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Chapter 5: Tidings

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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. In the multi-colony pitch, Loki, Diana, and Apollo represent Tizz.

[This is the fifth chapter from Nilanjana Dey’s novella,The Crossover. Read Ch. 1Ch. 2, Ch. 3, Ch. 4]

Chapter 5:

Hermes had heard the rumour and was hurrying down to their head office hoping to meet Hercules there. He saw a familiar face at a distance. He thought very hard and yet could not recall the name. The white ant on the other side was slowly crawling up the road. Hermes thought he was finding it difficult to walk on all six. Hermes nodded to the familiar face; the ant gave him a vague smile.

“Hello,” Hermes began the conversation, “how are you doing?”

The ant nodded, indicating nothing. Hermes was struggling to remember his name. The ant excused himself and walked away.  Hermes looked around. Everything seemed to look dull and tired with droopy white ants walking around dragging themselves to their regular chores.

“What’s happening here? Everybody is looking so drowsy?” Hermes began talking to himself and realized that he was on a different mission and should not get distracted.

Dry strands of grass were lying here and there. The ringers were no longer popular in Sopora. Hermes smiled to himself, “I was such a fool to get worried about new technology.” The corridors leading to the head office were too quiet.

Hercules was pacing up and down his office. Dry strands of grass were scattered all over. Hermes looked around with a questioning gaze.

“I have sacked the ringers,” Hercules announced.

“Why?” Hermes heard his voice chuckle.

““You sound relieved!” Hercules snapped and added, “Anyway, how does it matter to you?”

“Can I not be curious? After all I belong to Sopora.”

“It was taking too much of our time and resources and not exactly working the way we wanted it to work.”

“Is this technology failing everywhere?”

“I don’t know. The ringers said that dry grass was not the appropriate medium. They should have said that earlier.”

Hermes was wondering if Hercules had heard the rumour. Hercules did not keep him guessing for long, “I am sure you have heard the rumour.”

Hermes looked on.  He wondered who should say it first.

Hercules casually disclosed, “Tizz has won the pitch!”

“Is this the official news?”

“No. But it is from a confirmed source.”

“So Diana’s designs won the day!” Hermes smirked.

“Looks like and they don’t seem to have taken low costs into consideration.”

“Do you still think throwing Diana and Apollo out was a profitable decision?”

“Let us wait and watch.” Hercules took a deep breath and left his office.

***

The rumour had reached Tizz too. Apollo had heard it first and rushed to Diana’s apartment next door to convey the message. Diana was quiet and composed, leaving Apollo bewildered.

“You don’t look happy at all,” Apollo could not hold himself for long.

“I am…but this is definitely the right time.”

“For what?”

“To demand our business partnership.”

“Diana, you are obsessed with this partnership thing. After a long time our work has been recognized and this is time to rejoice.”

“That is exactly my point. This is the time to milk the recognition. Let us go to Loki and put forward our rights.”

“You want to demand partnership?”

“It is our right.”

Apollo exhaled, “Don’t you think you are too ambitious?”

“Am I? Asking for what is rightfully yours is ambition?”

Apollo did not know what to say, but Diana continued, “If you don’t want to, don’t come with me. But then I think as a partner of The Outcasts you should also aim for business partnership with Tizz.

Apollo trudged along with Diana to ‘The Den’ to meet Loki. A group had gathered to congratulate Loki. He was looking very happy as they praised his designing and presentation skills. Loki saw Diana and Apollo and stood up, “Meet my partners…the ones who were there with me at the pitch.”

The group now congratulated all of them.

“Is the news confirmed?” A sombre looking white ant asked.

“Well Njord,” Loki replied, “I believe my sources.”

Njord looked even more sombre. Loki excused himself from the group and walked along with Diana and Apollo to his Den.

“I am very happy,” Loki said as he sat in his huge chair.

Diana and Apollo looked at each other.

Loki picked up the receiver of his strand connection and smiled, “Technology is wonderful.”

“The strands look like limbs,” Apollo finally mentioned.

“Oh yes, they are.” Loki laughed aloud.

“Really?” Apollo was shocked.

“Of course…”

Loki examined the baffled faces of Diana and Apollo and grunted, “Whoever has left me or Tizz has given one of their six limbs as a parting gift.”

“Did you get to know which design won us the pitch?” Diana diverted the conversation.

“No young lady…we will need the official confirmation for that.”

“I think this is the right time,” Diana whispered to Apollo.

“Whispering in front of someone else is bad manners, young lady.” Loki snorted and continued, “I have more news for you.” He rang a bell and two other white ants came in. One was Njord and the other one was yet to be introduced.

“Meet Skathi and Njord,” Loki announced as he introduced the new members to Diana and Apollo, “They will assist you two in the new work that we will do for the Queen.” They exchanged cordial glances. Skathi and Njord excused themselves.

Finally Diana spoke, “Loki, we are yet to finalise if we are your employees or business partners.”

Apollo wondered if this was the right time to say but then he observed that Loki was looking at Diana very admiringly.

“I have heard about your courage…” Loki began and smiled, “but persistence is also a very good attribute.”

Diana’s eyebrows creased in enquiry as Loki now turned his gaze to Apollo, “Do you also have the same question?”

“Yes,” Apollo coughed.

“It is not that I have not thought about it, but then I am waiting for the official confirmation. Can you both wait till that?”

Diana and Apollo nodded and left the room. Diana was silent in the cubicle. Apollo observed, “You are too silent for my comfort.”

Skathi knocked and entered, “Up for lunch?”

Apollo followed her but Diana stayed back, “I am too full now.”

***

The Q-Minions’ Vice Captain made a visit to Tizz. Loki had decorated the whole colony to welcome him. He personally stood at the entry to receive the Vice Captain. Skathi and Njord were standing along with him with presents to be handed over to the Q-Minions and the Queen.

Diana confided to Apollo, “Are we outsiders still?”

“No.” Apollo assured, “Perhaps they know Loki for a longer time.”

“But, of course.”

Skathi was adjusting her dress and the welcome kit. She nudged Njord, “Am I looking alright?”

“You look the same always!” Njord commented and observed, “But that armlet on your mid-left arm looks misplaced.”

Skathi handed over the welcome kit to Njord as she tried adjusting her armlet.

The Vice Captain entered that very moment and Njord happily handed over the welcome kit. Loki looked disapprovingly at Skathi, who was still adjusting her armlet, and smiled at the Vice Captain, “Welcome to Tizz. We are very happy to have you here.”

The Vice Captain did not look very impressed, “I am here on official duty. I am supposed to hand over some documents.”

“Of course,” Loki said. “Let us sit in my office and have a conversation.”

In Loki’s office, the Vice Captain refused all refreshments. He quickly pulled out a dry grass sealed envelope announcing Tizz as the winner. He brought with him an advance of three pieces of royal wood with the Queen’s seal on it. A sample of the chosen design was also enclosed.

“I am honoured.” Loki spread his antennae in gratitude and received the envelopes. He held them close to his nose and savoured royal presence. He then handed over the envelope to Skathi.

“We have arranged for a small…” Loki began only to be interrupted by the Vice Captain.

“As I mentioned before, I am on duty. I cannot accept anything.”

“No problem,” Skathi cheerfully said.

“I need to make a move now.” The Vice Captain completed his job and moved on. Loki escorted him out.

“These Q-Minions and their drama!” Njord grumbled only to be stung by Skathi.

[This is the fifth chapter from Nilanjana Dey’s novella,The Crossover. Read Ch. 1Ch. 2, Ch. 3, Ch. 4]

Author:
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: nilanjanadey@gmail.com.

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***

Read the latest issues of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on Short Stories, themed around ‘Night’, edited by author, Sumana Roy.

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