Lost Asunder

Sanjiv is pacing. He hasn’t left the motel room he’s been staying in for the last couple nights in Kayenta since he got back from his ‘meeting.’ In fact, since returning to this small dingy room occupied by nothing more than a bed, tiny round table and rickety looking wooden chair all he has done is clean his hands and down three glasses of water.

In part that is due to him being distracted as he continues to play Dana’s message, the lies, over in his head. To top it off he’s waiting for the outcome of the query he issued to the Doctor Tabar AI regarding the presence of his old, longest lost friend, Warren Thewlis, to come back. He never imagined when he issued the demand for a search that it would take this long. Still, he was the one who ordered the AI not to inform him of timescale and instead simply give him the results when they are ready. Sanjiv is very much regretting that decision now as he continues his pacing.

At this rate he might wear a groove into the dark carpet. He feels no remorse if such a thing does transpire. After all, by the looks of the carpet it has seen much better days. There are stains all over it which again brings into question the validity of this motel being kept openly legally. Alas, he paid in cash and from the signs hung everywhere there is no way the aging weather-worn looking man behind the counter will be accepting refunds.

If Sanjiv were a different sort of man he might be inclined to push the issue but he isn’t. The only men and women who face his ire are those worthy of it. An old man running a grotty motel is not. Sure, the price is a swindle but his actions aren’t exactly criminal, at least as far as Sanjiv is aware. He doesn’t particularly keep up with the latest trends when it comes to laws of the lands. After all, he does have a tendency to break a good deal of the longest standing ones himself.

All in pursuit of safety, he reminds himself. And he isn’t wrong. Sure, Sanjiv has killed people, probably more than Dana, though he can’t be sure what orders she might’ve issued over the last more than a decade, but that doesn’t make him a monster. The men and women he’s killed have been of the dangerous variety. Individuals who work from the shadows to bring about… He can’t be sure. His feeling is that they want the construct for themselves. It seems the most plausible possibility. Though, whether they have any connection to agencies he has not been able to discern. There are definite ties to agencies but nothing to say that the agencies are the ones pulling the strings. Especially, as the number of agencies linked are well into the double digits and not known for playing nice with one another. For that reason alone he continues to consider that perhaps an agency being at the head of the table is unlikely. Still, he will not rule anything out. This is a realm of spies, assassins and… He honestly can’t say what else there might be other than spies and assassins. He certainly isn’t either, which seems to be why they underestimate him. In the end he was never trained, as a young man, in subterfuge and elimination. They are skills he’s picked up along the way, as a need for survival. It seems because of that his skills have a unique slant, quintessentially him, when it comes to these long established and potentially overused tactics.

“Query search complete.” The Doctor Helena Tabar AI announces breaking the silence. The sudden sound sees Sanjiv flinch aggressively as a result. He hadn’t anticipated the AI would speak even if he was impatiently waiting for an answer to be given at some point.

“Results?” Sanjiv is in no mood to dally. He simply wants to know what he is pretty sure will be the outcome but…

“Using the parameters from your previous search involving that name I have found no results within the construct network.”

Sanjiv grins; just as he thought. No, just as he knew. Dana was lying. The bitch; how could she? He hasn’t an answer and issuing such a query to the AI would bear no fruit. Only one person could tell him as to why and he isn’t inclined to converse with her. Whatever her reasoning might be it isn’t for his benefit. She only ever, since becoming director, undertakes something if it benefits herself and the organisation she heads. It’s no wonder the virtual world has so many adversaries working from the shadows wishing to strike and wrestle control of the simulation from her. Dana Marcello hasn’t exactly done much to endear herself to the rest of the world. Alright, most of the world hasn’t a clue who she is, or that she exists, but that isn’t the point here. The point is Sanjiv is going to have to be careful. Like there has ever been a moment he hasn’t since that night he and Dana last spoke face-to-face.

“Are there any new developments involving Warren’s name?” Sanjiv doesn’t know why he utters the question but with it now out his mouth he can’t really take it back. Sure, he could rescind the order but doesn’t feel it necessary to. After all, the AI is unlikely to judge him. At least in any way that could negatively impact his future plans. And thankfully, coming here to the Arizona-Utah border wasn’t entirely fruitless. He’s picked up a series of leads. They all point toward a shady group based out of the Southern Senate. No surprise there. The Senate aren’t exactly known for their forward thinking ideals. Instead they went in entirely the opposite direction to progress by making abortion, same sex marriage, divorce, blasphemy and accusations of rape by men illegal. That’s not to say the Western Alliance have it all figured out, they don’t. Hell, from what Sanjiv has seen the world over, he’s visited every continent more than thirty times, no one seems to be capable of losing the baggage that has long since lost its importance but which abandoning would allow them to move on into the future.

He smiles realising that many could easily accuse him of the same. Regardless, he will continue to refuse to accept that Warren is gone. Yet, he thinks of his friend less and less these days. Sanjiv imagines that if Warren graces his thoughts seldomly then Dana must’ve almost completely forgotten about him. Save for her message of manipulation, that is.

Just the thought of her trickery, for whatever the reason might be, raises his hackles. Again he contemplates a, relatively, short detour to Los Angeles. But what would be the point? He can’t say. Maybe there is no point. So why go? Let the past lie. She had her one chance and she squandered it. Now that door is closed. Leave it that way. If you disturb it… I know; Sanjiv hears himself say.

He is fully aware what could happen. That’s why the option is dead on arrival. His mind made up. He’ll leave at the crack of dawn. There is no doubt Dana knows where his ‘secret’ is located. But that is the only secret of his she is aware of. Sanjiv has been careful to ensure she has no other lead on him. When he leaves at dawn tomorrow that will be the end of whatever remained between them. She will never see or hear from him again, unless he wishes it and that, he feels, isn’t likely.

“Scrub me from the network. I don’t want Dana having any data to go on.” It might sound pointless scrubbing whatever location data the virtual network may be capable of recording in regards to his whereabouts, especially as it would only show him being at a position near Oljato-Monument Valley. But Sanjiv feels the less the director has to go on the better. After today he won’t be referring to her as Dana any longer, those days are…

Suddenly the clatter of weapons fire, semi-close, and echoing fills the air. Anyone else might wish to throw themselves to the ground, but Sanjiv isn’t most people. His first instinct is that someone is moving against him. A half second after that thought has been replaced by sense. He is not under attack. The weapons fire is echoey not on top of him. Still, he pulls the pistol from its hidden holster and without pause bursts out of his motel room and into the wide mainly vacant parking lot. His eyes scan the air above the buildings until…

Flashes tear into the dark sky half the town away. Sanjiv’s eyes lock onto said flashes. He’s close enough to cover the ground on foot, the joys of being in such a small town like Kayenta. He breaks into a jog soon after. No point in sprinting, that would only lead to exhaustion and an exhausted body might cost him his life.

Still, he can’t imagine why out here there might be a skirmish. The town certainly isn’t known for criminal activity. After all, it is overwhelmingly Navajo and they tend to keep to themselves. Not surprising given past historical events.

It takes Sanjiv barely five minutes to get close enough to the now relentless weapons fire that it is the only sound that is present in his ears. Just as well it is the only sound to worry about, though as to why this onslaught is transpiring here he still cannot fathom. Regardless, of reasons why and who it seems, to Sanjiv, that there are five shooters. A less professional ear might count higher or lower but Sanjiv is pretty confident about his estimate while he moves from cover to cover. The shooters might not be here for him but that does not mean he’s about to leave himself open to potentially joining whatever body count there might be at the end of all this. He has no intention of still being in town when the investigations start either. That would not do his stealthy, from the shadows, operations an ounce of good. Especially as authorities, local ones more than most, prefer any witnesses and/or suspects to stay close by, or at the very least give details as to where they can be found. That would be difficult for Sanjiv given that he doesn’t have a permanent address. No, the abode is not Sanjiv’s registered address, except for purposes involving Dana that is. Otherwise it exists on no records, surveys, etc, etc.

With the gunfire at a deafening volume and Sanjiv still yet to find any reason for the shooting or the exact position of the shooters, he turns a corner. Immediately he spies the focus of the attackers, a black SUV. It’s the kind government agencies the world over favour for reasons Sanjiv cannot discern. After all, they are far too; look at me, to ever pass as anything other than a declaration that whoever is inside is of importance. Perhaps, that is why it is of interest to the attackers.

Whoever these armed men are appear to be above average intelligence because none of them are on the ground. From the angle at which the bullets are coming down toward the smashed, on its side SUV the shooters Sanjiv can only conclude that they are positioned up on the roofs above him.

His first thought is, then why is the alleyway unguarded. Right after he wonders if the other alleys that inevitably lead to the same rooftops are also as sloppily overseen. His assumption is that they must be. It shocks and disappoints him in equal measures.

A thought strikes him, that if these people were here for him they would already be dead. Yet, there is no way that the crashed SUV is from these parts. It has to be someone passing through. That makes this an ambush. His conclusion is another of the Western Alliance agencies has managed to draw the ire of a drug cartel based across the border in the Southern Senate. It’s not more than a stone’s throw really for one of the cartels to strike out this way and with the Senates border officers easily bribable, Sanjiv can think of no better explanation. Not that it matters, he is here and isn’t about to let a group of bloodthirsty criminals satiate their lust.

A quick scan of the ninety degree turning alley ends when Sanjiv spies a raised fire escape ladder. It’s too high for him to jump and have any hopes of grabbing a hold but if he uses one of the many dumpsters he might just get the height he requires. So with the hastily slapped together plan set, Sanjiv elects to remain low, encase there are shooters on overwatch that could pick him out under cover of darkness, as he scurries over to the nearest dumpster.

A swift check informs him that it is empty. He breathes a sigh of relief. Moving a full dumpster isn’t an easy task. He’s done it before and regretted it immensely. But this dumpster is not and so under cover of the sound of weapons fire the former Datastar begins to shove. Eighteen feet is the ground he’s got to cover. Even empty moving the dumpster on its castors is slower progress than he would prefer. Suddenly a whoop fills the air. Sanjiv wonders if he’s too late. He could check. Not the time he concludes only to return to his efforts.

Almost two minutes later, and more shooting which suggests the ambush is not over, and the dumpster is finally, roughly, in place. A quick sweep, to ensure the coast is clear, is followed by Sanjiv clambering up onto the large wheeled bin. His balance wobbles as he rises to his full height. He catches himself and following a brief pause decides he is stable, for now. Raising his head to search for the fire escape ladder he finds, with great satisfaction, that it’s directly above his head. Fortune might have favoured him this time. He makes no considerations either way on that matter. Rather, he forces himself onto tiptoes and swings his arms aiming for the bottom rung. His fingertips miss. Sanjiv grumbles. This is what he feared but felt would not be an issue. The man, dressed entirely in black, sighs before attempting to somehow push himself higher onto the tips of his bulky boots. He can’t. The height he’s reached is the sum of what can be achieved. Some of the guns are no longer firing, reloading is his conclusion. Still, there is enough sound to mask what he feels is the only option left to him, but whether it will work… What other option is there? True, he tells himself and then against his better judgement hops off his toes and into the air.

His attempt is far more lucrative than he expected, especially when the bottom rung of the raised ladder slaps against the top of his palm. Sanjiv closing his fingers tightly a fraction of a second later so not to squander his chance. In doing so his legs are left dangling while he waits as if expecting to fall. He doesn’t, which is why a smile slides across his face.

Swinging his legs from side to side Sanjiv manages to scale the ladder until finally his feet meet the bottom rung. After that it’s a few short seconds, after which he is over the wall and onto the roof. Weapon drawn once again, Sanjiv creeps forward. The shooters are ahead. They are oblivious to his presence. However, they don’t look like cartel types. Instead they look more like… He puts the thought out of his head feeling responsible for having brought carnage down upon this town of eleven thousand. It fails a few short seconds after when he notes that these ‘people’ closely, far too much so for it to be coincidence, resemble members of the group he has been hunting for years. Guilt floods Sanjiv’s chest, he wonders what poor innocents might have been caught up in all this as a result of him having ventured back here. Still the question has to be asked, how did they know? No answer is forthcoming but it is worrying, especially because Sanjiv is so careful. Did my insistence on listening to the directors’ message leave me…? Who cares, just end this!

Sanjiv elects to follow his own advice. The first shooter, in the process of reloading his weapon, goes down with a single bullet to the base of his skull. By the time the second shooter realises Sanjiv has them by the neck with a hand over their mouth. They manage only a couple muffled cries that alert no one. Following that Sanjiv ends their life with a pair of bullets to the base of their neck.

Having eased the body to the floor Sanjiv heads for his remaining targets. They are a little further away. Little risk of their two dispatched accomplices being located, Sanjiv thinks. Though, it does mean with the remaining trio being clustered together it is doubtful he will remain undetected throughout their elimination.

More than anything the distinct lack of other weapons fire will be the ultimate signal which will alert whoever many remain to the fact that something is wrong. Yet, Sanjiv is in no way inclined to stop now that he’s started. He will bring an end to this. These men, while better trained than common criminals, are little threat to him. They were likely mercenaries in a previous life. Not top-tier. Those usually end up working for agencies or…

Just as Sanjiv should admit that his former friend and Datastar is known for collecting men and women with chequered and sometimes violent pasts he arrives at his third target. A kick delivered to the back of their knee, sees them collapse. Sadly the sudden movement is caught by the next shooter; cursed peripheral vision.

It matters little for the fourth target manages only to turn prior to being introduced to a trio of bullets.

No body armour is a relief to Sanjiv who hadn’t been sure if that would be the case or not. It was a risk but a calculated one. After all, the third shot he fired was aimed and did strike the middle of the gunman’s head. The body, as a result, topples backward and while it goes Sanjiv eliminates his downed target with a single bullet through the scalp.

Quite shockingly, the last shooter is oblivious to the lack of additional gunfire around them. Sanjiv rolls his eyes at the discovery, though it in no way alters his angle of attack. Hence, that is why thirteen seconds after, the fifth and final shooter is laid out flat on the roof with a bullet through his temple.

Now that the danger has been culled Sanjiv takes a deep breath. The air smells of burnt gunpowder and hot metal. Before too long there will also be the stench of urine and perhaps faeces. It’s inevitable and the direct result of the dead bodies muscles relaxing and contracting.

He has no intention of being here when that happens, which is why he is already well on his way back toward street level.

With the weapons fire extinguished Sanjiv has to admit that the night air is eerily quiet. He is back at street level and fast approaching the on its side SUV. As he approached he cannot help but wonder what he might find inside. Death seems the most likely outcome, and it could not sit worse with him. The plate on the back he notes as he draws ever closer informs him it’s a California originating vehicle. A thought crosses his mind but he dismisses it as ludicrous.

There isn’t much left of the wall where the SUV struck. It might have been concrete but it certainly didn’t hold out against the weight of the vehicle or its velocity.

From experience Sanjiv is aware that the SUV must’ve been travelling in excess of sixty miles per hour. And by the lack of tyre marks that should be present if the driver attempted to brake, it is clear this car made no attempt to avert the fate that ultimately befell it. As a result Sanjiv is convinced all he will find inside is deceased bodies. To confirm whether that is true or not however he will first have to get inside. He considers climbing up onto what had once been a side. The other is pinned against the rubble strewn ground. He elects not too. If there is anyone inside trying to get them out, even if they are miraculously unharmed, will prove troublesome. The back too seems like an ill fit due to the headrests. That leaves one option, the front, which is why Sanjiv elects to hustle around to that part of the upturned vehicle. Unsurprisingly the windshield is a ruined void that had once been a single unbroken slab of glass. Judging by the thickness of what remains Sanjiv has to conclude that it was armoured. Yet sadly there is no doubting that it served up little resistance to whatever punctured and eviscerated it. The concrete wall seems the most likely culprit he thinks while stooping low in preparation of heading into the belly of the battered beast.

He gets as far as being nestled against the ragged hole when he learns the fate of the pair of men in the front seats. Both are still locked in by the seat belts stretched across their chests. One, has a bullet hole in his torso, a large one, and evidently bled out as a result. Sanjiv shakes his head then moves his focus onto the other who is sat in the seat alongside him. He too is motionless but drooped across the centre console as he is could be in any number of potential states.

Sanjiv reaches out to check for a pulse. He finds nothing but with the SUV on its side he does admit it’s difficult to be sure so slaps the man. There is no response. He expected as much.

By the looks of it there is someone in the back. With difficulty Sanjiv successfully squeezes inside. There is very little space for him but he makes it work as he clambers over the dead to a man in the back. He too is dead. Sanjiv sees no reason to check for a pulse which is why he hangs his head, eyes closed, instead.

He utters something reflexively and is about to withdraw when there is a groaning exhale which reaches his ears. Sanjiv is drawn to it instantly and upon setting eyes on the stirring figure feels his eyes go wide. His first instinct is that he must be dreaming or that he has to be seeing things. It’s why he wipes his hand across his face sure the face before him will change, it does not. His jaw drops. It had entered his head when he saw the plates on this SUV that it might have been but never in a million years did he think it would be. However, it is and Director Dana Marcello, former Datastar and at one time his friend, is sat unconscious semi-rousing in the wreckage of this crashed vehicle.

A number of thoughts go through Sanjiv’s head. One is whether he should simply leave her to her fate. He chastises himself for giving such a thought the time of day soon after.

Another thought that strikes him is, what she is doing out here? That’s obvious, looking for him. Is she tracking me? Sanjiv doubts it. He’s far too careful for that. Then why is she…? I don’t know, he admits wrestling himself out of inaction and back into the moment. After all, it matters little why she is here for the time being, yet he never expected he would ever have to save her. Dana was not a woman who ever needed saving usually. She could always take care of herself, prided herself on it.

The other thoughts that enter his head do not loom as large. In fact they give way to memories. Still, none of it does anything to change what he does next, which is brace himself to heft her mass. Once he feels ready he releases the seat belt. Her limp body falls right into his waiting arm and quickly joining other. He’s careful not to drop her but expected she’d be heavier. Putting that thought aside he navigates in reverse his clamber as he backpedals out of the SUV. With Dana in his arms it is decidedly more difficult, he has to admit; not that it was easy to get into this position to begin with.

When finally he and Dana are free of the upturned SUV’s carcass Sanjiv lets out a sigh of satisfaction only to lay her out flat upon the asphalt. He snaps his fingers above her face expecting a reply. The resulting sound fills the air and his ears. However, there is no response. He checks her pulse wondering why he didn’t do that first. He hasn’t an answer. His conclusion is that she is alive, but weak. If they were other people he could take her to a hospital, but they aren’t. Thus he feels his only option is to get her to safety and right now safety is his abode. Twenty five miles is not a distance he would be capable of carrying her and so first he’ll have to get her back to the motel. It’s where his car is parked. Unlike hers it blends in perfectly for most parts of the continent with just enough rust and corrosion to make it appear roadworthy. It’s an old model. The type only the poor or ultra rich drive for it runs on fuel, the fossil kind, which used to be pulled out of the ground. Those days are passed, long passed, and with his car in the state, visibly, that it is there is no way he’d be mistaken for a member of the ultra-rich. It’s funny because technically Sanjiv has sizable wealth affixed to his name. How else do you think he’s bankrolled his operation? Truth is, one man is much easier to bankroll and that is why, in part, he operates in such a manner.

With his decision made, Sanjiv gathers Dana in his arms, rises to his feet, but settles on taking back streets to his goal. It’ll be easier, in terms of less chance of prying eyes, that way. He gets maybe two streets over before a considerable hubbub reaches his ears. It appears three or four minutes was as long as the citizens of Kayenta were willing to wait prior to becoming too curious to hold-off. Sanjiv can’t say he blames them but is relieved when he reaches his car, an old saloon. He pops the lock, opens the passenger door with two fingers and stows the still unconscious Dana inside, closing the door and then rounding to the driver’s seat which he slides into before igniting the booming engine and then with little care, races out of town and back toward Oljato-Monument Valley.

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