EGGSHELL 7

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Lagos, Nigeria

June 8, 1997.

 

The rain was not the problem. It had never been a problem for her, not until she came back to Nigeria. When it rained everything else seemed to shut down – people and even machines. It was unusual for her and it took a while for her to realize that Nigerians are innately lazy people. Forget what they profess themselves to be, they are instinctively lazy. It is evident in the number of national and state level holidays that abound on the national calendar.

She had learned to adjust though, but on days like this one Biodun Kudesoh, the owner and Executive Director of BK Infometrics Inc., just wanted to shut herself in and cry.

She felt drained of all energy. The news from her office had not been what she would have loved to hear this early. The rain was now a feared enemy.

Not by virtue of the fact it had any particular advantage over her; but the simple reason that the nation was so backward in the provision of reliable backbone infrastructure to cater for its fast developing Information Technology sector.

When it rained, that sector was compromised. Everything stopped working, a forced ‘shut down’ mode automatically comes into place – and that was the case this morning. Biodun had just received a phone call from her chief data analyst -CDA, the rain had struck and it had fried their main server at the office. This meant that the data analysis they had been working on for the Federal Ministry of Agricultural Development was shut down. She only hoped that they can set up fast enough and put the system back online, so as to still meet their timeline for delivering the processed data and final report.

‘Thank God for the remote back up,’ she mused. Their data were safe and all they need is for the machines to be up and running again. However, time was not their friend at BK Infometrics Inc. on this one.

Biodun walked over to her den and opened her MacBook. She booted the system and didn’t bother to access the internet using her local service provider – they too would predictably be out; rather launching into her secure link with AT&T. She proceeded to send a mail to the Agriculture minister to apprise him of the latest development. She explained that the delay “would (if at all there were any) be kept to a minimum”. She looked over the mail for errors and satisfied there were none clicked the send button.

She should have called him, but she detested calling Alhaji Abu Shelama. The man was a slippery snake who gave her the creeps. He was the quintessential specimen of men she hated. Well, she had come to hate him over time. They had been better friends, in fact they had been more than casual friends once. But, their paths had eventually taken them on different routes. She had made up her mind, when they parted ways, it would be the last time she would see him. That promise was difficult to uphold because of her ambitions. Eventually, she had had had to approach him again a few years after, and they had reached some form of reconciliation. But, it had been difficult getting it out of her mind the cause of their friction. The going had been good for a while. She was even beginning to get back to that level they were in their relationship back in the UK – before their argument about genetic engineering caused their separation, when she stumbled upon Abu Shelama’s files on “New Strategies to improve National self-sufficiency”.

The file on the surface had been innocuous enough, detailing how to employ revolutionary agriculture methods and genetically enhanced and insect resistant seeds to boost national food production. The reduced reliance on imported fertilizers, insecticides and so on was going to help reduce costs while at the same time allowing the country to feed her ever increasing numbers of citizens.

However, she had come across some encrypted files within the same file and after a tortuous time deciding the ethics of it, she had hacked the files. What she found inside had shocked her the way she had been those many years ago when they had that argument on genetic engineering and playing god.

She had been sensible enough not to confront Abu Shelama, but somehow he must have guessed something was wrong. He was running a ministry that contributed about seventy percent of all revenue coming to BK Infometrics Inc., and it would have been counter-productive to have confronted him. However, Abu Shelama made the move himself by trying to disgrace her. She knew it could only be him who would do it, her pictures appeared in the papers. Certain details of her sex life got into the press. All those didn’t bother her until the fiasco at the ‘National conference on planning and strategic re-engineering.”

Biodun sighed, looking blankly at her computer screen. That was in the past she admonished herself. Even Abu Shelama had found she was not the same woman in the London flats years ago. She had evolved and had grown stronger. She didn’t go under after the fiasco, in fact the opposite happened. She grew stronger and got a special advisers’ place with the presidency. However, she had proceeded to avoid Alhaji Abu Shelama as much as possible, limiting their interaction and transactions to telephone calls, text messages and mails. Where there is a need for a meeting, she always delegated it to her Chief Data Analyst.

She couldn’t expose him as she had no prove. Moreover, she was only able to piece together the significance of what she had read in those encrypted files because she knew about Abu Shelama’s PODs and his covert aspirations for the genetic seeds. She knew what what she read was about, but no one else reading through the documents without that background knowledge would.

The headache was beginning to creep on her again. It was always like this when she is under pressure to deliver. She took from a drawer a sachet of aspirin, popped out two tablets and swallowed it. That should relieve the pounding in her head. She hated to be behind on schedules, data not processed as at when they should could lead to damage of unquantifiable ramifications. And these data for the Agriculture ministry were indeed needed like yesterday. The population was growing at a rate that the government was beginning to find alarming. From what they have been able to gather so far, if the population continues to grow as it is, at four percent annually, then in twenty or thirty years, the government would be faced with serious food scarcity problems. That was why the ministry needed to start acting very soon.

But, Abu Shelama had other plans. Plans that chilled her and she was determined that if he tries to launch any of those plans, she was going to expose him. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have prove but she is looking. She won’t pass up another opportunity. Already she has a small team working on analyzing trends in agriculture, disease control and segmentation of the national population. If any fishy is going on there she would know. And with her new clout with the presidency as a national adviser on cyber-attack and hi-tech terrorism, she can get a word into the ears of the president.

For now all is calm and peaceful.

She picked up her phone and speed dialed her CDA, the phone rang through only once before it was picked on the other end, “Jude, tell it to me again please, how bad is the situation?” There was a short pause on the other end.  Jude was a nice hard-working guy and she was sure he was calculating how to give her the bad news as nicely as possible. “We had a total shut down of all our stations. We had just begun the handshake protocols when the thunder struck. All the AVS and the circuit breakers couldn’t muscle out the power surge. The mainframe server got burnt too. However, we are working round the clock to set up again. I have called in a few extra hands, freelance staff but with security clearance, and from preliminary report, we should be back online by tomorrow evening,” he paused again to draw breathe, “once we can get our systems back online, we can retrieve our back up and restart the data transfer protocols.” Biodun closed her eyes and silently thanked God for making her find a man like Jude. If he was able to fix this, he would have saved BK Infometrics about three to four days of down time. The voice on the other end came back online, “Biodun, relax okay. I have the situation under control.”

“Thanks Jude. Let me know if anything important comes up.”

“Okay, I sure will.”

“And please, call Alhaji Abu Shelama. I already sent him a mail. But, a call is better and considering it is raining and all that…. Tell him we are working to reduce the delay time frame as much as possible.”

“Okay.” The line went dead.

It was all she could do for the moment. She took off her robe and walked naked to the bathroom where she hoped she can relieve her stress.

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The call had taken him by surprise. It was earlier than he had expected and she sounded like a caged tiger.

He had listened carefully to her, taking care not to interrupt as she outlined her proposal. It was important not to give her the impression that he was not up to this assignment. As a matter of fact, he was in a way glad that she saw him fit, and trusted him enough to come to him with the problem. It said a lot for how far they had come.

He had delivered the Eggshell building in the posh area of Lekki in record time, and under budget too. It had been a groundbreaking achievement for him and his team of engineers and advisors at Black Magic.

The edifice was the talk of town and it put his firm in the public eye. Other major contracts were coming his way and things were looking up. Added to all of that was that he and Biodun had started seeing each other. Although, they had had a “testing of the waters” at that  first meeting more than a year ago now, it was nothing compared to what they had now.

Then, it was just  body calling unto body. This time though, it was soul calling unto soul.

That was why when she had that nasty spat with the Minister for Agriculture at the national summit, he had felt like strangling the bastard. And when all those stories got into the press about her sexual life and all the kinkiness surrounding it, he grew closer and offered her a shoulder to lean on. It was helpful that she had opened up to him before those details got into the press about her past life. It made it easier for him to close ranks with her against this common enemy.

Together, they had weathered that storm. Now, she needed him again to help her fight another enemy. This time though he had a chilling feeling that he was going to have more involved role and that the stakes might just be bigger than he bargained for.

He was however a man of risk. All is life had been littered with one crazy  venture or the other.

When the phone rang and he heard her rasping voice on the other end, “I need your help Wemimo.”

His answer had been instantaneous, “I will see you at noon.”

It was now that simple between them – if Biodun was calling him, he was not going to turn a deaf ear to her cries.

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The office was unusually quiet.

It was the first thing she noticed as she walked into the lobby on the ground floor. The usual scurrying crowd where nowhere to be found and the receptionists were unusually patronizing.

She nodded at them as she walked to the single elevator to the left, the one that was reserved for her and which took her to the fifteenth floor from where she directed the affairs of this monster of a business she had created.

She immediately confirmed her fears that something was wrong the moment she stepped out of the elevator. Waiting for her was Jude, her CDA and he didn’t look happy or like someone who had good news.

“Hi, Jude,” she extended her hand and he took it; his own grip a bit firmer than hers. “What’s going on? You are here earlier than I expected.”

“Let’s get inside, Biodun.”

She turned to her secretary as she opened the door, “no calls till I am done with the CDA, okay?” She didn’t wait for her reply before stepping into her office and shutting the door behind Jude.

“Please,” she gestured to the sofa and took a seat next to him so that they now faced each other. “So, spill it.” She always wanted her news, good or bad, straight to the point.

“We don’t have the backup files for the MoA,” Jude stated flatly.

“What?!”

Jude regarded her for a moment. She was a remarkable woman. Her outburst, if it could be called that, was expressed in a calm and muted manner.

But, for Biodun it was all she could do not to jump out of the seat. How could they lose their back up files? It was their back up position. Their fail safe….

“How could this happen?” She demanded as her mind raced and tried to make sense of the news. “Those backups must be found. It is the very soul of BK Infometrics, all the work we have done over the years. We cannot lose our back up files.

“Biodun, the worrying thing is the fact that the repository systems recognized an entry from an authorized code to access and retrieve the files. Further probes have identified that the code source originated from our office, and after the download, whoever it was ordered the erasure of all records.”

“Oh My God!”

Now, the fear was breaking out from the well-constructed façade of composure.  She was putting up a brave performance of not showing her true state of mind.

“We are still working with the other guys to trace who used that command. As I speak, we are looking through our security videos to identify the culprit. Plus, we are also exploring the possibility of the host site having a backup of the backup. We are looking hard Biodun, but this is how we stand as at this morning.”

“Okay.”

Jude was startled by the calmness in her voice, even more remarkable, considering only seconds before she was almost breaking down before him. The woman seated beside him had on a face full of new resolve. It was an intriguing and yet troubling metamorphosis he had just witnessed.

“Get cracking on this, Jude. Fill me in on anything important,” she glanced at her wristwatch before continuing, “Let me make some calls. Let’s meet here again at one.”

“Okay. See you at one then. I might have better news by then.”

After Jude left, Biodun sat back on the sofa for a long time trying to figure out what could be happening around her. Her rational mind tried to process all the information that Jude had given to her. Who would steal her back up files then erase the files from the source repository? What does the person have to gain? Did the person know she was going to one day need those files and had removed them so she couldn’t have access to them? But, whoever it is couldn’t conjure a lightning strike for that…unless, there was another plan that would be initiated to ensure she did need to go back for the backups.  Who? Why? What purpose will all of this serve? And she was behind schedule on her deliverables to the Ministry of Agriculture.

She had to make the call now. He was new, but could help. He looked like someone who can help her unravel this knot right now.

She got up from the sofa and approached the phone on her desk.

 

*********

 

They were seated facing each other on the sofa again. It was just shortly past the hour and nothing much seemed to have changed in her bearing from earlier in the morning when he had spoken to her about the damaged repository databank.

“I have some good news at last Biodun,” that lit her up and a smile beamed slightly across her mouth. “We will be able to get back online in another thirty six hours. We have also been able to retrieve most of our back up files. I am afraid to tell you we would lose some, but against the bigger picture that would be a small body blow to take.”

“Yes, I agree. You have done marvelously well Jude. I am so lucky to have you with me. But, please tell me we have the MoA files,” she was looking out at the other end of the wall. Almost as if she doesn’t want to confront a likely unfavorable answer to her query.

“Yes the files are Okay. However, we will have to run a diagnostic check to make sure everything is in order. The whole system is chugging along fine.      It is like learning to walk again, but we will soon get past that and be running faster than we were before all of this happened.”

She beamed him another smile and he replied with a genuine one of his. She is a remarkable woman, one of the best executives he had ever worked for and one who commands his utmost respect and allegiance. He had witnessed her many times take on challenges of seeming insurmountable proportion. Often times, she had been successful in negotiating her way around and above such challenges. One of which was dreaming up the plan to move into a new HQ complex, and that had been a remarkable feat achieved in record time. The edifice was talk of town and had placed the company on a new pedestal.

Of course, there had been those she couldn’t have helped. Like the POD Systems Recount fiasco a few years back, when BK Infometrics Inc., was just starting out. The one where she had that very nasty public argument with the minister for Agriculture at that national summit. The scope of the argument had taken him by surprise, they had been like two gladiators who didn’t want to hurt each other but yet had no choice than to. It was really messy. It was the beginning of her frosty and often times fiery, relationship with Alhaji Abu Shelama.

Biodun got up from the sofa and walked to her desk, “I called Wemimo to help me take some out-of-the-box look at our problem here. He has some experience with software and may be able to detect something we are all over-looking,” she paused and walked back to pat him on the back of his hand, “don’t look so Jude. You and your boys are the best. But, we need all the help we can get and I am calling in all I can. Who knows what he can turn up? And soon enough, we should be able to trace the intruder.”

The meeting broke up a few minutes later.

Jude left his boss thinking he knew the reason, the real one, behind why she had asked Wemimo Martins for help. He was smiling to himself as he closed the door behind him.

It has been long enough since that Abu bastard.

===================== TO BE CONTINUED =======================

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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