The Fall of Tataka

Vashishta was surprised to see the caller id of his phone displaying a familiar but not so friendly name. It was Vishwamitra, his colleague and the most capable competitor. Vashishta was wondering why he was receiving a call from him, though in his heart he knew it had to do with his students. Hesitantly he answered the call, “It is always a pleasant surprise when you call. So what favor do you seek from me now?”

Vishwamitra: “You do know, you would be the last person on the earth to ask for a favor. Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

Vashishta: “What do you want from me?”

Vishwamitra: “Not from you, but your students actually.”

Vashishta: “They are still kids, Vishwamitra. What on earth do you need them for?”

Vishwamitra: “A hacker has stolen a very sensitive data from our facility.”

Vashishta: “You need to track a hacker? It is a simple task, why you need them? What’s the catch?”

Vishwamitra: “Had it been that simple we would not have been having this conversation. We caught the hacker, but the information was already sent to a secure location. I need them to break into the warehouse, retrieve the data and destroy any evidences.”

Vashishta: “Still, you have your commandos who can do this easily. I’m still waiting for the real reason.”

Vishwamitra: “Damn it! You have to make me say it every time! The warehouse is in Tataka’s forest and Tataka is personally guarding the warehouse with her men.”

Vashishta: “Are you out of your mind? It is too risky! They are just kids. I’m afraid I can’t allow this.”

Vishwamitra: “I knew you would say this. That is why I took the liberty to meet them with their parents directly. In fact, I’m on my way to meet them now.”

Vashishta: “Fuck you and your bureaucracy! You guys would go to any lengths to cover your ass!”

Vishwamitra met Dashrath and explained him the reasons why he needed his son and Laxman. Dashrath was hesitant initially, but was convinced later by Ram and Laxman. Vashishta arrived at the scene and tried to warn them of the danger they were walking into. “This is a part of my duty towards my motherland. If I’m not capable of fulfilling it, then I should not exist.” Ram said to calm everyone and to announce his resolve.

Vishwamitra, Laxman and Ram got into a car and proceeded towards the military base.

Vishwamitra: “Ram and Laxman, before we start the mission let me be crystal clear, it is an extremely difficult task and we do not have an official clearance for it.”

Laxman: “So we are going unofficially? What if we are caught?”

Vishwamitra: “Once you enter the forest you will be on your own. If captured, we will deny your existence. You will no longer be the citizen of India.”

Laxman: “Ram? Say something man. Is this really worth?”

Ram: “Relax Laxman, we have trained all these years for something like this. Nothing will go wrong.”

Vishwamitra: “If I were you I would not be so over confident. You don’t even know the place and the circumstances.”

Ram: “As a matter of fact I do know. Your facility was working on human enhancements and recently you had a groundbreaking break trough. This research was stolen by one of your employees and not some hacker. It is now on a hard drive in possession of a bandit known as Tataka, and most likely we will be encountering super humans or mutants created using your research.”

Vishwamitra: “Impressive, Vashishta was not wrong in praising your intellect. But how did you know about this?”

Laxman: “He won’t tell you that. I have been trying to figure it out for years now. I even spied his online activity, but still nothing!”

Ram: “Laxman, next time at least encrypt the crawler and mask it under some different process, I didn’t even have to make any effort to redirect your crawler to my father’s computer.”

Laxman was flabbergasted with Ram’s response. They arrived at the facility and were taken to a secure room, where they held the employee. Vishwamitra pointed towards a location on the map, “This is the warehouse where the hard drive has been kept. It is guarded by 50-60 men. We cannot monitor their activity as this is a densely populated forest which is pretty much inaccessible for our satellites. As far as we know they have installed a defense mechanism for protecting the hard drive.”

Ram interpreted him and asked, “How you know this is the place?”

One of the operators answered him, “This is the only place in the forest with such a large scale human activity. Also we had our reports from the locals around this area reporting about a high tech device being transported.”

Laxman laughed out loud, “It’s a fucking hard drive, it can be transported in a pocket, why would they attract such unnecessary attention?”

“The hard drive is encrypted with a 512-byte cipher block chaining encryption. So you need a high end computing device to decrypt the encryption.” Vishwamitra added with a hint of sarcasm.

Ram signaled the operator to vacant the seat and then started typing on the console, “It’s a goddamn forest people! No one uses internet to that extent in a forest! Cipher block chaining encryption uses IV and a key to encrypt the data, it would take many years to just recover a key for usual 128-bit encryption. We are talking about 512-byte key, so they will be using a grid to combine the processing speed which will require a sending and receiving large number of packets, so now if you look on the screen the areas marked in red are the ones with unusual amount of data packets. There are two areas in particular which have almost same amount of packets exchanged, but the strange thing is these locations are almost 5 km apart. Laxman, don’t just stand there, give me a hand, let us check the topography of this place. Everything in the 10 Km radius of these two particular sites.” Laxman tapped on the shoulder of another operator who was just staring at Ram, and started typing on the console. “You are re-routing the satellite, is this even legal?”, the operator who vacated his seat for Laxman exclaimed. Laxman gave him a cold stare and whispered in dead serious tone, “Mate, your boss brought us here. So nothing is illegal for us. But for you, yes it is illegal! And one more thing from one professional to another, in your career, never ever question the guys your boss brings along as experts, especially when he is still in the room.” Laxman gave him a fist bump and then again continued his work, “There is a maze of underground tunnels in this area. Ram, I’m going nuts, looking at this labyrinth!”

Vishwamitra: “There used to be a mine in that area so the tunnels were created for transportation.”

Laxman: “Well, these tunnels are being used as an escape route now. Ram, the two peaks you mentioned are the two points were all the tunnels meet, basically it’s a station.”

Ram: “What I don’t understand is why two places.”

Vishwamitra: “The other must be for producing the serum, only the last phase of the serum was in the hard disk, rest of the material was not that secure.”

Ram: “Still doesn’t make any sense; decrypting it at different places means additional security at both ends also more chances of attracting attention in a remote place.”

Laxman: “I guess they are using the other place to design high tech weaponry.”

Ram: “That makes perfect sense then! Keeping both at different sites means they can salvage at least one.”

Laxman: “So, Sir what help can you offer us? But before that, just tell me who the fuck gave you the location of the hard drive? It’s almost 50 Km apart from the actual location.”

Vishwamitra: “That is the reason I bought you both here. The forest is in Myanmar, and as you know we have a peace accord with them, so the maximum help we can provide is transport you into the forest. From there onward you are on your own.”

Ram: “That’s fine, we can manage the rest, but before going there we need a couple of things.”

Vishwamitra: “Everything here will be at your disposal. Take anything you need.”

Ram: “First, we need the perfect maps of all the tunnels and if possible we need constant thermal imaging of the two sites. Second, we need a couple of small drones with good cameras.”

Laxman: “And we need access to weapons.”

Ram and Laxman started working on a plan to retrieve the hard drive. Vishwamitra ordered his men to prepare the required equipments and started working on gathering as much intel as possible.

After few hours Vishwamitra was back and looked dejected. Ram asked him the reason.

Vishwamitra: “We have captured one of their men.”

Laxman: “That is a great news, why are so gloomy then?”

Vishwamitra: “I think it will be impossible to retrieve the hard disk. I’m considering to order an airstrike on the entire forest and declare it as a natural calamity.”

Ram: “What have your learnt that worries you so much?”

Vishwamitra: “The captive told us the real use of the tunnels. They are not escape routes, instead those are death traps. One of the two locations you showed, holds a mechanism which is in sync with the decryption. If there is any tampering with the hard disk or even if a few data packets are missed, the mechanism will trigger explosives all around the tunnels, instantly killing everyone inside. The explosives are placed at strategic points that support the entire weight of the tunnels, if any of the explosives is disarmed, the remaining will blow up other tunnels.”

Ram: “Laxman, what is the length of the tunnels?”

Laxman: “The two locations are in the center. So if we take the shortest route it will be around 7 kms patch, but only 4 km of it will be through tunnels. If we take a bike through the tunnel it will take us 8-10 minutes to get in and out of either of the locations.”

Vishwamitra: “You don’t have that much time. Once you disconnect the hard drive, it will take couple of seconds for the packets to go out of sync and the explosives will detonate.”

Ram: “Leave that to us, we will survive and retrieve the disk. Laxman, just take our bow and arrows, and a few knifes. Just drop everything that makes noise.”

Laxman: “Explosive arrow heads?” Ram raised an eyebrow. “Okay. I guess that’s a no then.”

Next day Ram and Laxman were dropped near the Tataka forest, they resumed their further journey by foot. After walking for 2 hours they finally reached near the tunnels. They hid in nearby bushes and prepared for an ambush. As soon as the number of guards at the gate reduced to two, two arrows came flying and hit the guards in the head. Ram and Laxman stripped the guards, wore their uniforms and disposed the bodies.

They traveled through the tunnels to reach the first location on the list. Ram started to check the computer while Laxman was checking for any threats.

Laxman: “Ram, hurry, we got company.”

Ram: “Fuck! Bad luck mate. The drive is not here. It must be at the other location.”

Laxman: “Fuck, now what? The guards will be coming in any second now.”

Ram: “Now, we fight.”

Both of them carried a bow and quiver filled with different kinds of arrows. Ram shot the door with an arrow filled with concentrated acid, setting the door ablaze and killing the guards with the toxic fumes. Laxman shot the militants at the other end of the tunnel. A horde of militants surrounded Ram and Laxman, pointing the guns towards them. They both surrendered with out much fight.

They were taken to detention center and were tied to a chair. They were beaten brutally by the militants and then their commander, named Subahu came to visit the duo. He was a strongly built hunk with long scar that stretched from left forehead to right side of the jaw. The militants stopped as soon as Subahu entered the room.

Subahu shouted, “Who sent you?” seeing neither of them reply he punched Ram in the gut, Ram spat blood and tried to free himself from the chair. Subahu repeated his question, this time targeting at Laxman. Laxman smirked at him and answered, “Take a wild guess nut job! Who the fuck would send us here other than the people from whom you stole.” Subahu lost his temper banged Laxman’s head on the table. He ordered his men to keep an eye on them and stormed out of the room.

Late at night when Ram and Laxman were alone.

Ram: “What is the status?”

Laxman: “The virus is still uploading. It may take a couple of hours more to infect all the hosts in the network.”

Ram: “Once all the hosts are infected, redirect all the traffic to the bomb triggered computer.”

Laxman: “Yes, I have already patched the MAC address in the script. I’m taking a nap, wake me up when the uploading is completed.”

Ram: “How will I know?”

Laxman: “Oh, I forgot to mention that, they have an intruder alarm which didn’t go off when we entered. This time it will go off!”

Ram: “I hate when you change the plans on the go!”

Laxman: “I didn’t tell you because you wouldn’t have allowed it.”

Ram: “Of course not! The less alert they are, the better for us.”

Laxman faked snoring and closed his eyes. Just then the door opened, but this time a man in his late twenties entered. He was wearing a suit and was sporting a handlebar mustache. He smiled slyly and sprinkled water on Laxman’s face. “My name is Marich and I have come to save you guys.”

Laxman: “We know who the fuck you are. We have already met your retarded brother.”

One of the guards punched Laxman’s face with the butt of his rifle. Marich stopped him and asked the guards to get out.

Marich: “You do know that the hard disk is rigged to a bomb, right? You don’t look as dumb as my brother.”

Laxman: “So, was it your idea to use these tunnels?”

Marich: “In every battle the victory is assured to the one who chooses the battle ground. I have spent your entire life in these tunnels, admiring their beauty and complexity.”

Laxman: “I like your intelligence, it would be such a shame if you have to die today. So I would offer you a piece of advice, stay away from these tunnels tonight and you might survive.”

Marich laughed loudly and said, “You are one hell of a funny guy. Even after being held as a captive you dream of the stealing the damn disk. So, I will also offer you a piece of advice, stay away from the disk and you might survive.”

Marich, Subahu and Tataka were planning the next attack using the super soldiers once the disk was decrypted. They were just about to leave when all the alarms started buzzing. They ran to the control room to check what was happening.

Operator: “Sir, I guess we have multiple intruders. All the alarms at all the entrances are buzzing.”

Marich: “Do we have any activity on our cameras?”

Operator: “No sir, the cameras do not show any activity. I fear even the cameras are hacked.”

Marich: “Who is this idiot? Just get the hell out of here. Subahu, order your men to scout the entire area to check for any attack. Mom, do me a favor and check on our captives. I will stay here and monitor everything.”

Tataka wore a khaki attire with a double barrel rifle strapped on her shoulder. She also wore a bandolier around the waist. Tataka ordered the militants guarding Ram and Laxman to open the door and check on them. It was hard to visualize in the UV lights as the main lights were still not functioning due to alarms. Even after 5 minutes there was no reply from the guards. She sent another group inside, they met the same fate. Tataka instantly knew something was off and asked the remaining unit make a formation and surround the room. The walls of the room were made of plywood, which were easily detachable, Tataka ordered the removal of the walls. When the walls were removed, her men were lying dead on the ground, there was no trace of the duo. She was furious at the site, “Go, bring me their heads. How did they escape with we guarding the only exit?”

Ram and Laxman had freed themselves from shackles by breaking the chair in which they were bounded. They collected their bow and arrows which were kept in the same room by the guards, and then patiently waited for the kill. They had heard Tataka giving the order to the guards. Ram and Laxman stood close to the door and just as the guards went closer to the chair they shot the guards with arrows straight in their throats. They collected the arrows again and now waited in the darkest corner of the room. They heard Tataka giving order to the next group and this group also met the same fate as the previous. They heard Tataka speak again, but this time she asked the guards to remove the walls, Ram and Laxman were wearing the same uniform as the guards, they waited till the first wall was removed then joined the closest bunch of guards and helped them to remove the adjacent wall. They escaped under the pretext of keeping the plywood.

Tataka realized two of her guards were still missing and she figured out the two missing guards were none other than the prisoners themselves. She ordered few of them to look for the guys who went to keep the plywood and she took rest of the unit towards the server room where the hard disk was kept, as a measure of safety she ordered them to strip their shirts.

Ram and Laxman had memorized the entire map in the free time. They proceeded towards the location of the hard disk. The guards on their trail cornered them into a tunnel, but Ram and Laxman were took quick with the bows and the guards never got the chance to reach the gun’s trigger. One of the guards who was left behind saw one of his friends fall and he fired in the direction blindly.

Subahu heard the gunfire and ordered his men to return to the server room. Tataka soon joined him and Marich was finally able to establish a contact with them.

Marich: “I still don’t have control over the camera. So I’m blind as of now, but I have cleared the radio channel and at least we can talk now. So what’s the status? Have we captured the intruders?”

Subahu: “I haven’t seen anyone yet. But I heard gun shots so I have ordered all the men to protect the server room. Mom has also joined me with her men.”

Marich: “Joined you? Why? What happened to the captives? Don’t tell me she killed them.”

Tataka: “Wow, my own son thinks so little of me. I have not reached where I’m by being a fool.”

Marich: “I didn’t mean it that way, mom. Anyways that’s not the priority right now. What happened to those two?”

Tataka: “They escaped somehow. I had sent a few guards on their trail, but hearing the gun shots and no return of the guards so far means they have managed to kill them and now are proceeding this way. Marich, do one thing isolate the cameras in this room from the server and we will manually reset them.”

Marich: “I have already done that, now just reset the cameras and we are good to go.”

Tataka and Subahu restarted the cameras.

Marich: “I have the cameras under my control, but still there is no trace of them. Can you send some of your men to reset the remaining cameras in the tunnels?”

Subahu: “No Marich, we do not know the exact number of intruders. It might be possible that there is another group which freed the captives and now are heading this way. We need every possible hand at our disposal to defend.”

Ram and Laxman were listening to the entire conversation between Marich, Subahu and Tataka. They reached near the server room and were observing the enemy formation.

Laxman: “We will have to avoid cameras, we can attack from south and then proceed towards east. There is a watch tower at the east, once we climb that we can take them down easily.”

Ram nodded in approval and they waited for the camera to turn towards left, once camera was facing the left side they stood under the camera and waited for it to turn right. They evaded most of the cameras using this technique. As they came near the watch tower Ram was about to step out when Laxman held him back and whispered, “Look, this camera has a viewing angle of 270 °, it will be impossible to get in the tower without being noticed. There is a wall on the left side of the tower, we can take out the guards on the watch tower and then climb the wall and the tower. You do have the special one with you right?”

Ram: “Of course, how can I forget the one arrow which always gets us out of trouble.”

Ram and Laxman went back in the tunnel and found another tunnel which led them to the wall near the tower. Once they were close to the wall, they grabbed the attention of the guards by shooting an arrow at the top of the tower. All the guards gathered to see who shot the arrow, and took out the radio to inform Marich, his head was decapitated before he could speak anything. Other guards went in a frenzy watching the head of their fellow mate, but before they could recover from the shock, they were shot dead. Ram then shot the special arrow, the arrowhead split into two mid-air, with one head hitting the roof of the tower and other killing the last guard. The force of the arrow made the guard fall down from the tower. The arrow also contained an ultra-thin transparent fiber and a mechanism which converted the first part of the arrow head as a pulley and the second head as the dead weight, the other end of the fiber was attached to Ram’s belt. So as the guard fell down, Ram landed on the top of the tower, Laxman detached the head from the dead guard’s body. Ram threw his belt down at Laxman which caused the free head to come up, he then attached the free head to another dead guard and threw him down. As soon as Laxman reached the top, they took down the guards who were standing away from the cameras. Marich noticed a shoe in the corner of the screen and asked Subahu to check. Subahu saw a bunch of dead guys and shouted at Marich, “What the hell Marich, what are you doing up there? A bunch of the guys die and you don’t know about it?” Marich was surprised to hear that, “I don’t see any dead bodies, Subahu. I don’t think there are any more intruders than these two. These guys are very clever. They know the locations of our cameras very well. I’m coming down there, there is no point watching from here. They are already near the room.”

Laxman saw Marich as he got out from the control room and was about to shoot him when Ram motioned him to stop, “Don’t kill him just now, he will lead us to Subahu and Tataka. Once we know there position it will be easier to take out rest of the guys.”

As Marich reached the northern entrance where Subahu and Tataka were waiting, he heard a cry of one of the men behind him. He instinctively took cover near the shelter and was searching for the source of the arrow that killed the man. Subahu pointed towards the tower and motioned his men to surround the tower. There was a rain of arrows on Subahu and his men as soon as they were in the range. Arrows flew from Ram and Laxman’s bows like bats out of hell. The entire unit of 30 men were eliminated within few seconds, Subahu somehow managed to escape the arrows and took shelter under the shed. All the men rushed to the site hearing the screams of the dying men. Tataka was furious at the site and fired the grenade launcher at the tower. Ram shot an arrow which exploded in midair causing the grenade to explode before reaching the tower. With a lightning speed Ram shot another arrow which lodged into Tataka’s shoulder. At the same time Subahu aimed a bazooka at the tower. Laxman shot an explosive arrow, which hit the bazooka as soon as it left the barrel. Subahu was torn to pieces by the explosion. Like a demon Tataka gave a shrill cry seeing her beloved son explode, and started firing in the direction of the tower aimlessly. She went inside the room and injected herself with the unstable serum. The serum accelerated her cellular growth, healing her wounds instantly. By the time Tataka came out again Ram and Laxman had wiped out almost all the men, just Marich and few of her men remained, they were hiding behind the wall and planning an attack.

Tataka grabbed a cement bag and lifted it as if it was filled with cotton. She hurled the bag towards the tower, Ram and Laxman had just a few minutes to dodge the incoming bag. They were astonished by her strength. Ram shot three arrows in quick succession, taking out her arms and leg. Tataka felt no pain despite losing both the arms. Another set of arms started generating as a result of the serum. She kicked the base of the tower, demolishing it in few blows. Ram and Laxman jumped on the roof just in time to avoid the impact. Marich was terrified at his mother’s new found strength, but he quickly regained his composure and ordered his men to be injected with the serum.

Laxman: “How the fuck are we going to kill these beasts? We cut them down they get restored,  for them this is just like a game with cheat codes on, you are on verge of dying just enter the cheat code and voila, you are back to 100% again!”

Ram: “Look carefully, it is not back to 100% always. The regeneration process is not proper, look at that guy’s fingers, there are 7 fingers instead of 5.”

Laxman: “So you mean keep shooting until they die? That might take ages with these normal arrows and we can’t blow things up because we are under a fucking tunnel!”

Ram: “A little fire will do the trick. I hope you have put the mini flamethrower in one of these arrows.”

Laxman: “Yeah, I have couple of those, but one arrow can burn only one person at the max, we are talking about 25 super humans.”

Ram: “Let us split, you stay here and cover me, I will get the hard drive.”

Laxman aligned three machine guns in an arc position and tied a string to each of its triggers, as he pulled the string all three guns started firing in different directions creating chaos among the men on the receiving end. He also shot them with arrows in heart and head. A headshot meant 5-6 minutes of time for the regeneration process, while the shot in heart required 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile, Ram climbed down the roof and started running towards the lab, Laxman cleared his path. Tataka understood this and she caught up with Ram, before Laxman could shoot her, she held Ram by his shoulder and threw him against the wall. Laxman shot 3 arrows at her in quick succession, which gave Ram time to steady himself.

Laxman, over the walkie-talkie: “Sorry, she was too fast.”

Ram: “I know, I barely had time to react. Anyways leave her to me, you keep other engaged.”

Laxman: “Roger that!”

Ram shot Tataka in head five times with his revolver, but still that didn’t have any effect on her. She charged at Ram like a wild elephant. Ram dodged her and shot her with arrows in the back. Seeing the weapons having no effect on Tataka, Ram targeted her joints and started shooting arrows in her joints. But she removed the arrows quickly before Ram could shoot another. Ram shot her in eyes with two arrows simultaneously, Tataka was blinded momentarily, taking the advantage Ram escaped from her vicinity and proceeded towards the computer. Tataka got her site back within few minutes, by that time Ram had reached near the computer. Tataka picked up a gas canister to throw at Ram, but Ram was quick enough to shoot the nozzle with an arrow and fire gun at the canister to explode it while it was in Tataka’s hand. Half of her body was destroyed by the explosion, and she laid on the ground unable to move. Ram proceeded towards the computer and was about to remove the drive, when he was shot in the back, Marich was waiting for the moment and ceased it as soon as he had a chance. Ram was not fatally wounded as Marich had expected, Ram was going to shoot him with the explosive arrow he had reserved for Tataka but in the moment of pain and dizziness he fired an anti-missile arrow, which carried Marich few hundreds of meters, but did not do much physical damage . Marich was paralyzed due to adrenaline rush and the fear of death. He ran out of the tunnel as quickly as he could once his sense regained composure. Ram removed the drive and informed Laxman to descend and proceed towards the exit. Tataka’s body recovered and she again attacked Ram, but this time Ram had his eyes on her, he jumped sideways to avoid impact and shot her with the explosive arrow. Tataka burst into flames, she tried to put out the fire but the flammable liquid in the arrow had spread all over her body. She was soon vaporized.

The other men were confused at the loss of the last of their commanders. Ram and Laxman escaped out of the tunnels. Once outside, Laxman restarted the router which triggered the explosives inside the tunnel.

 “That wound would leave a scar on your back!”, Laxman said teasing Ram’s wound.

Ram: “Every dog has his day! I regret not killing that bastard.”

Laxman: “Oh, I thought you let him off deliberately.”

Ram and Laxman delivered the hard disk to Vishwamitra and were about to leave, when he stopped them, “There is someone I would like you guys to meet. You can rest for today; we will meet them tomorrow.”

Laxman in a waning tone, “Dude? Another mission? We have not yet enrolled here.”

Vishwamitra chuckled and replied, “It is not a mission, just a meeting.”

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Ravan and Hanuman: Old memories

Year 2002: Hanuman was stationed on the Northern border leading an elite commando squad in the treacherous mountains of the Himalayas dealing with terrorists and Chinese insurgents. Hanuman was assigned a mission to retrieve a surveillance drone built by Ravan, which was stolen by the Maoists near the Assam border during transportation and according to Ravan, its current location was in somewhere in Siliguri Corridor, a 20Km narrow stretch surrounded by Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. Hanuman was instructed by the General to follow the leads of Ravan for the mission. It was surprising that a civilian was allowed to have so much authority for a covert mission. Siliguri Corridor or better known as ‘Chicken’s neck’ had long been a breeding ground for warlords, human traffickers and militants from the northeastern parts of India. Even though Hanuman was very well versed with the Corridor he was frustrated about the mission as all details on the drone were classified and his superiors refused to reveal it to him. After enough digging, he found out that the drone was a part of the secret military project between Indian army and the Empire to develop pilotless drones and other automated weapons. The stolen drone was not only a surveillance drone but was also capable of carrying heavy missiles.

Hanuman barged into Ravan’s camp and grabbed him by his collar, “You Bastard! Do you understand the gravity of the situation? Do you have any idea that once the drone is gone from the Corridor it will be impossible to track. You pathetic bureaucrats, you just care about your profits, you don’t give a damn about this country or its people. How were the details of such a highly classified weapon leaked in the first place?” Ravan somehow freed himself from Hanuman’s grip and answered, “Why do you think I’m standing here? I could have just given you the location from my office and would now be having a nice hot coffee in my mansion if I only cared about money. You are the one who isn’t aware of the complete situation, the drone was armed with a bio-chemical weapon and Chinese army intends to deploy the drone in the Tibetan region to end the long-standing rebel problems and wage a war with India claiming it to be India’s attack on Chinese territory. Now if that has knocked you to senses can we work together?” Hanuman was taken aback by this news; he never expected the drone to be armed in the first place, but that explained why his superiors were hiding the details; they were just covering any tracks that could lead to them.

Hanuman: “Which genius had the idea of transporting an armed drone through the Maoists dominated area? How are you tracking the drone? Is there any active tracker on the drone?”

Ravan: “The less you know the better for you. Let’s just say that we were able to get the approximate location from my sources. But now there is no way to track it. But as per my sources, the Chinese army officials will be arriving the day after tomorrow to make a deal.”

Hanuman: “You expect me to believe your bullshit and put my men in jeopardy. My unit will not make any move until I have a clear idea of what are we dealing with. If you want the drone back in one piece you better start answering my questions.”

Ravan: “Drone doesn’t belong to me but your army, so even if you bring it back in million pieces it won’t make any difference to me. Now move your ass out of my camp and get the answers from your superiors. I have a lot of work to do especially when you are being such a pain in the ass.”

Hanuman: “The drone wasn’t delivered to army yet so if anything happens with the drone it is on your head; so stop being a jerk and answer me.”

Ravan: “You are a leech! Fine! The drone was planned to be deployed in the Maoist area to track the leaders and destroy the base completely. The missile armed on the drone is a hybrid of biological and chemical weapon; it leaves no traces of any chemical toxins and affects only the individuals marked by the surveillance camera as a threat. On the day of launch, the stress levels of one of the scientists on the team were reported to be extreme. But before we could figure out what was wrong, the Maoist had control over the drone and it soon went off the radar. They were somehow tipped about the missile and also knew the details of the team working on the project. The scientist was forced to give out the details about the possible whereabouts of the drone. I had planted a bug in the system to send location whenever the drone was re-programed. We tracked the drone in the Assam border region but failed to retrieve it, but we were able to catch one of the Maoists alive and according to him a deal has been struck with Chinese army and the drone will be delivered in the Siliguri Corridor within this week. Their hackers must have found the bug and fixed it because the drone is completely untraceable after that incident.”

Hanuman: “My men had spotted an elite hacker in the northern sector of the Corridor last week and the Chinese army’s presence was also reported in the same area.  I guess that is from where we should start. I will have my team ready in 1 hour; you and your team will stay here and observe the operation.”

Hanuman assembled the team and was debriefing them about the mission. It would have taken almost 8-10 hours for the team to scan the entire northern sector so Hanuman came up with an idea to use heat seekers to identify the coldest areas in the sector. The drone needed to be re-programed which would require high-performance supercomputers, but these computers were too huge to carry around and very difficult to set up in an area like corridor another and more feasible option would be a closed grid of computers, heat sinking towers are usually used to prevent this high-performance computers from overheating, these heat sinking towers also result in a significant temperature drop of the surrounding atmosphere. An old abandoned factory showed up on the screen as a probable target. It was located on a small uphill and was isolated from the surrounding by a fence, thus making it a perfect hiding spot. Hanuman pulled the floor plan for the factory, the structure was based on load bearing model with a sewage tunnel beneath to dispose off the waste. Heat signatures of around 50-60 humans was registered inside the factory, as it was a new moon day so taking advantage of the darkness Hanuman would lead a small strike team of 10 members would infiltrate using the sewage tunnel and then split into 2 groups; one would plant the explosives on the southern wall making the structure unstable and open fire at the enemy spreading chaos; in the meantime the other team would retrieve the drone and head out of the factory towards the north end of the hill where a pickup vehicle would retrieve them and the remaining would retreat from the tunnel. The entire operation was to commence within 20 minutes. Ravan’s team would be at stand by and observe the entire mission and would engage only if there were any casualties.

At 2100 hours Hanuman and his team entered the factory through the tunnel. The first group which comprised of 6 soldiers took over all the snipers and other long range weaponry inside the factory. Hanuman along with 3 other soldiers located the drone and waited for the signal from other teammates to launch an attack.

Sunray (Hanuman): “CHARLEE CHARLEE (Collective Call – everyone), this is Sunray. Confirm status. Over”

(Everyone reports as position secured. The group had further split up and each held a place in every direction and 3 snipers on the top to keep an eye on any further threats.)

Hanuman: “Confirm position, Is, Oscar a go?”

B-T-3 (Team: B, Position: Top, Direction: East (3)): “Negative! Sunray, please standby, looks like enforcements have arrived. Cannot confirm visual”

B-T-4 (Team: B, Position: Top, Direction: South-East (4)): “This is BRAHVOH – TANGGO – FOW-ER; I have a visual two Chinese army trucks have just arrived. It’s code RED. I repeat its code RED.”

Hanuman: “Team BRAHVOH retreat and contact team Delta. Do not engage. I repeat Team BRAHVOH re-treat.”

B-G-5(Team: B, Position: Ground, Direction: South (5)): “This is BRAHVOH-GOLF-FIVE; Sunray, is Team ALFA retreating as well?”

Hanuman: “This is Sunray; do not wait for us, Team BRAVOH move out.”

B-G-5: “Team BRAVOH, reassemble in 2 minutes. Over and Out!”

Team B was at the entrance of the tunnel, the officers were confused and distraught after being asked to retreat without putting any resistance.

B-T-8: “I have served in more difficult situations than this, I joined the unit thinking it would more challenging and we are asked to retreat? I would rather die here.”

B-G-7: “Yeah, what is he even thinking? Asking us to retreat? It’s just 4 of them against an entire battalion! That is plain right suicide!”

B-G-5: “Hey rookies, who do you think are talking about? Those 5 are the pride of this unit. They are the Elites of the Vanar Unit. Jatau from Garud Commandos, Jambavan from Para Commandos, Nal from Marine Commando,”

B-T-4: “Forget what you did in your previous division this is Elite Force, here if you are asked to re-treat it means one and only one thing, the party is about to begin! Watch rookies, the reason why everyone fears this unit.”

A-T-1(Jatau): “This is ALFA-TANGGO–ONE; I have visual on the target.”

A-G-2: (Jambavan): “This is ALFA- GOLF–TWO; Enemy is in my range. Damn! Where is everyone?”

A-T-2(Nal): “Sunray, Where is that idiot? He must have forgotten the time I guess.”

Sunray: “Forget about -“

Hanuman’s voice was muffled by agonizing cries of enemy soldiers followed by a huge explosion setting Southern side of the factory on fire.

Unknown Voice: “Starting the party without me? How unfair Sunray.”

A-T-1: “You Pyromaniac! You burned them!!”

Neel, one of the captains from Hanuman’s Unit had entered out of nowhere with a weapon which was a hybrid of a flamethrower and a grenade launcher. He had destroyed the entire southern exit with one blow of his new weapon.

Neel: “Not my fault, I made an announcement before firing it.”

A-T-2: “Announcement? What part of being discreet did you not understand? Sunray we need to hurry before this maniac burns down entire place.”

Sunray: “Har Har Mahadev! Wreak Havoc!”

Hanuman started the attack by firing from his M-40 recoilless rifle at the enemy trucks. The rifle weighed almost 300Kg and was customized to be handheld instead of a usual tripod. He now opened fire at the approaching battalion and met up with Neel, who was still using the flamethrower. Jambavan joined them from the left with a machine gun, which was customized to fire a 4-gauge shotgun shell, also equipped with a grenade launcher. Nal and Jatau were positioned on the top of the factory and were providing support to the members on the ground.

                The first line of the battalion was destroyed within few minutes and there was complete chaos on the enemy side.  The Chinese Lieutenant Colonel Kuang Jié stepped out of his vehicle and asked the captains for statistics. One of the captains from the front lines informed him that there were only 3 soldiers on the ground. Jié called the Maoist leader Bilal who was responsible for the trade, “Who are the intruders? Have you betrayed us?”

Bilal:  “I don’t know who they are. The Indian Army hasn’t sent anyone yet. Your hacker is also missing; I guess he sold us out! Deal with these mercenaries now, I have already lost half my men. “

Jié: “What? Who is the Hacker? Why would I send someone without information? You are an idiot!”

Bilal: “Shit! Who are these guys working for? It is just a group of 3 rogue mercenaries; you have an entire battalion with you. Finish them and I will reward you for it.”

Jié: “Shut up you pig head! I’m working for my army; your rewards don’t mean anything to me. Just keep the drone safe!”

Jié asked all his captains to seize fire and fall back into a defensive formation. He then marched up to Hanuman maintaining a safe distance. “Who are you? What do you want? I do not wish to fight you. Just name your price and get out of here; you are up against my entire battalion; how long you think will you last against me?”

Hanuman: “Oh, we were just getting warmed up for the fight. We fight for the honor not for money. And as far as you are concerned, you can call us the angels of death.”

Jatau (Over intercom): “Sunray, the Chinese army is surrounding us from all sides!”

Jié: “You are already surrounded. Surrender and we will let you live.”

Hanuman burst into a thunderous laughter and asked Neel, “Did he just ask us to surrender?” pointing towards Jié, Neel and Jambavan joined the laughter. The sound of their laughter sent a chill down the spine of everyone in the battalion, including Jié; but he quickly composed himself and signaled his captains to launch an attack from behind. As soon as the captains along with 400 soldiers made a move on Hanuman and the group, Jatau fired the machine gun from behind the enemy, killing over than a hundred soldiers which were closer to Hanuman.

Nal got down and launched an assault on the enemy from behind with a twin bazooka, then started slicing them with a two sword swinging style. One of the two swords was ‘Kyogoku Masamune’ Katana belonging to the successor of the Kyogoku clan of Japan. He was the only samurai of non-Japanese origin ever to lead the clan. The Katana was believed to bestow mystical powers to the wielder such as superhuman strength and powers to control the forces of nature. The other sword ‘Vajra’ was a modern marvel, forged in Wootz steel and coated with carbon nanofibers; the sword could electrocute anyone within its range. The combined strength of the swords was devastating. He ran in the heart of the enemy formation with the speed of a superhuman with his Katana stretched out, slicing nothing but air, which made a hissing sound as of a venous snake intimidating his enemy. Everyone in the formation was baffled both by his speed and by the fact that he did not cut anyone in his path. Nal now stood in the center holding swords in both hands, knees slightly bent, ready to sprint at any second. Even the captains were petrified to fire at him; one of them mustered all his courage and shouted, “He doesn’t even have a gun! You have rifles!! Just shoot at him!” But before anyone could react, Nal moved his Katana in a clockwise direction and leaped in the air; while in midair, he pressed the button at the bottom of the Vajra’s hilt releasing a bolt of lightning which retraced Nal’s path electrocuting everything in an instant. Apparently, Nal had charged the air around him with the Katana when he made his way to the center; the lightning just followed the path of least resistance. Nal swung the Kyogoku in an upward spiral to release an air jet blasting the burning southern wall on the company of the soldiers which was preparing for another attack.

Neel: “Yeah, and you call me Pyromaniac? Can you smell the smell of the burning flesh? Huh? Mr. Samurai?”

Nal: “You are jealous because your entrance wasn’t as flashy as mine!”

Col. Jié was stunned by the strength of this group; out of his battalion of almost 15000 soldiers, only 50 were not injured who were guarding him the entire time. He ordered his troops to retreat.

Jatau: “Sunray, they are retreating, should I finish them?”

Hanuman: “Just kill the Colonel, let the troops go.”

Nal and Neel (in unison): “What? I guess the plan was to finish off the enemy.”

Jambavan: “That is the plan. Now, if you kids have finished playing let’s go kill some enemy.”

Jatau: “Roger that.”

Col. Jié had organized his troop in a turtle shell-like formation and was hiding beneath a heavy metal sheet of a chopper.  Jatau jumped from the top of the factory and glided towards the Jié’s location with his low altitude squirrel suit. He fired an arrow from a mini crossbow attached to his forearm, melting the metal roof of the chopper. As soon as Col. Jié was in sight Jatau shot him in head, then took a dip to increase his speed and turned left to regroup with his unit.

Hanuman: “Neel, Where are Bilal and his troops?”

Neel: “There is a basement on the northern side. He must be hiding there.”

Ravan was watching this entire episode in utter shock. He was cursing constantly. Nothing is going as per the plan. These idiots are too reckless. I doubt whether they had any plan other than mass destruction. Now I understood what that geezer meant by ‘You don’t know what you have got yourself into’. Regardless of what I said to that monkey, that drone is my only hope to get out of this. I have exhausted every resource in this. I cannot afford to fail now. Lord! Please have mercy on me.

Hanuman and his team barged into the basement and caught up with Bilal, who was about to launch the drone.

Ravan (screaming on the top of his voice): “Hanuman, THE DRONE IS ARMED! IT WILL BE ALL OVER IF HE FIRES THAT DRONE!”

Neel: “Who the Fuck is this? Dude, we are not deaf. Who gave this idiot a microphone?”

Hanuman signaled Neel to be quiet and replied, “The situation is under control.”

Bilal: “Yes, it is under control, this is your death, Vanar Sena! The drone is armed and I have already marked you all.” And he pressed the fire button on the panel, to his surprise nothing happened. The drone still remained stationary.

Bilal now panicked and asked his men what was happening.

Nal who was standing in the shadows stepped out and taunted Bilal, “Hey Comrade, what’s wrong?”

Bilal: “Ah! Thank god you are here. Fix this dumb thing.” within an instant, he realized that he was tricked and his grin was replaced by fear. Going down on his knees, he began to sob profoundly. “You guys are worse than the worst villains I have exercised in my whole life. So now what?”

Neel: “I guess we should just kill him and save ourselves from that lengthy paperwork.”

Nal: “You mean to save yourself”, Nal teased him with an innocent face.

Neel: “And why do you think I let you kill a few extra today? You will help me in writing, so will Sir Jambavan.” Mellowing his tone to almost a request and folding his hands in a Namaste towards Jambavan.

Jambavan nodded as a gesture of approval.

Hanuman: “We will not kill you if you agree to cooperate with us and clean up the illegal arms racket here.”

As they were speaking, one of the subordinates of Bilal accidentally tripped over the wires holding the support of the drone. The imbalance caused a support pillar to collapse and the drone fell upon the team. Ravan who was already stunned by the new development was mortified to see the team that saved the day, die such a tragic death. As the dust cleared the view became clear and the drone was somehow levitating in the air. He asked to change the camera to get a better view, Hanuman appeared to be holding the drone all by himself, whereas the team was busy preparing a makeshift support.

The entire team was greeted with loud cheers. After much fanfare Hanuman was enjoying his victory drink, a tradition started by his mentor. Ravan approached him to confront him.

Hanuman:  “Ah! Just in time. Here have a drink.” and poured a drink for Ravan.

Ravan: “You knew about the drone all this time, then why so much drama?”

Hanuman: “My task here is to destroy the arms race and bring peace to this corridor. If I’m not aware of a Drone deal in my own backyard than what good am I? I was just testing you. It was very suspicious, that an arms dealer is suddenly so interested in saving his drone, that he is ready to put his life on the line. It seems your reckless actions were out of sheer desperation. This drone is your last trump card.”

Ravan was astonished by the information Hanuman had on him, the bubble of false profit created by him had even fooled the experts and yet now he felt as if he was naked in front of this guy. During his stay at the camp, he explored more about Hanuman. On the day of departure, he confronted Hanuman

Ravan: “Would you like to work for me? You know, now that I have this drone there won’t be any more hiccups.”

Hanuman: “I was wondering when you will be asking this question. Sorry, but I don’t work as a mercenary, this uniform is all that I am.”

Ravan: “For how long will you be able to deal with this? Taking orders, working with the corrupt. If you join me, you can have an army of your own and you won’t have to do anything shady.”

Hanuman: “I don’t wish to have an army of mine, I’m happy with what I have. Your offer is flattering, but still I will stick with the army.”

Ravan: “I can manage your superiors, you can be in the army and work for me. I can ask for your entire unit to be relieved of your current mission.”

Hanuman: “Knock it off, I won’t work for you. My loyalty lies with this uniform.”

Ravan: “There will come a time when you will be out of your depth, you will need me. Then we will trade your loyalty.”

Ravan who was not accustomed to hearing a no was hurt to be rejected, but decided to wait for the right moment.

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The Moral Dilemma

The war was finally over. ‘The Empire‘ was burnt to ashes by a mere bunch of geeks whose sheer existence was belittled by them. Ram, the face of their rebellion was now on a plane, flying to discuss the terms of the settlement with Ravan, the CEO of ‘The Empire‘. As everyone in the next room was celebrating the triumph of the good over evil, Laxman sank in his chair, gazing mindlessly at the screen as his code breached the final firewall. Even if Ram was the face of the rebellion, Laxman was the man who was admired the most by everyone, for he was the architect of this rebellion. But he didn’t want to be the part of either the celebration or mourning, all he wanted was to vanish from the face of this universe. His mind was caught up in the fray. Laxman faced the moral dilemma whether to aid Ram who was more than a blood brother to him or follow the righteous path.

But the definition of right was a twisted tale of its own. His mind was clouded with questions. Was this really the triumph of the good over evil? What is evil? Was this just revenge? The most important of all was ‘Who the real Ram was: the person glorified by his acts which made him the epitome of truth and discipline or the real charisma filled with rage and vengeance‘. The flames of Rama’s vengeance had left many scared for lives. For the first time in his life, he was witnessing what it felt to be powerless, his mind was struggling to keep up with the events.  The train of his thoughts was broken by the pat on his shoulder; It was Ram “Let’s go. It’s time to meet him.” And they left to meet Ravan…

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