Drawn into fighting the environmental battle over African oil, Michael must decide who the real villains are and what he is prepared to fight for…
At the end of his gap year helping children in a Nigerian school, Michael is swept up in the idealistic adventures of the BioGuardians – a high profile group of protesters heavily against the construction of the Chad-Cameroon oil pipe line.
With high hopes of making a difference somewhere in his life, Michael quickly finds out that there are factions desperate to ensure the pipeline’s construction and that the battle the BioGuardians are fighting may be verging on obsession
This urgent, intense adventure pushes Michael to the edge and makes him question who the bad guy really is, as the lines between right and wrong become increasingly crossed…
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I’ve always been intrigued by the concepts of eco-terrorism and the balancing act between the environment and our need for resources. Crossing Lines takes those ideas and throws in oil, Africa and adventure… Enjoy!!!
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I wanted to explore these ideas from a slightly naive male character, with a more worldly female to counter him. I think they have great chemistry and I hope you’ll agree.
The rush of air across the back of his legs told Michael that the car had come close. But he had learned quickly that the locals would never hit an oyibo, a white man. He had seen them appear to speed up to hit, or at least scare, the locals especially the children whose begging verged on nuisance to those rich enough to own a car. Michael always gave to the children whenever he could, just a few cents or food; it was why he came here instead of university after all, to help in any way he could with the underprivileged children of Enugu in southern Nigeria. But now, regretfully, his time was up.
With just his backpack of basics left after posting the rest of his gear home, he was enjoying his last few hours in downtown Enugu before starting his journey back to the real world. When he had started crossing the road without looking, he was lost in thought of how to tell his parents he didn’t really want to go to university; he wanted to do something real, something that mattered. He had come to Africa to “make a difference” as he had put it to his mother while convincing her that he could take a gap year. Though having said it, he found he was disappointed in himself for using such a clichéd tone.
The brush with the local traffic made him stop and reassess his surroundings. The sun was still high on the rusting red roofs of the colonial-style buildings. A lack of street signs made it difficult for tourists to know where they were, but Michael had learnt quickly to navigate Enugu’s dusty streets. Notre Dame was a couple of blocks behind him and the shouting, which he had first heard this morning on the way to the post office to mail some of his bigger possessions home, was in the next street.
Walking past the only travel agent in town, Michael briefly contemplated changing his flight and spending more time in this city that fascinated him. However, the words of his mother rang in his ears, having told him the open-ended ticket was intended if he wanted to come back sooner – once he had “found himself”, she mocked in his same clichéd manner – rather than an extension. Right now anywhere felt more appealing than the grey days of home.
His mother had barely said a word to him after he decided to go. The act of booking was Michael’s first act of defiance against what he felt was an overly involved mother and a father he barely saw. This was his chance to be himself and find out what he wanted to be, regardless of how corny that sounded.
A tug at the base of his shirt drew Michael out of his daydream. A young boy in what clearly used to be a colourful set of shorts and a threadbare t-shirt was holding out his hand and pointing to his mouth in the semi-pleading, semi-demanding manner they always seemed to. He had seen this boy before and as per usual, took him to the nearest café to ensure he got fed, rather than giving him money which would probably be squandered by his parents.
As they rounded the corner, a small group of mainly western protestors stood outside one of the few modern buildings in Enugu – the local office of All Africa Petroleum. Michael stopped briefly to see a couple of protestors trying to chain themselves to the weathered concrete pillars in the entrance of the AAP building while two others chanted slogans about a pipeline. The tugging at the base of his shirt reminded him that there were other more important things he should be doing, and they entered a small, empty café a couple of shops down from AAP. Michael ordered a sandwich for the boy and one for himself and sat down at a table to wait, resting his backpack on an unsteady chair beside him.
The ceiling fans of the café did little to take the edge off the heat that Michael had grown used to and once again a wave of heat washed over him as another customer entered. She looked how Michael imagined the hippies of the sixties looked, but was clearly a similar age to Michael, with a tie-dyed skirt and loose white shirt over which her mane of blond dreadlocks fell. As she ordered, Michael instantly recognised that distinctive British accent that he hadn’t heard for over a year. He found himself staring as she finished ordering and turned around, catching his gaze.
“Being a good Samaritan are we?” she said.
“Er… Excuse me?” Michael stumbled over the words as he could feel himself blushing.
“Feeding the street kids. Not that I’m complaining, but there are bigger issues in this place right now than poverty.”
“Like what?” Michael replied, sensing the defensiveness in his own voice.
“Those AAP bastards down the road killing hundreds of people and driving thousands of others off their land for a start.” She had sat down at the same table as Michael and the boy now. “You know the Chad Cameroon oil pipeline has displaced thousands just to line the pockets of their greedy shareholders…”
Michael’s sandwich arrived with the boy’s, who quickly grabbed the bag and ran out the door.
“Boys like him have been killed too, just because families refuse to move out the way of a great, polluting pipeline…” she continued as Michael’s attention was distracted by her shirt which was partially unbuttoned because of the heat. She wasn’t wearing a bra.
“So it’s up to people like us to tell the world what’s happening here. We have to show what’s happening to these poor people, being booted off their land and killed by their own government so people like you can drive daddy’s range rover.” The café owner put a large bag of food on the table. “Just think, without people like the BioGuardians bringing media attention, this part of the world would be turning into a bigger corrupt pool of crap than it is already.” A second bag of food arrived and the girl stood up, still talking. “We’re going to show the world what’s happening here, no matter what it takes. Now pick up that other bag for me.”
“Excuse me?” Michael again tripped over his words, his stare broken by the order.
“Well you’ve been staring down my top for the last five minutes so you might as well pay for it,” she said with a wink before turning on her heel and disappearing out the door.
Flustered, Michael gathered his backpack and the bag of food and chased the girl out the door. She was already handing food to the group of protestors. As Michael caught up to her one of the other protestors took the bag off him and passed it round. “So what are you actually doing here?” Michael asked her, finally able to get a word in.
“Simple,” she said. “We’re showing the world what this group of greedy bastards are doing to local villagers as they build the pipeline from the Doba oil fields in Chad to the Atlantic coast of Cameroon. You have no idea how many people and animals have been displaced or even killed for the sake of oil in this area. At the very least they could move the path a couple of miles to avoid needless destruction, but no, they say it costs too much.”
“But aren’t the BioGuardians a bit, you know, extreme?” Michael replied.
“Companies like this underestimate how much bad publicity we generate, that’s all. We send footage back to various media outlets. There’s no way these companies can stop us from showing what’s going on.”
“So why are you here and not in Chad or Cameroon?”
“Rumour has it one of the AAP bigwigs flew in from Kenya this morning. We want to let him know what we think of what’s going on.”
Michael went to reply but noticed the girl had become distracted.
“Oh crap! Get those two unchained, Gruff’s coming!” she yelled. “And you better come with us too,” she ordered Michael.
“Why what’s happening, who’s the Gruff?” Michael asked as he turned to see a group of police marching down the road towards the group, batons drawn.
“Head of the Enugu Military Police, he’s bad news, now get in the damn car,” she said hurriedly as a small red sedan pulled up in front of them. The police were running now.
“But I’m not involved.”
“You’re white, of course you’re involved,” she replied, throwing his bag in the back seat. She grabbed his arm. Michael resisted. “Hurry up!” she screamed. The police were on them. Michael turned to explain, but all he saw was a baton coming at him.
Dylan Swain is an author of contemporary action/adventure fiction with a twist.
Have you read this book or others by this author? Tell us in the comments how you liked it!