“Was there nothing that we could do to prevent this from happening?” God the Father asked St. Peter. They were standing outside the Conference Hall, trying to delay the inevitable.
“Nothing at all, Father. Goddess Sarasvati could not be contacted in time; she was busy elsewhere. We could not disturb the boy in the middle of his meditation without her psionic abilities to help us.”
“Yes, we could not. We would have lost him had we tried to break his ‘centre’. What about the other psionic Gods? Were they not available?”
“They were available,” replied St. Peter. “But we needed Lord Brahma’s wife, with her immense abilities, for a task this large in magnitude.”
“Hmmm… Well, what is done is done. We must face the ramifications now.”
“After you, dear Father,” St. Peter said.
God the Father opened the doors to the Hall and found Himself as the object of every other God’s intense gaze. The Hall fell into a pin-drop silence, a stark contrast to the pandemonium that had greeted Him the last time He had stepped through those doors.
“Ah, Father. Come. Come. We were waiting for you only. Please take a chair. You too, St. Peter,” Lord Brahma said, pointing to the two empty chairs next to him.
God the Father was quite surprised. He had never seen Lord Brahma ask anyone to sit on the chairs reserved for the Council. There were only three other Gods, besides Lord Brahma, who had that privilege and two of them were already sitting. Lord Vishnu encouraged God the Father with a slight nod of his head while Lord Shiva sat with an air of superiority, not even looking at the newest entrees of the Hall.
St. Peter and God the Father took the extra seats on the Council Table. The Conference Hall was set up like a parliament session, a change keeping in mind the huge attendance at this meeting. Almost every other God was present inside the Hall, watching Lord Brahma with bated breaths as He called for the meeting to begin. They knew that there was something important to be discussed, otherwise Lord Brahma would have never called for a General Conference.
“My dear Brethren, we are gathered here today to discuss a very grave issue at hand,” Lord Brahma said, his voice amplified for the huge Hall. “The Pondera Custodis used his powers on a massive scale to intervene and prevent the World Trade Centre attacks from taking place. As you all know, Pondera Custodis is a mortal at the moment and that his powers were given to him as a last resort to save his life. We were sure that he would not use his powers to such an extent, but we still made arrangements as a precaution. Clearly, those arrangements failed to do their job.”
Lord Brahma gave St. Peter a pointed look before continuing, “As a result of this act, the Pondera Custodis has received full control over The Libramen, better known as the Force of Balance. This Council requests you to keep a strong vigil on Pondera Custodis in whatever way possible. All of us with psionic abilities to remain in constant touch with St. Peter or Father and at least one of them to be with them at all times. We need all the help we can get. Thank You. I now hand over the proceedings of this meeting to Lord Vishnu.”
“I knew this would happen. Didn’t I tell you so?” Lord Shiva muttered to a grim looking Lord Brahma, who had taken His seat.
* * *
“Mmmm… Stop it!” Jessica said playfully, a few days later. She was cuddled up with John on the couch in the common room of Jessica’s dorm.
She was desperately trying to concentrate on the television, but failing miserably as John kept distracting her with his tongue; licking the nape of her neck in a sensuous motion, sending shivers down Jessica’s spine right down to her toes.
“Why can’t boys keep still on one channel?” The remote control was in John’s hands and he was constantly changing the programs, trying to look for something interesting.
A program caught Jessica’s attention and she asked John to go back to it. It was one of the many news broadcasting channels and John was about to change it again, after letting out a sigh of exasperation and a roll of his eyes, when Jessica stopped him.
“The Al-Qaeda, with support from the Taliban of Afghanistan has seized control of the state of Pakistan. Earlier this month, the Taliban defeated the Northern Alliance, ending a brutal war that had been going on since the fall of the Soviet Union. Pakistan’s military ruler was assassinated last night by the terrorist organization and shortly thereafter, they declared possession of the country. The Al-Qaeda and Taliban have complete control over the two nations as of now. Al-Qaeda is the same terrorist group which is believed to be responsible for the failed attacks on the World Trade Centre in September this year. The fate of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal…”
Jessica took the remote control from John and switched the television off. She got up from the couch and began pacing the room, running a hand through her hair and muttering under her breath.
“Northern Alliance defeated earlier this month? But the news came in a few days back. How can this be possible? Failed World Trade Centre attacks?” Jessica mumbled, utterly confused.
Realization hit her like a ton of bricks and she cursed out loud, startling John, who was looking at her in bewilderment. Jessica ran out of the room, still grumbling and swearing while John followed her a few minutes later.
* * *
The Hostel building was three stories high, housing five dorms each, except for the ground floor which had seven. Each dorm had three rooms plus a common room. There was a huge recreational area for the hostel in the basement consisting of a library, a television room, a table tennis area and an indoor badminton court.
Ryan, Josh, Mark and Scott were sitting in the rec-area’s television room, exhausted after playing several matches of badminton. The group was watching a live telecast of a rock band, being telecast from Phoenix, Arizona.
“I kinda like this new lead singer. He’s far better than the last one,” Mark commented. “He’s smokin’ hot as well!”
“Yeah, but I think the drummer gives him a tough competition,” Scott pointed out.
“Hey! The bass guitarist is way better looking than the rest. The best part is that he loves to show skin and isn’t shy to pose. Josh and I like him the best. I hear he’s quite a prankster as well,” Ryan added with a wink.
“Do you think anyone’s gay outta them?” Mark asked them.
“Hmmm… all-boys bands usually have a one-odd gay guy in them. I think the bass guitarist could be gay,” Josh thought out-loud.
“Nah! I think the lead guitarist is definitely the gay guy in the lot,” Scott declared.
“Honey, your gaydar’s never been accurate. You pegged Kyle as gay when you first met him!” Mark joked.
At that moment, Jessica stomped into the room and yanked the television’s power cord out of its socket. Shouts of protests from the boys were immediately silenced by the death glare she gave them, making it pretty clear that she meant business.
“Mark, Scott; I need a few words with Ryan; and Josh too. Could you excuse us for a while?” she spat out, her eyes fixed on the two boys she wanted to talk to. Jessica’s anger, rarely surfaced, but when it did, hell hath no fury for those who got caught in her way. Knowing this very well, Scott and Mark meekly left the room.
“Why did you do it?” Jessica demanded of Ryan, once they were alone.
Ryan was perplexed at the sudden outburst. “Do what?”
“Go back in time and stop the World Trade Centre attacks, dammit! Do you know what you’ve done?” she screamed.
“How did you get to know of this? Everyone’s supposed to forget that the attacks ever happened once the timeline’s been changed. Why weren’t your memories altered?” Ryan questioned. “Even Josh doesn’t recall anything. I asked him myself.”
Jessica looked at Josh for confirmation and the boy nodded in response. “Look Jess, if Ryan did indeed prevent those attacks, isn’t that a good thing? I mean he saved thousands of lives.”
“Saved? You idiot! He has put millions of lives at risk, probably more. You want to know why I am freaking out. I’ll show why.” She put the plug back in, switched the television on, and changed to a news channel where the boys saw the latest developments in Asia.
“Oh my…!” Ryan gasped.
“Wait a minute. This doesn’t mean that Ryan’s responsible for this mess,” Josh said.
“He is,” Jessica replied. “Ryan, you of all people, should know the Laws of Balance? How could you forget them?”
“He’s a God, for God’s sake!” Josh said in indignation. “Cut him some slack, he knows what he’s doing.”
“I don’t CARE if he’s a fucking God!” Jessica shouted back. “Gods don’t make stupid mistakes like these and bring the world to the brink of a nuclear holocaust. He ought to have been more…”
Jessica stopped in midsentence. She had just realized that the rec-area was not the correct place for a discussion like this. She moved towards the doorway that led to the library, a more private place than the one they were in, and signaled the boys to follow her, never realizing that three sets of ears had been listening from outside another door.
* * *
Mark and Steve had never left the television room. Their curiosity was piqued when they had seen Jessica in such a temper. She was the calmest personality in their group and was the closest to Ryan and Josh. Hence, when she stormed into the room and confronted them, Mark and Scott’s desire to know what was wrong kept them from leaving.
They heard everything, their ears on the door; each word shocking them to the core. John, who had come to the rec-area in search of Jessica, stood there with the duo as well, listening to the conversation taking place inside.
When Jessica’s voice stopped coming through the door, they realized that the group must have gone into the library for more privacy. Mark and Scott looked at each other, their eyes wide in amazement.
“Wicked!” Mark exclaimed.
“What was that all about?” John was utterly confused. He was having a hard time grasping everything.
“Dude, didn’t you just hear? It seems like our Ryan is someone special,” Mark said, his eyes beaming. “What’s up with you?” he asked Scott.
“Huh?” Scott said, breaking out of his trance. “We shouldn’t have been eavesdropping on them. It was wrong on our part.”
“As if we’re going to tell anyone,” John quipped.
“I, for one, am not going to tell anyone, anything,” Scott said.
“Same goes for me,” Mark stated.
“Me too,” John added.
“What do we tell them?” Scott asked, pointing towards the television room.
“Nothing,” John answered and the others agreed with him.
* * *
As soon as Ryan, Josh and Jessica entered the library, Jessica spun around and continued, “As I was saying, you ought to have consulted Father before taking such a step. Or at least you could’ve come to me.”
“Jess, I did what I felt right. Besides, I consulted Josh. Had it not been for him, I wouldn’t have even gone ahead with this idea,” Ryan told her.
Jessica frowned. “It was you who instigated him to take this step? I should’ve known.”
“C’mon Jess, Ryan saved those passengers the last time he went back in time and he saved scores of people now.”
“How do you remember…?” Jessica began.
“That’s enough, Jess,” Josh cut her off. “Ryan, what are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know,” Ryan answered.
“Why don’t you try contacting Father?” Jessica suggested. “I am sure that He’d give you the right advice. As it is, you should’ve gone to Him in the first place.”
“You’re right. I’ll try contacting Him now.” Ryan closed his eyes and prayed, trying to reach God the Father. He stood there for a few minutes, concentrating hard and requesting help under his breath.
Ryan’s brows knitted in confusion and he opened his eyes. “That’s odd. No one’s answering my prayers. This has never happened, ever."