“Adanna come downstairs. You have visitors.”
“Mom I said I’m coming. I’ll be there in a minute”
This woman was not going to get off her case today. One would figure that after saying “I’m coming” multiple times, a typical person would get the message. Apparently, African parents did not fit that typical description. Moreover, she hated it when people called her full name. It wasn’t even a name, just a first daughter title. She’d always imagined a funny scenario in her village hall where numerous heads turned after the name “Ada” was mentioned.
As she’d grown, she’d asked to be called Skye, the name her grandfather had bestowed upon her. She loved the name, the feeling of lightness it’d given her, just like a cloud. However, her parents would have none of it, especially her Father. She remembered when she’d mustered up the courage to ask her father officially. She’d maintained her A grades in preparation for this day and had hoped it would be a suitable bargaining chip. It turned out she was wrong about the way bargains worked. Once again, African parents did not follow the norm of society.
“Adanna, I don’t know whether it’s this American air affecting your brain or it’s the food. Ada is your title and you will answer it when called. Do you think it’s a decoration on your birth certificate?! A tuoro omara, o mara, a tuoro ofeke, o fenye ishi n’ohia”
And that was the end of that.
Ada wiped the sweat off her face and got back to screwing the last nut in place. She grinned in satisfaction as the nut tightened itself against the washer and held tight.
It was finally done.
Her mind jumped around, somersaulting a couple of times in excitement. Not that she could do all this in reality; she could barely run 20 metres without running out of breath. Nevertheless, she was happy. Happy that her efforts had paid off. The numerous books read and theories she’d implemented had led to this point. She’d been at it all day and sleep had evaded her last night. Not that she didn’t have the opportunity to sleep; or her snuggery wasn’t cozy enough.
She’d always thought of changing her pink feather pillows to blue or black. Her mother had spoken against it, insisting that she retained the pink pillows. It was her mother’s way of reminding herself that her daughter was actually a woman. She’d said this on all the occasions she’d stepped into Skye’s room and met tools strewn over the carpet; which was more or less everyday
She took the device in her hand, looking it over carefully for any unscrewed spaces. Everything looked to be in place and operational. Skye smirked at the thought of the real one she’d create. If this prototype went according to plan, she’d be on her way to breaking the boundaries of science and technology. She took a deep breath and pressed the power button.
This was going to be a defining moment for her. She waited for the light to come on and assure her that her brilliance was astound and her sleepless nights weren’t wasted. Anxiety began to kick in when the screen didn’t flicker to life. Her mind began to roam and generate worrisome questions which weren’t helping.
She knew it couldn’t be the batteries. They were rechargeable and she’d kept them at a forty percent charge due to their lithium chemistry. They weren’t due to run out for another three hours according to her calculations. Unless that rat Kyle had deceived her somehow, considering he was the one who’d gotten all the components.
Kyle was the only one in class who she felt had the ability to blind her to many things. He wasn’t tech smart or book smart. However, he had a cunning personality and always seemed to have some mischief up his sleeve. Mixing that up with his street smarts was a very dangerous combination which always left her wary. Although it was the street smarts which had gotten all the materials required, she remained leery about his personality. She couldn’t forget the babble he’d always utter while they were at the lab checking the materials.
“We could sell this for thousands of dollars Skye! Just think about it. If we could talk to the governor about it, maybe they would pay to have it used stateside. Forget I said thousands. We’re talking about millions of dollars paid by the government!”
“Kyle get your head out of your money cloud. We both know the government would not pay any individual millions for anything. No matter how much they liked or needed it.”
Kyle had scoffed at her and told her she was too naive for the world.
Maybe she was.
She pressed the power button again and was about to flick the screen with her finger until a white light came into sight. She breathed a sigh of relief as the OS kicked in and the start-up process began. Her anxiety eased up and was replaced with building anticipation as the bar teased her, loading across the screen.
It was actually happening. She had created the BR.
She knew it was somewhat corny, calling it the Body Reader. Eventually she’d think of a cool name for it when she got to writing articles about it in the National Science Magazine. For now, no one else knew it was functional so she could call it whatever she wanted.
She smiled as she revelled in the device’s brilliance, her brilliance anyway. After watching Dexter forever as a kid, she’d determined to be him and more. Luckily, her father had seen this passion and fostered it. Well not that he really did it for her, he just liked showing off her grades to his friends.
The screen asked to begin an authentication setup for the administrator and flickered black. A prompt appeared, asking for an index finger to be placed at the bottom right of the screen. She happily placed her finger on the screen, ensuring her finger stayed at the bottom right. The scan commenced and she rose the device to eye level to get ready for the next step.
“Retina scan authentication setup required”
She did several blinks and opened her left eye to the biggest size she could make it. The device scanned her eye and the loading bar came across the screen once more. At this point, she was too ecstatic to be impatient with the device. She needed to make sure without her, the device would not be able to function. She couldn’t afford Ebuka entering her room and somehow accessing the device.
The bar on the BR disappeared and the screen switched to a black background, a single white beeping in the middle.
It was finally complete.
The BR was complete.
Her professor had told her it wasn’t possible to design a device that analysed someone’s body readings to predict possible future occurrences. She had taken it upon herself to prove her professor wrong and she had. Unfortunately, she just had it at a small 50-meter range presently. Furthermore, she still had to tweak it further to get that future event part settled and set a bigger radius. It would require more days of no sleep but she was very ready for it.
If she was able to get the future event part working, she’d finally be able to avoid the drug runners in that alley she had to pass every morning to school. Whenever they saw her passing through the alley, they would utter very rude and sexual innuendos at her. She had her own memories of the alley itself and the thought of passing through always left her with a cold shudder. Nonetheless, it was the only way she could get to school on time.
She had always wondered why people like that didn’t get a job or at least make an attempt. What motivation did one have to wake up every morning with the aim of looking to deal cocaine and possibly have shootouts with other gangs? She remembered meeting a student who was a drug runner at her school last term. He’d told her that he did it because he’d never made more money in his life. Of course he’d been living lavishly with a new BMW and hosting parties every other week. That was till he didn’t come back to school for this term. Rumours had been generated that he’d been arrested and was in custody for a case against the drug lord of their community; “Hijo de Satanás” as the news referred to everyday. She’d never understand the hood status they were trying to maintain.
“Adanna! Didn’t I ask you to come downstairs??”
“I’m coming mum.”
“Nothing more Adanna. Be down here now.”
She sighed in relief as her mother’s footsteps faded down the stairs. She pocketed the BR with her right and headed down the stairs. She began to wonder why she would have guests at this time of the school year. She didn’t have aby friends and even the ones she could call acquaintances were all in France for a leadership programme. Come to think of it, why was it more than one? Only Kyle knew where she lived and that was because she told him for the future. She had anticipated more inventions so she’d prepped his mind for home deliveries.
As she reached the bottom of the stairs and turned towards the parlour, her pocket began to beep loudly. Was it her phone? She remembered her phone was presently in her bag upstairs.
Which means it was the BR.
She brought out the device cautiously and took a look at the screen. She saw four slots recorded and receiving regular updates. That more or less meant her parents were in the parlour with whoever they were, which means they were boys. Typical of her parents to be concerned as always. Once it came to boys, they handled the issue with the subtlety of a charging rhino.
She entered into the parlour and set eyes on her parents. They both sat on the black leather couch facing her while the guests had their backs to her on the armchairs. Her father was in his usual cross armed pose with his lips pursed. Her mom had her legs balanced on the couch, her derriere angled towards her dad. Skye walked further into the parlour and was about to take the seat at the window when the BR beeped loudly again. She would have to give it a silent mode so people don’t bother her.
She took a look at the recordings on the BR again. It had picked up their breathing patterns and was recording it against their respective slots. It was working. It was really working. She looked at the guests and set eyes on Kyle first. He had his usual smirk on and his feet were tapping their pacey rhythm as always. She noticed they were tapping a bit faster than usual and his eyes had lost their gleam. They seemed to be darting around all over the place in the subtlest way possible. She looked at the other guest and saw it was the drug runner she’d met at school last term. He had a very jittery demeanour about him, like he wanted to be out of here.
What was he doing here in the first place?
“Adanna, who are these people in my house? Nneka why did you even let these boys into this house? Do I know them?”
Her mother turned towards her father and adjusted her position to face him. “Chika, these people said they came to see ADANNA.” As she said the name, her mother turned and cast a fiery glare in her direction.
Obviously they had called her Skye at the door.
“You know she doesn’t have anyone coming over to visit her. Nna let her have the moment please.”
Skye took the BR out of her pocket and rose it to scan everyone in the room.
“Ada what is that??” her father exclaimed.
The BR scanned her father first and updated the data on him, picking up his crossed arms and fresh expression of surprise. She turned it towards her mum and it picked up on her mouth left agape and her vulnerable stance.
“Daddy and Mummy don’t worry. It’s just a little invention of mine.”
Her father got up from his chair and motioned for her mother to follow. He heaved a sigh of annoyance and stormed out the room. It seemed all this was too much to take in one day for him. Her mother’s eyes followed her father leaving the room, before turning towards Skye and mouthing “You should know better.” She in turn left the room and headed upstairs.
She did know better, but the excitement of the BR was all that mattered now. She would apologise to daddy later.
“I told you it would be working!!”
Kyle’s voice registered and she turned the BR in his direction. The BR’s picked up on his heightened voice and newfound gleam in his eyes. She couldn’t believe it. It was working perfectly. She had planned this test for a week but fate had brought four people within her reach. She turned it towards the drug runner and it picked up on his jittery demeanour. The BR was raking in lots of postures relative with anxiety and fear. She wondered what could be going through his mind. As she remembered something important, she turned towards Kyle and let her anger loose at him.
“What are you doing telling everyone about this?!”
Kyle smiled and stretched out his arms as he stood up from the armchair.
“I told you this thing could make money for us.”
“What do you mean by us? Did you invent it??!” Skye asked, her anger rising by the second.
“I got you the resources Skye. I have a part in this.”
“I paid you for those resources Kyle. Our business is over.”
Kyle’s smile grew wider and she could see the mischief begin to pull into a grin.
“Well you know some of those materials I got you? You never asked how I got them and I’m here to tell you.”
Kyle walked into the center of the room and faced Skye squarely.
“Some of those materials couldn’t be sourced legally so I had to access some of my illegal connections aka the Satanás cartel. I kinda struck a deal with them that you’d make them a couple of the devices for them to use.”
Skye stared in dismay as the words began to sink into her brain. The BR continued to beep as it recorded data but she was oblivious to the beep now.
Some of the BR’s components had been funded by the cartel.
She had been working for the cartel.
She sank down into the armchair in shock, trying her best to imagine it was a dream. This had to be a very twisted dream that she was in. Any moment now, her mom should be dabbing her face with water to wake her up for history class and undergo her morning routine of complaining about her cluttered room. As much as she so desperately wanted it to be a dream, she knew it wasn’t. Her brain kept reassuring her that she was very much alive. There was no point in pinching herself or slapping herself as they did in movies.
“Yo Skye you okay?”
She looked up and saw Kyle staring at her intently, his concern rising. He stretched a hand to help her up and she slapped it away. She couldn’t believe Kyle. She knew he was mischievous and she had been wary. She just never expected him to operate at this level.
Kyle walked over to where she was seated, leaned over her and placed his hand on the head of the armchair.
“We’re going to make millions Skye. They just want to see how it works. I spoke to one of their generals and he told me that Hijo de Satanás said he’d personally pay for each device we made for them. They may be drug dealers but they’re pretty loyal.”
Skye couldn’t believe the words coming out of his mouth right now. How had she gotten into this? She just wanted to be a genius developing science breakers, not working for some cartel who’d use her brilliance to further their criminal lifestyles. She knew what they could do with it.
They’d know when people are undercover and wearing wires.
They’d know how to plan their cocaine routes.
As she imagined each use, she could only envision stacks of cocaine and loads of bloodshed. She couldn’t be a part of this. She had to find a way to remove herself from the equation.
She pushed Kyle back and sat up straight in the armchair. She hoped by staring him in the eye, he would know what she was going to say was serious.
“We can’t do this Kyle. I didn’t ask for this. You told me you would get these things legally and you assured me you would. I didn’t ask for this. Why the hell would I be working for the bloody cartel??!! DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEY DO?? THE BLOODSHED THEY CAUSE??!!
Kyle seemed to be squirming and rose his finger to say something.
“SHUT UP. I DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS BLOODY SITUATION YOU PUT ME IN. I WASN’T DOING THIS FOR MONEY OR RICHES. I JUST……I just wanted to invent.”
Skye sighed and sat back in the chair, her energy exhausted. She didn’t know what to do now. What would her dad and mom think? Her dad liked her passion for science but disliked the idea of her inventions. He said they were trouble and she had to stop. Her mother on the other hand was against almost everything in her generation, ranging from the musicians to the fingerprint scans at the airport. She had concluded that anything innovative she’d been interested in creating had to be in the devil’s playbook of furthering chaotic rein through the young generation. As a result, she’d also been against the idea of Skye’s inventions. What would they think of her now?
Kyle trudged forward and leaned forward again which stretched her last bit of patience thin. Didn’t this idiot understand that she was already frustrated at his deviousness? She knew she was going to slap him today. She could feel it from the pit of her stomach. As Kyle continued to lean forward, she strengthened her arm and let it fly. As her hand flew towards his face, she noticed he wasn’t stopping his fall. He was going to fall on her! What was he doing?!
Her hand connected with his face and his head twisted to an awkward angle, remaining that way. She saw the lifelessness in his eyes and her eyes opened wide in shock. Her mouth opened up to scream and was immediately covered by a rough hand. She looked up and saw the drug runner standing over her. She’s forgotten he’d been in the room with them. Her frustration had hidden him from her sight. She looked down at his other hand and noticed he was holding a pistol with a silencer screwed over the muzzle.
Kyle was dead.
He was bleeding on her.
This man was going to kill her for the BR.
He signalled for her to be quiet and motioned for her to get up. She slowly obeyed and let the BR drop from her lap unto the chair. The drug runner pointed to the BR with the gun, his hand tightening on her mouth. She picked up the BR and held it in her hands, the device threatening to fall through her now sweaty palms. He stepped behind her, placing the muzzle in the middle of her back.
She began to feel light-headed as the reality of death began to kick in. She had only seen guns on TV and read about them in magazines. She’d never seen one in reality and never imagined she’d be in this situation.
The drug runner shoved the gun in her back and used his left index finger to point towards the door. She mustered the courage and tried a step towards the door. Her legs seemed not to be working with her and threatened not to move. She could feel his anxious breathing on her shoulder. He was scared too just like her. Which meant he was wild and irrational at this point. If she decided to shout, her parents may come rushing down and he may kill them too. She wouldn’t be able to live with that for the rest of her life if it did happen. She had to play along and make him feel in control.
As he pushed the muzzle into her back for the second time, she forced her foot and took a step towards the door. As she took her next couple of steps, him walking in-step behind, only one thought passed through her mind.
“Ebuka please take care of Daddy and Mummy”