Sante [an excerpt]
February 3, 2013
“Useless!” he yells, violently tumbling books off his desk and down to the floor. “Why can’t I get it right?”
“Dude!” Malik’s voice pierces through the commotion from an adjacent hallway. “What’s the problem again?” he asks, his hand pushing a partially open door into a dimly lit room.
“Malik, the equation is unstable I’m having problems with a variable,” Koech says.
“Really? And here I was thinking you were in a life threatening crisis,” Malik responds sarcastically as he strides past a pile of books and scattered papers towards the now slumped figure in the middle of the room.
“You’ll never get it brother, if I crack it I’ll be able to unlock and replicate with precision, any numerical sequence generated by man or machine.”
Malik always knew koech was a genius and here was his opportunity to make something of himself, but all he had to do was temper his friend’s erratic moods enough to finally pull a fast one on him. He realized that this somewhat beautiful friendship would not last once Koech discovered his true intentions.
Koech and Malik have been friends since childhood. Having accidentally bumped into him on his way home from school, their friendship has been as solid then as now. Koech has never regretted meeting Malik. Whenever they have a bad argument he always remembers that brief sunny Monday afternoon when he saw him.
Malik was sitting alone on the side of the road playing marbles. Koech was rushing home to watch cartoons, it was his favorite past time event and on this particular day he had decided to take a shortcut.
Normally Koech would have to pass through five streets, take a fly over at the last major highway before he could get home. It was a dizzying fete of navigating past oncoming traffic topped with timing the street lights and cars at the stipulated zebra crossings assigned for pedestrians. With the hustle and bustle of city living drivers paid no mind to the people crossing the roads as they zipped to and fro in their own frenzied competition to see who got to their destination first.
The highway had already claimed two of his schoolmates who thought crossing the streets in a reckless dash would provide an adrenaline pumping experience to brag about. To his peers it was sort of a rite of passage among them. Only the bravest in the school dared to ignore the fly over and risk their life and limbs escaping the speeding mechanical bulls (what they referred to as cars) to and from school.
On that particular day, however, Koech’s favorite cartoon was airing earlier and he didn’t want to risk his life to miss it. He took the fly over at the highway, crossed one more street and opted for a shortcut from the third street. Along his way he suddenly became fascinated by an image of a weird looking kid playing on his own by the side of the road. Other kids would pass him yelling insults and mocking him but despite all of the provocations the kid would carry on playing marbles, undisturbed and simply lost in his own world.
Koech was surprised; the boy looked immensely content on his own. It was an intriguing sight; growing up in a big family he couldn’t imagine life without his brothers. But here was this boy, on the side of the road trying to defy his belief. He approached him slowly, cautiously as if this new boy would bite him if he drew too close or made a wrong move. When he was close enough he asked
“Nani anashinda?” (who’s winning?). The boy stopped, jolted from his game by the abrupt question, looked up with a crooked smile, paused for a second then broke out in hysterical laugh to Koech’s surprise who now feared the lone boy he had just introduced himself to was truly insane.
Instantly, almost without transition, the laughing boy became as serious as a monk and looked straight at Koech with big intimidating eyes. A fraction of a second went by without any exchange of words. Koech felt the need to break the silence by putting on a timid smile as a signal that he wasn’t there to start or provoke a fight.
“I am the winner,” the boy finally replied in a friendly tone
His answer amused Koech who couldn’t resist the temptation to enquire about the loser in this one man game.
“You’re the loser.” the boy answered, pointing at Koech.
“How?” Koech asked, hands in pocket. “I never played against you.”
The challenge was set and Koech had to prove this lone boy wrong. They first split the marbles in two and the challenge was on. After ten games Koech had seen enough to admit that his challenger was way too good at his game.
“No wonder no one played with him,” Koech said to himself. From that day their friendship grew and Malik was no longer that weird lone boy who played marbles on his own.
“Hey, let’s get out of here I think you could use some fresh air, you’ve been stack in the apartment for weeks,” Malik said, snapping Koech back from his nostalgia.
“That sounds like a good idea,” Koech said “I could use a cup of coffee right about now. So what will it be today, coffee house, restaurant or hotel?” he asked pulling out his jacket from a pile of books.
“Hotel. I’ve got some good news to share and I think we can have lunch afterwards to celebrate,” Malik said while checking the time on his wrist watch as they headed out.
(Table for two)
The hotel was nearly empty. Malik fiddled on his phone then set it down on the table and shot a question to his friend
“Done checking the menu?”
Koech lifted his head up from the massive menu and replied “I think I’ll have some French toast and a cup of coffee, not feeling that hungry today.”
Malik motioned to the waiter who diligently walked to their table and picked up their order. Koech looked back to the pay area and noticed a pair of gorgeous looking waitresses giggling amongst themselves and a chilling thought came over him.
“Malik, I think the waitresses over there think we came in as a couple,” he said with a mischievous grin knowing he was luring his friend with a loaded statement.
“Where?… Oh God forbid Koech, you’re not even my type,” he responded back loudly with a hearty laugh that got the waitresses attention. One of the waitresses laughed as the other covered her face in shame as if their privately shared thoughts were no longer a secret.
“All this liberalism will be the death of us some day,” Malik said as he picked up his phone again.
“You told me you knew someone who would help get our product on the market” Koech asked as he sipped his warm cup of coffee. Malik switched off his phone and placed it on the table.
“Yes, there’s a friend of mine called Sante. He’s got good connections. I told him about your app but he wanted me to get him a beta version to present to his boss.”
“I’m working on it. There’s one variable in the command set that’s giving me a problem, but I’m sure I will have a beta version by next week,” Koech replied.
“That’s great to hear. Free your schedule two weeks from now. I’ll introduce you to him. He’s a good guy, met him at campus. He isn’t much of a talker, but gets things done. I’ve watched his Uncle’s company flourish from his counsel. But don’t tell him I said that,, it will only inflate his ego” Malik replied with a chuckle.
“Sure, your secret is safe with me,” Koech responded as he signaled the waiter to come for the cutlery.
“You stormed through that breakfast quickly, are you sure you don’t want anything else?” Malik asked as he gulped down the last contents of the glass.
“Thanks bro, but I think I’m good to go for the day,” Koech responded.
It was five o’clock in the morning. Koech had just finished checking the beta version on his laptop and everything was running fine. Too excited to wait for Malik to wake, he rushed down to his room with his laptop in hand like an excited kid with a new toy he wanted his friend to see. He didn’t even knock at his door.
“I figured it out! Malik its running, it’s finally running smoothly!” Koech shouted. Malik groaned as he covered himself, turning to face the other side.
Malik was what you would call a night owl. His job at a non-governmental youth empowerment organization enabled him to work at night and mostly online editing news stories and posting audio and video content on their website, so he could enjoy long mornings of sleep unlike most nine to five employees.
“Koech, the sun’s not even out yet, remember our rule, if the suns not awake yet then don’t wake me,” Malik replied in a groggy tone.
“I know, but wait, let me show you something,” Koech said as he flipped on the light switch causing Malik to growl even louder in displeasure. He then sat on the bed and propped the laptop in front of Malik.
Malik adjusted his posture and stared at the blinking screen running numbers at lightning pace and converting large files into compressed formats. It looked something out of a science fiction movie. It was dizzying but beautiful at the same time. He stared at Koech whose face now glowed with excitement, wide eyed and content at his masterpiece.
“This is amazing. Can you make a portable version that can run off a flash disk?”
“Ehh. Sure it will take me a few minutes but I can,” replied Koech hesitantly sensing something was a little off about Malik’s request. He seemed more concerned with the applications potential than how it functions. The thought puzzled him but he figured since Malik knew little about programming he would not be able to appreciate what he was seeing.
“I’ll set up a meeting in the afternoon with the friend I was telling you about. Have a beta version on a flash disk ready for him. Now would you please let me catch some sleep? I need to be well rested if I’m to convince our friend to get on board.” A little disappointed Koech got off Malik’s bed with his laptop in hand walked to the door and turned to find Malik already snuggled in a fetal position. He flipped off the light switch returning the room to darkness and walked out closing the door behind him.
The drive from the apartment to the business complex had taken two hours. He was still groggy from the abrupt awakening. Malik reached into his pockets while in the elevators heading to the ninth floor where Optimus Communications offices were located. He pulled out a small yellow bottle of pills labeled levoamphetamine took out a pill and tossed it in his mouth.
No one knew he was taking medication to stay awake during the day. The night life had taken a toll on his sleep pattern. He was having difficulty staying awake during the day. He would find himself dosing off on occasion at park benches, bus stops and in buses, whenever he decided to take public transportation. Worse he would fight strong urges for sleep during his regular monthly meetings.
The elevator stopped and its doors opened upon reaching the night floor. He stepped out quickly chewing the last remnants of the pill and swallowed the crunched lump down his throat. The reception area was big. The walls were all white decorated sparsely with fine art paintings with names of local artists he’s never heard of. He walked to the far end where a large semicircular metallic grey table rested with a beautiful young receptionist behind the desk. From the table at both sides were two glass doors with a card reader and key code lock for access.
He walked straight up to the receptionist’s table adjusting his collar and smiled
“I’m here to see a Mr. Sante.”
The receptionist looked up and smiled “Mr. Malik we’ve been expecting you. Please walk in to the door to your right I will buzz you in. A Miss Mumbi will direct you from then on.”
“Thank you,” he said, alarmed at the fact that they knew he was coming, though intuitively he figured that Sante and his company knew they needed them. He felt small, predictable and desperate but he had no choice, this was the best choice for them. No man is an island; even Steve Jobs needed Bill Gates at a time before Bill figured out he was more valuable on his own. Their Gates moment would come, he consoled himself, but now they need someone who already had his foot in the industry.
The receptionist flipped on a switch underneath her table and the door before him opened automatically. He smiled, realizing the power she wielded. She was the company’s gate keeper. No one could enter the sacred inner sanctum without her approval. It made her even more attractive before him knowing that she wielded such power.
The door opened and he walked through, before him was a vast line of desks in pairs of four neatly arranged, open with no separation. It was transparency at its best. He was impressed.
“A quasi Google model, huh?” he quipped to himself. As he took a look at the office layout, a young woman in white approached him. She was very attractive, with an even bronze tone and an hour glass figure to match.
“Hi, I’m Mumbi, Kindly follow me,” she said with a smile. As she walked ahead navigating through the maze of adjoined desks and finally into a hallway of glass opaque offices he stared at her feature, how her legs moved effortlessly, how her hips swung in unisons after each step. It was a pleasure to watch her walk, he thought to himself.
Then she stopped at a door labeled conference room “Here you are. Please enter, Mr. Sante will be with you in a minute,” she said as she walked away without waiting for a response. Malik turned the knob at the door, pushed and walked in.
The conference room was simple yet elegant. A large table lay in the center of the room with black leather chairs around it. An ode to King Arthur’s round table. On one side of the wall lay a picture of the head of state on the opposite wall a picture of the founder of the company surrounded by his board members. He could pick out Sante’s face from the people huddled around the central figure. He was two chairs away clearly signaling to anyone that he was part of the inner circle.
He took a sit two chairs from the door and took out his phone. Just when he was about to check his messages, the door opened and in came Sante carrying a stack of files in one hand and a bottle of mineral water in the other.
“Hey, Malik, hope you didn’t have to wait for me for long. Just came out of another meeting. Let’s get down to business,” Sante said as he took a sit next to him, putting down his files and his bottle of water and turned to face Malik who was now had an amused look plastered on his face.
“Do you have it?” Sante asked as he reached underneath the table as if searching for something with his hands.
“Yes, here you go,” Malik responded sliding the flash disk towards Sante.
“Great,” Sante responded picking the flash disk from Malik then slipping it under the table. Suddenly, a projector screen descended slowly above the photo of the president on the wall, then he heard a click and a small projector box pooped down from the center of the roof in line with the screen and begun to beam a light.
“How come the screen is not on the other side?” Malik smirked. Sante laughed still fidgeting with the flash disk underneath the table.
“No one would dare cover up the company photo even briefly. As you know my friend, presidents come and go, but corporations are immortal.” The screen flickered then suddenly came to life with a dialogue box asking for permission to run the software. Sante pulled out a remote and pressed enter. The program begun to load, seconds later a series of numbers and letters filled the screen, then disappeared showing a series of documents and files in various formats.
“So walk me through this. What I’m seeing on the left are normal files and on the right are their encrypted versions?” Sante asked studying the screen intently.
“Yes,” Malik responded.
“This is amazing. It’s interesting how you are able to encrypt a one gigabyte file to a tenth of its size” Sante added as he scrolled through the files.
“The program spits the audio from the video, compresses the audio, then breaks the video into a series of codes then layers them over each other,” Malik explained as they both stared at the screen.
“Whose name is the software registered under?” Sante asked, catching Malik off guard.
“It’s under my name,” he said clearing his throat.
“You don’t think that would cause a problem knowing that Koech is the actual author?” asked Sante as he flipped off the screen.
“He owns the source code but the actual end product is registered under my name. I offered him a royalty contract and a share in the future company.”
Sante pulled the flash from under the table and handed it back to Malik.
“Sneaky but smart. I guess you’ll be the one I deal with from now on, but we need Koech for maintenance and upgrades. I like what I see. Set up a meeting, venue of your choice. I would like to meet this Koech friend of yours.”
It was Thursday around six o’clock. Koech didn’t like making business meeting in a bar but Malik had promised him that everything would be ‘Kosher’ whatever that meant. Malik was a walking contradiction. He liked American gangster movies played by Jewish and Italian mafia characters but he boarded between a pacifist and an intellectual anarchist with a penchant detest for political elitism. In short he portrayed an amalgamation of contradictions.
Koech arrived at the i-club thirty minutes ahead of the agreed time. He took a flight of stairs up to the top floor where he figured Malik would be, took a sit and gestured to a waiter to place his order.
As the waiter walked over to his area he caught a glimpse of a familiar figure near the DJ booth. It was Malik, he was chatting up a beautiful waitress and the DJ at the same time. That was Malik for you, a man of the people. Koech would joke that he should have considered running for a parliamentary sit, but the thought only elicited a constipated look on Malik’s face as if the notion was too revolting to even imagine.
After a few laughs Malik walked to the counter where he sat next to an unknown medium built well-dressed man in a casual suit. From Malik’s body language he could tell that Malik knew this man very well. They laughed and appeared to be in their own world. Malik had already caught his eye and was now making his way towards him.
“Hey Malik who was that guy you were talking to back there?” Malik turned casually setting his drink down at Koech’s table.
“Oh! That’s my old campus friend I was telling you about… hold on I’ll introduce you two, just give me a minute.” Malik walked back to Sante as Koech watched keenly. Malik mentions something to Sante. They both turn and face Koech who still has his eyes set on them. Malik breaks eye contact pats Sante on the back and winks as they both walk towards Koech laughing jovially. Koech has always been used to such situations. To him Malik was by definition eccentric. He learned not to judge a situation by their appearance but to confirm its meaning by deduction. He trusted Malik, never in their fifteen years of friendship has he ever done him wrong. They were a few misunderstandings here and there as they grew older and had to part for a while, but even that hadn’t jeopardized their friendship.
Malik and Sante walked to Koech’s table and one by one took a seat.
“Sante, I’d like you to meet Koech. Koech this is Sante and with his help we will be fabulously wealthy, or well… richer than we are now.” Sante stretches his hand towards Koech who meets his reluctantly. They shake hands and a moment of silence passes. Sante stares at Koech as if uncertain of the man before him. He stares dead into Koech’s eyes and grins.
“Malik are you sure about this fellow?”
“I beg your pardon, Fellow!” Koech shot back equally perturbed by the arrogance behind Sante’s remark, instantaneously Malik and Sante bursedt out laughing.
“What’s so funny” Koech retorted.
“I had a bet with Sante that if he made a wise crack you wouldn’t take it kindly,” Malik interjected.
“I’ve looked over the beta version of your app and I liked what I see, Malik briefed me in on the rest, I think if I ran this by my uncle the company will be able to push the product regionally then internationally in a matter of months.” As Sante spoke an air of seriousness retuned and Koech was relieved to know that the man now standing in front of him was serious after all.
“I’m glad to hear that, funny Malik has never mentioned much about you let alone what you do,” Koech said.
“That’s totally Malik’s fault, I work for a marketing company, actually my Uncle’s; he deals mostly with getting brands on the market, so between that and school I’m rarely around.”
Koech was taken aback, now he was the one staring at Sante with an unsure look.
“School? What sort of school?” Koech asked.
“Doing my master’s in business management, my parent’s idea, but I’m hoping to branch off and help manage a new company and with what Malik says, I think we’d make a good team the three of us.”
“So you still stay with your parents?” Koech shot back with a mischievous grin.
Sante paused, looked at him then at Malik and laughed.
“Straight to the point, interesting… yes if you must know, they watch me like a hawk, but in a few months if all goes well I won’t.”
“Splended” Koech responded.
“Here’s my business card, check out the company, the links are at the bottom if possible schedule a tour. I have already informed Mumbi our HR assistant to arrange for everything if you do call.”
Koech picked the card hesitantly and looked at the name. “Optimus Communications,” he read out loud.
“I floated the name to my uncle when the company was starting up; I guess he liked it too.” Sante added as Koech flipped the business card over to the back.
“From the cartoon character optimus prime,” Malik interjected with a sly smile on his face.
“Hey, best cartoon every made, you’ll get no objections from me,” Koech responded with a laugh as all three men lifted their glasses of beer and clung them together and cheered “to us”.
In a dark corner a man sat concealed with a phone at his ear.
“Are they all there?” a man’s voice blurred from his phone.
“Yes Sir, they are… the programmer, the marketer and the passive anarchist,” he responded to the delight of the man on the other end of his phone.
As they drowned their drinks, Sante paused and felt as if he was being watched. He looked around but could not see anyone. He focused on a dark corner at the far end of the club, but it was too obscured to make out any image. He ignored the feeling rationalizing it as nothing more than mere intuition.
The man in the dark corner flipped shut his cell phone and sat quietly enjoying the last sip of his vodka. He was trained well to infiltrate any location without raising suspicion. His warm countenance and youthful appearance had a hypnotizing effect of calming anyone who came into close contact with him. He was bronze brown, tall, broad shouldered, clean shaven, physically fit with long hands and feet. Features ladies would commend him delightfully on various occasions. However, his most prized skill was his ability to disappear in a crowd and blend into his surrounding like a chameleon. Today this skill proved handy but as he looked on he noticed something peculiar. One of his targets sensed something. He was intrigued and somewhat pleased. It was a small sign but enough to entice his hunting spirit.
“He will be fun to play around with,” he said to himself as he finished his drink, making an exit without anyone even noticing he was there.