The Viral Thief

by Angandeep Kr Chatterjee

PROLOGUE

The alarms have started to ring.
The shrill sound of the alarms in the museum broke the silence of the night as it was immediately followed by several footsteps approaching. The entrance to the hall was slowly getting closed as the iron gate descended.
Arun Glowsky looked towards the entrance as bids of sweat formed on his forehead. According to his knowledge, it would take the guards another thirty seconds before they reached this hall. But the door will close in two, locking him in the room, completely exposed to the guards.
I need to complete it quickly.
Keeping his nerves in control, Arun rolled the whole thing in a flash and put it in the black tubular case on his back. Once that was done, a tug at the rope around his waist, and he was frisked up and through the opening at the top.
That was his way out, always. The glass on the top of the room through which the silvery rays of the moon entered the hall and lit the beautiful paintings all around was cut in perfect round shape. It was the same way through which he had come. It took him five seconds to reach the top, and another three to replace the piece of glass previously cut.
Quick in a flash, he secured the robotic winch cable and unhooked the rope from his waist as a smile crept on his face.
At least nobody would miss Rembrant’s Judith at the Banquet of Holofernes. The forged artwork he has replaced the original with would be keeping the museum at bay for a few days. Days in which he would be far away with his prize.
Without waiting to celebrate early, he ran towards the western side of the terrace and jumped.
He soared through the chilly air of Spain, watching the steep walls of the Prado Museum move before he could even blink. Just a quarter of a second later, he landed on the air balloon and vaulted into the ground.
It took another minute for him to deflate the thing and move away from the area. At 3 in the morning, the whole place was as quiet as a graveyard.
Finally, the debt to Pablo Biatre will be clear.
‘Hello, Arun.’
The soft voice reached Arun just as he was about to turn away from the Casa de Galicia. He whirled around as his breath was caught in his throat.
Has someone discovered me?
‘Don’t worry.’ The person stepped out of the shadows, showing Arun his face. ‘I require the specific skills you possess.’

1
One week later

‘Impossible.’
Arun’s shout reverberated throughout the room as the person stared at him from his desk.
Arun was well aware of the identity of the person in front of him. A week ago, when he had met this same man after his job at the Prado Museum in Madrid, he was not sure if this was a joke or if the person was serious. But now he was sure that he was invited here to make a mockery.
‘I will be giving you ten million dollars, Arun.’ The person said, running his fingers through the salt and pepper close-cropped hair as he rose. At his full height, he stood similar to Arun, around five-ten. ‘I just need you to get one vial of that medicine.’
Arun looked at the man squinting his eyes. Everybody in Switzerland knew about Franc Bellarouse, the biggest industrialist in the whole of Europe. His business extended from watches in his home country to diamond mining in Africa. But the one thing that made him different was his directness and honesty in the field of business. It is said that he is the most honest industrialist alive. He takes care of his employees, even visiting the lowest-paid security guard as well once during the pandemic. He is known to help people in need and never double-cross anybody.
‘Do you have any idea the level of security in the Swetsz Pharmaceuticals?’ Arun wailed. ‘They have a retinal scan, fingerprint scan, sixteen-digit passwords, and finally weight checking floors. If anything goes wrong, either laser would shoot out and cut you in half, or you will be trapped inside for the guards to take you in like plucking flowers from a garden.’
Franc smiled as he neared him.
‘I agree. But if anyone can do it, it’s you. I knew your father, Peter Glowsky. He used to drive my car.’ The sixty-four-year-old industrialist said. ‘I was with him when the accident happened, and because of him, I am alive today.’ He looked at the wooden stick that he used for walking and continued again. ‘I have kept tabs on you for ten years after that, helping your mother Neeta with your school fees. But when she died in Mumbai six years ago, you completely vanished. Until last week.’
‘I had my reasons.’ Arun said, not realizing that his eyes were down, not looking at the mysterious benefactor whom his mother used to talk a lot about. At the age of twenty-one, Arun got involved with the gangsters of Mumbai and the underworld of Europe. Within a couple of years, he became the best at stealing things. The last job in the Museum in Madrid has paid off all his debts, leaving a little of the remainder with him. He had thought of joining Harvard and continue his study of arts, but then he met Franc.
‘I know.’ The older person said. ‘Even I don’t want you to be known as the best thief in the whole world. But that’s who you are. Who else knows about the details of the security inside the Swetsz Pharmaceuticals without coming to Zurich ever?’
The question in Franc’s blue eyes was clear.
‘You are young, energetic, and most importantly, a person with a good heart.’ The billionaire continued. ‘You should know why I am desperate.’
Arun sighed and nodded at the same time. He indeed knew. Franc had no one in his life except his granddaughter. His son and daughter-in-law were killed in a plane crash last year, leaving their only child Iriana behind them. She is just three years old now and has developed a rare disease known as CANDLE Syndrome, the rarest of the autoinflammatory disease that is life-threatening for a child of three.
‘A slim person like you with your white skin, black eyes, and black hair, nobody would think of you as an outsider.’ Franc said, coming near to Arun and standing just a foot away from him. ‘Your athletic body and fitness, coupled with your abilities to deceive any security system in the world, are perfect for the job.’
‘But… but… I want to leave this life.’
‘And you will.’ The older man said. ‘I know you want to go to Harvard to study arts. I will make sure you do. You know me. Unless this is urgent and necessary, I would not have called you.’
Franc’s eyes welled up as his lips trembled.
‘Uri Swetsz has found a cure for this disease. It’s in that lab of his in the Swetsz Pharmaceuticals.’ He continued. ‘Unless any private company or the government gives him more than a hundred billion, he is not ready to market this vaccine. But I need it for my Iriana. Please, help me.’
Arun sighed. The past always comes back to bite in the ass.
‘Okay.’ He nodded finally. ‘I will help you.’

2
Uri Swetsz is known for his ruthless nature and lust for money. It is the news that his greed is the only reason he has never been able to move up in the world, even though he is a genius. His grandfather Michael Swetsz created the Swetsz Pharmaceuticals during the time of World War II to help aid the European soldiers, barring the Nazis and their allies, with medicine and food in 1943. Gradually the company has moved up into the world, creating its name and brand. Michael’s son, Jacovic, was good with business and his clients as well, following the same footsteps as his father. During his time from 1967 to 2003, the company soared throughout Europe and other parts of the world.
But, once Uri took over his father, things became different due to his behavior and greed for money, many of the clients have severed ties with Swetsz Pharmaceuticals. Now a few only remain, though the total yearly turnover was more than $500 Million for the company.
Arun passed the lab in his car without giving a second glance at the enormous building.
Situated beside the Oberer Katzensee Lake, just outside the usual noise of the city, it was as remote as it can get. The whole place was secured tightly, as any Swiss bank would have been. A year ago, Arun had listed twenty apparently impenetrable buildings around the world, and Swetsz Pharmaceuticals labs were among the top five.
It had an area of more than a hundred thousand square feet, covered with electrical iron fences on all sides. A single touch into those and the person will be the same as a grilled turkey. If he recalled correctly, there are a total of three hundred private security guards patrolling the whole place round the clock, in shifts. At a time, there will be more than a hundred guards, ready to shoot without any second thought if found trespassing. Anyone who wanted to enter the vast compound must show his Swetsz Industries issued ID cards and retinal scan at the first guard post.
As if that was not enough, once he enters the compound, he will be frisked, along with his vehicle, before logging his fingerprint in the second guard outpost. Once passed through that, the person will need to enter a password in a digital keypad, which changes once at midnight every day and is issued by Uri Swetsz’s Technical Manager Hanz Denn through a predefined random code from the mainframe, to enter the building itself. Three levels of doors need to be crossed before reaching the main hall on the first floor once inside the building. The first one opens with a palm print, coupled with the body temperature that gets verified through a digital panel beside the door. If the body temperature is too much or too low, a steel panel will open below the man’s feet, and he will be swept through to a caged room via a steel duct until the guards secure him. Once he crosses the first door, the second one comes with a complex array of steel and iron rotating locks, three in total. The numbers in the rotating fixtures need to be correct in the order of appearance unless the person wants to be cut in pieces by the laser rays shooting from the hidden panels in the wall. The third and final obstruction is a glass door, where the person gets scanned fully, to check for any hidden weapons or electronics before he can open the door using the same fingerprint that had been taken earlier in the second guard post.
All these need to be done under the watchful gaze of the camera and without breaking a sweat. A single drop of any liquid or a change in weight anywhere would cause the alarms to go off, and the exits will lock. They will again open once guards come or the cops are there.
But that was not all.
To go to the second-floor lab, the person needs to go the elevator under the watchful gaze of the CCTV cameras and at least fifteen guards while crossing the whole first-floor hall. Once on the second floor, he has to cross the guards and then open the door to the lab using first the ID card, followed by the retinal scan, and finally, the palm prints.
Arun sighed and shook his head as he left the area, driving back towards Kaferberg. Breaking into a secure museum in Madrid was something else. It’s like going into Lion’s den naked, asking the lion to share a meal.
I might as well try suicide.

3
‘Well, it is impossible.’
Even with the snow falling outside the glass floor to ceiling window of the living room, Franc wiped the sweat from his forehead as he shook his head. Arun sat on the other side of the table, nursing a glass of whiskey in his hands. Between them was the small oak table that held both of their concerns.
It was not the table itself that demanded their attention, but what was there on top of it.
‘This is definitely suicide.’ Franc said, finishing the whiskey in a single swig and wiping his face.
A large piece of paper sat on the table. And both were looking at it with utmost interest.
It was the blueprint of the Swetsz Pharmaceuticals. And as promised, it looked impenetrable.
‘I won’t let you go and give away your life.’ The billionaire said. ‘Not after observing this… these details. Hundreds of guards, fingerprints, palm scanners, randomly generated passwords, lasers, retina scan, and body scanners. No, it… it’s not worth it.’
Arun gulped the rest of his whiskey and wiped his face, before looking into the eyes of Franc as he smiled.
‘You bring me all the way here from Spain, talk me into this, and now you want me to back off?’ His eyes seemed to bore into the soul of the Swiss billionaire before he moved them to look back at the blueprint. ‘I have known about this building for more than a year now. I had decided to break into it just for the fun of it. You have just given me a purpose.
And I accepted the challenge.’
Arun dashed out of the room, leaving the stunned Franc behind, looking at the blueprint.

#

Linda Saul was lost inside the world of the darknet, checking into some recent activities of the media baron Handro Dimitrov, in the basement of her house in Yakutsk. She had been searching for pieces of evidence related to the child abductions happening in Russia when she stumbled upon Handro’s name. A little search in the dark corners of the web revealed that there were theories related to the connection between Hundro and child abductions, which even extended to abuse and porn. Being an ethical hacker herself, and knowing the electronics, electrical, and computer binary systems in and out for more than a few years, it was just a matter of time before she got hold of some pictures and videos that could directly link Hundro to the crimes. She was about to scrutinize those when the phone started to ring.
‘Shit.’
Annoyed by the sudden disturbance, she quickly put her headphones down before looking into her phone screen.
‘Ah, you.’ The twenty-five-year-old hacker smiled as she saw the name of the caller and picked up the call. ‘Arun. You finally decided to call me up then.’
She still remembered the only time they met and worked together. She was introduced to Arun by one of her buddies during a break-in in Moscow. She was fascinated by the way this Indo-European had silently taken out more than $1 billion worth of diamonds without tripping the alarms anywhere from one of the most secure places in Russia to help the orphans of the European nation. She was there to help him externally through the high-tech alarm systems through the help of the latest technologies.
But that was the last time they met, more than a year ago. Ever since then, Linda wanted to know the guy. Honestly, she was surprised that Arun had called now. She had heard chatters that Arun left this life after he completed a job in Madrid and paid off his debts.
So why is he calling now?
‘I need your help.’ His typically smooth voice sounded hoarse.
‘I see.’ She squinted her eyes, trying to discover the real meaning of the call. ‘But haven’t you left this life behind?’
‘I have, and I will.’ Came the reply. ‘But this is to save someone.’
‘Ah. Now I am interested.’
She listened with fascination as Arun told her everything.

#

‘Is she trustworthy?’ Franc asked as soon as Arun hung up.
‘Yes.’ He replied. ‘Linda is an ethical hacker hailing from Poland and a social activist living in Russia. She has exposed more than a dozen criminals in Europe in the last two years that she has been working as a hacker.’
‘Two years?’ The billionaire replied, looking at Arun. ‘How old is she? And do you think she is capable of hacking the security system of the Swetsz Pharmaceuticals?’
‘More than that.’ Arun smiled, looking into the eyes of the older man. ‘She can distract the guards with her five-five frame and sexy body. But I only need her help to bypass the security.’
‘Fine.’

4
‘You have grown sexy since I last met you.’
Arun suppressed a smile as he stopped the black Audi A6 in front of the guard outpost for the Swetsz Pharmaceuticals. He was well aware of her flirting capabilities and her inclination towards him. But he never indulged her much. The latest STM collected by Linda before meeting him in the villa of Franc was unique in itself. The super-thin wire was nearly invisible among his hair which was hidden below the black wig, while another part carefully concealed below his shirt. And he didn’t even have to speak out loud. This one was capable of picking up throat vibrations and passing them to the other person’s auditory system, and vice versa. The range was also optimum.
‘Wait.’ Two guards came from the outpost, one producing his hands, asking Arun to linger where he was, while the other showed up behind him with his hands on the gun. The meaning was evident.
A little provocation and the gun will go off.
‘Show me your ID.’
Arun gently took his hands off the steering and took out the ID created last night by Linda in the villa. It had his picture and the authenticity of the Swetsz Pharmaceuticals, along with a name and designation.
‘Hans Ghuver?’ The guard said, looking at the picture and then at him, trying to match the two. ‘Lead Biochemist.’
Arun held his breath while the guard looked at the card.
Am I caught?
‘Ok.’ The guard said, giving the card back to him and urging the one following him to bring the handheld scanner. ‘Now, to check your eyes.’ He said with a smile.
The Indo-European exhaled silently, taking the card and putting it back in his shirt.
‘Thank you.’
‘Ah.’ He heard Linda’s sweet and whispering voice in his ears. ‘How convenient. I have gained access to the scanner and the Swetsz system. I just need twenty seconds.’
‘We might not have twenty seconds.’ Arun whispered through his teeth as he saw the guards coming back with the optical character reading or the OCR device.
‘Relax, handsome.’ Linda said from her hideout. ‘I have to adjust my legs and hands here.’
Linda looked at the screen of her handheld 6-inch PC in one hand and typed furiously in her phone connected to the device via a weird-looking aux cable. Curiously, the whole place around her was dark as full moon night, with the only illumination coming up from the dimmed displays of the two devices in her hands. She was also laying sideways with her knees touching her chest as she contorted her face and typed something in the PC.
‘Look at the two eyes in this scanner, without blinking.’
Arun saw the green tablet-shaped scanner with two robotic eyes looking back at him. Chewing his lower lip, he stared back at them. He felt the green rays coming out of those eyes, scanning his eyes furiously as he resisted the urge to gulp air. He could feel the bids of sweat forming on his forehead but didn’t dare to move his head.
‘What’s happening?’ The second guard said, as the scanner seemed to continue checking even after ten seconds, which never happened before.
‘No idea.’ The one holding the device said.
Linda scrolled through the program in her system as she looked at the feed in the camera and typed in the PC something furiously. And she hit enter, moving to the mobile and checking something getting uploaded.
Arun sensed the other guard moving towards him with his hands on the gun, wondering what happened.
Come on, Linda, make it quick.
He willed Linda to complete whatever she was doing as the second guard reached the first one and–
Click.
‘Done.’ Linda’s voice came over the microphone, just as Arun saw his own picture staring back at him from the scanner along with a message flashing in green.
User Authorized.
He exhaled and took hold of the steering as the gates opened in front of him.
‘Next time…’ He whispered as he drove through them. ‘Be quicker.’
His heart thumping against his chest, Arun approached the second guard post, where three guards were ready with their metal detectors and other fancy gadgets.
‘Approaching the next guard post.’
‘Acknowledged.’ Arun heard Linda speak in his ears as he stopped the car in the designated area. ‘I have access to their network and mainframe. Don’t worry.’
Keeping his head still, Arun came out of the vehicle as two of the guards circled the car with scanners and detectors in their hands. The Indo-European stood still, as the third guard started frisking him, from head to toe. It seemed from the looks of the guard that the STM remained undiscovered, a relief for him.
On the other hand, the guard scanning the vehicle saw his screen flutter for a moment.
‘What the…’ He started to swear, just as the screen came back to its original state.
‘What is it?’ The other one asked as he passed over the boot of the car.
‘Nothing.’ The first one said, continuing his scan. ‘Just a glitch.’
‘Anything in the boot here?’ The second guard asked Arun, as he was about to sit in the driver’s seat of the Audi.
‘Nothing of interest.’ He replied, smiling, staring straight at the guard who seemed to look back at him for a couple of seconds before returning to his post.
As he sat on the steering, Arun saw the third guard come back with a digital scanning pad, with five digitally marked points in it.
‘Log your fingerprint here, sir.’
As he put his five fingers from the right hand, Arun was acutely aware of the gazes of all three guards at him.
Beep!
As the scanner beeped, he observed another message on it.
User authenticated as Hans Ghuver.
Arun smiled in his mind as he looked at it.
Way to go Linda.
It took him another few minutes to finally park the car in the basement of the compound. Once there, he quickly exited the vehicle and watched by the CCTV camera above the door to the passage made his way towards it.
‘All other cameras hacked.’ Linda’s voice entered his ears. ‘You are on for the one above the door.’
While checking the security measures of the building, Linda had found out that this external camera was not on the network, but directly connected to the central office via a remote handle. Hence, hacking the grid would not affect this one. This one needed to be disabled manually.
And Arun just had the plan.
As he positioned himself in front of the door, just below the camera as it looked forward, he speedily took out a jammer — one with the size of a small button from below the microphone under his collar and activated it. Then he rapidly took out three devices from under his wig — a small three-inch monitor, a thin wire, and a keypad with three buttons and a small opening below it. In a flash, he connected all three and took a picture from the front of the CCTV using the monitor’s backside. Once done, the printed photograph came out instantly through the opening below the keypad. Another second and the picture hung from the front of the CCTV, with the jammer unhooked.
Somewhere above him on the first floor of the building, in the security room of the compound, the guard monitoring the video feeds, saw the screen for camera SW-0101 flicker for a few seconds. But before he could call the digital workstation, the feed was back live. And he sighed.
Somewhere else, in another dark room, another person in the shadows watched Arun as he disabled the camera feed.
‘You are as good as they say.’ The person said with a smile.

5
‘Good work, darling.’
Arun heard Linda’s voice as she got out of the boot of the vehicle, smiling. She seemed rather happy despite being in a cramped space for the last twenty minutes.
‘I need the password broken, quick.’ He hissed as Linda came near him.
‘Of course.’
And she set to work.
Within just a couple of seconds, she unhooked the keypad and jammed a small tubular handheld device at the top that looked like a part of a fountain pen that he used to write with earlier. Three small wires — green, yellow, and red extended from the device and connected to a digital keypad, similar to the unhooked one. Linda typed a command in her handheld system, and Arun watched, fascinated, as the white numbers appeared to flicker through the screen before it froze with a six-digit number.
924682.
Click.
And they heard the door opening.
‘Now you are on.’ Linda said, beaming at him, collecting her gears, and replacing the unhooked keypad. ‘Congratulations, you are now the invisible man inside this passage.’
Without another word, Arun entered the passage, as the door behind him locked with another click.
The whole passage was tubular and vast, covered on both sides with metals in a bluish hue. Arun looked ahead and saw the strong door at the end of the passage, maybe two hundred yards away. Even if a hundred men like him came with elephants, it would have been impossible to open the door.
The intruder was fully aware of the three cameras watching him — one from his back, one from the front, and one from the left side. But he was also apprehensive of Linda’s capabilities. And so, he moved on.
Years of practice have made him impervious to such situations. So, Arun was able to keep his pulse, pressure, and temperature in check.
‘Just touch your palms on the palm panels beside the door, and it will read yours.’ Linda said, watching the door looming in the monitor of her handheld system, thanks to the small button camera on Arun’s shirt. It was the same way she could see the guards approaching the vehicle on the first and second posts.
‘But you need to keep your warmth in check.’
‘Thanks, mom.’ Arun whispered as he touched the pads, while another panel came out near his head with a heat sensor.
Another few seconds and…
Beep. Click.
Whoooosh.
The door slowly opened in front of Arun, drawing a smile to his lips.
The next part of the passage was the same as the earlier one, but Arun was privy to the laser panels that could open up anytime to shoot rays at him to cut him to pieces.
‘Remember.’ Linda said. ‘The first two I can open, but the last one is manual. So you have to open it yourself.’
‘Yeah. Thanks for the reminder.’
Arun could hear the whirring sound of the first lock by the time he was near the door. A couple of seconds and shwam. The first lock opened remotely by Linda. Three more seconds and the second one clicked open.
‘Now, you are up.’ He heard Linda speak in the left ear. ‘Do it right, or you will be in pieces.’
Clenching his teeth and resisting a swear, Arun set to work. This type of lock was supposed to be rotated, with the arrow in it pointing to the correct number. He has opened many such locks in his life. The only difference was that the ones from earlier had numbers from 0-9, whereas this one had 0-100, increasing the permutation hundredfold. And he had only two minutes in total to open the door, or else the laser panels would open, showering him with rays.
Keeping his ears close to the lock, Arun tried to hear the internal sound of the lock system as he rotated the circular iron panel with the arrow turning from one digit to the other. A look at the clock and he saw just 30 seconds left.
He furiously rotated the panel and tried to hear the satisfying sound.
25. 24. 23.
Arun reached 50 as the stopwatch read 20 seconds.
God, this is going to be close.
10
He reached 80 and still nothing.
5
86 and nothing yet.
3
90, and still no sound.
2
92, but no sound of the mechanism clicking open.
1
93 and–
Arun closed his eyes, waiting for his end as in his mind, he could feel the panels opening and lasers shoot–
Tick.
Swooshhhh.
And the door hissed open.
He wiped a trickle of sweat from his face that was threatening to drop anytime.

#

The third and final one was a glass door. Just as Arun reached the door, a scanner from the bottom scanned his body using a red light. Once it was complete, a panel on the right side of the door opened, prompting him to enter the fingerprints. As he kept his fingers on it, he heard the voice of Linda again.
‘Done with the scanner and fingerprints.’ She said. ‘The door… should… open… in about… now.’
As soon as she said it, the glass door slid open, giving him an unobstructed view of the main hall. It was a much bigger one than he had actually thought. Scores of people moved around and worked throughout the place, while the guards covered the exits and elevators. It looked like a busy workstation to him.
But he had a tingling sensation at the back of his mind. It didn’t start presently, but when he entered the compound. It was as if someone was watching him, and the job was becoming too simple than he had anticipated. Linda was top notch all right, but even with her help and watch over him, he felt exposed somehow. It was as if he was being watched from somewhere else.
Shaking the feeling away, he moved towards the elevator, where a couple of guards just gave him a glancing view before looking back in the hall.
A minute later, he was on the second floor, looking at the door to the lab, his destination.
‘Your ID, retinal signature, and palm prints are all in the system now.’ Linda said in his ear. ‘You can open it now. Once you are out, I will delete all your details from the network.’
As he used his ID, then the retinal scan, and finally his palm prints, the steel door started to open slowly.
‘Thank you, Linda.’ He said, meaning it.
He waited for a reply from the Portuguese hacker, but nothing came. He was about to speak again when the door opened.

#

‘Welcome, Arun Glowsky.’
The voice came from the other side of the room as he entered, and the door closed behind him. There were too many stacks all around that made it difficult at first for Arun to get his bearings. Racks upon racks of chemicals, vials, medicines, storage utensils were all placed in the stacks.
Startled at the sudden mention of his name, Arun stood rooted in his place for a second. It was a second later that he realized from where the voice was coming. It was from the left.
And he looked there to find four people — three standing and one sitting with a monitor in front of him, all looking at him.
And in the monitor was all the feeds from all the cameras that he has crossed, divided into grids. And in the last one, the extreme right corner showed the room and in it…
Him.
Arun was shocked to see himself in the camera feed.
And then he noticed all the people in the room.
Two people on two sides of the monitor were looking at him bearing two automatic pistols, both coming with silencers. The third one was a stocky build person wearing a gray suit. He was pale, around forty, with a grin on his face. Arun drew breath as he saw him. He knew this person well, having seen his pictures and videos many times before.
Uri Swetsz.
But that was not the biggest surprise.
Arun nearly fainted as he saw the final person in the room, sitting in front of the monitor. He was the one watching him bypass all the doors and reach this place.
He was–
Franc Bellarouse.
The same person who employed Arun to break into this place and get the vial of a vaccine for his granddaughter.

6
‘Arun, can you hear me?’
Linda was speaking, trying to answer her partner when suddenly her screen flickered. A second later, it was back to normal, but something had changed. It looked as if her access to the network became limited. Because she could see the screens moving up and down, fluttering.
‘Arun, get o–’
Bang.
Something hit her head, and she fell on the ground, limp, her eyes closed. Blackness overcame her.

#

‘You helped us a lot by breaking into the facility.’
The grin on Franc’s face seemed decidedly evil to Arun, as he clenched his teeth.
‘What’s the meaning of this?’ He yelled.
‘Ah, finally, a good question.’ Franc said, sneering. He looked at Uri, who was watching Arun with utter hate in his eyes while clenching his fists.
‘I believe you were misinformed.’ Franc said with a smile. ‘You see, Uri here actually works for me.’
Uri smiled, looking back at his employer, while the two strong built bodyguards trained their pistols at Arun.
‘My granddaughter studies in England.’ Franc continued. ‘And she is perfectly healthy by the grace of God. But you see, Uri and I needed your help with something else. Uri here has been preparing a deadly virus. A virus with flu-like symptoms, but deadlier. Over time, in a living body, human and otherwise, it can rot certain cells, causing cancer. Life expectancy after cancer? Fifteen days.’
‘What?’ Arun couldn’t believe his eyes.
‘Yes.’ Uri said in his hoarse voice for the first time. ‘And we needed to spread this in the world. You see, with resources for humans diminishing every day in the world, the population needs to be checked, controlled. With limited resources, it’s not possible for more than seven billion people to live in this world.’
‘And so, you are cleansing it then?’
‘Yes.’ Franc said, ignoring Arun’s sarcastic voice. ‘But we cannot do it by ourselves. Authorities can catch us suspecting we have opened the virus in the world. But you–‘ He pointed at Arun. ‘—you are already a well-known master thief. You can.’
Arun just stared back at him. Now he understood why he was here.
A knock on the door and the door opened. Arun’s heart nearly stopped as he saw Linda with her eyes closed.
Linda seemed to have passed out as a guard put her down near him.
‘Linda. Linda, wake up. Wake–‘
‘Don’t bother, Arun.’ Franc said, getting up, as the three guards trained their pistols at him. ‘Both of you are coming with us and with this.’
He held a vial of clear yellowish liquid in his hands.
‘By the time the world knows what hit it, half the population will have wiped out. And you—‘
Franc suddenly paused as a new sound started to reverberate through the building’s speakers.
It felt like a recording, and the voice was very familiar. Even Uri looked up and around as the two guards trained their pistols at Arun.
‘Is that…’ Uri asked, looking at the billionaire beside him. ‘Your voice?’
Franc’s face was a mask of rage as it turned from red to purple as his own voice echoed throughout the building.
‘You… you…’ He pointed his trembling finger at Arun. ‘It’s your doing.’
‘Correct, Franc.’ The Indo-European said as a hint of a smile crept on his face. ‘You thought yourself to be pretty cool, right?’
He looked up as he brought out a small remote from below his sleeves. A touch of the button in the device and the sound increased, making the sound clearer to all.
‘–and Arun will work for me. Don’t worry Uri, with his help, I can get the virus out of the lab and spread it throughout the world.’
‘Give that to me, boy.’ Franc yelled, holding his hand straight.
‘Not a chance.’ A new voice said in the room.
Startled Franc and Uri followed the voice to look and find–
Linda sitting up with a smile on her face, taking Arun’s hands.
‘What… what’s happening?’ Franc said, finally able to get his voice back as Uri just looked at the captured duo with wide eyes.
‘Well, did you thought of me as stupid?’ Arun asked, peering straight into the eyes of Franc and Uri. ‘When you told me about Iriana, I dug deeper into her life. That was when I came to know about her studying in London. Once it was clear that you were lying to me, I needed to know more.’
‘And so he called me.’ Linda said, looking at Arun and then looking back at Franc and his team. ‘I hacked into your financial records, your onshore and offshore accounts, and your company’s details. As you can probably imagine, it was not too difficult to find out that Swetsz Pharmaceuticals was your undertaking.’
‘And once that was clear, I need to know only one thing.’ Arun said, grinning. ‘As Linda reached here, I asked her to hack into your cell phone’s company and see if she can find your call records and what was discussed in those calls. And…’
He spread his hands on both sides and continued.
‘As you can see, she has done an excellent job.’
‘Uh… boss.’ Uri said, looking behind him as he wiped a trickle of sweat from his head. ‘It… it’s…’
‘What?’ Franc shouted, as he followed the gaze of the owner of the facility to see—-
‘Cops.’ Franc’s voice trembled. ‘How did they get here?’
‘Oh, sorry.’ Linda said. ‘I might have something to do with it.’
‘Where do you think the recording was played first?’ Arun said, his eyes glinting. ‘And do you really think that I would come here to the facility, without backup?’
‘Whatever Arun has been doing, and whatever has been happening here…’ Linda continued. ‘Has been live telecasted to the Federal Department of Defense and the Federal Criminal Police in real-time, from where it’s been forwarded to the Federal Department of Justice and Police. So…’
‘Why… why now?’ Uri found his voice this time, though it was quivering. ‘If you already knew, why come here and risk everything? Why not before?’
‘Why do you think?’ Linda said, smiling. ‘We had to catch you in the act, dumbass.’
‘And we did.’
Arun said the words as the doors on both sides of the lab were forced open by the Federal Police of Switzerland, and at least ten uniformed cops entered the place with their guns pointed at Uri, Franc, and the two guards.

EPILOGUE

‘So, what to do with this vial?’
Arun watched the still waters of the lake Oberer Katzensee as it was shining with the last rays of the sun before setting on the horizon. The place was unnaturally orangish at this time of the day. He felt at peace here.
But Linda’s question brought him back to the present.
‘Oh…’ He said, taking the vial with the clear yellow liquid in his hands. ‘I think its better this way.’
And before Linda could ask anything, he threw the vial away. As they watched, the tubular thing soared through the air in an arc for nearly three seconds, before it dipped its head and dived into the water, creating a small splash. As they kept looking, the thing drowned slowly into the deep waters of the lake, never to be found again.
‘A wise decision.’
Linda said, taking his hand into hers.
While the whole facility was sealed by the Federal police, they have forgotten to get this vial from Franc’s pockets. But, as an accomplished thief, Arun had his way.
No way Franc can spread a virus from the depths of the Swiss prisons.
And he took hold of Linda’s head, and for the first time, kissed her.

*******************THE END***********************

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