0357 Hours
2 November 2012
70 Km South East of Gilgit, POK

Two figures atop the mountain waited anxiously for the planes to appear. Without turning his head from the sky that he was scanning with his binoculars one of the men said, “Wish the birds were here already.”
His companion who was manning the laser designator just grunted something unintelligible.
“What?” first man asked.
The reply was drowned by the ear splitting thunder as two Jaguars flying a few meters above the peaks passed overhead and dropped 2 Sudarshan laser guided bombs each on both mouths of the tunnel. Guided by the laser spot, all four bombs found their mark and exploded with loud noise. Every person near by felt the earth shaking as the powerful explosives tore through the tunnel entrances. The explosions caused a large volume of rocks and concrete used in the construction of tunnel to collapse on the tunnel entrance and blocked it completely from both sides.

“That’s what I was talking about.” 1st man shouted exultantly.

“I can’t hear you. I think I’ve gone deaf.” Other man replied rubbing his ears.

“You are a whining bitch.”

“Shut the fu** up or I shove this MANPADS up yours.”

“Hah! You heard THAT all right.”

“Shh..can you hear that ? “

Both men stopped their banter and looked upwards. A distant noise of jet engines was coming closer and closer. “Looks like PARA guys are here.”

Picking up his binocular he looked up to the sky and sure enough he could see the outline of a C -130J Hercules transporter getting closer every second. It was supplemented by small dark specks that grew larger and larger into parachutes.

Within minutes the area was swarming with Indian PARA soldiers. Except 3 soldiers who received injuries while landing on the rough terrain, everybody else landed safely. The soldiers rapidly converged on both sides of the tunnel and took positions. Leader of the PARAS, a veteran Lt. Colonel Megh Singh contacted the Stalkers on radio, “Stalker Alpha, Jumper 1 and Jumper 2 are in position. What’s the status of that bridge. We don’t want any Chinese arriving with reinforcements before we are finished with the ones inside the tunnel.”

“Jumper 1, the bridge has been destroyed and all Chinese personnel within a 2 KM radius neutralized.”

“Thanks for the help Stalkers.” Lt. Colonel Megh replied and turned to his soldiers. “All right men, time for action.”

0357 Hours
Missile Defence Force HQ
Mumbai

Inside the underground bomb proof bunker, Brigadier Rajinder Singh was staring at the long range radar console. Warning of an impending missile strike had came in just seconds ago jolting everybody in to action. Not that they had been slouching earlier, but the sound of klaxons always has some strange effects on people who hear it.

“How much time ?”

“370 seconds before it becomes terminal. Rakshak 1 ready by for launch, Rakshak 2 in 10 seconds” one technician on deputation from DRDO replied.

“You sure there are no other bogies ?”

“Yes sir.”

On the screen they watched as the Pakistani M11 came closer, waiting anxiously for it to come within the kill-zone. They did not had to wait long. Within seconds a beeping sound let every body know of the fact. “Launch Rakshak 1.” Brig Rajinder Singh ordered with a calm voice that belied what he was feeling inside. He started a countdown on a timer and ordered, “Launch Rakshak 2 on the 0 count.”
He again went on to staring at the radar screen as one small blip of Rakshak 1, a PAD missile rose from it’s launcher and started it’s journey to intercept the enemy missile. 5 seconds later, another blip announced the launch of Rakshak 2. Seconds seemed like hours as the two blips from Indian side gained altitude and converged on the M11.

“10 seconds to Rakshak 1 intercept, starting now. “one technician announced. “9 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 ,1.” then silence as the two blips merged.

“What ?” Brigadier Singh shouted anxiously then smiled as data was updated on the screen in front of him.

“We have a successful intercept by Rakshak 1. Rakshak 2 will self-destruct in 20 seconds.”
Brig Singh jumped up from his chair and congratulated the grinning DRDO techies by slapping them on their backs. “When all this is over, I’ll throw a grand party for everybody in this bunker. What’s your favourite booze son ? Anything you ask for.”

One of the technicians replied apologetically, “But I don’t drink sir. “

“But you will when we have that party. Better start preparing now.” Brig. Singh laughed.

0340 Hours
2 November 2010
6x Su30-MKI Flight
Skies over Gujarat sea coast

Mission Controller aboard IL-76 based AWACS took a look at the radar screen and picked up the mouth piece to contact Striker formation, “Striker team, this is Falcon 1. Guardian will join your formation over WayPoint 1 in 3 minutes.”

“Roger that Falcon 1.”Wing Commander Narendra, flight leader replied and craned his neck to catch a glimpse of the approaching 3 plane formation of Su30-MKIs tasked with providing air cover to his Striker formation. Right on time the Guardian flight took defensive positions around the other 6 Su30-MKIs that formed the Strikers.
He strained his eyes to catch a glimpse of the Air-to-Air missiles that the Guardians were carrying. In low light of the half moon, all he could see of the Guardians was flames of their engines. He wondered if they could see the much bigger payload his formation was carrying from that distance.

He took a deep breath as the Sukhois approached next waypoint. Voice of the MC came through radio once again, “Striker formation, increase your altitude to 8000m. Time for payback. Falcon 1 out.”

“Roger that Falcon 1”. WC Narendra replied and put his plane in to a steep climb. “Time for payback indeed.”

0345 Hours
2 November 2012
70 Km South East of Gilgit, POK

The two Chinese soldiers were standing guard over the unnamed mountain for two hours in to their shift. Their 2 comrades were asleep inside their cleverly camouflaged bunker. The two sentries were fully alert, backs erect and fingers on triggers as they stood guard . A HN-5 MANPADS, Chinese copy of Russian 9K32M Strela-2 lay in between them. Every 10 minutes, one of the sentries would put a small night-vision binocular to his eyes and scan his surroundings. Each time special attention was given to the railway line that passed through the foot-hills of their mountain and vanished in to a tunnel of another bigger one adjacent to theirs. The tunnel marked entrance of railway line in to the lush green valley just behind the massive mountain. Every 30 minutes, either one of them would pick up the small hand held radio placed on the ground and report the situation. Each time he received replies from 2 other watch positions placed similarly on adjacent mountain tops. This chore done, the soldier would walk back to his position and again start scanning the area below him.

Two dark figures lay as still as rocks behind them, watching and marking their every move. It was not the first time they were doing that. The 10 men team divided further in to smaller groups had been collecting intelligence for 2 weeks now. But tonight was different. They had been lying face down for an hour on the cold hard ground while a cold breeze chilled their backs. One of the figures whispered in to his small mouth piece, “Stalker alpha in position and ready. ” He received immediate replies from two other teams . He looked towards his team mate lying besides him and nodded. Then whispered softly, “It’s a go.” Both men brought out silenced Tavors and took aim on heads of the two Chinese.
“On my mark, 3,2,1.” There were muffled popping noises as the two guns fired and slightly louder thumps as the two Chinese soldiers dropped unceremoniously to the ground. The two men broke cover and raced towards the bunker trying to be as quite as possible as possible. A small battery powered light illuminated the entrance. Their rifles drawn and eyes to the sights they tip-toed inside to find 2 Chinese fast asleep inside. Without pausing they put 2 shots in to each man’s head.
This work done, both came out and contacted their mates on radio. The two remaining Chinese posts had been neutralized too. All that was left was report from 4th team which came in 3 minutes later , “Fireworks attached. “
“Acknowledged.”

Most difficult part of their mission complete, the men slightly relaxed and checked their watches. They still had 12 minutes till the delivery of airborne package. The man with Tavor took out one small gadget from his backpack and placed it on top of the bunker. It was just a small radio marker that could be used to identify the correct location. 2 of the other teams on other mountain tops did the same. In the meanwhile, his compatriot had placed a laser designator and started adjusting it’s aim. His target was entrance of the tunnel. Other mouth of tunnel, the one facing the valley was marked similarly. 9 minutes still left and they waited.

Chapter 28

0347 Hours
2 November 2010
Phalcon AWACS
Skies near Pakistan’s southern coast

Concrete intelligence regarding remaining 3 missiles had came in minutes after the meeting between GP, Angad and military representatives had ended. Two of the missiles had been detected at the Omara naval base. The base was approximately 230 Km west of Gwadar and had come up in the last 2 years with active but hushed Chinese assistance. 3rd one was further east on Chama, a small island less than 40 KM west of Karachi. The coordinates were hurriedly forwarded to the Air Force which had plans to neutralize any such target ready for years. Striker flight was the one chosen to destroy those missiles.

The six Sukhois engaged afterburners and put the planes in to a steep climb. The engines screaming and the airframe under quite a bit of stress, pilots waited till they reached 8000m and then leveled out. One by one they fired off their Air to Land version of Brahmos. The missiles dropped for a few meters then the booster kicked in propelling them to near Mach 3 speeds. Their work done, all Sukhois turned over and started racing back to their base. Personnel aboard the Phalcon watched as 6 blips started racing towards their targets, 2 missiles against each target .

“Missile launch ! We’ve just detected a missile launch from Chama island.” Excited voice of one of the radar operators broke the attention of technicians concentrating on six Brahmos flight.

MC rushed to the console and looked. “Damn it all to hell. They’ve launched that fuc***** missile ? Keep tracking it’s trajectory. Send alerts to HQs immediately. Any idea where it’s going ? Dilli ?”

“Looks like it’s going south. If it’s M11 then Mumbai is one prime target.” radar operator replied without taking his eyes off the console.

“What about missiles at Omara and how long till that satellite feed is available again?” MC asked getting more scared with every passing moment

“No sign of launch yet. Satellite will be in range in 60 seconds.”

“20 seconds to Brahmos impact.” radar operators tasked with tracking Brahmos flight announced.

MC bit his lips willing the Brahmos to destroy the Chinese missiles before they took off. His charm worked with the rest. The 4 Brahmos directed towards Omara base slammed in to their targets without any of the M11s launching. The ones directed towards Chama island destroyed the empty launcher killing only the personnel on ground. MC walked to his chair staring at the just launched M11 missile coordinates. “Assh*** launched it even before they knew we were coming. They were going to launch it no matter what !” He stared at the screen connected to satellite feed wishing the images via satellite could come sooner. He clutched his chair’s arm rest tightly as the satellite link was established. Images at first blurry, then more focused and sharp started streaming in. He could see columns of smoke rising out of the Paki naval base, but couldn’t confirm if the missiles were destroyed.
“Well ?” he inquired loudly.

“It’s a kill. We’ve destroyed the remaining missiles.” was the reply.

“Only if we could destroy that bitch too. Shit !” he groaned.

Previous Part

2335 Hours
Onboard AF1
Skies over Agra
India

DM reacted to the news same way Angad had. He immediately barged in to the PMs cabin where Dr. Rudra was busy examining him. Both men looked at him with identical alarmed expressions. Dr. Rudra opened his mouth to protest but kept quiet on seeing how flustered DM looked. He in turn sprinted to PM’s bedside and poured out the whole scenario without pausing for breath.
“That can’t be true.” PM said with wide eyes even before DM was finished.

“Wake up sir. It is true.” Turning to the doctor with an irritated expression he asked, “Have you given him a narcotic or something ? “

“No. Nothing yet.” Doctor replied in a surprised way.

Turning to Pm with even more irritation he said, “He has not given you anything ! Then why are you behaving like you’ve been drugged ? Wake up and smell the coffee. The nuclear threat just got worse. We have to take action !” He almost shouted out the last sentence.

“What do you want me to do ?” PM stammered.

DM took a deep breath and started speaking, “ You are the chief decision maker for us. DyPM should’ve been here to take your place if you are sick but he is in Japan on a tour. That means either you give our military permission to take out those nukes right now or give somebody else the authority till you get back on your feet. As of now, I’m the senior most person who can make the best informed decision. So let me decide what to do.”

PM kept staring blankly at his DM for a few seconds and started speaking when DM opened his mouth to say something, “Alright Shivendra. You do what you think is right. “

0030 Hours
2 November 2012
Arabian Sea

Captain Vikram Batra read the encrypted message again and took out a small laminated photograph of Lord Ram out of his pocket. Clutching the small photograph he closed his eyes and whispered a short prayer. Lord Ram had commanded his army across the sea to fight against an asur Ravan who had kidnapped Sita. Although Cap Batra will not be commanding any army across the sea, his work did have some passing semblance to what Lord Ram did. Like the ancient King, in a way he too will cross the sea and bring the righteous wrath upon the enemies. The thought made him smile and feel stupid at once. “This is no time to harbour any illusions of grandeur old man.” He said to himself and looked around the bridge of the ship he was entrusted to command. In a way, he could afford to feel grand. After all, he was only the first officer to command Arihant, India’s first nuclear submarine. His chest again slightly puffed with pride on remembering that he was also going to be the first officer to lead India’s first nuclear submarine in to combat.
“Back to work, back to work.” He commanded himself as he put the small photograph back in his shirt pocket.

Around him, the crew members were engaged in their work with full attention. Taking in a deep breath, he picked up the intercom and started a short address to his crew men, “Hello everybody, This is your Captain speaking. As you all know, our country has been attacked by nuclear weapons. Even as I speak, our enemies are preparing for more attacks on our country and our loved ones. Right now, it’s not about anything like money or religion or politics, it’s about our survival as a nation with a glorious history and a prosperous future. For this purpose, we’ve been ordered to destroy certain enemy targets. From this moment onwards, we are officially at war. I expect each one of you to remember your training and behave accordingly. That’s about everything I have to say for now. Man all battle stations.”

He cut the intercom and ordered, “Make depth 100m.”

“Depth 100m, aye.” Navigation officer responded smartly.

“Helm turn One-zero-zero.”

“Turn One-zero-zero , aye.”

“Make speed 18 knots.”

“Speed 18 knots, aye.”

INS Arihant turned slowly and started it’s journey towards Pakistani coast. It was only a matter of hours before it reached close enough to make it’s name come true literally.

Previous Part

2310 Hours
1 November 2012
Udyog Bhavan
Kolkata

“Are you fuc*** kidding me GP ? “ Angad never swore and bit his tongue as soon as he realised that he just did. “Sorry for that. But are you really sure about this ? “

“There is no doubt sir. Take a look at the pictures that I’ve sent you. I’ve marked everything of interest.” GP was unnaturally calm about the whole issue

“I’m looking at them right now. But have you confirmed it from our side too ?” Angad asked with ever increasing excitement.

“Checked, double checked and checked again sir. Do you want me to explain ? “

“Wait for a moment. Let me get some military people on the line. ” Angad replied hurriedly and went offline to arrange a video conference. He was done within five minutes slightly out of breath. “ You still there GP ? I’ve called for General Vaidya, Air Marshal Nirmal Jeet and Rear Admiral Kailash Nath They have those pictures too. Now start explaining.”

GP was ready, “The pictures marked 1 to 21 were taken by Israeli satellites over the span of last 3 weeks. The rest are ours. I’ll begin with Israeli ones. Picture one is of a Chinese missile manufacturing plant in ShirChu, Jhiangsu province taken on 11th October. It’s one of the main production centers of M9 and M11 missiles. On 2nd picture, take a close look on the area circled in red. You can see a small group of vehicles that look like container trucks except for their size and design of the cab. Next picture is a blow up of these vehicles. Here you can estimate the length of these trucks which comes out to be nearly 14 m, much longer than any container truck in use anywhere.
Next picture in the series of is of coastal docks in Tiajin, a naval base around 20 KM from Shirchu taken 3 days later. Here you can see these trucks lined on the upper right corner of the photograph. Satellite pictures taken same day show that the trucks had vanished from Shirchu So these are the same 4 trucks that we saw there. Next 3 photographs are of the ships which were docked there that day. “
GP paused and looked at his screen, “Are you following me ?”

“ I see that you’ve marked one of the ships. Anything special ?” General Vaidya asked without taking his eyes off the printouts of the images.

“That’s the most interesting part sir. But I’ll come to that later. As you can see in next picture, the trucks are not there. The parking area is empty. Either they drove them off some where or placed them on one of the ships. 2 of the ships docked there are destroyers, one is a refueling tanker and the rest small tugs. The ship that you noticed is the only civilian ship big enough to carry all these trucks.

That ship left the base on 17th October. It docked once in Malaysia for refueling a week later where it identified itself as Xajing, owned by a shipping company based in Hong Kong. It was on it’s way to unload some toys in Pakistan. We did background checks of the company. It’s just a shell company for CGBC group, a conglomerate of businesses owned mostly by senior members China’s politico bureau. “

Seeing the expressions on their faces, GP realised that his audience was slowly catching on,. He paused for breath and began, “Every thing’s clear till now ?

“Yes. Please continue.” Angad replied somewhat impatiently.

“ Next picture is of Gwadar port in Pakistan where the ship docked on 28th October. It’s again marked in a red circle on the left. In the same picture on it’s upper left corner, you can see two of the trucks that we saw earlier in ShirChu and Tiajin, again marked in red.”

“What’s you point GP ? These trucks could carry anything. They could really be transporting toys for all we know.” Angad said cautiously.

“I can bet my year’s salary that it was certainly not toys. First thing, if you are shipping something, only containers are used, not the whole truck. Second, size of shipping containers is a standard all over the world and these containers do not match anything. Third, cab part of these trucks too much like the trucks Chinese transport their missile upon. Fourth, dimensions of the containers are just right to contain one M-11 missile each. Fifth, trucks originating from a Chinese missile plant are unlikely to carry toys. At least not the kind my kids play with.”
he paused then added, “Not to mention, I sincerely doubt Pakis having the money to buy toys, even Chinese.”

Air Chief Nirmaljeet looked frantic, “Mot******. By hell, you are right GP ! But there was only one missile strike. There are only 2 trucks in this picture and there are no trucks in the rest. Where the hell are they ? The ship has not left the port yet. Has it ? “

GP shook his head, “No sir. According to our sources, it’s still docked. Even if two of the original four trucks are on the ship, one is still missing. We are still looking for that one.”

General Vaidya looked really grave “Shit. That’s not good at all.”

GP paused for a while before beginning again, “Actually that’s not all. Take a look at the other set of pictures. “ He waited while the others looked over them.

“Damn ! This train looks like it’s transporting at least 2 missiles. But where the hell is it ?” Nirmaljeet asked with visible alarm.

General Vaidya looked like somebody had punched him in the gut. Without waiting for GP he answered the question himself, “That’s on the railway line Chinese have constructed through PoK.”

“Correct General. We saw this train vanish in to one of the tunnels on that line this morning. It’s still in that tunnel inside PoK.”

A shiver went down GP’s spine as he said that. It had taken all of will power to control the tremblings in his body ever since he first understood the meaning of the pictures. Now he felt his self control weakening he went through the pictures again. “We’re in real deep shit.” He muttered under his breath.
Booming voice of General Vaidya broke his reverie. “GP, where are these missiles now ?”

“Train mounted ones are being stored in a tunnel in south of Gilgit about 110 KM from LOC. We believe that particular tunnel is being used as a storage site for more weapons and barracks for at least 240 soldiers at any given time.”

“A train tunnel being used like that ?” Nirmal Jeet asked with some incredulity.

“Yes. They’ve been digging that particular mountain for 4 years. We have reports from our agents on grounds to confirm this fact. The last three photos of 2nd batch are of this particular tunnel including one taken from the ground of one of it’s exits. Chinese have long terms plans for this region.”

“What about the other three missiles in Gwadar ? “

“It’s entirely possible that all 3 have been unloaded and hidden somewhere safe. We are searching for them with everything we’ve got. In fact one of our satellites is scheduled to make a pass over the region in 20 minutes. We’ve alerted our men on ground too. I hope something will come up soon.”

Angad was twirling a pen his hands nervously, “It’s not good enough GP. Not good at all. Lives of crores are at stake. We need to find those missiles and neutralize them yesterday.”

General Singh intervened, “Let him do his job Angad. This situation is much more dangerous than we previously imagined. Let’s call up the ministers and get the permission to take these missiles out. ”

“But we don’t have information about all the missiles yet.”

“That’s why we start right now. There is no time to waste.” Nirmal Jeet replied for General Vaidya, then addressed GP, “GP, you have to contact us as soon as anything comes up. There can’t be any slip ups now. Use everything you’ve got. Do you understand ?”

GP nodded as other participants of video conferencing broke the link. He stared at his screen for a few seconds apparently lost in deep thought. Then he looked at the watch and started waiting for the satellite feed about to start in 15 minutes.

Previous Part


2130 Hours

1 November 2012
Udyog Bhawan
Kolkata, India

The 3 story inconspicuous Udyog Bhawan in Kolkata was completely unimportant to everybody except for the RAW and ARC people who worked there. GP, Deputy Director NTRO was going over the latest satellite images and intelligence reports gathered over the day when the red phone on his table rang. He felt a irrational fear creeping up his gut as he looked at the instrument. The news of the nuke attack had came via this phone minutes after it happened. It was going to be be quite some time before he could go back to answering the calls on this secure line normally again. Nevertheless he let go of the pictures and lifted the phone. “GP here.”

“How’re you doing GP ?”

The subdued voice of Meir, Directorof Mossad’s Research Department felt felt a lot different from it’s usually cheerful tone. “What do you think old friend ? This hasn’t been exactly a good day.”
GP heard Meir sigh on other end of the line, “I’m really sorry for what happened today GP. I wish that whoever did this must rot in hell for all the eternity.“

Was Meir trying to pry some information out ? Although India and Israel were allies and the two intelligence officers good friends, but intelligence business is unlike all others. Countries spy on enemies as well as their allies alike. GP let out a bitter chuckle, “Only if wishes were horses.”

Meir replied in a mysterious voice, “But I do have something for you to ride upon.”
GP’s ears perked up a little. “ Do I need to pay rent for the ride ?”

Meir chuckled, “Well, if you insist. How about a bottle of scotch and a fried fish from your kitchen next time we meet ? “

GP was mystified, “ That’ll be my pleasure. You, of all the people should know that.”

“That I know very well my friend. The thing is that you guys have already done us a favour. We are just returning it.”

“Suits me.”

Meir turned serious, “You remember the small payload that your ISRO launched for us in April ? “

A bulb just clicked on in GP’s mind. PSLV launch that month had carried a satellite designed and made by Israelis in complete secrecy. It’s capabilities and applications were a well guarded secret. Apart from a select group of people that included the satellite’s designers and some in intelligence circles, nobody had any idea. GP replied in a slightly reproachful tone, “Yes I do. You guys have been awfully shy with that one. “

“ It’s time that we let this complain sorted out. Can you check the mail ? There is a surprise for you. Please let me know if you like it.”

GP was suddenly inpatient, “What is it ? “

“What else it could be GP ? We deal in information and information it is. I hope you keep your end of bargain when we meet again. Till then, take care and Namaskar.”

“Shalom friend”.

Gp replaced the phone on it’s cradle and opened his secure mailbox. A mail with blank message body and an encrypted attachment had just arrived.. He put in the decryption key and extracted the files. There was a small text file and a bunch of high resolution satellite images. He opened the text file first and read it through. With mounting excitement he clicked on the images and started browsing through them. It was with a shaking hand that he picked up the intercom and called for his best analysts to come in to his cabin.

Previous Part

2120 Hours
1 November 2012
India

Scheduled TV programming was interrupted on almost all TV channels as the ashen face of Defence Minister appeared on the screens. He started reading from a prepared speech,

“My dear countrymen, I’m here with a bad news for all of us. Today we came under a surprise nuclear attack. Mirwai, a small town in Rajsthan with nearly 55000 population was devastated by a nuclear bomb delivered through a missile. The attack happened at 6 pm today without any warning. Although the missile was launched from Pakistan, a military spokesperson speaking on behalf of the Pakistani authorities has denied that they were involved. I can’t tell you the exact figures right now, but more than 20000 people are believed to be dead and many more injured. We are doing everything we can do to help the stricken people. Even as I speak, supplies and relief material are being rushed with utmost speed. Indian army which operates a small base there and Air force, have pressed in all of their resources to help the survivors in every way possible.

As of now, no one has taken any responsibility for this dastardly attack, but I’d like to assure all of you that whoever did this will dearly pay for this crime against humanity. Our forces are now on the highest alert and are taking every action to identify the culprits and also to prevent any further attacks. Our chain of command and most importantly, will to fight are still intact and will remain so.

Our country needs help of every single citizen in these troubled times. Irrespective of our differences, every single one of us needs to support the government and armed forces. I appeal to all of you to remain calm and follow the instructions provided to you by local authorities. Please do not panic or try to relocate unless absolutely necessary. The government will take whatever steps are necessary to protect everyone.

Jai Hind”

Cameraman signaled end of transmission and DM slumped limply in to the chair. He ran his hands through his thinning hair twice and got up to his feet. His aide came up a cup of tea which he waved away. He was in no mood to eat or drink anything.
He opened the small door of the media room and started walking towards the PM’s cabin in the special Boeing 747 informally known as AF1. PM and DM along with some senior defence and civilian officials had been bundled in to the special plane within 20 minutes of the time when first warning of the missile attack came. An IL-76 based AWACS on a patrol over Rajsthan had first detected the missile as it’s reached it’s terminal stage. The crew had immediately sent warnings, but it was not enough to help Mirwai. There was little any one could do anyway .

DM was visiting PM at his residence when their bodyguards burst in to the room and bundled them off in to a chopper and then to AF1 with little ceremony. Much to consternation of every one, PM had suffered severe chest pain moments after plane was airborne. On board doctor, a middle aged Air Force Major Rudra had treated him and put him under observation. News of the country’s PM collapsing on hearing such news, even of this magnitude would’ve been really bad for morale. So it was DM who had to go on TV instead of PM to read the bad news. He had done so with much reluctance but had kept the fact to himself only. He walked slowly towards the PM’s cabin and stopped in front of the door, apparently lost in thought. Two guards on the door smartly saluted him and that caused DM to come out of his reverie.
“I wish you guys stop doing this every time you see me. ” he smiled tiredly at the young soldiers.

“I’ll keep it in mind from now on sir.” Older of them smiled back politely.

“Thanks. Is doctor still inside ? How is PM feeling now ?” DM asked.

“Yes sir. Mr. PM wanted to see you as soon as possible. He is waiting for you.” with this, he knocked on the door once and on hearing the permission to enter, opened the door and ushered the DM in.

PM was lying on a bed apparently sleeping while his wife and Maj Rudra were sitting on chairs besides him talking in low voices. Both stopped talking on seeing him and Maj Rudra got up to salute him. PM opened his eyes and looked at him with resigned eyes.

“How are you feeling now sir ?” Suddenly not sure whom to ask this question, DM asked with a slight hesitation.

“Much better. Thanks to Dr. Rudra here. ” PM replied looking at the doctor who looked on impassively. “Any new developments ?”

“A little. Some of our people are standing by on a video conferencing call. Are you feeling well enough for this ?” DM asked with some concern looking at PM and the doctor in turn.

“Sure. Lets begin right now.” PM replied with some display of energy.

DM gave the doctor a questioning glance to which he replied, ” Yes of course, he can do anything he wants short of strenuous physical activity right now. But please be sure that he doesn’t get too stressed. My work here is done anyway. I’ll pop in from time to time to keep an eye. I think I should leave, if I have your permission.”

He gave everybody in the room a quick bow and left. PM’s wife also left the room after instructing both men to be careful about her husband’s health.
PM watched her close the door with a tired smile and then turned to DM, “So, what did you find out ?”

DM in the meanwhile had called for some senior officers and analysts on board the plane to enter the room and had turned on the video conferencing screen for other people to join in. Faces of people, some old and most of them new to both the ministers filled the room. After hurried introductions, everybody quickly got to the business. Chief spook Angad was first to begin via a video link,

“The missile was launched from a location somewhere east of Karachi. Our analysts believe that it was a Shaheen, just a repainted Chinese M-9. The bomb was Uranium 235 based with yield of slightly less than 20KT . It’s copy of an old Soviet design that was stolen by China. Apparently they also sold the same design to Pakistan and North Korea. The missile has a possible range of less than 700km with this kind of warhead. If anybody is wondering why didn’t they try hitting New Delhi, Bombay or any other big city, then I assume it’s because of Shaheen’s limited range only. Mirwai is one of the very few possible places that can be hit with that missile when fired from that distance.

“Do we know who actually launched it ?”

“Unfortunately, not yet. Control of Pakistani nuclear arsenal was supposed to be with General Beg only. But the missile was launched from the area under control of General Asgar.” Angad answered.

DM jumped off his seat and begin in an excited voice, “That can mean only one thing. If General Beg had full control of every weapon, then it’s entirely possible that he had launched the missile. That way he can injure us as well as gather support for his fight against Asgar.” He started pacing the small room as he spoke then his voice trailed off, “But..”

Curious at his behaviour, PM asked “What ?”

DM shook his head slightly and said, “Same thing can be said about General Asgar too. He too is a prime suspect just as Beg is. If he proves that it was Beg, not him that launched the missile then Beg is screwed beyond redemption. Even him being the American poodle wouldn’t help him then.”

HM butted in before DM had chance to finish, “Screwed how ? Pakistanis have already started celebrating this strike against the kafir Hindu India. In my opinion,the culprit will gain support of Islamists and gain power, not get screwed as you said it.”

DM gestured defensively, “Hey, I’m just thinking aloud. Either way, you can’t have everything. You win some, you lose some. For either of them, there are going to be benefits as well as repercussions. The perpetrator took his chances and I’ll be damned if I know who did this just by talking and guessing like this. “

PM who had been listening quietly asked, “If it’s like what you people are saying, don’t you think that either of them will try to take the credit ?”

On the screen, HM just stared blankly while DM shrugged his shoulders trying to think of something. “Could be terrorists.” he added.

Angad cleared his throat and said, “True. But they would’ve taken the responsibility as soon as it had happened. Not a single one of the rag head terrorists out there is going to miss an opportunity like this. Strangely, no one has. But most importantly, an attack like this is beyond he capability of almost all of terrorist groups out there. There is no way that a bunch of terrorists could have pulled this off without Paki army help.”

“What about a rogue military commander acting independent of every one else ? DM asked

General Vaidya, a 3 star general replied, “Same as with terrorists. Possible, but highly unlikely without either of the two Generals knowing.”

For a few seconds, everybody involved in the meeting fell quiet having reached a dead end. Then voice of PM broke the silence, “Excuse me for the silly question, but didn’t Beg had full control of all the nukes ? Then how can Asgar be possibly involved in this ?

“He could’ve taken the control of one or two missiles that Americans didn’t knew about.” HM took the bait.

DM was quick to pounce on it, “And launched it on us without trying to take any advantage ? If he really had those nukes then he could have bargained with Beg and Americans for anything. This doesn’t makes any sense.”

HM challenged him, “Well, tell me one thing that does.”

DM shrugged and slumped back in chair, ” I don’t know.”

Angad looked slightly uneasy on the screen“ I don’t know if it seems important, but Gwadar is not too far away from the launch site. For what it is worth, Chinese seem to be awfully busy lately there. Far more than what seems normal.”

“Busy ? How ?” DM asked.

“According to our intelligence reports, number of ships docking there has increased by 15% during the last 3 weeks. Of course it could all be unrelated, but somehow I can’t shake off the feeling that something fishy is going on.”

“You don’t have details ? It’s your job to get this kind of information. We can’t do a single damn thing based on your hunches only.”

Angad took the remark as the unneeded insult as it was. He was still bitter over the fact that his proposals for more intelligence satellites and human intelligence had been gathering dust for years now, “ What else would you expect on the money that we actually spend on intelligence ? “

DM let out a sigh and rolled his eyes. But he knew that Angad was right. Intelligence organisations had been demanding higher budgets and more freedom from political intervention for years, but successive governments including the present had been dithering on many important proposals. Who knew this attack could’ve been avoided if they had advance warning.

HM piped in, “Please leave all that for the moment. What’s done is done. We have to do something right now. We can’t just sit here and yap away. Thousands of our people have died in 4 attacks, one of them a nuclear one. All in a single damned day. Nations have gone to war on much less. Why are we still not bombing the hell out of those terrorist pigs ? The missile was launched from Paki territory, it’s a Paki missile as well a a Paki bomb. What other proof do we need ?“

“For starters, identifying who actually gave the orders.” DM replied.

HM opened his mouth to say something but then kept quiet. With the condition Pakistan was in, nobody had any idea whom to punish. In frustration he banged his fist on the table and groaned loudly, “Damn it all. I say we launch everything we have on those bast**** and be done with it. Do you realise how bad it is going to be for our economy, or prestige, everything that’s precious to us ? We lose the confidence of everyone in the world and our own citizens. We get nuked in broad daylight and can do nothing except twiddling our thumbs inside our collective asses. “

General Vaidya cleared his throat and begin, “ We can take steps to neutralize their remaining weapons.. Actually it’s going to be suicidal if we don’t. We just need your permission to do so.” He finished looking at PM directly who appeared to be lost under deep thought.

He took a deep breath and replied, “I’m afraid that I can’t allow that without positive proof General. We need concrete evidence of who actually did it.”

Most of the people presented in the meeting groaned inwardly.

There was a knock on the door and Dr. Rudra asked for permission to enter. DM broke up the conference for a while and called him in. Doctor entered the cabin glancing at the video screens once and then faced the PM, “Sorry to interrupt the meeting, but some more medical tests are needed and I can’t do that on this plane. I’m afraid that we’ll have to get you to a hospital.”

Both ministers were slightly taken aback and PM asked with surprise in his voice, “But why ? I feel absolutely fine.”

The doctor had heard this line many times. He replied impassively, “May be you do, but you heart doesn’t. I believe that one of your arteries has some degree of blockage. We need to get you to a hospital without any delay.”

“I’ll be damned. Just what the doctor ordered.” DM thought to himself. Then asked, “Where can we take him ?”

“I checked with the pilots. Agra is the nearest place with sufficient medical equipment.”

“You came in all prepared, didn’t you ?” PM asked with a slight resentment. But I can’t go to any hospital right now. Our country is at war right now. “

DM’s eyes widened a little at this, “Good to know that he realises this.” While the PM continued to argue with Dr. Rudra who kept shaking his head like a stubborn mule on every argument that PM put forward. Finally he said, “Sir, I don’t have the authority to make you do anything. But as your doctor I strongly advise you to get yourselves examined in a hospital. We may not need to operate yet. If everything is right, you can still be in action. The tests wouldn’t take longer than five hours.”

Pm looked towards DM with exasperated eyes. “Do you believe him” ?

“There is no harm in getting you examined on ground. I’d rather do it as soon as possible.”

“Ah well. What the hell ! OK doc. Five hours on ground. That’s the maximum I’m giving you.”

Doctor smiled slightly, Thank you sir. I’d better control my temper if I were you in this condition.” He gave a slight bow and went out.

DM looked at the departing doctor with arched eyebrows then said, “Looks like we’ll have to break up the meeting for a while.” PM started to protest but he went on regardless, “It’ll give our guys time to gather more intelligence. Not too bad of an idea after all. What’s your opinion General Vaidya ?”

“Agree completely. I’ll go and check security arrangements.”