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IT had been two days since Mia and Teo returned from their trip to Mountana. And the duo had immediately continued with the investigation.
The investigation was work for Mia. The successful reporter personally arranged it as a fieldwork investigative journalism at her place of work.
Mia had asked her news broadcast company, VCN, to give her a month for an undercover investigation on the Mountana case.
She’d assured her superiors she had got some major leads for the big story.
The established twenty-eight-year-old reporter had asked for a little level of independence from the journalistic body in covering the high profile story.
Especially because of its sensitivity.
Mia’s news company VCN had fortunately agreed to her terms.
Especially when she explained the unofficial manner the investigation would be carried out, owing to the case’s political sensitivity.
But VCN didn’t so much question Mia’s permission to solely go undercover to investigate the story.
For the big, independent broadcast company do not care about its staff welfare as they do about raking in a swarm of viewers. And consequently tons of adverts and revenue.
The capitalist news company would do anything to be the producer of that exclusive.
Even if it meant going by Mia’s terms of allowing her cover the news with some level of independence.
And if it meant making Mia had to sign a strict undertaking that, being a staff of VCN, the media company exclusively run the huge story.
But then, setting out to investigate the administration of the president of Kimberland by two ordinary citizens somewhat seemed like a kid trying to climb up Mount Everest.
The obvious roadblock for ordinary citizens like Teo and Mia was usually inaccessibility to classified information.
The nation’s official documents were not mere newspaper front page articles read and interpreted by just any Tom, Dick and Harry.
Let alone the classified top documents of the powerful Rock Castle in the capital Gardon City.
The investigation seemed a complete waste of time for the naïve team of two. The thought of investigating an incumbent president itself by these two appeared ridiculous outright.
Yet, Teo didn’t see any of the obvious obstacles of the investigation.
The only thing on the young man’s mind was finding evidences against his own father, the president of Kimberland.
Teo was yet to resume his regular work at his architectural company.
Although the young man had regained his health, resuming work without finding out exactly what was behind the Mountana tragedy that killed his girlfriend was rather an impossible thing.
Teo pasted a picture of President Jimi Jacobs on a white board that he’d stood on a wooden frame in his living room.
And below the picture, the young man wrote – and underlined – with a marker:
Possible Causes for Mass Death
Mia was only looking from a distance. She was sitting on the couch with a laptop on her laps.
Teo glanced at the young lady for suggestions and Mia quickly searched through the Internet on her laptop.
Teo looked a little surprised.
‘Miss Mia,’ he called, ‘if I want to look through books for answers I won’t even set out to do this in the first place. Let’s get our answers by ourselves, please.’
Mia let out a breath and reclined herself in the settee.
She lay still for a while, and then, sprang to her feet all of a sudden and walked to the board.
She yanked the marker off Teo’s hand, leaned a little forward and listed her thoughts below the young man’s written topic.
She scribbled in a hurried manner.
- Natural disaster
- Widespread wildfire
Mia paused, raised herself and glanced up at Teo. ‘These are what I can think of right now,’ she said.
Teo whispered with a bright smile. ‘Thank you!’
The two discussed the four points for some time. They soon came to a conclusion that the cause of the Mountana tragedy wasn’t any of the four points.
The country was obviously not in a war. The natural disaster factor had equally been ruled out from the start.
The cause also couldn’t have been an epidemic – as there were literal ruins which an epidemic couldn’t cause.
And lastly, if it had been a wildfire outbreak, it wouldn’t have specifically mapped out inhabited areas and leave out the uninhabited parts.
The pattern the ex-city’s ruins formed only attested to the assumption that the destruction was wrought by man.
Teo’s question was then boxed to what could occasion a case of mass murder by someone or some people?
The duo thought for a while.
Mia soon came up with an answer.
‘What if we think of it from this perspective?’ she put in. ‘Why exactly would the people of Mountana be murdered?’
She paused to make sure Teo was following; and she went on in a bit.
‘Look, it wasn’t two or more random cities or districts. But why was it Mountana itself? Why the people of Mountana?’
Teo folded his arms across his chest, bowed his gaze and heaved an acquiescing sigh.
Mia paced up the living room as she went on talking.
‘Look at it from this angle. Some international organisation was offering to help rebuild the city just as soon as it was ruined. It makes me question why they must be so kind or concerned?’
Teo raised his head and fixed an intent gaze at the young lady. He nodded at her in earnest agreement.
The investigative reporter went on. ‘There are many ruined cities in Iraq, Iran and Israel. And those war torn zones need to be rebuilt. But why us?’
A low grunt of frank admittance buzzed within Teo’s throat.
‘We also have earthquake and volcano torn cities in Japan, New Zealand and so on. Those places need to be rebuilt but nobody hears of an international body offering to help.
‘So, why our Mountana?!’
The smart lady of twenty-eight paused for a moment for the thoughts to sink and intensify her partner’s skeptical outlook.
Her listener now stood with arms akimbo and gazed with interest.
With some wondering and curiosity, Mia muttered to herself repeatedly. ‘Why Mountana? Why Mountana? Why Mounta…’
A sudden idea struck her mind in a moment. Mia’s face brightened up that instant.
‘It’s about the land of Mountana itself,’ she exhaled.
The young beauty and brains sprinted towards the board, picked up the marker and scribbled out a few points.
Teo saw what Mia had just scribbled out and picked up from there.
‘Yes, it’s not about the people,’ the young man agreed; ‘if it were about them in the first place, they wouldn’t have been murdered while they were sleeping.’
Teo was excited he had found the answer he’d been looking for, staring right at him.
Mia quipped at the instance. ‘The Mountana people were like an obstacle in getting at the major goal!’
Teo retorted. ‘And the larger picture is the land of Mountana itself!’
Teo paused and went on in a second.
‘Yes; that explains why the president denied that international body access into Mountana, and told the organisation we’re still in mourning.’
Mia snapped her fingers. ‘You got it; that’s it!’ she exclaimed.
Teo squinted his eyes a moment. ‘I bet the president knew the organisation was coming for the land and he didn’t want them in.’
He paused a second. ‘That’s it, Mia! You’re so on point! That’s it!’ he suddenly exuded with the thrill of discovery.
Mia instantly glanced at Teo, looking askance.
She heard him call her by name just now. Teo just addressed her informally and she found it a little awkward.
Teo was just done being excited and now he knew he’d broken through a boundary of courtesy between Mia and him.
He felt a little awkward.
He thought of what to say and decided to come clean before the awkwardness brewed rather too cold between the two.
‘Erm… erm… so sorry, Miss Mia. Didn’t intend to be… I mean, to be that… erm, impolite – yes, impolite… ahem. Was simply carried away by the excitement, you know.’
The apology was what the young beautiful needed. But now that she got it already, she felt rather too awkward herself.
Mia stuttered. ‘It’s… it’s okay. You’re… few years older than me, after all. It’s okay, sir.’
Teo knew it wasn’t okay. Calling Mia by name already seemed taking her for granted. They hadn’t gotten so close.
Teo replied in a quiet voice. ‘No, it’s not; I really don’t want to take you for granted. So, pardon me.’
Mia thought on the young dude’s warm thoughtfulness. And it made her smile.
But the young adorable now so wished that Teo called her by name.
Like the aftermath of a volcanic eruption, the first couple were still buried in shock.
Jimi and Demi Jacobs were still contemplating the big blow they’d just received from Utopia.
When Demi had earlier set out to help her husband, she’d planned to take the fight to the end.
But upon reading Utopia’s email, her determination had been terribly shaken.
Yet the first lady knew she had to stand by her husband, even if the whole world was crashing down upon them.
Demi decided to pull herself together. She decided to go back to her drawing board, thinking.
Her husband the president of Kimberland and her had got less than seven days to find a way to defeat Utopia.
Or else concede to defeat and welcome the international organisation to take over Kimberland’s Mountana city.
Choosing to find a way to defeat the powerful Utopia in less than seven days was like a crippled hiker racing against time to mount up Everest.
It was like a wounded hunter racing against time to gun down a pride of lions at close range.
It was an uphill task. It was grossly suicidal.
And that difficult, dangerous task was exactly the choice of Kimberland’s first lady. Demi Jacobs wouldn’t just concede to defeat without keeping up a fierce fight.
With much prayers and words of encouragement, Demi was able to convince her husband to fight right until the very end.
And now, the first family was back to the battlefield. It was total war against Utopia.
After a long hour of brainstorming, and like Teo and Mia, Demi also began to question why Utopia would handpick Mountana City of all the lands in the country.
She reasoned. ‘They could have picked any other land in the country without having to kill anyone; but they chose Mountana and killed the people on the land.’
After a while, Demi stopped thinking about the people of Mountana and started to think of about the land itself.
She came to agree that the people might just be a hindrance to Utopia’s bigger plan, if they could go to the lengths of murdering the entire residents while coveting the city.
There must be something about the land she and her husband needed to find out, she admitted.
All that Teo and Mia wanted, too, was unearthing the secrets that caused the cold blood murder of the residents of the ruined Mountana City.
But then, as there was neither an archeologist nor miner among the team of two, there was no way they could uncover what lay beneath the ruins of the city.
They were at a dead end.
And one in which only someone within the powerful Rock Castle… can pave out the way forward.
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