Ashok Chandran rubbed his face as he took a sip of the bland coffee from the vending machine in the local CBI office in Mumbai. He was in the secluded cabin where he normally spent time when not on missions. Him being undercover most of the time he had to be a rarely known entity. Very few people in the department knew he wasn’t the store clerk cum transporter he was shown on the records to be. He had always loved this life… living on the edge. The adrenaline rush fuelled his passion for martial arts as well as gave him a direction in life… he always felt he was born to do this!
From childhood he had been a restless soul always in pursuit of the unknown. He remembered the early days of their growing up years where he used to trail his older brother Narsimhan to school passing the fields on the way. His brother who always had a short temper had a tough time controlling him and dragging him back while he scampered around or climbed trees. Right from then he was good at camouflaging himself. Once his father and the entire village had been on a searching spree while he was hiding right in his house under their noses and revealed himself only when his father in despair had admitted to permit him to visit the local fair if he was found soon. Their mother had died when Ashok was barely two years old and it was a good ten years before their father remarried. They had two half-sisters who studied in the local girls’ school in their village near Warangal. Their step-mother had been a kind lady unlike the proverbial nasty ones. He had been the brilliant of the lot extremely competent in technological know-how and had got a scholarship when he was barely 18 years old to study in the prestigious MIT. His father and Narsimhan anna had struggled to make ends meet till his brother got a bank job. He had worked night shifts in the emerging IT companies and though it barely gave him anything money-wise since he was underaged, the technological experience was invaluable. He finally saved up to make it to the US and rest of his education was completed with the aid of the scholarship and the side jobs that he took up… he always had the excess energy so worked shifts in the local gyms… it was during one such job that he was approached by a federal officer who was also working out in the gym. The US government was conducting a special ops program where they trained and recruited people from other countries who were on special visas as students or working or… immigrants. They underwent intensive training for the next year where they were well paid and this was where Ashok found his calling. The money was good which helped fund his sister’s wedding and built a good home for his parents.
Post intensive training in the pentagon, they were bound for 5 years to the feds and were sent on secret missions across the world. If they got caught their identities were anyways fictitious and since they weren’t US citizens, they were in a no man’s territory as their country of origin would have no clue in their activities. So, The Feds were safe. He didn’t have a problem because he thrived on these stints. While most of the recruits left within 2 months of the initial training, Ashok burgeoned and continued till the end. The next five years were the best of his life where he travelled extensively all over the world on different projects for uncle Sam.
He barely visited India twice and further extended his contract every five years. So totally after about 18 years his contract was terminated and he returned back to India and joined the CRPF… but that was a short stint and his high credentials weren’t unnoticed by the CBI. He was immediately recruited for special missions and today at 55 years of age he was still active in service. His fitness was always top notch…. However, his personal life was non-existent not that he never wished for one… Especially when Ria had been born, he had fallen in love with the baby when he seen the picture sent by his brother. She had kindled the fatherly embers in his heart which he had thought never existed. But he didn’t have the time and energy left for a family and he didn’t want his future spouse and children to suffer because of his absence… So, he had confined himself to a life of perennial bachelorhood.
However, he had made friends in the special op’s unit… especially one special friend… Abdul Ansari. The man was a sniper and just like he never missed his targets, he had a great eye for detecting loopholes… may it be hidden landmines in the north Korean forests or the local country laws. The man was brilliant and that’s what connected them. Abdul and Ashok were sent on many missions together and they had forged a strong bond over the years. Unlike him, Adul who was basically a Bangladeshi by birth, had moved to Dubai even before his contract had ended. He had married and had a son… Eventually the craving to be around with his son and the regret of missing his growing up years began to take its toll and he had resigned a year before Ashok’s contract ended. Because of the identity concealment clause in their agreements, they couldn’t keep in touch and over the years Ashok hadn’t bothered. He was a loner and liked to stay so…
However, all that had changed when Narsimhan had told him about Ria’s tryst with the judicial system. He had been worried and always felt Gaurav wasn’t good news. He was never wrong and finally his subtle searches had got him the reports spread on his table as he tried to sip his now cold coffee. He stood stretching his limbs as he threw his coffee into the attached sink. He felt bitter… not jut with the awful coffee but the bitterness emerging from helplessness of not being able to separate Ria from Gaurav was eating at him… He washed his face with cold water trying to relieve the thudding of his heart. He was never ever scared on any missions… not even when he was caught by the guerrillas in the amazon forest where they had gone to catch a dreaded terrorist hidden and protected by them., not even when he was in the team assigned to infiltrate Baghdad… but now it was Ria….the daughter he never had but someone he loved more than life itself. The only person who could bring the mighty Ashok to his knees… His brother never appreciated his good-hearted older daughter… but Ashok knew Ria was special. He now knew why Gaurav would want Ria in his life… She was a balm to a man’s broken soul and anyone would be lucky to have her in his life. But Gaurav wasn’t what Ria knew him to be… the man was surrounded by darkness and he wondered how much Ria knew about his dark past in Dubai.
He had taken it upon himself to gather intel. Finally, yesterday he had also got the call he was wating for. Though he couldn’t speak to Adbul, the man’s office got in touch in reply to the cryptic message he had sent them. He had gotten the needed information even earlier but had to cross check everything…. Yesterday was the corroboration. He had tried his best to dissuade Ria and had hoped to convince her to let go of the man and return home. But that had failed and what he had got to know had terrified him to the core and even now as he stared at the information before him a chill ran down his spine.
He was always undeterred and fearless… but this was about Ria and now by association with Gaurav her life was at stake too. He paced along the narrow confines of his stuffy cabin… he had to put his years of training into use… he had to protect Ria at all costs.
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