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Mishiida Alexander

Stalking Shadows

“Unlike ants, but like ants.”

Chapter Eighteen: Traction factor

Distinction based on social status really exists in nature, although that doesn’t necessarily make it natural, nor is it explicably a result of Darwin’s law of natural selection. Certain insect species, like ants and wasps, have a well defined social structure, with each member of the specie well aware of its predestined role in the hierarchy. There are workers who labor from birth to death, to build and stock the hive, and then there are drones who are the defenders of the colonial integrity. Privileged in the queen, whose only job is to procreate! But it isn’t Darwin’s natural selection that puts the various social classes in their respective places. It is the same queen that gives birth to both the workers and the drones, and the queen that bears the future queens. Yet the three distinct individual groups develop a completely different set of morphological and physiological traits. Such complete is the differentiation that no matter what a worker does in its life, it cannot be a drone or a queen, and nor can a drone be either. These social classes are absolute products of nature, but still not natural for any other species. But what about the humans?

There are two kinds of human beings; those who are greedy, and those who are lazy. But this is not a strict classification, for there is a bit of greed in every human being, and every human being can be lazy at times. Yet, the differences are marked. The social status distinction that exists in human beings is a result of this imperfect, yet basic differentiation. Those who are greedy are enterprising. They want more, and they know that so does everybody else. The only thing is; they know that they want it so much more than those others, that they can give a few bits to those others and make much more for themselves. It is not the morphological or physiological distinction, but the psychological distinction that is the source of social distinction in human beings. Yes it doesn’t need to be this way, but perhaps it is best that it still is.

Progress is made by races that are enterprising; greedy for more. Those who are lazy are always stuck in the rot, or fighting against each other trying to grab what another has made. When everybody is greedy, everybody is fighting. And when everybody is lazy, everybody is suffering. It is just the right balance that creates a rapidly developing society. Human beings are so unlike ants, yet they are destined to be like ants, for this is the only way humanity prefers to live. Mr. Garcia knows this, and thus never lets his sight wander off the target.

Flying in his modified jet is an experience really different from doing so on our own. Much slower, less serene, yet all the more classy! Now that the warring minds have decided to cool off for a few hours, it wasn’t really a bad idea to check up on Alex. But if it has turned out to be so embarrassing, well, than that’s Alexander.

So here we are in the cabin, joined by the two gorgeous ladies, Tanya and Jessica, staring at Alex, who is busy snoring. Oh well! Everyone needs to hang their legs once in a while. And as the two giggle, it might not be a bad idea to take a stroll outside the plane.

Standing here, up near the edge of the space, the world looks gorgeous, vibrant and colorful. It is indeed not hard to get philosophical about the vagaries of its life. An elephant on a rampage in a forest, never looks down below its’ feet, to count the ants it might trample on its’ way. Life is made for consumption at every level, and no one stops to contemplate someone’s loss. Yet when the same elephant turns it’s face towards human settlement, it ends up dead. But what about the elephants created by human beings; the artificial lives that the big corporations are? Every creation has a unique place and role in the food chain. Any imbalance at any level can have a catastrophic effect for those above and below. If elephants are the only creatures left in the world, they won’t last forever or too long.

But anyway, let us get back to the plane and catch up with the clashing egos, as they try to figure out a strategy to overcome their own mental demons, and work as a unit.

“Gentlemen, and lady,” Mr. Garcia addresses them as they finally settle down in the meeting room, “We’ll be arriving in Bolivia in under three hours. This is the floor plan of the underground facility that you may all wish to commit to memory.”

“Why don’t you use your men?” Colonel quips much to Mr. Garcia’s chagrin.

“I will if you will be so adamant and unproductive,” Mr. Garcia bluntly replies.

Corbett, who probably understands the critical importance of every minute here, decides it’s enough, and breaks the deadlock, “So what is the plan that you are proposing?”

“The manufacturing is located beyond levels sixteen, and down below to level twenty one, while the delivery of the crafts is at level twenty three underground,” Mr. Garcia replies, “I need to get inside one of the crafts, to activate an embedded device the Tyrenes are unaware of. This will activate similar devices in all the crafts in the air. The auto-destruct will happen in five minutes. So basically we need all the Tyrenes in the crafts, and up in the air.”

“But why are you waiting for them to take the delivery?” Sandeep asks perplexed, “You can destroy the crafts altogether, and then leave them to fend for themselves. You’ve got the technology now, what do you need from them now?”

“Simple my friend,” Mr. Garcia quips, “Destroying the crafts would still leave the Tyrenes alive. And they will proceed to get them manufactured by our galaxy mates in a world the Tyrenes call Keradora. Then we will be left to battle them in a much more elaborate war.”

“But why couldn’t we just destroy them with your facility, when they are still inside?” Colonel asks what he might consider would be an uncomfortable proposition for Mr. Garcia.

“Colonel, those crafts can only be destroyed from the inside, and the gadget will connect with other crafts only when the crafts are in use,” Mr. Garcia answers a bulk of questions over here, “We were trying to break their craft technology, and were almost done, but they have surprised us. Once they go up in the air, our servers will download the last set of data that we need to crack their software. So we need them up in the air.”

“What’s the plan?” Colonel asks.

“They have taken over the entire facility,” Mr. Garcia informs them, “My people are outside; except for a handful doing the finishing work. So I go in, deal with their commander Urzartyre, try to sweet talk or sneak into one of their crafts, and activate the gadget.”

“But why didn’t you just set up a system outside, somewhere in the facility?” Corbett asks indignantly.

“Because the apparatus needs to be connected to their system, and their system keeps a strict count of how many crafts are in service,” Mr. Garcia explains in reply.

“And what are we going to do if everything is to be done by you?” Colonel asks the next relevant question.

“Wait,” Mr. Garcia replies, “If anything goes wrong; then for my signal, else, come in at least as soon as the ground breaks to reveal the exit. There are over four hundred crafts, and the way this facility is designed, it should take at least ten minutes for them to exit. It will take you five minutes to use the lift; or stairs if you want to, and get to the launch area.”

“But why leave it so late?” Monty has his apprehensions, and so do we.

“Because this way you can be sure that all the Tyrenes would have fallen back to the launch zone, and occupied the crafts,” Mr. Garcia replies.

“What if you fail and we are too late?” Sandeep points to the dreaded.

“Don’t worry son, I’ve already contacted the base, and the allies would be ready across both the Pacific and the Atlantic,” Colonel assures him.

“There’s nothing any of them can do,” Mr. Garcia replies, “These crafts are mightier than what the Penancthians deploy.”

“Are you saying we should give up and start with our final prayers?” Colonel is incensed, and he makes sure Jacky knows it.

“All I am saying is; we are the first, as well as the last line of defense,” Mr. Garcia replies without batting an eye.

With the arguments and plans both decisively settled, it is not a bad idea to leave the sulking hounds lick their wounds, and the triumphant whale in his self professed glory. Alex is a much better human to be around these days.

Sycophancy has been in vogue for as long as a language has existed. It is not that a sycophant has no sense of dignity. It is just that the sense is of less relevance than the greed that needs to be served on priority. But who can blame a man whose slip is on show, when everybody else considers a slip to be in vogue? Brilliant are those men who deploy a slip to their advantage, even though they have not lost their grace to play for the gallery.

“Wake up sweetheart, we’ve just landed,” Jessica, who is standing next to a sleeping Alex tries to wake him up.

“What?” Alex wakes up rubbing his eyes, and then realizes that they have already landed, “Oh shit! I missed all the fun.”

And the two girls giggle amongst each other, before Tanya replies, “We are just waiting for the plane to be taxied into the hangar. So hold on.”

“Ah me,” Alex quips dejectedly, “But that’s fine! I accept it! But there’s always a next time.”

“Sure baby,” Tanya quips as she and Jessica work the controls to let the ground staff at the private airport hook the plane for a taxi to the hangar.

“I just need to go to the washroom,” Alex comments.

“Wait till we get to the hangar,” Jessica quips.

Waiting is subject to patience, and patience is an art of either motivation or commitment. A weakly motivated person can seldom have the patience to sit through a period of inactivity, and a non-committed person can rarely wait to get out of the demanding circumstance. However, while motivation is a byproduct of internal factors, commitment, even though subject to internal checks and balances, is a factor linked to external circumstances.

“After you,” Colonel generously steps out of the way for Mr. Garcia to disembark first, as a waiting Captain Tanya Singh and Second Captain Jessica Tait thank them for their patience and wish them luck for the day.

As everybody steps out of the plane, Jessica cranes her neck to look at the toilet. The sound of water being flushed indicates that Alex too is ready to leave.

Alex steps out of the toilet and asks immediately, “Where’s everyone gone?”

Jessica replies, “They just disembarked; possibly waiting for you on the tarmac.”

Alex heaves a big sigh and quips, “Pray for me!”

Tanya and Jessica look on at each other before Tanya asks, “What for?”

Alex relies, “That’s a bit complex to answer. But I wasn’t supposed to be here.”

“What?” Tanya looks at him with her hands on her hips.

“Never mind, I’ll survive,” Alex quips as he quickly soft paws down the stairwell, careful not to attract the attention of the remainder, as a surprised and indignant Tanya and Jessica walk out as well.

Meanwhile the others march up towards the exit, where a waiting militia commander receives the company.

“Greetings my dear friend Alfonso,” Mr. Garcia exclaims as he steps forward to shake hand with the notorious drug lord whose men control this stretch of land in Bolivia.

“Greetings my friend,” Alfonso replies, his Spanish accent not to be missed, “We have a problem.”

“And we are here to address just the same,” Mr. Garcia replies without giving him a chance to divulge the details.

“Listen, I don’t care what business you do with these men in khaki and green, for I can deal with them,” Alfonso however is still not impressed, “But these ugly weird space cadets that you’ve brought on to our lands, they give my men jitters.”

“I apologize for the inconvenience my friend,” Mr. Garcia tries to address his concerns; “We are here to take the burden off your backs permanently.” His words seem to be having some effect, so he continues, “All I want you to do is one thing!”

“And what’s that,” Alfonso asks.

“Make sure none of your men, women or children, are above the ground,” Garcia’s reply leaves him speechless, “I promise you; I’ll make good all your loss.”

“Should I believe that to be a gentleman’s word?” Alfonso asks.

“I cross my heart and swear on my name and reputation,” Mr. Garcia reassures him.

Alfonso nods in agreement and shakes his hand, but before he could turn away to leave, his eye catches sight of Alex, who was trying to stay out of focus by fiddling around with some boxes lying in a corner. Alfonso points out to him and asks, “Is he with you?” And at this point, everyone turns around and looks at Alex, their jaws dropping down to the floor.

“Oh great, just what we needed,” Corbett exclaims haplessly.

“Alex, what the hell are you doing here?” and Colonel blows his lid.

“Oh! Nothing,” Alex quips as he realizes he can’t hide anymore. He walks up towards them and replies, “What are you guys doing?”

“We are working,” Colonel retorts back.

“So, is it three hours already?” Alex asks.

“That’s not the point,” Colonel fires back, “The point is; you are not supposed to be here with us. We can’t fend for you and do our jobs simultaneously.”

“But I don’t need you to fend for me,” Alex replies with a look we’ve never noticed on his face before.

“Your opinion doesn’t count,” Colonel however puts the law down squarely, “That’s it! You are grounded.”

“We’ll see,” Alex quips.

At this point Mr. Garcia decides to join in the conversation. “Colonel, we need to get moving,” he exclaims before turning to the ladies, Tanya and Jessica, “Ladies! Could you please take care of the lady?”

“Sure thing,” Tanya quips as the duo move around Alex, who’s left panting and licking his wound, his finger raised up in the air but words lost somewhere deep down his throat.

“C’mon Colonel,” Garcia quips as he leads Colonel Rick and his team out. Mishiida turns back and waves at Alex, and her unhappiness at the situation is hard to miss on her face too.

“That was totally uncalled for,” Alex finally manages to find the right words to say in the presence of two ladies.

“So, what do you propose we should do to kill our time?” Jessica asks as she runs her hand on Alex’s chest, naughtily.

“You don’t really expect that I’ll stay here with you girls, do you?” Alex asks the duo.

“Did we mention; we are trained assassins too?” Tanya exclaims as she joins Jessica in being naughty.

“Do I look like a farmer from peach town?” Alex quips as he tries to walk away.

In a flash the two ladies pull out a gun each and put it to his head.

“We don’t want to do this, but we will if you’ll force us to?” Jessica comments to him.

“And I’m supposed to believe that?” Alex smirks before continuing, “You are supposed to protect me, not kill me.”

“Who says we are going to kill you?” Tanya asks in return, “What if we just shot you in your legs?”

“That’s a convincing argument,” Alex, realizing his options are severely limited, quips and turns around, “I guess I’ll just have to sit here and wait.” And the two ladies shake their heads in agreement, and follow him as he walks towards a corner where some chairs are lying.

“Hey, what’s that?” Alex exclaims and bends down to the floor in a jiffy. The two ladies taken by surprise bend down to have a look too, but Alex gets up in a flash, hitting their faces with his stretched out arms, toppling them back. But as the two are about to fall back, Alex twirls around on his feet, and in a quick move pushes one shoulder each of the two girls to twist them around in their shoes, with their feet acting as a fulcrum. And as soon as the ladies twirl around, Alex grabs them by their hair and pull them in towards him with force. The ladies fall back towards him, but as soon as their torsos are by his side, he grabs them by their necks and smashes their heads together. Still not letting them balance on their feet, he gives them a pull to make them tumble on their backs. But as their bodies are falling down, in a flash, grabs their weapons from their hands. The two ladies fall flat on their backs, unconscious.

“Ooh, I guess that’s what they call ass as in smacked,” Alex quips as he quickly shuffles the weapons in his hands, and secures them under his waist belt. “I better find a rope to tie these gorgeous ladies up, and then get them somewhere underground,” Alex makes a loud mental note as he looks around for a piece of rope. And perhaps we can also move along and catch up with the rest of the group, and see what they are up to.

Battlefield is not a place to decide whether it was futile to have undertaken the course that led to it. It is a place which decides what course would be available thereafter. The time for introspection is before making the first decision, and the time for evaluation is the end of the battle. Retrospection is best left for a future yet to come.

“Alfonso will lead you guys to the rear end of the facility,” Mr. Garcia is giving some final directions just as we arrive, “The vegetation should provide you a nice cover. We both should reach the respective entrances about the same time. Then just wait for my signal.”

“Best of luck,” Colonel finally decides to shake hands with him, and as he pats him on his shoulder, exclaims; “I hate to say this; but we are counting on you.”

“Thanks Colonel,” Mr. Garcia quips in reply, “I promise I won’t falter in my commitment. You guys be ready and waiting though.”

Much has been written about waiting in literature already, yet everything eventually boils down to a point where one is left waiting, for outcomes beyond one’s control. And this is the point of realization for every man, that how fragile his thought bubbles are.

“Do we really need to wait for his signal?” Corbett asks Colonel, as soon as Alfonso leaves them by the rear entrance to the facility.

“We’ll wait for fifteen minutes and then make our move,” Colonel exclaims, “Five minutes for him to get to the launch level, five minutes for him to negotiate, and five minutes for the frontline Tyrenes to leave their positions so as to fall back to the launch level.”

“Will fifteen minutes be enough to clear our way?” Sandeep asks.

“It’s Tyrenes that we are dealing with,” Colonel replies with his eyes focused hard on the entrance, “They treat who they deal with, as use and throw objects. They are not going to waste time cleaning their act up. They don’t need to.”

If there is one thing predictable about a facade, it is its’ vulnerability to discerning light. What can look and pass off as real and convincing in dim, loses the edge of its shadows in the glare of the brightness.

“Welcome my dear friends,” Mr. Garcia exclaims with open arms as he greets Pfzarida and Draztida, who along with a few of Tyrene friends were waiting for him in the lobby at the first level underground. The two however gesture him to stop, while the Tyrenes walk up to him. They then gesture him to raise his hands up.

“I don’t understand what all this is about,” Mr. Garcia asks but Pfzarida gestures him to keep silent. The Tyrenes scan his body using gadgets held in their hands, and pull out all the electronic devices on his body, including the microchip that he was using for communicating with Colonel and his men.

“Hey, that is totally unnecessary,” Mr. Garcia exclaims indignantly, “This is my facility after all.” But the Tyrenes shove him forward roughly.

“Ok! Don’t blame me for complaining to Commander Urzartyre now,” Mr. Garcia exclaims as the Tyrenes crush his electronic gadgets with the might of their bare hands. The Penancthians however gesture him to follow them.

It is not necessary for every plan to work, but it is still important to have a plan ready to start with; and at least a plan ready to fall back upon. The more meticulous one is at this initial stage, the less susceptible is he to the risk of a failure.

“Damn it,” Colonel exclaims as he pulls out his ear piece, “They’ve blacked us out. We are on our own.”


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