Fatal Urge Carefree Kiss

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

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GOD of a man

 

“Nothing but work will win you respect!”

 

Chapter Thirty Five: The last steps to cradle

Dated: 1st March – Midnight of 24th March, 2460

 

Men always love their women but hate their work. But it is women who take away a man’s respect and work that earns, as well as wins it back for him. Men have egos much bigger than their statures; some hide it, some flaunt it, some never accept it, but they all do. A man may stand up to applaud another in his glory, but in his heart of hearts he never accepts the other man to be better than self. Every man passionately awaits a fall from grace, of the man considered better than him. It is indeed very satisfying to know, the better man had always indeed been worse. Recovery is not an option available by default. But it can be had through the only means a man always hates; work. Penance for the past deeds is the first step, devout service the next.

 

Society bows either to power, or to deeds. When you have a heart, it is not easy not to fall in love, and love is a passion beyond ordinary controls. But the only love that ever hath grace is the love for society, the love for your nation, the love for your brethren. Love enables your heart to override brain in matters of personal interest. Not surprising, love for a human leads to disgrace, while that for the society leads to glory.

 

However, glory comes at a sacrifice; not always physical, sometimes emotional, and at others both. Bigger the sacrifice, greater is the glory, and greater the glory, more draining is the solitude. Glory gives pride, not company! It’s often hard to realize the worth of what is to be sacrificed in the heat of the moment, but life is too long to let one get away with it. But still someone always has to take the call, for someone always has principles. Fortunate are the societies served by a sea of such pure hearts; and New Saisho will always be counted as one of them.

 

The dark night had faded away but only into a lighter shade. The thick cloud cover had enhanced the chill of the wind that blew. The atmosphere was tense as anxious public waited outside the Grey House for news about their beloved President. Muffled whispers were doing the rounds as nobody was willing to speak out loud. Finally the Chief of Army Staff Admiral Mir Abdullah walked out to address the crowd from the dais outside the Presidential abode.

 

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the President is doing fine now,” Admiral’s words were greeted with hysterical cheers. Once the jubilation died down, Admiral continued, “Today I address you as we struggle to come to terms with the greatest betrayal a few amongst us have inflicted upon us.” There was a complete silence now, only the sound of gushing wind and jostling leaves could be heard. Admiral continued, “Ladies and Gentleman, today we witnessed the first attempted coup of our new world history.” Admiral’s words shocked everyone as everybody started whispering in hushed voices. Admiral continued with his briefing, “A rotten bunch from amongst the forces tried to eliminate our beloved President and seize power. The events of yesterday were an attempt to usurp the peace of New Saisho, a dirty trick played to mislead the population and divert the attention of the forces. However, thanks to the true statesmanship of our leader, and unflinching support from the people, the catastrophe was averted.” Admiral’s words inspired everybody into an impromptu clapping. Admiral finished his address, “I would like to assure everybody, New Saisho is once again safe as it ever was, and our best are hot on the heels of the scum, who will be brought to justice very soon.”

 

Crime is a weird notion, for it is defined not by the rights the act in question affected, but rather the rights that authorized the commission of that act. If a person not authorized to act in a certain way acts in that very manner, he is said to have committed a crime. But a person authorized to perform that same act has no legal liability. A man spying on a man is an invasion of privacy, but a state spying on a citizen is a legally protected endeavor. The distinction between crime and legal vanishes with rights.

 

The dried brown weeds covered the vast open space like needles sticking out of a carpet. The dark morning gave them shadows that added a melancholy to the solitude. A heavy foot however crushed a bunch of them mercilessly, as a puff of dust rose up.

 

“Keep moving,” Bradley said as he shoved Viper towards the centre of the field; a huge concrete slab in the ground there marked the entrance to the underground facility. The hydraulics operated gate lifted itself open as the guards inside must have noticed the two on the closed circuit television screens. Bradley and Viper climbed down the stairs.

 

“Where you think you coming big fellow,” one of the guards asked Bradley as he stepped inside the underground facility along with his captive.

 

“I am here to talk to your leader, Colonel Davison,” Bradley exclaimed as he pulled Viper in front, “Here’s your one man still alive.”

 

“This isn’t a national park where you’ve come for a picnic,” the guard quipped as three of his accomplices looked on, “You should have died in the desert along with your men, for it would have been a lot less painful.”

 

Bradley swallowed a bitter lump but maintained his composure. “Are you blind not to realize this thick piece of metal wrapped around your man’s neck,” Bradley asked pointing at a fancy looking metal gadget locked firmly around Viper’s neck. “Would you like to explain to your friends the good tidings you bring?” Bradley asked Viper.

 

“Take it easy boys,” Viper exclaimed, his fear obvious, “This is a small remote controlled cum timed nuclear device, capable of flattening this entire complex in a flash. Just take this man to the Colonel. He’s a bigger hood rat than us all!”

 

“Is that so? Damn I’m scared,” the guard scoffed at the information, “Here, let me have a look at the thing!” The guard stepped forward to try his hand on the piece as Viper stepped back, and Bradley stepped away.

 

“Be my guest,” Bradley quipped.

 

“Don’t do that,” Viper exclaimed.

 

“Caught your bluff big fellow, did I?” the guard commented to Bradley, “You don’t seem to be scared!”

 

“For a man who knows the world’s going to end in under a month, I might as well die today,” Bradley quipped.

 

“Then why do you want to talk to the Colonel if you have resigned to your fate?” the guard asked.

 

“Because there is still a ray of hope for life,” Bradley said, referring to the space-craft, “And there always is a common ground to thaw out issues! Or would you like the army to launch a full scale assault to eliminate you?”

 

The guard finally relented, “I’ll speak to the Boss!” He then proceeded to radio the Colonel, who agreed to give an audience to Captain Connors, but only after he had made sure he was alone. He immediately dispatched the train with one of his armed henchmen onboard, to escort Bradley and Viper to him.

 

As Viper and Bradley boarded the train and its’ door closed, Bradley yelled to the guards, “Say goodbye to your friends for one last time.”

 

His statement perplexed them as they looked at each other while the train trudged away.

 

“What does he mean?” one of the guards asked.

 

The answer however came in the form of a bang as a small muted blast blew open the hydraulics operated door. In a flash four heavily armored soldiers swooped down with thin cords, opening indiscriminate firing with their silenced automatic weapons. The guards, including the one behind the glass screen and supposed to be monitoring the closed circuit video surveillance, didn’t even get a chance to grab their weapons. Bradley’s distraction had worked.

 

The four soldiers immediately secured the surroundings. The leader of the pack finally took off his helmet and called his assistant, “Lieutenant Schneider, show me the live stream.”

 

“Yes Sir,” Schneider replied as he immediately removed his back pack and pulled out a small hand held video streaming device, wired to a receiver enclosed in the back pack.

 

“Other than the mysterious figure I took out today morning, Colonel Davison is supposed to have fourteen men under his command,” Aman quipped as he shifted through various screens on the device, searching for the video link he wanted to see, “Bradley took out three in the desert, four are dead here, one got taken out attempting to murder my fiancée, Viper is subdued, and I see one escorting Bradley and Viper to the Colonel in the train.” Aman showed his men the video stream sourced from the four cameras hidden inside the collar piece around Viper’s neck. A small transmitter fitted alongside provided for a bird’s eye view of the scene. “That leaves the Colonel with four men more,” Aman continued, “And at least one of them should be guarding the section where the families of the team members are confined, in self sustained units and under the pretext of experiment.”

 

“So should we secure the families first Sir,” Lieutenant Michigan asked.

 

“Of course, we don’t want to leave the Colonel with any leverage,” Aman quipped as he put his helmet on, “So let the show begin!”

 

The group tiptoed its’ way to the housing section of the underground facility. The entrance to the corridor running between the self contained units was at the end of a small passage. The team had to keep silent but move in quickly. Once at the door, Aman pulled out a listening device and put it on the door, right next to the keyhole. He then gestured one of the team members to move forward and take position. The team member put the barrel of his gun right on the key hole. Aman, keeping his ear firmly attached to the listening device, knocked on the door.

 

The guard on the other side immediately asked, “Who is it?”

 

“Hi, I am a scientist working on the mission. One of our members’ has fallen sick and Colonel has sent him back to take rest,” Aman replied with an accent.

 

“Who is escorting you?” the guard asked.

 

“Your man is chatting with your friends at the entrance,” Aman replied, “Can we please come in? It is hard to carry this heavy man on our shoulders.”

 

“Just wait,” the guard replied nonchalantly as he stepped towards the door to open it. The moment he grabbed the door handle Aman picked up the sound with his listening device and raised his hand to alert his man. As soon as the guard put his eye on the keyhole to have a look and his helmet touched the door, Aman lowered his hand signaling his man to fire. A single muted shot; and a thud confirmed the kill!

 

Bradley meanwhile had finally arrived at the site where the massive space ship was housed. Members from various scientific backgrounds could be seen working diligently on the spacecraft as one armed man stood on guard at the ground level, and another stood atop the spacecraft. One man was standing right behind the Colonel.

 

“By damn you are resilient,” Colonel quipped as soon as he saw Bradley, “I never really loved you enough to desire of hosting you again.”

 

“You break my heart Colonel,” Bradley replied back, “I was desperate to see you again.”

 

“I guess we both have our reasons to hate each other,” Colonel commented, then proposed, “Let bygones be bygones now and let us start afresh with our relationship! So what can I do for you?”

 

“Cut self into pieces and parcel them to my old postal address so that they get lost,” Bradley replied as Colonel laughed vilely.

 

“I hate to be the one to break it you; no wait, I’m loving that I am the one breaking it to you, but I have your family under my protection, or lack thereof,” Colonel slyly reminded Bradley, “I guess I have sort of earned your respect, haven’t I?”

 

“The family that you talk about, isn’t going to be there in a few days time,” Bradley however wasn’t ready to yield any negotiation ground, “Unless of course, I could help it!”

 

“And that you can’t,” Colonel added with a smile, and then pulled out what looked like a remote from his pocket, “Technology Captain! It miniaturizes power to fit it in your palm perfectly.” He then pointed towards the spacecraft and continued, “We have rigged your craft with high powered explosives, set to detonate with one touch of a button on this radio control. Be any more noxious and I’ll get your family shredded down to bits fit only to be washed into a drain, and try anything stupid, there will be no craft left to escape.” Colonel’s threats however made Bradley smirk. “What’s so funny big boy?” Colonel asked.

 

“Your dreams Colonel, they are more hopefully positive than fairy tales,” Bradley quipped, “So you think you can just shove your way through to a new life?”

 

“Indeed,” Colonel quipped.

“What makes you think the President will let you get away in a craft meant to save his family, or Admiral Abdullah, me myself and my brother will let you put our family’s lives at stake?” Bradley asked, stumping Colonel.

 

“What do you mean?” Colonel asked.

 

“Colonel, I can’t believe how inept you are,” Bradley shredded his ego apart, “When you know the whole world is coming to an end and this craft is the only escape, how could you even think that the most powerful people in the administration and army will let their families and themselves perish?”

 

“President is never going to do anything against morality, and so won’t Admiral,” Colonel reasoned, “I have seen the list of probable candidates for the mission, and neither do the names of the President’s family beyond his son and niece, nor the Admiral’s, figure in it. As far as you and Aman are concerned, your names do figure in the list, along with one family member each.”

 

“And you will let me and Aman get on this mission?” Bradley asked.

 

“Hell no,” Colonel replied, “But then I am the one in charge of this mission now, and neither the President nor the Admiral will let you sabotage the mission for personal interests.”

 

“Well as it happens,” Bradley replied, “The President and Admiral both are keen on saving themselves and their families. Their names didn’t figure in the list due to political reasons, for it would have been tough to refuse some other prominent figures that are aware of this mission. And it was important to ensure the team members selected won’t object to the one family member only norm.”

 

“But there is no place for them anymore,” Colonel exclaimed, “All the places are taken.”

 

“Again, that’s what you think,” Bradley replied, “There was a lot of work still left on the project and we needed people to finish their jobs. So they were told what they needed to be told to make them work. Once the work is done, it’s we who carry guns, and hence the license to decide who comes on board.”

 

“You are bluffing,” Colonel retaliated, “Both the President and the Admiral are too honest to employ such an underhand tactic.” By now Colonel’s political ally Mrs Gabriella Downing had also arrived at the scene.

 

“This coming from a Colonel who is himself an army man, and who has friends in political circles,” Bradley quipped pointing at Mrs Downing, “Do you really believe in any of this drummed up crap about honesty, principles and morality?”

 

Bradley’s words left the Colonel dumbfounded. He fumbled to find the right words to say before realizing, the game was still in his pocket. “Maybe you are right. Maybe the President and Admiral are as mean as me,” he said, “But that still doesn’t alter the situation; the craft is still under my control!”

 

“Well, if you know how mean we are,” Bradley spoke menacingly, “What makes you think we will let you get away with the craft and leave us and our families to die?”

 

Colonel was perplexed, but somehow managed to answer, “What will you do when there is no craft left?”

 

“If there is no craft left, we all will perish,” Bradley replied, “But so will we if we let you get away with it. So can we let you to? We’d rather try and kill you even if there’s a chance the craft might get destroyed, than see you live while we perish with our families, especially after having put in all the hard work.” Bradley then moved on towards Viper, “You see this thick band around you man’s neck. This is a mini atomic bomb. If you refuse to accept our offer, this bomb will be detonated by a remote control, and this entire facility will be flattened in no time. And if you don’t do it by the time left ticking on its’ timer, it will happen anyway.”

 

Bradley’s words dried down Colonel’s throat. He swallowed down a hard gulp before asking meekly, “What do you offer?”

 

“If you give up peacefully, the President and Admiral are ready to take you onboard,” Bradley replied, “But only you!”

 

“What do you mean by only me?” Colonel asked as if he didn’t know what it meant.

 

“It means you cannot bring along your brides,” Bradley said pointing to his henchmen, “We don’t want an adversary with access to competing human resources around us.”

 

 “That’s preposterous,” Colonel exclaimed, “I can’t just ask them to walk away! Besides why should I trust you?”

 

“Do you want to live or not?” Bradley asked.

 

“Hey wait a minute,” Viper joined the conversation, “Now who is in control of this facility over here?”

 

“Can one man with hands tied hold an army to ransom?” Bradley asked a question that confused them all.

 

“What do you mean one tied man?” Colonel roared.

 

“Well, you are all dead!” Bradley quipped as four shots were fired.

 

The man guarding the facility at the ground level, the one standing on top of the craft for better view, and the one behind the Colonel were taken down in a flash, but the bullet aimed at Colonel missed the target and grazed one of the straps on his shoulders. The Colonel immediately ducked and ran for cover behind metal objects in the facility, and a trail of bullets followed him. Viper too made a dash for safe spot behind the same objects but from the other side. Aman and his team had arrived and sneaked up just below the roof, on the railed platform by the sides. The roof looked like a mechanically operated opening for the spacecraft to fly out. The members of the scientific community fell flat to the floor with their hands at the back of their heads as shots flew in the air. Mrs Downing however cleverly gave everybody a slip and climbed into the open spacecraft.

 

“Sorry Sir, I missed,” one of Aman’s men raised his hand and accepted the blame.

 

“You just lost your place on the craft,” Aman shouted back, and then turned his attention towards Bradley, “Are you alright Captain?”

 

Bradley raised his fist in a thumbs-up sign as he slowly walked around the objects, trying to have a look at the Colonel and his lone surviving man. Bradley had been disarmed by the guards at the entrance, so had no weapon other than his wits on him.

 

“C’mon Colonel, time you gave up now, and we will spare your life for the last few days,” Bradley continued.

 

Colonel, who had been keeping his head low lest he got shot, popped his head out from a corner and fired a misdirected shot at the Captain, “Not so fast kids! I still have the remote on me. If you are going to kill me, I may as well blow this thing up. And did I mention, your family and the rest of the hostages, they are all inside the spacecraft?”

 

“Relax Colonel, we were just kidding! You took it seriously,” Bradley realized the gravity of the situation, and also how there was no way to target Colonel anymore, “Since you are the only one left standing now, I would like to repeat the original offer of taking you along. What do you say? You cannot fight us alone. We are so many!”

 

“I am still here you dumb duck,” Viper yelled back.

 

“Not if the Colonel shoots you in your head,” Bradley said as Aman made his way down to the floor, his three men still holding their positions.

 

“There’s no way I am going to kill my last man and shoot myself in the foot,” Colonel retorted back.

 

“But that man is no use to you, especially with that death belt around his neck,” Bradley reminded the Colonel of his negotiation point.

 

“I think he’s bluffing,” Viper whispered to him.

 

“And I am supposed to believe you now,” Colonel yelled back to Bradley, “You were just bluffing, wasting my time and diverting my men’s attention.”

 

“Ok, you can press the button then,” Bradley quipped.

 

“You don’t want me to do that,” Colonel retorted.

 

“Yes I do,” Bradley was curt in his reply as a perplexed Aman looked at him. Bradley motioned him with his hand to keep quiet.

 

Left with no choice Colonel fell silent for a few seconds. Suddenly Viper shrieked out, “Have you gone nuts old man? They are bluffing! Stop.” That was the last word heard off Viper as a single shot left everything silent.

 

“I’ve killed him,” Colonel exclaimed and then pleaded, “I am coming out! Don’t kill me, please.”

 

“We won’t kill you, I promise,” Bradley assured him, and then ordered his men, “Nobody shoots the Colonel. He’s giving himself up and is our friend now.” He then addressed the Colonel again, “You can come out now Colonel, with your hands raised above your head.”

 

Colonel followed the instructions and emerged out of his hiding, a bit suspicious of Bradley’s word as he carefully screened the guns above his head for any suspicious movement. He still had his gun in his hand.

 

“You’ve done well Colonel, and I promise you, we will keep our word,” Bradley assured him, “Now if I may request; please put your gun down on the floor, along with your knife, and then walk around and hand me that remote control.”

 

Colonel put his gun down and said, “I don’t have a knife.” He raised his shirt and turned around to show he wasn’t concealing any weapons underneath. He then lifted his trousers to repeat it for his feet and legs.

 

“Very well Colonel, you can walk to me now,” Bradley quipped. Then pointing in the direction where Viper and Colonel had been hiding, he motioned to Aman, “Captain, you can secure the body now.”

 

Aman nodded as he slowly and carefully walked around the corner. Viper lay motionless with his back to the ground, hands still behind his back as if in handcuffs. “I don’t see any blood,” Aman yelled as he advanced towards the body one step at a time.

 

“Look closely,” Bradley said as he himself carefully monitored Colonel’s slow advance towards him. Colonel was still vary of the men above his head, and was moving awkwardly keeping a strict watch on them. “Colonel, please hand me the remote,” Bradley asked Colonel holding out his hand for the device.

 

“I see no injuries,” Aman yelled again as he approached Viper. At this point Viper opened his eyes and in a flash sprung to the ground, grabbing at Aman’s gun and turning it away as Aman opened fire.

 

“What happened there,” Bradley asked, his eyes getting distracted from the Colonel.

 

“It’s a ploy. His man is still alive,” Aman yelled back as he wrestled with Viper for the control of the gun. The two were in a spot well concealed from the shooters above, hence left to settle the issue between them.

 

Meanwhile the Colonel had also seized the initiative the moment Bradley lost his concentration, and pulled out a knife from underneath his cuff. He dashed around and behind Bradley, surprising him and grabbing his neck with his one arm, and tried to push the blade through his chest with his other hand. Bradley grabbed his hand wielding knife with one hand, and tried to release his neck form the Colonel’s hold with the other. Colonel was intent on suffocating him. Such intense was the scuffle that the two fell onto the floor and rolled around making it impossible for the shooters to take out the Colonel.

 

At this point one man whom Aman and Bradley had completely forgotten, the one who had escorted Bradley and Viper on the train, made his presence felt as he took a couple of shots at the shooters above. Had the men not been using body armor at least two of them would have been dead. They retaliated with their own fire, but the man had sheltered himself well behind strong objects.

 

At this point Mrs Gabriella Downing emerged from inside the spacecraft, holding a gagged Mrs Ahluwalia at gunpoint, and roared, “Everybody stop firing and drop your weapons now, or I will blow the brains out of Captain Ahluwalia’s mother.”

 

Her words silenced all the commotion. Finally Bradley and Aman both agreed to give up. As the troopers above dropped their guns to the floor, the last standing man of the Colonel emerged out wielding his gun. Viper escorted Aman out of their corner with Aman holding his hands behind his head, and Viper aiming the gun at it. Colonel too picked up his gun as Bradley stood still, his hands behind his head.

 

Colonel pulled out the remote, “You think you are the only one smart here? We caught your bluff, and blew away my man’s handcuffs, not his head. Now watch me blow this spaceship of yours.”

 

“You won’t blow it,” Bradley quipped.

 

“What makes you think so?” Colonel asked.

 

“Because you are a coward,” Bradley replied, “Cowards like you love their lives too much to sabotage their only chance of survival. If you had to blow it up, you would have done it the first time when you escaped that bullet meant for your head.”

 

“How about I blow up your mother’s head?” Mrs Downing asked as she dragged Mrs Ahluwalia to the centre of the floor, “We have plenty of hostages over here to still negotiate with your army and government.”

 

Bradley and Aman looked at their mother. Her eyes were moist, but her head still held high. From underneath the tape gagging her mouth you could see a firm calmness on her face, as if nothing had happened. Her eyes suddenly appeared to lit up with fire as she stared hard in her sons’ eyes one after the other, a fire that kindled its’ self in the eyes of her two sons, their frowns morphing into a resolve.

 

As everybody including Colonel and his men’s eyes fixed themselves on Bradley and Aman, Research Fellow Jhiang Chu snuck up behind Mrs Downing, a big heavy container in his hand. With one single blow he knocked Mrs Downing unconscious on the ground, “Take this bitch!”

 

His sudden move surprised Colonel and his two men who got distracted. In a flash Aman turned around and took two quick steps towards Viper. Before Viper could react and discharge the weapon in his hand, Aman pushed the weapon away, and gave a mighty kick straight in the middle of his chest, using the same foot that Viper had injured earlier in the day. Viper’s body flung in the air and fell face down on to the floor as he lost his grip on the weapon. Bradley too made a dash at the Colonel, using his fist to turn the face of his weapon away, and landing a strong jab under his chin with his other hand. Colonel’s only standing man turned his gun towards Bradley, but one of the sharpshooters above pulled out his concealed weapon and shot him dead.

 

Aman turned the gun at Viper and tried to blow his head away, but the gun was empty. Viper got back on to his feet quickly and lunged at Aman’s waist, bringing him down. Aman kicked him in his chest with his knee and pushed him away. He rolled over to land on Viper’s chest and tried to punch him, but Viper grabbed his hand and their scuffle continued. Meanwhile Colonel had pulled out his knife from behind his waist again and lunged at Bradley who grabbed the weapon by the blade. Colonel tried to twist it around but couldn’t dislodge it out of Captain’s iron grip. He finally pulled it out, hoping it would chop off at least one of the Captain’s fingers. As he stood back and looked on, Bradley smiled, raised his hand and took off his glove. The glove had been cut at more than one place, but his dark reddish hand was blemish free.

 

Perplexed, Colonel charged at Bradley again, thrusting his knife hard. But this time Captain just thrust his palm straight at the pointed end of the knife. Such was the force of impact, nothing happened to Captain’s strangely rock hard hand, but the knife slipped out of Colonel’s grip. The Colonel stumbled on his feet due to his own bodily inertia and the contravening brute force of Bradley’s palm. Bradley seized the initiative and landed a fierce jab under Colonel’s chin again. Before Colonel could react Bradley rapped his arm around his neck and pushed him back, putting his leg behind Colonel’s body to tumble it to the floor. Colonel tried to turn over and away but Bradley was on his back in a flash. He grabbed the Colonel by his head and chin, and despite the struggle put by the Colonel, broke his neck and brought his game to an end.

 

At the other end Aman and Viper were still fighting viciously with no one getting a clear edge. Finally Viper charged at Aman, who at the very last moment pulled out his knife and pushed it straight through Viper’s heart. A heavy sigh escaped Viper’s lips as he looked down at the piece sticking in his chest. He tried to grab Aman’s hand holding the knife in place, but his hands didn’t have any strength left in them. Aman twisted the blade around, and then pushed it up towards his throat, tearing through his chest until the blade hit the sternum. Viper collapsed to the floor, his body shaking violently for a few seconds before it all became still.

 

Still is the calm that hides turbulence underneath, the one that shakes the foundations of everything that lies above. The only ones left standing are the ones who grow by spreading around, rather than shooting up.

 

The night was so quiet; it hid the turbulence expected in the morning completely. For those who knew it was their last night, they cherished each and every moment with the ones they loved.

 

“Thanks for coming darling,” Doctor Xavier Adams greeted Doctor Suzanne Dillon as she arrived at the Doctor’s residence for a last meal together.

 

“Don’t be a jerk,” Suzanne replied, “Since when did we grow so formal?”

 

“So it’s final that you are not going,” Xavier asked as the two settled down on the dinner table, even though he knew the answer. Suzanne didn’t need to answer either.

 

Xavier continued, “Did Bradley call?” And Suzanne broke down as she shook her head in the negative. “He’s still angry with you, isn’t he? Thinking how he could have saved Rosie and then Aman would have got a chance to save Jenny, and it might have just persuaded him to join the mission,” Xavier exclaimed with a sigh and Suzanne just nodded. Xavier let out a sigh, “You know you are being over-cautious about him. I think the mission needs him more than anything, for it is important to study him.”

 

“Let’s not start over it again,” Suzanne stopped him.

 

“You know if Anne wasn’t insistent upon your approval, I would have taken Bradley along as my guest,” Xavier exclaimed a bit frustrated.

 

“You love him, don’t you?” Suzanne finally asked the question she always knew the answer to, but had never dared to ask. Her question silenced Xavier who looked down and then away.

 

“Can you just do me a favor,” Xavier asked.

 

“I am not going to sign Bradley on just because you are my friend, and even if he hates me for eternity, and you know very well how much I love him too,” Suzanne quipped as she held her tears back.

 

“Ok, don’t do it,” Xavier quipped frustrated, “But can you just sign it to please me.” He pulled out the medical clearance papers for Bradley, “You can keep them with you forever,” Xavier quipped pushing the papers towards Suzanne.

 

“But what purpose will it serve?” Suzanne asked perplexed.

 

“Just for the heck of it, just to make me happy, as a last thing for a good friend,” Xavier insisted, “At least I will forever remember you for agreeing with me over an issue we had so persistent differences. Suzanne fell silent. Xavier looked away frustrated.

 

“You promise you are not going to use these papers?” Suzanne asked, “I mean; I will be there tomorrow morning to see you off, and I will report any anomaly to Anne immediately. Then you will lose your trust in her eyes forever.”

 

“You can put these away in your bag right now,” Xavier exclaimed, “Just sign them in front of my eyes to satisfy me that you really love and care for me as much as I do. You are my only family, the only person I’ve ever known as my family, my soul-sister. I just want to remember you as my best friend forever, who never had a difference of opinion with me.”

 

Suzanne relented, took a deep breath, pulled out her pen and signed the document, making Xavier ecstatic. She then put the papers away into her bag immediately, and then grabbed the bag close to her chest.

 

Xavier’s eyes filled up as he held out his hands on the table and Suzanne feebly put hers’ in them. “I love you so much my darling,” Xavier exclaimed, “Would like one last cocktail?”

 

“No, I don’t want to drink,” Suzanne shook her head, “I just want to go home and be with my mother now. I’ll see you again in the morning.”

 

“Hey, just one last drink,” Xavier however insisted, “Our favorite; one for you, and the same for me.”

 

“No please,” Suzanne however was reluctant.

 

“Oh C’mon now,” Xavier said as he got up and walked around to the mini bar he had in his drawing room. He pulled out a couple of bottles of their favorite drinks, two glasses, a shaker and some ice. “So what’s happening with Aman,” he asked, to divert Suzanne’s attention who was insisting on not having another drink. He continued to speak as he poured the liquids into the shaker, “I’ve heard he and Jenny are getting married tomorrow, and Admiral is going to conduct their wedding at the site before the mission leaves.”

 

“Yes they are,” Suzanne replied as she watched Xavier shake the drinks and pour them in the glasses. He added some ice, brought them to the table, and put them in front of Suzanne.

 

“Pick one,” Xavier asked her.

 

Suzanne reluctantly picked one up, “Admiral isn’t happy either, for because of me neither of his two best men will be getting onboard. I am surprised he still hasn’t ordered replacements for them, but kept their spots empty.”

 

“You know, Colonel is not the only one who is distressed,” Xavier quipped, “Even Miss De Villiers seems to be really distraught that Aman is not going, even though she won’t admit it and tries hard to hide her disenchantment. I can almost smell, and not just sense her frustration.”

 

“Anne,” Suzanne was surprised as she took a sip of the drink without realizing, Xavier had only picked up the glass and pretended to put it to his lips, but not actually sipped the drink, “But why would she be distraught.”

 

“I think she loves Captain Aman Ahluwalia,” Xavier’s comment flummoxed Suzanne as she unwittingly gulped down a few big lumps of the drink. However she soon realized something was wrong with the taste of the mix.

 

“It sounds weird, but there seems to be something wrong with the drink. It tastes like,” Suzanne’s mind was slowing down fast as her speech began to flounder, and then she realized what had happened. “Did you put,” she however couldn’t finish her sentence and collapsed back in her chair, her glass rolling out of her hand, spilling the remainder of the contents on the table.

 

Xavier walked around to her side and knelt beside her chair. He took her hand hanging by her side in his hand and said, “I am sorry darling, but I need to put the two people I love the most on board.”

 

 

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