ROOM 39| CHAPTER 25
Jane had come to the office to get her dad some food she prepared for him. Chukwuma was in his office having a meeting with some foreign visitors that wanted his opinion on a maximum-security prison they wanted to erect for people convicted of heinous crimes. The appointment was at 5 pm and Chukwuma knew that he wouldn’t be done until 7pm. So, he asked Jane to instead come over to the office so they can have dinner together at 6pm and Jane can go home while he finishes up.
Jane arrived at 6pm and waited for her father to take a break so they could have dinner together. But Chukwuma was so engrossed with the meeting that he asked Jane to wait for a little while. Jane was flying back to school that night. Her short holiday is over and she’s due to resume classes next week. Her flight is at 9pm, so she had wanted to spend some time with her dad because she doesn’t know when they’d be done.
‘Hi darling, I’m so sorry.’ Chukwuma pleaded as he exited the meeting room to meet Jane.
‘But you can take a break. You can ask them for a 20-minute break so we can eat.’ Jane responded.
‘Darling, it’s just something really important that I need to finish up immediately and let them leave. Please, give me 30 more minutes and I’ll be all done. Alright?’ Chukwuma pleaded.
‘Alright. But remember that I have a flight to catch at 9 pm.’ Jane says.
‘I do my love. I do.’ Chukwuma nods as he heads back into the office to tidy up what he was doing with his visitors.
The meeting ended at 7.23pm and Chukwuma was so sorry to have kept her daughter waiting for over an hour now. He decided to appease her in some way but there wasn’t anything he could think of. He can’t take her out to her favourite restaurant, Chibyke’s Delicacies, because it was already late. He can’t also take her to Heart Mender’s Luxuries, the most exquisite resort on Pirro’s lane.
When he couldn’t come up with anything, he decided to show her the most sophisticated security fitted room or rather apartment he has ever built. That was a great risk he was taking because he isn’t meant to show anyone what is inside there, but since there was nothing else, he could do to pull a smile from this young lady that is leaving for her final year in medical school, her only daughter and mother, he decided to take the risk.
Jane was excited about the idea of seeing this special Room. Chukwuma told her that the entrance code is simple for anyone who speaks the language or who knows the code. But this is simply because the building hasn’t officially opened. After all, on the opening day, the DNI and FBI would add the fingerprints of the directors and Chika to it making it more complicated. Also, there’s an option of activating the sensor meant for reading the iris. So, it becomes impossible to enter if you aren’t in the system. But all these multiple levels of verification aren’t active yet, so you can go in with simply IRI ATO NA ITOOLU.
‘Coming out, however, is more complicated both now and worse after its activation. Besides the fingerprints and iris sensors that will be activated at the exit too, the code for getting out of the room is a bit bizarre,’ according to Chukwuma. ‘It’s a combination of places I’ve visited that left a mark in my heart and the fantastic people I met there, including what I did there. And this one has a special kick that I added today, the birthday of a special person that is somehow dear to my heart.’ Chukwuma hinted. When Jane enquired to know who it was, Chukwuma declined to tell her, promising to respond once they were on their way home.
In Room 39, as Chukwuma nicknamed this special apartment, there are nine doors that can only be seen and opened when you touch the Opanteclaus of each. Jane didn’t bother to know the meaning of that word nor its origin. She’s used to hearing her dad give weird names to things, so she didn’t even bother to ask because that would trigger a whole new story, she wasn’t ready for. ‘Some people think that the only door is this main entrance on the first floor, but there are eight others that are right inside here.’ Chukwuma added.
‘Now, once you touch the Opanteclaus, a little screen appears for you to input the code. The nine all use the same code, but there is a further security check, the combination of the codes varies from door to door at any given time. And each of these combinations changes every 30 seconds. So, the combination you input into this door, for instance, is valid for only 30 seconds. In the next 30 seconds, that combination changes. But there is a sequence to it, so if you master the sequence, you can guess what the next 3 codes would be. After three cycles, it changes again. I know it’s a bit complicated, so I won’t even attempt to explain it to you, except you care of course.’ Chukwuma began to gasconade.
‘No, don’t worry Dad, I don’t care to know.’ Jane responded.
‘Okay, but it’s interesting anyway.’ Chukwuma chipped in.
‘I know. But just show me around this beautiful place and let’s go for dinner. Remember I have a flight to catch.’ Jane insisted.
‘That’s true. Let me show you the most secured thing inside this entire apartment. It’s my favourite in this whole building, apart from Chika’s office in all fairness; there are things, like some security gear in her office that you can’t imagine.’ Chukwuma says, smiling.
Jane nods as if she wasn’t interested in whatever is in Chika’s office. She simply wants to see this favourite place in the building and eat.
Chukwuma leads her into the kitchen and just above the wash hand basin is a light. And beside the light is a small button. Once actioned, the entire kitchen wall on the left-hand side slides left and voilà, that is CODE RED, a small cubicle that houses a chest of drawers. The Chest is protected by 100 cm of glass-clad polycarbonate bulletproof glass. The chest is not made of wood or plastic or any of the materials that Jane is used to, which name she forgot immediately after she heard Chukwuma pronounce it. One thing she remembers is when his father told her that no human being born of a woman can hack the security code to open CODE RED.
‘You can look at it, admire it, get angry at it, or even shoot it, but it’ll keep smiling back at you.’ Chukwuma boastfully says.
But there is a simple way to open it; an electronic pear-shaped device that Chukwuma had with him does the magic. ‘It’s just like your spouse… I know you’re going to get married one day. You think I don’t know about the young Emergency medicine resident, Udenna.’ Chukwuma said, smiling.
‘Dad, how did you know?’ Jane asked, surprised at how his dad knew about Udenna.
‘Well, I have eyes and I’m your father.’ Chukwuma responded.
‘Well, he’s just a friend, a close friend actually.’ Jane said, smiling.
‘Yeah, we also said the same thing before we got married. You know, I and your mom were best of friends before we even thought about marriage. I had just finished my first degree in architecture while she was in her 3rd year of medicine. We met at a gospel concert and just became friends. I remember how beautiful she looked that night and the glory she exuded.’ Chukwuma said, relishing the good old days.
‘Alright… Alright… alright.’ Jane cuts in. ‘Before we start crying here, let us focus on CODE RED or BLUE or whatever colour it is.’ Jane cuts in.
‘Okay, I was trying to say that…’ Chukwuma wipes his eyes, ‘I was trying to use the analogy between a husband and his wife to illustrate how you open this place. If you unconditionally love and respect your spouse, you’ll get the best from her. But if you think that by coercion, you’d force her to submit to you, you’d get only wars as a reward.’ He concludes.
‘Thanks, Dad, I understand. I just didn’t want you to start crying all over again about the death of Mom. I’m not tired of hearing the story, but we both know that we can’t do this now, and not here.’ Jane calmly says, stroking his father’s back.
‘You’re right my dear. You’re very right.’ Chukwuma takes a deep breath before refocusing himself on the beautiful fruit of rare ingenuity before him. ‘Okay, back to CODE RED. To open CODE RED, you simply must do either of these: hit her until you are tired and worn out, yet it won’t open. Or you can do this.’ Chukwuma says as he licks the glass cover with the tip of his tongue.
‘Daddy you can be very crazy sometimes, you know.’ Jane says cringing.
‘No, I don’t mean that. You can just touch the tip of your tongue with one of your fingers and then touch it at the spot where you placed the electronic key.’
‘That’s unhygienic Dad. If everyone that has access to this safe box does that each time, some microorganisms will brood there. What’s the essence of the licking and touching and saliva?’ Jane says further cringing.
‘Well, as you guys teach us in medicine, there’s an enzyme in the saliva called ptyalin. Now, that spot becomes sensitive to ptyalin once you touch the electronic key. Once that happens, an input screen shows, and you can type the security code ‘39’ and it’ll open. Very simple, right?’ He replied.
‘How did you come up with this idea? Couldn’t you have thought of using olive oil or water or vinegar or… I don’t know, something liquid like milk for instance?’ Jane says, still wondering how ptyalin came to his father’s weird mind.
‘Well, using ptyalin is a way of showing love. I couldn’t have used another substance for it. That would be weirder. Anyway, there is a synthetic ptyalin on the table by your left. You use that and that’s all.’ Chukwuma says, smiling.
‘Hmm… it’s better than everyone using their saliva each time, but it’s still weird.’ Jane added.
‘At the moment there is nothing inside CODE RED aside from the documents the FBI Director asked me to keep for him. I don’t know why he couldn’t wait until the official opening before asking his men to bring something in here.’ Chukwuma added. ‘Alright, darling. Time to go. There’s nothing much left to see. There is actually, but we need to eat, and I’ll take you to the airport.’ he said.
As they headed for the exit of Room 39, Chukwuma tells his daughter why he thinks CODE RED can’t be hacked by anyone. ‘While this building was under construction, I met with the three best security code hackers in the world. I offered them one million dollars each to reveal the code to me. But after several attempts, none could hack into it. That was when I confirmed that no human can hack it. I tell you something: when you want to make a code unhackable, keep it simple. People will think the passcode is very complicated, but it’s so simple that their minds won’t get there. Use simple personal experiences for instance.’ Chukwuma says, still visibly excited about his design.
‘Well, I’m sure you didn’t tell them about the ptyalin. Else that would have been easy to decode.’ Jane says.
‘Of course, I didn’t. I mean, they were supposed to unravel the code. If I told them everything, they wouldn’t be hackers anymore.’
As they got to the exit, Chukwuma was about to tell Jane the exit code and how to understand the combination of the codes for each cycle, but Jane was in a hurry. So, Chukwuma decided to just go ahead and put the code without much talk. Jane observed but she was too tired to recall the code nor the meaning behind each letter or number that Chukwuma typed.
‘I want to show you one last thing, my dear. Very quick.’ Chukwuma pleads.
‘Dad, we’re running late, it’s almost 7.40pm. By the time we get home and have a quick dinner, it’ll be 8.10pm. And I must be at the airport at 8.30 pm because the gate closes at 9pm.’ Jane says, unhappy about the further delay.
‘But your flight was meant to leave by 9pm I understood?’ Chukwuma asks.
‘No, the gate closes at 9 pm, but my flight is at 10 pm. I know that if I told you 10 pm you’ll take all the world to show me each detail in this Room.’
‘Ok, my love. I don’t want you to rush and I don’t want anything to happen to my baby, so, how about I take you back myself?’ Chukwuma says.
‘Really? I thought you had an important meeting tomorrow morning?’ She asks.
‘Yes, I do, but I can reschedule it for Monday. Let me spend some time with my darling. You know I’ll do anything to make you happy, right?’ Chukwuma responds.
‘Wow! Thanks so much, Dad. I love you. Now, I’m happy and you can show me the thing you wanted to.’ Jane says, visibly excited. She had always wanted her dad to accompany her back to school in his private jet.
‘And after that, we’ll go have dinner at Chibyke’s Delicacies. Not that your food isn’t delicious… of course you know that your meals are the best, after your mom’s. But I just want to take my sweet daughter out tonight.’ Chukwuma adds.
‘I know. I know. You and comparisons. No one cooks better than her.’ Jane winks.
‘Now, wait a moment. Let me get something from the car. You’ll be happy with what I’m about to show you.’ Chukwuma says as he heads towards his office while Jane waits inside Room 39.
‘It’s ok Dad, I’ll be waiting.’
Chukwuma exits and the door closes behind him. Jane looks around the apartment observing the things that her dad had told her about the Room.
Chukwuma had left another electronic key in his office and wanted to get it. This electronic key is different from the one that opens CODE RED. Although it works similarly to the other, it serves to unlock the nine entrance doors Chukwuma talked about. Once the Opanteclaus is touched, you can activate and place the electronic key on the screen or input the code showing on the key into the screen and the door will open. It’s very simple and doesn’t require the use of synthetic ptyalin or saliva. And it saves you the time and stress of doing all the possible crazy combinations to get the right code to exit the Room. He intends to hand the key over to Chika on the day of the inauguration.
As Chukwuma got to his office, he noticed that the special purse where the key is stored wasn’t in his office. He had mistakenly left it in the safe box in his car. So, he decided to walk straight to his car to pick it up. It was as he was headed to his car that Mbe arrived and demanded the stolen drugs and documents. While they both argued, Jane didn’t know what was happening and why her dad delayed because she couldn’t hear anything that was happening on the outside.
As Mbe and Chukwuma argued, what was paramount in Chukwuma’s mind was the safety of his daughter. When Mbe mentioned that the items he gave to Chukwuma were drugs, Chukwuma became afraid. And when he mentioned trailing him, he knew that Mbe was aware of his daughter and would harm her if he could. So, all his tactics were geared towards making Mbe not see his daughter.
After Chukwuma was constrained to open Room 39, he purposely stood there not wanting to go in lest Mbe follows him in. He activated the security alert and raised his voice so Jane could hear him. Initially, Jane didn’t understand what was going on and was about going close to her dad when she heard another voice different from that of her father. She quickly hid behind the wall close to the entrance. So, Jane heard the rest of the conversations concerning her leaving the country, the drugs, and documents in CODE RED and how Mbe is a coward, but she did not know Mbe’s name.
As Mbe shot Chukwuma, Chukwuma carefully threw the electronic key for CODE RED inside Room 39 knowing that Jane would find it. He had seen her shadow when he opened the entrance and with the eyes told her not to come close to him. As Mbe shot him, he fell outside Room 39 and the door closed.
As Mbe ran away, Jane wept sore. She had no way of getting out to help the dying father; all she had was the electronic key for CODE RED. She tried multiple times placing it on the door to see if it would open but she kept seeing ‘Error. Incorrect key.’ That was when it dawned on her that she would be trapped inside until someone comes to her rescue or she’s able to unravel the exit code. She’s been doing the latter for days now, and the progress isn’t much.
Quite a captivating story, right? The next chapters will WOW you!
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