A License to Fall Forever.
There should have been particles of dust floating lazily in the air, lit up in the sunlight. But not on Josh Lamont’s watch and certainly not in his studio. The room was bathed in warm morning light, and had he been out on a shoot he would have been delighted with the texture and quality of the light. Today he was editing and and so his focus was on telling stories and pulling together 30 seconds the most heartwarming, moving and poetic ads the banking industry had ever seen.
The steam vapour from his coffee curled in the light. His favourite coffee shop was just across the road and it made everything better. And a good day like this was already impossibly good. Joshua smiled.
He smoothed his hair and leaned back in his chair. Moments like these were why he got out the the game. Oh sure, he missed the car cases through the narrow streets of Hamburg, pulling a 3 card monte switch with briefcases full of counterfeit diamonds on the riverfront of Bristol and parkour free-running the rooftops of slums in Macau but everyone needs to get out the game eventually.
A little wistfully, he opened the drawer below his immaculate desktop and pulled out a battered compass. Some things are harder to let go than other things. The brass case was scored and scratched, but what had killed the compass was more than just wear and tear. A neat bullet hole pierced the front of the compass had fixed the dial in place and now the only way it pointed north was if you pointed it north. But that seemed to defeat the purpose of the thing. The back of the compass bulged like a top and he spun it on his black desk top as was his habit.
Without this in his shirt pocket he’d not be here in sleepy little Hobart living in deep cover. He wouldn’t be living at all. Ah Barcelona. What a time he had there.
The Sangria. The Catacombs. The fancy cars that go broom (Joshua was a trained expert in sleight of hand, escape, lethal and less than lethal hand to hand combat, and even trained to drive any vehicle up the razor’s edge, but he just wasn’t good at remembering model numbers. It really seemed to upset his secret biographer who would cry out “HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW WHAT KIND OF GUN IT WAS? YOU USED IT TO SAVE THE WORLD!?”). He smiled and put the compass back in the drawer.
Time passes quickly when you’re good at what you do. The faster it passes, the better you are at what you do. Joshua looked up and it was nearly midnight. Oh yeah. He was that good.
“Oh damn!” He jumped up with a start as his phone rang.
His wife would be wondering where he was. He pulled out his pocket and looked at his phone - the screen was black. His reflection in the phone was sharp and his hair was looking immaculate and he smiled briefly to himself before a phone chimed again.
“Oh… damn…” Joshua realised it was that phone. He pressed seven seemingly random spots on his work bench. The window blinds smoothly closed themselves and the studio door gave a metallic clunk as a heavy lock fell in place. A super cool blue laser swept the room in a revolving grid pattern (the red lasers were cheaper, but the blue ones looked cooler and more futuristic). A cool, professional metallic voice announced *ROOM SECURE – YOU HAVE GO FOR COMMS*.
An invisible seam opened up in the desk and a small compartment opened silently in front of him. It was damn cool. The effect was slightly ruined by a notification from Facebook group chat. He made a mental note to make the Facebook alert sounds cooler.
Josh looked down at the phone. It had no brand. It was just a slab of black glass and featured technology that would not be available in the mass market for at least 10 years. The screen simply said that the “Unlisted” was ringing. He raised a perfectly groomed eyebrow. Unlisted? That’s… odd.
Josh picked up. He knew eventually the call would come and they would reactivate him. He knew that he was in the deep water and the tide was rising fast. His old life. Adrenaline was dumping into his system, but he knew better than to appear ruffled in a situation like this. They trained him better than that.
Initially the line was dead - this was to be expected as the handset bounced in via several encrypted connections… he heard someone take in breath at the other end of the line.
“That’s commander to you”. He was confident. Smooth. In control. Licensed to kill with 27 different kinds of weapon. Able to drive the big cars with the knobbly tyres and the small cars with the little wings on the back and all the in-between sizes.
“Oh. Hello Commander …” the speaker paused awkwardly… “I was ringing to see if you were happy with your mobile provider…”
Josh gently put the phone back in it’s hidden cradle.
And allowed himself a slight exhalation of relief. He was, if he was being honest with himself, a bit disappointed. The bench top compartment already sealed itself back up, the door lock clunked and the blinds were halfway open when they started to close again. He raised another perfectly groomed eyebrow.
A cool metallic voice announced *ROOM SECURE – YOU HAVE GO FOR COMMS*. It was the same computerised voice, but sounded imperceptibly different. As if it was a bit annoyed. When the panel opened on his desk. The phone’s screen simply declared “Office”.
Go time. Joshua picked up. There was the same pause waiting on encryption, but then this time a cool, calm voice simply said “Commander?”
“Code word challenge”
“The latte wasn’t hot enough”.
“Code word accepted. Commander, you are going on “holidays” - 14th - 25th August - Returning to office 28th August.”
The line went dead. Joshua grinned.
TO BE CONTINUED….