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. Diana and Apollo embrace this opportunity to showcase their talent and decide to cross over to Tizz. An opportunity arrives when the Queen calls for a pitch from all the colonies of white ants. Loki allocates the responsibility of the designs to Diana and Apollo. In the multi-colony pitch that ensues, Tizz emerges the winner.
Tizz was rejoicing with the news. There was a new excitement in the air as the white ants of Tizz woke up to the fact that they were the chosen ones in the multi-colony pitch. Loki was often caught chatting with his team members. He even offered the much awaited business partnership to Diana and Apollo and even organized a separate cell for The Outcasts to work uninterruptedly at their workplace.
“Happy that we are partners now?” Apollo asked Diana in their cell.
“Don’t forget we are still awaiting the final document confirming the same. That will tell us if Loki has agreed to our terms and conditions,” Diana reminded Apollo.
“Diana, you seem to be thinking too much nowadays.”
Diana chose not to respond. She was busy trying to figure out the process to produce the awarded design in multiples.
“Her Majesty’s mementoes have made you restless?” Apollo remarked.
“Hmm… I am wondering how to train others in recreating this design. After all these will be given away by the Queen! They have to be similar and yet distinct from each other!”
“Why? I found crafting them rather easy.”
“That is because you are artistically inclined. But most of the white ants are used to biting straight and therefore it is easier to carve straight designs. Curves are not so easy to create.”
Diana examined the piece of wood closely and continued, “Besides, it will also take a lot of time.”
“So, why don’t you take classes and train the white ants in Tizz to create the design. We can call it ‘The Class of The Outcasts’.” Apollo enjoyed his own joke.
Diana smiled too, “Yeah… now that we are partners…”
She trailed off as Skathi had entered the cubicle. Diana asked, “Do you wish to convey anything?”
“No, I just came,” Skathi said merrily.
“Would request you to please tap and come in,” Diana sounded firm.
“I am sorry,” Skathi excused herself.
“You were rude,” Apollo said to Diana.
“I don’t care.”
“She is a sweet harmless girl.”
“You seem to know her very well!”
There was a tap on the door. Skathi entered again and announced that Loki wished to meet them.
Diana, Apollo, Skathi, and Njord were seated in Loki’s Den. Loki was closely examining some strange designs carved with mud on a rickety piece of wood. He smiled to himself and looked up, “Apollo, do you recognize this?”
Apollo walked up to the piece of wood. It was the map of ‘Sprinty Ants’ – a race among all white ant colonies that he had organized during his tenure at Sopora. He caressed it with his antennae.
“Don’t get so emotional, Apollo,” Loki said as he walked to the map. “We are planning another rendition of the same event.”
Apollo looked surprised as Loki continued, “This will be our PR exercise. We will celebrate our victory by hosting an event. The event will mark the onset of our association with Her Majesty.”
“But,” Diana interrupted, “Loki, we are supposed to work on the design that is shortlisted…”
Loki did not allow her to complete, “Diana, all that will happen. Let us first celebrate the victory. We should use Apollo’s expertise and generate some buzz around our victory.”
Diana looked at the glowing face of Apollo and decided to keep quiet. Loki continued, “Apollo, we have been thinking already. We do not think we should use the same old brand name. Skathi here has already thought of a new one.”
“Whizzy ants,” Skathi announced happily.
“And the prize will be the three pieces of royal wood that we have received.” Loki seemed to have decided on almost everything.
“But giving away the Queen’s seal can lead to disastrous consequences,” Njord warned.
“Be positive, Njord,” Skathi and Loki said in a chorus.
Diana was sitting alone in her cell examining another piece of wood. She looked at it closely and put it down. A zigzag design on this would not look good, she thought to herself. A faint tap on the door infringed upon her thoughts. Njord had entered the cell and was looking around at the pieces of wood that lay haphazardly. He smiled at Diana, “Missing Apollo?”
Diana shrugged, “I am used to working by myself.”
Njord sat down and continued, “I was just walking around. Everybody is busy with ‘Whizzy Ants’.”
He looked at Diana and tried to gauge her mind, “Have you guys worked for a long time?”
Diana nodded without looking up.
“So have you not been part of ‘Whizzy Ants’ before?”
Diana snapped, “How long have you been working in the design team?”
Njord screamed aloud, suddenly. He stood up and ran away. Diana was shocked and looked around. A tiny micro-flea kept buzzing around her ears. She waved it off and went back to the pieces of wood.
Not before long, hurried footsteps approached her cell. Njord had come back with three troll ants. One of them was carrying a flea swatter.
“There,” Njord shrieked as he pointed towards the micro-flea sitting on the wall alongside Diana’s table.
“What is the matter?” Diana looked puzzled.
“These micro-fleas are dangerous,” Njord continued in his shrill voice. “They sting and suck out our blood.”
“That is a tiny creature. It is just sitting on the wall.” Diana looked exasperated.
“You have no idea how dangerous they can be,” Njord continued shrieking as he ordered the troll ants, “There… go for it. He should not be able to escape.”
The troll ant with the flea swatter climbed on to Diana’s table. The other two flew up around him. Together they surrounded the micro-flea. Diana had never seen a flying troll ant before.
“We have some flying troll ants here. They are used for emergencies.” Njord looked at the surprised Diana and explained.
“I don’t like such nonsense in my cell. And there is no emergency here,” Diana howled at Njord.
“I was trying to protect you…” Njord looked at Diana’s enraged face.
The troll ants were desperately trying to knock down the micro-flea. The flea had flown up and so had the flying troll ants. The one with the flea swatter was jumping up trying to reach the flea. He kicked all the pieces of wood that lay on Diana’s table. As the pieces of wood fell down, Diana suggested, “Why don’t you hand over the flea swatter to your flying colleagues?”
“Brilliant idea,” Njord commented as the troll ant handed over the flea swatter to his flying colleagues.
Finally, the micro-flea was pinned down. “Congratulations… great job done,” Njord smiled at the troll ants. They gleefully accepted the compliment and waited.
“Umm… do you have any sweets?” Njord asked Diana. She glared back at him as he continued explaining, “They are expecting something for this service.”
“What service? I never called them.”
Njord mumbled something to them and they walked off grudgingly. He looked around the cell. It was in a total mess with all the pieces of wood lying on the floor.
“Let me help you put them back,” Njord gallantly offered. Diana did not move. Njord picked up all the pieces and put them back on the table. He smiled at Diana, “We have got rid of the flea and have also organised everything.”
“You don’t look very happy,” Njord asked Diana. She exhaled deeply. Njord stood there confused, “Is there anything I can do?”
“Was there a storm in the cell?” Diana looked around to see that Apollo had entered and was in a good mood. Skathi was standing right behind him.
“Hey, how is ‘Whizzy Ants’ going?” Njord asked Apollo.
“Njord, what are you doing here?” Skathi enquired.
“Organising my cell,” Diana responded.
Skathi led Njord out as Apollo looked around the cell, “What has happened here?”
“Nothing. How is the event turning up?”
“Very good, I’d say. Loki has given me a lot of independence to organize the event the way I want it. And he is very sure that the troll ants will win the race. They won it the last time, remember?”
“Yeah, I do. Are flying troll ants also participating?”
Apollo looked at her shocked, “I am sure you know…”
“That the trolls who develop wings are not allowed to participate in the race. You have to run, not fly ahead when others are running.”
“In any case, if the troll ants participate, then the royal pieces of wood stay at Tizz.”
“That is the plan!” Apollo hesitated for a while and asked, “We have been discussing…”
“What?” Diana sounded impatient as she kept examining the wood.
“Can we use your vehicle to invite certain core people to the event?”
“Do any of you know how to ride it?”
“So am I expected to play chauffeur?”
Apollo left the cell without answering. Diana looked at the pieces of wood lying around and tried to organise them the way she had done it earlier. On her way back to the apartment, she took a detour to the parking lot. The sentry stood there, as usual, as Diana examined D’s Torrent.
“Lady…” The sentry began as he looked at D’s Torrent, “Too many questions are being asked about your vehicle.”
Diana looked at her vehicle parked right next to Loki’s vehicle and wondered who all were asking too many questions. The sentry continued, “There is another parking lot, a little distance away from here. Not many people park there. Would you like to shift there?”
“I’ll think and let you know,” Diana answered and walked away.
Tizz was beaming on the day of the event. White ants from different colonies had participated in this much awaited annual event. ‘Whizzy Ants’ would conclude their race at Tizz. The whole colony of white ants had gathered to cheer for their winners as most of them were sure that the troll ants would win the race.
Diana sat in the crowd along with white ants from many other colonies. She looked ahead at the track. Hermes sprinted up to her and smiled, “Congrats Diana.”
“Thank You. Has Sopora not participated?”
“We are too sleepy nowadays. Who has the energy?” Hermes chuckled and continued, “Besides, we were the hosts last time and even then nobody participated.”
Diana looked at the troll ants leading the race. Ants from other white ant colonies were lagging far behind.
“Not fair,” Hermes told Diana, “The troll ants are much stronger than all of us. So in any case, they will win. Tizz is very smart. They announce the prize as pieces of royal wood and get the troll ants to participate. That way they generate PR and also keep the awards.”
Diana was engrossed in the last leg of the race. Hermes went on, “I think I should speak to Apollo on this unfair race…”
His voice trailed off as a nimble-footed white ant overtook the troll ants. A second one followed him. They came from nowhere and just overtook the troll ants at the last moment. The race concluded with these two unknown faces reaching the finishing line before others.
“They are from Canny,” Hermes whispered to Diana, “the new colony that has been formed by five legged white ants from Loki’s Den. Rumour has it that the sixth leg is left behind at Loki’s.”
In the award ceremony that followed, Loki had to give away two royal pieces of wood that were given to him by the Q-Minions. A troll ant received the third one.
Diana was immersed in her thoughts as she walked back to her apartment.
“Lady…” A voice called her from behind.
The sentry was sprinting to reach her. “Someone has tried to harm your vehicle.”
They rushed to the parking zone to check out D’s Torrent.
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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