"1459 Days"


Monday, July 14, 2014. It's a slow start to the day for the German contingent at the Geneva headquarters of the International Future Affairs Bureau. Amongst the tall cafe tables in the common room, there's a queue at the coffee maker and bleary eyes staring into the middle distance as Rolf Diller starts the Monday staff meeting. 

Through the glass wall behind him, the Swedish contingent is coming off their shift in The Pool. Their deep black wetsuits seem to absorb all the light, and the shimmering water dripping off their bodies seems to to cast its own shadows, independent of the overhead lights.

"Alright, people. Welcome back. And congratulations, Deutschland! Hooray." 

The group puts up a hoarse, tired half yawn, half cheer. 

"Sure, we all saw it coming for quite some time, but it doesn't make the moment any less exciting if you ask me."

A middle aged woman is dozing off leaning on one of the cafe tables near the back of the room. Rolf claps his hands, and she jolts awake, eyes wide. 

"Now, I hope you all had a chance to sleep off the worst of last night's parties. Maybe not you, Tara." 

Rolf walks over to a lovely blonde in a mini-dress made to look like the national jersey. Chuckles ripple through the room as he picks a piece of condom wrapper out of Tara's still-mussed hair and places it in her hand. She smiles, keeping her teeth to herself, as her face flushes deeper than the red on the bust of her dress. 

"Okay, yes. It would have been nice to declare today a work holiday, but as you all know the future waits for no one. Nothing lasts forever. Especially a World Cup win. And right now we only have 1,460 days to make good on this victory." 

Rolf gestures to a lithe man with jet-black hair, olive skin and an indistinguishable age who is leaning against the wall.

"Thanks to Steven's enterprising swim half a decade into the future, we all know that Portugal gets their turn in four years, so what are we going to do for Deutschland while we're on top? We need to start seeding our suggestions into The Pool right now if we're going to make these projects happen.

Several in the group shift from foot to foot. They reach into bags and satchels, removing their wetsuits that seem to dim the light around them.

Rolf extends his hand to a middle-aged, completely bald man with enormous bags under his eyes.

"Okay, Paul, you're up first. What've you got for us?"

Scratching his balding head and screwing up his face in thought. "We could, uh, inspire a few developers to build a new bridge over [river] painted like the national jersey."

Rolf nods, more in encouragement than approval. 

"Bridges. Alright, Paul, that's a good opening suggestion. We do have lots of rivers. Those rivers mostly do have bridges already. But we'll leave it on the table. What else? Sarah?"

"We could use the goodwill to drive giving to our national charities."

"Raise the standard of living for those most in need. Nice suggestion, Sarah."

Sarah smiles and nods at the approval. Another young woman a few feet behind her takes a generous swig of an energy drink and fires off: 

"Maybe it would be good to get the public health services to invest in more dream therapy, meditation and programs that would help deepen the consciousness. A stronger stream would improve our contribution to the whole. And it would certainly make the swimming a lot easier." 

Chuckles and agreement sound off through the group. 

"Great idea, Amanda. It's only been a week, and I already can't imagine our team without you."

Amanda raises a smiling toast with her giant can before taking another pull.

"Okay, well, that's a strong start, people. Keep thinking about your suggestions."

Rolf gestures through the glass wall to The Pool.

"Now, we'll spend the morning just surveying the waters and getting a sense of what's rattling around in the collective consciousness in the wake of the victory. Then we can start talking about how to implement these suggestions at the afternoon strategy meeting."

Rolf inhales deeply as his face drops. He eyes two burly gentlemen in suits as they enter the door in back.

"Okay, before we move on there's one unfortunate piece of business to take care of. It has come to my attention that we had a security breach over the weekend."

Heads turn as the group surveys one another. A young man in brightly patterned shorts and leather sandals begins to back up. His mouth is open, moving but soundless. 

"Freidreich, please stop there. Don't make this difficult."

Freidreich spins and breaks into a run toward the door, leaving his sandals behind. The two suited men converge, and Freidreich throws his messenger bag at one of them before bending into a wide right turn along the wall and toward the entrance to The Pool, weaving between his frozen coworkers and knocking over a cafe table, leaving the two agents behind. 

He reaches the threshold, arms outstretched, just as a third agent swings into the room, and, diverting his momentum, slams Freidreich into the glass partition. A queasy thwack and thrum as the hard and soft parts of Freidreich's face impact and reverberate the large glass pane. 

The sound mingles with gasps as Freidreich's body crumbles to the floor. A small pink smear is left on the shuddering window, and the three agents dog-pile the wild-eyed fugitive, flipping him over and zip-tying his hands behind his back. As two of them jerk him to his feet the third gathers his sandals into the messenger bag, shouldering the lot.

"No, please. I only talked to a few people. Please. I just thought if people knew about the important work we do, maybe – people should know. Please." 

His nose and a cut in his eyebrow both bleed freely as his wild eyes search the room of shocked faces. Rolf swivels to address Freidreich and the group of shocked onlookers.

"I'm sorry about this, Freidreich. But you took a pledge to this work, and you've betrayed that commitment. You've betrayed the work – and all of us, your friends and colleagues. And for what? For what?" 

The agent with the messenger bag turns and heads to the door. The two agents holding Freidreich's arms jerk him along behind as he continues to cry, "Please, Rolf. Please, Dieter. Please. Please." 

The agent in front silences him with a quick elbow to the solar plexus. And the only sound is the smack and drag of bare feet accompanied by click of stacked leather soles receding on the tile floor.

Rolf widens his eyes and gives the group a slight shrug. 

"Well, that was a little more excitement than I was hoping for on a Monday morning. But let's just all remember that we're a team, and we need to be able to depend on one another's discretion to do our work. I trust there's no one else who wants to join Freidreich for interrogation and a memory excision."  

Rolf surveys the room as several employees shift from foot to foot before asking, "Okay, what about any other business for the day before we get started?"

Amanda tips up the last of her energy drink and crushes the sides of the can in her fist, "The cluster valves on the condensers are getting a bit clogged. The future is literally getting hazy." 

The fog hanging in the room dissipates as everyone enjoys an easy laugh.