Pepya threw himself down in the shade of the forest. He had only reached the edge but he couldn’t take himself any further. He had a clear view of the coast line across the warm beach of East Africa.
He didn’t want to steal. He was an honest man and it was against his nature but his wife was sick and his children barely had one meal a day. ‘The General’ had come to his town and offered a lot of money to anyone willing to join his group and obtain resources by any means necessary. Pepya did it for his wife’s sake and for the sake of his children.
A merchant ship stopped at the Went Harbour. Men in dusty brown uniforms were loading and off loading. Pepya wandered closer. No one seemed to pay him any attention. He blended in. He lifted one of the boxes in the pretence that he was helping. The moment he touched it shouting erupted. He stepped back and raised his hands in the air. He didn’t understand what they were saying to him. He knocked one of the boxes over and emblazoned on the side was an image of four rearing horses. In the centre of those was the Admiral’s Seal.
Men in red uniform bore down on Pepya. They were more organised than the helpers. They were pointing heavy duty guns at him that only members of an elite force would have. Pepya tried to say apologise. One of the helpers tried arguing on his behalf but a soldier in red threw their elbow into his face, sending him crashing to the ground. The other’s fell silent. They dared not challenge.
Pepya ran. He had always been a fast runner. He had even been approached as a youngster in the hopes he could represent his home nation as a professional athlete.
A sharp pain fired in the back of his leg as a bullet clipped him. Since he hadn’t gotten away with anything they didn’t gun him down. The shot to his leg served as a painful warning. They chose not to pursue him.
The shadows of night were spreading across the horizon by the time Pepya returned home. His wife was in a terrible state of shock. She had kept herself on her feet as much as possible but she really should have been resting. ‘The General’ had sent for him. Pepya’s family didn’t like ‘The General’. They didn’t trust him. Pepya had tried to explain that their desperation was leaving them with very little choice.
‘The General’ had set up one of the few stable buildings left in town. It was were the bank had been. Those who used to work with the bank had either joined ‘The General’ or had been shot dead on the streets out front. ‘The General’ laid claim to the money. The people of the town had were forced to turn to him for loans.
Pepya was walking with a limp. Two boys in their early teens guarded the door of the bank. When they spotted him approaching the eldest called inside, “He’s here!”
Pepya climbed through the gaping hole, left over damage from rogue military manoeuvres in the town.
‘The General’ seated at a large oak desk that rightfully belonged to the bank manager. He wore the full military regalia complete with medals that had never been earned.
“You have had quite an adventure today, haven’t you?” ‘The General’s’ voice boomed. “I heard you tried to lift a box from a merchant ship.”
Pepya nodded in acknowledgement of the statement.
“Do you know who that ship belonged to?”
“They were a lot more guarded than I had first thought. They shot at me,” Pepya explained, avoiding the question.
‘The General’ stood. He threw his chair back and slammed his fists on the table. “That ship belonged to Admiral Bullbrand. Do you have any idea what you have done?”
Instant shots of adrenaline fired down all four of Pepya’s limbs. He began to shake. He didn’t know Admiral Bullbrand but his reputation was wide spread. “I … I didn’t know until it was too late,” he stammered. “I never took anything.”
‘The General’ grunted. He turned to the television behind him and pushed the play button on a video message that was already loaded.
“I received this message ten minutes ago,” he explained.
On the screen appeared the image of the Admiral. He wore a vibrant red blazer which gave a wildness to the piercing blue of his eyes. His sharp chin was held up as he glared at those the message was intended for.
“This morning I received word that an individual from one of the local towns attempted steal from one of my supply ships. I’m sure resourceful gentlemen such as yourselves agree that this can not be tolerated. The cheeky little fellow escaped with nothing more than a scraped knee but rest assured this is not the last you have heard of this.” Bullbrand leaned closer to the camera. He gave a sharp intake of breath and his narrow lips tightened. “If I were to let this go then word might spread. Before we know it we have anarchy on our hands and the beautiful beaches of your coast would run red with blood.” Admiral Bullbrand sat back again and took a momentary pause. He ran his forefinger and his thumb across his chin. “To show that theft from one of my ships will not be tolerated I will be with you within forty eight hours. I will see to the punishment of those responsible personally.”
The video message cut. Pepya was finding it a struggle to breathe. He felt two grown men grip his arm.
“You heard what the Admiral said.” ‘The General’ spoke calmly. “If we let you go and you flee we will all be destroyed. You have brought Him here. You have brought death to our shores.”
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