Collateral Damage

I am not allowed to disclose the details of the organization that I work for, so I would have to abstain from revealing anything. My job was to eliminate criminals and other potential threats to global peace.  We always have to stay incognito as our organization is not connected to the government in any way; although the people who hired us were mostly top-tier officials who ran the country. This meant we appeared in different parts of the world without even a shadow of our actual identities. Ayan Ahuja disappeared from the face of the earth for days, maybe weeks.

We have had to infiltrate high-security facilities and retrieve useful intel, tail murderous fugitives and sometimes kill them, capture informers and traitors, and even involve in encounters, with or without weapons. We had to master various martial arts and learn multiple languages. Why did I take this up? The thrill it provides is irreplaceable. To metamorphose from your true identity into someone else and to punish lawbreakers and lunatics obsessed with destroying our planet.

The flaw in our organization’s tenet was the lack of compassion. Our foremost concern was the interest of the client. We were expected to succeed in our mission, even if it meant collateral damage and loss of human lives. We were trained to develop apathy and passivity so that we won’t waver when the situation arrives. We were allowed to have minimum contact with family while on a mission, in order to prevent any kind of emotional interference.

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I had received 5 missed calls on my phone that day. Mom. I knew the locale of my mission wasn’t that far from my hometown. But by protocol, I couldn’t contact her. Hence, I switched off the phone, thinking that I would pay a brief visit after the mission.

I dressed up as a normal office employee and boarded the local train to the place I was supposed to be. I were to eliminate two young terrorists, who had murdered a family in cold blood after keeping them hostage for days – taking their home as refuge till they had to move. There was no information about any hostages, so I was pretty much confident.

My eyes spotted them easily. Three cold, wary strangers with their heads covered with bandannas making their faces inconspicuous, moving swiftly through the busy railway station crowd; a disguise that would have easily fooled the common man for a vagabond. The third stranger, easily the youngest of the lot, was the one who gave them away. His hesitation and excitement were easily detectable. Without waiting for more signs, I started stalking them.

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The chase took me to a comparatively deserted alley. Finishing them off was a piece of cake. It took some time to distract the older ones and slit their throats, but the young one was so stunned by my ambush he couldn’t even move. But there was no room for mercy in my job.

After destroying whatever the terrorists had on them, I turned to leave. But this very eerie feeling got inside me; this curiosity to know more about the young one, who was so scared to attack someone and yet was made to join this illicit racket. As I moved slowly towards the corpses, a dread started creeping inside me, some kind of a late premonition. While I stood there contemplating whether I should leave immediately or quench my sudden curiosity, the missed calls from home suddenly popped up inside my head. I rummaged in my pocket for the cell phone and switched it on. It had a text message that said:

Armaan hasn’t been home for the past two days. I am scared. Please call me soon beta.”

The text hit me like an avalanche. I couldn’t bear to look at the body lying next to me anymore. I slowly pushed the towel back from the face so that I could discover the identity of the corpse. With my hands shaking so vigorously, I couldn’t remove the fabric completely from the face. But I didn’t have to.

There was no mistaking my brother’s blue eyes.

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