Against The Tide

feastsandfables
4 min readSep 26, 2022

#2badpagesaday (57)

Photo by Sacha T'Sas on Unsplash

He slammed his hand down on the small table.

The sound echoed above the now-familiar rattle of the train.

Whirring into life, the smartly-liveried ‘attendant’ made one of its pre-programmed, metallic-sounding announcements.

{We will shortly be arriving at Paddington Station where this service will terminate}

He hadn’t slept. His mind was still racing.

So much to take in. Reeling from it.

And, now, he is heading back into the heart of the regime. The uncertainty of their intentions for him is inevitably at odds with the plans being put in place deep in the heart of Zone 4.

He feels under enormous pressure; the weight of all that extra knowledge. His regular meeting with the Archivist feels like it has a new irregular burden attached to it. Ignorance had been the perfect inspiration for behaving normally; now, he feels eyes upon him, added knowledge turning into powerful spotlights that pick him out of the crowd.

He walked; the air was cool, leaves blowing in the stiff Autumn breeze. The wind cut into his soul. Tears. Blaming the weather, knowing they were something else. He’d survived by disconnecting. Emotionally untying. And now this … but what even is this?

Walking. Thinking. Distracted.

Head down.

So much easier to follow.

The Head of Security had kept the operation close hold.

He still wasn’t one hundred percent sure what they had.

No way of piecing it together.

But he wasn’t going to compromise his chances of a breakthrough with any careless breaches of OpSec. The three of them were in the Control Room. The screens showed grainy close circuit tv footage of the street, cameras picking out the two figures. Their man kept pace with the target on the opposite side of the road, slightly behind him, obscured by the plane trees. The target moved briskly, head down. They had compared archive footage and it felt consistent. Nothing to suggest that he knew he was being watched.

He buzzed through, speaking directly into his agent’s earpiece.

“Keep him in sight. He will turn right through the park. Drop back a little. Do not alarm him”.

The park was well-maintained; a haven of manicured greenery in the concrete sprawl. A secret hideaway for the families of the elite. Gardeners were fighting a losing battle with the piles of leaves they were gathering, the golds, browns, coppers, and reds swirling, catching the early morning sunlight.

The target paused, head in hands for a moment, before rubbing vigorously as if to snap himself out of his reverie.

“Hold your position”. The terse command was unnecessary but the Head of Security was living every moment.

Jasmine watched the Supervisor, noticing the excited flush in her cheeks. Her boss had caught up with her in the corridor, leaning in to tell her which meeting room to head to, her lips deliberately close to her ear—using the cloak of secrecy as a pretext for intimacy. She didn’t like to admit it, but she relished the attention.

She watched the screens.

The tension was unbearable. She recognised his bearing, the way he walked. She wasn’t cut out for this; too invested in the people. Finding it impossible to keep emotion out of these moments. Hoping, desperately, that it doesn’t show on her face.

Through the park and left onto the street. The unmarked van is positioned in the side street no more than two hundred yards ahead. A quiet deserted street before the target would take a final left turn towards the Administrative Hub.

If not now, then the moment would pass.

The Head of Security played it through in his mind.

One hundred and fifty yards.

Did he have enough to go on?

One hundred.

Mostly just theories. No hard evidence. Perhaps if they shake the tree, some fruit will fall. He smiled to himself … the girl had come up with the name; Operation Windfall. He liked it. Clever.

Fifty yards.

The street is still deserted. He could imagine the cutting chill of the Autumn breeze. Watching as the target walked confidently through the familiar streets.

Past the side street; no sideways glance. Perfect.

Fifty yards on.

He decided.

“Bring him in”.

The receptionist recognised him as she slid the signing-in book towards him.

Her cheerless greeting had not changed in the past 3 years.

Her emotionless voice perfectly matched the intentions of the System.

“Who are you here to see?”.

Functional. Brisk. Efficient.

“The Archivist? No, I’m afraid he has been unavoidably detained; he won’t be in today. The Overseer will see you instead, at 11”.

The chill that went through him spoke of more than the season.

He took a seat.

Waiting.

Alone with his thoughts.

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