Isaya, an expert hacker gets recruited for a dangerous mission: infiltrate the hi-tech building of the Information Ministry to hack the systems and send an SOS message to the world. But to fulfil this job, Isaya will have to break down the walls in his mind.

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01 The Walls Within

Francine Naeku

The sun has set, and darkness is slowly creeping in as the lights in the city of Nairobi come on. Holographic screens and traffic signs pulse to the rhythm of a settling town while anti-G vehicles fly through the streets scanning the people scurrying below.

Lined along the streets, hi-tech military vehicles and robotic tanks crawl through the urbanised sectors of the city while people walk with their eyes fixed to the ground avoiding eye contact with the military personnel standing at every corner.

There is a dense cloud of fear and anxiety hanging over the city even as the propaganda spewing across countless holographic monitors attempts to convince everyone that all is well. Like the rest of the country, Nairobi is a cold oppressed place, and most of its population live in poverty, while only a few enjoy the benefits of the city, crushed by a corrupt regime that has seized all its riches and left the town almost entirely in ruins.

In the outskirts of the city near Ngong Hills, a young man enters one of the many manyattas of a small Maasai village. He has Maasai shuka wrapped around him slightly covering the slick backpack slung over his shoulder. In his hands a state-of-the-art holographic mobile device projects data of his surroundings. After a quick glance check if he switched off the old boda-boda glider he arrived in, he turns to meet the stranger who invited him here.

Without a word, he’s ushered inside one of the manyattas and on to what appears to be a metal platform. The platform descends rapidly as soon as the metal grill closes until it comes to a stop inside a vast underground cave. In stark contrast to the outside, It opens up to an elegant space-age control room full of people working on computers, and holographic screens. As they exit the small metal platform, a tall, middle-aged man, also dressed on a Maasai shuka walks over to meet them.

“Jambo, you have arrived just in time,” says the man with a deep voice “We’ve been waiting for you to come. Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Ibrahim”

“I know who you are. Ibrahim, leader of Elohim, the resistance group fighting to free our country,” said the man. He can feel himself straightening up in Ibrahim’s presence. “My name is Isaya” he starts with a slight stutter “I understand that you are looking for someone with knowledge in online systems?”

“Yes, Mr Isaya” replied Ibrahim, “that and many more. The time to strike at the heart of our oppressors has come.  We will be launching a series of coordinated strikes in the coming days.” He pauses and looks keenly at Isaya who shuffles uncomfortably. “Now to your part. As you know, the corporation’s media is linked to a primary network from which all the information we see in Nairobi and other parts of the country is controlled.

Although he did not like where the conversation was heading, Isaya listened carefully.

“The central tower from the Information Ministry of Fisi Corporation is, in fact, the place where the nucleus of that network is located” answered Isaya, “but to even think about going there would be suicide.”

“We know that.” Ibrahim replied placing his hand on Isaya’s shoulder “for years, we’ve studied the place and ran countless infiltration simulations. Sadly, you’re not the first one we’ve attempted to send there, Mr Isaya. We have made attempts in the past that ended in tragedy.”

And as he continued to listen to Ibrahim, Isaya grew increasingly nervous about the reason he had been invited there.

“Your talent is well known to everyone here. An expert in infiltrating online systems, maybe the best there is. You have managed to complete job after job, even the ones that everyone thought were impossible.” Ibrahim lifted his glasses and peered closely at Isaya “We need your skills to send a message to the world and ask for help. For our country and for change. Will you do that for your country?”

“My country?” Isaya shrugged almost in disdain “My country? For this?” he motioned in the direction of the city “You’ve got to do better than that.”

“What if we gave you what you desire most?” Ibrahim motioned with his hands “The city’s entire database. We know you’ve spent considerable time searching for it.”

“You have it?” Isaya paused. Startled. He a gathered his thoughts for a moment and then shrugged and looked up “Ok.” He answers almost as if he was talking to himself “Ok. I guess it’s just another challenge to overcome. When do we start?”

“Tonight” Answered Ibrahim “You will go with a team who are experts in infiltration and espionage. Men and women who have my entire confidence and understand everything that happened during the previous missions, as well as the security systems of the building. With them, entering the headquarters of the Ministry will be easy.” Ibrahim signalled with his hand, and a group of men dressed in combat gear appeared. Motioning to Isaya, they got onto the platform and headed back up to the surface.

The group headed towards the city in a stolen Fisi Corporation van. Among them Isaya, who was now dressed in the formal clothes of an office worker complete with glasses. Sitting quietly next to him was a young girl, also dressed in formal clothing. He could see she was wearing a barely perceptible device in her right ear.

The central tower looked empty in the night, but they knew the entire building had an active surveillance system. Isaya and his partner had to enter through the front door using false credentials, while the rest of the team got into the facilities using nano-tech camouflage to avoid detection by the cameras and infrared systems.

After the couple managed to get across the first security filter using their false credentials, they got into an elevator that took them to the top floor, where they had to wait for their team to deactivate the security systems to gain access into the room where with the central computer was located.

Meanwhile, the team outside, totally invisible, managed to access different points of the building. Scaling up the walls and through the sewer systems. Once inside, they efficiently deactivated a large part of the safety net and neutralised the guards along the way to the security control room. It took about an hour, but they eventually deactivated all the security systems, giving Isaya access to the central chamber.

Isaya and the girl got to the top floor without incident, something that made Isaya uncomfortable. Everything had been far too easy this far.

“As I understand, all the security systems must be disconnected, but we should be careful,” said Isaya, looking all around.

“The boys are professionals, and I’m sure they did their job without a problem,” the girl responded before she checking the gun on her belt. She had carried one just in case something unexpected happened.

Before them, lay a long corridor leading to a large circular clean room. Where a lone metal door stood with an electronic lock next to it. Once in front of the door, Isaya tried to hack the lock with a device that he always carried for moments like this. The card-shaped device activated to display a holographic face, which after being placed on the reader of the lock, rapidly changed its shape until it found the exact facial pattern to open the door.

After a quick look around, they went through the door and found themselves in front of a giant computer that controlled all the data of the official AV network.

“I still don’t like this at all. Everything’s been too simple, no matter how skilled your teammates are…” Isaya said drifting off.

“I understand you. But remember that everything we have achieved here is thanks to previous attempts. All the variables were covered so do not be surprised if we get out of the building unscathed,” the girl replied her eyes twinkling in mischief. He could tell she was enjoying watching him squirm.

“Even so, the people of the Fisi Corporation are not stupid; they could have strengthened security,” said Isaya, “we still have to be very careful.

Isaya then settled and got ready to do his job. Connecting the same device that he had used on the electronic lock, he started his hack on the system. As soon as everything was plugged in, the system suddenly shut itself down and rebooted, triggering the alarm and activating a blockade that shut him out entirely.

Isaya nervously rushed to peer out the window where he saw a slew of anti-G vehicles speeding towards them. He knows they will soon be surrounded.

“I knew it!” Exclaimed Isaya. “At any moment, they will be here, and they will kill us.”

“To do that, they must first confront our men,” the girl replied. “Besides, I just sent an SOS to the base. Help is coming”

“Well, I guess we failed. How are we supposed to get out of here?”

“You surrender on the first attempt?” The girl said looking at him in incredulously “I thought the famous Isaya was much more than that.”

“What do you mean? We are about to be caught, and the system has activated its defences. No matter how hard I try, I cannot do it on time.”

“Do you think we did not know this might happen?” the girl said, the faint shadow of a smile appearing on her lips.

Isaya looked back at the window, at the door and then back at the computer and decided to make one last attempt. As expected, the system once again shuts him out. He had a go few more times, trying every single trick he knews, and it still didn’t work.

“I give up. It’d be better to plan the escape before the guards arrive,” He said throwing his hands up despair.

“We had been told that you were the best and that you had infiltrated systems that were more difficult and protected than this one. Are you going to give up now?”

“I’m sorry, but I used all my techniques, and nothing has worked. We are losing time.”

“Relax and try it one more time. Remember the times you’ve been in similar situations. Paying attention and correct as you work. Give it your best shot. If it doesn’t work, we’ll go.

Looking at the girl’s face, he marvelled at how calm she seemed. Strangely it also calmed him down and memories of his youthful hacking days came flooding back. Impossible was always the flame that drove him on.

“You know what?” He said, “The reason why I have survived all this time in the regime…”

“Yes?” said the girl, excitement lighting her face.

“The reason why I have survived all this time is that I never gave up. I kept on fighting. Every time things looked terrible, I found a solution” said Isaya, as much to convince himself as talk to her.

“That’s because you’re a survivor. Today is no exception. Just believe and do what you know best.”

Isaya prepared to make one last attempt. “I think I know what I should do,” he said.

Again, he connected the device, this time calmly and taking his time. Step by step, the system slowly started responding and, in the end, he was not only able to enter the data but also connect with the global network.

Outside, the infiltration team tried to marshal all their weapons and resources as they fought with corporation’s forces but were heavily outnumbered by the enemy. One after the other they fell. Realizing that once again, it was not going to be their day until suddenly reinforcements from Elohim began to arrive, tilting the fight in back their favour. Once they were in control of the central tower, Elohim’s forces quickly began to gather everyone for the escape.

Inside the central computer’s facility, just before lowering his hand to press the button and begin the transmission, Isaya stopped for a moment realising that the alarms had ceased. And with a tired but triumphant smile started transmitting to Nairobi and on to the rest of the world. Through the window, he saw the holographic screens momentarily flicker before displaying the message from the resistance.

“You see? It was just a matter of trying again” said the girl. “Even if we were to not make it out of here tonight, you’ve got to keep trying.”

As she spoke, the voice of the team leader came through her ear device informing her they were on the way up to get them. A song of renewed hope to see another day.

As they went back to the teams waiting in anti-G vehicles on the ground below, a sense of what they had accomplished tonight began to sink in their weary and exhausted minds. They were about to change the course of history.

“This was a great experience. And you were right; it was just a matter of persevering. Maybe I was so focused on thinking it through that I forgot to relax and just let my brain do what I’ve always done” said Isaya speaking to the girl.

“Perseverance is the key to everything. There will be many more challenges, but for now, this is one battle that we won.” She answered

“By the way, I still don’t know your name.”

“I’m Kweli” she answered “like many of the people you saw tonight, I’m looking to find a way to change Kenya. And I will continue fighting to tear down the walls that stand…” She stopped and laughs “sorry I didn’t mean to give you a speech…I’m Kweli.”

They continued talking until they got back the remote Maasai village and then on long into the night. They could feel it. A new wave was coming. For both of them. For Kenya and for the world.

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