The Regional Office Is Under Attack!

By: Manuel Gonzales

For Anabel and Dashiell and, as always, to Sharon

Get out, get out of my sanctum and drown your spirits in woe.

—Pythia, the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi

From The Regional Office Is Under Attack:

Tracking the Rise and Fall of an American Institution

If you were wealthy, but extremely so, and you were in the market for a lavish adventurous getaway, one that might require the retainer of Sherpas—in the event that you came across a mountain you wished to scale—as well as a hot-air balloon and balloon crew in case, well, that came up, too, the desire, if you will, to hot-air-balloon over the glacial formations off the southern coast of Chile, then you could hardly do better than to contact the staff at the Morrison World Travel Concern. Located on the ground floor of an unassumingly expensive building on Park Avenue between Fifty-Sixth and Fifty-Seventh, the Morrison World Travel Concern catered to only the most lavish of vacations.

Although, in truth, if you were the kind of wealthy individual who could afford the kind of service provided by the Morrison Concern, more than likely, they would have already contacted you. They had been known to do this with an almost preternatural instinct for not just the best way to find you but for offering you a vacation package you didn’t know you had always longed for until it was offered. Then, once it was offered, you would experience such a strong urge to take the vacation they had suggested that you would be practically unable to do anything else until you had.

The agents of the Morrison Concern once set up an illegal nighttime zip-line tour of the Manhattan skyline (for a prince of Saudi Arabia) and, a few years ago, handled the arrangements for a private, curated tour of the Titanic, led by the filmmaker James Cameron, the travelers exploring in retrofitted (for safety and comfort) nineteenth-century diving suits they then had the option to purchase as keepsakes (for a Canadian couple who wish to remain anonymous). There is a rumor that they once burrowed deep into the Perito Moreno Glacier and there constructed an elaborate reproduction of the interior of Sleeping Beauty’s castle for a young girl’s seventh birthday party, and another rumor that they once entertained but ultimately declined a young tech-industry billionaire who wanted to host a New Year’s Eve party on a submarine as it sank into the deepest depths of the Mariana Trench.

How they obtained the resources to outfit such expeditions, no one knew, but outfit them they did, and with uncanny skill.

If, however, you were not wealthy, or even if you were, but were not particularly interested in the Mariana Trench or New Year’s Eve parties, but were interested, rather, in the amassing forces of darkness that threaten, at nearly every turn, the fate of the planet . . . or, say, you were concerned with the fate of your mother, who was stolen from you when you were very young, abducted and then brainwashed and made into a triple or quadruple agent, only then to be killed in a firefight thousands of miles away, and you were seeking cold retribution for this . . . or maybe you had been told a frightening prophecy about your as-yet-unborn first child and you wished to have it confirmed or refuted by an oracle . . . or your daughter, your once-sweet little girl, had begun exhibiting problems at age fourteen or fifteen, or not problems but issues, or not issues but powers, had begun to exhibit unprecedented physical strength and mental willfulness that you hoped to have fixed, or not fixed but cured, or not that either (the word you were searching for, ultimately, was honed) . . . if these were your needs, then once again, there was perhaps no better place to start than at the offices of the Morrison Concern.

In which case, you asked for Kathy and then mentioned that you would like to book a trip to the Lost City of Atlantis. A few years ago, you would have asked to book a trip to Akron, Ohio, under the assumption that no one walking into these offices would have actually wanted to book a trip to Akron, Ohio, until shockingly enough, one particularly wealthy and eccentric older gentleman did, which led to any number of complications and a prolonged and messy bit of cleanup, and eventually, a protocol change. Regardless, mention Atlantis and Kathy and you would have been led by a woman not named Kathy—no one named Kathy has ever worked for the Morrison Concern—to a special VIP elevator, which would have delivered you nearly a mile belowground to Level B4, the only level accessible by this particular elevator.

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