As Brody stood in front of the small mirror in his room and brushed his teeth, the cold bright light of the morning burned away some of the aching thoughts from the night before. It’d take some caffeine in his veins and clocking in to his desk before he’d be fully free of them.
No faster route to madness than getting lost in nostalgia.
Memory was well and good. It was actually useful sometimes, necessary to remember to brush your teeth in the morning, become presentable to the outside world, to remember to not turn back once awake to spend the rest of the day cowering in a corner of his room.
Nostalgia, however, was another beast. Showing you flickering movies of another place and time as far away from your reality as distant galaxies. Nostalgia gave you pictures of what you had and could never have again. Even if you sought it out, a re-do, a step back. Even if you were to cross the world and make your way back to it, it could never be close enough to what you dreamed in your mind’s eye. Nothing would ever be as you remember it to be. No one would be the same.
“It’s really not bad, not worse than you thought. He’ll never come back, he’s the man you dropped. He’ll never come back, he’s the man you loved.” Again, with the song lyrics. Brody had no idea where he had heard this one either. Must have been something one of the teenagers who babysat Dana played.
What was Carrie now? Memory or nostalgia? Just as his love for Jessica had run its course, not able to survive the war and everything that came after it, Brody knew, that were they ever reunited, his love for Carrie likely could have dulled just as much. Most likely, it had mutated far away from that headiness, the fire that came from the prospect of being with her away from it all, running with her, escaping both their lives. Finding freedom and peace and making a life for them and the baby. Alas, the train had quite literally left the station on all of these dreams.
His mind awakened more as he dressed and tidied up his room, slapping his pillow with the idea that, even if it were possible, Carrie was the one at advantage here. She was fucking CIA for Pete’s sake. She had a much better chance of finding him than he’d ever have of finding her, even if he were in a position to go looking. Or did she finally break free of the CIA on her own? After the baby, did she finally leave? Did they let her?
Brody walked from his building to another building to start his day’s work. The place was an army barrack of sorts, though Brody couldn’t be sure what army he was now working for. If weather was any clue, this place seemed like the desert, yet didn’t have the oppressive dry heat of what he had experienced in Iraq, nor the humid stickiness of his time in Afghanistan. Maybe Nevada or some other such place? Could it be the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms? The ground under his feet did recall those deserts where he’d trained in California. The sky, however, wasn’t the clear high blue he remembered of that part of California. It was much grayer and the air smelled vaguely of chemicals at all hours of the day. Maybe it was some place with no controls on pollution or there was a chemical plant somewhere nearby. You got the feeling that if someone walked around with a Geiger counter, it’d be clicking and crackling constantly with the toxicity of the air.
Marching to take his place in line at the door to get into the computer farm, Brody shook off thoughts of all the unknowns. Once his rehab was done, he had been immediately ready to give back. His need to know who his captors were, or even if they were captors, took a back seat. For all he knew, he may have been free to pack up and leave anytime he wanted, but, somehow, he didn’t really want it. Repaying the people he now lived among for giving him back his life was his first priority.
When Dana had first shown him the You Tube and all those crazy cat videos available at the push of a finger, Brody knew he had come back from war to an entirely different world. He could add the anxiety of catching up on all the tech advances to the rest of his baggage of stress and trauma. The world of information changing hands had changed overnight it seemed. He had barely gotten the hang of SMSing before his deployment. Even in the military, they still used old modes of communication, tapping shorthand messages among themselves to save bandwidth. No one exchanged cat videos in Iraq. At least not before May 19, 2003 when his convoy was ambushed at the Syrian border and he and Tom Walker were taken hostage.
When he got back home, learning the internet was, admittedly, the last thing on his mind. Despite the steep learning curve, with a mission to do, Brody was motivated to learn as quickly as he could. And, boy, no other time was he more thankful for advances in technology than when Carrie was held captive. Seeing her face on his phone when Nazir had her chained up: Such a thing wouldn’t have been possible in 2003 when he got on that bus to go to war. Seeing her like that was the only push he needed to do Nazir’s bidding once and for all. The vision of her in danger, the threat of losing her so tangible on that little screen, was all the impetus he needed to finally kill the Vice President as he had been ordered to do. It had also been the catalyst he had needed to finally be honest with Jessica about Carrie and to leave his family.
So, yay for technology, right?
When he’d first been enlisted, folks had been using email for a while but the rest of the internet was pretty much still a place for scientists to exchange their papers and for the rest of its users to exchange porn.
Dana had showed him some music she liked on My Space. The annoying pop-up player blasting music before it was ever asked had Brody scrambling for the volume button and wishing for the quiet of the cave again. She told him she kept a sort of public diary, a blog, she called it, on Live Journal but never showed him that. But she did share her profile on the Facebook. Crazy that a program invented for Harvard kids to rank each other’s looks had spread to something no person in the world could live without. At the time, Brody didn’t get the big deal. Sure, when his kids were babies, it would have been useful to share their pictures and events with his parents and Jess’s and other family who lived far away. But that was what Christmas letters were for and good old-fashioned picking up the phone every now and then. Poking each other? Sending virtual flowers and greeting cards? What was the point? Also what kind of business model was that? Granted the kids who put it together were barely out of college, but, if it wasn’t just a school project anymore, what was the long-term plan for how they’d sustain it as a business?
The people he worked for now saw the whole social media thing as very much a big deal. These people and the people who ran Facebook and all the rest of it knew the power of such a reach. The technology made money off of eyes, eyes were necessary to change minds. It was a win-win, both for those selling eyes and for those selling messages to change minds.
The ethics of the deal was far from Brody’s mind. All he knew was that the people who had rescued him wanted him for his English speaking and writing abilities. That took learning computers and they taught him everything they needed him to do. Great leap of faith they took in training a man to wrangle the information highway knowing he had been holed up in a cave through most of the internet revolution. A leap of faith for which he was now indebted to them.
As he walked to his desk, Brody noticed a group of men huddled in one of the offices at the edge of the hub. They seemed to be speaking animatedly about something, all in varying volumes. Before Brody turned away, he distinctly heard a name he thought he’d never hear again: Saul Berenson. They referred to Saul as the Director of the NSA. Brody stayed close to listen more carefully but what followed was some less audible back and forth between the men. Then, one of the men pulled out a sheet of paper and read off a list of several names, most of which sounded Russian.