No charges were pressed on Karan, however, it was still not a relief. A reputation that Karan created for himself was tarnished in a single night. For some, he was an example of irresponsibility while for some, he was a laughing stock. A lot of people had taken the video of his antic and it had become viral.
Karan realizing that he had to live with it spent most of his time alone. He stopped talking with anyone except Shekhar who believed that the former was set up. There were moments when Karan walked into Jenny, however, he reacted to her as though she was a stranger. Jenny felt bad about this, however, she knew that there was nothing she could do.
Soon, the security elites of the new batch were assigned to different squads. While Karan and Shekhar were under the command of Major Govind, Jenny was under the command of Codename Krishna, while Poorna was in another squad. When Jenny checked who else from her batch had joined with her, she was in for a shock. Avesh was also assigned with her.
“So, we are in the same team. I just got to know that.” Avesh said while Jenny was going through the name list on her wrist monitor.
Jenny looked at Avesh, she was furious with this development and walked away towards the veranda. She looked down to see Shekhar and Poorna talking with a few people while Karan was sitting all alone looking at his mobile. She felt pain in her heart every time she looked at Karan and could only remember his face that he kept while he was passing those comments towards her.
“Whenever I needed to be motivated, I would always walk up to you. You were always there whenever I needed any help, yet look how things have changed. I need help, Karan. I need you now like I always did. I need you now more than ever.” Jenny thought as she clutched her heart in pain.
15 days after the party incident, BASE command centre received a news and it was alarming.
“Sir, we have confirmed report of a hostage crisis at a construction site. You may want to see this, sir.” Said Lt. Col Javed on the radio.
The General was as usual concerned and said, “Anti-Nationals.”
“Yes sir, the reports about their activities doubling up do seem legit now. They are brazenly challenging our might. It is a construction site of a shopping mall and they have taken a few employees and construction workers as hostages.” Said Javed.
“Have they demanded anything? Did you try to contact them?” the General asked.
“I did, sir. They are not replying… as usual.” Javed replied.
“Well, then… we need to do what we always do with criminals. Sound the alarm, officer. Everyone in BASE needs to know this. Get in touch with the air base, the carriers need to be prepped and ready for transportation.
Also, get in touch with any security elites near the locality and tell them to form a perimeter around the construction site… but under no circumstances should they or any civilian enter the complex. Not until I give the order to go offensive.” Said the General and Javed acknowledged.
The General called for a meeting with the higher authorities and the leader of the nation, Junaid who joined through video conferencing.
“What are we looking at, General Bakshi?” Leader Junaid asked.
“It is the Anti-Nationals, sir and they have taken hostages. For so long, their attempts to disrupt the functioning of this nation have been on a grass root level. We made attempts to curb this but the fact that the anti-nationals are unwilling to cooperate with us, added to the fact that their demands are still unknown is the reason why we have not been able to figure out a proper contingency plan to stop this.
We have made multiple attempts to capture at least one anti-national and wring out the truth from him or her but they continue to resist leaving no other option but to kill them.” Bakshi explained.
“I am pretty much aware of that, Bakshi… and you are not a man of excuses. We have lost a lot of good men and women because of them. They try to resist, they either commit suicide or blow themselves up killing the soldiers who try to capture them. The fact that you are saying this makes this all the more alarming and disturbing.
I authorize you to use any means possible and necessary to save the hostages. Saving them is your first option, negotiation is secondary and of course, if possible try to capture and interrogate an anti-national. I don’t think there is any enemy in this world that doesn’t attack or kill without a purpose. I can understand a psychopath or a zombie doing such things but not humans who have the basic and modest intelligence to fire a gun when required.” Said Leader Junaid.
A complete analysis was made about the construction site, and the surrounding areas. 6 of the best squads were called in for support while another 6 were selected as back up. Karan, Shekhar, Jenny and Poorna were to participate in their first battle of their life and were naturally tensed. They were a part of the meeting where they were briefed about the situation and what they were up against.
After the meeting, while Karan immediately rushed to gear up, Ravi dragged Shekhar to a corner to discuss something.
“Hey, what happened? What is wrong? We need to move now… we need to gear up.” Exclaimed Shekhar.
“I know… but this is also important. We have enough time for this.” Saying, Ravi took out his mobile. He clicked a few buttons to bring out a video, and once he found it, he showed it to Shekhar.
Shekhar looked at the video, it was the video of the party again and his blood started to boil. The video showed Karan asking for a drink from the waiter at the bar. As the waiter prepared the drink and placed it on the table, Karan was speaking to someone. That very moment, Avesh came and put something else in the drink which no one noticed. Karan turned around and took a few sips, whatever it was that was put in the drink, the effect was immediate and Karan was slowing losing his senses, and soon, he was going crazy.
Shekhar was angry, he punched his fist on the wall and then looked at Ravi.
“I am sorry, Shekhar for being quiet about this. You see… Avesh… he is… he is a big bully. He got to know that I had a video recording of this and threatened to destroy my career.
He said he had contacts with the higher authorities and all he had to do was just make one phone call. I did not know if what he said was true but I was afraid and I readily believed him.
However, after what happened to Karan… I felt guilty… I couldn’t stay silent. I had to reveal this, so here I am. I am sorry… I am really sorry.” Said Ravi, he was ashamed and not able to look at Shekhar.
Shekhar clutched his head, he was angry, he was tensed… he then tried to calm down and think. He then snatched the mobile from Ravi and walked up to the area where the security elites were gearing up. As he walked, he found Avesh fidgeting with his gear, he had a good sense of beating him down and ripping him apart, however, he stopped and noticed Jenny. He knew what to do and walked up to her.
“Shekhar, what are you doing here? Gear up, quickly… we need to move.” Said Jenny.
Shekhar played the video again and showed it to Jenny. The latter saw it and her reaction was the same as his. She watched the entire video, she was angry, she was ashamed, guilty of whatever happened between Karan and her. She had no words and could only look at Shekhar, and shake her head in disbelief.
Shekhar didn’t say anything, he walked away towards his squad and started to gear up. She sat down and cried, she then turned around to see Avesh who was looking tense. She wanted to thrash him and got up to do the same, however, the sirens blared indicating that the carriers were ready and the security elites had to board them as soon as possible.
The elites grabbed their guns and joined their respective squads. Jenny looked around and saw Poorna, the latter wished her luck and the former acknowledged. She turned left to see Karan and Shekhar, while Shekhar wished her luck, Karan was busy discussing something with his squad leader. She longed for Karan to look at her just once so that she could say or indicate that she was sorry.
“I believe you now, Karan. I have seen the truth. Please just look at me… look at me just one time. I am not sure if I will survive from what we are up against but I want to talk to you just one time before I die.” Jenny thought as the elites began to board the carriers. There was no chance that she could get to talk to Karan now, and she could only hold on to her fate to give her that chance.
At the construction site, Colonel Varun aka Codename Jatayu was leading all the squads. 3 sniper squads were already perched on the tallest buildings around the site and were providing intel and support. Codename Jatayu took a loudspeaker and gave the first warning, “We are the elites of BASE, we request you to release the hostages and surrender yourself… or else we will be forced to attack.”
There was no answer to that warning, Codename Jatayu gave a second warning yet there was still no response. The former then turned to his comrades and said, “Alright elites, they want to play tough. We have no choice but to move forward. We will try to save the hostages… but there is no guarantee we can save all of them. We will do what a security elite is supposed to do. Move forward, elites.”
The first 6 squads slowly moved towards the building under construction, they kept checking for any traps or surprises that the anti-nationals had kept in store for them. The elites had their eyes on their tracker for any sign of the anti-nationals, however, nothing came up on their tracker.
Codename Krishna’s squad and another squad were on the front with Jenny and Avesh walking parallel to Codename Krishna, while the rest including Karan, Shekhar and Poorna were closely behind. Suddenly, from the 2nd floor, someone fired a rocket and it exploded just near to Jenny and Avesh. Jenny watched in horror as 2 elites were killed on impact. The anti-nationals revealed themselves firing mercilessly at the squads, the latter had no other choice but to take cover.
Jenny took her sniper rifle and made adjustment to it. While taking aim, she saw Avesh scurrying away from the battle towards the building on the left.
“Oh, you coward! I believe I already saw through your fake personality. You are nothing but words.” Jenny commented.
Firing continued from both sides, Jenny took aim and shot down 2 anti-nationals. Codename Krishna was amazed, and loud cheers followed. Jenny then spotted 2 anti-nationals running towards different directions, towards a black box on each side. They clicked a button, and out came mini-guns. They started firing it and the elites had to remain in cover.
Jenny tried to get a shot at the mini-gun operators, however, she couldn’t.
“Sir, we need to take out those operators. We cannot stay here for long. We already lost a few soldiers… we stay here, we will lose our covers and share the same fate.” Said Jenny.
“You are right but what should we do. I am out of ideas.” Codename Krishna asked.
“Flashbang… throw a flashbang. The effects of the newly devised ones are strong and can affect visibility till the 2nd floor. Let us use it.” Said Jenny.
Codename Krishna smiled and acknowledged, they both requested for a flashbang. Karan and Shekhar acknowledged and threw a flash bang each. It worked and the firing stopped. Jenny immediately came out from her cover and took aim. She shot down both the mini-gun operators. She then realized that she had to reload.
Karan noticed that from a distance and could also see the flash bang effect wearing out. Seeing Jenny still in the open, he immediately requested his squad leader for a suppressive fire order which his leader agreed. He ordered for suppressive fire and all the elites rose up, and fired at the anti-nationals on the 2nd floor. 2 anti-nationals were shot dead, however, 2 more elites lost their lives. Seeing the situation that the 6 squads were, the other squads in backup moved forward and joined them.
That very moment, Jenny saw an anti-national aiming a rocket launcher. She loaded her rifle and fired at the latter, however, while the anti-national was shot dead, he still pressed the trigger. The rocket propelled sideways and hit the wall on Jenny’s left, she tried to escape but tripped and fell. A chunk of the wall fell on her legs and she screamed in pain. She could make out that her right leg might have been broken.
Karan watched in horror as Jenny tried her best to escape but the chunk was too heavy and she groaned in pain. Codename Krishna signalled for a smoke screen so that she could be rescued. Even though duly complied with, the anti-nationals were still firing through the smoke cover and there was no way anyone could budge from their cover.
Karan had to do something and he looked around. He then noticed a constructor, a unit used by the engineers to pick up or drop building materials or debris. He did not think twice as he rushed towards the robot unit, got on to the seat and powered up the engines. Jenny spotted Karan and watched in shock and awe as Karan slowly moved the constructor towards Jenny. The smoke screen was slowly disappearing, Karan noticed this and clicked a switch. The scraper on the unit got activated and moved to the left. Major Govind noticed this and immediately signalled everyone to move towards the activated scraper and take cover. The order was acknowledged and many of the elites, including Shekhar and Poorna moved towards the scraper.
The smoke cover was out; however, from the cover the elites were able to fire their weapon with proper accuracy and were able to take out a few more anti-nationals.
Karan reached Jenny and with the cranes picked up the chunk of wall from the latter’s legs. Karan immediately got down from the unit, picked up Jenny and carried her away to a safe location. The other elites also got to cover. Karan tended to Jenny’s wound, he took out a painkiller and injected it. Jenny could feel the pain subsiding.
“You need medical attention. Stay here and don’t move a muscle.” Said Karan.
Karan then noticed an anti-national re-loading the rocket launcher again. The former had to do something quickly. He spotted Jenny’s rifle lying at the same place and again, without a second thought rushed towards it.
“Karan, what are you doing? You will get killed. Please come back.” Said a concerned Jenny, she then watched in horror as Karan did not mind the barrage of bullets coming towards the elites, and towards him. He slid on the ground and grabbed the rifle. He quickly took aim at the tip of the rocket. Before, the anti-national could fire, Karan fired the rifle and the bullet found its mark. The rocket exploded, the resultant splash damage caused the other rockets nearby to explode and the entire 2nd floor erupted in a ball of fire and collapsed killing all the anti-nationals.
The elites cheered in unison as Karan rushed back but not before, more gunshots were heard. More anti-nationals came out from the ground floor, one of them fired at Karan and the latter was shot on his right shoulder. Jenny screamed in horror as Karan fell to the ground with a thud. As she saw him writhing and yelling in pain, she remembered all those moments she spent with him… every moment till the party night, she was filled with remorse and wanted to apologize for whatever happened. She then saw the ant-nationals and counted 7 remaining, she was enraged and saw an elite carrying a sniper on his backpack. She snatched it, cocked it and aimed at them. She showed no mercy as she fired bullets after bullets.
Codename Krishna, Shekhar, Poorna and a few more elites watched in amazement as the remaining 7 anti-nationals were brutally killed… all headshots. Shekhar and Poorna were standing next to Codename Krishna, the latter looked at them and commented, “I heard from Major Ratan that both Karan and Jenny are the ‘DEVIL INCARNATE’ with the sniper rifle. Today, I saw a live demo of it. Devil Incarnate! Hell if it is… even the devil won’t dare stand in front of their rifles.”
Jenny put the rifle down and rushed towards Karan. The latter was in extreme pain and was losing his senses. His vision was going blur yet he was able to make out Jenny rest him on her legs and comfort him. He was also guilty of whatever he did and wanted to apologize but Jenny knew the truth now.
“I know you want to apologize… but you don’t have to. I know the truth now. I am sorry for what I have done. Please stay with me, I beg of you, Karan, please stay with me. I am sorry.” Saying, Jenny embraced him hard.
Shekhar and Poorna had already joined them and Shekhar called out for a medic and streture. It was duly complied as 4 soldiers put Karan on a streture and a medic administered a pain killer. Karan was still looking at Jenny, a smile sprouted and then he fainted.
The hostages were successfully rescued and there were unharmed. The wounded were being taken to the hospital to be treated. Jenny did not care for her pain, she held on to Karan’s hand and let go only when the latter was safely placed on a med carrier. As she saw the med carrier fly, she sat down and clutched her leg in pain. A medic soon came and checked her while Shekhar and Poorna watched, a smile lingered on their lips as the medic checked and said, “Your leg is alright, not broken… it is a fracture. You are lucky but we still need to take you to the hospital for treatment before something bad happens.”
Jenny nodded her head in agreement, she was still thinking about Karan and prayed for his revival. Shekhar sat next to Jenny and said, “Don’t worry, Jenny. He will be alright.”
A streture was brought for Jenny, however, she refused. She got up on her feet along with Shekhar and holding on to the latter’s shoulder walked towards the med carrier. That very moment, Avesh came out from his hiding. Poorna noticed and signalled Shekhar and Jenny of the same, they watched in disgust as Avesh was behaving as though he was a hero and celebrating the victory with the other elites. He even walked towards his lead, Codename Krishna to congratulate him, however, the latter realizing what a coward the former was declined it and walked away. While walking away, he noticed Jenny, he smiled at her and showed her sniper rifle that he had picked up from the ground, a gesture that surprised Jenny. Codename Krishna winked at her and then walked away.
Avesh then walked up to Jenny and asked her if she was alright. The latter was going wild with anger and was itching towards her auto-pistol to shoot him, however, she controlled it. Avesh could see that Jenny was angry, he was at first confused, however, when he looked at Shekhar he realized that they had found out what he had done to Karan.
Jenny looked away and tugged at Shekhar to keep walking. Avesh was embarrassed at first but then became furious. He kicked a rock in anger and walked away but not before looking at the med carrier that Jenny was on flying away from the site.
“Karan will never have you. If you cannot be mine, then I will see to it that you are nobody’s… and that will be enough to appease my anger.” Said Avesh.
Karan was out of danger and slowly recuperating from his wounds. Shekhar and Poorna was sitting beside him and chatting when Jenny stepped in. Her fracture had also healed and she was declared fit. She slowly walked towards Karan’s bed and sat down next to Poorna. Karan smiled at her, however, Jenny was not able to look at him still feeling guilty. Shekhar, realizing that Karan and Jenny needed to have a talk and clear all the misunderstandings between them, signalled Poorna to walk with him out of the room.
Once they were out, Karan touched Jenny’s hand. The latter was in tears now and was about to say something but Karan stopped her.
“Please Jenny, you don’t have to be sorry. Stop apologizing when there is no fault of yours. What has happened has happened, let us move on. I am happy that everything has been resolved between us.” Said Karan.
Jenny wiped her tears and looked at him again, Karan could make out that she had slowly started developing feelings for him, however, he also knew that Jenny was not like the other ladies. She was indeed beautiful, yet behind that beauty was a strong and independent woman, a woman whose intentions were clear of what her goals were and what should be done to achieve them.
Karan felt lucky to have someone like Jenny have feelings for him, yet he also knew that over a period of time he could also pose as a burden or a barricade for her goals. He couldn’t allow that, he realized that even he loved her yet, he had to make this sacrifice… for her and for her future.
“Control your emotions, Jenny.” Karan started, and Jenny was taken aback by that sentence, the former continued, “Control your emotions if you want to… but don’t regret it later, for you may never get a chance for that.”
Karan withdrew his hand from Jenny’s, and she could feel a pain in her heart. She wanted Karan to understand what was going on in her mind, she wanted him to tell her what he felt about her. She got up from her seat and slowly walked towards the door.
“I did not believe you… and that is why you are avoiding me, isn’t it? I am sorry for what I did yet, I know you are angry with me. I went against you along with many others, you were on the verge of being thrown out because of me and that is why you are punishing me for it.” Jenny thought feeling heartbroken.
However, something clicked in her mind. She remembered a conversation she had with Karan a few months back. They were at the beach, while Shekhar and Poorna were having fun with the sea waves, Karan and Jenny were seated in a restaurant. They had their fill and were enjoying a drink now.
“I feel so happy for them. It has been just 5 months and we saw how their relationship started and solidified in these few months. It is like… it just clicked.” Jenny commented.
“Yeah, I always knew my giant friend over there was head strong, yet he would fall into the trap of a pretty lady in a jiffy is something I never expected.” Said Karan.
“Come on, Karan… you are being mean now. There was no trap, instead, I remember how Poorna was very much attracted towards Shekhar, yet never in her wildest dreams did she realize it would happen so soon. I really want them to be together always.” Said Jenny.
Karan smiled and then said, “I was kidding, Jenny. Don’t take it seriously. I have known Shekhar from my school days and that is why I made that comment. To be honest, I am happy for him too.”
They were silent for sometime after which Karan decided to tease Jenny.
“Tell me, Jenny, if you ever come across such a situation, what would you do?” asked Karan.
Jenny put down her drink, she sighed deeply and then looking at Karan with a smile replied, “I don’t know, Karan. I never gave that a thought. Love, relationship… I have kind of stayed away from them, probably because at the age of 14, my intention was to be a security elite and I started preparing myself for that.
A lot of boys came in my life, I knew without a doubt that a lot of them definitely had a crush on me… I guess, there are a few in BASE too who do.”
Karan coughed up his drink the moment he heard the last sentence and Jenny was surprised by it.
“What happened?” Jenny asked.
“No, I… I like that ‘confidence’ in you in accepting the fact that there are some who have a crush on you. I must say I am impressed.” Said Karan, clearing his throat.
Jenny giggled and looking at Karan, thought, “You are definitely one of them, handsome! I know it! Actually… you are on top of the list!”
Jenny cleared her throat too and continued, “I always wanted to be a soldier… be someone dedicated to her work and being proud of serving the nation. That feeling… that sense of patriotism was something that got imbibed at an early age and motivated me to be the best. That is also perhaps one reason why I take defeat or loss a bit too seriously, I get depressed by it and work harder to win the next time.”
“That… or maybe, you want to be ahead of the boys too so that they think twice before hitting on you. That some good defence mechanism you have adopted.” Karan commented, and Jenny laughed at that comment, however, she wanted to know what Karan was thinking.
“What about you, Karan? Don’t tell me you haven’t found anyone.” Asked Jenny, moving a bit closer to Karan to listen intently.
“I… don’t know, I guess, I was… and still am more involved in my personal development, you and I are not the same when it comes to being successful. However, there will come a time… a time when I would fall in love, be in a relationship… get married and have a family of my own. For now, my career comes first.” Karan replied.
Jenny was not satisfied with that answer, she wanted to know more and decided to throw Karan into a web, with a blush she asked, “What if you end up with someone like me?”
As expected, Karan was taken aback. He stared at Jenny and then looked away. The latter was confused at Karan’s withdrawal at that question. She also looked away and thought, “I thought you are open with me yet, you are still silent.”
Karan sighed, he looked at Jenny, smiled and said, “I rather not date a woman like you.”
Jenny was shocked with that reply. She stared at Karan waiting for him to explain.
“There will come a time when I realize that I am only being an obstacle in the path of that person and her goals. I would never want someone… even you to walk away from that path, forget your place and settle down for something that doesn’t define you.
Love is not an obstacle, it is a feeling that motivates us, gives us the strength to walk through hurdles and win but it is not the same for everyone. For some, love is the hurdle… it is the reason that pulls down that person from what he was supposed to be to what he finally settles down for.
I don’t want love to be an obstacle. I want that to be my strength, however, the slightest chance I see that it is making me weak, I will not have the slightest hesitation and regret to walk away from it… even if it is painful for me.” Explained Karan.
Jenny felt heartbroken, as the group walked towards their rooms, Karan’s words still lingered in Jenny’s mind. After a wash, she stood by the window looking at the skyline and then at the ringed planet that had changed colour from blue to green after the sun had set.
Slowly, she realized that Karan was right. The path that she had chosen, it was expected of her to be strong and determined. She couldn’t fall into that trap. She had to sacrifice something to be what she always wanted to be – A high ranked security elite. As she walked inside, she noticed Karan also sitting by the window chatting with Shekhar and 2 of his roommates. Karan turned around and looked up at Jenny’s room and spotted her. He smiled and waved at her to which Jenny responded.
As she walked inside, she thought again, “If it is possible, I can make love my biggest strength. I can definitely work it out. Should I take the plunge? Only time will tell… maybe give me the signal to take the fall.”
Back to the hospital room, Jenny understood why Karan was hesitant. She wiped her tears and turned back to face Karan, the latter was confused at Jenny’s behaviour. A smile sprouted as Jenny slowly walked towards Karan. She sat next to him, as close as possible and looked into his eyes.
“Our love will never be an obstacle, Karan. It will be our strength, it will the reason for our success… together, we will fight through every hurdle, through every obstacle… together, we will be winners and nothing… no power in this world will separate us from it. I mean it, Karan… I mean every word of it.” Saying, Jenny kissed Karan on his lips.
Karan couldn’t believe what just happened. He, however, could feel the warmth of Jenny’s love and without a thought embraced it… and embraced her. Their bond had always been strong yet they always stayed away from it but with this kiss, the bond was sealed. There was no turning back now.