Authors: Neeraj Chand
All Rights Reserved. This book may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in
whole or in part by any means without the express written consent of the
The Best Laid Plans
Pushing the Limits
Putting on the Mask
Food for thought
10. Bombs and Kittens
11. Running into Trouble
13. Chasing a Lie
15. Recklessly, Stupidly, Completely
17. The Break in the Chain
18. A Face from the Past
19. Fall of an Angel
The old woman sat huddled in a corner of the lavishly decorated room, an intricately
woven shawl wrapped closely around her scrawny shoulders. She was in a deep trance; her
eyes out of focus, her body limp. Astral projection is a phenomenon which is still greatly
doubted by most of the scientific community, but the woman had practiced it her entire life.
A respectful knock on the door broke through the silence of the room, and the haze the
woman‟s eyes had seemed lost in. Her lips moved. Her concentration wavered, and broke.
Life returned to her body, and she awoke with a shuddering gasp.
Opening her eyes she stared at the opposite wall, ignoring the knocking, absorbing all
that she had seen and sensed. Despite the unease in her mind, an unsteady smile formed on
her lips, revealing only a couple of rotting teeth.
At last. So many fragile lives. So many destinies entwined. Fate wrought through
choice, after winding long and twisting through the shifting streams of time, was bringing
everything together at last. In the journey of her mind she had seen much that entranced her,
but even more that disturbed her. She had caught glimpses of glorious plans and dark
ambitions. She had sensed pride warring against necessity, fierce honor against hopeless
despair. And at the centre of it all that wonderful, perfect light.
Even her prodigious talents were not enough to see into the future to that extent, to know
to what end these paths would take them. And yet she sensed that, one way or the other,
matters were going to come to a head soon.
The woman sighed and got up slowly, wincing as the joints creaked in her frail body.
The future lacked certainty, and speculations were pointless at this time. All she could do for
now was to wait and watch. She could hope, while there was still time left for that emotion.
gentlemen,” he concluded with a smile, walking towards the table on which
his laptop was kept next to a steel container.“I can say with full confidence that we have at
last met with success in our endeavors. The idea that had seemed little more than idle fantasy
three decades ago has finally become a reality. I thank you both, as well as the government,
for your invaluable support of the project.” The two men leaned forward in their chairs as
Doctor Fahim opened the container and carefully drew out a test tube from its casing, holding
it up for the others to see.
His guests gazed in silence at the transparent liquid contained in the glass tube. It
looked exactly like ordinary water, yet in the glow of the light coming from the projector on
the screen, the liquid glistened silver. The men continued to stare spellbound at the contents
of the tube for several moments. Both of DoctorFahim‟s guests counted among the most
powerful men in the country, experienced in matters of national importance for many years.
Yet at that moment both their eyes mirrored a look of amazement and child like wonder at the
marvel they beheld.
Doctor Fahim held the tube raised in his hand for a few seconds more, sharing in the
moment of collective triumph with the other two men. Then he carefully placed the tube back
in its casing, leaving the lid of the container open.
Our heartiest congratulations.” he said, smiling broadly as he strode forwards to shake
DoctorFahim‟s hand. “We were sure that you were the only man in the country who could
have succeeded in this endeavor. You have fully justified DoctorThompson‟s faith in your
The doctor returned the smile, the glow from the projector lighting up his profile. He
had a very tall and lean figure, with a neatly trimmed beard and moustache. His face was
lined and wrinkled with age. But there was no frailty there. The deep, alert eyes indicated the
presence of a powerful mind, and the wisdom of experiences vast and numerous which only a
lengthy and eventful life could provide. Experiences which today had made him into one of
the world‟s foremost authorities on biotechnology. Yet the exhaustively scholarly life he had
led had not dimmed the twinkle in those shrewd eyes. Doctor Fahim laughed quietly as he
shook the Minister‟s hand. “It was indeed a formidable challenge, Mr. Rai, but it was
extremely interesting working in a new field.”
And the end result was certainly well worth the effort.” the Minister said, beaming.“I
take it that the serum is now ready to be used on human beings, or is there still some work
left to be done?”
is complete from your point of interest, gentlemen.” Doctor Fahim said, his
voice becoming grave again. He turned to his laptop and selected the final slide from the
presentation. “From a scientific viewpoint, however, an experiment is only considered
completely successful when its applications have been tested in real world conditions.” He
glanced up reassuringly at the Minister.“Nevertheless, the results we have obtained up to this
point are undeniably conclusive. The effect of the serum on the physiology of the test subject
is nothing short of miraculous.” Doctor Fahim turned to the image on the projector screen.
The slide showed the bone and muscle density of a rhesus monkey and a mouse in two
stages, one before intake of the serum, and one after. Doctor Fahim pointed to the images.
“As you can see, the entire composition of the subject‟s bodies have been radically
enhanced,” Doctor Fahim turned once again to the two men. “In practical terms, the intake of
this serum would turn a normal person into a being of a much higher mental and physical
capacity, with all the benefits of the increased biological efficiency, not the least of which is
an enhanced metabolism, and the ability to heal at increased rates. A godsend in times of
The third and final occupant of the room rose as well. In his non-descript civilian
clothes, it would have been difficult to identify the man immediately as General Bakshi, the
chief of army staff of the Indian military. Only the General‟s erect and disciplined carriage
hinted at the fact that the man was in fact the leader of the largest army in the world. The
general‟s stern and forbidding demeanor was for once relaxed into a smile.
is a great day for the Indian Army.” General Bakshi said, coming forward to
shake DoctorFahim‟s hand as well. “The effect of this discovery on our armed forces can
hardly be underestimated.” The General studied Doctor Fahim intently. “And considering the
importance of this discovery, I must ask you again, before this business is carried over to the
next stage; is there any other information, any side effects or the like, that you would like to
share with us about the serum, before we begin using iton our soldiers?”
Doctor Fahim glanced at the only partially open window of the small room they were
in. The meeting was taking place in a conference room in the south block of the Central
Secretariat in Delhi. He remembered passing by several prominent politicians on his way to
the meeting. Standing there reminded him now more than ever of the monumental nature of
what they were attempting.
The doctor turned slowly to face General Bakshi, a thoughtful expression on his face.
He seemed to be debating something in his mind.“I am glad you brought up the matter.” he
said finally in a quiet voice. “Gentlemen, please take your seats again. There are some
concerns of mine regarding this project that I would like to share with you.”
The Defense Minister and the General resumed their seats and turned to face Doctor
Fahim, their expressions showing a mixture of curiosity and wariness at the Doctor‟s grave
tone. When the doctor spoke, his voice was very quiet, but it was still clearly audible across
the silent room.
can think of no better use of this discovery than applying its uses to the defense of
our country.” He stared at the General, who was watching him with a slight frown.“And yet,
sir, I cannot help but wonder whether it would be judicious to put such a vast amount of
power in the hands ofone person.”
eyes narrowed dangerously as he sat up straighter in his chair. “Doctor,
we are grateful for your contribution, but kindly understand your boundaries. How we use the
serum is for us to decide. Rest assured that the power of the serum will not be misused in our
what will happen, General, if those who hold that power in their hands no longer
feel the need to follow yourorders?” Doctor Fahim did not look away, but met the General
Bakshi‟s gaze squarely.
“A soldier is taught to be responsible and logical in all his decisions.” t
said. His voice had grown sharper. It was the voice of a man not used to having his directives
questioned. “Serving the country is every soldier‟s passion, Doctor Fahim, a passion that an
ordinary civilian can never truly understand.”
“I am sure that is what you teach your troops.” the doctor countered. “But you cannot
deny that many people who become soldiers have other, less honorable reasons. There have
been cases in history when soldiers rebelled, and their mutiny caused great damage. How can
we be sure”
“We understand your concerns, doctor.” t
he Minister interrupted in a gentle voice, even
as the General opened his mouth angrily. “That possibility has already occurred to us. We
intend in the beginning to use the serum on an extremely select group of candidates who have
excelled in every field of the defense service, and whose loyalty is beyond question. And
even then we will be starting with a single test subject for now. That person will be the first
agent under the project, our first Alpha Soldier.”
thatwe have assuaged your conscience,” General Bakshi said as he rose, not
attempting to conceal the impatience in his voice. “Perhaps we can move onto the next phase
of the project. Our work is far from over, Doctor Fahim. In fact, for all intents and purpose, it
is just beginning. We can count on your total cooperation?”
“You have the
remainder of the day to clear out your laboratory.” the General spoke
somewhat brusquely, his voice indicating that he had not forgotten their argument. “All
physical evidence of the experiments you conducted for Project Alpha must be destroyed. All
the chemicals removed, and the test subjects readied for transfer. A team will come to the lab
at twenty two hundred hours tonight to wipe down the area and replace the memory banks
from your computer. Good day.” The General turned away without another word and strode
out the room. Mr. Rai shook Doctor Fahim‟s hand one last time and left as well.
The doctor let out a low sigh as he turned off the projector and switched on the lights.
The meeting had been a success, all things considered. Yet he could not summon any
enthusiasm for the moment. He pressed his temple, staving off the headache that had been
building up since the morning. There were too many things to think about, and not enough
time to deliberate upon them all. The General and the Defense Minister were both good men,
each in their own way. But the three of them working side by side was not going to be an
easy task. The other two were both leaders of men, and he had the distinct feeling that his role
in the project from this point onwards was going to be drastically curtailed.