CHAPTER 17: LIFE 2.0

2 days later:

“Are you alright Atif?”,Ali asked him as he sat on the sofa, besides us.

He didn’t reply.

“He is still not over the underwater journey that we had yesterday.”,I said, as a matter of fact.

Atif cringed at that very thought.

                        •••

One of the guys that work for JeM had picked us up at Juhu as scheduled. After a day long tiring and silent journey, we reached Porbandar port, Gujarat.

The driver then talked to some local guys who work at the port. After some whispered words and rolling eyes, we were led to a small jetty.

“Wait a sec, what does this mean? We’ll go all the way to a new country in this small fishermen’s jetty without getting spotted by the Indian Army?”, Abhi was confused. So were we.

Plus, we weren’t allowed to interact with the people on the boat by the main guy there, who managed us.

All we could do was stare at the vast sea and think about the magnitude  of the decision that we have took.
A decision that will alter our lives forever.

We couldn’t contact anyone even if we wanted to. Our mobile phones were already confiscated by them.
All that was left was our bags loaded with memories. Memories of our ‘past life.’

Some twenty minutes later, the main guy on the boat came and gave us our bags.

“Take them now, we are now at the Indian Maritime Border. We can’t go ahead of this. You guys will change boats to reach your destination.”, he said in his peculiar deep husky voice.

“But when will the boat come?”, Adi asked.

“It already has.”,the guy smiled.

“Wh..where?”,Abhi asked.

“HERE!”,he smiled and pushed Abhi from the boat, who went straight down to the sea.

“What the heck did you do you… ”, I was about to slap him hard when he stopped my hand and twisted it hard.

“Stop! Stop! That hurts!”,I grumbled in pain.

“There’s a submarine below which is awaiting you. Now before you ask any more stupid questions..”, he pushed me down too.

The next moment, Adi too plunged in the water.

We swam down to look for the huge submarine, but in vain.

Have we been tricked? Is this an ambush? Or, is it one of their dumb tricks?

A few seconds later, we were gifted a rather pleasant surprise.

A huge submarine came up from way below the sea, flashing it’s light, finding us.

The huge automobile made us dizzy in excitement and fear. Never ever we had been in a submarine before. That too just before joining a terrorist organisation.

We expected some soldier to come out of the submarine for us, but it didn’t happen. We swam towards it and when we were just about to reach, all of a sudden, something blocked our way.

Something invisible.

We tried again to go near the submarine, but in vain.

“Now,what is this!”, I was angry and confused at the same time.

I swam up to get some air and went down again, thinking about the unusual thing blocking our access.

“Come fast Sooraj, it’s open!”, Abhi signalled with his hands.

Once the submarine door was opened for us, we could see an array of heavily armed Mujahideen soldiers, guarding the aisle.

One of them came out and signalled us to come in. We followed orders.

“Follow me”,said the soldier who welcomed us.

From the looks of the aisle itself, we could easily imagine the spacious inside of the submarine equipped heavily with high end technology.

Straight out of a Hollywood movie.

“This is gonna be cool!”,Adi grinned.

As we entered the main ‘hall’ of the pretty long submarine, our eyes widened in surprise. There was no one, except two soldiers guarding the entrance and exit of the hall.

Where are the others?

“This is the main hall. All the important meetings and
‘ice-breaker’ sessions are held here.”,the soldier guiding us said.
We kept silent.

“Don’t be nervous! You can speak. Don’t you have any questions Atif and Aslam? I’ve heard you are always loaded with questions to ask.”, the soldier smiled, trying to ease out the tension and unfamiliarity between us.

It took us a second to regain the fact that our names have been changed.

Ali, Atif and Aslam.

Crap.

“Sir, when we entered the submarine, we were surprised how the sea water didn’t enter it. We were not affected by water pressure. And something blocked us from entering directly. We’re confused ”, Atif said.

“ It’s 2020. Technology has taken a huge leap. And we get all these from a top notch superpower nation. Guess who?”, he smiled.

“Superpower? That would be definitely…”, the look on my face answered the rest.

“Yes. You’re correct.”

That left us all numb for a minute.

“But, they’re against terrorism. They even support the antiterrorism squad pact by the UN. In fact, they are the driving force behind the squad. They are the reason why the ICIS neared extinction and had to join hands with LeM and form this organisation to revive themselves.
Why would they support you?”, Atif asked the question that was riddling my mind.

“There’s a lot of politics. You’re too young to understand all that. But, I’m pretty impressed at your questioning skills. Straight to the point.”

Atif smiled at that. But his smile didn’t last long.

“But be sure to keep this questioning skills of yours away when you’re training. The trainer in charge won’t approve.”, he added.

Atif could only nod in agreement.

“This submarine is used to transport new young Mujahideen’s like you to our ‘destination’. Previously, the path was easier since the security along the coasts was not so tough to break in to. Take the example how the 26/11 militants entered your motherland with ease.
Such was the security then.
But since the past few years, technology has come more to the fore. Hence, we decided to maximise it’s use too.” , the soldier said as we walked towards the next chamber which turned out to be ‘the essentials’. All basic necessities like food and clothing were stocked in abundance.

“Normal submarines can be easily tracked by SONAR and other tracking techniques. Except us.
Our mean vehicle isn’t trackable by simple techniques.

No detection, easier the journey.”,
he smiled looking at our ‘we’re amazed’ expression.

“The ‘invisible’ thing that blocked you is our submarine shield. If by any chance, our enemy tracks us and attacks us,say, with torpedoes or any other attack weapon, this shield can stop it from destroying our submarine.

No attacks….”

“..easier the journey.”,Abhi concluded his explanation.

Dammit! They’re stronger than I expected them to be.

“And obviously, the part where the water didn’t enter the submarine when we entered it is another high tech stuff. Right? ”, Adi questioned something for the first time in his life.

“You’re intelligent too, eh?” , he smiled and signalled us to follow him to the next chamber.

The next chamber was the one with weapon’s. Loads of them.

“This is insane!”, Adi exclaimed.

“You’ll get to know about each one of them soon.”, he said as he closely inspected the weapons with his eyes.

“And finally, this is the monitoring room. Keeps vigil of what’s happening 24×7.”, he sighed.

The sight of 7-10 spirited technician’s tapping furiously on the computer devices as if there’s nothing more interesting in this world made me feel sorry.

Sorry for our fate.

“Your submarine tour ends here. Now you may please go to the main hall and rest. It’ll take us some more hours to reach there. The submarine moves a bit slow to avoid any risk.”

“Ok Sir.”, Atif said as we turned back to the hall.

“I’m tired of doing this intro stuff every time, again and again!”, he said in a low voice, as if we won’t hear.

                         •••

“Can’t you just change the topic Aslam?”, a weary seasick Atif said.

“I’m trying.. ”, I said, simultaneously reading another novel.

“Don’t tell me you bought your story books along! ”, Ali acted as if it was a big deal. I chose not to reply to that.

A few minutes later, Ali decided to engross in his hobby- sleeping, whereas I and Atif ‘ate time’ talking books and authors.

                       •••

A few hours later:
Meeting hall

“So, had a good time till now?”, the soldier asked us.

“Ya..kind of..”, I replied.

I hope you’ll have a good time when we’ll kick your ass and expose your entire organization.

“We’ll reach there in half an hour. Till then, I thought if you have any more questions, be free to..”

“What’s your name?”, Atif asked even before the soldier completed his sentence.

“That was a pretty fast response.”,he was surprised.

“My name is Amar Abdullah.”

“No..no! Your real name, Sir.”, Abhi clarified.

There was no reply from his side.
Just silence.

Seems as if Atif just screwed up his emotions, reminding him of his past life.

“I..I don’t remember.”,he tried hard to paste his smile while answering.

“That sounds a bit weird isn’t it?”,Atif looked at me.

“Too weird.”, I said.

“There’s no point delving into my past life now. It’s the past. You won’t get it back..”

“But, he just asked your real name Sir. We won’t intrude in to your personal space called ‘the past’. It’s none of our business.”, I tried being diplomatic and urged him to answer.

“Well..”, he paused, confused whether to answer or not. We let him take his time.

“My real name is Antony Martin.”, he sighed.

Terrorism has no religion they said.
True.

“Oh..”,even Atif was shocked.

“Tell me one thing. Do you think that terrorism is all about just one religion? ”, Amar asked.

“Definitely not, Sir. It’s all mostly due to misinterpretations and wrong portrayal. Once people stereotype a particular thing, it sticks on forever.”, I voiced my opinion.

“Agreed.”, Ali and Atif shared the same thoughts as mine.

Some common notions are meant to be broken so that you realize what’s the actual picture.

“Any more questions?”, he asked.

“.. except the ones targeted at me, of course. ”,he added, knowing how unapologetic Atif and me are when questioning stuff.

“How much time will we have to train? When will we go on a mission?”, Adi asked this time.

“Depends how you fare in the training regime.”,came the answer.

“Still..an approx?”, I asked.

“Around 1½-2 years on an average.”,he replied.

Expected that. No regrets.

“Ohk..”,Ali was lost in thoughts.

“Tell me, what compelled you to enter this field?”, he asked us.

And we were compelled to repeat the same fake story that we served to Qureshi at our interview, this time with extra added emotions.
And much to our relief, it coincided with the submarine reaching its destination.

No more of this Q&A stuff. Phew!

“We’re here. Finally. Another fresh batch of cadets submitted.”, Amar sighed.

“How many batches have you ‘submitted’ till date, Sir?”, I asked out of curiosity, as we moved towards the door.

“Well, I didn’t count that! But I’m sure, you guys are the sixth batch this month.”,he said.

That’s a pretty depressing stat! If this growth rate continues….

“Now what next? Your submarine will not go near the shore, so that no one could spot it and we have to swim from here right?”, Atif racked his brains as the submarine started slowing down.

“You’re completely wrong.”, Amar flashed his well practised smile.

Seems as if many clever brainwashed cadets have asked this question before..

“Then?”, we asked in unison.

“See it for yourself!”

The submarine almost stopped and it started rising above. As it reached the surface level, our hearts resembled a pounding mill.

This is it!

As Amar opened the door, our eyes widened in surprise and utter disbelief.

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