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Chapter 1

15.3879oS, 28.3297oE, Engineering Annex. STATUS: CONDEMNED

The apocalypse that my grandparent’s generation faced was not a biological weapon or zombies. Neither was it a tsunami or the world erupting in flames. It was lawlessness and greed. As stock markets grew and world powers cemented their iron rule, there were always those rats, the ones that wanted two bites at the apple.

As the world became digital, systematic attacks were carried out against the most powerful companies on Wall Street. Once the financial systems were crippled, they begun to target governments. Russia was first to fall, and the rest of the world followed soon after.

Chaos became an everyday occurrence, shops were looted, people were killed on the daily. Leaders either stepped down from power or were impeached, killed or crumbled under coup d’états.

In our country, as soon as the leader of the free world was found hanging from his ceiling, our own president immediately stepped away from office, no longer having the goodwill of the IMF to back him up. Jerabos finally had free reign in our country. And all hope seemed lost. Until Japan and Germany, the only remaining powers in the G20 made the decision.

They claimed the decision hurt them more than it hurt us, but we will never know the truth, they had the luxury of dying a natural death. The first biological weapon was launched across the world, a virus with effects similar to mustard gas. Crude in its delivery, but efficient, the weakest members of the population all died. The survivors however, were “treated”. Every single human alive, was linked to a worldwide network. The internet as it was known became a living breathing being, joining everyone. We were all one.

Each country had its own IP address and domain. Despite this, one person owned each domain, and naturally he was the most influential there was. The domains were shrouded in mystery. There were rumours that when The Custodian, as they were known died, the domain died with them, or others still that certain family members passed the domain down from hand to hand. The Custodian held the power of life and death in his hands. He was virtually unstoppable

04:35 CAT

I knew she wouldn’t be moving; she woke up at five am. But I enjoyed monitoring her movements online none the same. I wasn’t a stalker at all, I was looking out for her safety. Ever since my accident last year, I knew that nothing or no one was safe. No one was to be trusted. My girlfriend Bupe lay peacefully asleep in her house. It was slightly higher up in sector 15 but I couldn’t go visit her; curfew ended at 5:45. So instead I watched her little dot on my illegal GPS stay stationary, and I felt a little pang in my heart. I missed her. the project the boys and I started working on late last year was involving. If it worked, our generation would have a taste of true freedom. And if it didn’t, I would either be incarcerated for life or unplugged. Both were not welcoming.

Milimo spun around in his seat excitedly and faced me. He was working on a quantum computer, one he’d been building since he turned 15; he was naturally bright like that.

“I accessed her.” he whispered, wholly awestruck.

I looked at him, my head slightly to the side. “who?” I asked, confused.


“Marianna. I accessed Marianna’s web.” He threw his hands up triumphantly. “I did a lot of back hacking and searching, it was crazy. The algorithm had me up for months.” He pushed his dreadlocks out his face and leaned back in his chair, sighing. I was equally as awestruck. Before the accident, I learnt about Marianna’s web from a computer ethics class. We were given heavy warnings to why the dark web was not to be accessed, but over the course of three days all that changed.

‘what about the supposed Artificial Intelligence?” I asked.

“well, I am yet to come across her.” Milimo sighed. “I doubt she even exists.” He laughed.

“We need to clear out before they find us in here,” he said suddenly urgent. We cleaned up the numerous crisp packets and crumpled juice boxes. I swept the ashes from all my joints into a corner and shook some fine dust over the decrepit laptops of the engineering department. The Engineering building was once always bustling with activity, but after someone used the network to hack into a government account, it was Quarantined and then Condemned. The time was shortly after 5 am, we had to be stealthy. Due to the political situation at hand, we entered and exited through a disused air vent. I led the way, allowing Milimo to use his huge frame to his advantage. As soon as I placed my hand on the latch, a siren went off.

“shit” Milimo cursed. “keep calm it’s my computer” he continued gravely.

He rushed back to the table, typed frenetically and shut the warning off. I looked glanced over his shoulder, and read the warning on the screen “what you are doing is illegal.”

I scoffed. We both knew. But then I began to worry. “will we be found, Milimo?” I hissed, scared to raise my voice.

“look, you and I don’t exist. We run on a network that no one knows about. We are darker than the darker web.” He rubbed the back of his neck nervously. “tell you what? You go ahead of me. I’ll talk to Silas in a minute, but we’ve nothing to worry about. Except curfew, go home and act normal. Take Bupe on a date, I know you’ve been missing her lately.”

“okay dude. I just hope…’ I hesitated. “you know what, never mind. Tell me if we’re meeting The Rats.”

Milimo clapped my back encouragingly and watched me gravely as I clambered through the air vent. I sat down in the vent and took a few moments to gather my thoughts.  I shook my head, hoping it would shake the thoughts out too. I grabbed my phone and used its backlight to pull out a tiny microchip from my pocket. My fingers reached to the back of my neck and found a perfectly rectangular scar. My calloused fingers struggled with the little chip but eventually managed to push it back into its former port.

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