Karan, Shekhar, Jenny and Sulaiman were out of danger from any Infection, however, while Poorna was not affected by the radiation, not everything was good for her. Due to the fact that she did not receive medical attention quickly, her left leg were badly affected and had to be amputated.
The doctors, however, had a prosthetic leg surgically attached yet, Poorna was still heart broken.
“Don’t worry, Poorna. This is life, this is our life as an elite… you will come out of it soon enough. Just be strong.” Said Shekhar.
“May be I will, Shekhar. However, the doctors have told me that it will take at least 6 months before I can walk into a battlefield. For now, no ground missions for me.” Poorna explained her condition.
That moment, General Bakshi and Lt. Col. Javed entered the room. Karan, Jenny and Sulaiman were also seated there. They stood up and saluted their seniors.
“I am not sure whether I deserve that but you people… a salute will not be enough to honour you. You have made us proud.
Karan, Shekhar, Jenny and Sulaiman… I need to speak to you people, if you don’t mind.” Said the General.
The group looked at each other confused yet they agreed.
“Javed, I will leave you here. Karan, the rest of you… follow me.” Said the General as he walked out and the group followed him.
Javed then walked towards Poorna and sat beside her.
“Poorna, I know about your condition. The doctors told me everything. I am sorry for whatever happened to you but believe me, to the world you are still a hero.” Said Javed.
“Thank you, sir. It is OK. I have nothing else to do but accept whatever has happened.” Poorna responded.
“Let me not beat around the bush, Poorna. Let us get straight to business. I am here with an offer. I got to know that you are good with communication devices and have extensive knowledge.
Ground missions are a strict no-no for you now but if you have no issues, how about rendering service at the BASE command centre.” Said Javed.
Poorna was surprised at the offer. She stared at Javed and then thought. She realized that if the situation would have been different, she would not be visited by distinguished people like the General or Javed, leave alone get an offer. She didn’t think twice.
“Thanks for the offer, sir. Count me in.” said Poorna.
Javed was delighted and shook hands with her.
At the meeting room aboard BASE REPUBLIC, the cadets provided all details about their mission right from the start till end. They also showed video feeds from their camera that were mandatorily attached to their gears while Codename Indrajeet took notes for documentation.
The General was quite overwhelmed with all the details provided, he sighed deeply, got up from his seat and then look at the open space through a giant size window.
“I was under the impression that the anti-nationals were just another brigade or rogue army standing against the system that the nation functions with.
However, after hearing all this and the fact that they have gained access to a technology that is not human in nature questions all our beliefs. We are dealing with an army that is hell bent on universal domination and could go to great lengths to achieve that.
This is disturbing and if we don’t get to the bottom of this, find out what other plans they have… we have a tough fight on our hands.” Said the General.
He then came back to the table and looked at the young soldiers, and continued, “You elites have done the extraordinary, I really can’t imagine how you survived such an ordeal considering you people are still inexperienced in the eyes of the world.
Well, I guess that is how experience is gathered. When a man finds his back against the wall, he either surrenders or he pushes himself forward. You elites not only pushed yourselves forward but literally made the enemy retrace their steps.
That being said, Cadet Karan… I have an offer for you. Would you like to lead a team?”
Karan was shocked at that question, while the others looked at each other. A smile sprouted on everyone’s face as they looked at Karan waiting for an answer.
“Sir, I… I am not sure I am ready for it. Besides, I don’t think… I have that potential for someone to listen to me… or maybe, work with me.” Said Karan, in a tensed tone.
The General couldn’t help but laugh. Looking at Codename Indrajeet, he said, “He made someone like Lt. Atif listen to him, so much so that the latter forgot that he outranked him. He motivated these people to such an extent that an entire anti-national armada quivered in front of them.
What’s more, that pyramid over there lies in ruins… and it is all because of them. Yet, the great Karan Bose doubts that he has potential.”
Karan hung his head in embarrassment, something that confused his friends.
The General then looked at Karan’s friends and asked, “What do you say, people? Shekhar, Jenny, Sulaiman… if I make a squad out of you people, would you accept Karan as your leader.”
The others looked at each other again, their expression was enough to prove that they were ready yet, Karan was still in doubt.
Shekhar knew what was going on in Karan’s mind and spoke up, “Sir, give us a few minutes. We are already honoured by the belief that you have on us to be a squad. Give us 5 minutes and you will have our decision.”
The General smiled, he looked at Codename Indrajeet and nodded his head indicating to move out with him to which the latter agreed. After they moved out, Karan got up from his seat and walked towards the window. The others got up and joined him.
“I can’t do this. I am not confident enough to take up this responsibility.” Said Karan.
Shekhar touched Karan’s shoulder, comforting him, he said, “We have all gone through a lot in these few hours… and we did a fine job. When we lost our leaders, I thought that it was all over yet, you were the one who did not give up and started pulling the strings. Yet, you say you cannot do it.”
“I still remember the time when Codename Krishna gave up his life to save us, Major Govind was killed brutally and then, Major Jeffrey who got shot in the head.
Those memories will haunt us as long as we live yet if we continue to fight for what is right, we will live with the hope that the souls of those we lost will rest in peace.
I saw how you rose up and stood up against Code Red while most of us thought that we were done for. The way you motivated us to fight back and were ‘commanding’ us… you have what it takes to be a leader.” Said Jenny.
“If you remember, Karan… when we were at the BASE park watching that statue, I told you that when you get the chance… you will definitely prove your worth. Well, this is the chance that… not just you… but we all were waiting for.
We proved our worth and now, it is time we carried this.” Said Shekhar.
Sulaiman didn’t know about anyone with whom he was standing with, yet looking at Karan who was still in doubt, he decided to make a revelation, he spoke up, “I am really not sure if I can ever be a proper combat soldier or an elite considering I always wanted to be a pilot. If you remember, Jenny… when our carrier was hit and it crashed, I was devastated when I found my co-pilot dead. Her name was Aarti, my senior and mentor… the reason behind my success as a pilot.
I couldn’t save her and I cursed myself for it. I wanted to avenge her and therefore, I tagged along with you guys. I realized that we are all the same. Everyone of us over here, even if we are a group or a team, is fighting an inner battle.
Not for honour, not for some shining medals on our uniforms… but to be the best, to prove a point. After we lost the last of our leadership, even I felt that what can we do now… just a handful of us. What are we without a leader, it is like being a snake… nothing happens if you cut its tail but you cut its head, the body is nothing.
However, when you took charge, Karan, that is when I realized that to be a leader is to take responsibility… for your actions, for your squad, your friends, family… everything. You don’t need to be promoted to be called a leader. You only need to do something… something that will make the world listen to you without looking at your badge, your medals… or your past.
In that single moment, you took charge and all we could do was just marvel at how, even in a moment of despair, you had the confidence that we can take this fight to our enemies.”
Karan couldn’t believe what he was hearing and turned around to face Sulaiman.
“Besides, every squad needs a leader, it is but a regular norm. You will be leading this team but it is up to us to decide whether to listen to you or not… just for the record.” Said Sulaiman with a smirk.
It didn’t take the others to understand that sarcasm. Shekhar and Jenny burst out laughing while Karan shook his head in disagreement and embarrassment.
“Damn, never knew I could bring so much revelation. If that is the case, then there is no turning back. We are a squad now… and that is final.” Said Karan.
“There is something that you people need to know. Since the inception of BASE 50 years ago, this will be only the 10th time a new squad was created.” Said Shekhar.
“10th time? Only 10 times? Why?” Jenny asked.
Shekhar replied, “We are elites, Jenny. We can be replaced. We were all part of a squad. We would have been assigned again to the other squads that are available. Instead, the General has noticed something about us. Why would he place this offer before us then?”
Jenny then remembered about her squad, she felt a lump in her throat due to the realization that she was the only one who survived.
Karan understood what Jenny was thinking, he touched her shoulder and said, “I know what you are thinking. Don’t worry. We are in this together… and we are together now. We maybe replaced but we should not be concerned about that.
As long as God keeps us alive, we will live on, fight on and when the time comes, go out with a bang. Team, what do you say?”
The others smiled and replied, “Sir, yes, sir.” to which Karan replied, “Oh, come on… don’t ‘sir’ me, I will always be KARAN to you guys.”
The group received a heroic welcome from the security elites and the citizens.
After 2 days, a ceremony was first held in remembrance of the fallen elites. This was then followed by a ceremony to introduce the new squad to be led by Karan.
BASE officials, dignitaries, VIPs, the citizens including the family and relatives of the squad were invited and they gathered at the ceremony hall.
It was a red carpet affair as Karan walked with his teammates, Shekhar, Jenny and Sulaiman. They were being cheered as they walked up the stairs. The General stood along with the Major General waiting to welcome them.
They saluted the General and the Major General after which the General ordered Karan to step forward to which the latter duly complied.
“We are all proud of you and wish you all for a successful career with BASE. Karan, the first promotion that a security elite receives is of a lieutenant and therefore, here is your badge for the same.
Now, you will need to ask the approval of your squad to accept you as a leader and if they accept, they will fire their weapons in the air. If they don’t, they will keep their weapons holstered. Go on and go forth, Karan… and lead your team.” Said the General.
Karan saluted again, he turned around to face his squad and walked up to them.
He spoke up, “I am Lt. Karan, leader of this squad. Do I have your approval for that.”
The squad members looked at each other, even though it was a solemn occasion, they couldn’t help giggling. Karan couldn’t help feeling embarrassed, he smiled as he scratched his head looking down.
The General noticed this, smiled and said to himself, “Kids.”
The squad members somehow controlled their giggling and then, took out their auto-pistols and fired in the air.
Karan couldn’t help feeling happy. He joined his squad and along with them, looked at the audience who were now giving them a standing ovation.
Shekhar noticed Poorna standing in the front row along with Lt. Col. Javed. Poorna felt so happy for him and the others, more so, she felt happy that they were all together.
For some reason, Jenny looked back and noticed the Major General. The latter was not so happy and looked disinterested, something that confused Jenny.
“What shall we name our squad?” asked Shekhar.
Karan stared at Shekhar confused. He didn’t think of a name yet, however, he had to do it fast. His eyes fell on the tattoo on his fist. He smiled at it and replied, “TRIDENT”.