“Let me go, Jai”, Ali said, just before slipping away from his grip, and into the house, alone and armed. Maybe five minutes passed, and then there was the blast. Jai wasn’t sure what hurt the most. Whether is was the physical pain from the explosion, or the immense heart ache he felt, when he realised, he had lost Ali.
A month earlier..
“I must be really popular. Otherwise, I can’t imagine why a healer, a superhuman fighter, a girl with wings and their psychic leader will be baby sitting me all day long!” Ali whistled away and smiled his cocky smile.
Neha almost flew out of her seat. And Rehan shared her feelings. He wished he could let Neha throw this nuisance from a high rise building and not be around to heal him. It was sufficient to say, that the entire group pretty much felt the same about Ali. They hated him, but they hated the fact more that their superpowers were being used to babysit a mere human.
“I still can’t understand why he was allowed to get out of jail”, Neha complained to their leader, Jai.
Jai was the psychic of the group. He could see through anyone and read anyone’s thoughts as soon as he touched them. But Ali, was like a wall of brick. Or steel. He had tried to read Ali’s mind many times over the last few weeks, in order to find details of the terror attack, but all in vain. He thought, with time, maybe he would be able to find out what Ali was hiding. He and his team had been summoned to babysit Ali and extract information out of him, because apparently he knew about a major terror attack that was going to take place.
“Shut up Ali”, Jai walked up to him.
“Oh Jai, I could tell you so many interesting ways to shut me up”, Ali stared right into Jai’s eyes, making him feel hot all of a sudden. This guy was a piece of something. But no matter how hard Jai had tried to ignore Ali over the last few weeks, he had somehow made his way into his hea..no , he shut down that thought before it surfaced into a full sentence.
Jai had faced blockers in the past as well. They were the mutants who had the power to resist brainwashing or mind reading of any sorts. But he had been told that Ali had no powers, so why couldn't he read Ali? He still couldn’t forget the first time he met Ali. It was nearly evening, and a heavily guarded van brought out a battered and raggedly thin man out.
This wisp of a creature was supposed to be feared? Rehan could blow him away or just crush him without even getting a scratch on his knuckles!, Jai had thought.
And then the man looked up through his bruised and bloodied face. And his eyes shone, as they locked with Jai’s.
Krana the healer had set to work almost immediately and within a few days, Ali looked like a normal human again. But the whole team had realised his superpower long before that. The guy had a knack of talking constantly and getting on everyone's nerves.
Jai had hated Ali from the start. It was men like him who had created mutants like Jai to terrorise and control helpless people and make them bend to their will. Luckily, some of them had managed to break free and made a pact with the people’s rebel party to help them weed out these terrorists. The joke is on you, Jai had thought, when he had a chance to question and control one such human terrorist.
Two weeks later..
On Neha’s suggestion, Jai decided to take Ali into the forest and seduce him into opening up his secrets. By now it was no secret that Ali had a massive crush on Jai and didn’t miss any opportunity to annoy the hell out of him.
“Why do you hate me so much Jai?”, Ali asked, as he followed Jai deeper into the forest.
“I can’t imagine you had to ask me that. Why don’t you ask yourself why I hate you so much, or let me say, the likes of you.”. Jai needed to control his anger. This was no way to seduce a person. Maybe he won’t have to seduce him, maybe he will just beat the truth out of him.
“The likes of me eh?”, Ali mused.
Jai suddenly turned around as faced Ali, his rage no more in control.
“You think this is funny isn’t it? Oh yes, I know you’ve realised that I haven’t been able to read your mind, but I don’t need to read your mind to know all the heinous crimes you and your likes have committed. Murdering women and children for your own greed and power. How cowardly! How weak..”
He hadn’t even had the chance to finish his sentence when he felt his nose crack with the punch Ali had just laid on him.
Ali was wincing, but he had managed to draw blood out of Jai. Jai had not expected this.
“Dont assume you know me or anything about me. I want to go back.” With that, Ali stomped back to the camp.
Great job Jai..but before he took another step, he was slammed into a tree by a gale of wind.
Jai didn’t have any other powers other than being a psychic, so he realised he was no match for the wind bearer standing two feet away, trying to make him a part of the tree he was stuck to.
“What do you want? Who sent you"? Jai shouted.
“Hand over Ali to us and you and your team will be safe”, the wind bearer spoke.
“You do know that people like Ali control and created mutants like you and me to do their bidding right? And you still want to save him”?
The man laughed and said, “You really are quite blind. But that suits us. Ali isn’t the bad guy..he is the victim of a massacre himself. Ali is the scapegoat and extremely valuable because he is the only one who can make a bomb that shatters and kills specific targets only. He was sent to you so you could get into his mind and extract information about how to make the bomb. But clearly you failed. Now its our turn”.
Jai’s head was reeling. He needed to send for help. But even his powers weren’t strong enough to send a distress signal to Rehan or Neha. He just hoped that Ali was hiding somewhere.
“Oh well then, what a bore. I’ll just kill you too and the rest of your team before I capture that fox, Ali”.
Just like that Jai fell hard on the floor. He was pretty sure he had broken something. But he wasn’t dead.
He looked up, to see Ali going into a smashing frenzy, all the time muttering, “I will not be used. Murderer…murderer..”
It had taken all of Jai’s strength to get up and pry Ali from the dead wind bearer. He held Ali in an iron tight embrace to calm him because he didn't know what else to do. He had no idea when the fight had left Ali, but after a few moments, he realised that Ali was crying softly in his arms. Jai felt something break inside him too. How could he have been so wrong about a person?
“You’re not going to mention this to anyone. Ever”. Ali looked straight into Jai’s eyes, and Jai understood. He held Ali softly for another moment, before letting go.
Everything had changed that day.
A week before the blast..
It had shocked them all when their healer, Krana had betrayed them by informing the Others that the way to get Ali to create the bomb was to threaten children. The team didn't know anything else about Ali's past, as Jai had promised, but with each day they spent with Ali, they grew fonder of him and realised, that this guy was no threat. He was being set up.
“Alright, I’ll tell you guys about the details of the terror location. But on one condition. You will have to take me along on the mission.”, Ali gave them all a shock announcing this.
Jai stood up immediately and couldn’t figure out what had changed suddenly. But he knew, he couldn’t put Ali in danger.
“No”, was his response.
“Well, then, don’t blame me if innocents are killed a week later. I’ve been asked to collect the package tomorrow for the plan.”
“How did you even get in touch with the outside world??”, Neha was surprised. But this was Ali..if he was nothing else, he was definitely sly as a Fox.
The day of the blast..
It had all gone as per Jai’s plan. Ali was going to be the bait. A human bomb, that was supposed to go off at a high profile school in Dehradoon. He had thought of a million alternatives, but even Ali knew, this was the only way.
“I don’t mind. Maybe this time, I’ll actually get Jannat helping the right people”, Ali had joked in his usual carefree way.
Wasn’t this guy ever serious? Jai had come up with a plan in the last minute, that right before Ali enters the school (which would’ve been emptied out earlier and filled with dummy students to fool the terrorists), Jai would disable the bomb and make it look like Ali had been killed and the bombing had been successful, giving them time to catch the terrorists and save innocents too. What they hadn’t prepared for was to be ambushed, by another set of rogue superheroes. They had run out of time, and the terrorist leader had made it clear that Ali had to enter the school. There were real children in there now.
The children would be safe, but Ali would not be.
“Let me go Jai”, those were his last words.
Three days later..
“I thought we would meet here to remember Ali, and thank him for his sacrifice. May he have received his Jannat. He was an annoying piece of shit but I think we had accepted him into our lives and he was family, maybe even more”, Jai was having trouble speaking. His eyes were welling up. He never had a chance to tell Ali how he felt about him. And now Ali was gone from his life forever.
The rest of the group murmured a prayer for Ali in their own way, each in their own language, in the middle of the jungle, near Ali’s favorite spot.
While walking back to their vehicle, Jai felt like he sensed something. He immediately turned around to see. But he didn’t see Ali turn into a Fox and slither away, with tears in his eyes.