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 amongst 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. Loki announces an inter-colony race ‘Whizzy Ants’ to celebrate the victory. The prize for the race are the three royal gifts that the Queen has presented to them when they won the multi-colony pitch. In an unprecedented turn of events, Tizz manages to retain only one of the royal gifts.
Diana and the sentry reached the parking lot. D’s Torrent stood at the corner with the huge leaf mutilated from the middle. Diana climbed the vehicle and caressed the injured spine with her antennae. She examined each and every vein to check if there were further damages.
“You look very upset, Lady,” the sentry said as he looked at Diana’s drooped antennae.
“Someone or something heavy was kept on the vehicle,” Diana sounded furious.
The sentry stood under the leaf and examined it. His face betrayed his discernment.
“You know who has done this?” Diana probed.
The sentry looked around as he began to speak very softly, “Lady…it looks like someone heavy tried to embark on your vehicle!”
“In Tizz, the troll ants are the heaviest.”
Diana climbed down from her vehicle and faced the sentry, “So the troll ants dared to climb my vehicle?”
“Please speak softly Lady… where is the proof?” The sentry warned Diana of her increasing decibels.
“I will complain to Loki about this,” Diana’s throat choked up.
“Lady… the troll ants only work under instructions.”
“So, Loki has asked them to do this?”
“I did not say so!”
“But you just said…” Diana’s voice trailed off. “Where is the other parking zone?” Diana climbed on to her vehicle and slowly started monitoring it.
The sentry directed her as Diana gradually parked D’s Torrent there.
“Nobody comes here, so your vehicle is likely to be safer.”
“Well…” Diana began and controlled herself. She groped her purse and found a sweet. Smiling, she extended it to the sentry. He just nodded, “That is not required Lady. I have just done my duty.”
Diana retired in her apartment wondering what to do next. She looked up the strand-connection chart and dialed Apollo’s extension.
An unprepared feminine voice responded, “Uhh…Hello…”
“Skathi, what are you doing in Apollo’s apartment?” Diana demanded.
“He…I mean Apollo asked me to get something. Do you want to leave a message?”
“Yes…ask him to call me back as soon as he can.”
Diana lay on her bed hoping to catch some sleep before she began her plan of action.
The next day, ‘The Den’ looked very somber. Loki had left strict instructions that nobody should disturb him.
Skathi, Njord, and Apollo waited outside his office wondering what to do next.
“Should we just knock and ask what the matter is?” Apollo suggested.
“Well, we all know the matter, don’t we?” Njord sounded cynical.
“In a sport some win, some lose. That is always how it is!” Apollo did not understand what the big deal was.
“It may not be wise to sound out this philosophy to Loki at the moment,” Njord advised. He looked at Skathi, “You are too silent today. Tired after the race?”
“Everything can be heard from inside,” Skathi whispered.
Loki opened the door and asked the three of them to enter his office. He again locked the door tightly.
“Where is Diana?” Loki asked Apollo.
“I really do not know. I have not seen her since morning,” Apollo’s voice echoed concern.
“Anyway…” Loki began as he walked close to his strand connection. He lifted up the receiver and said, “This has kept me busy and there is some news.”
“Good or bad?” Njord asked.
“I am not sure as of now. You remember Prom?” Loki asked Skathi and Njord.
“Yes.” They replied together.
“He has now joined the Q-Minions and is planning to visit us,” Loki exclaimed.
Skathi and Njord kept quiet.
“Is it the same Prom who had left Sopora and joined Tizz some days before we joined?” Apollo sounded tentative.
“Yes…” Loki said, “And now he has joined the Q-Minions.”
“So, isn’t it good that we know somebody from the Q-Minions?” Apollo wondered.
“No. We had a difference of opinion and he left.” Loki explained. “Anyway, let us start the proceeding to give him a warm welcome.” He opened the door of his office indicating he again needed privacy.
Skathi, Njord, and Apollo walked out of his cabin. A troll ant was waiting outside. He entered the office and the door shut once again.
Tizz was again decorated for welcoming Prom. Loki personally stood at the entry to welcome him. Skathi, Njord, and Apollo accompanied him. Prom limped his way in along with another colleague. His right mid-leg was covered with a black bandage. Loki seemed to know both of them.
“Welcome Prom and Freya…back home.”
“So kind of you, Loki,” Prom said. “Ah, Apollo you are here, too.” He looked around, “Where is Diana?”
Loki intervened, “Please allow me to introduce Skathi and Njord.”
“New recruits!” Prom observed.
“Let us go to my office and talk,” Loki suggested.
“Ah…‘The Den’… I don’t mind.” Prom moved ahead. Loki walked next to him. “You’ll have to slow down your pace, Loki. As you know, my right mid-leg is a cause for concern.”
Loki was silent as he kept walking along with Prom. Freya walked alongside both of them. Skathi, Njord, and Apollo walked behind.
Inside ‘The Den’, Loki eagerly waited for Prom to communicate the purpose of his visit. Prom limped around Loki’s office and examined each and every little thing. “You have changed your office completely Loki,” he observed and examined the strand-connection. He took a very close look at the strands, scrutinized them with both his forelegs and laughed, “Don’t they look too real?”
“Is there any change from what was communicated to us earlier?” Loki blurted out impatiently.
“Apollo you have not met Freya before, I am sure.” Prom introduced both and they exchanged cordialities.
“Skathi and Njord, are you a core part of the winning team?” Prom was keen to know more.
“Well, yes and no.” Loki was quick to respond. “While the designs were crafted by Diana and Apollo, they were the back-end support.”
“Oh really…but where is Diana?” Prom looked at Apollo and then glanced over to Loki.
“She has been away since morning…” Apollo fumbled.
“We will update her later,” Loki offered.
“Hey Loki, you are really getting a bit too impatient.” Prom laughed and continued, “I know Diana since my Sopora days. One of the best designers I have ever seen. Isn’t it natural for me to miss her, especially when I know the designs were crafted by her?”
“No,” Loki exclaimed and held himself back as Prom looked over. “I mean others also designed. Apollo also crafted some brilliant pieces.”
“Of course, I am sure it was a team effort. I am aware of your team-building and leadership qualities, Loki.” Prom kept on laughing.
Nobody in the room could understand how to continue the discussion. Finally, Prom disclosed, “I am sure you would have guessed it but I need to say that the erstwhile Q-Minions have been asked to go on an indefinite sabbatical for personal reasons. Freya and I form the Q-Minion now as decided by Her Majesty. We will examine every decision that the erstwhile Q-Minions have taken and…”
“But the Q-Minions had only said that Tizz is the winner,” Njord whined.
Prom ignored Njord and looked at Loki, “Manners…Loki…manners. Do your people reflect your attitude all the time?”
“I am sorry…” Loki looked apologetic.
“You have learnt how to apologize?” Prom wore a bewildered look. He limped around the office and exhaled, “Freya, can you please take over?”
“Yes. At the moment we are in the process of rechecking the decisions that were taken by the erstwhile Q-Minions. This is to ensure that Her Majesty and us are aligned to those decisions. Hence we have visited Tizz. We need to see the sample of the approved design and the pieces of royal wood to ensure that the correct brief has been given.”
“Absolutely to the point. Thank you Freya,” Prom smiled.
The team at Tizz was silent.
“Loki, we are waiting.” Prom examined the faces of the team.
“Are you in a hurry?” Loki asked.
“Not really,” Prom answered.
“May I request both of you to be our guest for the day?” Loki sounded like he was eager to play the host.
“Only if I get to meet Diana tomorrow,” Prom laughed.
“Of course, yes. May I escort you to our guest house?” Loki opened the door for his guests.
Skathi, Njord, and Apollo were still seated inside Loki’s office. Finally he came back.
“I don’t know what is to be done now,” Loki yelled at the top of his voice. “Apollo, where is Diana?”
“I do not know.”
“How can you not know where she is?”
“Maybe she did not tell him where she is going?” Skathi intervened.
“Aren’t they partners?” Loki was adamant.
“Yeah,” Skathi responded, “But Njord, who is my partner, does not always tell me where he is going.”
“Why are you dragging me into this mess?” Njord whimpered.
“Shut up, Njord. Apollo, because of your ‘Whizzy Ants’ we are in serious trouble?” Loki howled.
“My ‘Whizzy Ants’?” Apollo staggered.
“Yes. It was all your idea,” Loki continued shouting.
“Loki, ‘Sprinty Ants’ was my idea. You decided to recreate it for Tizz,” Apollo reminded him.
“You want to take the credit. Now that it has bombed, you do not even own up to it?” Apollo was aghast. Before he could answer, Loki opened the door, walked, out and slammed it behind him.
“This is weird…” Apollo began only to be stopped by Skathi. “This is Loki’s office. It does not look good if we keep talking here since he has left. Let us go to the powwaw room.”
The three went to the powwaw room. Skathi ordered some refreshments. Apollo looked around the room.
As Apollo sipped the drink, he felt calm. “What is this?” He asked Skathi.
She smiled, “How does that matter? You are feeling calm, right?”
“You two do not wish to drink anything?”
Skathi responded, “You are upset. We are used to all this.”
“Yeah…” Njord agreed.
Apollo looked around. The room was tiny with just three seaters and one desk.
“I have never come here.”
“Apollo, ever since you joined, you have only been busy. With the pitch, with ‘Whizzy Ants’. You never had the time to look around.” Skathi’s kind words calmed Apollo even more.
Skathi continued, “Loki is upset now. When he is angry, he usually does not know what he is saying.”
“Really? Though he is the commander-in-chief?” Apollo sounded bitter.
Skathi nodded, “You never know what pressures are on him!”
“Well, in Sopora, Hercules was not so weird.”
“But then Hercules is not known to be creatively oriented. You know that the creative mind is often oscillating!” Skathi continued reasoning.
Apollo shrugged as Skathi advised, “We have learnt to work around him. After all he is the boss. It is important to keep him humoured so that you can get your work out.”
“Sounds practical,” Apollo agreed.
Skathi smiled, “So we will now keep that in mind. And please check where Diana is. Prom seems to be very fond of her.”
In all this commotion, Apollo had forgotten Diana.
“You should have remembered her. After all, you two are partners in crime,” Njord observed.
Apollo looked at Njord. Though he was in the powwaw room with them, he had not really made his presence felt!
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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