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 named 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. An opportunity comes when the Queen calls for a pitch and asks all the colonies of white ants to participate. Loki allocates the responsibility of the designs to Diana and Apollo.
Tizz was busy preparing for D-Day. Diana and Apollo were constantly creating and recreating designs based on Loki’s “evolving” feedback. Loki was just not happy with anything. Diana and Apollo were re-crafting another piece of wood again in their cubicle.
Finally a flustered Apollo sighed, “Well, he should know what he wants!”
“He has anyway blamed it on the female of the species!” Diana reminded Apollo.
“Yeah …but he should know what he would like to present at least.”
“Second guessing someone is not always easy. And he did not seem to have any direction after the brief,” Diana reasoned. “In any case, we should present our work,” she had already decided that.
Slowly, Diana pulled out a big dry grass envelope.
“What is that?” Apollo’s eyes betrayed curiosity.
Diana handed him the envelope that read: ‘Designs for Her Majesty’ from The Outcasts.
Apollo pulled out the designs. He examined them for a while and smiled at Diana, “These are really exquisite. When did you create them?”
“I have been designing them for a while. We would need some of your PR ideas to push these through.”
“Let us share them with Loki,” Apollo suggested.
“No.” Diana sounded firm and continued, “Loki does not understand design at all.”
“Then should we not present these to Her Majesty?”
“We need to find other means to get through to her.” Diana paused and reflected as she spoke, “I am concerned since Loki has not yet clarified whether we are business partners or employees…”
“Should we check once again?”
“I think we should wait for him to get back. Let this pitch get over.”
Loki looked very anxious on the day of the pitch. He scrutinized each and every design very closely and kept whispering to himself.
Diana asked, “Should we present our designs?”
“No,” Loki’s voice was shrill. He controlled himself, “Just because I think I know what Her Majesty wants.”
“But we would be able to explain our designs better,” Diana was not the one to give up easily.
“Diana, I think I know what I am doing,” Loki’s nose started swelling with anger.
Apollo tapped on Diana’s shoulder. She kept quiet as they packed the designs into dry grass envelopes. Loki was busy counting the number of envelopes. He looked happy with the quantity of work. As Loki walked out, Apollo thought he saw Diana slip in the envelope titled, The Outcasts, into another big envelope.
Diana, Apollo, and Loki headed towards the parking zone. D’s Torrent, parked in a corner, was just waiting to be boarded upon. Loki walked towards D’s Torrent and said, “Diana, let’s take your vehicle. I am too tired to drive mine now.”
Diana had no choice. The three alighted the vehicle and sped to the pitch.
White ants from various colonies had assembled in the lobby. Hercules and Hermes sat in a corner waiting. Diana, Apollo, and Loki were the last to enter. Hermes waved and smiled at Diana and Apollo.
“Hermes, behave yourself,” Hercules grunted. “You don’t have to be over-friendly with those two.”
“Well, I never had any problems with them. And this is corporate etiquette,” Hermes laughed and walked down to Diana and Apollo. He cheerfully greeted them and looked at Loki, “Happy to meet you again.”
“Same here,” Loki replied while holding on to the grass envelopes.
As Hermes walked back, Apollo whispered, “Diana, did I see you slip our designs into those packets?”
“Yes, you never know when the right moment comes.”
“But he has the designs,” Apollo cautioned.
“Let us see what happens,” Diana looked away as she began examining representatives of other colonies.
The Queen’s representatives arrived punctually and requested all the colonies to be seated in an alphabetical order. Much to Hercules’s annoyance, Tizz sat next to Sopora. Hermes looked very happy as he kept chatting with Diana and Apollo.
“Look at those two,” Hermes chuckled pointing to Hercules and Loki who sat on corners looking grumpy, “I think in their heads they are fighting a duel.”
“When do you think the Queen will come?” Apollo asked.
“Her Majesty? You think she will show up?” Hermes sounded tentative.
“Yes. That is what Loki told us,” Diana replied.
“Well,” Hermes shrugged, “The lady did not turn up during the briefing and I don’t think she’ll turn up now either.”
Diana and Apollo looked at each other. Hermes guessed it, “Did you two not know that she did a no-show at the briefing?”
Before they could answer, the Queen’s representatives came once again. The oldest of them announced, “Unfortunately, Her Majesty has been held up once again. She sends her apologies and has requested you all to share your designs with The Q-Minions. They will choose the best designs and present the same to Her Majesty. Please add the costs as well.”
The Q-Minions came to the forefront. The oldest of them introduced himself as The Q-Minions Captain and indicated a conference room at the corner. He mentioned that he would like to meet all of them in the conference room in the alphabetical order.
Diana dragged Apollo to a corner, “I think we need to speak to Loki. He never mentioned that the Queen was absent during the briefing.”
“I don’t think this is the right time. And how does it matter? He would anyway take all the calls,” Apollo advised.
“No, I thought he was guessing what the Queen wants according to the brief, but if he hasn’t even met her then how can he second guess?
“Maybe…Loki had met the Queen earlier and was guessing on the basis of that.”
“Well…” Diana began and suddenly stopped as Loki approached them.
“Last minute changes,” Loki scratched his head. “I think you guys should present your designs. A creator can always explain his designs the best.” He handed over the envelope to Apollo and excused himself.
Diana was angry, “Now that the Queen is not there, he decides to leave the presentation to us!”
All colonies had to present in alphabetical order. Sopora was presenting inside while Tizz was waiting outside the conference room for their turn. Hercules and Hermes walked out of the conference room.
“They look blank,” Apollo observed.
“When have they ever looked bright?” Loki sneered.
Diana, Apollo, and Loki entered the conference room. The members of the Q-Minions were seated at the end of the table. The Q-Minions Captain was seated at the head of the table. Diana, Apollo, and Loki stood at the other end. The Q-Minions Captain introduced the one sitting on his right as the Q-Minions Vice-Captain. The rest of the members were not introduced.
“You can present your designs,” The Q-Minions Captain began closely scrutinizing the three, “and once you finish, please pack them back and put them on the table there.” He pointed to a table at the corner.
“Diana will talk you through the designs,” Loki announced.
“Sure. I am Diana, he is Apollo, and he is Loki,” Diana began to give a short introduction of her team.
“Sorry young lady,” The Q-Minions Captain interrupted, “Here we are all known by our designations and functions. Our individual identities are not that important when we are at Her Majesty’s service.”
Diana was stumped, “Oh…then I will skip the same.” She began unpacking the envelopes. Apollo helped her as Loki sat down in the corner.
Diana explained the designs – the straight ones, the random curves, and the zigzag ones. Only one of the members of the Q-Minions, who looked like the youngest one, kept nodding his head. The rest held blank expressions on their faces throughout the presentation. When Diana completed the presentation, she looked at them eagerly for some response.
The Q-Minions Captain extended his antennae and examined the designs. He first smelt the wood, then delved into the patterns, and kept smelling the layouts. Finally he concluded, “I’d say that was a rather interesting presentation.”
“Yes. It was different from the rest,” The Q-Minions Vice-Captain seemed to agree.
“Thank you for presenting. We will share everything with Her Majesty soon and get back to you. Can you please pack everything and keep it there, on that table, as agreed?”
Diana and Apollo packed all their designs and walked up to the table. They then neatly arranged the packets. Apollo noticed that Diana had pulled out the packet titled, The Outcasts. She placed it on the table as Apollo looked around to check on Loki. He had already left the room.
Back at Tizz, Diana looked visibly upset when Apollo met her later.
“Is it still bothering you?” Apollo sounded concerned.
“Should it not?” Diana wondered. She added, “Loki does not clear his stance about our deal. He hides the fact that the Queen was not there for the brief. He decides to present it himself, but dumps it on us the last moment. Don’t you think we need to have a conversation about what’s going on?”
“I still don’t think it is the right moment, Diana. This is our first project here. Let us see how it goes.”
“When do you think the right time will come?” Diana snapped.
“Hopefully soon. Besides, we cannot keep on fighting with our bosses all the time. Earlier it was Hercules and now Loki.”
Diana sighed as both of them retired for the day in their respective apartments.
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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