Photo by Sara Silva on Unsplash
I was mistaken in thinking that panic would ensue Milimo’s words.
Nope. I was greeted with overwhelming silence. Once again, we were a few misguided kids, trying to find our place in the world.
I sank into a chair and buries my head in my hands. I pressed my fingers to my eyelids, savouring the coolness of my fingertips on my overheated face. I exhaled, trying to wrap my head around the problem we had been presented with. Who could possibly have hacked us?
“Do we have any further information?” I asked croakily.
“The system the hacker is using is far beyond anything I’ve ever seen,” Milimo whispered, stuck between being scared and awestruck. “Their hacking methods are ridiculous. They set up several firewalls. I can’t even get their location.”
“But we can guess.” Silas said gravely, crossing the room. He stood in the middle of the room, flexing his muscles menacingly. “The only unusual activity we’ve seen was in the north of Lusaka. It’s pretty obvious that’s where they are.”
“We should go after them,” Stephanie piped up.
“We should do nothing of the sort,” I said, standing up. I walked right up to Silas and stared up at him, refusing to be intimidated by his huge stature.
“I already killed the whole country. I won’t let you guys die too.” I breathed out
“Oh, for fucks’ sake, we aren’t even living!” Stephanie yelled at me, her hair whipping around her face. “Those that hang out with the dead are dead! Do you really think hiding from shadows is being alive Chabota?”
“Steph, you were on my side.” I growled lowly.
“There are no sides!” She screamed angrily. “There’s life and death and us. But there are no sides”
I returned to my seat, feeling defeated. I needed the team to see reason, but the truth was I didn’t know what I was reasoning with them to do. As it stood, we were all sitting chickens, waiting on the sky to fall.
15.3879oS, 28.3297oE, Engineering Annex. STATUS: CONDEMNED
In the aftermath, I got used to the draft in the annex. Not because the windows were poorly boarded up with flimsy sheets of cardboard but because I never felt Stephanie next to me anymore when I woke up. We were miles apart. I often woke up groggy and wistful. Sometimes, Bupe would cross my mind, but I would shake those thoughts vehemently out my head. The past was behind us. This particular morning was colder than usual for a day in the middle of summer. I pulled myself from behind the boxes and woke up to what looked like a meeting.
“we’re glad you’re finally awake.” Stephanie said scathingly. I flipped my finger at her and pulled a chair into their jumbled circle.
“we’ve decided to investigate the activity in Lusaka North.”
15.4140° S, 28.2853° E, STATUS: INHABITABLE
Even before we shut down The Network, this old shopping mall gave me the creeps. It had been refurbished into office space for government spies, that masqueraded as people equally sinister. Interestingly enough, the black market flourished right next to the supposed law makers.
“I remember buying my first gun here,’ Silas said reminiscently. He chuckled as he added, “I also bought my first gun license.”
Milimo scoffed as he pulled out a tablet from his back pack. “They’ve completely secured the network. I can’t even monitor their activity.”
“did you try to look at the national electricity grid?” I asked non-commitally.
“of course, I did,” he scoffed.
“no need to be rude, brother.” I mumbled, throwing the peace sign at him.
“brother?” he asked incredulously. “Chabota, you’ve barely spoken to anyone since we shut this shit down!”
“you guys are acting like its all my fault. We were in it together!” I growled at him, taking a step closer to him. I flexed my knuckles, unconvincingly, feeling braver than I really was.
Milimo flung his arms apart and screamed, “look at you shifting the blame! I’ve been hacking into fucking infinity while you mope around the streets, picking up junk that reminds you of your dead girlfriend. I see you storing that stuff, in your locker dude.”
“it’s not like that.” I said, turning away angrily.
He laughed mirthlessly, “oh yeah, tell that to Stephanie.” Milimo turned away from me disgustedly. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Stephanie wipe her face as she stepped past us. I exhaled and fumbled blindly for a blunt.
Silas grabbed the blunt from my fingers and tossed it away. “I need you to be alert in this, we’re going in with guns. Also keep your goddamn emotions in check, you sound ridiculous.”
He stepped forward and motioned for us all to huddle.
“I can’t tell you guys I know much about what’s going on there, but I do know that its gonna be dangerous.” He said gravely. “Y’all got your weapons?”
Everyone nodded their assent. I was reminded that I needed to collect my own gun from the trunk of the car we had ‘acquired’ to get here. It was a very run-down Toyota Corolla. As I pulled the boot open and selected the smallest pistol I could find, I was reminded that freedom comes at a price.