Monday, May 1, 2017

The Elementals - Part 2 of 4

Revathi and Arlan were walking back to Revathi's cubicle as Revathi continued with her other problems of running an office. "Arlan, before you left for the capital, a week back, you visited that museum people right?" She asked as she settled herself behind her desk.

Arlan nodded mostly because he was still preoccupied.

Revathi saw Arlan and looked annoyed again. "You need to listen when I am talking to you," Revathi snapped as Arlan was rapidly dragged out of his thoughts, as he stared at Revathi.

Arlan was wondering what had warranted this reaction from Revathi. "What?" Arlan demanded. "You were talking about completely unnecessary things in the pantry and here you asked me about the museum," Arlan looked at Revathi almost aghast. "I pay attention to everything you say. In fact I am sure even Parikh does not do that," Arlan continued in a whining tone. "And you still have to blame me for everything."

"Where is the travel voucher for your trip to the museum, last week?" Revathi asked completely ignoring Arlan's rant.

"It is lying in my desk." Arlan muttered, yawning again.

"Arlan, why did you come to office today?" Revathi asked frowning. "Go home and sleep properly instead of pretending to fall asleep, any second now."

"Got to make a living, Reva." Arlan said yawning again, as the other five people in the office looked at the two of them, a little curiously. The conversations between Arlan and Revathi were the basis of most of the office gossip concerning their otherwise very silent chief. "And contrary to popular belief, besides sleeping and working, I actually have a social life," Arlan said watching Revathi who had turned her attention to her computer and was typing on it.

"You?" Revathi said watching Arlan looking amused. "I am very sure the only thing you know about social life is its spelling and even that I do not have very high hopes. So either you want to be in office to pour over your cold cases or you are going to have a client and do not want to tell me about it."

Arlan looked almost aghast as he shook his head, walking back to his office room. "I tell you about all my clients. That is one of the most important reasons I am still in business," he said wondering, whether Reyansh and Kira had figured it all out. Arlan was almost sure that he had the right answer and the solution did not involve dragging the Elementals into it.

Arlan entered his room and saw Reyansh who was getting up.

"Thanks Arlan." Reyansh said picking up the file. Reyansh was grinning, which told Arlan that Reyansh had figured it out.

"Consider us even," Arlan said smiling.

Reyansh had helped keep Arlan out of prison, in one very nasty case. Now they were even.

"Not yet." Reyansh said walking out as Kira was watching the entire scene, slightly confused.

"Kira," Arlan continued as he sat behind the desk, placing the coffee cup before him. "That woman from the far side of town – who wanted her husband found!"

"Mrs. Kirpan?" Kira asked as Arlan nodded feeling tired.

"Yes. I think the husband did not skip town. The husband could be in his friend's house or he could be registered in one of the hotels in that part of town. Will you check it out?" Arlan asked.

Kira nodded, still looking like she was thinking about the theft.

"What are you going to do?" she asked as she watched him still looking worried. Arlan yawned again as Kira sighed, "Didn't sleep well yesterday?" she asked.

Arlan smiled shaking his head. That was another thing he was not telling anybody. He did not sleep well on almost any day. "I am going to check something in that museum." Arlan said getting up. "I am fairly certain I know how the thieves walked away with the painting." Arlan said.

Kira nodded. "Take care." she said, walking away.

Arlan watched Kira as he wished for the millionth time he knew what was going on in Kira's mind. He just wished sometimes he could figure out what she was thinking and more specifically what she was thinking about him. Arlan had long since given up developing any sort of relationship with Kira or anyone else for that matter. He figured out that in Kira's case if he knew that she was with someone else, it would be easier for him to just completely forget her.

Arlan then felt morose. It was because of this mind-reading thing that Revathi had been so angry in the morning. Arlan sighed shaking his head. One of these days, Arlan decided, his brain was going to explode from trying to think so many things.

Arlan picked up the travel voucher he had prepared, which was lying beneath all the mess of papers on his table and got up to give it to Revathi, when his intercom rang.

That was Revathi.

"I am coming," Arlan snapped picking up the phone. "Don't be such a...."

"There is a call from Vortex." Revathi said in a commanding voice, silencing Arlan. "Their Managing Director Varyn Talin wants to talk to you."

"About what?" Arlan asked wondering why the biggest company in Sthapan was contacting him.

"About something important, was all he said. And the man's secretary is on line." Revathi continued.

"Connect it." Arlan said picking up the intercom.

"Is this Arlan Karnik?" the voice sounded like a well-educated man who was in his mid-thirties, and looked like a man who was used to following instructions. And the accent of the man was peculiar. Arlan wondered from where the man was.

"Speaking."

"My employer Mr. Talin wants to talk to you about an important matter," the secretary continued, "Mr. Talin was wondering whether you would be to come to the office in half an hour to discuss the matter," the man said.

Arlan knew this trick well. "I would not be in office," he said trying to keep his voice emotionless, stifling a sigh. Because Talin seemed to be like the type of man whom Arlan should avoid meeting – the type of person, who expected people to be there at their beck and call at all times, just because they had money or power or both.

And Arlan did not play well with people like that.

"Oh!" the secretary was quiet for some time as Arlan waited patiently. Arlan was wondering exactly how many people had refused to meet Talin as soon as the man wanted when the secretary spoke again.

"Would around 12 o'clock suit you?" the man asked.

"Will be there." Arlan said and before the secretary could say anything, Arlan spoke. "If I knew what it was about, I would be able to help the man better."

"Mr. Talin said he wanted to talk to you personally about it," the secretary said as Arlan nodded.

But before Arlan realized that he was on the phone and that the man could not see him, the connection was cut.

And Revathi opened the door coming inside, beaming at him. "That is my boy!" she said proudly. "Now, the big people are coming to us." she said happily.

"Ever wondered what the man wants from us." Arlan said dryly.

"Who cares?" Revathi said looking jubilant, "You my boy will solve it and make us rich."

"I thought we already were rich," Arlan said, "You even talked to me two days back about our returns. I sat through the whole thing and did not even sleep."

"That is small." Revathi said disdainfully. "Now the big companies will also take us in their league..."

"...And you will have more work to do." Arlan said interrupting Revathi, grinning at her.

"I can employ more people to do my work." Revathi said looking annoyed.

Arlan frowned suddenly. "If there are other people doing your job, what are you going to do?" he asked.

Revathi looked even more annoyed at Arlan. "Have I told you that you are annoying?" she demanded.

"Every day," Arlan said truthfully. "Even on the Sundays, when Parikh calls me up to show those horrendous movies, you remind me that I am annoying."

"That is because you are annoying." Revathi said shaking her head, noting Arlan's six feet height and powerfully built body and his mustache and stubble of beard. But Revathi realized that undoubtedly the most powerful thing about Arlan were his brown eyes. They were curious, mischievous and looked like it noted everything. The last part Revathi knew to be true. The man did notice a lot. A lot more than average people did. "Now look sharp and say all the right things and finish his case as quick as you can," she said watching Arlan.

"For the past two weeks, no new movies have been released?" Arlan asked frowning, "Parikh has not been calling me up," Arlan explained.

"Parikh said that he has some latest innovation coming up," Revathi said rolling her eyes. "He has been working even on Sundays. He has been coming home very late and leaving home early."

"Thank God, for small mercies," Arlan almost sounded like he was praying. "And tell him to add the chemicals right and not cause an explosion." Arlan said grinning. When Parikh was not watching movies, he worked as a chemist in a new start-up company – Lavelle, which was already giving an established company like Vortex, a run for their money.

Revathi rolled her eyes as Arlan again looked at Revathi with his puppy dog expression. "One more coffee!" Arlan pleaded. "Otherwise I will fall asleep on my feet and I cannot meet His Highness Varyn Talin and I won't look sharp."

"Keep this up and you will get caffeine poisoning," Revathi exclaimed.

"There is no such thing like caffeine poisoning," Arlan said rolling his eyes.

"If there is something like that you will get it," Revathi said.

"I will take my chances," Arlan said looking at Revathi pleading once more.

"You have to promise me to go home and sleep on time today." Revathi said waving a threatening finger at him.

Arlan nodded happily, as Revathi sighed and was about to make way to the pantry.

And that was when there were sudden shouts coming from outside their office and the thumping sounds of tensed feet

Almost subconsciously, Arlan pushed Revathi behind him, running towards the door. Arlan's heart nearly stopped still, as he saw Handlers running outside his office.

Arlan's heart was beating real hard as he saw almost everyone in the other offices in the floor, were slowly peeking out of the offices, looking slightly worried.

Just before the two Handlers, Arlan saw a tiny figure running wildly down the stairs. Arlan realized that he needed to know nothing more as he opened his mind and focused on the Handler in the front and concentrated and using his mind waves, Arlan "pushed".

The people in the corridor were shocked when the first Handler slipped and fell hard and the second Handler who was right behind him stumbled on the fallen man and both fell down with a thud almost rocking the entire floor.

"What....?" Revathi came out of the office, pushing Arlan out, as the others in the office were behind her watching curiously.

"Handlers!" Arlan said in a disgruntled tone. He saw one of the Handler get up angrily pulling up his friend.

The two Handlers looked around the place angrily at all the people and with their dark tinted helmets and completely black uniforms, the Handlers definitely looked menacing as the two Handlers saw the place and walked down the staircase angrily.

"I think they will pass the Elemental Registration Act!" Revathi was telling Gayatri who was nodding fervently and for once it looked like Gayatri was not thinking about her annoying husband.

"These Elementals are menace to the society!" Gayatri said. "Do you know just the other day what happened near my house..."

"I will be at the museum," Arlan said irritated, as he watched Revathi and Gayatri. Kira was in the background and she was watching the entire scene, listening to Gayatri. "Remind me about this 12 meeting, Reva. Otherwise I may forget it," Arlan said studying his watch.

"Arlan!" Revathi watched Arlan slightly aghast. "I know you are a smart guy and all that. But please have some respect for these things. The richest man in Sthapan wants to talk to you and you will just forget it?" Revathi demanded angrily, as she ignored Gayatri's story about whatever had happened near her house.

"Just remind me," Arlan said gravely, walking away from there.

Arlan had wanted one more coffee. But right now he was not in a mood. He was not in a mood for anything. Arlan reached the lift in the floor, as he could hear Gayatri with her monologue of what happened near her house, unmindful of whether Revathi was actually listening to it or not.

Arlan was out of the lift in the basement and was still fuming. No one had ever even asked an Elemental about how they felt about the whole thing. The way everyone was speaking, someone would think that the Elementals asked to be like this. None of the scientists could explain why some humans changed this way. The so called Elementals were also humans and they were already so badly scared. And now on top of everything, people had to make it worse. Arlan knew that once the Elemental Registration Act came into force, things would get worse. A lot worse.

Arlan knew about the stories of what happened to the Elementals once they were captured by the Handlers and he even knew about the Neutralizer which was the latest device invented by the Handlers.

Arlan had been horrified when he had seen the Neutralizer the first time. The device when fitted inside the body of the Elemental absolutely prohibited the Elemental from using any of their powers and it drained the powers of the Elemental slowly and within a week or so, the Elemental would be unable to do anything, as the neutralizer sapped all the energy from the body of the Elemental. And then the 'scientists" of the Government Research Institute started their experiments on finding out why the Elementals was different. Arlan had heard more horror stories than others even cared to know about. And if the Elemental Registration Act was bought, Arlan knew that it would just legalize what the Handlers were doing behind the curtains.

But by the time, Arlan reached his car in the basement, Arlan made a sad discovery – that the normal people could never accept the Elementals.

But despite this discovery, Arlan did not find it in his heart to hate these normal people. They had given him food and space to live. He had spent his childhood in the orphanage and he had at least been allowed to live there till he was sixteen.

And the orphanage had been more than a learning experience. It was there that Arlan learnt that normal people actually feared Elementals, because they could not understand Elementals.

Arlan was filled with a strange emotion as he sat inside his car.

The Elementals were damned for what they were and damned for what they were not. The words of Tanav Srivastav, his mentor at the orphanage came to Arlan. Tanav Srivastav always gave him such tidbits as they were playing chess in the orphanage. Arlan learned the game from Tanav and between trying to control his powers and studying and living in the orphanage, Arlan made a gratifying discovery that he really loved the game of chess. Arlan discovered that he really was thrilled with matching his wits with others.

And odd though it may be, Arlan did not remember much about his time in the orphanage before Tanav came there. But every time Arnav thought about those times he could feel a strange fear fill him. A fear that he could not explain, not even to himself. It was the stuff that formed his nightmares and kept him awake almost all nights.

And Arnav was really glad that the bushy eyebrowed, stern looking Tanav had helped him, when Arlan was young. Otherwise Arlan was more than sure that he would have either been dead or in custody of the Handlers.

Arlan sighed, as he realized that he and others like him were being forced to live in this world of fear, where the world was not being able to accept them for who they were and the Elementals could not give up what they were. Arlan realized that it was a vicious circle, one that he had no answer for. Right now all that mattered was that he needed to survive and if in the process he could help others like him, well and good.

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