Nitish Nadkarni
Final Year MBBS,
Grant Medical College, Mumbai.

Some people die for a cause. Some kill for a cause. And there are some who…

Reuben fought the urge to wake up. It had been a pleasant dream for her. The blossoms had paved the way for the bees to buzz and birds to chirp. The merry weather symbolically resounded with the gaze Reuben had set on the ceremonies of the future. “Tuzdak”, Reuben gladly let the words blurt out of her mouth. That is when the alarm rang.
“Ishroog!” Reuben often cursed in her native language as she shoved away the arms of Morpheus. Time-lag was not her strong forte. But the agency had demanded her to do it. The mission. Reuben had anticipated that it was going to be tough, but it was not. It was impossible. For Ishroog hid in places that no one could imagine. But then again, the agency had demanded her to do it. After all, she was the best killer of her time.

“Amdur Spatio-Temporal International Agency”. ASTIA. A realm. A fabric of the universe where space and time doesn’t exist. The pocket of the cosmos. The blind spot of the Big Bang. Every temponaut’s dream. Reuben had been raised on the planet Yofgan, from where the best pilots were trained. Since an early age, when she lost her mother in a jet accident, Reuben had decided to be the best pilot of her time. Perseverance and patience paid off. And she was selected to train at the most prestigious organization a child could dream of – ASTIA. Reuben still remembered the smell of metal as she travelled through the registered wormhole that connected her planet to the Agency and arrived at the main gateway of the agency. The flying cars and floating pillars provided a clear indication that this place had no time. Candidate 42, her badge proudly expressed. She finally had become a temponaut.

It was her last mission. Serving for nearly 37 years in ASTIA, she always rejected her opportunity to become an executive. No doubt, she was the best. But she considered herself to be more of a soldier than a person who blurted orders. She was focused. She had waited 37 years to get this mission. The conclusion of an inference. The sequitur.
Reuben completed many missions for ASTIA. From English to Physics to the aesthetics of temponaut suits to alleviating the debilitating effects of a time jump, she had an ascending learning curve. And after all these years, she was ready to get the highest rank any sentient being in the world wanted to aspire – Tuzdak. In English, it meant the purpose of life. And she could get this rank which no one ever did. All she needed to do was, complete her final mission.

It sounded to be a simple mission. There had been sightings of a person in 1942 who provided the knowledge of Nuclear Cold Fusion to the Fuhrer. This meant two things. Someone from the future had arrived in 1942. Two, if he succeeded, there would be no future. And Reuben’s sequitur was to destroy that person. But the glitch here was, no one knew how the person looked, how he sounded or for that matter, who the person is. They only knew one thing. Ishroog. The Destroyer. That was what the person left at each location of his heinous crimes. From winning the battle of Waterloo to the assassination of JFK to the partition of India, this person played a huge role in shaping the history that Reuben lived in. And this was the chance to curb Ishroog once and for all. And the day was 30th March 1943.

Reuben landed in 1935. The War had not started yet. On the outskirts of Germany, she lived a life that she exactly needed prior to her mission. Sipping coffee and reading books was not what she was fond of. Instead, guns and grenades delighted her. She was a real killer. She had violent behaviour in her genes. And one day, out of nowhere, everything that defined her till this moment suddenly changed. She met a man.
His cheek bones gave him an aura of a gentleman. His muscular physique clearly gave the confirmation of a trained soldier. His hazel eyes and dark hair were what attracted her the most. Reuben was a beautiful lady too. At least she thought she was. She thought she knew that man. Their gaze halted and their smile faltered. His smile was one of politeness and noble behaviour. “Jacob. May I help you Ma’am?” Reuben was perplexed. She could not reveal her true identity. “Fedyut….I mean Hello, Namaskar…hehehe. Would you like to have a cup of tea with me?” The man chuckled at Reuben’s innocence. They went to his home that day. His heart warming talk was one of the many parts that Reuben felt was handsome. Both were orphans. The way he held her that day and how his lips followed hers, how every inch of his frown and brows made his soul shine…these are the memories Reuben still cherishes. Years passed. Romance ensued. And it happened. One day, she got pregnant. It was 8th July 1942. The time for her mission.

She thought and thought and she cried. Her tears refracted the rays of the robust sunlight passing through the misty violence of Deutscheland. Guns and rifles, concentration camps and holocaust chambers. She had seen it all. And she knew that when this all would be over, time won’t be a problem. Everything would be as if it hadn’t happened at all. The study of the past, present and future would mean nothing. And her romance would mean nothing.
The day arrived. 30th March 1943. According to the intelligence network at ASTIA, she had arrived at the exact location. A shady old bar. People roaming. Birds prancing around. Cloudy atmosphere. The sun was not shining as it did on the normal days. The aura had the stench of despair and agony. And at that moment, she spotted Ishroog. And it turned out to be a horror story that she had never anticipated.
“You see Reuben”, Ishroog said in a cracked voice. “Time is an illusion. It twirls and twists till it distorts the very nature of reality.” And Ishroog stood right in front of Reuben. But what Reuben saw was herself. An exact replica, with the exact same clothes she was wearing. Same voice. Same eyes. Same person. Ishroog was a woman. And Ishroog was Reuben.

“Surprised, eh? I don’t think so. Because this is the not the first time we are doing it. I killed Ishroog before me and you will too. That is how it works. Or worked. But not this time.” A swift blow and Reuben was knocked down. After a few hours, she found herself tied to a chair in a dark room. “Primitive torture techniques. Still effective.” “What do you want, Ishroog?” Reuben screamed, exasperated by the truth. “Me? I want what you want, Reubie. A life. A time. A beginning. An end. I want to be free of the loops. I want to go to my sweetheart that you will have to leave if you kill me. I want to have a life.” “Time travel is complicated”, continued Ishroog. “Ever thought of your child? I killed mine. I helped Napoleon and Hitler and Gandhi. I framed the world. Because if I hadn’t, you wouldn’t be born. I did those things of you. For me. We are one.” “Don’t you dare compare us, you piece of filth. You are not me.” Reuben squeaked. “Oh, is it? Then what are you going to tell your husband? That you met you. That you could have saved him? That is not how it works Reubie. You can either be born or be with him. You can either die or kill. There is no other option.”

Reuben was attacked. Not physically. But by the anger and the fear of losing someone close. The reality of the torment that twisted her already messed life who so agonising that it had to be the consequence. After all, what is happiness? Is it a sense of belongingness? No. Because even after decades in the Agency, she was alone. No attachments. A loner in the crowd. How many lives does one have to live before finding someone worth dying for? Some people die for a cause. Some kill for a cause. And there are some who take that cause and wrap it around their brain till it rips out from the inside. And denudes the very aspect which is trying to prevent from doing exactly that. This was it. This had to be it. This had to be her final mission. She had to become Ishroog. She had to witness the transition of an ace temponaut to a seemingly heartless villain. To respect the space-time continuum.
“Oh, I have!” Reuben replied. And with a swift moment, she broke free from her chair and landed a blow on Ishroog’s face. “I am going to kill you Ishroog.” “Then do it. Just do…” And bang! A gunshot! Point blank. And it was over. The master criminal was dead. The history was restored. The fabric was normal again. And it was time for her to go. Or stay. For had become the evil she killed. “Mess with time and time messes back”, these words of her trainer at ASTIA started to mean something now. Because she had contractions. The water broke. And at the end of what seemed like an eternity, she gave birth. It was not just one child.

She could not leave without them. But she had obligations. Reluctantly, she took them both to the past. She abandoned the love of her life because she knew that they would meet again someday. She felt as if she was with him at the moment. And that he would remain to be a part of her life forever. Taking just the girl to Yofgan, she left a note saying, “Officer Reuben died in a plane crash in Germany. Take care of this little Reuben.” And as a part of her last act, she landed back to Sunday, 18th June 1815 at Waterloo. It was in her hands to restore history now. She wiped the time log and added a fresh set of instructions. “Mission 1- Ishroog and the battle of Waterloo.” The loop was complete now. The sequitur had become the start. The end of a beginning. And she achieved what she came for. The soul of her body. The meaning of her life. The purpose of her existence. Tuzdak.

In 1910, in the dense jungles of Yofgan, a girl fought the urge to wake up. It had been a pleasant dream for her. The blossoms had paved the way for the bees to buzz and birds to chirp. And light years away, back in the orphanage, a child was adopted. Lil’ J, the name on the cradle whispered. Who knew that incestuous marriages could end up in babies with a violent behaviour?

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