The mission was simple. When the ship landed in Baliga village, in Maji 1878, they would go to the temple, find the travertine-crimson stone and bring it back to base. Simple. But a cloud of impending doom hung over Rema’s head.
They'd spent three weeks training in martial arts, hand-to-hand combat, and even in intelligence training. His favorite part was learning about the time ship. The blackbird was a beauty. But something was off, a lot of things were. The Seven still held back much-needed information. Like who were they really? How would the war end the life of everyone? And how would finding a stone save Africa?
Rema wasn’t the only that had doubts, but the people were driven by the fact that their families were safe. The world had been put on pause. Everyone was still and frozen in place. The Seven showed them, promising that the minds of their loved ones were in peaceful states.
The food machine rumbled the way it did when it was about to deliver an order. Rema turned, it was Aima. She glanced at him then looked away. A plate came through a slot on the machine. She picked it and strode away. At least she didn’t glare at him this time. Yes, he’d told her to forget about her brother and go home but, he'd done nothing wrong. She was lucky she hadn't met Aman. He would have killed her on the spot or done worse. Her glares had softened though, over the past few weeks. Perhaps she was tired. Anger was tiring, he should know better than anyone.
''Five more minutes to Baliga,'' Genesis said. She was the artificial intelligence attached to the time ship. Rema glanced out the window. The view was mesmerizing, even though all he’d seen throughout the journey were stars, splashed over the darkness.
‘’You should get ready.’’ Bubbles said, throwing him a bag. He caught it midair and swung it over his shoulders. Her name was strange but it fit her. She had wide childlike eyes, a short bob that framed her round face, and a fixed smile.
''Are you excited?'' she asked as they walked down the hallway.
‘’Not really.’’ He replied.
‘’I am.’’ Tupo's deep voice vibrated behind them and, Bubbles jumped.
‘’You gave me a scare!’’ she shrilled.
Tupo flashed his white teeth. ''Sorry, darling.'' Bubbles huffed, but her smile was still intact. Rema shook his head. The man was huge and he prided in his stealthy skills. He could enter a room with no one hearing him. It was slightly impressive but startling an armed man could get him killed. Bubbles, Tupo, and Aima were his team members. The other groups were sent to different points on time to retrieve stuff he had no clue about, it was every group to its mission.
''Landing in ten, nine….'' Genesis counted.
‘’Guys.’’ He’d recognize Aima’s voice anywhere. He turned and his jaw dropped. She was clad in a long sleeveless gown. It was an Ankara material patterned with bright colorful designs. There was kohl on her eyelids. Highlighting those sharp dark eyes. Her hair was wrapped up leaving some curls on her face and revealing the large hoops on her ears.
Tupo cleared his throat and Rema snapped out it. Tupo grinned at him. Rema swallowed the urge to roll his eyes.
‘’One…’’ A bright light filled the time ship, blinding them for a second.
‘’We’re here,'' Tupo said.
‘’I want to look like that!’’ Bubbles gushed, eyeing Aima’s dress.
‘’You should.’’ Aima said. ‘’we can’t go in our uniforms.’’
Rema looked down at his grey shirt. ‘’We have to blend in.’’
‘’Exactly.’’ She said.
‘’Let’s go change then.’’
They were greeted with loud chattering as they entered the village market. Aima breathe in the warm air and a whiff of spices tickled her nose. The market was colorful. Interesting blends of goods were being sold. There were heaps of tubers of yams and cassava, pyramids of groundnuts, meat and fish, bright-colored wrappers, beads, spices…. it was beautiful chaos. The people seemed happy and free. A sharp contrast to the Maji she knew. Her feet burned from the hot sand beneath her sandals, and she shifted. She swept a glance across her team and, her eyes caught Rema's. A tingle passed through her skin. She looked away.
The vendors yelled in a strange language, but it was clear they were calling people to buy their goods.
''We should spread out and ask about the temple,'' Rema said. Aima frowned. Why did they need to…?
‘’Tupo and I will go together.’’ Bubbles cheerfully volunteered and dragged Tupo along with her to the other side of the market. Great. That left her and Rema.
‘’How are we going to ask them about the temple?’’ Aima asked.
''I know little Baliga,'' Rema said, surprising her.
''My grandmother lived here for a time,'' he explained.
They walked to an elderly woman selling groundnuts. She had glossy dark skin and her grey streaked hair was neatly braided.
‘’Imai.’’ Rema greeted her. Aima imitated him.
The woman replied with a wide smile. Rema said something else and she scooped some groundnuts into a large paper cone. He paid her.
''Ask her about the temple,'' Aima whispered. Rema spoke to her.
She frowned and said something, it sounded like a question. Rema responded.
''Oh.'' The woman's face relaxed. She turned to her left. ''Joba!''
A plump man ran down to them. ‘’Ma!’’ he yelled back.
She said something to him and he looked at them.
He nodded, said something, and then strode away.
‘’What just happened?’’ Aima asked Rema as they walked away from the groundnut seller.
''He's going to take us to the temple after closing his booth,'' Rema said.
Aima smiled. ''Good.'' She said. He smiled back. The next was an uncomfortable silence. There was so much noise in the background it served as a good distraction. Where were Tupo and Bubbles?
‘’When we find the stone,'' Rema started. ''Are we going to give it to the Seven?’’
She glanced at him sharply. ''Of course, we are.''
He turned to her fully. ‘’I don’t trust those guys.’’ He said.
''I don't care,'' she snapped. ''it's the only way to get my family back.’’
''See that's the thing.'' He tilted his head. ''Most of the people they recruited are vulnerable people, people with families, people who have no choice but to obey.''
She shook her head. He was unbelievable.
''There's way more to this.'' He said. ''Trust me.''
Something snapped. ‘’Trust you!’’ she scoffed. ''The last person I should trust Rema is you.'' He flinched.
She came closer to him. ‘’I don’t know what your deal is, but we are taking that stone to the Seven and if you try to sabotage this, you will regret it.’’ His face was stoic, cold, and void of any emotion. Her heart beat faster. She was a little scared but she couldn’t show it. She had to be strong.
‘’Guys!’’ Bubble’s shrill voice pierced through the noise. Rema and Aima looked away from each other. Tupo, Bubbles, and two strange men strode towards them.
‘’These two kind men are willing to take us to the Temple.’’ Bubbles said.
‘’But we ...’’ Aima started.
Rema said something to them in Baliga and they replied.
''We should leave now,'' Rema said. ''The sooner, the better.'' Aima didn't look at him but she nodded. Tupo snatched the cone of groundnuts from Rema and whispered something in his ear. Rema glared at him. The two men, Lega and Tapa led the way and they followed.
Aima sighed. All this would be over soon and she’d be with her family. Rema had better not mess anything up.
The Seven sat on a round table in silence, waiting for someone to speak.
‘’They might not come back.’’ Two said and crossed her arms. ‘’This mission may claim their lives.’’
‘’We did the right thing.’’ One said.
‘’We should have told them.’’ seven said.
‘’And then what?’’ One thundered. ‘’Let the entire world fall into shambles?’’ she scanned the group.
‘’The power of our enemy grows stronger.'' She said. '' it's better she stays unknown to them, men are easily corrupted.''
''She can still get to them.'' Seven said. He'd always been overly compassionate for the race of man. ''They are not prepared for what is to come.''
‘’They are stronger than you think.’’ Three replied.
‘’Time is dangerous when tampered with.'' Seven countered. ''Her evil power lives and thrives there.’’
‘’We had no choice.’’ One said. ‘’We used the most of our powers protecting the rest of the people.’’ She stood up and turned her back against them, staring at the clean white walls.
''Evil may succeed this time.'' Five quietly said. One sighed. she knew. Darkness was gathering, she could feel it
. It was all up to the humans now.
© 2021 Emmanuella
Emmanuella (author) from Nigeria on September 17, 2021:
I'm excited to show you the next part of ''the mystery of Maji'' the storyline is quite different from what I thought it would be. I hope you like it and I hope it puts a smile on someone's face today. If you haven't read the first part you should check it out. See you soon!