The silence was so heavy, it crushed their spirits. It was so loud, it drowned their composure. The sound of erratic breathings and the loud beats of their hearts against their rib cages filled the little space they were confined in.
Ekene was preoccupied with thoughts of his last moments with Nneka. The look in her eyes as he stepped out of her house around 0300 wrenched his gut. The air was so thick that breathing was a daunting task, they were choking, suffocating. They were under orders, they have been trained, for them, there is no going back, orders must be obeyed.
Ekene was silently observing the various physical exhibitions of apprehension by his five other Cell Mates as they sat, three on a bench clutching their rifles facing each other in the back of their conveying truck when the smooth voice of their Cell Commander sitting in the passenger`s seat sailed into their ears via their walkie-talkies.
“Approaching enemy line in 3 minutes, insertion point in 60 seconds, prepare to disembark, take positions and wait for further directives”
“Yes sir”, they echoed in unison, stood and turned to back themselves as the sides of their truck glided up.
“Brakes in 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, brakes, jump”
In one swift movement, the six men, three on each side jumped off the truck simultaneously and rolled into the nearby bush on both sides of the road. The truck was already on the move before they hit ground.
Three men sat at one end of a long table in a dark room, lit by the monitor of a computer operated by a young man in his early twenties with disheveled hair, a headset framing his big head at a corner of the room. He stood up abruptly and announced urgently.
“They stopped sir…”
“Where? Give me a precise location”, the man in the middle at the table barked jumping to his feet. Igbekele is a short bulky man that loves dressing in immaculate white. Today he is putting on a white flowing agbada and as he jumped out of his seat, he knocked over and spilled the content of a glass of wine resting on the table, soiling his cloth.
“They are on the move again sir, they stopped for an infinitesimal bit of a split of a fraction of a second sir!”
“Aaaaaaaaah, Egbentu! Where did you bring this loud mouth from?” an angry Igbekele bellowed to the slim tall man looking like a man above forty with a bad right eye to his left. He turned to his right and said to the teenager with a long scar on his forehead, broken lips, long neck and the face of a girl with a smile on his face, “Ediabani, fat head here wants to impress me with fat words. Is he jealous of you?” Ediabani said nothing and remained unmoved staring into empty space.
Facing the now jittery computer operator, Ubulu he asked calmly with a sneer, “So tell me grammarian, what were you saying?”
“Nothing sir, I guess it was just a blip sir”
“There he goes again”, he said with a feigned resignation to Ediabani.
“Look here young man, I am getting angry and your life is doing blip, blip, blip as we speak”, continuing he shouted
“What is going on?”
“Nothing boss, nothing”, Egbentu answered hurriedly.
Igbekele took a long look at Ubulu, turned to Egbentu, turned to Ediabani, winked at him and sat down. Both of them who had stood up when he did lowered themselves into their seats too.
Agent Emeto, glanced towards the driver beside him with a satisfied smile, “nice one Nduka, nice one”. The Cell headed by Agent Emeto is a specialized and highly trained government unit charged with neutralizing national threat that will cause the government embarrassment if handled openly and officially. The men making up The Cell aside the Cell Commander are drawn from across federal correctional facilities; ex-military personnel who have less than five years on their sheet are targeted, recruited, given further training and sworn to two years engagement with The Cell. On completion, they are re-integrated into the military and deployed to foreign missions. They are replaced as the need arises due to expiration of commission, death or permanent disability of a Mate. Members of the unit are addressed as Mates. They are divided into two Atoms, Atom Port and Atom Starboard, everything about their operation is defined by this division. Atom Port is made up of Ekene, Chidalu and Ikenna with Ekene as the Atom Leader while Atom Starboard comprises Chinedu, Gozie and Chike with Chinedu as the Atom Leader.
Atom Port and Starboard crawled for thirty seconds into the bushes and turned facing the road. Thirty seconds later, the voice of the Cell Commander came alive on their walkie-talkies.
“Atoms, status report”
“Atom Port in position”, Ekene replied.
“Atom Starboard in position”, responded Chinedu.
“Maintain positions, radio silence activated until you hear from me, good luck gentlemen”.
“Static… static sir. I can hear static sir, somebody is broadcasting close by sir. Sir, it may be….”
“Quiet! Igbekele bellowed at Ubulu, glaring at him. “Can`t you talk without sir…sir…sir?”, he continued, “If I hear…”
“He is doing his job boss”, Egbentu interjected, “and being respectful while…”
Egbentu stopped talking as Igbekele raised his right hand up slowly and turned to face him with red shot eyes.
“How dare you interrupt me? You are teaching your boy to disrespect me?” He whispered, a coy smile playing on his lips, “huh…”
Egbentu recognized the look in his eyes, shaking, he stuttered hurriedly, “No boss…”
Igbekele cut him short with a knock on his head. “Interrupt me no more you cretin before I feed your tongue to your boy”, he shouted and turned to Ubulu`s direction, “listen and watch closely, report any other observation immediately!”
“Yes sir. Sorry sir. Sorry boss. Yes boss.” Ubulu spilled, fear written all over him.