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GOD of a man

Eternity Versus Eternity

 

“Honesty to self is the first step towards attaining peace.”

 

Chapter Twenty Five: Behind the shadows

Dated: 23rd December, 2459

 

Turmoil begins as an uncomfortable thought in mind, manifests itself as confusion in actions, and culminates as unease in life. The initiation point of such a thought usually is a dishonest reply to a question posed by self; a query challenging one’s beliefs, confronting one’s desires, or one that raises apprehensions about one’s designs. Every time one fails to answer the dissenting conscience satisfactorily, their thoughts become clouded with self doubt, actions lack a confident precision, and their faith in future becomes shaky. The results of their endeavours, not unexpectedly, are not what they might have originally expected them to be. And unwanted results are rarely satisfying!

 

A dishonest mind can never be home to peace and contentment. A human being at war with self is a boat caught in a storm, midway between two ports. Neither can such a person accept their current situation for their apparent dislike of it, nor can they correct what they refuse to accept to be the source of malignance in the first place.  Being honest in self evaluation helps define the root of the problem, and hence makes the first step towards finding a solution. Being honest does not necessarily have to mean quitting your endeavours, letting go your dreams, or killing your desires. It could simply be a critique on what has gone wrong thus far. An honest evaluation helps define the true problem. And once a problem has been defined, solutions start trickling on their own. Peace comes with contentment; contentment at a job well done, contentment at the thought there’s nothing left to be done, fixed, achieved or disclosed. Peace thus is incidental to honesty to self!

 

It is true one needs to be sensitive enough to be able to judge own actions. An insensitive person rarely cares about the harm brought about by their actions upon someone else. But sometimes honesty is not just a function of sensitivity alone. Ordinary people are often sensitive enough to the needs of others, yet there is a factor called greed that can sometimes override their better judgement. Such individuals are not seeking peace in the first place anyway. Their lives are never touched by an internal conflict, an emotional turmoil. Their sensitivities are enclosed behind thick walls of stone that insulate them perfectly from the heat of conscience. It is such people who cause the maximum damage to the society, for they run their errands only to further their interests, not the society’s. New Saisho is like any other human society that ever existed on this earth, plagued by the curse of a few that harbour greed in their hearts, greed to claim everything that belongs to everyone else.

 

The thing about night is; one only notices what is bright, while everything else hides itself away in shadows. And it is shadows where danger always lurks, waiting to pounce upon an unsuspecting prey. Testing times are like a dark moonless night, whatever bright being the distraction, the real danger all camouflaged in shadows. One such shadow slowly climbed the stairs of the house that bore the name plate, ‘Mrs Gabriella Downing, Minister for Finance’. The door had been left open so there was no need for ringing the bell, lest it woke the dead of the night. Steps were quitter than the muted squeaks of the wooden floor beneath them. The two voices coming out of the only lit room in the house, the drawing room, were completely oblivious to their new company.

 

“Mrs Downing, I have built my reputation painstakingly through my life,” Doctor Jonathan Yardley was addressing the lady of the house, “I don’t want it all to be blown away by one single mistake.”

 

“I realize that Doctor Yardley,” Mrs Downing replied, “The same goes for me as well. For a young childless widow, even I don’t want to lose my hard earned position in the society on account of a single blunder. That is why I want you to make sure your man’s calculations are all up to scratch, before we can bank upon them.”

 

“Dead need no reputations to live on,” the visitor announced his arrival, still hiding in the shadows filling up the corridor beyond the open door.

 

There are two ways of living a life; one is to consume it, the other to invest it. The choice rests entirely upon the protagonist. Or perhaps the choice is not even in the protagonist’s hands. Rather it is just a function of the protagonist’s outlook towards his own world, and the one that includes it. Those who look at the world and see the vastness it has to offer and the fulfilment it promises, they generally opt to consume their life. They live every moment of their lives to gratify their senses, although not necessarily in a selfish way, but definitely not for a social cause. They enjoy life! And then there are those who look at all the turmoil that fills the world outside their bodies. They are the ones who invest their lives, sometimes to make the lives of those they love better, sometimes for the societies they are a part of. They may or may not get many or any chance to indulge themselves, but the thoughts of goodwill they will leave behind and the way they will be remembered long after they are gone, are enough to make their existence immune to personal wants.

 

“Now who could that be,” this particular door bell was not just unfamiliar, but also at a very odd hour for Doctor Xavier Adams, especially when he wasn’t expecting any guests at dinner. With many questions in mind, he opened his front door, only to be surprised to no ends, “Oh my! What a surprise! Look who’s here, Captain Bradley Connors!”

 

“I hope I am not disturbing you Doctor,” Bradley asked apologetically.

 

“Oh no Captain, you are welcome,” Xavier replied, “Please step inside my little castle. If I knew you would be coming to my house, I would have prepared something special for the dinner.”

 

“I am sorry Doctor Adams. I shouldn’t have disturbed you at this hour,” Bradley was still apologetic, and a bit uncomfortable, “Perhaps I should come again at some other time.”

 

“Don’t be a silly child Captain! I told you its’ a pleasure to have you join me for the dinner,” Xavier tried to make him comfortable, so added in lighter vein, “Even though its’ not much for two grown up men. But hey, what do you expect at a bachelor’s house!” And Xavier brought another set of plate and bowls for the Captain and shared some of his food. The two sat down at the table to have the meal. Something however was bothering Bradley. His discomfort was quiet evident in the painstaking manner he was trying to put food in his mouth and push it down his throat. It didn’t go unnoticed on Xavier.

 

“What’s bothering you Captain,” Xavier finally asked.

 

“Nothing,” Bradley shrugged his shoulders and looked around as if he was nonchalant, but finally gave in, “I don’t know if I should be bothering you with my story Doctor.”

 

Doctor Xavier took a deep breath, got up from his chair, pulled a chair next to the Captain, put his hand on his arm, and said, “You need to stop accusing yourself Captain.”

 

There was a brief silence as the Captain took a deep breath too before replying, “You don’t understand what it is to lose parents when you are young, and then failing to fulfil your duty towards your adopted family as well. I have failed them both!”

 

“No you haven’t,” Xavier replied, “You can still fulfil your duty towards both your parents.” Bradley looked at Xavier’s face as he continued, “There’s no one stopping you to take care of your mother, and as far as Mr Ahluwalia is concerned, nothing would have pleased him more than see his sons fulfil their duties towards New Saisho. And by doing so, you will please your deceased biological parents too.”

 

“It all sounds so good philosophically,” Bradley lamented, “But you have to be the one wearing the bandage to know how much it still pains.”

 

“I guess you are right,” Xavier replied, “But friends can always sooth that pain like anaesthesia. And hey, what are we here for.” Xavier squeezed his arm softly as he looked in his eyes. At this moment a strange feeling froze him into a stupor, as he got lost somewhere far off.

 

Bradley got a bit uncomfortable and looked down, wandered into thoughts of his own before asking, “Is it a good time to call Suzanne?”

 

Xavier’s trance broke and he pulled himself back and upright in his chair. “Oh! I don’t know,” Xavier took a second to gather his thoughts and continued, “You could always try. I usually talk to her even later than this. Besides, I don’t think she will mind your call.” Xavier tried to give Bradley the confidence while he himself struggled to keep his tears locked behind their walls, his heart collapsing with a shooting pain, as if grasped by a strong hand.

 

Bradley pulled out his mobile but before he could make a call, a phone call surprised him. He answered the call, “Hello, Suzanne?”

 

“Hey, what’s up? Where are you Captain?” Suzanne’s voice could be heard from the other end.

 

“I was at Doctor Xavier’s place,” Bradley replied.

 

There was a brief silence at the other end that confused Bradley. But before he could ask anything, Suzanne replied, “Oh! Some boys’ time together, is it?”

 

“Oh no,” Bradley smiled in a long time, “I was just feeling stressed, and I wasn’t sure if I should bother you at this hour. So I just came here to Doctor Xavier.”

 

“You can bother me at any time,” Suzanne replied ever so softly, had it not been the silence of the night Bradley might even have missed it altogether. But before Bradley could say something another incoming call broke the calming moment. “Hang on, looks like I’m getting another call,” Bradley exclaimed as he looked at his phone screen to check the number it was coming from, “I better take this. It’s coming from the headquarters. I’ll call you back in a moment.”

 

A moment may fly by in a flash, but a moment has the power to flash a man’s entire life in front of his eyes. A moment is all it needs for a dream to disappear. A moment is all it needs for a mirage to be broken. A moment is all it needs for the truth to dawn. A moment can change a life forever.

 

A tiny pair of feet tip-toed to the phone and raised the tender frame high enough for a soft little pair of hands to pick up the receiver and dial a number. “Hello, Aman,” Rosie’s soft voice called as she recognised the voice receiving at the other end.

 

“Hey Rosie, how is the big girl doing tonight? Taking good care of momma?” Aman asked.

 

“I miss you brother,” Rosie started to weep.

 

“Hey big aunty, I miss you too,” Aman melted like cheese, “What happened? Why are you crying? Did momma scold you? Were you naughty today?”

 

“I am never naughty,” Rosie replied wiping her tears, “I want to talk to daddy but mom is not letting me call her, and I cannot call him.”

 

“Is that all?” Aman asked with a smile, “But what is there to cry about? You can call father anytime like you are calling me. Just press the digit we have saved his number on. Have you forgotten the digit?”

 

“No I haven’t,” Rosie exclaimed, “But his phone is not working. He calls me and momma everyday but he hasn’t called us for like so many days now. And momma won’t call him. She didn’t want me to call you too. I had to wait for her to go to sleep.”

 

“Rosie, is that you,” Mrs Ahluwalia’s voice reverberated in the background.

 

“Oh I am in trouble,” Rosie whispered, “Bye!”

 

“Bye,” Aman’s reply was cut short as the phone line disconnected.

 

Relationships have connections of their own that work both at the conscious, as well as a subconscious level.  The people one loves, one gets used to the peculiarities of their behaviour; their likes and dislikes, actions or reactions expected of them, etc. At a conscious level one can most often predict the reactions of their loved ones in a given scenario. And at a subconscious level, the subconscious mind can invariably and accurately gauge the disparity between the expected and their actual behaviour, even when the conscious mind might have skipped to analyse the hints. The subconscious mind then often alerts the individual about something being out of whack in the way of hunch feelings.

 

Rosie’s phone call might have disconnected, but it made Aman suspicious that something wasn’t right. He questioned himself, “That’s a bit weird of dad. To think of it, he hasn’t even called me in days now.” He immediately knew in his heart of hearts, something wasn’t right. He tried to call his father but couldn’t get through to him. So he got out of his cabin and walked up to the control room.

 

“Good evening sir,” everyone in the control room called out in unison.

 

“Good evening boys,” Aman replied and then looked at Lieutenant Michigan who was in command for the night, “Connect me to ‘NSS Full Bloom’ Lieutenant. I need to speak to my father Rear Admiral Gurubaan Ahluwalia.”

 

Lieutenant looked around at the other men in the room, who all stared back blankly.

 

“I asked you to connect me to ‘NSS Full Bloom’ Lieutenant,” Aman repeated again, but the Lieutenant simply stood there with his head held down. As Aman’s suspicions grew he asked, “Is there something I am missing here, something I don’t know? Do we have a problem?”

 

The fear of the unknown is the greatest mind twister. The entire concept of religion is based upon fear and its’ fast hold on human psyche; one needs to fear the unknown supreme power, fear the consequences if one questions that unknown power, fear the unknown that will happen after death but something that no one has seen or can prove or experience without dying, and death is something no one ever returns from to tell tales, fear what you do and fear what you don’t. Fear can drive a man to much more dangerous extremes than what even the cause of fear might have put him through. Fear for safety is the strongest of all influences that drives an organism, to secure its’ own interests even if at the cost of the rest of the society.

 

Mrs Gabriella Downing and Doctor Jonathan Yardley sprung out of their seats gaping at the unannounced new arrival.

 

“Reputation is to be enjoyed when living,” and Colonel Davison’s right hand man stepped out of the shadows and into the room, his one hand resting on his holster, and the other holding his cigar.

 

Mrs Downing gathered herself to welcome and introduce the guest, “Sepoy Eighty Three, meet Doctor Jonathan Yardley from National Space Research Institute.”

 

“Sepoy Eighty Three, that’s a weird introduction,” Doctor Yardley said as he got up extending his hand for a shake, “The strong man must have a great name to him.”

 

Sepoy Eighty Three however stepped away and towards the mantelpiece, to tap off the ash from his cigar into the ashtray lying there, “What will you do of the confidential information Doctor?”

 

Doctor looked at Mrs Downing who immediately tried to divert the conversation, “So how is Colonel Davison?”

 

“Not ready for marriage yet. Are you?” Sepoy replied rudely, “Let us not waste our time in fruitless conversation. What is the latest update from the Grey House?”

 

“It’s not good,” Mrs Downing replied, “Doctor Yardley’s junior has confirmed this is the end.”

 

“So what’s the escape plan?” Sepoy asked.

 

“They are readying a spaceship to travel in space,” Mrs Downing replied, “Only a few will escape.”

 

“Will you two be among them?” Sepoy asked.

 

“Not sure. They need a lot of scientific and military staff with only a miserly number of vacancies to fill. Add their closest of kin to the mix and the answer is no,” Mrs Downing replied, “Besides President Shoji Katsuo suffers from terminal honesty. I don’t think he will himself set a foot on the space ship, leave alone letting people my age live any longer.”

 

“So you need Colonel,” Sepoy quipped.

 

“And the Colonel needs us,” Doctor Yardley added his words to the discussion.

 

“And what do you do Doctor,” Sepoy asked nonchalantly.

 

“Well, as it happens, it is my junior who is developing the technology that detects the occurrence of those mysterious space gates,” Doctor Yardley replied, “And you need that technology to travel through space.”

 

“So we need your junior,” Sepoy quipped almost teasingly.

 

Doctor Yardley looked at Mrs Downing who had to intervene in his defence, “Doctor Yardley is our loyal and trusted friend who will help us in utilizing the said technology once on board the space ship.”

 

“Research Fellow Jhiang Chu is a very upright man who would rather die than work for you under a threat or out of greed. And even if you managed to force him to, he will cause you a lot of trouble, but not me,” Doctor Yardley exclaimed before issuing a veiled warning, “Besides I share your secret, making us brothers under the hide.”

 

Sepoy stared sharp through Doctor Yardley’s eyes before replying, “Relax Doctor Yardley, I was just joking. You are indispensible to us.”

 

“We need to take the ship,” Mrs Downing continued on the real topic, “I will get the security codes and access passes, but Colonel needs to be prepared to take over it. There will be serious retaliation. We can’t afford to make a mistake.”

 

“We are always prepared Mrs Downing. Don’t worry about our side,” Eighty Three replied, “Besides once we take the ship, they will have no choice but to follow our instructions. They simply can’t afford a scenario where the ship’s safety is at stake, for if it is the only means of escape then they need it safe and sound as well, especially at the very last moment. In fact, once the ship is under our control we can even decide who gets on it. And if the President is even half as well meaning as you make him, he will agree to it too.”

 

“How many men have you got, for the seats will be limited,” Mrs Downing asked.

 

“As many as might be needed,” Eighty Three replied, “They work on a different efficiency level.”

 

“Yeah, tell me about it,” Mrs Downing said mockingly, “I heard the news earlier today. Tell me it wasn’t one of your men.”

 

“Mrs Downing, it will be better if you don’t concern yourself with Colonel’s work,” Sepoy Eighty Three quipped, “Superstition is a very powerful tool that can replace the need of force if applied effectively. We need the two idiots from the ‘House of Faith’ as much as they need us. And the way the situation has turned itself now, they will make it much easier for us to control the civilians and scientists we would have to tag along otherwise.”

 

“What do you mean?” Doctor Yardley seemed to take exception to the implied thought that scientific minds can be manoeuvred.

 

“You don’t realize the power of thought Doctor Yardley,” Eighty Three replied, “Once the two idiots will tell your scientists and others alike, that it is someone unknown who wants them to live and hence made provisions for their escape, not only will their own greed for personal safety make them believe the superstition, but it will also ensure none of them will question our actions. You need more than a bullet to control and rule a populace Doctor.”

 

“But what if your men get caught? I’ve heard the best investigator in force, Inspector Elle Wilson has been given the charge to crack the case,” Mrs Downing was a bit sceptical.

 

“This case is beyond her expertise and these men beyond her strength and reach,” Eighty Three replied, “Besides they know when to speak and what not to say.”

 

There was a brief silence in the room. With all the relevant matters for the night having been discussed Doctor Yardley took their leave. As he walked out of the house and into his car, Sepoy Eighty Three stood by the side of the wall and looked at him by splitting the window blindfolds with his two fingers. “Brawn is replaceable Mrs Downing, brain is not,” he quipped.

 

 

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