By Nilanjana Dey
The story so far:
Set in the land of white ants, The Crossover is the story of Diana and Apollo. They reside in one of the colonies of white ants called, Sopora. The commander-in-chief of Sopora is Hercules, who believes in exercising strict control over his subjects. While that may work for the rest of the white ants, Diana and Apollo are not happy. They gradually turn into disgruntled artists, bored of their regular job that provides them with no creative satisfaction whatsoever. Hercules is irked with them as well, since they do not seem to fit into his scheme of things. They often undermine his authority and do as they please. He confronts them and eventually releases them from his services.
Undisturbed by this setback, Diana and Apollo open a boutique of their own called, The Outcasts and leave Sopora to find better avenues.
Loki, the commander-in-chief of the neighbouring colony, Tizz, welcomes them with open arms as he wishes to provide them with ample opportunity to showcase their talent.
Diana and Apollo were waiting eagerly at ‘The Den’ for the brief. Apollo noticed Loki’s strand-connection. The strands did look like limbs of white ants. Diana kept tapping her feet on the ground and spared occasional glances at the door expecting Loki.
As her feet finally rested on the ground, she confided to Apollo, “We should have gone for this briefing. It always helps to hear the brief first-hand.”
Apollo was busy examining the strand-connection rather closely.
“What do you think?” Diana said.
Before Apollo could answer, Loki entered with three others. He began, “I hope both of you are well-rested.”
Diana replied immediately, “Oh yes, we are very eager to know what the brief is.” Apollo agreed with a slight nod.
“You are very impatient, young lady,” Loki laughed. “A little bit of patience and you will know exactly what needs to be known.”
Diana chose to let Loki take on the lead. After a while, Loki began, “We have got an open brief to create art to adorn Her Majesty’s abode. The challenge is that nobody knows what will please Her Majesty. Hence we will all have to guess and create!”
“Did you not meet the Queen?” Diana seemed puzzled.
Loki looked at Diana and smiled, “Being a woman, I am sure you know how difficult it is to please your kind. They keep on changing their mind all the time.”
“Did the Queen say what she expects from the design?” Diana groped for a brief.
“Well, at the cost of sounding repetitive, I must say that it is an open brief.” Loki responded.
Apollo intervened, “So do you have anything in mind?”
“Well, that is why I have hired you two. So that I don’t have to take a crack at everything.”
Diana and Apollo were quiet as Loki continued, “Why don’t you come up with some concepts? We can then see what works best.”
Diana and Apollo reached the door when Loki added, “Maybe this is the right platform to try Diana’s zigzag designs that Hercules never understood.”
Hercules kept staring at his strand-connection. The dry grass strands were breaking off in no time and the ringers were having a difficult time trying to replace them. Hercules sighed, “Pitfalls of technology. And I thought we were the most connected community!”
Hermes sat in front of Hercules grinning. The inefficiency of the new technology has made his possibility of getting redundant quite remote.
“You look quite happy,” Hercules observed.
His grin suddenly changed into a serious grimace as Hermes asked, “How did the meeting with the Queen go?”
“What meeting? Her Majesty did not turn up! Her representatives spoke.”
“Oh really?” Hermes looked surprised. “But the invite mentioned that the Queen wanted to address all commanders.”
“Yeah,” Hercules said, “But Her Majesty did a no-show.”
“What do they want?”
“To create pieces of art for Her Majesty.”
“Oh, so who will do that in Sopora?”
“I really don’t know,” replied Hercules anxiously.
“Do you want to call Diana and Apollo back?”
“Are you sure?”
“Well, this is just one project. Their attitude will continue after this project too.”
“Then Sopora will not win this bid,” Hermes sighed.
“No,” Hercules sounded firm.
Hermes noticed a twinkle in Hercules’ eye as he spoke, “The bid is based on design and cost. Our design will cost the least.”
“The Queen will settle for the cheapest?”
“Well, Her Majesty was not there. And who knows what happens in the big castle. Let us quote less and see if we get the project.”
“What if Diana’s designs win the day?” Hermes could not ignore that possibility.
Hercules smirked as he began examining the strand-connection once again.
Diana’s eyes were glued to the pieces of wood that lay in front of her. She examined the shapes and the textures closely and put them back.
Apollo was itching for a conversation, but he was sure that this was not the right time. He examined certain pieces too, but did not understand how to begin the zigzag designs.
“Apollo,” Diana’s voice rang from the depths of her world of thoughts.
Apollo looked on expectantly as Diana continued, “Who do you think told Loki about our zigzag designs?”
Apollo had no clue and neither was he interested. “How does that matter Diana? We need to figure out this brief!”
“Hmmm…so do you have an idea?”
“Well, I have a vibrant idea.”
Diana stared curiously. Apollo looked a little hesitant as he spoke, “You see it is not exactly an idea related to design. Of course we will design, but then I am thinking big.”
“What is the thought?”
“I am thinking that we should own the platform?”
Apollo took a deep breath and explained, “See, the Queen has called for a pitch. All the colonies of white ants are invited to present their designs and Her Majesty will choose.”
“So my idea is let us own the idea of the pitch.”
“What? They have already decided that!” Diana sounded exasperated.
“So what? We go back to them saying that we turn the pitch to an event. In the event, all the best designers from various white ant colonies will be invited. The best design will win. But…but…the event will be our brain child. We will do extensive PR across colonies of white ants under Her Majesty. Tizz will be perceived to lead the event and we will get extensive mileage from the PR surrounding this event. Also, we will come across as somebody closer to Her Majesty since we are leading this event.” Apollo concluded and exhaled.
“But what if somebody else crafts the best design and wins the pitch? Should we not focus our energies on creating the craft rather than creating noise?”
“Diana, we know we are excellent artists, but PR is required all the time. It is not noise. Besides, if we are in control of the event, we will also be partly in control in deciding the winner.”
“You will manipulate the winner?”
Apollo shrugged as Diana continued, “This is not the brief. Why don’t you vet this with Loki once?”
Meeting Loki was not that easy but his assistant finally gave them the much sought-after window for the meeting. Loki did not look very happy to meet them. He looked grim as he examined them inside ‘The Den’.
“We just need to vet something,” Diana sensed Loki’s mood.
Loki’s face bore an expression of peeved inquisition.
Diana continued, “Apollo has a wonderful idea for this pitch.”
Loki inspected Apollo closely as he narrated the idea. He then commented, “Well, the thought of an event may not be accepted by Her Majesty. We are expected to craft a design. I thought I had mentioned that we need the zigzag design. It is novel and nobody has seen it before.”
“Who has told you about the zigzag design?” Diana blurted out.
Loki walked up to her and spoke very calmly, “If I have hired you, it is because I know a lot more about you than what you think I do.”
“Well then, I will create my zigzag designs.”
“Yes, and the zigs and zags should be uniform,” Loki replied in a steely voice.
“Designs have to be uniform…always,” Loki directed.
“That is the artist’s prerogative. In any case, uniform designs may be boring.”
Apollo intervened, “Let us begin designing. We can reconvene and see how we can take it forward.”
Loki kept quiet while Diana looked away.
Inside their cubicle, Diana smiled at Apollo as she explained to him how to create the zigzag designs. “Smell for the weakest spot, bite into it, and then bite out.”
“Is it that simple?” Apollo was surprised as he smelt for the weakest spot. He found none and looked very confused.
“One has to develop a nose for finding the weakest spot.” Diana consoled him and helped him identify the weakest spot. “The rest will be easy, I suppose.”
Diana smiled as she picked up another wood and examined it closely.
“Are you smelling the weakest spot?” Apollo asked.
“I am studying the texture.”
Diana kept the wood down as she looked at Apollo, “The texture will decide the length of the zigs and the zags.”
“But Loki said…”
“Never mind what he said…” Diana found another piece of wood with a different texture and began examining it rather meticulously.
Loki seemed to be in a good mood when Diana and Apollo went in with the zigzag designs. He laughed, “I know you two have the potential to win this business for us. And once we enter the Queen’s good offices, there will be no looking back. Tizz will be rated the best colony amongst white ants.”
Apollo was pulling out different pieces of wood, where he had created the different zigzag patterns. Loki examined them closely.
“I really have not seen anything like this before,” Loki happily looked at Diana.
“Well, Apollo designed them,” Diana said.
“Really? I thought it is your design.”
“All the designs are uniform. How about exploring designs that are not uniform?” Loki asked Apollo.
“I thought you had earlier said that you do not want non-uniform designs,” Apollo sounded surprised.
“Oh really, did I?” Loki did not seem to remember.
“Well, okay…we’ll look at other designs,” Diana intervened. She paused for a while and said quietly, “I wish to ask you something.”
“Please go ahead. We are partners. Things should be transparent between us,” Loki played along.
“We are not sure if we are working with you as employees of Tizz or as business partners where you are partnering with The Outcasts?” Diana asked, her tone sounding very firm.
Loki introspected for a while and answered, “I have not really given it a thought. But what would you prefer?”
“The way we see, The Outcasts would rather be business partners with Tizz,” Diana concluded.
“Apollo, you feel the same way?” Loki asked.
“Yes, of course,” Apollo leaned ahead.
“Well, in that case, let me give this a thought. But I’m sure it would not impact this pitch,” Loki sounded tentative.
“Not at all.” Diana and Apollo assured him.
Back in their cubicle, Apollo cornered Diana, “You did not tell me that you would speak about the partnership?”
“I did not plan it. It was in my head and my tongue just betrayed me!” Diana said frankly.
Apollo seemed to understand, but then another thought struck him, “When are creating your new designs?”
“We were working together, I thought.”
“You have not created any new designs?”
Diana smiled, “Que sera sera…”
A post-graduate in English Literature, Nilanjana Dey is a marketing and communication professional based out of Mumbai, India. Her first novel, a children’s tale, The Adventures of Puti – The Cheese Trail, was published last year. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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