BEFORE THE DARKNESS EPISODE ELEVEN

Damola dusted off his khakis and jumped off the Humvee into the darkness. He could tell the soldiers were not comfortable with the fact that he did not have a gun. He was not one of them; he knew it and so did they. The leader of the team – Major Madu had made all the plans without any major function given to him. He did not mind though, he had his own plans.The president had drafted him into a tactical team to go and rescue somebody. He was not sure who the person was, but she was definitely important. He accepted reluctantly; it was better to be out than being locked up in a cell. He got more excited when he learnt they were going after Sarkin Aljan. He had not had the time to make another attempt at rescuing Anne; this could be his chance.
“Listen up everybody” the Major said. “There are no certainties that this is not a trap, so we are going to tread carefully.”
Damola looked away from the soldiers – the four of them huddled together. Everything they were saying had been said severally already, they were probably just afraid to go forward and die.
The Major had a point though, it was probably a trap. He was not sure what he would do yet, it depended on whether Sarkin Aljan came or not.
“… she is immensely important to the President.” The Major was saying. “The mission will be judged on whether we bring her home alive or not.”
If she was that important to the President, Sarkin Aljan would not let her go so easily. The soldier started moving and he followed them. They snuck along a bush path till they were could see a house not too far away.
“That’s where she is supposed to be.” One of the soldiers said and pointed to the house.
The Major brought out a pair of Heat Sensor Binoculars and looked into them. He seemed to be confused or intrigued by something.
“There is nobody in or around the house but the woman.” He said and handed the binoculars to another soldier.
The soldier looked and confirmed that there was nobody and he passed the binoculars. They all looked at the house and wondered why the house was empty. Damola wondered too. Sarkin Aljan like any bad person was very tricky. But to find out what was happening they had to go closer.
They crawled closer to the house as quietly as they could. They looked again, there was no one still. The Major decided it was not smart for everyone to go in despite the seeming lack of danger. He decided he would go in with two of the soldiers, the last one was to stay behind with Damola. They would cover them as they went into the house, he said.
Damola started to protest but stopped. Something was wrong; he would wait.
Fifteen minutes later the soldiers were walking out of the house with the woman. Had Sarkin Aljan really let them have the woman so easily? Something was wrong.
The Major signaled to them to meet at the Humvee. Damola wondered as they moved to meet the others. What was Sarkin Aljan’s move by letting the woman go? If she was supposed to be very important, what was the President giving him in return? It hit him! The portal! That could not happen! The portal back in Sarkin Aljan’s hand meant more trouble, this time maybe more than could be handled.
They got to the path that led to the Humvee when they heard gunshots. The soldier with him stopped and unstrapped his gun. He corked it and looked at Damola.
“That gunshot is from one of our guns. They must have watched us come and waited.”
He had to know if Sarkin Aljan was part of the people attacking the soldiers. He looked at the soldier, looked away and starting running towards the gunshots. The soldier ran after him. They got close and saw the soldiers on the floor being tied up by a group of men. The woman was crouched at another side of the road crying. Damola stopped and pulled the soldier with him to the side of the road.
“We have to rescue them!” The soldier protested. “We can’t just stay here and watch.”
“Nobody said anything about watching.” He did not see Sarkin Aljan among the men. If Sarkin Aljan did not come, then he would have to go to him. “I have a plan.”
“You have a plan?” The soldier asked and looked at his colleagues apprehensively. “Does it involve rescuing them? Why should I listen to you by the way? You’re not even a soldier.”
“Hey, be calm, okay? If three soldiers could not stop those men, why do you think that you alone can stop them?”
“They probably were surprised. I am sure we…”
“Here’s the plan, I will run after the men as they start to move. They will probably take me with them, I will rescue us all and you take the woman home to the President.”
The soldier opened his mouth then closed it. Damola could see the anger in his face.
“This is your genius plan? We should allow the Major and others to be taken? Okay, I’m out of here.” He said and started to run towards the men.
Damola ran after him and punched him from behind. He crashed to the floor and Damola pulled him to the side of the road. He had fallen on his face and his forehead was bruised.
“Sorry about the injury, but you have to listen to me.” Damola said, holding the struggling soldier down. “You will only get killed or taken too if you go after them. Remember what the Major said? This mission will be judged on whether or not she is brought home safe. That is your mission soldier!”
The soldier had relaxed but still breathed heavily.
“Now, wait till I am gone with them and go and rescue the woman. Take her home!” He said and released his grip on the man.
Damola rose to his feet and started to walk towards the men. He hoped he was right and they were only going to be taken, not killed.
***
Sarkin Aljan wrapped the robe tighter around himself. The darkness had a certain chill to it. He knew his robe could not help him, but he held on tight to it still. Once again he was going to have to wait for Ibilis to come. He hated meeting Ibilis more every time he saw him. It was worse this time because he had come to report a major failure. He had thought that by the time Asaba was destroyed, the president would surrender the country to him and one country at a time he would take over the world. It would have been easy to desert Ibilis then. Now he had to suffer through another torture or worse; a tongue lashing.
Suddenly he turned around. There was nobody. Ibilis was close, he could tell. He pulled the robe closer and folded his arms across his chest.
Aaaarghhh! He screamed. He felt the pain before he saw Ibilis! The pain seared through his head and he could smell his hair burn. He squirmed and screamed but the pain only got worse. He shouted and fell on his face. He touched his head with one of his finger and he screamed. His hair was gone on one side of his head.
“Stand to your feet!” The voice came from above him.
He struggled to his knees. Every movement of his head sent pain surging through his body. He opened his mouth and let out a great scream. He cursed Ibilis, he cursed Edumare, he cursed the day he decided to help Ibilis.
“Your curses do nothing but disturb the peace of my already tortured abode.” Ibilis said.
“There is no peace here! You know no peace and you never will!” Sarkin said through clenched teeth.
“I have come to find out that just like humans, you are weak and cannot do anything right. Rise because our time is here, I cannot wait anymore. Everything ends in seven days!”
Sarkin Aljan rose to his feet and looked at Ibilis. He had a triumphant look on his face.
“You look surprised, maybe because you underestimated me. In seven days the world will be mine and then I will decide on what to do with you.”
“What do you mean? We had a deal!” Sarkin Aljan said. He felt a slight tremble go through his body.
“A deal, that we have truly, Sarkin Aljan.” Ibilis said and laughed. “You have plans to secede from me, don’t you? I know you more than you know yourself. I am all that you are and more. I will not hold it against you yet, not as long as you execute the plan.”
“Execute what plan?” He asked with as much disgust as he could muster.
“In three days, you will have Nigeria. After the president hands over the country to you, you will have the whole world in your hand.”
“How am I supposed to do that? Three days is a very short time. You only seek a chance to find fault with me, you soulless monster.”
“Aha, I see you are angry, very angry. And soon you will get your chance to unleash your anger. And surely men will feel pain.”
Oh they will! Starting with the President, they will know what the anger of a god is like!
***
He was in the most inconvenient meeting he had ever been in as President. He would have found a way to boycott the meeting but it would mean losing the confidence of a lot of his top officials. They wanted to know why he had released the portal back to a known and deadly terrorist. He dared not tell them the truth. He could not even repeat the truth to himself. He had put the whole country in danger to save a woman he was having an affair with. He was a fool, a fool that made a decision that could cost him his presidency maybe his life.
Bola was safe and hid somewhere very far away. Only one other person knew where she was and he planned to keep it that way.
The members of his cabinet had to make some sense out of the situation.
“The portal while here was of no help to us.” Lange said.
“But it was of no help to him too.” One of the ministers retorted.
“We don’t know that he doesn’t have another one.” Lange said.
“What do we gain from this now? He has the portal, we have nothing.” Adigwe said to Lange’s surprise. He rarely said anything against him in meetings but maybe even he was appalled by his decision.
“That is the question you should have asked in the beginning.” Lange said. “We put a tracker on the device and soon we will know where this terrorist operates from. That way we will not only get the device, we will get the person who operates it.”
They all took the information in and the room was quiet for a few minutes. Finally Lange spoke up.
“I know this was a very risky thing to do but this is not a typical terrorist. If we are to catch him, we have to do things in a different way.” Lange said.
He felt thankful someone had suggested putting a tracking device on the portal. He was sure if it would help them catch the masked terrorist but at least it helped him buy time with his cabinet.
“Sir, I just got a text from my secretary. She said the masked terrorist is on TV.” One of the minister said.
Lange’s heart paused. What was the terrorist going to say? Why had he not called instead?
“Put on the TV please.” Lange said and stood from his chair. “How does he keep getting on TV by the way? Aren’t those frequencies protected from hacking?”
Somebody put on the TV and Lange swallowed. There were four soldiers kneeling on the floor with their faces covered and their hands tied behind their backs. The masked terrorist looked different. He had on a different mask. This time his head was also covered.
“Everything rises and falls on leadership. One of your great experts said that and he is right. You trust your president so much but is he worth it?” The masked terrorist said.
Lange had a bad feeling. This was not going to just be a threatening session, he was in for some trouble too.
“Your President made a choice; he released my device in exchange for his mistress. Is that true leadership?”
Everybody in the room turned around and looked at him. He bowed his head to avoid their stares. What was he supposed to say? What was he supposed to do? He had no explanation. He pulled out his chair and sat down.
“These poor soldiers here he sent to die on his behalf. All for a woman who is not even his wife. He sent them to die and I will oblige him.”
Lange bowed his head and stilled the vibration of his hand. He could not forgive himself; he did not deserve to be forgiven. He was a cheating husband, a weak president and a big liar. Now he was going to be a murderer too.
“I’m sorry if there are children watching this but I have to kill these men on live TV so you can all understand what your President has done. I hope this will be the last time this would happen. It all lies in the hand of the president. Will he redeem himself? Will he do the right thing?”
Lange looked up at the television and covered his mouth. These men would die and it would be his fault. He made up his mind; he had spent his last day as President. If he could not lead the people, others would. He kept his eyes on the television as the terrorist picked a butcher’s knife and set it on the throat of the first soldiers. The people in the room stirred and started to whisper to one another. He ignored them.
“In the name of President Johnson Lange, I kill these innocent men.”
Suddenly fire erupted from behind the man with the knife on his throat, it struck the masked terrorist like a lightning bolt and he fell backwards. The soldier shook his head and the bag fell off his face. It was the prisoner! The prisoner looked up momentarily at the camera and then something erupted on the camera and the screen went dark and the room went quiet.
The silence was deafening. The only sound that he heard was his thumping heart.

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