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Mishiida Alexander

Stalking Shadows

“Nobility by grace, pedestrian by appetite!”

Chapter Seventeen: When war comes calling

Satisfaction comes when you tame your appetite, regret arrives just before you lose it, shame is for whence you are still being indulgent, but grace is your hallmark if you never let it rule you. One cannot judge a man from the clothes he wears, but one cannot miss the man he’s hiding when his act is on display. Detractors will pile up mountains of bounty, to show how easily a man will fall. But ultimately it is the man who decides if he is to take a fall. Graceful is the man who doesn’t show his discomfiture, or avoids facing up to the challenge, but rather acknowledges it, and then moves on effortlessly, for he has miles to go before his detractors will stand ashamed.

How can one entice a man with something not even half the worth of what he can create on his own, that he himself gives away, for he keeps no benefits beyond the limits of morality? How can one trick a man into believing a failed logic when that man is trying to make you see the futility of that very logic? Perhaps at times a man needs to step up and put his heavy fist down, just so to remind others that they have missed the point completely. What others have been offering is a table lamp, the needy being the Sun!

But such frail is human morality, prone to the tricks of prejudice, malice and greed; it seldom fails to flash its ugly belly, no matter how much glitter is layered on top. Excuses will always be available, but never will they satisfy the conscience. The more humanity will shirk facing up to it; worse will be its fall, and worst its future. Whittington and Aldridge possibly thought Jacky could be bought, for people like them think; every man comes with a price tag. But like a man is not evil just by the thoughts creeping through his mind until he acts on one, a man is not a moral morass until he suggests a price he would sell for. It is not hard to say what Mr Garcia is after is not the gold the Tyrenes have offered him. But it is also true, thanks to him; humanity is facing an extinction level threat today.

But here we have a man who has the capability of leading a charge in defense. Capable as he is, it is not surprising to find him pensive today, for today we have a situation that is totally not in his control.

“Come in,” Colonel Rick exclaims at the door knock. “What did he say?” he then quickly shifts to the business end as soon as Corbett walks in.

“He’s a dead end,” Corbett exclaims shaking his head, “Says Alvarez died of his wounds last night, and that they were shadowing our men to gather and relay information to Mr. Garcia, but they did not kill any of our men, and neither did Garcia order any of the kills.”

“Then who did?” Colonel is perplexed, “Are you sure you gave him enough medicine?”

“I sure did, and am willing to repeat the dosage,” Corbett replies confidently, “But I don’t think we will get anything more out of him any time soon, if there is anything else than what we know so far.”

“And we probably don’t have time!” Colonel shakes his head in disbelief, “Things are running away from our grasp. We need to clasp at them before they reach up to the vantage point from where we are sitting ducks.”

“Sir,” a panting Lieutenant Guerin rushes in, a cordless phone in his hand held tightly, “The Edinburgh base is relaying a call to us. It’s Jason Whitaker, Mr. Garcia’s secretary.”

Colonel, ears suddenly up like a blood-hound, gestures to Andrew to hand him the gadget, and then takes the call, “Colonel Rick Roxon speaking.”

“Colonel, Mr. Garcia has decided to personally take you and your team for a site inspection, as a part of our deal,” Jason’s voice booms from the other end, “His private jet would be landing at Adelaide in a short while from now, and he would love to host you and your team tomorrow morning.”

“As glad as I am at Mr. Garcia’s generous offer, Mr. Whitaker, Australian Army is not at Mr. Garcia’s beck and call,” Colonel Rick however is not the one to be rough shouldered, “He cannot decide our schedule. We are not available tomorrow.”

“Mr. Garcia realizes that Colonel, and issues an unconditional apology in advance for the discomfort this little liberty he has taken might cause, and proposes to make up for that by taking you to the facility that no one outside his closest circle, knows to exist,” Jason makes a proposal that he possibly believes will not be turned down, “And he says that should you decide not to avail this opportunity, it shall not be offered again.”

Jason’s offer not only takes the Colonel by surprise, but it immediately forces him to contemplate.

“Sorry Colonel, but I didn’t hear your answer,” after an odd few seconds of silence, Jason finally asks the Colonel again, “Mr. Garcia said that he would be expecting nothing less than your best men to take up this opportunity to gauge his empire’s hidden gem.”

At this moment Colonel Rick looks up at Corbett, cover’s the phone’s microphone with his hand, and quips, “He needs back-up!” Corbett nods his head in affirmative in response. Colonel then replies to Jason, “I still don’t understand why such a largesse to me and my men, and why so much urgency?”

“Colonel, Mr. Garcia says that time is a single lane one way expressway where none is allowed to stop and rest until they drop off the grid forever,” Whitaker replies, “He also says; brave don’t worry about consequences of actions, but of inaction when one was needed.”

“Brave also don’t hide their activities Mr. Whitaker,” Colonel takes a jibe back, “I’ll see what I can do for Mr. Garcia in the morning.” He then disconnects the call and turns to Andrew and Corbett, “Get the team ready. We will be leaving in the morning.”

“What about Mishiida and her guest, Zaiyeshin?” Andrew asks.

“They will be coming along with us, but don’t tell them yet,” Colonel replies.

“And what about Alex,” Corbett asks.

“Don’t worry about him,” Colonel quips, “I’ve instructed Surpavitar to keep him out of our way.”

“Great!” Corbett acknowledges before he and Andrew salute the officer and march out.

But how does one keep trouble out of their way when the way itself is not known? And how does one avoid trouble when the way is known but its ways unknown? How hot is the fire, can only be judged by putting a hand close to it! The fire shall answer from a distance, but one will have to step closer.

Mr. Garcia’s plane landed and he jumped into a waiting limousine. Nothing unexpected about it. What is clearly bewildering though, as to why he jumped out of the limousine at a secluded corner, and into a waiting car? No doubt he was being tailed, and would have been to his hotel; but where is he heading now? Lucky these questions are fairly close to being answered, now that the car has finally pulled into a secluded house in ‘One Tree Hill’ region. We might as well follow him inside.

“Greetings Mr. Garcia,” a bed-ridden but apparently recuperating Roberto Alvarez greets him as we, surprised as we are to find him alive, enter the room. A nurse is duly in attendance, and so are a couple of his men, with plenty others on guard around the wine estate.

“The word on the street is,” Mr. Garcia quips as he takes Alvarez’s hand in his gloved hands, but stops before continuing, “Let me rephrase that. There are more than a handful of boisterous parties happening around Adelaide tonight.”

“We don’t know what we are dealing with,” Alvarez labours to reply, “I had to go underground, just so we can blindside them when we are ready.”

“I’ve heard a few of your men have gone missing,” Mr. Garcia raises his concerns.

“No one knows for sure, but I have unconfirmed information that four of my men were picked up by the Australian Army,” Alvarez replies, “But you don’t need to worry about them. They would rather die, than let anything reach your cuffs.”

“But why did you have to kill the army man?” Garcia tries hard to hide his seething rage.

“We didn’t! I assure you!” Alvarez pleads, “We did nothing more than what you asked us to. Seems like, someone else had been working a parallel strategy. We just haven’t been able to crack his case yet.”

“How will I get out of this mess?” Garcia exclaims in desperation.

“I told you; nothing will ever come to you,” Alvarez labours to reason again, “Trust me! If I can take a bullet for you, I can pump enough to make a sieve out of a traitor. You don’t need to worry about it.”

Garcia takes a deep breath before striking his thighs lightly with his palms, and getting up, “You are not the only one who’s taken a bullet.” He then removes his gloves to show his bandages, “I didn’t scratch my hands doing dishes.” He then turns around and away from everyone’s gaze, opens up his shirt buttons, revealing the Penancthian body suit he’s wearing underneath. He then unbuckles his belt and loosens his trouser to reveal the familiar waist control, only this one has buttons marked in Roman numerals and English alphabet. He punches in a code and the suit underneath his garments, disappears. Through his open shirt we see for the first time, bluish bruises lining his torso. He then turns around and removes his shirt, revealing a trunk covered with such bruises. He then quips, “These bullets may have failed to penetrate my body, but they did hit me, not too many hours ago.”

“I’ve never doubted the man I’ve offered my services Mr. Garcia,” Alvarez acknowledges the fact that Garcia is not a weak human, “And I assure you, I won’t let you down.”

Expectations have a tendency to build up, and reality has a tendency to knock them down. There is this continuous struggle for relevance between the two, and every man is supposed to find a fine balance that keeps his hopes and motivation alive, and yet keeps him grounded so as to enable him to make valid choices.

“Hey, how come you are not yet ready, like every other day?” Alex asks Mishiida who just shrugs off in reply.

“Can I come in?” Surpavitar calls out after knocking the door.

“Sure,” Alex quips a bit surprised.

“C’mon, I need you for a surprise training session,” Surpavitar shocks Alex with his very first statement.

“You mean now, as in, right now?” Alex exclaims.

“Of course,” Surpavitar states emphatically, “A warrior should always be ready for a challenge. Now c’mon, let’s get moving!” And he nudges him to follow him.

“Ok! If that’s a challenge,” Alex jumps to his feet, then turns to Mishiida, “Don’t go anywhere! I’ll be right back after kicking the training session in the butt.” He then rushes out of the door behind a speeding Surpavitar. Damn! That man is a fast walker.

But just as the duo march away in one direction, we notice Colonel Rick walk out from behind a corner, followed by Corbett, both in combat gear, amply suggesting what’s up. But what is Alex going to do when he finds out? How is Surpavitar going to keep him engaged, or should we say distracted? Let’s go and find out.

“Oops! Sorry, I just remembered something,” Alex quips, “I’ll be right back.”

“Wait! Where are you going? Stay here!” Surpavitar yells but in vain. Alex dashes back towards his room, with Surpavitar in pursuit. But Surpavitar chooses not to enforce his decision on him, lest he was to become suspicious.

“Oh wow! Colonel, Corbett and Mishiida, all of you in battle gear!” Alex exclaims as soon as he approaches his room, only to catch the trio trying to leave, “Where are you guys going without me?”

“Oh nothing serious Alex,” Colonel replies, “We are just taking Zaiyeshin to Edinburgh base for an inspection of the Tyrene vessel that he arrived in, and we need Mishiida to help us communicate with him. You please carry on with whatever you are doing. We’ll be back in less than three hours.”

“What did I tell you,” Surpavitar, who’s just arrived behind him, “We don’t stop a training session in the middle.”

“But we haven’t even started yet,” Alex retorts back, “And these guys were sneaking out behind my back.”

“We were not sneaking behind your back,” Colonel exclaims almost complainingly, “We are just headed out for a couple of hours to Edinburg. Why is it so hard for you to understand?”

“But why didn’t you tell me?” Alex complains.

“I don’t need your permission to do my job,” Colonel states authoritatively, “Now you go and do your training, and let me do my job. And that’s an order!”

“I don’t take your orders!” Alex retorts back in his face, “And I want to know where are you taking my fiancée?”

“I don’t need to inform you, and I’m sure your fiancée has a life without and beyond you,” Colonel retorts back as Mishiida closes her ears, trying to shut out the whole conversation. She then steps up to Alex, puts her hand on his shoulders, and turns him away and towards Surpavitar.

“Let them go and do their work!” Surpavitar explains, “They don’t need you interfering in their work, and I need you for the training. Besides, they will be back before I am finished with you today. So come along with me.”

Begrudgingly Alex follows behind Surpavitar as Colonel, Corbett and Mishiida walk away.

It’s hard to say whether it’s Surpavitar who has dragged Alex into the underground sports arena, or if Alex has dragged his frame there, but one thing is sure, his mind and soul are not there yet.

“Why does everybody think that I am an idiot?” Alex murmurs to himself, but Surpavitar overhears him.

“You want to say something?” Surpavitar asks him.

“Oh no, nothing,” Alex exclaims shaking his head in negative. He then thinks of something and explains, “Actually, I do need to say something. Actually, I need to go to the toilet. It’s not only early morning, but it’s really urgent.”

“But can’t you wait for three hours,” Surpavitar exclaims.

“I wish I could, but I can’t. I have to go,” Alex reasons with a stressed expression on his face. “I’ll be back with you in under ten minutes,” Alex quips as he rushes off once again.

A smile grows on Surpavitar’s face as he pulls out a Pink Lady apple, Alex’s favourite. “Colonel’s never going to forgive me for this,” he quips and munches on.

Oh well! We might as well follow Alex now, for he has just managed to sneak into the back of the army truck making the last vehicle of the Colonel’s convoy. Plenty of combat gear lying around in this truck for Alex to chose and find a perfect fit, to change into on the way to Edinburg. Let us see what Colonel is up to in his vehicle.

“Sir, are we flying out of Adelaide Airport or Edinburgh base?” Corbett who is behind the wheel asks him.

“I’ve granted Mr. Garcia permission to fly out of Edinburgh base for today,” Colonel replies, “He’ll meet us there, and we will have a good chat with him up in the air, to wherever he is taking us to.”

“Are we going to let him get away, now that it is amply clear that he is with those alien enemies,” Andrew asks him.

“We don’t have any concrete evidence against him yet. Nothing that a good lawyer can’t disprove and discredit in a court of law,” Colonel exclaims, “Besides, his would be more of a case of a parliamentary enquiry, possibly by US Congress. We currently have no option, but to deal with him on terms we can mutually agree upon.”

“So he can really get away with all this,” Corbett asks.

“Until he is caught neck deep, he sure can,” Colonel confirms his worst fears, “He is not a man without resources and influence.”

There’s a guile in quicksand that catches its’ prey unaware. From thence, the more a prey struggles, deeper it gets caught. The reach and firmness of its limbs is no match to the frictionless softness of the sand. The sand that can irritate an eye, plays like melting butter to the body. The only way to get out is to be taken out, whether by a hand of a friend, or by a hand of the nature cast in wood.

“Hey! Where are you going?” the guard at the door to the military airbase stops Alex, who had finally snuck out of the truck after everybody else has walked in.

“I am with them. I always am! Don’t you know me?” Alex asks in reply.

“Who doesn’t?” the guard quips as he lets Alex through.

Colonel and his men, after having been received by Mr. Garcia on the tarmac, have just boarded the plane, as Alex rushes up to the stairs that were just about to be detached.

“Hey! Wait for me!” Alex quips as he rushes up the stairs and bumps straight into Captain Tanya Singh and Second Captain Jessica Tait.

“Where are you going?” Captain Tanya Singh exclaims.

“I am with them! I always am,” Alex replies, “That girl that just walked by, is my fiancée, don’t you know?”

“Who doesn’t?” Captain Tanya exclaims shaking her head, “Welcome aboard!”

“Are you girls flying this jet?” Alex asks excitedly, “Hey! Can I come with you girls? I’ve never been in a plane’s cockpit.”

“No,” Second Captain Jessica almost rebukes him, “Firstly, it is against the protocol, and secondly, don’t you want to sit with your girlfriend?”

“I am always with her, much like a satellite,” Alex quips, “I just want to see how it feels when you fly through the clouds? Can you see the birds?”

“Trust me, it’s really boring,” Tanya exclaims.

“But please, please, please, let me come in with you girls,” Alex however is insistent like a child.

“You won’t monkey around?” Jessica finally breaks down and asks.

“I’ll sit like a straight L, I swear,” Alex crosses his heart, and Captain Tanya Singh and Second Captain Jessica Tait grant him his wish. And Alex manages to stay out of Colonel’s eyes. But what are we doing here? Let us get inside the guest cabin of this jet furnished to taste.

“So, should we treat this as an admission?” Colonel asks Mr. Garcia, just as we arrive inside the luxurious meeting room.

“Admission of what Colonel,” Mr. Garcia asks, and then turns around to the gorgeous air-hostess, “Drinks please!”

“You have been working with enemies of our race, enemies who are planning our extinction,” Colonel’s tone toughens up, “My men are dead, killed by those aliens that you had been hosting. Do you think you will get away with an army man’s murder?”

“Neither I, nor any of my men are involved in anything that you have just stated Colonel,” Garcia maintains his cool, “I am no more friends with aliens than you yourself are.” He looks on at Mishiida, who looks away, and Zaiyeshin, to stress his point, before continuing, “There is no restriction on making friends, and just being friends doesn’t make me liable for any acts of criminal nature they commit. My commitment to my nation and mankind is beyond question.”

“Your commitment!” Corbett is really struggling to control his emotions here, but nevertheless continues, “Tell me that’s why you have come to us, because you are committed to mankind’s safety, and not just because you are scared that they have used you, and now you are worried that you would be the first one dead. You are like a dog that neither belongs in the street, and nor has an owner.”

“You think you know everything about war, enemies and allies?” Garcia fumes back, “Let me open your eyes!” He then gestures to his man, who nods and calls someone on his radio. Two stewards march in, towing large trolleys, each lined with suitcases. “Open the cases,” Garcia tells the first one, who follows the command. And there in front of us lie Penancthian body suits in all their glory.

“Tell me, for how long have you and your government been pandering to this alien, and what have you got in return in the name of technology,” Garcia fumes in Corbett’s face.

“We don’t need to pander to anyone. We get what we want on our own, through our hard-work,” Corbett retorts back and pulls out a captured Penancthian weapon that he is carrying.

“This obsolete piece of shit that you captured in another era, is this what you call the fruit of labour?” Garcia ridicules him, “Let me show you something to open your eyes.” He then asks his other steward to open the cases on this trolley. And there in front of us lie Penancthian weapons, brand new in all their glory.

Mishiida and Zaiyeshin both jump out of their seats, astonished.

“Penancthian guns,” Colonel exclaims as he notices not just handguns, but full length arms.

“Correction Colonel,” Garcia quips, “Human guns! Made for humans, by humans! Penancthian technology that you are carrying is obsolete after these. Lighter to carry, greater firepower, and yet near non-existent recoil. Try picking one of them.”

Colonel, Corbett, Sandeep, Andrew and Monty, all four of them step up closer and pick up a gun each for inspection. “By jowls, they are damn light,” Monty quips.

“Unfortunately I will have to confiscate your goods under suspicion of assisting enemy aliens Mr. Garcia,” Colonel however quips.

“These are meant for you and your men only Colonel,” Mr. Garcia however quips, “Free samples for the Australian Army, to try and test so we can talk business later.”

“You think you can buy us with your sweat talk?” Colonel asks Garcia.

“You and your men will need them,” Garcia quips, “When we will land in Bolivia.”

“You are not getting away with any of this now son,” Colonel quips, “After we are done with the aliens, we will be bringing you back to get justice done under our law.”

“For what? For advancing human technology in one single leap, to take it right in front of the mightiest of races in the Universe?” Garcia almost chides Colonel, “Thanks to me, humanity is no longer at the mercy of an alien race that we don’t even know. Thanks to me, humanity will be calling the shots. Welcome to the real space age Colonel. Your government, like many others, will not get tired of honoring me.”

“Honour you for bringing the entire human race to the brink of extinction?” Colonel shakes his head in disgust, “If we fail to stop the Tyrenes, then thanks to you, there will be none of us left.”

“There is nothing you can do Colonel,” Garcia however calmly replies, “I am not taking you there to stop the Tyrenes.”

“What do you mean?” Corbett immediately asks.

“There is nothing you people can do. You are just a distraction that I can use, and I could have used anyone else,” Garcia quips, “There is only one man on this earth that can save humanity today, and that man is me.” At this point the air-hostess arrives with a drinks trolley. “Champagne for me please,” Garcia quips as he reclines back into his seat.


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