By Akube 16 Comments
From the skies above, the capitol of the refugee nation seemed peaceful and silent, just as one would expect a country such as Bandari to be. Ushundi had one of the lowest crime rates of any major metropolitan city. Any of its inhabitants could explain why. Indeed, it was a peaceful night when watching from On High. But not all men had the privilege to view the world from On High.
From the streets, from the jungle of concrete and grass, reverberating off the trunks of palm trees and the harsh walls of brick and stone, there was an incessant thumping, a rhythmic tone that left the inhabitants of the block tossing and turning all into the night. The sign out in front of the upscale two story building read 'MOTO', the most sensational nightclub in Ushundi. What most would describe as calm and tranquil, others would call monotonous, and so, Moto had come to be. Every night, people lined up around the corner in the vain hope of being granted entrance. Tonight, as always, the club was stuffed to maximum capacity. Every window and skylight spewed flashing technicolor lights.
Inside, patrons danced shoulder to shoulder on the floor, or drank and watched from the broad walkway that covered the second floor. The dancers moved with such precision and speed, a controlled fury that consumed the dance floor. From time to time, dancers would casually drop a strange pill into their mouths and continue their dance. It was as if the music was a rapidly beating heart, and Moto was a body in frenzy, raging out of control.
That was soon to end.
With a deafening crack, one of the skylights caved in and glass rained down. The dance floor parted almost instantaneously as a dark figure fell from the sky, landing gracefully in their midst. Anyone beyond the borders of this small African nation would identify him as the bodyguard to it's leader. Any of Bandari's inhabitants would call him by his true name, "Akube!"
Everyone froze, dumbstruck. Shouts descended into whispers, and whispers, to silence. A moment later the silence came to an end, a guttural cry shattering the eerie tranquility. It was not something the man in black was expecting, "Kill him!"
Within seconds, the crowd moved in on him from all sides, hands grabbing and bludgeoning their leader and protector. He managed to break free, applying minimal force to stem the tide of attackers. Still, they came. Wrestling off a new pile of attackers, he managed enough freedom to press a device built into the shaded fabric around his waist that constituted a belt. It blinked white twice and a gray fog descended through the broken skylight. The aggressors began coughing, and within moments, the dance floor was empty, only broken bottles and discarded shoes left behind, and the man in black wondering what had happened.
"A man of power is not defined by his deeds, but by the deeds of those he inspires." called a voice from above. Akube's eyes pierced through the thinning fog, focusing in on the rough-hewn face of a man, skin as dark as the night sky, eyes as cold and restless as the sea. His wiry black hair was bound tightly behind his head in three descending knots down the back of his neck. He smiled half-heartedly, seemingly in amusement at the Bodyguard's presence. He rubbed his dry, calloused hands together as he leaned over the railing of the elevated walkway. "Do you remember who said that?" he asked, slowly walking down the walkway, toward the staircase. A number of guards stood at attention all around the walkway as the stranger made his way down the stairs. "You did." he continued, pointing down at the Bodyguard, "You, our shepherd, our father, our brother... Akube. Such an inspiring man. By your own logic, you are responsible for some of the greatest accomplishments of the last ten years. But you have chosen to ignore the less favorable deeds you are responsible for."
"What are you talking about?" Akube snarled, "Who are you?"
The man held his arms wide and smiled as he replied proudly, "One of your greatest discarded creations. More directly, I am Erik Mkembo, the most powerful and, thanks to you, ONLY drug distributor in Bandari." He reached the bottom step and slowly approached Akube on the dance floor. "You tried to rid your country of our filth, but in the end, you've only streamlined the process. I have my needle in this country's heart, and it doesn't want me to remove it as much as you, our all-knowing protector." He was cut short as Akube's hand seized him by the throat. Within a split second, every guard up above had their rifle trained on Akube, but held their fire.
"W-what's the matter, Akube?" he coughed, continuing to mock the Bodyguard with his tone, "Not proud of how this one turned out?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean... my deeds define you. Were it not for you, I would not be rich. I might not even be alive. But thanks to your divine intervention, Erik Mkembo is a name that is respected and feared more than yours."
"People do not fear my name."
"Come now, Akube." Erik muttered condescendingly. The Bodyguard let go of his throat and he took a deep breath, massaging the soar flesh around his trachea. "Perhaps it would make things clearer if I just showed you." he said, turning his back to the Bodyguard. He unbuttoned his white dress shirt and slid it down his shoulders, exposing three long parallel scars running diagonally down his back.
"Look familiar?" Erik laughed, rebuttoning his shirt, "Seven years ago, I was working for one of the fledgling underground drug cartels importing into Bandari. I was young and I wanted to be a man. I was weak and I wanted power, and I thought that I could climb my way up to the top from the bottom. I now know that in order to truly seize control, you must build a world where you are already at the top. It was an arranged pickup at the border. Everything was going smoothly until... you came. I escaped, and managed to make off with enough money to live in comfort for a few months. Since I could not go to a hospital, I did my best to clean and stitch your mark. I nearly died. When the fever finally passed, I realized what a mistake I had made by taking the money which rightly belonged to my employer. Thankfully, I learned that his operation had come to a swift end after a raid by the police and a familiar man in black. Within a year, it seemed the very prospect of a smuggling operation in Bandari was a ludicrous fantasy. That was when I came. With nothing but a machete and a handful of money, I brought the wayward servants of the old regime under my control. I had built my world, Akube, and like you, I had placed myself at the top."
Akube lunged at the drug lord, grabbing him by the collar of his shirt and slamming him face first into a table. A bag of pills sat there, right in front of Erik's face. "What is this?!" Akube snarled, demanding an answer.
"Ah... now this is an intriguing product." Erik replied, "It's called Ambrosia. I have a supplier in Europe who has been shipping it in for weeks. I don't know what it does myself, but my clientele certainly enjoy it, and it seems to leave them very open to suggestion, as you saw earlier."
"Who is your supplier?"
"A good businessman does not divulge his sources."
Akube lifted the man up and slammed him back down on his back, leaning in uncomfortably close. They locked eyes as Akube's claws sprang from one of his gloves, hovering over Erik's chest. "I would be happy to mark you again. Now, tell me, who is supplying you with Ambrosia?"
Erik simply laughed. "Do you really think that a street rat could fight for control of the entire drug trade without being able to endure torture? Nothing your little claws can do will break me!"
"We shall see..." Akube whispered. Before he could continue, a low, soft ringing filled the air. He reached into his belt and drew a beeping rectangular white device.
"Looks like duty calls elsewhere." Erik chuckled.
Akube read the small display on the face of the device showing who had made the call for his assistance. It was the President of South Africa. The nature of the call would not be known until he arrived, but he knew that no one ever called him unless he was truly needed. He hoisted Erik up by his shirt, once again locking eyes with the drug lord. "The police are on their way." he said, catching the sound of sirens off in the distance.
Mkembo sneered as he replied, "And by the time they arrive, I will already be gone. I have safe houses scattered across this country that even you couldn't find. I have an army that would rather die then disappoint me."
Akube brought his face within inches of Erik's as he snarled, "You will need more than that to save you." With that, he dropped the drug lord to the ground and pressed the button embedded in his belt once again. A rope descended through the skylight with a foothold at the end. He took hold as it lifted him out into the cold night air. He hopped onto the seat of his hover cycle and tore off into the sky. As he flew over the city, he couldn't help but wonder how such a paradise, a paradise built by his own two hands, could possibly create monsters like Erik Mkembo. The only conclusion he could draw was that he had indeed, through some twisted perception, inspired such a life of crime. And now, a man of power stood at odds with him, built in his own shadow, ready to inspire and corrupt Bandari's youth to serve him and poison their home. Akube pushed his cycle to full throttle, as if to outrun the realization that he had failed. A feeble attempt in his most private moments, which he would never achieve.