The Zanzibar Organization
“Queen, wake up.”
“It’s time, Queen. You have slept enough.”
Akia murmured to herself and turned sideways. Then her eyelids flew open.
The bed was hard and cold. Very cold!
And no, this is not a bed!
Akia sat up and looked around, her eyes wide open. She was on a metal gurney, the kind of thing that you would place a corpse on. Or a reanimated corpse from someone who was technically dead until half an hour ago.
“Queen, you’re awake,” the voice said.
Akia’s eyes narrowed only for a moment. She didn’t recognize the voice nor the face that the voice belonged to, but things like this never slowed her down. She could tell right away that this voice and this female person was not a threat.
But the room! Akia glanced around quickly, taking in everything as quickly as she could.
Something was wrong. This room was both familiar and unfamiliar. The size and shape and layout had not changed. The LED light fixtures were the same. But some of the fittings and equipment was off. No, not just off, they were out of place. Like she had stepped into a science fiction world.
Akia specialized in figuring out things that were off or out of place, and she specialized in putting things in the right place. And people in the right place.
Pensive look. Hand to her upper lip. Akia scanned her body. Was she still the same Akia? These were familiar clothes. Long loose sleeves that covered her entire arm down to her knuckles, long loose pants that covered her feet, loose fitting, long shirt with flower motifs... these were Akia’s favorite clothes for indoors relaxation, what she called her flowerpower outfit. Because of her flowerpower outfit, Akia couldn’t see even an inch of her brown skin underneath. She could only see her fingers, and her toes peeking out of the trouser cuffs below. But they did seem to be her fingers and toes; being frozen for a long time hadn’t turned her white.
“Queen,” the woman spoke again.
“I don’t recognize you,” Akia said to the woman. She glanced up and down at the woman. The uniform was familiar – a pink outfit similar to what many nurses wore, except with far shorter hemlines and pink stockings. But...
“You’ve been asleep for many years, Queen. And speaking of that, can I call you Queen?”
“Akia will do,” Akia said shortly. She was fixated on the screens in the room. They didn’t look like the monitor screens she knew. They were much lighter, bigger, thinner.
“That’s new,” Akia pointed.
The woman smiled. Thus far she had not made any move. But now she stepped closer to a screen. Something detected her proximity, and instantly a blank screen became completely lighted up. There was a lot of information about medical stuff which Akia didn’t understand, but which obviously referred to herself.
“Now watch,” the woman said. She drew back her fist and punched a screen hard. It shattered. But glass did not fly everywhere. It was just a vast web of cracks that spread for a radius of maybe forty centimeters from the point of impact.
The woman raised her hand to show Akia. She had sustained no injuries.
“Nowadays screens are very safe. Nobody gets hit by flying glass anymore.”
That was nice. But what about the screen? This had to be an expensive demonstration!
But when Akia looked back towards the screen, the web of cracks had vanished. Oh no, there was still a bit, some indentation at the center... but it was rapidly...
No, the screen had restored itself completely. There was no sign of any damage now.
“Self healing screens,” Akia marveled. Of course. Screens needed to be self healing. They were so fragile and monitors getting broken in workplace fights were such a commonplace ocurrence back in her time. This was really a good and well deserved technological innovation.
“You’ve been asleep for more than thirty years, after all.”
“Thir...!” Akia could not stop herself. Her hands went up to her mouth. Both her hands.
“I’m sorry, but you being placed in our cryogenic storage...”
The image of Rine’s mischievous face popped up in Akia’s mind. Rine, that eternal prankster. Rine, who brought her here, fed her something and put her into a cryo chamber when Akia lost consciousness. Rine, who...
“Rin, Rine, RINE, REEEENE!!!!” Akia cried out.
The nurse-like woman faltered a little at Akia’s anger, but steeled herself when she backed into a desk.
“It’s okay, Queen, it’s Okay. There’s no Rine here,” the nurse said soothingly.
Although she had never seen the nurse before, the nurse seemed to know much about Akia. She was able to quickly answer any questions Akia posed to her.
“So much has changed in the last thirty years. Thanks to your investments in Ecowas tech startups, you were a billionaire at one point,” the nurse said.
“Billionaire? I was a billionaire?” The use of past tense had not escaped Akia’s attention. “Billionaire in what? Nigerian Nairas? Zimbabwean Dollars?” African currencies were generally not worth much internationally. Akia simply did not think being a billionaire meant such great wealth.
“North American Dollars,” the nurse corrected Akia.
Now that was serious wealth. Probably enough to buy an entire year’s production of Rolls Royce cars back in Akia’s day.
“But I’m sorry, as I said earlier...”
“Yes, that bad news thing.”
“You had been missing for a long time, and nobody knew you were here in this facility. Your relatives declared you missing, and the shares...”
“It’s ok, that’s all right,” Akia waved a hand dismissively. The money hadn’t meant that much to her. She had never been good at keeping in touch with her relatives. They were more likely to use the money for good community purposes than a loner like Akia.
But the mention of North American Dollars reminded Akia of Banana Ben the Banker. And that made Akia feel sick, tense, worried. She sensed that something was wrong. Even without having read the newspaper for more than 30 years – did anybody publish paper news anymore – Akia felt that something must have gone wrong and her world had not turned out correctly. Cicero would never have left her stranded in a cryogenics facility. He would have looked for Akia!
Akia began asking questions about the people she knew in the past.
“So Cicero and Stacy, I mean Anastasia... they are dead?”
“No, just vanished. They’ve not been seen again. But they were pretty exhausted when Banana Ben employed his ultimate Kungfu, Too Big To Fail.”
“I’m not sure what you mean. I wasn’t there. I didn’t see it,” Akia remonstrated. “You’re saying Banana Ben is too big to fail?”
“No, that’s the name of his KungFu. It’s a mysterious power that we were not expecting. We only learned about it after the fact. But thanks to TBTF, Banana Ben was instantaneously able to resurrect all the zombie bankers and reinforce them. The more defeated the banker was, the more bankrupt, the more indebted, the more Banana Ben was able to raise them from the dead. Furthermore, Banana Ben drew from all the liquidity in the world to do it. The atmosphere dried up. Anyone relying on Water-based kungfu suffered. After which the fight started again, and this time our exhausted heroes...” Nurse stopped.
Cicero... I miss you... Akia thought to herself. And Stacy. Both of them had great teams, and she had liked them all.
“Oh wait a moment,” Akia raised a hand. “What about Rine? Wasn’t she with Cicero’s team?”
“Not everyone. At the last moment Rine seemed to know what was coming, and she grabbed the kids and fled.”
“Yes, Rine took the kids, literally two under one arm and one under the other. She left for South Africa immediately, and hasn’t been seen since.” The nurse spoke with confidence. Akia did not question how this nurse could have known all these, despite not looking as though she was old enough to have witnessed the events at that huge battle more than thirty years ago. The nature of the people who had backed Akia and Cicero and Anastasia and other similar teams, was such that a lot of information was available to their employees and subordinates.
“So she could be...” Akia stopped. No, Rine couldn’t be gone. Rine was a survivor. She always anticipated danger, and knew what to do to avoid danger.
Akia looked down. After the initial anger at Rine for having tricked her into taking a sedative and putting her into cryogenic storage had faded, Akia wanted to see Rine so much. A familiar face. Surely Rine would not have changed much. Even thirty plus years... and the kids... all grown up, thanks to her cryosleep Akia would seem to be the same age as the kids now... how would they relate to her?
Forget it, Akia admonished herself.
She knew it won’t be that easy.
She was awake now. But they wouldn’t have awakened her if they didn’t need her, would they? They wouldn’t have been so remiss that they could operate a cryo facility for decades without noticing someone stored inside. Rine’s action had to be something sanctioned by them.
Akia’s personal matters could wait.
“And now, Queen, no sorry, Akia,” the nurse spoke. “I think some people would like to speak to you.”
“Nobody else,” the woman smiled and nodded her head.
Akia raised her head and stood to her full height of 175cm. Her entire body seemed to change as she did so. The nurse stood back and marveled. Despite her seemingly slack, flowerpower outfit, Queen Akia was no layabout. She was driven by her own internal engine, and now this engine was operating at full capacity and had forgotten the effects of the cryosleep.
A regal brown hand went up and indicated a door.
“They’re behind that door?”
“Same as ever,” the nurse bowed and retreated. She had not intended to move that way, but it felt correct. Queen Akia was back in charge.
Akia strode to the door. It opened automatically, and she entered the dark recesses of the room within.
The lights came on. The room had always been small and grotto-like, and after thirty plus years it seemed to be the same. The screens had changed with the technology available, but otherwise it was basically the same room. There was no room to sit; one did not sit in front of the Benefactors when they summoned you.
Once again, the people known as the Benefactors appeared on the screen. Their faces and dresses were indistinct as ever; some kind of technique or programming sequence had blurred them out, yet they were still recognizable as individuals in their own way.
“They’ve not changed,” Akia noted to herself. This was truly an example of the mysterious ways the Benefactors seemed to work. They either grew old and were replaced by people who seemed to be exactly the same, or they... never grew old?
Someone was talking about something... uh...
“Akia, quit musing,” one of the female Benefactors said in a tone of command that even Akia could not resist. “ You will learn more when you meet your team. One head does not hold council.”
“Of course, Ohemaa,” Akia lowered her head respectfully.
“This is The Real World. We have no time to fantasize. Keep your focus.”
The Benefactors made no reference to the past or previous teams. They told Akia that she would be leading a team to take on assorted missions.
“So, my political risk consultancy has seven members?” Akia put a hand to her chin.
“Have no fear, technology has advanced,” a Benefactor said. “There will be plenty of space for seven of you on board the airship.”
“All right,” Akia waved a hand to show support. “But if I’m not mistaken, I’ll start out having to rescue others?”
“Not for the first two. Four more await extraction.”
Akia nodded. “After which...”
“Same as ever.”
“So I’m back in business.”
“Of course, my daughter,” a Benefactor spoke up. “No matter the time or era, it’s always the same business in the human world.”
The Benefactor’s voice was warm and her body language appeared friendly, but once again Akia felt a chill. It wasn’t an unfriendly chill like the coming of death. It was a chill like when a cold, moist wind from Kilimanjaro rushes down and hits you while you are walking around the foothills below. It suggested the Benefactor was more than you. More than human.
One single word floated up in Akia’s mind. She immediately pushed it down. She would deal with facts as they revealed themselves to her, without speculating on anything.
“One thing, do beware,” a Benefactor said. “You have been asleep for over thirty years. Your skills and powers have deteriorated. You have lost a lot of levels due to inaction over time. Do be aware that it will take a considerable time to regain all your former powers.”
“We will, of course, equip you as always,” another Benefactor spoke.
“Equipment?” More than three decades had passed, and Akia wasn’t sure if she knew what to use or do.
“An airship, as always. With the latest in equipment. Which you’ll learn about with time.” The Benefactor concluded.
“The capacity of this airship is bigger than previous models in your time,” another Benefactor added.
A female Benefactor pointed at Akia. “You will start with two teammates. They are of this current time, so they have been instructed accordingly. They will teach you everything you need to know.”
As her conference with the Benefactors drew to a close, Akia was told to await the arrival of the airship that she was supposed to take command of. There were a couple of hours to kill, so the nurse offered to accompany Akia for a drive outside the facility. But Akia was not a Political Risk Consultant for nothing. She had her inner nerd; her inner intellectual, that craved new data and as much of it as possible in as short a time as possible. So she sat in front of a screen and read as much as she could, to catch up on the past thirty-plus years. Because Akia started by attacking a database with statistics on each country in a great many categories, she was able to absorb a lot of information quickly, and build a picture of the current position of each country.
Akia was pleased to see progress. Botswana and Namibia were now high income countries. Malawi and South Sudan were now middle income countries; Ghana a higher-middle income country, and Bangladesh solidly middle class. Akia was a lot less pleased to see that Yemen remained destitute, and that countries in Africa, especially those in the Sahel, continued to dominate the rankings of the poor and least developed nations.
Early in the evening, an airship arrived at the cryogenics facility that had housed Akia for more than thirty years.
Akia did not see the airship approach in person; she was too busy reading and watching as much as she could on multiple screens. She did not wish to appear ignorant in front of her new team. So she remained at her station until the nurse came in with two people, a large man and a much smaller woman. The man was in a pink suit so eye catching that Akia’s attention was immediately riveted to his clothes.
“Sugto and Mayapi, this is your leader, Akia,” the nurse made the introduction.
“I’m Sugto,” the man said in an accent that reminded Akia of sex fantasies, wine and romantic movies. He was very tall and handsome with a shaved head, and his confidence was as arresting to a woman as his clothes were. “I’m from...”
Akia raised a hand with a knowing smile. “Don’t tell me, I can guess,” she said.
Looks like some things really don’t change. That face, that accent, that dress. Only one country.
“It’s actually France, but Congo is also correct.” Even this sentence practically floated out like a sexual invitation. Sugto could really smile. It wasn’t a generous, kindly smile, but a smile that hinted of pleasures of the night and other things that a woman could only wish for deep down inside but which would cause feelings of guilt for decades.
Akia tore her eyes away from Sugto’s clean, white teeth and turned to the curly-haired woman beside Sugto.
“I’m Mayapi,” the woman said. She was of average height, so Akia was a lot taller than her.
“Mayapi, is that a personal name or...”
“My personal name is Thabisile,” the woman preempted Akia, as though she was expecting this question.
“Should...” but Akia didn’t get to finish.
“Thabisile means Cause of Happiness,” Sugto shrugged. “Xhosa or Zulu.”
“But they liked to call me Tubby for short,” Mayapi said. “And I didn’t like that.”
Akia looked at Mayapi up and down. She was too short to be a model, but she was extremely trim. Nothing tubby about her. Mayapi was definitely photogenic. And the hot pants that didn’t quite keep fuschia panties from showing even when she was standing still, that sleeveless white top with black bra peeking out... simply irresistible. Akia wanted to see more. No, her tongue wanted to explore more. If not for that set jawline...
Mayapi met Akia’s eyes. Despite being fifteen cm shorter, Mayapi had that steel in her eyes that suggested a childhood of fights.
OK, this woman isn’t going to be that submissive, Akia noted to herself. But somehow it made getting hold of Mayapi even more desirable. It would be definitely great fun to pin down Mayapi and...
“Furthermore, I don’t want to just bring joy to others. I want myself to be happy.”
“Why should I be sacrificed for others?” Mayapi raised her hands, palms up in an inquiring motion. Her eyebrows went up. “Anyway, if you feel my family name is a bit unfamiliar, I also answer to Maya.”
“All right, I’ll call you Maya then, if you don’t mind.”
The Zanzibar Organization
The group of three people took a hovering platform into the airship. Once they were in, Sugto said something to a screen nearby. The airship automatically began ascending.
Maya seemed to have taken it all for granted, but Akia took note. Looks like digital control technology had indeed improved from Akia’s days, since there was no one at the main controls when the airship started moving.
While Sugto went to the main control room, Maya showed Akia around the airship. Akia was pleased to note that the Benefactors had at least provided for her with a few changes of clothes and underwear. This was better than forty years earlier, when the Benefactors simply had people rescued with the clothes on their backs. A rescued person could not change her clothes until it was safe to stop, get off and buy something.
There were a lot of new things to learn. Chief among the new things, was that all doors were guarded by smartlocks now. If you were considered the legitimate occupant or visitor for a room, you could just approach and the door would open as long as it could scan your face or hear your voice command. If not, the door merely stayed closed until you were allowed in by the occupant. So there could not be any surprise night visits from unwanted visitors.
Sugto was very pleasing to look at and enjoyable to talk to, but Akia did not see herself ever wanting a visit from him. She preferred a man her height or less.
It was night already and she was not hungry. But there were a couple more things to do before she could go to sleep...
Akia met her team in the operations room of the airship. Maya was watching what appeared to be Korean or Central Asian pop stars performing. She was eating straight from a tub of yam-flavored ice cream. Sugto was seated in front of several lighted screens and seemed to be multitasking.
Sugto grinned mischievously and rubbed his chin.
“Our name, leader. You must give our team a name before you go to sleep.”
“We...” Akia’s eyes rolled up at that thought.
Maya looked straight at Akia. Akia’s flowerpower outfit had not impressed Maya. Maya was a little afraid that this new leader, who had only just woken from cryosleep, was some crackpot idealist born in the wrong era and not ready to lead even in this era.
But Akia was not spacing out. She was remininescing. Cicero had his Z Organization, Anastasia had her ZIL Organization. Now Akia wanted...
Akia turned to look at her two crewmates.
“We’re black Africans. We should have a name appropriate to our region.”
“Hang on,” Sugto interrupted. “Not all our members have...”
“Of course, they did tell me that,” Akia asserted her authority as leader. “We have rescue missions to effect in China, India, Eastern Albania and North Africa. We’ll be a lot more global eventually, when we reach our full roster of 7. But for now, the core is us three. So I’ll want a name that suits our starting point. And I like the idea of something with Z in it.”
“Not anything-isiZulu,” Maya said immediately. Akia ignored her.
“Z-, Z-, Zee, Zanj, Zanzibar. OK, Zanzibar Organization. ZZO for short,” Akia pronounced in a voice that brooked no opposition.
There was a pause as Maya and Sugto took in the name of their new team. Unlike Akia, Maya and Sugto had to consider whether it was the type of name that you were afraid to associate yourself with, on social media. But they decided that the initials ZZO carried no negative connotations.
“I already set course for East Northeast,” Sugto said. “My Benefactors told me our first objective was to rescue our fourth teammate.”
“As well as handle any missions in between if we have the time,” Maya added. She didn’t want Sugto to control everything.
“Let’s get to it,” Akia said.
Sugto was going to the navigation console, when he turned around.
“Say, we still need a name for this ship. We’ve been travelling without a name, but we’re actually over Benin by now. We’ll be exiting the Ghanaian airspace control area soon. So we’ll need a name to tell Nigerian air control. It can’t be Temporary License 83888 for Domestic Lighter Than Air Pleasure Craft.”
“I can suggest a name if you want,” Maya said.
Akia shook her head slightly. Was it like that for Cicero too? She remembered Cicero telling her that he had to come up with a name for his airship on the spot, and he chose a name with the same initials as his own but which was actually a pun with some profundity to it. Ah, Cicero loved puns...
Akia made a downwards gesture with one hand. To Maya, it looked like her leader was flapping her over-long sleeve like an indecisive person. But Akia merely wanted to focus on the present.
All right, she wanted a name that sounded good. Sounded happy. Sounded spiritual. Sounded young and energetic and full of life...
Oh, happiness too...
But Akia was at a loss. What name could she use?
In her mind, Akia groped for things she had seen before. On Cicero’s ship. On Stacy’s ship. Oh, the most majestic object on both of these ships must have been Stacy’s Rolls Royce Phantom...
Akia put a hand to her chin. And she wanted something that honored friends who were no longer with her...
“Spirit of Exstacy,” Akia decided. “E-X-S-t-a-c-y.”
Sugto looked steadily at his boss. “Shall I tell the air controllers that our code is SPOEX? Then they’ll assign a random number to make it seven alphanumerics.”
“Go ahead,” Akia said. Their eyes met, and Akia smiled.
Futurism, politics, satire, humor, comedy, sci-fi, fact-fiction, geography, travel, airship, Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, diversity, ethnic fiction, kungfu, action, adventure, Congo, South Africa, culture
Light-hearted discussions, forum games and anything that doesn't fit into the other forums.
2 posts • Page 1 of 1
(apologies if picture doesn't show up; I am not good at this. Just message me whenever you find that picture can't be seen. It is currently hosted on my Patreon page)
This is a map of the route taken by the airship SPOEX in volume 01 of The Zanzibar Organization.
The SPOEX has bigger floor space than the Hindenberg. But it is still subject to the same practical facts. Although airships fly, they are unpressurized and unheated vehicles. So although airships can travel very high, the occupants will feel cold and deprived of oxygen. So most airships travel fairly close to the ground, and avoid mountainous ground. When moving through mountainous areas, routes have to be planned carefully.
Apart from that, the ZZO also likes traveling closer to the ground when there is a nice view.
Being political risk consultants, they do enjoy being able to look closely at the countries below. They can and do observe the state of the infrastructure, economic activity, urban sprawl, environmental damage, etc.
Each volume will have 8 missions. Each mission spans 3 chapters. 1 chapter will be posted per week. Together with 1 chapter on the World and 1 Epilogue chapter, each volume is expected to take 26 weeks to complete.
Starting point: north of Accra in Ghana, a certain Technology and Business Park.
Mission 1: Borno State, Nigeria. The shores of the former Lake Chad.
Mission 2: Northeastern Chad. A uranium mining area.
Mission 3: Darfur, Sudan. An urban area.
Mission 4: Region 3 (Amhara), Ethiopia. Rural area.
Mission 5: Darwadi, near the Red Sea coast. (This is a fictional country, my invention.)
Mission 6: Djibouti.
Mission 7: some islands off Somaliland. (Somaliland is only recognized by Taiwan and a few other countries)
Mission 8: Yemen, mountainous areas north of Aden.
Tags: science fiction, futurism, Africa, climate change, politics, satire, geography, comedy, fact-fiction, airship, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somaliland, Yemen, Ghana
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