‘Great one boys! You guys were awesome!’ Captain Achor hailed his boys as he walked a little distance away from their gathering to clear his head. He may have survived this attack and even turned it into victory for his team, but certainly there was a very big problem that gave him great concern. He had a traitor, a traitor amongst those his men that were celebrating. It seemed awkward. He had walked through every single soldier, stealing a glance on their faces but detected no facial expressions that he perceived as disappointment. He took regular roll calls so he was sure no soldier had sneaked out of camp and returned. It all had to be a crazy set up. Who would get involved in such a thing with Achor and wouldn’t be very crazy? The thought made him smile with some smugness. He was good, feared for being good at his job and his proficiency as a Captain was no longer news.
But the reappearance of the issue before him made that thought of self-accomplishment vanish. Was he going to face his men and tell them squarely that there was a traitor amongst them? How was he going to prove it? That he saw a man discussing with the enemy who happened to possess vital information about their operations could have meant more other thing than an informant in his team. It could be from the high-ranking officers they reported to, it could have also have been a good spy, one as good as he was. But no, that guy didn’t appear a good spy to him. His pot belly alone had disqualified him. How would he make stealth movements or hide between trees without the betrayal of his abdominal bulge. Well, if he told them that he suspected one of them was a traitor, it wouldn’t sound too assertive. He needed to sound like he was in charge, like he already knew the Judas but just refused to expose like Jesus. That would bring the desired result. His men would get more vigilant and keep closer eyes on every team member, and his traitor, if there was any, would fret to death and that’s the point, get your enemy afraid of you and you have won a part of the fight, make them think you know even when you don’t. there was no harm in that approach. He would confront them and tell them he knows who the traitor is and would handle the controversy of his choosing not to reveal.
‘We gave them real good chasing’ Genesis, a corporal, puffed as he yelled and laughed, holding an unripe sugarcane in his hands with a chunk load of it in his mouth.
‘We whipped them like children’ Staff Sgt Philip added his own spice as they made fun out of the whole scene.
‘And burnt, no, roasted them alive’ Genesis concluded and the men laughed the more.
The men laughed and made merry with the unripe sugar cane stems they had cut from the bushes. It was a good source of water supply. Lt. Rikan was aloof at an end staring at and was lost in a picture he had brought out of his breast pocket. He had won the battle for the team at nearly the cost of his life, but somehow, Captain Achor seemed to be more celebrated by the boys. That didn’t bother him as much as the last words of his wife to him – the image he stared at. Her last words kept replaying ‘please come back to me alive honey’. She was in tears when he left her for battle, and was pregnant for their first issue. A tap on his shoulder alerted him to present reality.
‘Your wife isn’t it?’ Achor asked, standing tall beside the seated Rikan.
‘You miss her, don’t you?’ Rikan rumpled his face and with his eyes shut as though Achor inserted a syringe into his buttocks. Nodding his head he responded ‘Yes sir’
‘It’s for a short time boy. It’s all going to be over soon, real soon.’ He patted his shoulder a few more times and feigned he made to leave before intentionally recalling something, and then he added ‘that was a great display of bravery and strength sir. I’m so proud of you.’ Then he walked on without looking back. ‘I would be addressing the boys first thing tomorrow morning and I need you beside me’
His voice faded as he walked on, but he knew Rikan would hear him.
He had earned the ‘sir’ from Captain Achor. Rikan knew it was all a consolation for nearly sentencing him to death. And as for the battle being over, it wasn’t going to be over soon. Every day it seemed more likely they were all going to end up dead someday. It would have been over ‘soon’ as he had said, no, already over, a done deal, a free democratic republic, if Temile, had just been true to the cause. He sighed and waved his head. He dragged them all into a dream he never believed in and now they have already believed, they are not going back. Whether or not Temile actually believed in it didn’t matter anymore. They would get Rockville republic at the cost of their lives if it demanded it, and would spit at Temile’s grave, if they didn’t live to, their children will.
He shouldn’t totally be left out of the fun, he thought, so he moved towards the gathering and tried to pick just a corner and chill before the strong hands of Philip lifted him up to his shoulders, five-feet-five above ground level, for Sgt Philip was a tall and lanky six-feet-six, but it wasn’t the kind of lankiness that robbed one of physical strength. He was very strong, yet appeared tall and lanky. He rallied round the gathering with Rikan on his shoulder chanting “Rikan the great!” countless times and of course the rest of the boys joined him in the rally and the camp got even rowdier. Rikan was left astonished upon his shoulders as the camp recognised his effort. It ended up as a very good night for them all, save for the traitor, whose identity remained obscured.
‘Good morning boys!’ he greeted his men as he made to proceed very quickly and blandly with his speech, Rikan beside him. there wasn’t enough time for ceremonies. First, they had to evacuate that camp for good and find some other place. Secondly, if they still wanted to remain alive they would have to be moving from one camping ground to the other, ensuring they did not spend much time in any, as long as the traitor still remained in their midst. That sparked a little murmuring among the men ‘a traitor in our midst?’, ‘who could that be?’ and the likes. Achor felt they were ready for his blast. He usually served his frog last, contrary to the usual serving of frogs first. He wasn’t afraid of controversy, in short, he loved controversy. He loved it because it made him obscure to his boys, the major reason he was so feared and respected.
‘Yes, there is a traitor in our midst’ he affirmed their muttering. ‘I know him and my eyes are on him. He is fast, but I’m certainly faster, wise but not wiser and I just need him alive to keep functioning so I know how best to get to his bosses. You know the rule of keeping your enemies close, don’t you?’ He sent a stern gaze across the standing men, making eye contacts with every single of the now twenty-three man team. They were originally twenty, but had lost six in various ways; four on battle field, one due to illness and one had been captured by the Salamandine Army. Two had been originally captured, but Achor and his men had succeeded in rescuing one, Faraj. They got nine new recruits, or rather, volunteers into the army which increased their strength to the present number, although they were less experienced.
The camp was still as a grave yard and almost torn in silent controversy. Does he want to kill all of us? Some whispered among themselves after he had dismissed them, why would he keep a traitor alive and in our midst? Only Rikan and Philip suspected he had just played a game on his men, but could they sell their opinion after Achor had firmly affirmed the statement in his speech without mincing words?
Achor got his desired result, just as he had envisaged. The same air of suspicion that was generated among Jesus’ disciples had grown among his boys. He needed not to kill himself over fishing the traitor anymore, the eyes watching were now too many for any secret act to go unnoticed, and as for the traitor, Achor was sure he now feared he had already been caught and if he feared to come before him before for internal guilt, he now feared for his dear life. Achor was satisfied with the atmosphere he had created.
They headed just few kilometres to the north, a bit closer to the inhabitants of the Kisolo village, and made their dugouts there. Just a little shift in position that would still enable them maintain their ground and defend their territory. They worked very hard knowing they had little time. The enemy army could strike back soon. Some of the villagers visited and gave them food to eat as they laboured hard to get the new camp organized. It didn’t take long for the soldiers to become the desire of the Kisolo girls and they didn’t mind coming around in the day time to view the men. They appeared brave and strong and sometimes fearful. The perspiration on their bare bodies as they worked, flirted with the sunlight to produce a shiny black strong skin. Those that were brave enough to get close to the men discovered they weren’t as beastly as they appeared after all. They discovered they made jokes as they worked but always had their weapons close-by just in case. From afar it seemed they had their weapons even while they worked and the sight did not appear like anything to be merry about.
Captain Achor was a strict soldier and as long as he was in charge it was business over pleasure. His boys shouldn’t take advantage of the ladies coming around to show them some hospitality. Although as expected, some men were rapidly beginning to fall in love with some of the ladies and it seemed a mutual feeling anyway, but Achor would have none of that. Notwithstanding, they secretly met in secret places and soon were already making love to each other. The men didn’t last long in that camp. After about a week in the new camp without any hostilities, a new platoon came around and took over the defence of the territory with the leader handing over a letter to Achor. The two men discussed for a long while, about an hour or two, before Achor called a gathering and addressed his boys. They had to obey the content of the letter. They had to leave the camp and head far northwards. Far away from the adventure, lust and love in Kisolo, far away from a few ignorantly pregnant maidens. They wouldn’t have the chance to say goodbye to their newly found loves. They had to move at once. Their destination was an assembly ground at the state’s capital, Boro, where they would be transported to defend some high-profile territories that were falling, like Libertine, the republic’s capital and Lumpur, one of the republic’s most industrialized and richest states. If they lost those states, it would be colossal. It was more of a retreat while rallying and volunteering processes were heightened. The only measure for raising fighting men the Rockvillian Army did not explore was conscription, because it went against the cause they pursued – freedom.
Their present leader, His Excellency, President Professor Ebinne Rokuna, had been out of the country for weeks, engaging in talks with the World Powers. He had visited John Rashford, the President of the United States of America, to plead for support and understanding but it seemed he only got his sympathy. It was clear even to a democratic country like the USA that Salamandi’s dictatorship rule under Major General Higma Mephisto, kicked against the fundamental human rights which the country was widely known to stand for, but it seemed so unlikely that President John hadn’t interfered till this very point and even after President Ebinne’s approach, had not felt the urgent need to intervene. He had travelled across Europe to various countries, United Kingdom, France, Germany and it was all with cold hands they had received him.
President Professor Ebinne was not a nobody. He was an energetic embodiment of great knowledge, a man who had achieved so much and was only in his late fifties. He had earned his professorship from the prestigious Cambridge University in England, after bagging double first class degrees in the two courses he studied in the University and on both occasions was the best graduating student and had lectured in the academic citadel for decades. He had received several honorary degrees and awards for his excellence in the field of Biochemistry and had spoken at various globally recognized summits before abandoning his scholarly pursuits and returning home to join the struggle for the independence of his countrymen. Most of the presidents he visited to discuss the issue of his countrymen’s struggle for independence were people he had met on one or two occasions before. He wasn’t a man to be looked down upon by all standards. Maybe he was only fighting for a cause that did not carry the same aura his personality carried.
‘They may have refused my plea individually as individual caretakers of their sovereign states, maybe trying to stay out of trouble or their personal idiosyncrasies.’ He paused to take a glass of water. He sipped slowly to express some level confidence, and then continued. ‘Higma Mephisto has become very powerful, we all know, because of the wealth the country possesses; much of which he owes to our land though, but I would ensure the matter gets to the next United Nations General Assembly. There we would get the opportunity to be heard. Although they are not guaranteeing my invitation to the assembly since the UN are yet to accept us as a sovereign state, but I would plead that I come as an invited guest or I would opt for speaking to my good friend, President Ricky Salvador, the President of Mexico to speak on my behalf’ President Ebinne addressed his Council members.
The Council members consisted of both civilian and military heads, a situation that had to be endured as a result of the ongoing civil war. The President, his Vice, Oyok Richard, The Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Khali Buene, The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Colonel Vincent Akampi, Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Lawson Abika, Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Ajah Guru, The seven governors of the seven states of the secessionist republic, including the Minister for FCT Affairs, and The seven Regional Military Commanders of the states all constituted the Council. The Council members were to take the conclusions of the meetings back to their members.
Their major discussions had centred on how to strengthen their Airforce. Lt. Colonel Ajah had complained bitterly on how ineffective they have been and have contributed so little to the war. They had the skilled manpower but lacked fighting equipments. The Chief of Naval Staff had similar complaints too. In short, the war had appeared squarely as an Army affair. Whenever the enemy struck from either air or water, it was a helpless situation.
The President assured he would equip the Airforce and Navy and strengthen the weakening Army as they complained of limited weapons and few vehicles for movement. Finance has been their major challenge and even when they struggled to raise the finance, those big world powers were unwilling to sell. That was the major challenge they faced. But he was not a man that gave up too easily or ended on a negative note.
‘We will try every available option at our disposal to get every combating equipment we need.’ He ended on that note.
Captain Achor and his boys arrived Boro and settled down at the military base. At least there would be no fighting for about two days. The time required to select and deploy the men to their designated places of assignment.
Episode Six is coming soon…