Lost Asunder

Director Dana Marcello’s mind is made up. Originally she had considered giving her old friend Sanjiv Khatri more time, but that was based upon… She doesn’t know. In fact, now she thinks it might have been based upon nothing at all. Dana doesn’t remember the last time she was this indecisive. She lets out a sigh. Her orders have already been issued. She’s put in a call for a car. Protocol dictates she should fly to Oljato-Monument Valley but that, she feels, might cause alarm bells to ring. A car is more discrete, especially as it will not be accompanied by any kind of motorcade. Again, that would draw unwanted attention she wishes to avoid. Sure, her subordinates will wonder why she has so swiftly departed her post but they’re capable enough.

Dana won’t even be telling her driver and personal two man security detail until they are out of the city. She doubts they’ll bat an eyelid. After all, clandestine is what they’re paid for and these three men have been with her for a long time. They know not to question her orders. Hell, they barely even react when she issues them with a command. That is what makes them perfect for this jaunt out to Oljato-Monument Valley.

A buzz fills her ears to warn her that imminently her solitude will be dashed because Roderick, Silas and Taren have arrived. Taren is her driver. He’s ferried her about for the last six years. Never once has he asked questions. If she gives him a destination he gets her too it. Hell, more than a few times she’s made a demand that should’ve raised an eyebrow because it was accompanied with a time sensitive component, but never has he kicked up a stink. Rather, he’s got her there. A one hundred percent success rate is quite the record. It certainly impresses her. Yet, by comparison this should be a simple trip. After all, Dana isn’t putting a deadline on her arrival time for the journey. It will take as long as it takes. That is except for the one caveat, which is that they will be making no stops. Just as well her car is capable of such a feat. If it were not for the solar panels which cover the bulk of the SUV’s bodywork things might be different, but they aren’t so it is of little import to dwell on such things.

Roderick and Silas glide into Dana’s office and stop a couple metres from her desk and one another. They both stand backs straight with not a hint of emotion on their expressionless faces.

“Gentleman, are we ready?” Dana asks rhetorically in the moments prior to rising from the seat behind her enormous desk which sits in her equally enormous office. Now on her feet she begins to straighten the wrinkles out her suit. It’s a navy blue number that she has twinned with a pair of darker but still blue trousers and a set of flat black shoes.

Roderick and Silas wait for their boss, their paymaster, their overlord to finish straightening her suit patiently. They both doubt she’ll be capable of getting the creases that have embedded themselves in the material during her time seated, so when she largely succeeds they are both impressed. Though, they have to remind themselves that she is the director and so if anyone is capable of what should not be it is her. After all, she is the woman who scooped them up after they left the military with discharges of the medical variety and gave them new purpose. Had she not they both dread to think where they might have ended up. Prison is one of the most likely outcomes they would have faced having been dropped back into the civilian world as recklessly as they were. The other is they would be dead in a gutter following potentially years of poverty and living on the streets. Thankfully, they avoided fates such as those and were brought onboard. Yet, neither man knew one another when they started working for the director. Silas has been with Dana longer, by a couple years, though you wouldn’t know it to see how he and Roderick operate. They are a cohesive team, perfectly suited and capable of complimenting each other’s knowledge bases and specialisations.

 Roderick imagined, when he was pulled into this world, that the director must’ve gone through dozens of candidates to pair perfectly with his now partner, Silas. He’d been wrong. Silas had assured that Roderick was the first and only candidate that the director had put forward as a suitable second and final member of her personal security detail. He’d been gobsmacked to learn that. In the years since, he has come to understand just how remarkable the director truly is, though doesn’t ever remember doubting her in the first place.

She operates on a whole other level, but even she needs protection. By and large she is in little danger now, though that was not always the case. A fair number of times Roderick and Silas were sent to eliminate potential future threats before they could take root, except for one, Sanjiv Khatri. Over the years his name has come up more than a few times as a person of interest. Each time the director has assured he is of no threat to her and the construct. Neither Roderick nor Silas can understand how that might be possible, especially given that he once worked under the director. In their eyes, as ex-soldiers, that meant he was the most suitable candidate for elimination because who would be better suited to strike against the director than a former member of her staff?

Neither Silas nor Roderick had been in Dana’s employ back then. Instead, they had been knee deep in some conflict or another. There were so many when they were in the military that pinning precisely which one happened when has become rather foggy and difficult for the pair. Still, somehow neither of them had met and yet they had been in largely the same conflicts. It was remarkable in some ways, slightly perplexing in others that it took their ejection from the military and the interest of Director Dana Marcello to bring these perfectly suited men together.

With Dana having fixed her suit about as much as she believes she is going to be capable of; sadly there are still a few deep creases present, she elects that enough time has been wasted and with a quick flick of her fingers gestures for Roderick and Silas to follow. They do, immediately falling in step behind their boss. Eyes dart right and left without pause as Dana and they leave her office, pass the reception desk without saying a word and b-line for the waiting elevator.

Dana steps inside only to turn just in time to see Roderick and Silas themselves finish boarding. They don’t turn to face the doors. Instead, they stand with their backs against the walls of the elevator.

Silas presses the button for the ground floor. Being a priority elevator there is no risk of it being stopped on any level the director does not wish it to. Hence, that is why less than two minutes later Dana can be seen striding confidently across the open foyer area toward her waiting SUV, the door of which is open and being held by Taren, her driver. His free hand tucked deep inside his jacket as it rests on the grip of his holstered pistol.

Taren isn’t ex-military like Roderick and Silas. He’s a former cop who was kicked off the NYPD due to planted evidence that suggested he was guilty of taking bribes. He never did any such thing. Dana knew that when she took him on. Pity the NYPD didn’t properly vet the allegations like they should’ve. A year later the officers involved in Taren Beckenbaum’s dismissal were arrested and tried for a raft of crimes including planting evidence, murder of a fellow officer, the trafficking of drugs and three counts of kidnapping. In the aftermath the NYPD offered to reinstate Taren, he declined. His faith in the justice system of the NYPD had been shattered, plus being Dana’s driver was more lucrative. She also provided him with access to information strains which pointed toward potentially illegal deals that were being struck within the virtual network and allowed him to do whatever he saw fit with said knowledge. Unsurprisingly, he elected to drop it at the relevant authority’s feet for processing.

Taren, smiling wide, bows his head for a second upon Dana’s arrival. She returns his acknowledgement with a quick flash of a smile. It lasts barely a second and is followed by her climbing effortlessly into the black SUV while Roderick strides round the front end of the vehicle and Silas round the back. They yank open the doors on the far side of the SUV just wide enough to permit them the ability to slip inside and settle into the plush grey leather seats, cooled by the air conditioning which frantically pumps air from the scattered vents.

Taren, having slammed the heavy armoured door Dana entered the vehicle through shut, eases his driver’s door open and climbs up and into the seat. Taren is a shorter man, especially compared to the pair of ex-military personal security operatives, the same pair that opened and closed their doors in unison. It wasn’t planned but matters little much like Taren wiggling to get himself comfortable. It’s as if he is anticipating that they’ll be undergoing a long journey, and then having secured his seat belt begins to move off. No one speaks. There is no need as yet to. Orders will be issued once they are outside of the city. That will still leave them with about six hundred miles to go but it’s safer this way. After all, Taren will take the best route out of the city. If Dana told him of their destination such knowledge might influence his route. She doesn’t want that just encase they have a tail. Once out of the city it will be fairly obvious if they have. Though, they will still be required to first lose their tail prior to them being able to get properly underway.

Thankfully, it appears, once they are out of the city, that they have no tail. Dana is pleased but not overly surprised. It is rare nowadays that anyone seems inclined to follow her anymore. When she had first become director things were very difficult. Many government agencies, the world over, were reticent for there to be a single person with definitive say over the construct. In truth because each of them wanted it for themselves, regardless of whether they originated from the country within which it is based, the Western Alliance, or not.

Yes, you might be thinking but surely if they are heading toward Oljato-Monument Valley then the construct is housed within the USA and you would be right, according to the past. The USA is no longer in existence. It fractured into a number of smaller, more unified nations with the Western Alliance encompassing the states of California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii.

In addition to the West Alliance there is the Southern Senate, Central Counties and New New England. The Southern Senate consists of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and the Carolina’s. While the Central Counties comprise the Dakotas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, leaving New New England with the remaining former US states bar Alaska which was turned over to Canada.

Sadly, their SUV is travelling north, the completely wrong direction to where they need to be headed which is east. But after several more minutes of checks, just to be sure Dana is satisfied enough that all is good and so issues her demands.

“Taren, we’re heading for Oljato.” The order is simple, to the point and is met without a single query for any of the three men present in the vehicle with her.

Roderick and Taren don’t even turn toward one another to exchange looks. Dana isn’t surprised by their lack of reaction. They’ll have thoughts, opinions perhaps, but will not offer them. All three know better. Silas is even gazing out the window. Anyone else might think it’s a lazy stare but Dana knows him much better than that. He’s focused intently, ever vigilant and at the ready, hence why one hand is resting upon a gun he has tucked under the jacket of his immaculate black suit.

By contrast Roderick is wearing a light grey number. He prefers the lighter colours, but for him grey, however light it might be, is a darker outfit than he is typically adorned in. Dana isn’t about to complain. They are grown men and can dress, as long as it’s befitting of their positions and surroundings, however they choose.

A smile slides across her lips. She shields it from those around her but it’s the result of her realising that where they are headed means that all four of them are going to be considerably overdressed. After all, Oljato-Monument Valley is a desert.

At the next available opportunity Taren turns and following a little defensive driving, that serves as the final dance to evade any would be pursuers, he puts them on a course for Oljato, some six hundred miles east. He wonders what might be out there that would need the presence of Director Marcello.

Taren is one of the few under her employ that uses her title and surname. Most simply use her title. He’d queried once as to why that was. He got no answer. Instead, he was met with blank looks and some uncertain shrugs. He’d found that funny. His ex-wife, Allie, would’ve liked to see that reaction, she did always like questioning things that people did only to find they didn’t know why they did them.

Allie and Taren had never had kids. They broke up long before there was ever any chance of that happening. Twenty nine months they were married in all. The last he heard of her she’d moved out east someplace. Never did find out whether that was the Southern Senate or New New England. Not that it matters, mattered he corrects himself. There’s no chance of them reuniting in a way you only ever see in old media. It’s just not how life works, or has ever worked. Then again he can’t recall the last time he bothered watching old media, movies they’d called them. Seems little point when you can dive into the construct and yet he barely takes the time to invest himself in it.

When not driving Director Marcello around or Roderick and Silas, he is feeding information to local authorities. His apartment resembles the Batcave more than it does a home. There is top-end gear in there that helps him sift through potentially illegal activities that have been flagged so he might, if he so feels inclined which he always inevitably does, run a trace that leads him back to their incision point. From there he forwards all that he has to whatever police department it might fall under the jurisdiction of.

More than once he’s had to forward it to several because the potential perpetrator lives on the border of several authorities. Good to know that nothing has been fixed in that regard. Especially as issues such as that can be traced all the way back to a time when these nations had been one single country. The more things change, he thinks a second prior to shaking himself free of his mental wandering to return his focus to the job at hand, driving down an arrow straight road that is pretty unchanged for as far as the eye can see.

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