Payback Time (SwaSan) Episode 11, 12 and 13 (Maha Episode)

Recap –
This one is going to be very long as i didn’t wanted to break the continuity in between preps so enjoy

“What about my equipment? I need a phone, a notebook computer, and some money.”

Daya looked at Annapurna, who reached into her bag. She took out a notebook computer and a cell phone, and put them on the bed next to me. They didn’t look like anything special—not the toys that a computer hacker would have. I powered up the notebook.

“It’s been rigged with a key logger?” I asked. “So you see everything I’m doing?”

“It won’t stop you from doing it.” was Daya’s terse reply

“It just means you get to watch,” I said, feigning annoyance. I wasn’t concerned about that, either. I powered down the notebook, and put it back into the bag, where, apart from a few uses—to keep the CBI thinking that they were tracking me —it would remain. The phone got the same treatment.

“I guess you know that we’ll be tracking every phone call you make,” Daya said, as he picked up the phone.

“If I know that you’re listening to everything I do, it’s going to freak me out.”

“You don’t have any choice,”Abhijeet said

I decided to tackle the subject now. I knew that at some point I would have to argue my way into getting some free time, to devote to my Laksh agenda.

“Look,” I said, “I’ll do what you want me to do, but we agreed that I could do it my own way. If I see anyone following me, or trying to interfere, I’m out.”

“Nobody is going to interfere with you in any way whatsoever. We can’t afford to.,” Daya assured me.

Once Mallik shows an interest, they’ll probably put you under twenty-four-hour surveillance.
Directional microphones and bugging devices mean that Mallik could be listening in to any conversations you have, even in the house—especially in the house. That’s why from now, until the end of the play, you’re always the Kundra family.
You can never make a single slip, do you understand?”

I nodded.

“The only place you can be out of character is in the car, which has anti-surveillance equipment. If you need to talk business, or to make a report or a request, then tell Durgaprasad or Annapurna that you want to take a ride to the mall. You can talk in the car, and only in the car.”

I wondered about what anti-bugging device the car had. That sort of thing interests me, but I never get to play, because it is so expensive. I had considered attending one of those private investigators’ conventions, where the latest hardware is demoed by the industry leaders, but had never got around to it.

“If anybody tries to listen in, all they’re going to hear is what sounds like white noise interference from the engine.”

“What if somebody pulls a gun on me, or something?”

I wasn’t worried by that prospect; I just wanted to know how much leeway I had. Daya had to have people pretending to be teachers. The question was how many and where.

“That’s unlikely,” answered Daya

“Do you have someone I can contact at the school?”

“We have one agent working on the school staff who’ll be looking out for you if anything happens at the school.”

“Who is it?” I asked, not expecting an answer.

“That doesn’t concern you. This agent is only there to keep an eye on you. You won’t see him, and he won’t talk to you. You do not need to contact him. Ever.”

Did that ‘him’ mean the agent was male?

I nodded.”Okay.”

I took the wallet off the table. Apart from the ID cards, I noticed some money tucked into the rear flap. I counted 4000 Rupees.

“I’ll need more money than that.” Taking out a bank card, I asked, “How much is in the account?”

“70000. The access number is the last four digits of your library card. I can’t see you using more than that. But if you have a genuine need, then you can have what you want. You just have to discuss it with Durgaprasad first.”

I stuck the wallet in a back pocket.

“Any other questions?” Daya asked.

I said nothing.

Daya looked disappointed that I hadn’t asked anything, as if it was a bad sign. I was supposed to be an eager beaver, a smart guy.

“You might like to know where Arnav’s group meets,” he said.

“Let me guess. He has a habit of changing meeting locations, and it’s never the same group twice.”

Laksh was the same: cagey. In the old days, Laksh had a lot of fun picking bizarre places for us to meet—paranoid the cops or some shadowy organization would be bothered enough to listen in to his delusions and misdemeanors. But I guess in the end those fantasies had turned out to be true.

“Wiretaps show that he’s used the local Internet cafes,” Daya added

I just nodded.

Back then, it was a big deal that coffee shops had just started offering free Internet stations and access to customers, if they paid extortionate rates for a half-gallon cup of coffee—almost the same as a jar of instant. But those spots were so popular that I had seen hackers (who wouldn’t dare use their own Internet connections) in there at 2:00 p.m., and they were still there at kicking-out time. What used to annoy me about those places was that the college students who worked there could see on the log where you were surfing to, and you had to expend time evading their amateur surveillance.

Flashback :
They had a big board above the counter, with two dozen supposed varieties of
coffee on it, to foster the consumerist “choice” illusion, which presumably was as addictive as the caffeine

We used to annoy them by asking for a coffee with milk.

“You mean an Americano?”

“No, I’d like a coffee, with milk, and no sugar.”

“Milk is on the counter.”

“Can’t you put it in?”

“You might like to choose how milky you like your coffee.”

“Just average, thanks.”

It went on. They annoyed us hackers, and we annoyed them.
Flashback ends

“Anything else?” Daya said.


“Let me warn you, you’re going to be cooped up in a house for the next month with Durgaprasad (DP) and Annapurna (AP), and I expect you to try to treat them with some respect.

They’re experienced agents. They deal every day with the worst that society has to offer. They have both made major busts and received citations for valor. So, any sarcastic remarks are going to roll off them like water off a duck’s back. My advice to you is to be good and try to get along. Soon, this will be over, and we’ll all be smiling.”

“Okay,” I said. “I’m not going to make waves.”

“I’m glad to hear it. Go with AP she’s going to chnage your hair.

Then put on your new clothes.”

I went into the bathroom as Sanskar Maheshwari, and emerged fifteen minutes later as Sanky Kundra.

Daya nodded without speaking, as if to say, “I’m right about nobody recognizing you.”

That was true enough. In the mirror, even I didn’t recognize me. I looked like a chat room junkie. I stood in the middle of the room, while Daya, Abhijeet, DP and AP looked me over. But they were not just judging whether my new image would be good enough to pass as an ordinary high school student. They were weighing me up. Was I up to the job?

It reminded me of that time in drama class, when Mr. Dixit unexpectedly picked me to play Horatio in the school’s dismal production of Hamlet. I could see everyone staring at me, wondering who this nerd was, and why I had been given an important role in their play. Come opening night, I gave a good-natured performance that was neither good nor bad, and somehow got the loudest applause, much to everybody’s surprise, and my indifference. The gorgeous and popular girl of our school Yachna even said hi to me. But apart from its use in hacking, being an actor sent me to sleep.

I stared back at the officers, and kept the idea in my mind: it’s just another hack – no sweat.

“You’ve heard everything we have to say, and n ow you know almost as much as about Mallik and his organisation as we do. This is your last chance call this off.”

“You an leave now and get a job making pizza. It’s up to you”

Well, maybe I did have a couple of reservations about what I was doing. But I looked again at the pictures of Mallik and Arnavi that were still on the table. For all I knew, the CBI had their information right, and these men were the front of an organization dedicated to murder and mayhem at any cost.

If that was true, then I had no problem with doing what I had to do. Then the CBI would crack the case, and I’d have a free ride to college. Win-win, as they say.

Sure.“It sounds like a good plan,” I said. “I’ll need to download some hacker tools and stuff.”

Dayanodded, and I set up the notebook, connected to the motel’s broadband connection, and started surfing

.I soon realized that being away from the game for over six months had made me rusty. I had by then forgotten many of the details of the warez sites I had used for downloading tools and uploading my own contributions, hacker to hacker.

I rolled my eyes upwards, navigating through the universe of memory where I had left several important details hidden away. With a bit of effort, I managed to grab them. Within a minute, I was downloading the sort of scripts and hacker programs that would have incriminated me in a court of law, if it weren’t for the fact that the CBI was paying for the line.

Still floating around the Internet, despite the hacker crackdown, were some of my own old scripts. Once I had my old tools, I ran one of my programs that let me see the vulnerabilities on the notebook that the CBI had just handed to me. It soon came up with a list:

1 sttd vulnerability







I was going to say something about the CBI giving me a computer that was full of security holes, but then I saw it hadn’t been booted for weeks. It was new, and had never had any updates at all. I checked the history logs, and saw the only website that it had ever visited was the CBI home page.

“Brilliant,” I said.

“You’re giving me a machine with the CBI site in the cache.

No one answered. I wasn’t worried about it. I was just looking for an excuse to stamp my authority, even if it was trivially.

“Apart from that, it’s cool.” I turned the notebook off, and stood up.

“Okay?” Daya said.

“Okay,” I said.

“All right, then, this meeting is over. If we’re lucky, within a few weeks Mallik will be in the bag, and we’ll all be happy.”

We went outside to the cars

“Be sure that I’ll be keeping track of everything,” Daya added.

As if on cue, the other three got into their cars, leaving just me and Daya standing in the autumn breeze. He leaned toward me, talking confidentially.

“I want to trust you, Sanskar. You’re the only teenager I know bright enough to pull this off. That’s why I came to you. I’m depending on you. Don’t let me down.”

“I won’t,” I said, matching his serious voice.

We walked over to the Mercedes, and Daya opened a rear door for me.

“It’s all in your hands now.”

It suddenly hit me how true that was. It wasn’t just a saying. This whole project was my responsibility. Daya, Abhijeet, DP, AP—they were there just to watch over me. The job of drawing out an international terrorist, and getting him to stick his head in the noose, was mine. Nobody could do it for me. But I knew I could do it. I had to do it.

DP, AP and I left the motel and made our way to what would be my home for the next month or two………….

Thnaks for all those who are reading…please comment if you like it or not


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