Kakslauttanen Resort, Finland
8:30pm, 12 October
“How did you even find this place? Never knew it existed,” Salma asked, caressing the glass walls of their Igloo cottage.
“Top secret,” Ajmal smiled.
“Whatever! I’m in love with it,” she said dreamily.
Ajmal drew her closer and ran his fingers through her hair. Her almond eyes held his gaze as she took a deep breath and started unbuttoning his shirt. His lips traced her jawline and settled on hers in a delicious kiss.
As if on cue, the dark arctic sky spectacularly lit up. A yellowish-green glow appeared across the sky which gradually fused into a bluish purple streak above it.
Ajmal pulled himself away from his new bride and exclaimed. “There! The wedding gift I promised.”
Salma gathered herself and looked up. The melange of colours shimmered in unison like an abstract painting on the sky. It was a mesmerising sight to behold!
“Aurora Borealis,” offered Ajmal.
The couple stood beside the transparent walls of the Igloo admiring the lively evening sky.
Cutting through the romantic moment came the restless buzzing of Ajmal’s phone. He hurried to attend the call.
“Agent Wildster, how do you like the cosiness of your honeymoon destination?”
“Aren’t your choices always praiseworthy, Beast?” replied Ajmal sneaking a glance at his wife still immersed in the beauty of the Borealis.
“Duty calls. The prime exhibit from China has landed on a private chartered flight at Ivalo Airport last night. Log Chalet L34. East Village. Books conference room Vuokko. Loves Saunas. Our man Juhan will find you.”
“The war begins.”
8:30am, 13 October
As the Northern Lights bore witness to the wild and intense union of the couple in Kelo-Igloo K89 and dimmed into nothingness over the horizon, the beautiful Lapland Sun rose to greet them.
The faint knock on the door stirred Ajmal. He slid away gently from his wife’s arms, clothed himself, and ambled towards the door.
“Juhan. Hope the Beast informed.” An accented husky voice spoke.
Ajmal faced a burly man swathed in a fluffy hoodie. He almost mistook him for an Eskimo except for those sharp narrow eyes that meant business. He nodded curtly.
“Microphone fitted in Vuokko. Here’s the receiver,” Juhan pressed a miniature recording device in his palm.
“Kiitos,” Ajmal bowed slightly.
Juhan’s taut expression eased off at the Finnish rendition. He grinned. “Mr Wong…that’s your exhibit… would be away at a West Village Sauna between 11 o’clock to 12 noon. Good time to explore,” he winked. “I’ll be at the West Village Restaurant for any help.”
Ajmal shut the door at his retreating figure.
He had to act fast.
11am, 13 October
Ajmal straightened his uniform and cap with his gloved hands and regarded his image in the mirror. A technician at the Kakslauttanen Resort stared back at him. He was a man in disguise on a delicate mission.
He turned to look at his wife sleeping in peace. After a scrumptious breakfast at the restaurant, he had offered her a glass of hot lingonberry juice. The sedative had done its job. Ignorance is bliss, indeed.
He picked up his tools bag and marched out of the Igloo as Agent Wildster, securely locking it behind him. Sixteen months of hibernation had been a rejuvenating break for the Officer of the Special Intelligence Force and none except a handful back in his home country knew that he was back in action. His dark brown eyes rapt with attention, the deep scar on his neck conveniently covered by his hoodie, the limp on his left leg more pronounced than ever, Wildster’s six-foot athletic figure strode through the slightly snowy landscape towards his exhibit’s accommodation.
Juhan was waiting for him at L34.
“The keys. The room heater is under repair. You’re here to service it. You’ve less than an hour before your man’s back.” He winked.
Wildster gave a stern nod and unlocked.
The first thing that welcomed him into the spacious Chalet was a mild squeaky noise from the left. As he surveyed the place, the noise grew in volume when he entered the kitchenette. He checked the cabinets one by one. When he opened the lowermost one on the right, a fetid odour hit his nostrils and those inaudible squeals increased by several decibels.
He narrowed his eyes in disgust. Inside the rack were a dozen house rats caged together and jostling each other in frenzy for space. When he opened another cabinet to his left, a heavier stench accosted him. The rack gave shelter to about twenty more.
“Must be the males…rats…weapons…what could possibly…” he mumbled to himself closing the cupboards when he had a moment of epiphany. His eyebrows shot up in a fit of outrage and he rushed out of the kitchenette to dig for details.
He surveyed the hallway and walked into the only other room. At the centre was a huge bed and towards the left corner was a small bunk bed. The right side supported a large locker. He slid his hands inside his pocket to take the locker keys, but, on a whim, he darted towards the bunk bed and climbed to the top. A wooden box was its lone occupant.
He pried it open and found sheaves of documents and a laptop. As he glanced through them, a highlighted name on a letter raised an alarm inside him. He began reading its contents.
Hope the virus strains are looking up through the lens. Want nothing less than vicious for the funds provided by Uncle Sam. You’d promised.
Rats are a good bet if you want to kick it off from a Scandinavian country. The cold conditions are suitable for breeding. That’s the order of the day. A large number. That’s how it spreads. But, leave no trace.
Make sure you get the right mix of M-F. Inject the strain into the bloodstream and let them mate. The virility multiplies manifold. Let them free in the ‘mainland H’. Keep track of them. You know what to do.
Looks like a gamble, but, I bet my life on it. These rodents are precious carriers, right down to their saliva.
Dr Randy Saucer
The sounds of an approaching motorbike brought him back to reality. Time was running out and he had to get out of the place soon. He descended from the bunk and went into the living area looking for something. There it was. A small refrigerator beside the kitchenette. Inside it, he found dozens of half-filled vials and syringes hidden behind rows of beer cans.
His temple nerves twitched indicating the tension building up inside him. The scar on his neck hurt him after three years.
He left the Chalet with his brain processing every bit of information he had garnered, the magnitude of it being a lot more than he had imagined.
10:55am, 15 October
“The viral strain in the rodents would reach full efficacy in a day. The climatic conditions here are acting favourably. The incubation period is found to be 2 to 8 days on average. We let them mate in this period and let them free. They are all embedded with a chip to track them. Target is the capital city first. We wait to receive news on the first trace of infection in the humans. And, it spreads like a wildfire. So, dear gentlemen, our efforts are gonna pay off. My nation appreciates the support from you three of them.”
“The South Asian countries.”
Ajmal sat up with a jolt, yet again. He was listening to the recorded voices over the receiver device for the umpteenth time since the day before and it gave the same disturbing chills every time. The meeting at the conference room by Dr Wong had apparently gone as planned and it was all covered.
After a day spent with his wife, away from the call of duty, he was back to his assignment. He left the Igloo in the guise of a technician again and walked determinedly in the direction of one of the West Village Saunas recalling his aide’s words the previous day.
“Your exhibit loves the sauna refreshment, man. His weakness, I say. Good time to confront. Half-naked. Alone. Half-doped. Tipsy. Bound to be an easy target. Will ensure the heaters crash. The technician arrives on time to rectify them,” Juhan had winked. Ajmal had felt being x-rayed as the eerie wink was beginning to get on his nerves. He had nodded diligently.
“Hey,” Juhan called out from his motorcycle. “Mind a ride?”
As much as he wanted to refuse the offer, his legs carried him towards the bike and he took the pillion. The cold winds stung his eyes reminding him of every syllable spoken during the conference.
He got off the bike near the Sauna.
“It’s open. The heaters would have begun to malfunction. Time to go,” Juhan informed giving a thumbs-up as he drove away.
He clutched his bag and hastened towards the front door.
Once inside, he took in the surroundings. Clothed in a loosely wound towel around his waist was a paunchy balding man. He looked up at the new entrant confused.
“Technician. Heater problem,” Wildster responded with an accent.
He scrunched his brows in doubt, but, sat back with his eyes closed and his head resting on the wooden wall.
Wildster trudged nonchalantly to the other side of the Sauna where the twin-heaters were filled with sauna rocks. There were mere wisps of steam and the heater needed a fuse change. He replaced it and switched it on. The rocks started heating up.
It was time for the last deed.
He unzipped his bag and took a pair of tongs. He started removing the rocks from one of the heaters into a cloth bag. Once it was almost empty, he began piling up charcoal over it and turned the knob to raise the temperature. In minutes, the heater brimmed with the coal pieces burning away to glory. He could smell carbon monoxide fumes emanating from them.
As a next step, he switched off the other heater and let the rocks cool down for a while.
“Cool them down for a few minutes and sprinkle water over those rocks. That should cause the smoke to subside a little and shoot up heavily almost at once.” He remembered Juhan’s suggestion as though from another time.
After the temperature dipped, he pulled out a water gun from his bag and sprayed water over the rocks. It had its effect. Quiet clouds of smoke started rising from the heater, readily mixing with its deadly monoxide companion.
Minutes ticked by.
The target shifted in his seat sniffing irritably as warning signs went up inside him. His eyes flew open sensing danger. He could feel his lungs getting constricted. The monoxide fumes were asphyxiating. He dashed towards the door to escape, unmindful of the perpetrator’s presence. A sudden fit of wheezing cough immobilised him.
The Special Intelligence Officer cum technician decided to seize the moment to rightfully avenge even the idea of a weaponless war. He walked up to the doctor amidst billows of smoke and choked him. With the final gasp for air, the monoxide settled into his lungs. The target fell down limp and lifeless.
A squeaky alarm alerted him to the next course of action. The carrier rats had to be wiped out.
3:45am, 19 October
Special Intelligence Force. Headquarters Two. Halasinakatte Village, India
“Did you hear the news?” Beast was on call.
“I’m back from my honeymoon. Does that make news?” Ajmal’s drowsy voice was heard through the speaker.
“Well…well…a trusted source informs us that tons of vials have been destroyed from that infamous research laboratory in the neighbouring country. The current experiments have been asked to abandon. You’ve done it again, my boy!”
“A wounded lion is more dangerous, Beast. May pounce again to gratify its anger. Let’s be vigilant,” whispered Ajmal ominously.
Name – Mechanic/Technician
Place – Kakslauttanen Hotel, Finland
Animal – Rat
Thing – Water gun
- A brief note on Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort from a geographical perspective – It’s situated in Lapland, northern part of Finland (a Scandinavian Country). 30 minutes away from the Ivalo airport. It is divided into two – East and West Villages. Some of the types of accommodations provided are Igloo Chalets (glass-walled cabins in the shape of an Igloo) and Log Chalets (wooden cabins). Capital city of Finland – Helsinki.
- Kiitos – Thank you in Finnish
- Lingonberry Juice – A drink usually served hot during winters in Finland
- Mainland H (in the letter) refers to the capital city Helsinki
- M-F – male-female
- Sauna – An enclosed wooden area having small electric heaters on one side. Over the heaters are placed a lot of sauna rocks. One person or a maximum of two are allowed per session which usually lasts for 15-20 minutes. A sauna heats the air to heat the body. It produces dry heat. Sprinkling water over sauna rocks produces lot of steam and humidifies the space. Kakslauttanen Resort houses the world’s largest smoke sauna.
- Special Intelligence Force – A product of my imagination inspired by our country’s foreign intelligence agency
- Halasinakatte – a remote village in Karnataka
This is a work of fiction and the author has exercised creative liberty in depicting certain events in the story.