Shehu Wada walked into the large oval office and took his seat amongst a group comprised of four other men and one lady. He had barely sat down when one of the men spoke. He was a large rotund man with greying hair. He was very dark complexioned and wore spectacles twice the size of the modern specs used by the day’s ocular challenged youths. He was in his mid-seventies, judging by the aging lines on his face.
“Shehu who has been making a mockery of your intelligence organization?”
Shehu looked at the rotund man. He was the only one who addressed him by his first name so casually. And for good reason. He had been his mentor. That was years ago. He was currently the National Security Adviser to the president. Odinaka Mbakogu. Age might have withered his physical appearance but his mind remained every bit as sharp as it was, when he headed the NIA and when he had personally recruited Shehu from the Nigerian army.
“I admit we have run into… unexpected challenges in apprehending the cyber terrorist care packet.”
“Are they challenges the executioner cannot handle?”
“No. We are going to assemble a strike team now that we know for sure the kind of enemy we are dealing with.”
“Our sources tell me the resistance put that asset into play.” Odinaka leveled his eyes on Shehu.
“I have personally confirmed it… sir. She is in the process of recruiting him.” Shehu tried to hide any pain his eyes might betray.
His mentor was observing him keenly. He was waiting for something. A chance to really strike. Shehu had answered the questions shot at him directly, not giving too much information or too little either. It was a classic counter interrogation technique.
“Are there factions within your organization Mr. Wada?” It had been the lady who spoke this time. Shehu turned to her. She was young, way too young for this. She also wore spectacles, the kind he’d expected his mentor to embrace, but the man preferred to remain a relic. The lady in question was Janet Umoh. She had been identified as a brilliant cybersecurity penetration tester and recruited into the Office of the National Security Adviser, about two years ago. She had curious eyes and a confident, almost cocky smile. She was also naïve and way in over her head.
“We do have subdivisions, yes. They have a large degree of autonomy. You’d have to understand that there are various levels and categories of local and foreign threats. The NIA can only effectively counter by working as a cohesive entity comprised of smaller units, and not as a solid unit.”
“I am well aware of that, but what subdivision functions so independently, as to withhold vital information from its head?” She stared at him and smirked.
“What are you driving at lady?”
“I was giving permission to shall I say peer into your organizations files. It took a little while to find. You guys do a good job of tightening up your security from the outside but how could you on the inside, not know about this?”
She pushed a folder across the table, over to Shehu. He took it and slowly opened the folder. It was filled with pictures of Ibrahim taken over the years, records of bank account transactions, places visited and much more. An anger like a slow burning wick took over him. He had done this many times before. He had peered into the lives of so many men and women it had become almost a pastime. However, seeing his son’s life basically displayed in a folder, made him feel sick.
“Your son, is care packet is he not?” It was Odinaka this time.
“There is a suspicion.”
“This looks like more than a suspicion to me. Did you know who he was? Unofficially I mean. We know you were officially informed four days ago.”
“Sir, are you implying I would shield my son if he was a cyberterrorist?”
Odinaka Mbakogu moved his large frame and leaned forward in his seat. He peered through those overly sized spectacles once more.
“Yes. I am.”
“You are wrong sir. I found out four days ago.”
“Yes it is not just that you found out, it is the manner in which you found out. I hear you went in yourself. How long has it been since you were last in the field? Six, seven years now? Since your first wife died wasn’t it? You know what this discovery may mean don’t you?”
“And that is why it is merely a suspicion.” Shehu’s voice was colder now. The last statement had struck a very raw nerve.
“Don’t be angry at me Shehu. I merely speak the truth. Besides you should be proud. He seems to be getting as good as you were in your younger days. Imagine, sending us on a wild goose chase with a biometric card payment for a taxi to ground level. Shehu, you need to start chasing him like he is a professional. No more underestimating. Besides, if Artemis is with him…”
“Well then, need I say more? You know who is pulling the strings from the shadows don’t you?”
“Yes… red eagle.”
“I truly hate to have to ask you to do this, but I need you to step down as lead on this.”
“Your young pupil will take over. Considering the complexity of the situation, I’d say he’s handled it very well.”
“Dayo? Dayo informed you?”
“Yes and don’t go about doing any executing Shehu. You don’t want to get on my bad books now do you?”
“Why won’t you let me lead this? This is my son!”
“Yes, and it’s exactly because of that I cannot let you lead this. However, you can and will be kept as an adviser. You should know him best and with the information you have, we can apprehend him and let justice take its cause. I do hope he realizes and comes in peacefully.”
Shehu said nothing. He looked around the room, his cold piercing eyes glaring at each member. Finally, he spoke.
“I’ll be taking my leave now.” Shehu got up.
“You know where to find me, if you need me.”
“Indeed I do.”
He walked out of the room.
Ibrahim went through files on his laptop, quickly scanning through their contents and moving on to the next one. Nonso observed him for a while before speaking.
“You were always better and faster than me at this.”
“I know.” Ibrahim managed a wry smile.
“What are you looking for?”
“Traces of intrusion. Something that tells me if my agent was somehow compromised. I see nothing though.”
“How did they know it was you in the first place?”
“It’s as Artemis said… I left calling cards. They were initials embedded in words. I had just gotten my admission into the university when I did this. I guess I thought they’d be too stupid to find them or even figure them out.”
“So if you had never left those, we wouldn’t be here.”
“Who knows… Do you believe in destiny Nonso?”
“I don’t know. There are lots of people who are told they are destined to be great and it never happens so… yeah. Why?”
“Well maybe we make our own destiny. Maybe I made mine. I found it…”
“They did not breach my computer. They intercepted my traffic.”
“How did you figure that out? Ibrahim!!! What are you doing online?!”
“Relax. I spoofed about four different IP addresses so they’ll have a hard time tracing it back to me. More importantly, I found this strange IP when I traced my hops.”
“Network topologies change all the time.”
“Yes they do, but this is a blip. Why go all the way out here only to reverse course on its trajectory out to the internet?”
“Will they know this is you now?”
“Yes. The traffic still passed through the same pathway, however, they can’t pinpoint a location as the source is spoofed.”
“How do you intend to beat their redirection then?”
“They probably have an arrangement with my upstream providers. I cycled through all of them. However, there are many ‘backdoors’ to the internet. I’ll find one, but for now, I’ll remind them of exactly who I am.”
“What are you doing?” Nonso asked as Ibrahim’s fingers raced over his sleek and thin keyboard.
“Flooding their interceptors and setting it to dump sensitive information to a few servers I have out there as well as setting up an interior monitoring system within their infrastructure.”
“Oh please. Don’t go so simplistic on me. Who does spyware anymore?” Ibrahim looked over at Nonso with an exasperated expression.
“Won’t they know you did it?”
“They won’t know anything was done for a while.”
Ibrahim disconnected his laptop and packed it up.
“We might need that somewhere down the line.”
“We…” Nonso repeated.
“As a new recruit to the resistance, I come bearing gifts.”
Dayo and Janet opened the door to his apartment, kissing each other frenetically. They laughed as they kissed, groping each other with the mad rush of hungry predators frantically deciding on which morsel of flesh to devour next. Dayo buried his head in her bosom and she gasped.
“Beware of the D huh?” She said naughtily.
“Mmmm hmmm. And you gon get some tonight.”
“Is that the acting director of the NIA talking?”
“Soon we’ll drop the acting part won’t we?”
“You should have seen his face in the meeting today.”
“I hope you didn’t go too hard on him.” Dayo said suddenly becoming somber. “I did what I did because I felt it was right.”
“Oh don’t worry she wasn’t hard on me. I’m a big boy. I can take care of myself.”
Dayo and Janet jumped at the voice coming from the living room. As their eyes adjusted, they could see the tall silhouette of a man sitting in the darkness.
“I never pictured you for a sly fox Dayo.” Shehu said as he got up to his full length and slowly walked forward.
Dayo quickly shielded Janet with his body.
“Oh… so you know I have come for the girl. That’s very perceptive of you. Then again, I’m the one that put that there. Out of my way.”
His voice was as cold as Dayo had ever known it to be. Maybe even colder. There was a murderous intent in it. But Dayo would not be unsettled. He brought his trembling under control.
“You’ll have to force me out of your way.”
The executioner crackled his neck and let out a soft sigh.
“I suppose I should flex my muscles a bit.”
Dayo let out a primal yell and rushed in. Shehu blocked the first blow, side-stepping and grabbing the younger man’s arm. He parried the second blow and slammed the outside of his hand in a chopping motion, straight into Dayo’s larynx. Dayo choked and hacked. Shehu, still holding the first arm popped the elbow joint in the opposite direction, dislocating it. Dayo let out a loud yell and struggled to pry his arm free. Shehu reached forward and slammed his elbow on Dayo’s shoulder muscles. There was a cracking sound. Dayo fell to his knees shuddering. He looked up at Shehu, his eyes wide with horror.
“I should kill you like a pathetic dog, right here. Right now. But the professional in me knows you are right. The father in me however, is telling you this. If we cross paths again, I will protect my son from you, by any means necessary.” Shehu reached back with his hand and raced it across Dayo’s face ferociously. The younger man fell to the floor unconscious. The executioner turned back to Janet who had been screaming in terror all along. He walked towards her, keeping his pace deliberately slow. Each step forward seemed to bring closer with it, an ominous inevitability.
“What do you want with me?” She asked as he stopped in front of her.
“Get up.” He commanded coldly.
“And if I don’t? If you touch me. The consequences…”
“What consequences? You think I care about the consequences?” He glanced at the unconscious Dayo.
Janet slowly got up saying nothing.
“Good. You are sensible. That will keep you alive. Try to be smart, and you will end up dead.”
Shehu grabbed her arm tightly and led her out of the apartment. They walked out unto a balcony that overlooked a sharp drop all the way down to ground level, which could not really be seen as thick cloud cover, obscured it’s view. Level 43 was famous for having architectural designs that left its residents breathless with awe and a sense of foreboding. Get too careless and one could be taking a long ride to a messy end. Shehu jerked her towards the railing but held her and pulled her back as they continued to walk towards his car. She got the message.
“What do you want with me?” She asked once again.
Shehu did not answer. Instead, he twisted one of his shirt buttons ever so slightly. It turned like a knob. There was a high pitched sound. The microphone recorder hidden beneath her blouse frizzed.
“I want you to breach that impregnable NIA network once more. I need all the information on Care Packet downloaded here.” He handed her a flash drive. She took it and observed it as they got to his car. Shehu opened up the passenger seat and shoved her in. He got into the driver’s seat.
“This is a 32 terabyte flash drive.”
“Yes. Never seen one before?” Shehu asked sarcastically.
“I also need you to do one more thing for me and then I might let you go.”
“And what would that be?”
“I need to send a message to my son. A subtle message. Undetectable. Do you think you can do that?”
She looked at him, realizing it was less of a request than a demand.
“And what makes you think I can do that? It is care packet we are talking about.”
“It would be rather unfortunate for you if you couldn’t. And his name is Ibrahim.”
Janet looked at him for a bit before silently leaning her head back on the head rest. They were racing through the sky towards level 47.
“I read the files.” She finally said.
“You weren’t close… the two of you. You were always too busy. He was always chasing after you. Why the parental love now?”
“Don’t speak about things you don’t understand.” Shehu snapped.
“You never approved of his outlook did you?” She continued.
“And now he’s fallen to the other side. Destined to become the exact opposite of you, our hero the executioner.”
“And that’s why you are going to help me stop him before it’s too late. I might not have been world’s best dad but I love my son. I love my son.”
Janet looked at him again. It was the most human she had seen him… or even heard him. She said nothing the rest of the way.
Dayo was carried out on a hovering stretcher, as paramedics checked his vital signs while racing towards a waiting ambulance. Odinaka Mbakogu watched on as members of the NIA and ONSA, poured over his apartment. The whole place had become a bee hive. A gaunt elderly man coordinated the activities of the agents. Odinaka turned towards him.
“Any leads?” He asked.
“None. The place is completely clean. No prints, no hair, nothing. It’s the executioner we are speaking of. Did you expect a slip up?”
“Maybe a bit. He is emotionally unstable right now.”
“Hmmmm. Yes but still effective. Why go after the girl though and why not kill Dayo?”
“Janet Umoh is our best penetration agent. If he has her, he might as well have every piece of sensitive information we have. Nothing we can do about that right now. As for Dayo, it’s a message to me. He’s telling me he’s still the best we ever produced, and he’s right. He’s taken Dayo out of play for a bit and shown me his incompetence.”
“And with that, he’s left the NIA rudderless.”
“Not exactly. He’s calling me out. He wants me to take the helm.”
Odinaka managed a wry smile.
“And I will gladly oblige.”