By Nilanjana Dey
The story so far:
Set in the land of white ants, The Crossover is the story of two artists – 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 become disgruntled; bored of their regular jobs that provide them with no creative satisfaction whatsoever. On the other hand, Hercules is also irked with them, 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.
Unperturbed 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 prizes for the race are the three royal gifts that the Queen had presented to them when they won the multi-colony pitch.
A change in the Queen’s coterie puts Tizz in a fix. One of Loki’s arch rivals, Prom, takes over the Queen’s guild and decides to reassess all the decisions taken before. He inflicts Tizz with penalties for playing around with protocols of the land.
The office slowly turns into a nasty place where people are pitched against each other. While Loki subtly indicates that Apollo is a leader in the making, Prom invites Diana for a secret meeting. He offers her an opportunity to start her own setup.
Loki looked very serious as he sat with the leader of the troll ants.
“One stupid troll is creating such havoc! You guys cannot manage this one creature? And you are telling me that he is instigating others too!”
“Yes Boss,” the leader apologetically said. “We had locked him up but then Diana set him free. What was she doing there?”
Loki looked pensive as he walked up and down his office. The leader asked, “Can I make a suggestion?”
Loki nodded and he continued, “I suggest you go underground. Let us assess the situation. We will call you if need be.”
Loki looked at the leader somberly.
“Meanwhile, I can manage operations at Tizz,” The leader of the trolls stated.
“Hmmm… let me think about it and get back to you.”
“Sure Boss. After you, I know Tizz the best.”
“Just give me some time to think.”
The leader of the troll ants nodded and left Loki’s office expectantly. Loki picked up his strand-connection and called Edda, “Send Apollo to my office, immediately.”
Apollo tapped the door of Loki’s office. There was no response. After hesitating for a moment, he pushed the door open to see Loki immersed in deep introspection.
Apollo cleared his voice and said, “Hi, you called for me?”
“Yes,” Loki’s voice sounded distant.
Apollo waited as Loki began speaking very slowly, “Sit down Apollo. I need to discuss something important with you.”
Loki continued as Apollo took his seat, “There is some important crisis in Tizz that I need to take care of. In effect, I will not be able to keep on supervising the work that Diana and you are creating. I wish to anoint you as the in-charge of the creative department. Hope you are fine with that.”
“Well, should it not be Diana and me?”
“My decision is in your favour. I have also told you earlier that you are more capable of being a leader than Diana. She is too focused on her art all the time to have a wider look at things. Besides… she is the source of the political turmoil that we are undergoing.”
Loki explained how Diana’s act of indiscretion of releasing the imprisoned troll ant has unnecessarily attracted a lot of chaos in Tizz. Apollo was not surprised at all.
“So, my decision is that you lead Her Majesty’s assignment at Tizz,” Loki concluded. He extended his forearm. Apollo happily grabbed it.
As Apollo was about to step out of the office, Loki remembered, “You have to ask Diana to leave Tizz. I don’t want trouble-makers around.” Before Apollo could respond, Loki picked up his strand-connection and excused himself.
Diana was hurrying to reach office. She was already late and had a lot to discuss with Apollo. Her hasty gait was just a reflection of the turmoil in her head that was exaggerating into mammoth proportions.
A troll ant stopped her. “What is it?” Diana looked up.
Another troll ant stepped ahead, “You remember me? You had freed me yesterday?”
“Oh yes!” Diana remembered but could not comprehend how to continue the conversation.
“We have formed a union of our own. We will not listen to unreasonable demands.”
Diana was wondering how to excuse herself when the troll ant offered, “We are at your beck and call. Anytime you need us, please don’t hesitate.”
“Thanks.” Diana managed a smile and rushed to her office.
Apollo had called for a meeting with the whole team. Diana, Freya, Skathi, and Njord were sitting with others as Apollo began speaking.
Freya whispered to Diana, “I do not know most people in this room.”
Diana kept quiet. She kept on looking at Apollo as he kept on looking away from her. Finally Apollo addressed all those in the room, “Thank you all for making time at such a short notice. What I intend to say is very serious. This is a discussion forum and everybody is open to share their views…”
Skathi interrupted, “Sorry to barge in but I cannot hold my excitement. Boss has anointed Apollo as the leader of the Queen’s project. Hence, this sudden meeting.”
A strange silence descended in the room. Diana broke it as she applauded Apollo, “Oh many congratulations. This is fabulous news.”
Apollo meekly nodded and continued, “We all know we are going through bad times. We have to complete Her Majesty’s project and we are short of resources. The designs have to be replicated. We no longer have reserves of Bahia. So we need to find the best wood possible.”
Apollo looked around at the non-reactive faces. They all looked blank, staring at some unknown nothingness.
Skathi said enthusiastically, “Yes, of course, we will replicate the designs in the wood that we have. Njord and I completely agree with this.”
Though Njord was silent, Diana snapped, “Then it is better not to replicate these designs at all.”
“But we have to present the approved designs to Her Majesty, else we will be fined again,” Skathi’s squeaky voice echoed in the room.
“Yes Diana. Skathi is right. We do have to replicate the designs, though we do not have excellent quality wood…”
“Then these designs do not work, Apollo.”
“We can try sourcing better quality wood.”
“How?” Diana asked.
“We can ask our friends to donate if they have spare reserves of Bahia.”
Diana looked flabbergasted, “Why would anybody do that? Donate Bahia to you? And if that Bahia is already used, how can we carve new designs on it? We need raw Bahia! Is this your idea, Apollo?”
“No, Loki suggested it.” Apollo answered.
“I see.” Diana kept quiet for the rest of the meeting.
Apollo continued with his speech about how each one can contribute and be helpful during the bad times. He asked everybody to do more than what was required. He also mentioned that Diana would teach them the designs soon, so that all can contribute together and meet the demands of the pitch.
The group dispersed but Diana asked Apollo to stay back for a discussion.
“You have to give me some time. I’ll just be back,” Apollo excused himself. Diana waited patiently for him.
“So what kept you away for so long?” Diana asked Apollo when he finally arrived.
“Have I not waited for you before? There is always a first time, Diana. Tell me, why this sudden summon?”
“I want to know what’s going on! Suddenly you become the creative head, the trolls are angry…”
“So what is the concern here?”
“It is too chaotic. And there are too many changes all of a sudden!”
“There is no chaos at all, Diana. Loki has chosen me to head this project.”
Diana looked amused, “You really think so?”
“Don’t you see the game?”
“Loki wants us to fight… he wants to create a rift between us!”
Apollo sighed, “I have some bad news for you.”
He spoke very slowly as Diana examined him closely, “Loki… thinks we do not need your services any more. You are too good for Tizz.”
Nonchalantly Diana asked, “Are you sacking me or dissolving Tizz’s association with ‘The Outcasts’?”
Apollo took a deep breath and answered, “Whichever way you want to take it!”
“So, I am free to take ‘The Outcasts’ away?”
“And you do not want to be a part of it anymore?”
“No. Tizz has been nice to me. This is an exciting opportunity. I don’t want to leave it now.” Apollo paused for a while and said, “I am so sorry, Diana.”
“Don’t be. Since you will soon know what you have lost.”
Diana and Apollo were completely unaware that Skathi and Njord were keeping an ear on their conversation.
“Looks like the partnership is about to go!” Njord sighed.
“Why are you upset? Good for us if she goes. He is more accommodating.”
“But our victory in the pitch was because of her, Skathi.”
“Yeah, so we don’t need her anymore, now that we are already victorious.”
“You sound like Loki, Skathi. You have learnt well.”
The next day, Diana packed all her belongings. She picked up her strand connection to have her last word with Apollo. The strands were dead.
Freya was waiting for her.
“Prom will be very happy,” Freya gushed.
“Keep quiet, Freya. There may be spies around.”
As Diana walked out of the corridor, Njord approached her, “Ready to leave?”
Diana did not respond. But Njord continued, “I really appreciated your work.” Diana chose to be silent. “If an opportunity arises in future, I would love to work with you again,” Njord extended his forearm cordially. Diana shook the arm and hurried away.
As she mounted D’s Torrent, she looked back at Tizz. Freya looked at her suspecting, “Are you changing your mind?”
“No.” Diana rode her vehicle as speedily as she could.
Loki was livid to hear the news. Apollo, Skathi and Njord had no clue why Loki was screaming and neither was he explaining. He was walking all around his office and exhaling fumes.
“I cannot believe. That sly mongrel! I feel like chopping off all his limbs.”
The trio waited patiently. Loki glared at Apollo, “Is your friend responsible for this?”
Apollo looked at Loki wondering what the concern was.
“Her Majesty’s project is gone from us. That jerk, Prom, has given it to someone else. And he does not even have the guts to tell this to me on my face. That Freya just uses this stupid strand-connection to inform me.” Loki angrily banged the strand-connection down. As the strands broke, Loki further kicked them away.
Apollo sensed a punch on his face as Loki continued, “I think Diana is behind it. She was so cool when I made you sack her yesterday. Skathi told me that she was not perturbed at all.”
Apollo was not hearing all this. He just remembered Diana’s parting words!
A chaos outside distracted them. Edda rushed in, “Boss, please leave from the trap door behind. The trolls led by that trouble-maker insist that they need to settle a score with you. Our trolls are nowhere in sight.”
Loki stood up and rushed to leave, but Skathi asked, “Boss what should we do?”
“How do I know?” Loki barked as he ran towards the trap door.
Canny welcomed Diana gleefully. Prom was personally present to inaugurate her office. It read ‘The Outcasts’. Diana smiled to herself and took the “s” off!
Nilanjana Dey is a post-graduate in English Literature from Jadavpur University, Kolkata (India). Her first novel, a children’s tale, The Adventures of Puti – The Cheese Trail, was published in 2013. She loves to experiment with poetry as well. Her poems have been published in Café Dissensus Everyday, Learning and Creativity, and The Copperfield Review. She is also a marketing and communication professional based out of Mumbai, India. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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