‘Everything is ready, sir,’ Musa said. They were all getting ready to leave. The place was full of people, about fifty of them. If he did not know better, he would think that white people where shooting one of those war movies. The police, the army and the NAVY were duly represented.
‘Everything is not ready,’ MaryJohn retorted. ‘Where is that girl? Nancy is not here and you know we can’t do anything without her and—’
‘We are here now,’ Mariah interrupted as she and Nancy entered the big preparation hall, both of them breathing fast. ‘I’m sorry. We got caught in the traffic.’
Nancy was dressed in a hooded sweater and baggy jeans. She had ear phones on her head, nodding to whatever that was playing in her head, giving everyone the impression that she didn’t care a bit.
MaryJohn wanted to strangle her. ‘Nancy, if you will be so kind as to change, we’ll all be glad,’ he said in a low voice, not wanting to be pissed by her.
Seconds passed before he realized that she did not even hear him. ‘Nancy!’ he bellowed. ‘We are not going on a damn picnic. Get that thing off your ears or I will do it for you, and go and change into something more suitable.’
Chike walked in then. He looked almost nice in his huge army-coloured clothes. He was wearing a helmet, a bulletproof vest, two gun holsters and a pair of heavy boots. He was also carrying a huge gun that was sure to give him backache later on.
‘Listen…’ he began, then stopped and turned to MaryJohn. ‘How do you address these people when you want to talk to all of them? I can’t call them ladies and gentlemen because there is nothing ladylike or gentlemanlike in them.’
MaryJohn was still smarting over how Chike took command without any excuse. ‘I call them people.’
‘Okay, then. Listen, people, according to the little we know about The Bane, it is not easily killed. It cannot be killed with anything but heat and lack of soil. That is why we are giving each of you a gun that does not bring out bullets but fire. Once you pull the trigger, fire comes out. I hope you understand that. You all know your duty. Added to that is the protection of Nancy.’ He nodded towards the young girl. ‘None of you should let anything happen to her. Am I speaking in tongues?’
They all shouted, ‘No, sir.’
‘Good. She will be the only civilian that will be going with us.’
‘I don’t think so,’ OZed said calmly from behind him.
Chike turned to look at him, but did not say anything, merely waited for him to speak. He did not like people disobeying his command, and this man was doing just that.
‘I am a scientist. I need to know what will be discovered there. I will go with you because I am scientist and a soldier, but my boy Mike and Job will be coming with me to help out. They are civilians but I want them to come along. Do we have a problem?’ OZed’s eyes fixed on Chike, daring him to refuse the request. He knew he had a good reason to go with them, being the scientist in charge of the case. Apart from studying organisms, the other thing he loved as much was adventure, and this promised to be a very good one. That meant he would kill two huge birds with one stone.
‘I do have a problem with that,’ Chike contradicted. ‘You see, I do not want to be responsible for the lives of these people. As much as I want to take them, I can’t. They’ll have to stay behind, but you are welcome to join us.’
‘But they are the ones that discovered the Bane,’ OZed argued, his anger aroused. ‘It is only fair that they follow it to wherever it may lead. I for one think that it should be so.’
‘I think he is correct,’ Mariah put in. ‘And I will also be going with my niece. She is my ward, and I will not let her go without proper guidance.’ She looked strangely at Chike and shook her head. ‘Her mother will turn in her grave if she should hear what I did. I am going with her or she stays, and that is final.’
Chike was boiling inside. When did things get so out of hands? What was wrong with the woman by the way? It seemed like they were doing their best to put him off. He was not that gullible. He directed his look at the little black woman who wanted to prove she was the ultimate guardian by escorting her niece, and thought that women belonged in the kitchen. What was this one doing out of it? And what the hell was wrong with the lab rat?
‘Before you make that decision,’ came a feminine voice from the crowd, ‘just know that I am going with my husband wherever he is going. Nothing will make me stay behind.’
Every eyes turned to Rita, Musa’s wife.
‘This is getting more interesting,’ Chike exclaimed, glaring at the speaker. ‘Will someone tell me who the hell this woman is?’
‘I am sorry, sir,’ Musa excused. ‘I could not stop her. She is my wife Rita. She is the—inquisitive type, so she pleaded to go with me.’ No way was Musa going to announce to the crowd that his wife thought he was cheating and that was why she demanded to go with him on the expedition.
Chike walked up to him. ‘Musa,’ he said so calmly that Musa had goose bumps all over his body. ‘She is your wife. Do you know what that makes this scene?’ Musa shook his head so hard that he knew a headache would evolve. ‘That makes it your own kettle of fish. You either handle this or shove it up your ass. Am I speaking French?’
‘Thank God because I hate French. I don’t know what you guys like about danger, but I tell you this, anybody that comes on this mission is on his own. I am only responsible for Nancy, Nancy, and Nancy. Any other thing is not my problem.’ He swiftly glanced at the watch on his wrist. ‘I want to leave this place in the next thirty minutes at the latest. Chop, chop people. Look alive!’
Everybody went into action. Nancy was given a bulletproof vest and weapons, so were the other civilians—Job, Mike, Mariah and Rita
‘I will advise you guys to carry knife. It might come in handy,’ Nancy shouted to the whole room.
They went and grabbed knives for themselves.
‘I don’t like this at all. I hate it,’ Rita muttered to herself, but she obeyed.