“Probed” is a science fiction concept with a Nigerian setting about five extraordinary children trying to live ordinary lives. Subsequent chapters will be released every Tuesday each week. I hope you enjoy reading the story as much as I love writing it!
I love you all. Every single one of you.
This Anniversary Story is in two parts… enough to answer what you basically need to know about the past lives of the kids. Anything unanswered… you can ask by dropping a comment. I’ll note and include in the next stories.
February 15th would make it exactly a year since the children started their new lives, and it was currently December 15th.
Mustapha stared at the rising moon, letting out a deep sigh as he let his mind wander into the past, like he did on the fifteenth of every month, the intensity of the flashback building as the anniversary drew close. He and his siblings had been restless from the moment they had confirmed that Miss N. had left the facility. They didn’t hurt Abiye, but gave him lethal glares whenever their eyes made contact. Their life was a living hell, and thanks to Abiye, it was going to be much worse. They all began to go about each day with dread of every hour that passed, trying hard not to make any mistakes so as not to shorten their impending death sentence. The person who suffered the most was Abiye. He began to look like a living corpse with each passing day, so much that the scientists that worked on him felt the upgrades were having an adverse effect on him. They planned to give him a few days of observation before concluding whether to put him out or not. Their annual inspection was in a few days, and the owner of the facility was not going to be pleased seeing him in that state. Abiye got wind of his fate, but he did nothing to improve his state.
He was depressed. How could he have trusted that woman at the expense of his siblings? He even welcomed the idea of being put out— at least the misery would end.
Richard tossed and turned in his bed. He couldn’t help but remember Ndidi, Mr. Johnson’s daughter. He was the head of the man’s legal team in West Africa, handling any legal involvement with his numerous assets and investments within that region. Mr. Johnson was a billionaire who managed to hide the extent of his worth from the public. He was the type of rich business tycoon that hid away in bought private islands that came with its own village settlement. He rarely attended events and was very particular about those that worked with him. Richard’s father was sort of like him, though nothing close to his financial status. It was most likely their common love for privacy that made the billionaire instate Raphael Ogunbade as his legal adviser. So when Raphael passed away from an unfortunate plane crash, he observed Richard closely for a couple of months. When he was fully convinced that the man was just like his father, he employed him. Mr. Johnson paid extremely well, and didn’t require him to work exclusively, so he could do other legal jobs by the side without consequence. Also, he was based in Canada, but travelled around often. Whenever he felt communication via email with the lawyer would not suffice for the task at hand, he took the private jet and came to Nigeria.
The billionaire took pride especially in his research lab in Cameroon, where he claimed he was on the verge of a scientific breakthrough that would revolutionize the world as they knew it. Richard had never had an interest in the sciences, but the way Mr. Johnson always described this project always arrested his curiosity. He wondered what kind of experiments were carried out there that would make such a huge impact on the society at a large. A cure for cancer perhaps? He was a realist, so he couldn’t imagine anything bigger than that.
But of all his assets, the lab was the only place he had refused to divulge details about. Even the address of the place documented was a fake. He always said it was because of his competitors. Richard didn’t think too much about the whole thing— it wasn’t in his place to know anyway. But then all that changed when Ndidi suddenly showed up in Mr. Johnson’s office, holding a bunch of files in her arms. Her father was surprised to see her.
“Ndidi you’re back already?”
“Yes sir… I was done with my reports of the state of the facility and their activities.” She said, dropping the files on the desk before turning to greet the lawyer. “I thought you’d want to go through them as soon as possible before the annual inspection.”
“That’s wonderful dear… but right now I’m busy. We’ll talk over dinner. Chinese perhaps?”
Ndidi smiled. “There’s this new restaurant on the Island I’ve been dying to go to but didn’t have time to before I left. How about we try that? It’s five-star I assure you.”
Mr. Johnson dismissed his daughter with the wave of a hand. “No problem honey.”
Later that day Richard was hard at work in his office when Fredrick popped into his office, looking very pensive. Richard looked at the younger man quizzically.
“I was heading to your office when I saw an unusual visitor walk into the chambers.”
Richard raised an eyebrow. “How unusual?”
“Mr. Azionu’s daughter.”
Richard’s eyes widened. Just then, the office phone on his desk rang. It was the secretary. Richard responded promptly.
“I see… Fredrick will be there to receive her personally. Thank you Sarah.”
He turned to his personal assistant. “Bring her here yourself.”
Fredrick responded with a nod and went to do as he was told. For the brief moment Richard was left home he pondered on Ndidi’s appearance in his chambers. Mr. Johnson never went through a third party. He called for him when he was needed. Anticipation sent a shiver through him.
Ndidi walked in with Fredrick, and the PA excused them. Richard gave her a warm smile, which she returned. Mrs. Ndidi was a real beauty, petite and delicate in looks, unlike her father. He didn’t know much about her except that she was the daughter of one of his numerous mistresses. Mr. Johnson never remarried after the death of his wife and only son many decades back, but ensured that any of his mistresses had all they needed. And if they were fortunate enough to have children for him, he sent them to the best schools and ensured they had all they need. Unlike most of his other children from his mistresses, Ndidi was the only one that showed real promise in school. Her father sent her to Harvard, and she graduated with an impressive grade. But despite her father’s affluence and connection to get her any job she wanted in his company in any part of the world, she insisted on returning back to Nigeria to be with her mother, who was dying of cancer at the time. But even after the woman passed she refused to leave the country. Johnson was proud of his daughter. She was the only one that didn’t latch on to his wealth, only spending and not making good use of it. She loved expensive things no doubt, and had great taste, but she also had a good head on her shoulders. She was the only one that got to see her father more often than the others. She was his only child in Nigeria though, and had only met her other siblings at events he invited them all to. Most of them knew next to nothing about their dads, and didn’t care. A lot of his mistresses were bound by contract not to reveal the paternity of their children. Ndidi was one of the lucky ones.
“Miss. Azionu… it’s a surprise to see you here, I must admit.”
“I know. Please just call me Ndidi.” She said, settling into the nearest chair and crossing her legs.
“How may I be at your service?”
Ndidi let out a small sigh and leaned forward so he could hear her. She spoke in a low voice.
“I need your help Mr. Richard… to take down my father.”
Richard resisted the impulse to snap back in shock. He slowly created distance between them by relaxing into the backrest of the chair. He frowned deeply.
“What are you talking about?”
Ndidi rolled her eyes and sighed again. “Not like that Mr. Richard. What I want is to put a stop to his research. Take down his prized possession.”
Richard narrowed his eyes at her. “Why?”
“I wish you could see for yourself what he’s doing down there.” Ndidi said, a shiver running through her spine as she proceeded to explain as quickly as she could all that she had heard and seen in the facility. Richard listened to her intently, his eyes widening at each horrific story. When she was done she let out he put his head between his hands and sighed deeply.
“This is inhuman… I don’t believe your father is capable of such a thing.” He said, shaking his head. “No sane person would do all these things you’ve mentioned.”
Ndidi leaned towards the distraught lawyer and whispered. “To have the kind of money my father has, you’d have to sacrifice your sanity. I doubt even you have any idea how much he’s truly worth.”
Richard looked up at Ndidi, surprised at the intensity in her eyes. She was serious about this.
“Your father won’t spare anyone that stands in his way… I’m pretty sure of that.” he said to her fixedly. “Why should I put my life on the line for something that really has nothing to do with me? I don’t see why you should either. You can’t get away with this. Where would you take the kids? Your dad has enough money to escape police persecution. Don’t waste your life for a lost cause Ndidi.”
“I have a plan. All I need is for you to help me transport them to a hiding place. That’s your only role— I swear you won’t be totally involved. I know I’m at risk telling you this, but I know I’m more at risk employing the help of someone else.”
She pulled out a brown envelope from her pocket and placed it on Richard’s desk.
“Here’s what you need to know about the kids. In case you’re interested.”
Richard stared hard at the envelope, but made no move to touch it.
“If I’m only supposed to be transporting them, I don’t need to be acquainted with them.” Richard said irritably. Not that he had the thought to assist her, but he suspected that she had plans to rope him in further than she had proposed.
Ndidi hesitated before regaining her composure. “You do know that if things go according to plan, my father will hunt me down to the earth’s core.”
“Yes… that is why I’m imploring you to turn a blind eye!”
“I can’t! He’s creating weapons of mass destruction in there… with living beings that still have souls within! If they go through the final screening successfully they would have their memories stripped and they’ll be sold to the highest military bidder.” Ndidi said her eyes stinging. “They’ll become mindless robots… killing machines that would pose a national—no global— threat!”
“When that time comes… suitable people will take them on.”
“Why wait for then when we have the power to nip it in the bud?”
“That’s the thing dear… you don’t.”
Ndidi let out a frustrated sigh and slowly rose to her feet. “I’ll hide them here in Nigeria. I’ve already contacted my plastic surgeon and—”
“This isn’t as feasible as you’d like to believe Miss Ndidi.” Mr. Richard said, cutting her short. “You can’t help them, and I’m pretty sure you’re going to bring more harm than good to them getting yourself involved. I refuse to be a part of this.”
As Richard watched her leave that day, he should have known she was the type to do what she wanted without regarding the consequences.
A few days after Ndidi had shown up at his Chambers, her father called for him. Though he was one to keep his emotions in check, it was hard to look at the billionaire in the same light he used to after all he had heard. Still, he couldn’t afford to act any different.
“Richard you’ve proved yourself worthy in more ways than one.” Mr. Johnson said out of the blue, as the lady who had served them lunch shut the door behind them. Richard smiled and gave the billionaire a curt nod in appreciation.
“Thank you sir.”
“And because of that, I’ve decided that you’ll get to see my prized possession.”
A lump instantly formed in the lawyer’s throat and his mouth went dry. He reached for his water glass in an attempt to avoid eye contact with Mr. Johnson.
“Ndidi was able to convince me that getting my lawyer in charge of my West African assets involved will help them understand how to cover up any… irregularities, if there are any.” Mr. Johnson said gruffly. “You know all these big businesses always have a few things swept under the rug… that’s why we employ you lawyers.”
The two men laughed nervously, but for different reasons. Richard almost cursed his client’s daughter in his mind.
“My research project is very important to me… and a high level of secrecy must be maintained.”
“As with all the other assets you possess sir.”
The billionaire nodded in agreement absentmindedly.
“We leave for Cameroon by the end of the week.”
It was the annual inspection on Saturday, so that meant rigorous tests through the days before. The kids were exhausted, but inspection week meant no sexual harassments or beatings. They had to pass the inspection mark; because a failed experiment was a slight to the team that produced it. Nneka was the happiest during inspection week because she reveled in the frustrated glances the male workers gave her. To exert the frustration on her they usually gave her more rigorous tests and grills, but it never fazed her. That week, no man was allowed to touch her, and that was enough reason to brace any other thing they had up their sleeve.
She worried for Abiye though. He appeared to be deteriorating. He was probably not going to make it through inspection day, and it bothered her a lot. That morning they were about to enter the Rest room she walked up to him and put a hand on his shoulder softly. Abiye flinched when he realized it was her. The others had stopped communicating with him since the day Miss Ndidi left.
“Abiye. You do know the consequence of what you’re doing.”
“It doesn’t bother me.”
“Don’t be stupid Abiye.” Nneka snapped. Abiye locked his sullen eyes with her angry ones.
“Without you guys… I am nothing.” He said solemnly. “You guys are the only reasons why I’ve always strived to exist. So since you guys have decided to separate yourselves from me, there is no other reason to do so.”
“You should have thought about that when you were spilling our secrets to Miss N.” Muyiwa said coldly. Abiye and Nneka were too absorbed in their conversation that they didn’t notice that the two brothers had joined them at the entrance.
“You’re even more irritating when you’re pathetic.” Mustapha said cruelly. “Nneka get in here.”
Nneka gave Abiye an apologetic glance as she let Muyiwa pull her into the Rest room.
Aisha was the first to walk into the classroom. She froze in shock at the entrance. The others did the same as they got to the entrance as well because there at the teacher’s desk sat Miss N. She beamed at them as soon as they regained their composure and walked in. She scanned their faces as soon as they were settled in their seats, a frown crossing her face as soon as she set eyes on Abiye before she could control it. He looked terrible. Was he being tortured or punished?
Worse still… was it because of her?
She shook her head furiously and gave the class a weak smile.
“Hope you all missed Me.” she said, getting up from her seat with a bunch of papers. She moved towards them and began to drop the sheets on their desks, instructing them not to turn the paper over until they were told.
“I as your teacher have to tender a report on your performances in class.” She said curtly as she returned to her seat. I have given you an exam of some sort based on your interests and interactions in class. You can begin.”
They started on their exams quickly and quietly. Aisha’s sheet was the hardest, but she was through first. As she got to the last page she was transfixed as what she read there, and she waited for her siblings to finish their exams, hopeful that they saw the same thing on the last page of their exam scripts.