Chapter 16 by Aleena Mansoor

What unprecedented times, thought Adi as he drove, whizzing past the glittering wanna-be utopia that was Manata. 

 

She is immune. Who would have thought mused Adi, massaging the thought in his mind, the same words curdling since the moment he had made the chilling discovery. Even as he raced to ambush Tara, he could not help but map out the implications of what this could mean. Adi had not dared to share this information with Ken or his big-boss - it had to be deployed, manipulated, and executed in a precise manner. Adi’s lips curled up in one corner, making his usually handsome face look almost manic and depraved. 

 

“Oh the possibilities,” he said aloud with no witnesses other than the steadily increasing numbers on his flickering speedometer - 100, 150, 200. Here he thought that creating a military-grade bio-weapon was all he was good for, but in his hands also lay the antidote. Images of bleeding noses, sullen-eyed enemy soldiers struggling to hold the gun as they aimed to shoot Manata soldiers flashed, making Adi almost sneer in glee. They could even sell it to all their allies, they would be rolling in cash. What made the symphony even more poetic, was not just the havoc they could create to protect Manata, but the order they could institute. Be the only antidote in the world, under the name of a self-created and owned pharmaceutical company to deploy at will where it deemed fit. Be the problem and the solution at the same time, double the trouble, double the gains.  It would be a powerful tool of diplomacy, even more precious than oil and the world would be at Manata’s feet... as it should be. He could almost see the monument erected in his honour, “just hope they get my hair right, it’s hard to sculpt curls.” 

 

A billboard passed “Glory to Manata” it said with the President of Manata posing artificially with a bright, forced smile that was reserved purely for photo ops, his stomach bulging out of his 3 piece pin-striped suit. A random memory flashed in his mind, Nadia and him always took this route to the gym, “You know Adi, one would hope they’d have our President’s back when photographing him, just look at the poor guy!” Adi would chortle “All I know is that the size of his gut reminds me why we are going to the gym, I take it as positive reinforcement” with Nadia breaking into infectious giggles while she schooled him for being a jerk. Oh Nadia. Beautiful, kind Nadia, the closest person he had to a confidante since his childhood. When his parents died in that ill fated car crash, she was the only one who would know not to ask him questions but sit with him in silence, sometimes curling her entire hand around a single finger of his - another ridiculous but somehow perfect gesture to show she understood his need for space, but would be there when he resurfaced. 

 

Sadness fell like a curtain, the speedometer flickering to a 100. When had he become this monster? He had never really meant to kill people, he was doing this for Manata! Wasn’t he? Ok for the money and power too, but he had never meant for Nadia to get caught in the cross-hairs. Why did she have to be so god-damned curious he thought, banging the steering wheel, she was always so precocious. And now for her to be the antidote, it made it so much harder for him to not leverage this. Power was the only form of control he knew since his parents’ death had quaked his life. He needed it. 

 

The car neared what appeared to be some darkened warehouses, he could make out a ghost of some parked SUVs in the dead of the night. “Where the heck are you Tara? There seems to be nothing Finsta-worthy here”.

 

He felt a sick clenching in his heart. Something was wrong. No, this couldn’t make sense. Different possibilities whirred in his mind. “Abort Mission,” he mumbled, changing gears and reversing in full speed. In the rearview mirror, he caught an entourage of vehicles with bright headlights speeding towards him. Shit. He changed gears again accelerating in the opposite direction but the battalion of parked SUVs switched their headlights on in one fell swoop, blinding him. Peeking with one eye open he saw Tara’s tiny frame jump out of one of the SUVs. “Dorian! That’s him,” she yelled out. 

 

Out of the other SUV, Dorian stepped out along with the man in a perfectly manicured black suit. Adi could not make out his face, ‘These goddamned lights.” The suited man walked closer to his car, blocking out one of the lights aimed directly into Adi’s eyes. 

 

Adi felt all the air leaving his lungs, his eyes peeled, almost manic. “Dad?” - he whispered.

About the author:
Aleena is a 28-year-old living in Singapore, who sells luxury skincare by day, but dreams of the non-corporate life chasing creative pursuits. She loves dance, music and reading, especially copious amounts of non-fiction on topics like the brain, psychology and history.