This is an ongoing story series. For the previous chapter of the story, click here.
FROM LAST TIME
…My hands are sweaty and shivering as I grab the steering wheel and hit the accelerator. I’m not even out of the parking lot yet when I see a glint of light reflected just behind me. I hit the brakes and stop short. I’m not known to do well under pressure.
Just then a pair of scruffy, rough hands grab my neck from the back seat.
Before I have a chance to turn and push off my attacker, the hands pin my arms down and my head is pushed down roughly. In the distance, I hear a loud bang and the glass window beside me shatters. Something slams into the headrest behind me, missing me by a hair.
My attacker, or rather saviour, turns the key in the slot and the car whirrs to life, dragging itself forward.
“That was a gun! Who are you?!” I scream, my voice catching in my throat.
The masked man hits the back of my neck, hard and and I slouch forward before I can say anymore.
“Aditya, what do you do when you’re stuck?”
“I-I don’t know, Professor Satya”
“You breathe, observe and assess the situation, rank it in order of immediate concern. Remember, life’s too short to be impatient.”
Assess the situation. Right. Well, someone was out to kill me. My immediate concern? Hmmm…. Let me think.
When I come to, it’s still dark out and I’m lying on the floor of the Information Systems Lab. I notice how the paint is peeling off of the walls, revealing the concrete beneath and how the cobwebs cling to the corners of the ceiling. This tiny, cramped room is my last view before I die. How anti climatic.
I look up and see, the masked man is looming over me. I brace myself for impact. I can almost feel how sore I’m going to be. Instead, he removes his hoodie and tosses me a water bottle. Slightly stunned, I relax my posture and hold on to the water bottle. Can I trust this man?
“Drink up, you’ve been out for three hours now. We don’t have much time.”
“Who are you? Why should I trust you? For all I know that’s poison.”
“For all you know, that’s vodka and gin. My name is Vijay, I knew your teacher, Professor Satya. He and I were close friends before he….” he grits his teeth, biting back the tears that threaten to pour out. I could see the pain in his eyes, the grief of Satya’s death had become almost physical stabs in his chest.
“Before he died.” Professor Satya was the only person who believed in me, he was like a father to me and the wound was still so unbearably fresh.
“We have to move fast, I was able to shoot the person who was chasing you but we only have so much time, before-”
Suddenly, a brilliant flash of yellow and orange blinds us, and we turn our faces away from the light – and debris. Several large, haggard pieces of metal are flung outwards and into the walls around us. I feel like I’m about to fly out the window as Vijay holds on to me, shielding me from the damage. There is a sizzling sound, and after a moment Vijay cautiously raises his head to inspect the damage.
The explosion, despite first appearances, is not extreme. It has inflicted little damage, and only a small hole marks the epicenter of the explosion
It was a warning.
“This explosion was not meant to kill – it could have been so much worse – but it must have been just a teaser, a show of power, something to tell us who’s in control”, Vijay explains. He seemed to know this strategy all too well.
I sit up, propping myself up on one arm, and gingerly touching my forehead. “Is it over?”
Vijay narrows his eyes. “Yes,” he responds with concern. “Are you okay?” He touches my forehead.
“Yes, I am.” I wipe my brow with a grimy gloved hand. You’re still alive, Aditya.
“You just saved my life. Again”
Vijay reaches up and scratches the back of his neck awkwardly. “Yes, well, it was a two-time offer only”. He glares at me. “Don’t expect it to keep happening. Now let’s get moving.”
I push myself off the ground and get to my feet, just as the lights in the room flicker once and then go out. The sudden silence that follows sends a chill up my spine. Then, I hear footsteps, slow, deliberate, approaching me, and a strange clicking noise accompanying them. Click, click, thud, click.
“They’re here.” Vijay whispers.
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