Tarasha removed the bag on her back and returned to the sofa. She took out her own laptop and turned it on. She looked into Cole’s laptop again as she waited for hers to complete the booting process. She smiled lightly. Whoever had helped tightened the cameras security system had done a good job but still had more work to do. Her laptop was on, she clicked on the start button and selected the “run” process. The “run window” came up. She typed in a code. “Nef-Tar-diag-falc.” After some seconds of loading, the whole computer system display changed and another window popped up, requesting for a password. She typed in the password and the window closed. In just few minutes, she had swapped from the windows operating system to a personal operating system created by herself.
‘Go get the rest of the team, get the bags into the car’ Tarasha said to Cole who was staring into the screen in awe. Cole closed his laptop and got up immediately. ‘You guys should also get your guns ready, we’ll take out anyone that tries to stop or monitor us, even if it’s someone we only suspect’ she added before Cole began to move. ‘That includes Henry’ she added again. Cole paused and turned to look at her. ‘Kill him if he ever comes your way again’ she stared into his eyes and reiterated.
Cole turned and proceeded to the rooms. Tarasha continued with her work on the laptop. In two minutes time, Aisha and Benny came out with their luggages. Cole also followed behind, he picked the Boss’ box and carried it with him outside the building.
Henry walked in hurriedly into the NSCC head office, he headed straight for Mr Sylvester’s office without waiting to greet or respond to anybody’s greeting. He entered the office without knocking. Sylvester was looking into the a computer with another technician. Henry sat on the visitors seat and turned the second computer which was on Mr Sylvester’s table to himself. He clicked open the software to check the status.
‘Let’s go to the control room’ he said and got up from the seat. Sylvester and the other technician followed him. They proceeded out of the office and headed for the control room. ‘When exactly was the attempt made?’ Henry asked as he opened the door to the control room. The control room was brightened up with yellow bulbs, there were twelve desktops neatly arranged on three rows. An operator sat on the third row behind the main control system, he got up on sighting Henry and Sylvester coming towards him.
‘The first attempt was by 12.46pm, three other attempts have been made after that’ Sylvester replied. Henry gave Sylvester an eye signal to send out the two our technicians.
‘You can wait outside’ Sylvester said to the technicians and they left reluctantly. Henry sat behind the main system and began to type on the keyboard hurriedly.
‘So what locations were spotted?’ Henry asked. Sylvester stood by his side with a hand placed on the table as he looked into the screen.
‘No location was spotted’ Sylvester replied. ‘It didn’t show any point, direction or even distance’ Henry looked into his face, surprised.
‘What do you mean?’ He questioned with a frown and turned back to the screen slowly. Sylvester gave no reply since Henry was almost finding out himself.
‘No, this can’t be’ Henry shook his head in disbelief and frustration. He was disappointed with the result displayed by the software. ‘This can’t be’
‘What?’ Sylvester asked softly.
‘Who else apart from the both of us is aware of this new software?’
‘None, except for Agent Dakolo’ Henry hurriedly brought out his phone. Dakolo’s call was coming in at the right time.
‘Hello Henry, have you been able to determine the location and source?’ Dakolo questioned.
‘No’ Henry said flatly. ‘There was an attempt but they did not break in.’ Dakolo gave no response, his intake of breath from the other side was heard by Henry. ‘Sir, did you tell anyone about the new software I made yesterday?’ Henry added another question.
‘They didn’t fall into the trap. It’s like the person behind the security attack somehow knew that his location would be revealed and did not complete the last step’
‘But you guys got the alarm?’
‘So what do you think it is?’
‘I…’ The warning alarm tone began to ring out again from all the computer systems in the room.
‘S–t! I’ll call you back sir’
‘I’m coming over’ Dakolo said before Henry ended the call. A new attempt had been made again. Sylvester turned to silence the alarms on the other computers while Henry got himself busy with the tracking. Sylvester returned three minutes later to meet Henry staring into the computer in an agitated manner.
‘What’s wrong?’ Sylvester asked. ‘Did we get their location’ Henry looked up into his face and shook his head in a pitiful manner.
‘This time, not only the transmission to the branch and regional offices was stopped, the transmission to this head office and the country’s main control point has been redirected. Sylvester became dumb instantly, his legs began to shake, he dragged a seat from the front of another computer and sat on it before his legs failed him. His lips began to tremble. Henry could perceive from his lips movement that the man was complaining about his job.
Henry hissed and got up from his seat. He closed his eyes and let out a deep breath through his mouth, he stared up to the ceiling. His mind began to wander around as he sympathised with himself for his failure, the first major failure he would encounter in his job as a software technician and hacker. He wondered who could be brainbox in the assassin team, pictures of his friends and top colleagues in the same job began to roll into his mind, every of them was now a suspect.
‘What do we do now? I don’t want to lose my job’ Sylvester manager to lamente, looking up at Henry. Henry hissed and returned back to the seat behind the computer, Sylvester’s eyes following him around.
‘Do you think of anything else other than your job?’ Henry slammed. ‘I mean, someone is in danger of being killed now and you’re complaining about your job’ Sylvester took his gaze away shamefully. He got up slowly and began to pace around. Henry picked his phone from the table and dialed Dakolo.
‘Henry, I’m on my way to your office’ Dakolo said into the phone as he hurried out of the police office building.
‘Sir, we couldn’t get the location or source and we lost transmission too. The assassins must be on their way to carry out their job’
‘D–n!’ Dakolo exclaimed, stamping his feet on the ground. He turned back and climbed back the stairs into the building. ‘You mean, even your head office has no signal from the street cameras?’
‘No’ Henry replied in a very low tone.
‘Thanks’ Dakolo was about to cut the call.
‘Sir, I didn’t tell you before… ‘ Henry’s voice came up suddenly again.
‘What?’ Dakolo said, heading for the computer room in the building.
‘We don’t know if the attempt was made from Abuja, there’s ninety five percent possibility that it could be in another state’
‘S–t!’ Dakolo cursed as he opened the door to a large open office, he stopped at the entrance. ‘And what do we do now?’
‘Sir, I’ll get back to you when I get a solution’ Dakolo ended the call and walked in, closing the transparent glass door behind. The open office which serves over ten police officials had only two people in it now, Ken and a computer operator. Majority did not come to the office on Sunday and the few ones that came had gone out to man the major entries and exits of the town. Ken’s eyes followed Dakolo from the doorway until he got close to them.
‘You’re not going again?’ Ken asked. Dakolo shook his head in negative. He got to the table and picked up a phone which he dropped before leaving.
‘Officer, call more officers from their homes to join you, even the ones on leave and make sure that every team is led by a senior officer. Let no sergeants or recruits head a team’ Dakolo said into the phone.
‘We still have no signal from the NSCC’ Ken said to Dakolo after the call was ended.
‘Forget that’ Dakolo dismissed it with a wave of the hand. ‘Even their head offices have no signal, no clue of what is happening on the streets’/ Dakolo dialed the IG’s number. ‘Sir… Yes sir, we are on it’ he replied to a question. ‘Sir, we need to give directives for officials to be deployed in other states like we’ve done here, there’s no assurance that the assassin group is attacking someone in Abuja’ Dakolo said, he kept quiet for some seconds to listen to the reply before he continued. ‘There’s also need for announcement to be made on all media platforms. We should warn the public, so that they can report anything suspicious immediately. Thank you sir’ Dakolo detached the gun from his belt side where it was.
‘We have to join the team now’ he said to Ken who nodded in agreement.
‘Make a warning post on Twitter and Facebook’ Dakolo said to the computer operator before walking away with Ken.
‘Boss, where are we heading for?’ Cole asked for the fifth time after receiving no answers to his previous attempts. He was driving with Tarasha in the blue Toyota Camry while Benny and Aisha were in the other vehicle, the mini van.
‘Pull over’ Tarasha said calmly in somewhat like a baritone voice. He obeyed and halted the car after driving away from the tarred portion to the untarred area which was close to the bush. Benny and Aisha joined and halted the van few centimetres behind them. Tarasha came out of the car after the engine was turned off. The bright sunlight made her squint as she looked around the area, she placed her palm above her eyes to reduce the sun rays getting into it. After a brief eye survey of the place, she bent to look inside the car.
‘Where are we?’ She asked Cole.
‘Ermm… Let me check’ he replied and took out his phone, he released the seat belt and opened the door. Tarasha continued her eye survey of the place. The heavy breeze made her unzipped black hip-hop jacket and air fly backwards. The sun intensity reduced as a brief cloud covered it. Tarasha turned back to the car and climbed the bonnet to look over the thick bushes, she could see a village hidden behind it. She came down and took out her phone from her skinny black jeans. She dialed Chief Gab’s number.
‘Good afternoon Chief’ she greeted.
‘Good afternoon’ Chief Gab answered, his voice sounded like he had just woken up from sleep.
‘Chief, we need new accommodation urgently’ she broke the news straight away.
‘Okay’ he said with a loud yawn. ‘I’ll call you back tomorrow morning’
‘No Chief…’ She was saying when the call was cut. She called back. ‘Chief, it’s urgent. We need the new accommodation arranged in a matter of minutes’ she said, half-shouting into the phone.
‘But why are you just telling me now?’
‘It’s urgent, we need the new accommodation urgently’
‘Where are you now?’ The Chief asked, sounding readier to help.
‘Where are we?’ She took the phone off her ear and whispered to Cole who was outside the car now and leaning on the bonnet.
‘We are close to Baske village’ Cole replied.
‘Baske village’ Tarasha said into the phone.
‘Humm… Give me sometime, let me check what I can do’ Chief Gab replied. His tone reflected very little hope.
‘What next boss?’ Benny asked approaching them from the back. Tarasha looked at him but replied with silence.
‘We can’t go any further, I’m sure we’ll soon come by a police post if we continue’ she finally said after some minutes of silence. Cole and Benny were already standing in front of her where she sat on the boot. Vehicles and fuel tankers drove by the road occasionally as they waited in silence. Tarasha was still seated on the boot, Aisha remained in the passenger’s seat of the van while Cole and Benny walked around the place, sightseeing and discussing among themselves. Tarasha’s phone rang after seven minutes.
‘Did you drop anyone today?’ Chief Gab’s voice rang in impatiently.
‘No, why?’ Tarasha was taken aback by the question.
‘The police are on the lookout for an assassin gang that’s disrupted the cameras security system’ he replied.
‘I know, that’s why we need a new accommodation urgently’
‘I’ll call you back’ the call ended again. Tarasha came down from the boot. Cole and Benny had come closer to hear the result of the conversation.
‘We can’t sit idly like this, we’re going to be suspected soon’ she said to them
‘Yes, we were about to also tell you that. Travellers have been staring at us and we don’t think that it is safe especially as you said that we’re being monitored’
‘Why don’t you bring out some tools and act like we are repairing the car’ Tarasha suggested, tapping the boot. Benny and Cole nodded in agreement. Cole walked to the driver’s side of the car to take the Boot’s key. He returned with a slight frown on his face.
‘This method ain’t gonna work for long, it would be suspicious if people still see us here after several minutes’ he said before opening the boot. Tarasha nodded in agreement with him.
‘Just take out the tools and start working’ she said. Her phone rang again.
‘Tarasha, the only place close to you where I have another house is Asokoro’ Chief Gab said.
‘We’ll encounter the police if we are to drive back there’ she complained. Chief Gab was silent. ‘Okay’ Tarasha finally gave up.
‘Send the address and how you want us to get into the house’ she ended the call. She walked to Cole and Benny who were about to take out a tyre.
‘Guys, we’re going to Asokoro’ she called, they looked up.
‘You’ll remove the tyre and fix it back immediately. That would give me enough time to prepare ‘I and Aisha would leave here in this car while two of you would take the van. Before you follow us, you’ll get to the village at the back of this bush and fill the space in the van’s boot with firewood, that will hide our bags. There’ll be a tracker on the car that’ll lead you to us’ she gave the order and left them to continue working.
She went to the boot of the van and pulled out a bag, she took out some makeup kits from the bag and entered into the driver’s seat of the van. Aisha was seated by the passenger’s side, sweating as a result of the heat.
‘Dry your face and neck, you need to disguise now’ she said to Aisha who was staring at her anxiously. Minutes later, Aisha face had changed into someone else’s. Tarasha also added makeups, they took out female handbags from the boot and they both looked like they were coming from a party. Tarasha and Aisha entered into the car after the men were done fixing the tyre. They drove off and left the men to carry their own cross.
5pm, same day Dakolo, Henry and Sylvester stood in a large room, staring into a screen on the wall in silence. Except for their three chairs which they had abandoned behind to stand closer to the screen, the white painted room was empty of any other materials or furniture. The large screen of 100cm by 150cm was inbuilt into the wall, it was displaying a DVD selection menu of fifty options, each showing the captured sections and parts of the streets. From time to time, Sylvester would swipe up the screen, revealing another different DVD selection menu and they would look into it again. Occasionally, they would see a violent or deadly scene as a part of the options and select it, only for them to find out that the police were already aware and in charge of such situations.
They were beginning to get fed up but they remained quiet in hope that they would find something useful. After twenty five minutes of constant swiping and changing, Henry was first to express his dissatisfaction. He gave a slight hiss and returned to his seat, Sylvester and Dakolo took a glance at him and turned back to face the screen.
‘Don’t you think it’s a waste of time?’ Henry finally spoke, making them turn their gazes at him. ‘There are still hundreds of thousands options to see. How do you think we won’t get weary watching all of them? Is it even possible to watch all? It’s not! We can’t watch up to a quarter of it.’ Dakolo moved back and sat on the seat beside Henry, still looking at the screen. ‘They took off the signals for three hours and returned it on their own will, it means that they must have finished whatever they wanted to do’ Henry continued, he took out a handkerchief and cleaned the water formed in his eyes as a result of tiredness and several yawnings.
The day had been a bad one for Henry, it was the first time he would experience such failure and defeat. Well, it wasn’t really a failure, the program be created did not fail, it had done the job he built it for only that those he wanted to trap with it used an higher method.
‘I think you’re right’ Sylvester joined in, turning back against the screen. ‘It’s better we leave it for the regional, city and streets offices to monitor’ Sylvester faced the screen again and turned it off, he picked a white board from the floor and covered the screen with it, concealing it in a way that someone else wouldn’t know that there was a screen there. He turned and joined Dakolo and Henry, he sat on the third seat. After some minutes of silence, Dakolo’s phone rang. He answered the call and spoke with the caller for about two minutes.
‘Another murder case has been reported, this time in Benue state’ Dakolo said as he returned the phone into his pocket. ‘But none of these murders have involves a top profile person. Samantha Osman’s group always goes for top citizens’ Henry and Sylvester listened without giving any response. Dakolo turned his chair to face both of them and looked to their faces one after the other.
‘Tell me’ he finally said, staring at Henry calmly. ‘What happened today? I thought we had it in control already’ Henry wiped his face with his hand and licked his lips heaving a sigh. He began to speak reluctantly,
‘we thought we had it in control but they outsmarted us’
‘How?’ Dakolo asked, squeezing his face.
‘The software I developed was meant to locate them when they intercept our transmission again and to be able to retrieve the transmission’ Henry began to explain. ‘But they did not intercept our transmission this time, they stopped at trying and did something else’ Dakolo narrowed his gaze.
‘What did they do?’
‘They halted the whole system operations’ Henry stated. ‘Previously, they would only redirect the transmission of the area under attack from our server but what they did today was different. They crashed the whole process. All the street security cameras in the nation did not work for three hours’ Dakolo’s mouth was left agape as he let out a deep breath and shook his head.
‘Unbelievable, an assassin group is terrorizing a whole nation’ he exclaimed. ‘We underestimated the technical power of this assassin group. They are very intelligent and always ready. I believe they have several alternatives, so when we block a way, another way is opened immediately’ Henry lamented.
‘I didn’t underestimate them’ Dakolo spoke slowly after some brief seconds of silence. ‘I always knew they were technical giants. I once asserted in a meeting that their technical ability was far greater than their physical abilities and artillery. But nevertheless, something has to be done to stop this deadly group.
‘We still need to do more work. And I mean more serious work. The assassin group is far ahead of our team’ Dakolo narrowed his gaze at Henry. He didn’t believe that there could be someone who was ahead of Henry in respect to hacking and software engineering in Nigeria. He smiled briefly.
‘So you mean someone can be ahead of you in hacking?’ Henry stared at him for a while.
‘Yes, there are lots of people that could be ahead of me, they’ve not just been given a voice like I’ve been. They’ve not been discovered. And by the way, I just started work in the NSCC few weeks ago’
‘It’s okay’ Dakolo cleaned his face with a handkerchief. ‘So what’s the way forward now? The NSCC plays a major role in the nation’s security’
‘What we need to do is to be ahead of the group. We need to block all their possible ways’
‘How do you intend to do that?’
‘We need more hands’ Henry stated.
‘Yes, we need more programmers to join us. More ideas from experts are needed. I believe a combination of several expert ethical hackers and programmers would form a formidable team against the assassin group’ Henry expatiated.
‘Huh?’ Sylvester who had been listening in silence joined in.
‘Yes Mr Sylvester. The NSCC needs to hire more hands.’
‘But…’Sylvester stammered. ‘We hired you because of this, we are expected to have produced results’
‘We’ve produced results sir’ Henry retorted, turning his focus to Sylvester, it was Dakolo’s turn to be silent now. ‘We’ve produced results, but the assassin group’s result seems to be far greater than ours’
‘D–n! There’s no way we can hire more people now, the government is not releasing enough funds to us’
‘Then you have to convince them to release more to you because we need more hands to make this work’ Henry continued with confidence. ‘You can’t employ me as one man and expect me to tackle a group, an expert assassin group at that. And furthermore, we need to be on the attacking side and not defence. We need to develop bugs to attack their operations. If all we do is keep making ways to defend their attacks, they’ll keep changing their mode of attack.’ Sylvester’s phone interrupted with its loud ring tone. He took out his phone hurriedly to end the call but had to calm down when he saw the caller’s ID.
‘It’s Sir Rikau’ he whispered to Henry and Dakolo, gasping lightly. He stood up from his seat and walked closer to the door to answer the call. He returned to the seat a minute later. His countenance had changed.
‘So who are those you want us to hire? Can you give us names of experts? We need to contact them by tomorrow’ Sylvester cut into their discussion. Henry and Dakolo were surprised at his sudden change of heart. It looked like the phone call had done a miracle.
‘You want to get in touch with them as soon as tomorrow?’ Henry asked again to be sure of what he heard.
‘Yes, is that not what you suggested?’ Sylvester answered with a rhetorical question. ‘See, the IG just called now and he told me that I’ll be having a meeting with the President and other security staffs this Friday. I need to present tangible results, else I may lose my job’ Henry could not hold his laughter at Sylvester’s mention of ‘job’ again.
‘So it’s about losing your job again?’
‘No o, we just have to find a solution to this problem’ Henry shook his head, unconvinced by Sylvester’s words. He began to think of expert hackers who could be called on immediately, those who were creative enough. His mind suddenly drifted to Omotara again, he remembered how she cloned the Canadian number; that was something that he himself could not do perfectly, that means she or the person who did it for her was a sort of a good hacker, although unethical. He hoped that it was Omotara who cloned the number by herself, that would also give him the opportunity to help her get her decent job and make her be of more use to the nation.
There was nothing much to do in the new Lodge in Asokoro. Although it was a flat with three rooms like the previous one, it was moderner, finer, more comfortable and neater. It hadn’t been deserted for long also, the rooms were also larger and air conditioned. All they did was to remove the cobwebs from the walls, sweep and mop the tiled floors, Tarasha and Aisha took care of the cleaning while Benny and Cole went to dispose off the firewoods they had bought to escape.
After all was done, Tarasha sat in the living room on the three seater black leather sofa, her both legs placed on the chair while her back rested on the right armrest. Her laptop was on her laps, she was gathering information about their new targets.