, and not you.”

 

“I am sorry Aman, I didn’t realize the implications of my actions, but I assure you I meant no harm,” the understanding finally dawned upon her and her hurt ego felt miraculously embalmed.

“Miss De Villiers, I am not a rude person, but the only way left for me to get out of the situation with my authority and respect intact was to confront and rebuke you,” Aman explained it further.

 

“I understand your stance Aman, but what wrong has Corporal Michigan committed? Why are you punishing this brave man for doing such a good job?” Anne was still unclear about the situation surrounding the suspension of the Corporal.

 

“Corporal James Michigan has disobeyed direct orders from a senior, a gross indiscipline and something intolerable under navy rules,” Aman explained his position.

 

“But he did what he felt was the right thing to do,” Anne reasoned.

 

“This is Navy, and in Navy there is no such thing as the right thing to do. You only do what you are ordered to do,” Aman explained, “If every man started doing what he thought was the right thing to do, there will be no discipline left in the force, and nobody will follow orders. For smooth and efficient functioning of a force it is very important that the personnel follow all commands at all times. This is the only way to make sure that the bigger comprehensive plan developed by the best of the brains on the job is pursued to its’ relevant conclusion, and there is no chaos at lower levels, something that can upset the entire plan and result in a catastrophic failure. And that is why no amount of indiscipline is tolerable in forces.”

 

“I can understand that he disobeyed the orders from a senior, but then, he was only trying to save his fellow men? Is it just because he is a junior non-commissioned officer?” Anne asked.

 

“He is lucky he is a non-commissioned officer. Had he been a commissioned officer, I would have recommended a ‘General Court Martial’, which would have been humiliating as well,” Aman put things in perspective, “Those men were not his responsibility but mine. He himself is my responsibility and that is why he was ordered not to put his life at risk. His only job was to follow those orders.”

 

“But, and I am sorry to say this, don’t you think it’s a bit hypocritical of you to take him to task for putting his life at risk, when you yourself ended up doing the same?” Anne however was still not completely convinced.

 

“The situation was entirely different when he was ordered not to risk his life. Those men were trapped behind a door that we didn’t know will open, or how long it will take to open, and time was in short supply. As such, asking or allowing him to try and open that door would have meant putting his life to risk in addition to those men already trapped in there. I was justified in not ordering a rescue mission. His disobeying the command especially when those men were not his responsibility makes him liable to disciplinary action,” Aman explained the differing situations in which he based his immediate decisions, “On the other hand when I decided to personally undertake the rescue attempt, the situation had changed. The men were free to be rescued, and we had a fighting chance with the available time. Since those men were my responsibility, I had no reason in that situation not to mount a rescue attempt. However, I had a choice to either appoint someone for the job, or to do it myself. Had it been a conflict situation I would have ordered a junior officer under me to take on the attempt. But since no imminent threat is perceived to my ship or New Saisho, I chose to take the call personally than risking a man under my command.”

 

Anne’s dissent was finally left with no ammunition. So she took a heavy breath and lamented, “So I guess this is the end of Corporal James Michigan’s naval career!”

 

“Probably not,” Aman’s reply surprised her, but he explained, “Given the positive outcome of his foolhardy bravery, he will most likely be demoted by a rank, will get a one promotion delay, and will be shifted to a less important posting somewhere else.”

 

“But I still have to leave, don’t I?” Anne asked, wishfully hoping it won’t be the case.

 

“I am afraid you will have to. These are disciplinary orders and cannot be withdrawn,” Aman still stamped his authority, but added with a smile, to assuage her feelings, “Even though Miss De Villiers, it was a luxury to have a beautiful vibrant face around us.”

 

This made Anne smile, and she quipped, “Are you flirting with me? Cause if you are, I can assure you I am not easy to impress!”

 

“Flirting and me,” Aman smiled at the comment, “Jenny will chop me into pieces with her nail-cutter knife and parcel them to you with a note; ‘Have fun’. I was just trying to make you happy.”

 

“Oh! Mending fences,” Anne commented with a naughty grin and raise of eyebrows, “You could also try saying I am sorry.”

 

“Sorry,” Aman laughed at the suggestion, “Miss De Villiers, can’t be a man who’s sorry for what he did.”

 

“You are such a maze,” Anne exclaimed shaking her head. She turned around to walk out of the office, and as she opened the door Corporal James Michigan could be heard in the background, talking to his wife on the phone, “Yes sweetheart, I am fine and I am coming back. I will be with you very soon.”

 

Anne turned around and said, albeit questioningly, “I see, you still call me Miss De Villiers. So Captain Ahluwalia, I’ll see you in New Saisho?”

 

“Maybe,” Aman was diplomatically fleeting. Anne smiled and looked him in his eyes. For a moment Aman looked in her eyes too before realizing and turning his face down, breaking the trance.

 

“Jenny is a lucky girl,” Anne quipped as she walked away, leaving the door ajar.

 

Luck is a way of classifying the work of probability. A decision can result in many outcomes, some hoped and some dreaded. There is a certain probability for each of those outcomes. When the possible outcomes of a kind far outnumber the handful of the outcomes at the other end of the scale, it is but imperative to either fear the worst or hope for the best. However, and not just because there is as much a chance for any particular outcome to happen as much is for any other one, probability is also always working on a macro scale, including every other individual in a similar situation. Probability of each one of them getting the same outcome, or an outcome from the same side of scale is bleak for otherwise it would result in a perfect state, which we all know never exists. But people have a habit of labelling the outcome as to be the handiwork of someone unknown, thus entrenching superstition into their psyche, which contaminates their future endeavours with either self-doubt, or foolhardiness. Luck is for mentally weak who don’t believe in their own abilities, or who are not ready to work hard when probability is not giving them an easy break.

 

The hard metalled road is a very abrasive surface, and when it is scorching under the sun, it is much like the path of truth that only the most innocent of creations can cross bare soled. Greatness is the endeavour undertaken by an industrious honesty. Jenny had a heart full of truth, love and noble intentions, and the path ahead of her was aptly, not just scorching, but full of thorns as well. Anything less testing would have been an insult to the saint that resided in her heart.

 

As her car whizzed past turn after turn, her heart was thumping hard against her chest, all kinds of fearful thoughts clouded her brain. She had hardly slept through the night. It had taken Aman more than a couple of hours to sooth her agitated emotions, for it is him who has developed a knack of stretching her patience to the limits with his adventurous lifestyle, not that he can help it, but still! However this morning had been even more testing. She had barely been through the first quarter of her work at the local school when Sister Rosalie’s call from the ‘House of Faith’ had sent chills down her spine. Reverend Luis Ferdinand was missing, and with the police involved at the scene, she knew something sinister had transpired the evening before. Traffic was thin as always, but somehow it was getting on her nerves today.

 

“The scales are not at ninety degrees,” Lieutenant Elle Wilson, who was at the scene, was instructing her juniors taking pictures of the skid marks in front of the entrance to the hall, “Correct the angle before you take the pictures for we will need to enlarge them for later inspection. And don’t forget to take at least three readings both for the axial length, as well as length of the skid marks. We’ll need them for vehicle identification and calculation of speed of the vehicle when it was brought to a sudden halt. It looks like someone was in a real hurry. But hurry for what?”

 

“Yes Ma’am,” one of the juniors replied to her instructions as Jenny walked over after parking her car.

 

“Hi Elle, nice to see you again,” Jenny greeted her, “What happened?”

 

“Oh hi Jenny, good to see you too,” Elle replied, “Looks like the Reverend is missing.”

 

“What? How,” Jenny asked, almost ready to cry out of worst fears.

 

“Well, as I am investigating the incident of fire that consumed Sister Rosalie’s house yesterday, she gave me a call late in the morning today, when she found the ‘House of Faith’ door open with no one in attendance. Reverend’s paperwork was still lying unattended as if he had rushed out and left it in a hurry. She tried contacting him on his phone but could not get an answer, and when she went to his house it was still locked,” Elle gave her a brief account of the information, “She says she got a call from the Reverend late in the afternoon yesterday, but the call dropped out before they could have any meaningful conversation. So I tried to call him as well, but when I couldn’t get in touch with him I contacted the phone service provider for information about his mobile location. They informed me that his last recorded location was somewhere in the suburbs that have been vacated by the recent orders, and that was when he made that last call to Sister Rosalie.”

 

“But what will Reverend be doing there,” Jenny was surprised.

 

“That’s what I want to know as well, for even we don’t have permission to go there,” Elle replied, “When I arrived here at the ‘House of Faith’ I found these tyre marks that look fairly fresh, and hint that a big vehicle, possibly a four wheel drive, was brought to a screeching halt over here. Now who would do that and why?”

 

“So are you saying someone has taken Reverend Ferdinand with them?” Jenny asked.

 

“I can’t say anything yet,” Elle replied, “But the fact that he is not answering his phone, he is not at his house, his paperwork is in a state as if he was in the middle of his work but was distracted midway by something, and these tyre marks of a vehicle we haven’t been able to identify yet, they all raise questions that need to be answered.”

 

“Have you talked to Granger and Norman,” Jenny asked, “If anyone will have any knowledge, they will be the ones. I don’t trust them a bit.”

 

“Why would you say that?” Elle was immediately interested in knowing what Jenny had to say. But before Jenny could answer her, one of Elle’s juniors came rushing in to inform, “Ma’am, we’ve found some tyre marks in the bush by the side of the ‘House of Faith’ too.”

 

“What sort of tyre marks are they?” Elle asked.

 

“Tread marks in sand,” the junior replied, “Seems like a vehicle was parked over there for some time.”

 

Elle’s brain sensed something wasn’t straight about the entire situation, “That is intriguing. Get someone to do the plasticine lift. Tell him to be very careful or we will lose the details in the print. Also, before you do anything, make sure you take scaled pictures.”

 

“You think someone else is involved in the Reverend’s sudden disappearance?” Jenny asked.

 

“Maybe there is, but who would it be, and more importantly why?” Elle asked with a lift of the brow, “You were telling me something about Brother Granger and Brother Norman.”

 

“I tell you Elle, they are really up to something,” Jenny spoke shaking her head in utter disdain for the two, “I have myself caught the two trying to manipulate public opinion by promoting superstitious beliefs. In fact I had conveyed my apprehensions to the Reverend when he and Sister Rosalie were away on their trip to distant settlements, and he had told me he is going to look into the matter and reprimand them as soon as he returns from the trip.”

 

“Well, I have already spoken to both Granger and Norman, and they have alibis that stand true,” Elle informed Jenny, “Granger never met Reverend on his return. He was at the local news station all afternoon yesterday, appearing in a live discussion over faith. And Norman, who was the last one to see the Reverend before he left for the local community school to distribute story books to children and speak to them, did so much before Sister Rosalie got that call from the Reverend. And they both say they went straight to their homes after their respective gigs, as it was too late in the evening by the time they finished for the day.”

 

“I don’t understand,” Jenny was perplexed, “It all appears so perfect that it doesn’t appear to be true. I mean, why would Reverend go to the out of bound area, and with whom?”

 

“That we’ll find out,” Chief detective Elle Wilson quipped before asking, “If you don’t mind me asking, where were you yesterday?”

 

 

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