The raid had gone bad. The S bomb was about to go off. Lwando shot both my knees. "Xo I can't walk."
"I am sorry, I can't risk coming to get you. The bomb is about to go off." Xo said.
"You will die here alone." Lwando laughed. I woke up screaming.
"A bad dream." I told Orehla and Naledi, they had rushed in from their room. Orelha returned to her room.
"About what?" Naledi asked perching herself on my bed. I told her.
"Yeah I keep thinking about our encounter with Lwando too."
"I don't know what is real. Is Lwando real and Chirwa just an act?"
"I don't know." Naledi said. Naledi and I prayed together, then she went back to bed. I played a video of my mother.
"Alinafe left for Utawaleza this morning. I cried. She is the closest friend I have here but I must be brave. I have decided to stay here. I applied to Domasi University of Education. I got selected for a degree in science. My jume tutor says I have an aptitude for biology and chemistry. I don't know how true that is. All I know is I find them fascinating. I am now able to understand why the herbs we use in Utawaleza are so effective. I am nervous about going to college but also excited. In 18 months I will have a degree and hopefully a job too."
I kept rerunning what Naledi told me Atuweni had told her after my lunch with Akuzike. Atuweni made it sound like I had led him on. I had not. I treated him as a friend and he chose to interpret that as something romantic.
"Is that your cousin?" Atuweni asked. "The guy you were having lunch with?"
My nostrils flared. "You followed me?" I raised my gaze to meet his eyes.
"I just wanted to make sure you were okay. You left the office in such a hurry. I thought something was wrong." His reply came in a calm voice. I could not tell whether he had not noticed I was angry or was simply ignoring it. "Who is he?"
How did he think this is okay? The pent up anger rose inside me like a wave swelling ready to drown all in its path. "I can't believe you followed me." I fumed. "I have tried to be gentle with you but you cannot take a hint Atuweni. Just because our parents were both from Utawaleza does not make us soulmates. I don't like you. And no, you calling me a thousand times during the weekend, or sending romantic messages or sending me an article about a normate and pygmy couple that made having kids work without risk for the mother is not going to change my mind." I paused to draw my breath in. "It is already difficult for me as a pygmy officer having to deal with stereotypes and insensitive comments. I don't need you to make it worse by messing with the good dynamic we had!"
I pushed him out of my way and went to my desk. Atuweni ruined the good mood I had after the lunch with Akuzike. I was surprised when Akuzike texted me that he had enjoyed our previous lunch meet and wanted to meet again. That would be twice in one week. We had never done that before.
"Xo told me to play nice. I told him I am always nice." Sali said.
I chuckled and buzzed Tumpale's door. He ushered us in with a smile. His apartment had simple décor with blue and green. He gave us zitete as an appetiser.
"It's challenging. I don't know how much is too much involvement. I want to be compassionate but not overly involved in the people I deal with." I said when he probed me about my work. He never turned his reporter side off. I was thinking of Mrs Kuyeli. She still hadn't left her husband. I know because our system picked up on a photo of her with bruises. Her injuries are getting more extensive.
"What rank are you?" He asked.
He poured granadilla juice into his tumbler. "Are you hoping to make Sergeant soon?"
"That's the dream. But I have been on the job for 8 months so I am trying to pace myself."
He turned to Sali. "What about you? What rank were you when you were in the service?"
"I was Detective Chief Inspector."
He scoffed. "Then why did you leave?"
"The system no longer worked for me." Salifya replied curtly. I know he wanted to ask more but was cut down by Salifya' tone. "Why aren't you close with your parents?"
He sucked air into lungs. I sent Sali a look that said I wish she had not asked that.
"As a kid, I was their punching bag. They called it discipline and I thought it was too for a long time. But I now know it was physical abuse. This is why I think Utawaleza should be abolished. It teaches archaic values that we have outgrown. Culture is dynamic, it is abnormal for people to push for stasis."
I drank my pineapple juice not knowing what to say to his outpour. I wish Salifya hadn't asked it clearly rubbed old wounds that hadn't healed.
"I had hoped that your parents had changed over the years." Sali said slowly.
"I know what they did to you and I understand your reluctance to let me into your life. But I am not like them." Tumpale's eyes locked with Salifya's, almost as though he was saying search my heart and see.
Tumpale cooked mphalala that evening. He cooked it just like his mother taught him. It was a unique twist on the usual recipe. I was jealous. I had not learnt anything from either of our parents. After dinner, he showed us photos of my parents and himself as a lad. There was even a photo of young Salifya.
"That makes so much sense." I said to Sali when she told us her theory. "I have been going through Lwando's correspondences while she was in Aka-Rebel to see if she was sending intel to Waranda. I found out she was sending intel from Waranda to Aka-Rebel. She was monumental in their bringing down of Waranda."
"The same with Kalulu," Xo said. "He too was sending intel into Aka-rebel from Waranda and not the other way round."
"When he and Muhlabase interacted at Lindi's rescue mission, they did not seem to know each other. Lwando and Kalulu were not working for Muhla. They were working for someone else." Sali remarked.
"Waranda was just a mask to get enough money to build the war-bots to attack Utawaleza." Naledi's eyes were on Kuleza who was seating on the chair next to her. Kuleza nodded.
"Asante gave me a video of a cop that I thought was a morph." Sali said.
"What's a morph?" Naledi interrupted to ask.
"It's a live costume. When you wear it you change into whoever you were designed to be. To the naked eye you are like that person." Sali replied.
"To the naked eye and all face recognition software. It took Kuleza a whole fortnight to find the man inside the morph." Xo remarked.
"A fortnight and Xo's help." Kuleza added.
"As I was saying, the man behind the morph is Kalulu." Sali continued.
"You think he is behind this?" I asked.
On Xo's monitor was an image of a middle aged woman.
"No, he doesn't have the experience or the brains to pull something like this off. I asked Ama to compile a list of ZUA and KUA and high ranking military officials in Zamania and Kaulimi inactive and active agents that have an axe to grind with Utawaleza. I assumed it's personal because this person wants Utawaleza to suffer, if their motivation was power they would have found a less bloody and more legal way to dispose of Utawaleza. Ama sent me the list and one name pops up on it." Sali pointed at the image of the woman. "Diminga. She is Lwando's aunt which means her younger sister was killed by an Utawaleza man. And before that Diminga's mother a vukutu who failed to adjust to this world opened a family brothel. In which she prostituted herself and her two daughters; Lwando's mother and Diminga." Salifya put her arm on her belly. I think she did it without noticing otherwise she would not be massaging her belly while giving us such a briefing. On the monitor in front of Kuleza was an image of Yatuta and the S bombs. On the monitor in front of Xo was an image of the warbots. "Diminga's mother was killed by a violent client during a session.
Apart from being, Ulalo's leader Diminga was my teacher in KUA.
Now that we have all this information. I think it should be easier for you Xo to find the S bombs, for the rest of you to find the rest of the war-bots and I will try to find her accomplices." Sali swiped her finger in air, an image of Kalulu, Juwawo's boss and Yatuta appeared below Diminga's image.
"The amount of S bombs bought by Yatuta. We have to assume the attack is soon." Kuleza said.
Sali nodded. "Me and Ipy will be flying out to Chitipa to warn the Sikweses."
"All that time, we thought we were making a difference in Aka-Rebel we were just pawns in Diminga's game." I threw my head back into the chair I was seating on.
"No, we saved lives." Xo pointed out.
"And now more lives will be destroyed. Between Muhlabase and Diminga. Diminga is the worse evil. Muhla wanted to attack Kaulimi, Kaulimi can actually fight back but Diminga wants to attack the defenceless." I retorted.
"We will stop her." Sali said.
Cassava/Irish potatoes grated and mixed with peppers, onions then fried.
Stewed beef cooked with plantains