HERE AND NOW
This is how the world ends.
Not with a boom, or with a gunshot.
The world ends with a bite.
Just one bite; that’s all it takes. A bite that erodes all that makes you human. And as I lie here on this floor, left eye squeezed shut and right eye pressed to the ‘scope of this HK417 sniper rifle, I can’t help but wonder at the murky miasma that is the human soul. Filled with avarice and disregard for the consequences of our actions, we sometimes make the Devil look like a Saint.
And to think I had been a part of all this…
Deep breaths. In, out, in, out. Wind speed is constant, and the day is fading fast. I don’t have much time. She always wakes up first; always. I know this because I once watched over her. I watched them as they studied her habits, fed her with…with…
I dare not think about that part of my life, but try as I might, I seem to have no power over my memories. The blood of the innocents cry out, and my heart…my heart is irreparably damaged now, I think. I don’t sleep much anymore, and when I do, I see the dead.
I have until early dusk, and then one shot.
Just one; the difference between life and death, between redemption and annihilation.
I will take you back to the beginning of this story; well, my story at least, because I only joined them halfway. Some people talk about Destiny, but if that was mine, then God must really have it in for me.
Night-time, when all will be washed in blood, and the dead and the dying will walk the earth.
Oh God, save us all…
I am Ikechukwu ‘Iyke’ Mojekwu, and I once killed for my country. Within Nigeria, outside it; anywhere my skills were needed, I went. I trained with the U.S. NAVY SEALS, and while I was with them I was part of a small group of soldiers that were sent to Russia to train with the Spetsnaz. Not a bad place, Russia, that much I can tell you. I picked up a couple of languages along the way, and I received extensive training in combat planning, counter-terrorism, firearms, weapons and hand-to-hand combat. I am a black belt in Jiu-Jutsu, Karate and Taekwondo, including extensive training in Krav Maga and Spetsnaz GRU.
The life of a soldier…
Sometimes it feels as though all of my life has been spent in front of or behind a gun or knife. Don’t think though for a second that I never went to school. I have a B.A. in Business Administration, and an MA in International Relations. My C.O., Major General Johnson, always spoke of the importance of getting an Education. My handler in Nigeria, whom I will call Uche, also approved.
I do not know the details of the arrangement my country had with the U.S. regarding me or the others like me that were sent to be trained, but I know that whenever there were ‘jobs’ that required my ‘expertise’, I left. Be it on behalf of Nigeria or the U.S. that needed me, I never really cared. They needed my surveillance and ‘wet-work’ skills, and I always delivered.
But then, you can only kill for so long.
After over five years of missions and such, I told my handler about my feelings for what I did, and requested a transfer to something less stressful, at least for a while. I needed to get my head straight, and you cannot do that when you are shadowing an unsuspecting Arms Dealer in Mogadishu or some unsuspecting Politician through the maze that is Lagos. At the same time, I couldn’t take a leave of absence; this wasn’t exactly a desk job, you know.
So when Uche told me about an opening for Head of Security of Delson Pharmaceuticals, I took it up gladly. At least something other than killing for a change. However, before I left, I was given my Mission Parameters, and with that and a few weeks before I had to go there-a month, to be exact-I did my homework. The six Ps: Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. That mantra had been driven into my skull all through my years of training. I went to work on Delson Pharma, and this is what I found online.
Owned by Mr Richard Delson, Delson Pharma was one humongous conglomerate, with several research facilities in Europe and Africa. Over a year ago, Mr Delson had established one such facility in Rivers State, Nigeria. Just outside Port Harcourt, in between a small village and nowhere. They specialized in the research of Tropical Diseases, whatever the hell those were. They seemed to have done some good work as well, given the number of international awards Delson had won as a result of his company’s work. He’d presented before the UN, UNICEF and various alphabet-soup organizations with global reaches. A man with the Midas touch.
A major cash cow for the country as well. He rolled with the big boys, but that was expected. He’d bankrolled the campaigns of quite a number of Governors, Legislators, and the President. At least this much I knew from some previous work I’d done. Back then, I’d investigated the Politicians, not Delson; he’d been a name that had popped up sometimes, but that was it. I’d not carried out follow-up investigations on him, because back then, he hadn’t been the objective. Now, he was. I was to protect his investment. Apparently, some…’elements’ were unhappy with him for some reason and had decided to sabotage his facility on a number of occasions. I received aerial shots of the facility from Uche; she’d included everything she thought I would need. The facility was situated in the middle of the forest, and accessible via only one road that led from the road to the facility. This main road fed a few paths, one of which led to a neighbouring village, and it had three gates; one about a hundred meters after the last path, the second and third further down. The facility sat on land the size of at least sixteen football fields. The main facility was a hexagon-shaped building that was three storeys tall and three levels underground. State-of-the-art surveillance, alarms and security systems. A private army stationed in the facility; at least a hundred men, drawn from various military forces, and of different nationalities, though they were mostly Nigerian. Mr Delson was that powerful; he apparently got whatever he wanted.
Maybe a bit too much security for a Pharmaceutical company.
I carried out a background check on Delson himself, and he came back clean; too clean.
Which was bad.
Nobody with this amount of money and power is ever clean. So I dug deeper, and discovered an anomaly; up until 2003, Mr Delson had been a ghost. He claimed to be American, but he had European features; high cheekbones, green, flat eyes and accent-less English. No one knew how he’d come about his money, and there was talk of protection from very powerful men.
I spent two weeks memorizing the maps I had been sent. I learnt as much as I could about the Port Harcourt facility, finding out Potential Breaching Points. I would do something much more extensive when I got there, but with the maps I had, I could see at least five PBPs overall.
This was going to be a cake-walk…or so I thought.
It wasn’t until my last week before I was to begin work that my mission became something else.
I was walking slowly down the road beside Mile 1 Motor Park when I saw him. He was dressed in a black suit which bulged out on his left side, close to the chest. Left shoulder holster. A right-handed man then. He wasn’t that bad at surveillance; he’d gotten some of the things right. However, he’d worn shades, and the sun was not out. I’d spotted him over 25 minutes ago at Waterlines Bus stop. He’d been behind me then, just as he was now. I’d seen him before I hailed a taxi. Now, here he was too.
I peeled off sharply into the market, following the crowd towards the small pathway that fed into Mile 1 Market proper from behind. He followed. I turned right in-between two stalls, and then right again, and then a left.
And then I waited.
I knew he was going to come this way, as I had made sure he’d seen a little bit of me. When he crossed my line of vision, I stepped forth swiftly behind him and pressed the blade I’d palmed to his side, just above his kidneys.
“Walk slowly,” I said. “Don’t turn around.” I guided him through a series of turns until we got to a fence, and then I stopped. “Raise your hands. Start talking.”
“Colonel Ikechukwu Mojekwu,” he said, raising his hands and looking straight ahead. His accent was almost American, but his voice shook a little, despite the effort he put in trying not to let it show. He was stiff, trying not to move a muscle. Wrong. He was giving into fear. I smiled. Not much problem here. But then again, he knew my name and rank. “You need to listen to me. I represent both the Nigerian and the American Governments.”
Figures. He must’ve been recruited while he’d been in the Uni. Maybe three, four years ago tops. I kept quiet.
“You are supposed to start as the Head Of Security in Delson Pharmaceuticals a week from now.”
Now that was a surprise. I do not discuss my missions with anybody other than my handler, and I am sure she keeps her mouth shut; how else would we have been able to survive this long?
“Does my handler know you are here?” I asked, applying pressure on the blade.
He winced. “Sorry, but this is above her clearance. Listen, this is important. We don’t have much time. I have been ordered to at least give you a file for you to take a look at. It concerns your next assignment. It is in my right trouser pocket. I am going to reach in very slowly now and bring it out.” He brought out a black flash drive and handed it behind. I took it. “Instructions are contained within.”
I looked at the flash drive for a moment, and then put it in my pocket. “Don’t turn now. If you follow me again, that will be the last time you follow anybody. Wait for five minutes, and then find your way out of here.” And with that, I left. But I didn’t go straight home though. I hung around and then I followed him when he came out. He didn’t see me. C’mon, I invented this ish.
Back home, I ran a virus check on the flash on my diskless workstation, and when it came clean, I plugged it in my main system. It was encrypted, Simple cipher; ta least simple for me, and I cracked it in no time, wondering what was inside that was so important and sensitive that Uche did not know about it.
By the time I was through with the first page of the file, I realized that this was way, way bigger than I’d thought.