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

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25. CHAPTER 19: Fall of an angel

CHAPTER 19: Fall of an angel

Arjun stared at Mehta, stunned. He could hardly believe what he had been told, and yet, it made sense. All the acts of betrayal, finding out the secrets of the topmost level, getting inside the most private locations.

It was Doctor Fahim all the time

"So he's responsible for everything that has happened today." Arjun muttered.

"Everything that has happened yet." Mehta said, watching the disbelief on Arjun's face.

Arjun stared at Mehta, focusing on what Mehta had said before. "What did mean when you said you would not let us get away without getting revenge?" he demanded.

Mehta shrugged. "Well, if I can't use project Kumbhkaran, I don't think anyone else should either." he said calmly.

Arjun brought his face close to Mehta's. "What have you done?"

"Did you notice the vapor nature of the gas inside the container of my subject?" Mehta asked conversationally. "It's a form of depressant developed specially for my modern Kumbhkaran." He paused, as comprehension dawned on Arjun's face. "I arranged for him to get a lower dose when I found out about Doctor Fahim's intention to get the container. Soon the vapors of the drug will evaporate, and Kumbhkaran's footsteps will shake the earth again."

Arjun stared at him, for once not knowing how to handle a crisis. Someone stronger then even Neel... "How much time is left?" he asked, fighting to keep his voice calm.

"Well, let's see." Mehta mused. "Today would be the second day. And the time is…" he tilted his head and looked at Arjun's wristwatch. Then he smiled fully, a disturbingly humorless contortion of his face muscles as he glanced up at Arjun.

"Time's up."

Neel listened to the conversation on the other end, his heart pounding. Then he heard the sound of metal bending and breaking in the background. He switched off the mobile and took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. But it was no use.

Rage boiling in his veins, he leapt off the building in the direction of the forest.

Divya watched in horror as the container shook and trembled. The monster inside was coming to life. Disjointed thoughts ran through her mind.

Mehta concentrated on simply increasing the strength… Kumbhkaran… stronger than Neel… the container made of the same alloy used to make tanks…

Doctor Fahim stood rooted in front of the container, mesmerized.

Slowly, as if by accident, a hand broke through one side of the container. The shaking stopped, as though the monster was unconscious again. But suddenly, the hand convulsed, and the container was ripped apart, sending shards of metal everywhere. And like a modern day Frankenstein's monster, it emerged

More than eight feet tall. Arms and chest the size of a car. Legs as thick as tree trunks. Gigantic hands flexing slowly, it stood on top of the wreckage.

Little remained other than its general body shape to show it had ever been human. The features were twisted and scarred as though they had been melted. The skin was rough and blackened, and pinpricks covered his entire body, where innumerable injections had entered his skin. Tiny eyes almost invisible beneath jutting eyebrows peered out, and the mouth opened to reveal a gaping hole with most of the teeth missing.

The creature seemed to be confused, as though it was still recovering from the effects of the depressant. It lurched slightly as it swung around, examining its surroundings.

Doctor Fahim stepped closer to the monster. Tears were flowing down his cheeks in a thick stream. His heart was breaking inside him.

"What have they done to you, Asif?" he whispered, watching the countless scars covering his son's body.

The monster stiffened at the sound of the voice, and swung around towards Doctor Fahim. They looked at each other for a long, long time. But there was no recognition in the small eyes embedded deep inside the twisted face. There was no trace of Asif Fahim left.

Suddenly, the monster roared in pain. It had never been out of incubation for so long, and was feeling the pain of his wounds. It howled, maddened eyes fixed on Doctor Fahim. Its mind had been obliterated, leaving only the most basic instincts, which when left without a guide contained only pain. And the accompanying rage.

Doctor Fahim stepped closer, not even hearing Divya's cries. His whole life had come crashing down around him. In that terrible, soul shattering moment, he felt the full horror of his failure.

The monster grabbed him by his neck, his fingers like steel clamps. In his dying moments, there was only one emotion in Doctor Agleyar Fahim's heart. Regret.

"Forgive me, Noor… forgive me, Neel… forgive me… my son…"

The monster threw the body onto the ground, and Doctor Fahim moved no more.

Divya had a hand over her mouth, trying not to vomit. She was crying in desperate sobs, staring at the body on the floor.

The monster turned to gaze blearily at her. It swung around towards her, and Divya knew the killing had only begun.

It had almost reached her when there was an explosion at the other end of the hall. Someone was hammering on the wall from the outside. A portion of the wall fell in, letting in golden shafts of sunlight, and a black clad figure leapt into the hall.

Neel gazed at the scene inside the factory. It had taken him some time to find the factory, and he saw what had happened in the interval.

The monster turned at the noise, and the two super humans locked eyes. By some primordial instinct, the monster knew this new arrival was dangerous. He gave another roar and bounded towards Neel, shaking the floor wherever his feet touched the ground.

Neel strode towards the monster, measuring the distance between them. When they were less than twenty feet apart, he suddenly accelerated his speed. The monster swung a fist at him. Neel ducked and kept on running, blowing past the monster. The monster's momentum carried him forward. His fist connected with the wall, creating a hole similar to the one Neel had made. He stared around himself, confused.

Neel had reached Divya's cage. One kick tore the door off its hinges and slammed it into the opposite wall. He stepped inside and went to where Divya was standing.

"Start running." he said abruptly. "I don't know if I can beat this guy. Get to Arjun and tell him the truth. Tell him to send some help."

"No, wait, Neel." Divya said, gripping his shoulder. "It will take the entire army to stop this monster. Bullets won't be any use."

"Then call the General." Neel said, watching the monster coming towards them. "Use my mobile. I'll stop this thing for as long as I can."

He stepped out of the room and strode towards the monster, forcing himself not to look at the body lying on the floor. Divya stared at the confrontation in fascinated horror.

Balling his hands into fists, Neel ran at top speed towards the giant. The monster was slower than him. It gaped at the oncoming black figure, not even attempting to dodge him.

At the last second, Neel jumped. Flying high into the air, he pulled back his arm. Using every bit of strength he had, he brought his fist down on the monster's head.

The monster staggered back a few steps, shaking his head. But then it regained its balance and roared again.

Neel was stunned. This was the only time that he had used his full strength, which would undoubtedly have knocked out an elephant, yet the monster had not even fallen down.

As he stood frozen in shock, the giant bounded towards him with surprising speed, smashing into him head on.

Neel flew back into Divya's cage, breaking the front wall of the room and slamming into the back wall, making a crater shaped hole. Divya barely got out of the way in time. The entire area shuddered, but the building had been constructed to withstand earthquakes. It did not break.

"Okay, he's a lot stronger than me." Neel grunted, picking himself up. "Think of something fast, I need help." He ran once again towards the monster.

Divya dialed Arjun's number, praying he could help. At the first ring, Arjun picked up.

"Divya?" he said urgently over the phone.

"Yes, it's me." Divya said hurriedly, listening to the sounds of battle coming from outside. "Listen, Arjun. I've found out who the traitor-"

"I know its Doctor Fahim." Arjun interrupted her. "Mehta told me everything. Divya, you need to get away from there. Mehta's monster is going to wake up at any second."

"It's already awake." Divya said frantically. "Neel's fighting it right now. But that thing is too strong. Neel can't win this fight."

Arjun swore loudly. "Okay, I'm sending the police over immediately."

"There's no time. Neel is going to die if we don't help him." Divya shouted. "I need to know how Mehta controlled his monster."

"He used a depressant to keep it sedated." Arjun said. "I'm going to Phlicer complex to try to find the drug. Divya, listen-"

But Divya had already hung up. She ran to the pile of equipment Doctor Fahim had smuggled out of Phlicer complex to help him in finding a cure for his son. Praying the sedative was also there, she started opening boxes feverishly and looking through the rows of bottles.

Neel was worried. His speed was helping him avoid the monster blows, but his punches were having little effect on the giant. He knew the fight might come down to who could stay on his feet the longest, and if he made the slightest mistake and the monster caught him, his opponent would be merciless.

"Hurry up, Divya." he shouted.

Divya looked at the rows of bottles containing liquids of every shape and size. She forced her mind to remember her chemistry books, trying to identify the sedative.

She rummaged desperately through the boxes, finding only steroids and other supplements. Mehta's researches into nuclear fission were horrifyingly evident among the mass of strange new drugs. She continued searching frantically for the one that was needed.

And finally she saw it. In a separate box, at the bottom of the pile of boxes, a single drug was kept in twenty separate bottles, along with a syringe.

Divya guessed one bottle was for a single dosage, but it was no time to take risks. She emptied three bottles, putting as much of the drug as she could into the syringe.

"Neel, you need to get this drug inside his body." she shouted over the sounds of the battle.

Neel turned to look at her, and that was his fatal mistake. He did not even see the punch connect with his head. The monster's fist drove him to his knees. Another punch flattened him against the ground. The monster's punches rained down unceasingly, driving Neel deeper into the earth, every punch sending shock waves across the ground.

Divya watched in horror. Soon, Neel's body would break. He was in too much pain to try to get away. She ran to the monster, trying to stay out of its line of vision. She clutched the needle in her hand and drove it as hard as she could into its back. Even then she could not have pierced his skin if the syringe hadn't been prepared specially for his hide. The monster howled, turning around, huge arms swinging. One hand connected with Divya, sending her flying twenty feet away. She slammed into the wall, feeling excruciating pain as three of her ribs cracked.

The monster lurched, fighting the drug, and came towards Divya. But the sedative was taking effect. It took a few trembling steps, and then fell to the floor with a deep crash.

Divya got up slowly, biting her lip to stop from screaming as the pain ripped through her stomach. She walked past the monster, and gazed in horror at the unconscious body of Neel Dervin, lying embedded several feet deep into the ground.

Neel opened his eyes, his mind sending confusing flashes of memory to him. He sat up slowly and gazed blearily at his surroundings. The vague figure of Divya sitting in a chair near him came slowly into focus. As his eyes searched the surroundings he groaned, taking in the white bed he was lying in, while machines noted the various activities happening in his body.

"This is becoming a very bad habit." he told Divya.

"At least you always come out of here in one piece." Divya remarked with a smile.

"I feel so lucky." Neel muttered. Slowly, his mind was recalling what had happened.

He sat up, examining his body. "How long was I out?"

"Two days." Divya replied. "You recovered remarkably well, considering how badly you were hurt. Your mother was given a slightly different version of your accident. She's waiting downstairs." Divya paused. "It might a while before she lets you step foot out of your house again."

"And what happened to… to…" he couldn't bring himself to say the name.

Divya gazed at him sadly. "Doctor Fahim is dead." she said quietly. "His neck was broken beyond repair. His body has been buried." She hesitated, but then continued. "I've been appointed the new head of project Alpha."

"Congrats." Neel said. "I'm sure you'll do a great job."

"I hope so. And when you come back to Swan Labs-" Divya began.

"I'm not coming back." Neel broke in quietly. He avoided looking into Divya's eyes, trying to hide his own emotions. "I'm quitting the project." He struggled to keep his voice from shaking. He was not going to cry again. He was done crying now.

Divya's heart sank. She had been afraid of this.

"Neel, I know how you must feel about Doctor Fahim, but you can't let what he did make you forget why you joined the project in the first place." she said softly.

"He never believed in me." Neel said, fighting to keep his voice from breaking. "I trusted him completely, and all the time he was counting on me to fail." Doctor Fahim's words were echoing through this mind. "He had no qualifications for the job other than his complete and total ordinariness... An only child, Father dead, mother away from home for long periods, and so having had a neglected childhood... showed no brilliance in either studies or games... Had no hobbies or any qualities which could set him apart as special or gifted...The perfect boy for my purpose..." all the insecurities and complexes that had been in Neel's mind since childhood had been examined pitilessly and used to validate his failure. For a long time he had felt as though there was a disembodied voice in his head telling him he would never be rid of his PTSD condition. Now he knew who that voice had belonged to.

He looked up at Divya, and his eyes were wet with tears. "How can I go back to the place where the people I trust the most would stab me in the back?"

"Neel, you know that is not true." Divya said forcefully, trying desperately to reach the hurt she saw in his eyes. "Arjun risked his life to rescue you from Mehta that night in Phlicer. General Bakshi sent the entire police force to save you from Mehta's creature. You have friends who would put their lives on the line to help you, because you yourself would do the same for them. You were able to overcome your phobia because you wanted to save the reporter who had fallen in front of you. And that care you show for others is your biggest strength." Neel still said nothing. Divya reached out and took his hand in hers. "Don't you see? Doctor Fahim had picked the perfect person for the job, and his plans failed because you proved that you were much stronger than he had supposed. Neel, you have survived more near death experiences in the last one year than most people face in their lifetime. But if you quit now, Doctor Fahim's reasons for picking you will be proved true. And you have overcome too much to give in now."

"I need some time to think."Neel said in a quiet voice. "I need time to figure out if I still want to do this."

Divya stood up. "You might need time, but there are others who need hope." She walked over to the television and turned it on, flipping through the news channels.

One channel showed an area where a bomb blast had occurred. The road was littered with dead bodies. On another, a father cried for his missing son. A reporter discussed the possibility of the police helping the criminal elements of the city.

Strikers being forced to retreat in front of police force. Workers demanding their rights. People screaming for help.

Genocide… chaos… despair.

Neel stared at the screen for a long time. There was a pounding in his heart. He had known… even while he had been talking, in his heart he had known… it was not going to be so easy to just walk away from it all. He turned to face Divya.

"So what happened to my mask?"

EPILOGUE…

"Hey!" Aryan called out as to Priyanka and Neel as the three walked down a busy marketplace one day. The other two turned. He pointed towards a television in a store, which was tuned to a news channel. A reporter was showing an artist's sketch of a black clad and masked figure. They were discussing, yet again, the mysterious bank robbery and the subsequent alleged sightings.

"Think he's real?" Aryan muttered as the other two came to stand next to him.

"If he's really as good as they say he is, I hope so." Priyanka said fervently. "The streets feel a lot safer now."

"Yeah, but what's the deal with that guy?" Aryan said. "He just shows up out of nowhere and then he disappears. And nobody knows anything about who he is or why he's doing this."

Neel shrugged as the other two looked at him. "Whatever the deal is, it seems to be working." he said as he turned away from the shop. "Maybe he doesn't really have answers, either. Maybe he's just trying to figure it all out as he goes along."

Night time.

It was the time of shadows that the criminal elements of the city felt most comfortable in. A time to carry out their business unseen and undetected, and to prey with ease on any people unfortunate enough to capture their attention.

But now the criminals are not as secure as before, because a different shadow stands over them, as insubstantial and elusive as the air they breathe, but just as undeniable.

He is a ghost, some whisper. Other call him a curse. A demon, or perhaps a vengeful spirit sent by the gods. Some say he can fly, some say he can read minds and move faster than the wind. But no one knows more about him than the rumors.

A figure moves through the darkness.

Impossibly fast, it travels as much through the sky as on the ground, effortlessly bounding across impossible terrains. A small, deceptively slight figure that seems to exist more in urban legend and spook stories than in the real world. Little is known about him, and even less of it is true. But that doesn't stop the endless speculations.

And so being named by the popular press, the Dark Angel soars through the sky.

THE END

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