Neel Dervin and The Dark Angel

He was a teenage super soldier.
There were certain questions that fourteen year old Neel Dervin had never thought to ask himself.
Like how much pain he could endure before passing out. Or how many times he could be shot and still keep running. Or how often he could lie to his friends and family without feeling remorse.
But then that one fateful day changed his life forever, and set him on a path towards immeasurable power as well as inconceivable terror.
Now the only people who can help him deal with the situation are complete strangers who are using him for their own ends. Trapped in circumstances beyond his control with abilities he barely understands, he must navigate a treacherous path mired in betrayals and difficult choices to take back control of his life


23. CHAPTER 17: The Break in the Chain

Neel stepped inside the main building of swan labs after school the next day. The police had captured Mehta yesterday in his office. He had surrendered without a word and was now in lockup, with Phlicer complex under police supervision. The container with the human inside it had been transported to a safe place yesterday. Of course, the media had immediately gathered around Phlicer, trying to find out what was going on. But the police had not yet issued a statement. Neel now went to the control room, where he found Divya poring over several documents on the computer. "Hi." Neel said, coming to stand next to her in front of the screen. "Where's Doctor Fahim?" "He's at the government lab, trying to figure what Mehta's experiment is all about." Divya replied after returning his greeting. "Mr. Rai and General Bakshi want to know as soon as possible exactly what Mehta was up to, and Doctor Fahim is the most experienced specialist in biochemistry we have." "Is that what you're trying to do, too?" Neel asked, studying the document. "Trying to understand project Kumbhkaran?" "Yes" Divya said, leaning back in her chair. "The General wanted a copy of the project here, since this is Dr Fahim's base now. You know who Kumbhkaran was?" Neel nodded. "I don't know the whole story, but I remember the old TV show." he said. "He was that giant guy in the Ramayana, right?" "That's right." Divya said musingly. "Kumbhkaran is a famous figure in Hindu mythology. He was the demon brother of Raavan, and helped his army on the battlefield. He was said to be several hundred feet tall and incredibly strong. Almost wiped out the entire rival army before he was subdued." "So why name the project Kumbhkaran?" Neel asked. "This guy's pretty big, but he's not like a hundred feet tall." "Maybe Mehta wanted to try something similar to Kumbhkaran." Divya said uneasily. "It's possible he wanted to create a monster he could control. Normally, I wouldn't have thought it was plausible, but…" Neel saw she was looking at him out of the corner of her eyes. "What?" he demanded defensively. "You think I'm some kind of a monster?" "No, of course not." she said quickly. "I just meant we both know it's possible to make super humans. There's a chance Mehta found another way to do what we've done with the serum." "Well, we'll know everything soon enough." Neel said confidently. "Doctor Fahim will figure out what to do with this guy, and Mehta's locked up anyway. So it doesn't matter what he wanted to do with project Kumbhkaran." "Right." Divya said, though she still sounded a little uneasy. "I'm sure everything is going to be all right now. Divya sat alone in the control room, flipping at random through the files on project Kumbhkaran. The danger seemed to be past them, with Mehta behind bars, but she could not rid herself of the feeling that it was not over yet. She knew two of the reasons why she felt that way. Mehta. His manner during his arrest had been totally calm and composed. He had not said a word in his defense even though his entire fortune was lost and the project he had spent all his time and money on was finished. Everyone from the General to Doctor Fahim had been feeling uneasy about his response. Then there was the other reason. The traitor. They still had no idea who the person was who had told Mehta about project Alpha. He could be anyone inside swan labs, or anyone in the government who knew about the project. She also knew she was one of the prime candidates who were suspected of being the traitor. The General had almost said as much when he had talked to her on previous occasions. Divya suspected that Doctor Fahim's trust in her and his authority in this matter was the only reason she was still on the project. She herself could not help but become suspicious as well, to the extent of questioning the presence of Arjun and Negi and Premi, even though she had no definite reason for suspecting them. The atmosphere of suspicion and distrust was fast becoming unbearable. Divya buried her head in her hands, thinking hard. She knew these were not the only reasons that she felt disturbed. Something kept nagging at the back of her mind. Some obvious information her brain had registered but pushed to one side because of all the other important things that had been happening around her. She closed her eyes, forcing her mind to become calm. During her studies, one of her greatest advantages had been her excellent memory. She could memorize large parts of her textbooks, so that her mind had become a kind of encyclopedia about her subjects. She concentrated now on her memories of the last few days, going through every tiny detail. Neel's victory over his fears… their preparation for his trip to the Phlicer complex… The General's arrival… Arjun's absence… entering the lab… looking for the project… the coffin… Divya's eyes flew open, growing wide in shock as at last she remembered. Her mind was in a whirl, absorbing the implications what she had remembered. She stared at the files of project Kumbhkaran as the realization of what it could all mean dazed her. She bent forward towards the monitor, her hand on the mouse. Instead of flipping randomly through the documents, she started searching for a specific detail. Five minutes of intense searching and she found what she had been looking for. A short line in the corner of a page. A small table about the feeding cycle of the subject. But it was enough. Divya stood up, trying to decide what she should do. If she was right then no one was safe… But she still wasn't completely sure, and first she needed to talk to someone she trusted. And she needed to make absolutely sure her suspicions were correct. Striding over to the cupboard, she opened it and took out Neel's mobile. They had kept it overnight to extract all the footage from inside Phlicer Lab and upgrade its software. Slipping it inside her pocket, she drew out her own cell phone and put it in place of Neel's mobile in the cupboard. She ran out of the control room, almost colliding with Arjun, who was coming towards the room. "Is Doctor Fahim in his office?" she demanded, even as he grabbed her shoulders to steady her. "He's gone to his apartment to get something." Arjun said, surprised to see the expression on her face. "What's wrong?" Divya shook her head, her heart pounding. Instead she asked, "Do you know when he'll come back? I really need to talk to him." Arjun frowned, thinking. "Well, he said he still had work to do in his office. He'll probably be back any minute now." She nodded and moved away quickly, leaving him staring after her. She made her way to Doctor Fahim's study. It was locked, but she used the key she had been given to open the door. She stepped inside the room, closing the door quietly behind her. Her hands groped for the switch to turn on the lights, but before she could find them, a strange smell assailed her senses. Her feet trod broken glass, and she realized what it was. Small glass balls filled with chloroform that, once dropped, shattered and let out the sleeping gas, knocking out any wild animals caught nearby. As the chloroform took hold, Divya swayed, her hands reaching out to hold onto something for balance. Her fingers brushed against a thick and heavy object on the table, with wires around it. "Explosives..." Her mind registered before she fell into a deep sleep. It was a holiday at Elvitar's academy. Neel stared up at the ceiling, lying on his bed as he thought over the last few days. He had a satisfied feeling that his work had been done. It had been a rough journey, but he had completed his mission. He had a sudden desire to find out what was going on at swan labs. He had still not had a chance to talk to Doctor Fahim since completing his mission, and to be honest, he wanted to go to Swan Labs mainly so the doctor could personally congratulate him. He checked the time. It was one thirty p.m. His mother was away and would not return till at least five. He went to his closet and carefully removed his drawer, which contained the usual knick knacks and underneath them, the black uniform. Once again Neel was at swan labs, which was almost deserted now. For the first time, he had come to the lab in his uniform, and had managed to complete the journey without being seen. He entered the main room and found Arjun talking to General Bakshi in the control room. The General nodded to him, his gaze for once almost friendly. "Good job, Neel. My congratulations." he said. "Thank you, sir." Neel said, feeling a little awkward. He looked at Arjun, who smiled at him and asked, "What are you doing here? I told you to take a break for today." "I was too worked up to stay at home. So just came to see how everything was going." Neel replied with a grin. "I wanted to see if I remembered all my training. I got here on my own without anyone seeing me." Arjun nodded appreciatively, and was inwardly glad to see him so enthusiastic after such a long time. "We are going to find out soon what this project is all about." the General said. "Doctor Fahim came back to his office just now. He says he's found more about the project in another computer the police confiscated at the Phlicer lab. We think Mehta's project is something very similar to the serum." "Yeah, that's what Divya thought it was, too." Neel said. "Has she gone home?" "Well, she's not here." Arjun shrugged. "I need to get my cell phone back. Can I use your phone? I want to see if she's done with mine yet." Neel asked. Arjun tossed his cell phone to Neel. He caught it and dialed Divya's number. The room was filled with the music of Divya's ring tone. Neel looked around the hall, puzzled. Arjun went over to the cupboard, where the music seemed to be coming from. He put his hand inside and drew out Divya's mobile. They all stared at the phone in bewilderment. "Can either of you explain this?" the General demanded sharply, his voice losing the friendly tone. Both Neel and Arjun shook their heads. The General phoned the guard who sat at the entrance of swan labs. "Did you see Miss Nayak leave the building today?" he asked, and Neel heard the guard say no. The hair on the back of Neel's neck started prickling. "When did you last see Divya?" Arjun asked, turning to Neel. "Yesterday. She said we'd soon know what project Kumbhkaran is about." Neel recalled, thinking hard. "She looked a little worried…" "Why?" the General asked sharply. Neel shrugged, but Arjun said softly, "What have we all been worried about, sir? We still don't know who the traitor is." And suddenly the tension in the room was sharpened. "Why did she leave her cell phone here?" the General demanded suddenly. "Did she know she was in danger? Was she trying to tell us something?" "What was she trying to tell us by leaving behind her mobile?" Neel asked in bewilderment. "Maybe that she took another one." Arjun said, striding over to the computer. He pulled up the GPS location of Neel's phone. An image of the earth came into view. Arjun enlarged the section in which a single dot was beeping steadily. "The current location of the mobile is the forest area eight miles away from here." Arjun said, recalling the map that he had made in his mind of the city and its surroundings. "It's mostly a wild area, but there's an old abandoned factory there." He turned to the general. "Should I call the police?" The General shook his head. "They won't get there fast enough." he said, glancing at Neel. Neel nodded. "I'm going right now." "Take Divya's mobile." Arjun said, flipping it over to him. "Maybe she'll pick up." Neel nodded, pocketing the phone. He turned to the door. The next second, he was gone. The General turned to Arjun. "If Divya is really in danger, the rest of the people involved aren't safe either." he said. "We need to talk to Doctor Fahim. He, at least, must be safe for now. He's been in his office all day with the data from Phlicer lab." But Arjun shook his head. "Sir, whoever this person is, he or she has managed to fool us all for almost a year and infiltrate one of the most top secret projects in our government's history." he replied tensely. "I won't feel anyone is safe until the traitor is caught." The General nodded. "We should warn Doctor Fahim immediately." he said, wheeling towards the door, Arjun right behind him. They came out of the main room and walked down the passage, heading for the room at the end, which was Doctor Fahim's study. "Wait." Arjun snapped suddenly, throwing out a hand to stop the general. The General froze, staring at him. Arjun's mind was racing. Years of experience was connecting all the events together. Divya's absence. Mehta's silence. Doctor Fahim's being shut up in his study. His gut was telling him that something was terribly, horribly wrong. And then in the ensuing silence, they heard it. A loud beeping sound was coming from Doctor Fahim's study. "Get back." Arjun bellowed, dragging the General as far back as possible. The next second, Doctor Fahim's study exploded, sending shock waves across the entire building. The force of the explosion sent Arjun and the General sprawling back. When the explosion finally stopped and the noise died down, the two got up unsteadily. They both gazed in horror at the room, which had been reduced to a charred and smoking cinder, everything and everyone inside it blown to pieces. Arjun and the General stared at each other as the truth dawned on them. The problem wasn't over. It had only just begun. Divya stirred, her mind sluggishly regaining consciousness. She sat up and looked around herself. She was in some type of storage room, with thick steel doors and several metal sheets piled in a corner. A dingy bulb cast a feeble ray of light in the room. The only other light was coming from a window with metal bars welded on the outside. She got slowly to her feet, her mind evoking jumbled images of all that had happened at swan labs. But her mind still could not absorb the real shock. She stared out of the window, searching in the darkness outside for her captor. The area was a huge hall. The paint on the walls was old and peeling and the sides of the hall were stacked with old factory equipment, rusted and worn. But the middle of the hall was crammed with new, state of the art gadgets. With a chill of fear, she saw the container containing the human that had been taken out of Phlicer lab in the middle of the pile of equipment. Suddenly she saw someone moving in the darkness towards her, and knew who it was before she saw his face. The tall figure of Doctor Fahim stepped out of the shadows. Neel jumped onto the roof of a building, watching the city laid out in front of him like a giant map. He was on the outskirts of Delhi now, and could see the beginnings of the forest area in front of him about four kilometers away. It would take him time to find the factory. It would be easier if Divya could tell him exactly where she was. He took out Divya's mobile, once again dialing his own mobile number, hoping they had been right about her having taken his mobile. He had already called the number twice, but no one had picked up. He waited, deciding to let it ring five times before hanging up and concentrating on finding the factory as fast as possible. One ring… no response Two rings… no response Three rings… no response Four rings… no response Five rings… Neel was about to hang up when someone finally picked up. The voices coming from the other side were very low and muffled, as though the receiver on the mobile was covered with something. But Neel heard the words easily. He stood motionless on top of the building, listening to the conversation on the other end, surprise turning to stunned disbelief.
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