Against The Tide

#2badpagesaday (79)

Photo by Timon Wanner on Unsplash

It wasn’t long before he was missed.

It only took until Monday lunchtime for the Enforcers to secure his office. The desk was clear apart from the computer. Every drawer, empty. Save one. A single handwritten word on a notepad with just one page that hadn’t been torn off.

The Investigator was experienced. She called her old school friend, and asked her to prepare for a special guest. Perhaps they would conduct the interview together, and share a ride back from the Detention Centre to the Complex. She would suggest an evening of winding down, together.

For now, she sat in his seat, thinking. The young enforcer burst in, interrupting her train of thought. She just held up a hand, stopping him in his tracks, his cheeks flushing, her authority unquestioned.

They had left everything untouched.

It was her investigation. Get this right and … this was an opportunity. Certainly, the timing wasn’t great. She had read the reports about the open unrest. But that was an opportunity in itself. The perfect time to call in favours, and mobilise her own ‘private army’ of Zone 1 loyalists. Secure power for whoever bubbled up to the top of the pile. Build her own power base.

Her investigation.

The note.

One word.

She leant over to switch on the screen which flickered into life. The woman in the video was on all fours, naked, her backside reddened. Her face was contorted with the hatred in her eyes as she turned her head. The video played on repeat. The same words, over and over. The image blurred but the words spoke out their double meaning:

“forgotten who was the Mistress and who was the slave?”

“forgotten who was the Mistress and who was the slave?”

“forgotten who was the Mistress and who was the slave?”

“forgotten who was the Mistress and who was the slave?”

“forgotten who was the Mistress and who was the slave?”

Try as she might, she couldn’t stop the sound. As she stormed out of the office, she was already planning to take out her anger on the only person any of this pointed towards. She clutched the notepad, though the word was burned into her thoughts. Bring me the Head of Data. The young Enforcer kept his eyes low as she strode past, thinking to himself that in that mood, with her reputation, it would be easy to take that order literally. He radioed through to his Section Head to ask him to authorise the arrest.

He had woken in the night when the alarm went off. For a week now, he had been working from the Penthouse apartment, able to dial into all the mainframes from the powerful system he was currently sitting in front of.

They had been too slow to realise that it was nerds like him who ruled now. Technocrats not bureaucrats. Even the money men were too slow. Way too slow. For every offshore transaction they enacted, his programme whirred into action, creaming off his percentage. Small enough not to attract attention — never more than seven percent, the sort of fee they would be charged anyway — but enough over the past four years to have squirrelled away a generous personal pension plan.

His instincts were sharp.

He’d read the signs. He’d watched the footage from all the key offices; some more important than others. The Head of Security; different to the rest. Thoughtful, considered. A strong man in every way. Intelligent too. He’d watched, quietly. He had played his part, of course, projecting himself as the flaky, hysterical, shouty one. He had publicly blamed everyone else, whilst quietly feathering his nest. There was only one he was afraid of; one loose cannon.

When the call came, he was surprised. The proposal was even more unexpected. The timing was key. They had both used the levers of power enough to understand the way the response would be activated. Timing was everything. They both wanted different things; that made the arrangement mutually very agreeable. The common thread was disappearance, but one of them wanted nothing, and the other wanted everything. They agreed, shaking hands on the deal in the elevator between the 17th and the 33rd floors when the cameras were disabled by the small handheld device he brought with him for that very purpose.

And so it was, in the early hours of the morning before the raid on his erstwhile colleague’s office within the Department of Security, this unremarkable-looking man pressed the keys that would set in train the programme he had conceived for just this moment. In the hour before his departure, he shaved his head, inserted the coloured contact lenses and packed the small holdall. He used his membership card to activate the lift, punching in floor numbers 11, 9 and 7. As the lift stopped on the ninth floor, he stepped out, knowing already that the cameras were deactivated and the stairs from this level would take him down to Subterranean -1. Each door he stepped through on the way to his destination was disabled as soon as it closed behind him.

By the time the powerful motor launch reached open water, the Programme had started to infiltrate every level of the system, deleting records, unlocking security doors, locking offices and disabling the workings of the regime. His privileged access to the very security systems that should have weeded him out before his meteoric rise through the ranks of the System meant that his Dutch ancestry had been suppressed. As he dimmed the lights on the boat and brought it alongside in the exclusive marina, he smiled as he made plans to fade into obscurity via the country of his birth.

They would raid his house, of course. They would follow the false trail to the boathouse. Patrol boats would be launched. If they were lucky, they would find his boat adrift in the currents around the small island. There would be blood on the gunwales, his blood of course, consistent with a blow to the head. They would search the islands, to be sure. Search the inlets for his bloated body. They would ransack his house, steal everything of worth, and smash up the rest. He was certain of that. Revenge is the last recourse of the powerless. None of that mattered.

He had driven himself to the old Jurassic Coast and hidden his vehicle in plain sight by the slipway, an old tarpaulin thrown over in. He hiked north, along the line of the Wall, moving fast. His carefully selected equipment fitted into the inflatable. He stripped, plunging his body into the cold estuarine water, swimming powerfully with his kit in front of him. He was in abandoned lands now, far from the regime he had served until it stuck in his craw. Warming himself by the small fire, he repacked his rucksack carefully, preparing for his journey south.

In the distance, he could hear the howling. He put an extra log on the fire.



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A life well-lived; celebrating people, places and purpose; an encouragement to stay curious, optimistic and adventurous. Newsletter, every Sunday, 6pm sharp.