Decentralist

Season 1 - Episdode 2

Money Changes Everything

Drake piloted the van toward the East Bay address that Marshal relayed to him, leaving the blanket of fog behind them. It was approaching midnight. If their intel was correct, they should have a two-hour window to get the job done.

The Architect had selected Marshal for such missions precisely because he wouldn’t accept failure as an option. The renegade’s Operational Detachment-A had boasted one of the best mission records in the Special Forces. The difference between Marshal and his mates was that, after ten years of active duty, he could have filled any of the eight other roles besides his own designation of weapons sergeant.

The man had no reason to be humble about his abilities, when pressed. “You’re a Cajun Renaissance man!” Archie had typed, only half-joking, during the chat he and Marshal had had regarding employment many years prior. It had been prescient. Every single move the team had made after that had literally revived the decentralist movement, which continually teetered between total success and total collapse.

Recalling this struggle, Marshal thought, And I’m the guy stuck in the middle.

They all knew what was at stake. As Marshal often said, money changes everything—and he meant on both sides of the coin. When the elite few controlled the money supply and banked off of the people’s debt, their lives changed for the worse. But history had shown that when the system operated from the security of labor, money bolstered the common man, and more people prospered. The catalyst between the two was generally violence: the bankers turned the screws too tightly, and the masses revolted. This time, though, technology might hold the key to a bloodless coup.

It was a good reason to walk a dangerous tightrope, as Team DC did in their quest to forward the movement. And the funds distributed to them via the loose network of decentralists didn’t hurt, either. Not only were they earning their keep, they were literally earning it into existence via the blockchain.

The salary paid the loft expenses and kept Drake in alimony payments and Bentley in the hippest clubs every night that she could spare. Most of Marshal’s money was quietly returned to the cause. The more he could push DCX transactions and coin into the mainstream, the sooner the old ways would collapse. He really, really didn’t want to see the world burn. But he kept his sentiments about that under wraps, as he did most of the things that mattered to him.

To Bentley and Drake, Marshal seemed a committed, if slightly deranged, former Special Forces officer with an axe to grind. His commanders had waged war on the people who were forced to skirt laws to try to shut down corrupt banks and other big- money institutions. He’d finally rejected targeting those people, but he hadn’t lost his mojo. The team knew Marshal as the savviest of fighters, a modern James Bond who could infiltrate any cartel and then gut it from the inside out.

That was fine with Drake, who reluctantly lent his muscle only when absolutely necessary. After all, if he took a hit, who would get the team out of whatever they’d got into? Bentley, whose own prowess in taekwondo and other defensive arts, happily followed Marshal’s lead, because being behind him was always the safest place in the room.

“Hey, boss,” Bentley called from her perch on the floor of the van behind Marshal’s seat. “Do we know if the Feds have set up a perimeter, eh?” “You intercept anything on that?” Marshal nodded at Drake, who wore slim headphones that patched him into the taps he’d placed when they first learned that Gatsby66 was a target. Marshal had to ask a second time, since their driver was multitasking with supreme focus.

Drake shook his head. “They’ll probably drive up in a van just like ours, sometime after the witching hour.”

“If they get through,” Bentley mused, “our man will be toast. And that software lifted and anything else found on his hard drive weaponized against him.”

Marshal struck an innocent, offended tone. “Ms. Harrison! This is the United States government we’re talking about. If they are behind this, I’m sure they will utilize the proper channels...”

“...to crush the anticapitalistic forces beneath their boots,” Bentley finished for him.

“Hey! There it is.” Drake cruised past a darkened bungalow that sat in a dirt lot and parked the van a ways down the block.

Marshal swallowed, the side of his face throbbing where he’d been struck. He patted his tool belt, gave his crew a silent look, and slipped out the door.

Drake had established baseline activity at the location ten days before, so he could detect any third-party surveillance. Thus far, his equipment showed none. They were alone.

He and Bentley huddled in the back of the cargo van, watching the feed from Marshal’s body cam on a laptop screen. Their adrenalin-fueled readiness fairly snapped in the air, like static electricity. They each knew their order of go. Marshal would get inside. Bentley would follow and escort Gatsby66 out, and then Drake would back the van up to the door so they could load the server and get out of there. It was the quickest way to secure the vulnerable files and their owner.

Marshal waded through the pools of darkness surrounding the house, heading for a side window they’d designated as the entry point. He used a flat piece of metal to slice the screen and disable the lock on the sliding frame. Then, all his teammates could see onscreen were blobs of black as he somersaulted through the opening, into the darkened room.

The camera picked up his pinpoint flashlight and unsteady gait down a hallway, and then down a set of basement stairs, slightly illuminated from below. Midway, Marshal paused to detect his target and center himself. In a rush, he swooped into the underground room and seized an older white man by the neck, one hand clapped over his mouth.

The man had been hunched before a desktop monitor. His eyes flashed with terror, until Marshal’s whispered message reassured him: “It’s a wonderful life,” came the safe code that IDed him as a friendly, to prompt the owner to relinquish the node containing the ledger. Although the files’ safety was paramount, the decentralists were to place human capital first during any operation.

“Let’s get out of here.”

Marshal released his subject and motioned him toward the stairs. Bentley, watching remotely, rose from her crouch in the van, groaned, and said, “That’s my cue.” Drake saw her follow in Marshal’s tracks along the side of the house, more overtly but no less efficiently. The woman could boogey, that was for sure.

The next thing Drake knew, the camera feed showed Bentley ushering Gatsby66 around the corner of the house. He glanced out the front passenger window to see them moving his way. Drake went for the back door; the sound of it opening covered a buzz from his surveillance line, which he did not notice. Then, the commotion of two bodies spilling through the double doors distracted him from further activity just yards from the van.

“Asset secure,” Drake relayed by mic to Marshal, who had just liberated the computer tower from its tangle of wires in the home’s basement.

“That’s a relief,” mumbled the frightened man who trembled on the floor of the van.

“Not quite.” Bentley’s eyes were trained out the passenger window, and her voice knifed a new threat.

“Shit,” Drake said, following her gaze. “They’re early.”

A trio of black-garbed figures slid toward the house. Drake started the van engine and relayed an alert code to Marshal.

Gatsby66 sat down hard against the wall of the van. “Who—what ... where’s your guy?”

Bentley silenced him with a glare while Drake communicated softly over the hotline. He wheeled their vehicle away from the curb and called, “Bent! You’re on. M. needs some backup.”

As the van crept past the bungalow, Bentley pushed out the door and faded into the dark yard.

Marshal could hear light feet padding at the top of the stairs and cut his breathing. To keep the list and signing keys out of the wrong hands, he’d have to stay alive. He left his flashlight on the desk, removed a length of wire from his tool belt, and waited a few steps away.

It all happened noiselessly, with the expected outcome: one down. Another dude still held the front door, as Drake had warned Marshal. The third one probably found our escape hatch, he calculated. That left the backdoor as an exit. There’d be no help from

Drake ... they’d have to come back for the tower. Marshal recoiled the wire into a palm, his mind humming over the remaining obstacles.

He continued to regulate his breathing and became still, as if swimming among venomous water moccasins. The slightest thud in the direction of the open window upstairs reached his straining ears, and he hoped that Bentley had got her man, and not the other way around. Emerging in the yard out the back, he saw her approach him and signal. They split up to double-team the guy out front.

Just then came the forced whine of a cargo van backing up the driveway at full speed. A dark form dove sideways as it crashed into the porch. Marshal made for the back double doors. He could hear Bentley’s heavy steps pound the dirt behind him as he worked the handle. Lights switched on at nearby homes. A dog took to barking.

“Boss, no!”

Then an iron fist gripped his wrist. Marshal toppled forward and was pulled in through the van doors. His breath whistled as his hurt ribs blocked his diaphragm. In the light thrown from various dashboards, Marshal realized he’d misjudged the posse. The eyes he looked into were unfamiliar.