Chapter 18:

Merging Destinies

64


Houston, TexasBookmark here

USABookmark here

A man sat in his room in a gloomy, dreary atmosphere. He didn’t know if what he had done was going to end his career. He could end up getting fired the next day. As the city of Houston lamented the forced departure of their franchise player and superstar small-forward, Josh Okongo, the man who had traded him, General Manager Marcello Rodriguez, had been left in the most deplorable state he had ever been in. He’d worked twenty five years as a scout, and deputy GM. Finally, finally, he’d gotten a chance to be the General Manager of a team he had been loyal to his whole life. Now, just like that, all hope seemed lost, seemed to be drowned in an ocean of agony.Bookmark here

The television screen in front of Marcello Rodriguez was playing a news report by Houston Today. The reporter, a tall, attractive woman in her late twenties, enounced into her microphone. “Today, the city of Houston grieves the departure of superstar small-forward, Josh Okongo. What the Houston Spacewalkers organization has received in return, are two first round picks and two second round picks in 2025 and 2026. This could possibly be one of the worst trades in NBA history! The citizens of Houston are furious with this subpar trade that has fleeced their organization. They are demanding for the resignation of GM Marcello Rodriguez! What will the ownership of the team do? What will…”Bookmark here

BLINK.Bookmark here

Marcello turned off the TV angrily. He leaned backwards on his chair and put his hands on his head. Bookmark here

“I had no choice, guys,” he sobbed. “I had no choice!”Bookmark here

He thought of the small handgun he had in his drawer. Why struggle, he thought, when he could end it all…Bookmark here

Suddenly, there was a knock on his door. Bookmark here

“Come in,” said Marcello.Bookmark here

Two men entered the room. They were his old friends and partners at work. Together, they had vowed to bring only the best prospects to Houston…and end the curse.Bookmark here

One was Christopher Stevenson, a scout for Galveston Institute of Technology.Bookmark here

The other was Khalil Al-Farooq, the head coach of the Houston Spacewalkers’ G-League Affiliate Team, the Sugarland Venom.Bookmark here

“Hey, Chris,” said Marcello. “How was your trip?”Bookmark here

“Great!” said Christopher Stevenson. “Found some amazing international players, but missed an amazing player as well.”Bookmark here

“Who did we miss?” asked Marcello. Bookmark here

“Keon Jordan Jr,” said Christopher. “The University of Manhattan got to him first.”Bookmark here

“Keon Jordan Jr? You mean Keon Jordan’s kid? That legendary center of the New York Skyscrapers?”Bookmark here

“The very same,” replied Christopher.Bookmark here

“What does everyone at Galveston Tech think?” asked Marcello.Bookmark here

“They’re pretty dismayed, to be honest,” sighed Christopher. “They can’t believe that the most exciting player I’ve found is a five-foot-four point-guard from Japan!”Bookmark here

“Five-foot-four?” Marcello raised an eyebrow.Bookmark here

“Don’t judge, Marcello,” said Christopher confidently. “The guy is a crazy good ball-handler, shooter, and passer. He’s a legit NBA prospect!”Bookmark here

“Hmm,” said Marcello. “What’s his name?”Bookmark here

“Kobayashi Ichikawa.”Bookmark here

“I see,” said Marcello.Bookmark here

“I was trying to recruit another player onto the G-League Team, Marcello,” said Khalil Al-Farooq. “University of Manhattan got to him first again. That’s two guys they’ve swiped from us!”Bookmark here

“Come on, guys!” grumped Marcello.Bookmark here

“We might land him in the draft in two years, though,” said Khalil. “Here’s his highlights reel,” he added, handing Marcello his iPad.Bookmark here

Marcello scrutinized the video. He was thoroughly impressed.Bookmark here

“Odai Beckham Jr, is it?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, that’s his name.”Bookmark here

“This isn’t a G-League level player, Khalil,” chided Marcello, handing his friend back the iPad. “This guy’s almost NBA-ready!”Bookmark here

“Have you been watching the news, Marcello?” asked Christopher.Bookmark here

This was the part Marcello was dreading. “Yes, guys. It’s not good. You think I’ll get fired for that trade?” he asked worriedly.Bookmark here

“The team ownership will wait and see what we do with those draft picks, Marcello,” answered Khalil. “If none of them turns out to be a good player, I’m sorry to say, but they’re going to let you go.”Bookmark here

“Ah,” said Marcello.Bookmark here

There was a knock on the door, and Marcello’s secretary, Laura, entered the room. “You’re stressed, sir. Have some coffee,” she said. She poured out three cups. “Gentlemen?” she said, handing them the coffee.Bookmark here

“Thank you, Laura,” said Marcello gratefully.Bookmark here

“The amount of stress you’ve been dealing with is unhealthy, sir. I bet you were thinking of shooting yourself with that handgun of yours,” said Laura.Bookmark here

Marcello blanched, almost spilling the coffee. “How did you…?”Bookmark here

“What?” said Christopher and Khalil in unison. “Marcello, what are you even thinking?”Bookmark here

“Sorry, guys. Really,” he said apologetically.Bookmark here

“I have a solution, sir,” said Laura. “For all three of you.”Bookmark here

The men stayed silent.Bookmark here

“Sir, you need some time away from all this. All three of you do. I have an idea. I want you three to go to somewhere peaceful. Somewhere you can discover yourselves. Somewhere where someone will guide you and calm you.”Bookmark here

“Sounds wonderful, Laura,” said Marcello. “But where?”Bookmark here

Laura smiled. “Ever heard of Hemis Monastery, sir?”Bookmark here

“No.”Bookmark here

“It’s one of the oldest Buddhist Monasteries in the world, sir. And it’s the oldest one in India. Many monks live there. Hopefully, they’ll ease your pain.”Bookmark here

“Sounds awfully stereotypical of us Americans,” said Christopher. “Our souls are in turmoil. We go to India to rediscover ourselves and some monk or guru helps us out. Very Hollywood-like!”Bookmark here

“There’s no smoke without fire, sir,” answered Laura. “My husband went there when he lost his job. He came back more confident, and more happy. He now has a new job and a new car and a new garage.”Bookmark here

“Or we go there and get killed off by some random ancient trap there.”Bookmark here

Laura laughed. “I promise you gentlemen, this isn’t anything like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom!”Bookmark here

“Alright, alright,” smiled Marcello. “We’ll leave for a week, gents. I’m tired of this chaos.”Bookmark here

“Touché,” agreed Christopher and Khalil. Bookmark here

“So what’s the plan, Laura?” asked Marcello, now slightly more cheerful.Bookmark here

Laura smiled. “You’ll be landing in New Delhi, sir. And I'll be confiscating your handgun!"Bookmark here

*Bookmark here

George Bush International AirportBookmark here

Houston, TexasBookmark here

USABookmark here

“You’re late, Marcello,” said Khalil cheekily.Bookmark here

“Sorry, man, traffic was murder!” said Marcello.Bookmark here

Khalil raised an eyebrow. “It’s 4 AM, Marcello. What traffic?”Bookmark here

The two men laughed together, excited for their trip. Out of the corner of his eye, Marcello noticed that Christopher wasn’t laughing. “What’s wrong, Christopher? Are you really expecting an Indiana Jones catastrophe there?”Bookmark here

“No,” said Christopher. Then, he looked straight into Marcello’s eyes.Bookmark here

“I’ve been thinking, Marcello. We have a decent set of bench players. We have some awesome future prospects coming up. We have a good coach in Steven Walker and we have an experienced veteran leader in Danny Reynolds! But deep down, it doesn’t feel like enough!”Bookmark here

“What does this team really need to succeed, Marcello?”Bookmark here

Marcello smiled. He patted Christopher’s shoulders.Bookmark here

“What this team really needs, Chris, is a face, in other words, a franchise-level player. We need someone who can change the fate of this team, and represent this city for years to come.”Bookmark here

“We need a game-changer, Chris!”Bookmark here

Author’s MessageBookmark here

Hey guys! Thanks for sticking with the story so far! I’m so gladdened to see that I now have 5000+ views, and 250+ likes! Please continue to stay with the tale till the very end!Bookmark here

If anyone has any questions or doubts with anything I’ve written or mentioned in the story, feel free to ask me in the comments. I understand I’ve included quite a bunch of things in my story, and not everyone will understand everything. I might have missed some explanations in the endnotes. Any questions, ask me in the comments. I’ll be happy to answer!Bookmark here

Godspeed, guys.Bookmark here

Cheers!Bookmark here

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