“I know you came home looking to relax. And being held by a bot was the last thing you expected,” Naledi said hugging Orehla. Orehla just laughed detangling herself from the hug.
I embraced Orehla. “Work hard, we will miss you.” I let her go.
“I will miss you guys too.” Orelha retorted, heading towards the bus pod to her secondary school. Naledi and I had our eye on this house in Chibavi. It had way too much traffic for a residential area. A noise complaint led us to this pygmy brothel. We raided the place and found underage prostitutes. Orehla was one of them; scared, beaten and traumatised. The other girls and boys had someone to return to but not this orphaned girl.
“If we put her in the system she will kill herself. She has that look that my friend before…he killed himself.” Naledi said. So we brought her home. Her mother had died a year ago, her stepfather, there only relation she had, sold her to the guys who owned the brothel we found her in.
I was excited when we found the videos on my biological mother’s phone. Finally I could know what she was like. “The League’s psychoooologist. I don’t know if I am saying that right, anyway he gave me this square that records me to track my time here. He said it will help me process my emotions. I told him I don’t need that I could always turn to friends. He told me they might not always be there. I took it. It is strange this realm but interesting. I have finally learnt how to use the cooker and make a meal. So that’s one thing down and millions of other things to learn. I have started school. I was surprised when they stuck a tube to the base of my skull. They call that teaching here. They say it is the fastest way to make us mzati catch up by putting the knowledge in our head. I have a headache and my head feels heavy. Alinafe, my roommate, says her head feels heavy too. Must be all that knowledge we absorbed. How do I close this thing?” Amama chuckled and fiddled around till she closed the tablet.
I told Naledi what me and my family had discussed about Waranda.
“So it’s not just the brothel Orehla was in that could be under Waranda?” Naledi said.
I nodded. “I hate this. Three ago we risked our lives bringing Waranda down only to find out we had cut just one head of it.”
“We just need to cut these heads too.” She said. “I miss calling you Chibambo and I miss being called Kabwila.”
“Me too. I really liked my alias. It felt like I was channelling her brave aura.”
Naledi laughed. “Her aura?”
“I mean if I was into that hippie stuff.”
D.I. Atuweni Ntawale walked towards us and stopped right in front of us. “Are you guys busy right now?”
We looked at each other and shook our heads.
“Wanna ran some sims with me and Mwase?” he asked. We followed him to the end of the corridor, down to the station’s simulator room. We ran about five simulations of us raiding a compound with armed suspects. Mwase and Atuweni Ntawale were in one team , while me and Nale were in one team. I am not competitive, but me and Naledi were faster than the D.I.s. I guess because we did this kind of thing all the time at Aka-Rebel.
“One day, you guys are going to tell me how you got so good?” Atuweni said getting up from his chair.
“Just luck.” Naledi smirked as she pulled herself from her seat.
Mwase and I got up from our chairs too.
“I don’t understand how two computer geeks are better than two seasoned D.I.s?” Atuweni said, his left hand swayed between him and Mwase. “Mwase you realise what we need to do, don’t you? We need to hand in our resignation. We are no longer worthy of the badge”
“Oh my goodness.” Naledi laughed face-palming herself.
“Atuweni why are you such a sore loser?” I said, my words half swallowed by laughter.
“I feel like I need to go sit down and consider my life choices.” Atuweni retorted with a serious face.
Mwase was the first to step out of the simulator room and into the corridor. “Dear Detective Superintend Suwedi, it is with great dismay that I have come to realise I am no longer worthy to carry a Zamania Police Service badge.”
The rest of us followed him into the corridor.
“Is this the first draft of your resignation?” Naledi asked, giggling.
Mwase nodded laughing too.
Salifya told me that men were so competitive always wanting to be better than women. I thought she was exaggerating till I started working for the Zamania Police Service. I got challenged to about twenty fights the first week on the job because the guys wanted to try out the Kaulimian. Even though I beat most of them they kept returning for rematches. Salifya told me how she went on a mission with a ZPS detective who insisted on tackling an engolo fighter who was resisting arrest, even though the detective knew that Salifya was better than him at martial arts.
“I had step in before this guy broke both of his legs.”
“Wait why didn’t you stop him from the breaking the first?” I asked.
“I wanted him to learn his lesson.” Salifya smirked.
The programme me and Naledi ran found a woman who kept returning to the hospital with all manner of bruises. The programme monitored cameras across from hospitals and clinics in the city for people who often came to the hospital. It did this because people who were injured frequently were often criminals, labourers working in hazardous conditions or victims of domestic violence. We would try to find which it was and intervene. The programme found a lady who often came to the hospital with bruises and fractures. Cases like this were difficult to intervene in, unlike when it was a child where we would just send a social worker to monitor the situation and pull the child out. Mrs Kuyeli had called in a domestic dispute. We had set the programme to alert us when she did. Naledi and I rushed to her location. We found her on the floor of her living room and her husband on top of her choking her.
“Sir, step away from the woman.” Naledi said displaying her badge.
“What? The police are sending kids now?” he asked, looking at us confused. I tazered him and he fell beside his wife.
As we were flying him to the station he asked us:
“So wait you aren’t kids?”
I was so tired of this reaction.
“Have you never seen a pygmy before?” Naledi exasperated.
“This is what I get for hacking the system and ensuring that my partner was you.” I had said to Naledi the first time this had happened.
“You hacked the system?” she asked.
“I didn’t want to take my chances with a partner who would deride me or treat me less than because of my height.”
“Me neither. We already had a tough time in the academy getting bullied by teachers and students. I just wish I had thought of hacking the system too.” She smiled.
“She dropped the charges Ama.” I sighed.
Through the greenery Ama and I went, my heart beat slight accelerating with each step I took. I turned around to see Kaulimi Province. In the pre-sunrise darkness the lights looked like stars. It was beautiful. But at that moment I didn’t notice the beauty I was replaying my encounters with Mrs Kuyeli. “Her injuries are a broken arm and a concussion. Naledi thinks we should beat up the guy and threaten him.”
“This isn’t the movies sweetie. That will only make the situation worse for the victim.” She took off her jumper. My eyes fell on the purple butterfly on left her shoulder. “For surviving domestic abuse. I put it there during a rough time. Anganile’s father was locked up for maiming me but all the things he had done to me during our relationship still haunted me. It felt like he had maimed my soul. I put it there to remind myself how tough I was in surviving it with some degree of sanity. And to tell other victims they were not alone.” She had told me.
“What can I do then?” I asked moving my gaze from her tattoo to her eyes. We stopped in the middle of the path.
“Let me talk to her. She will respond better to someone who has been through it.”
“How is the hunt for who was behind the hostage situation?” She asked restarting to walk.
“All we know at this point is the person behind this is good. They hired the mercenary anonymously and hired the sniper bot using an alias.” I exhaled. “What about you?”
“I tried following the money but whoever did this paid their ‘support’ staff with money from their own accounts so no trail to follow.”
“I have been trying to match their modus operandi to past crimes to no avail. Naledi tried to find the bot which was behind the attack but she disappeared into thin air. The detectives working this case tell me that the mercenary has also vanished.”
“We will find something eventually.” Ama said. “What’s it been like sleeping in your apartment?”
“We are still anxious about it. Xo gave us a much better security system for the house out of his own pocket. Just to be safe Mwase and Atuweni haven’t told the DSU anything.”
“That’s probably wise.”
“Have you accepted Amalewa’s proposal?”
Ama shook her head. Amalewa had proposed over six months ago and Ama told him she needed time to think. I trusted him. The background Ama had ran on him, and there one Sali got Kuleza to run came back clean. He was kind and cordial in the countless times we had interacted.
“I know I should have moved on but I have been wrong before and it cost me my arms, two children and could have easily cost me my life had Anganile not called the police the night her father decided to chop off my arms.”
“You were young. And you have wisened up.”
“Have I?” She turned to face me. “In the last two decades, I have been in Kaulimi surrounded by women. I no longer know what it is like to be close to a man.”
“He is the right guy to leave Kaulimi for. This is just fear speaking.” When she told me she had started dating two and half years ago. I was shocked. I really thought she would be single for the rest of her life. I was silly, I know. I had left Kaulimi then for Neno University of Computers. She was lonely and I think she had always wanted a companion.
“We met at a Conference. He is a mathematician.” She said like a teenage girl talking about her crush. I swallowed my shock and told her ‘I was happy for her.’ I did not mean it then. A thousand fear charged thoughts were running in my mind. This meant she was leaving Kaulimi. She was leaving us. What if he was a sadist like Anga’s father? Why wasn’t she happy in Kaulimi? Vilelani told me off for being selfish. “You have left Kaulimi. Your sisters left Kaulimi. Why should she not?”
Her words tasted like vinegar. But retrospectively, I saw the truth she spoke. I called my mother after this and asked all the questions I should have asked.
“What’s he like?”
“He is funny but like caustic humour. He is Christian. He is very clever man. I have read a few of his papers in the past.”
He had never been married before. He had been so busy with his work.
“He calls me Naloli always my full name, and it makes me flutter inside like a teenager.” She was gone, fluttering at him just calling her by her first name. Ayayayayayai.
“I know its fear Ipy but I can’t shake it.” Ama said.
“Pray it goes away and you trust him completely. You have no reason not to. I will too.”
We turned around. Beneath us were a carpet of trees and rocks that made Kaulimi Mountain. We started our descent. Our hike ended with breakfast and a shower. I would return to Mzuzu in the evening.
“Sit down,” I said to Naledi. She sat down slowly on our blue leather couch. “I have something to tell you. A few weeks back my Mother told me she thinks Chirwa is alive.” I had left out this part when I gave her the briefing on what me and my family discussed. I had wanted to shield her from the confusion and pain I felt. I also wanted to have more information. “Ama found out that Chirwa lied to Aka-Rebel. Her sister was not a pygmy.” I drew my breath in. Naledi’s face was a mirror of shock. “Here is the worse part…”
“It gets worse?” Nale asked.
“She is an assassin. Her father used to physically abuse her mother. And when she left him, he tricked her, with the help of his sister and aunty, to come to his sister’s house then killed her. When she was 18, she killed her father and his sister. When she was caught she was given the capital punishment. ZUA faked her death and turned her into an operative. For sometime, she killed for the government. Five years ago, she faked her death and joined Aka-Rebel.”
Naledi was silent after sometime she said. “I can’t believe we were working with a psychopath.”
“I know it’s frightening.” I took a sip of my tea.
“Why did she fake her death? Why did she join Aka-Rebel?”
“Ama and Sali think she is a mole for Waranda.” I put my cup of tea on the table and took out my phone. “Sali has been stalking her and found that she keeps coming back to this location.” I showed a photo of a warehouse in Tsangano, Balaka. “Me, Xo and Fya are checking it out tonight.”
“I want to come too.”
I nodded my head. Naledi went to her room. When I checked on her, I found she was listening to music and painting.
I had to keep reminding myself that Fya was not Salifya which was hard because Salifya was speaking through her.
“I know Sali must be bummed she cannot come with us.” I said.
“I don’t understand what’s so dangerous about checking out a warehouse.” Sali sighed through the bot.
“A warehouse which is frequented by an assassin?” Xo retorted glancing at Fya who was seated in front of the pod with him.
It took Xo a whole five minutes to override the security front door of the warehouse.
“This kind of heavy security on just the door makes one wonder what’s inside.” Naledi said. Fya at that time had been breaking in manually by hitting the window on the other side of the building to distract the guards while we entered.
“Be alert.” Xo told us. We had to shoot two guard bots on our way in. They did not go down, which was strange all legal bots would deactivate after two shots of a regular solar blaster. We were still shooting at them when Fya shot at them with her rifle. They went down after one shot by Fya’s rifle blaster. We made our way into the largest room which was filled with bots.
“Are you seeing this?” I said glancing up at Xo.
The first floor of the warehouse was filled with humanoid cyborgs.
“War bots.” He gasped. “Fya take two to make it look like a robbery.”
Fya compressed two from six foot to the size of a finger. She carried them out