Ah! I have finally managed to nail down the notes, plot and general narrative of my second novel. And, as is traditional (well, at least I am going to make a tradition out of it), I have given my second just as bad as a title as my first novel.
So, the title of my second novel is - 'magu kathe'. Ah! There is a translation bonus for those who can understand my native tongue of Kannada, but the rest can simply assume the worst about the title :)
And, now that the essential components are in place, I present to (whomsoever reads my blog regularly), the very first chapter of the novel, right here. Hope you like it. and yes, when it eventually gets published, do buy it!
You can get more updates about novels at this link
Of course, you can read more about the first novel 'platform kathe' and even buy it here, at this link.
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Chapter 1 – the
The year, Galaxy Year 1024. Planet Kalladur (EK-06).
The tiny alarm on his wrist watch chirped quietly, waking
Sakkath up. He flexed his wrist in a particular fashion. The watch, understanding
that movement, went quiet. He allowed his mind to wake up gradually, looking
around for a few seconds, at the empty seats next to him, the long aisle in
front of him and at the serving bot at the far end of the bus. He repeated this
‘looking around’ for another twenty seconds until he was alert enough to
interpret his surroundings.
He slid over to the window seat. The view was as gloomy as
it was when he stepped into this airbus an hour ago from the space station. On
the side panel between the windows, were a collection of service buttons. He
tapped the one which showed a symbol of ‘water’. A wash basin slid out, and he
washed his face after using the toothpaste to brush himself with his finger.
Then, as the basin slid back in, he tapped at the symbol of a beverage cup. A
menu projected itself out of the wall and stayed at his eye level. He picked
the one that said ‘tea’, and the projection died out.
A minute later a serving bot – the same one that led him to
his seat when he got into the bus – still creaking, still missing its left eye,
came up with a tray which had tea in a cup and saucer. Sakkath tipped the bot –
which smiled – and took the cup plus saucer. The aroma rising from the hot tea
was already making him happy. As he took a sip, the tea – which had equal
measure of water, dried leaves and milk with a hint of sugar – flushed his
mouth and then his lungs, waking him up completely. Tea always had that effect
on him. He looked over his shoulder. He found that the woman with the orange
hat, who has taken an unusual interest in him since he got on the bus, was
still there. He turned back, and resumed looking down the window.
Sakkath was built slim, and he was not exactly tall. By most
measures he would be considered an ordinary man. He could walk into a store,
buy a cologne and walk out, and the store keeper would have forgotten him
already. His hair was slightly bald and it was greying, though not completely
grey. He wore a washed out shirt, which was still neatly pressed. His pants
were jeans, dark grey. His shoes were soft shoes, designed more for running
than elegance. He wore a shiny dark blue tie, which looked like it cost ten
times more than his watch. It clashed oddly with the rest of his attire. He
also wore a dark green ring with engravings on the middle finger of his right
hand, which clashed horribly with the rest of his clothing.
The airbus was perhaps 500 feet from the ground, with no
clouds to block his view. Occasionally, smoke from a factory below would obscure
his view. The view had bored him earlier. It still did. He quickly lost
interest, and decided to check his checklist. He tapped on his left forehead,
and the encrypted projection fell in front of his eyes. He navigated to the
folder on his desktop marked ‘X’ and in that contained many files. One of them
was named ‘client details’ which he tapped. The projection expanded to fill the
Client – [Client
details were displayed]
Address – [Address
details were displayed]
[demonstration details were displayed]
Important Note – Threat Level – Very High.
Payment – Standard
Multiplier – 10.
Final Payment – Standard
delivery rate multiplied by 10.
Sakkath noticed that the line, important note, was in large
block letters and blinked red. He tapped on his temple, closing the projection.
He bent down, put his hands under the seat. The briefcase which he had taped
under when he got on the bus was still there. He pulled it out, and shook it,
sensing its weight and movement. The contents were still there. Satisfied, he
looked over the shoulder one last time – the woman in orange was still there –
and returned to look outside the window.
The airbus glided slowly at its destination, 20 minutes
later. As he stepped outside, into the open air, he found himself having
difficulty adjusting to the environment. Back at the space station, his
communication device had already told him (after the wallet chip and interfaced
with the environment check system) that the air on Kalladur is heavier with
oxygen. That meant, he will feel like he is always a little ‘high’, thanks to
the extra oxygen. It took him a few minutes to get used to this ‘high’ air.
There were a variety of transportation means at his
disposals. The usual array of air and ground taxis (the latter cheaper than the
former) were lined up. However, he remembered that his economy class – which
would explain the poorly maintained serving bot - airbus ticket included a free
trip on the public metro train network. He asked a hawker who was selling used
personal communication device batteries, the way to the metro station. The
hawker pointed him towards it. Taking that route, and a few minutes later, Sakkath
found himself seated in an almost empty berth, as the train reeked slowly towards
its destination. Unknown to him, the woman in the orange hat had taken a seat,
in the berth behind him in the same train.
The weather outside was weary on its citizens. Although it
was evening, the heat wave continued to severely punish anybody who dared to be
outside. The sky was getting darker, and the still bright sun was fighting all
he can to say above the mountains. Soon, he had lost and the mountains had
devoured him. By this time, the train halted at the station which read ‘City
16, Block 5’. Sakkath got down, and popped open the projection system. He
tapped on the client address, linked into the navigation system which showed
that he was a 2-minute walk from his client location. He found that the station
was poorly lit and the crowd around him looked less than friendly. He tightened
his grip on the briefcase, and started walking fast towards the address, led by
the map. The oxygen rich air kept him relaxed, despite the heat.
The map led him to an office, three floors tall. The
entrance was flanked by two statues of soldiers, who had spears in their hands.
One of the spears had broken in half, and rust had grown. The short set of
stairs led to an entrance that had two doors, one of which was open. As he took
the steps, he looked up at the building name which read, ‘MANATHA BUILDING’.
The name itself was spelled out with bulbs. The bulbs were turned off and the
‘L’ in BUILDING was missing. He stopped for a second before opening the doors,
pressed the ring – which glowed for a second – and stepped in to the
surprisingly well-lit lobby.
“Hello, my name is Sakkath. Sakkath C. I am expected by a
Mr. Hagga Manatha”, said Sakkath to the young, blue lipstick wearing
receptionist behind the welcome table.
“Hello Mr. C….?” replied the receptionist, uncertain about
his last name.
“You can just call me Sak” said Sakkath, smiling.
“Thank you Sak. Mr. Manatha is waiting for you. I will take
you to his office room, right away. Follow me please” said the receptionist,
getting up from her desk.
Sakkath followed, not failing to notice her backless top or
her long legs that were on display thanks to her short skirt. Reminding himself
that he will soon be forty, he turned his attention to the corridor through
which he was walking. He noticed that most of the office rooms had no lights.
Nor did he encounter a single person on the way. She turned at the end of the
corridor, and there was the only office with lights in it. She knocked twice,
and then opened the door for Sakkath. Sakkath, pressed his ring again.
“Mr. Manatha, Sak…I mean, Sakkath is here for you sir.”, she
said to the burly man sitting on the other side of the room, behind a large
“Of course, yes. Thank you Maina” said the man, forwarding
his large palm across the table. Sakkath entered the room, shook hands with
Hagga, and then took the chair.
“Is there anything I can do, Mr. Manatha?” asked the
“Yes, there is Maina. You can go home. Our discussions here
are a little private. Yes, it is best if you leave for the day”
Maina looked a little taken aback, but quickly recovered,
smiled, bowed to both of them – whilst successfully distracting both of them
with her impressive cleavage and blue lipstick – and then left the room.
Sakkath, who also thought this was unusual, put his briefcase on the table. He
proceeded to open it – after punching the secret code and pressing his thumb
impression on the lock – and showed it to his client. Hagga looked at the
device in the briefcase with a sense of satisfaction, and he kept looking at it
for a while. Sakkath, kept his face unchanged and did nothing except to press
his ring every now and then. If he was nervous, his face did not give it away.
The ring itself was not doing anything now, glowing or otherwise.
Then, satisfied, Hagga tapped twice on the table. There were
two glasses of drink on the table, but he did not offer it to Sakkath nor did
he drink it himself. Then, a door seemed to appear out of nowhere from the
right wall of Hagga. A woman, stepped out. The woman with the orange hat from
the airbus and from the train. Sakkath recognized her immediately, but did not
show any recognition. His face continued the same lack of expression. If he showed
any reaction, it was to press the ring on his right hand. He noticed that the
orange woman was dressed casually, in a pitch dark business suit with pants.
With the hat on the table, her hair fell smoothly over her face, beyond her
shoulder. Strongly built shoulders, Sakkath noticed but he remained expressionless.
“So, this is a fully functional prototype?” asked Hagga, who
had now stood up. With his huge size, and now this orange woman standing next
to him, they looked like wrestler couple.
To his credit, Sakkath continued his faceless expression and
occasional ring pressing. He replied.
“That’s what my clients on the other end said. If you want,
I can demonstrate it on a live network. If you are satisfied with the
demonstration, I am authorized to begin the paper work on the financials for
the delivery of the final product” said Sakkath.
“That won’t be necessary” said Hagga, his tone suddenly
losing its warmth. Then he said, “come in”
A door slid open behind, Sakkath, and he heard a whimpering
cry. A man, with blood flowing from his left nostril. He was brought forward by
two men who held him up by his arms. They dropped him on the floor, and he
continued to look tired and worn out. The orange woman grabbed the bloody nose
man, pushed his head towards the briefcase by his scalp. Then, she pulled his
head up, pointing it towards Hagga, who was giving him a furious, angry but
question mark filled look.
“it has a standard lock on it…I can open the
lock…and….re-engineer it…for sure…Please, I just want see my f…”, he spoke
haltingly until a swift arm punched his face. The arm belonged to his captor.
She threw him towards the two men, who had dragged the bloody nose guy. Those
two held him and continued to stand behind Sakkath.
All through this, Sakkath continued to retain his
expressionless face, with his ring pressing and nothing else. As if the last
few seconds did not happen, and as if he had failed notice the lack of warmth
in Hagga’s tone or face, he asked again.
“So, can we proceed to the demonstration?”
“I don’t know if you are an idiot or just a dare devil.
Can’t you read the situation?” said Hagga.
No sooner did he sit, the orange woman came near Sakkath. Before
he could react, grabbed him by his neck, lifted him high and smashed him
against the wall to his left. The wall cracked a bit, and Sakkath’s head buzzed
with spots around his eyes. Then, she dropped him on the ground soundly, and
proceeded to grab him by his neck tie with her left hand. Her right hand, was
pulled back, and it slammed against his face, and then once more and then one
last time before she dropped him back to his chair.
Sakkath head was still abuzz. His nose was bleeding now from
the right nostril, symmetrically identical to the other guy with the bleeding
nose. His tie was loose, and two of his teeth were knocked out, and the right
side of his chin was swollen. His vision was still clear. The two men behind
him had dropped that other guy, and now grabbed Sakkath’s arms and held it at
the back of the chair.
“Sak, is it? Nice name. Do you still want to give us a
demonstration? Or, you could walk out with your head still on your neck” said
Hagga who picked up one of the glasses from the table, and took a sip.
“If you want to” said Sakkath, replying as if the last few
seconds and the punches did not happen. His response irritated an already
excited orange woman, who smashed his face with her fist again. This time, she aimed
for his left chin. A tooth fell out, and now his left chin was also swollen. He
coughed once or twice, some blood came out.
“I just have one question (cough…cough) Mr. Manatha (cough
cough)” said Sakkath. Behind him, the other bleeding guy whimpered softly.
“Each question will cost you a beating, Sak” said Hagga,
continuing to enjoy his drink.
“That seems too high a price…can we make it two questions a
punch?” said Sakkath. The orange woman punched him on his left chin again.
“Sorry Sak. You have just purchased one question, and one
question only. Just get on with it before you lose consciousness” said Hagga,
who had now moved on to the second glass of drink.
“Whoa! Seller’s market, eh? Okay (cough…cough) … is the
building really empty? The receptionist is usually the last person to leave.
So, I am guessing, the building is empty except for these fine gentlemen and
(he glanced at the orange woman) woman and (he glanced at Hagga) you?” said
The question made the four of them react with shock, but
Hagga reacted quickly.
“It is empty…why would you…”
Sakkath, cut him off before the sentence could be finished.
He let out a small laugh, although it came with a bit of blood from his mouth.
“You know… (he laughs a bit) … I don’t like … (laughs a
little more) …collateral damage”
As the four exchanged confused looks, Sakkath’s
expressionless face turned into a grin, which looked all the more crooked
because of all the broken teeth.
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