Clean Floors
rating: +6+x

"Don't you find it strange that the new caretaker never goes home?" Henriette Star was continuing the talk she had with one of her subordinates, she had struck up over lunch. The two woman were walking side by side through the concrete corridors of Base Six. "I mean he is not the only one without a social life in here and with that virus around I would not like to go back into civilization ether." Henriette Star was usually not as interested in her colleagues, nether there social life nor there opinion of other staff, but for him, she had to make an exception. Her other colleagues invited her to meals or private meetings, but she had always managed to slip away under a pretense. When they meet to discuss work related topics she got it done quick and than usually left before small-talk could take up even a second of her time. But this to her was not small-talk. She needed all information she could get. If that meant she had to endure her colleagues company than she would endure it.

Her mind was still occupied with the strange caretaker and information about him was worth her time. He just showed up at Base Six one day, wearing a white suit, top hat and red tie. The security guard had scanned his ID and that thing triggered a silent alarm. Ms. Star, as part of Beta staff was notified, but as soon as she went to open the emergency protocol that described what should be done if that specific ID was read in, she knew that something was very off.

The protocol stated that this ID belonged to a staff member currently under investigation from the DIA. The Department for Internal Affairs was an entity that no longer existed within the Insurgency. The department had been phased out years ago. The alarm was triggered, but the reason the alarm was triggered itself was anomalous.

As the ID was still valid, despite the silent protocol triggered by it, the guard let the man in. He introduced himself as a caretaker of Base Six, he even had a key for one of the sealed off offices. Base Six had several rooms that went unused and were locked to keep out people with a tendency to wander into rooms they had no legit business in. From junior agents smoking pod in empty broom closets to senior researchers redecorating empty offices into there personal relaxation vaults.

The room this strange man had the key for was indeed an unused janitors office on LV 5, it even was the "Head Caretaker Office". It was a room with a history. Some empty rooms in large buildings develop creepy stories around them, like the Skull-Corridor, that place allegedly located in the base filled to the brim with human skeletons or the staircase into nothingness apparently located behind a wall down in LV 6, the lowest level this base was supposed to go underground.

The room that once housed the old "Head Caretaker Office" was apparently the last known place where a researcher named Dean Kuhli vanished. Cameras allegedly showed him entering the room for seemingly no reason and than never coming back out. Records of someone named Dr. Kuhli were still in the Insurgency data base, but he was still working at Base Four. The incident was explained via a falsely overwritten security tape that actually showed a door in Base Four and not the "Head Caretaker Office" of Base Six. But the believe in these stories was unshaken.

The strange caretaker took his duty back up and no one came forth to ask who authorized this. Ms. Star was sure that someone did so, but after her own investigation into the guy she had found nothing. He was now just there, as if he had never left the office. He wore the standard maintenance staff uniforms, most of the time, but no one had seen where he had stored that dress-up he had arrived in. He was not antisocial, far from it, but staff had difficulty recalling there conversations with him. One bit about him however almost everyone remembered. He talked no different about people than objects. When asked whether he was aware that he did so he had always replied that he broke humans down by function. They needed maintenance and replacement if necessary. Ms. Star had tried to get the people that told her this to repeat it on record, but non of them could recall that they ever told her something like this. They had no reason to lie. Some of them were even known for throwing people under the bus for a comment like this. Why would seven higher staff members lie about a caretaker? By now Henriette Star feared that she had just made this part about her target up. This would be bad. Should she unwittingly forge evidence her investigation could become completely unusable.

By now it was as if most other members of Beta staff just accepted that he was here, cleaning the floor, fixing pipes and emptying trash bins. He was like a ghost in these halls.

Ms. Star had once tried to get a movement pattern analysis of the guy, but which ever routes he took, she could not build the pattern. It was as if he was moving through the walls, through tunnels that were not documented, with elevators not within the regular maintenance plans. The head of Information and Communication, Werner Hiks had reluctantly helped her, but she suspected that he actually sabotaged her efforts. She could not however prove this suspicion. Werner was usually infallible when it came to keeping track of information.

Ms. Star had not noticed that she had separated from her coworker a while ago and had been wondering through the base aimlessly, deep in her own thoughts. Now she looked up and found herself in a corridor she did not recognize. This base was big enough to get lost in. She saw that the floor had been freshly cleaned. Some water was still visible, so this could not be one of the completely sealed off areas. They were usually closed off as a whole, to prevent people from using the long corridors for "chair races". A shiver ran down her spine as she recalled the day she saw five adults on office chairs racing down a corridor. She had lost quit a bit of faith in her colleagues and humanity that day.

She went over to one of the office doors, to identify the corridor via the room number, but the office had no number sign, which meant the room was empty. She thought nothing of it and went to the next door. Again, the door was unmarked. She felt a little annoyed. It was reasonable that some rooms in such a large base would be empty, but this much wasted space went against her planning and optimizing nature. She went over to the next door. It was unlabeled as well.

Ms. Star noticed that all of the card-readers on the steel doors had power, which was unusual for unmarked rooms. She wondered if she had stumbled across a hidden operation of some junior staffers to do something silly, while off-limits. She ran her Beta clearance through the scanner and the door opened. She had braced herself for a pot-garden or a laboratory filled with fresh cocaine even a model train track would have not surprised her, but she was not prepared for what she saw. She had never been a field agent and had never been prepared for such a sight, even in all her years in the Insurgency. The room was stuffed with dry bones and from the look of the skulls, human bones. She took a step back, one hand on her mouth holding back a scream and the other hand on her stomach, trying to hold in the vomit.

She made another step back and felt her foot slipping. She saw the sealing of the corridor and than her head hit the hard pavement.

A caretaker in a red caretaker uniform and a cylinder hat came out from around the corner. He put the mop cart aside and went to look at the fresh blood on the floor. It was luckily not much. He than looked over to the woman on the floor. He did not even pick her up, instead rolling her into the room with the skeletons, than he closed the door. He went back to the cart, got his mop out and wiped up the blood. After no trace of blood was left he placed a yellow "Warning: Wet Floor" Sign in front of the door in the middle of the corridor. He than turned and left. During all this his face had not changed one bit.

Henriette Star awoke in her bed the next morning. She went to work as usually. The only difference was that she suddenly felled that the base was not as empty as she had previously assumed. Almost all of the offices were always filled. They even sometimes had to shuffle around to store some experiment that suddenly needed a whole room for itself. She was even happier than usually, talking with her two best friends and semi-flirting with her male coworkers. She thought she had forgotten something important, but trying to remember it only frustrated her and gave her that strange feeling of something being terribly wrong in Base Six. Perhaps the thermostat in her office was malfunctioning. She would let the caretaker fix that while she went back to business as usual. She had to clean out some papers that had collected in her room. They were completely unreadable to her and were probably written by a madman. Something about the DIA and a man in a suit. She would ask Werner Hiks to track down this person that saw fit to fill her office with ramblings. That person needed help, a bit of maintenance so they could go back to being productive.

"We were to late. We should have been more direct." Terbold Nevgrem, smoked his cigar quenched between his teeth, because he knew the moment he would get the thing in his hand he would snap it. Before him were several broken matches. When he got nervous he needed to snap things in half. It gave him a feeling of power not proportional to the effort required. He needed that feeling of power to be in control and he needed to be in control otherwise he would be paralyzed with fear right now. The amount of Beta staff in Base Six, which still had there head straight, had decreased once more. The "Head of Military Operations" was just glad the he still had some people who had there head not screwed with.

The room was only moderately illuminated, leaving the corners shrouded in darkness. The conference room was usually meant for larger gatherings, but now only four Insurgence occupied the leather chairs around the massive, oval, wood table.

"Than we are complete, I think. It is all downhill from here. Sara from accounting is out. Tim has become a family man, so there goes the medical department. Archy thinks he is a nice person, not sure how that will affect containment and now Henriette is getting social, so personnel management is gone as well." Kim Novac was counting them on her fingers. She was Base Six's "Head of Security".

"I am not sure whether or not we can take him like this. Maybe we should get Werner back on board. We could really need the help of the chef of information and communication." Richert Janson was "Head of Food and Supply" and felt very uncomfortable, being forced into an important position.

"Werner knows about this guy and us and than got his head screwed. I am just glad that his new 'keeper of secrets' gimmick did not come with a 'I start spilling on my former colleagues' add-on." Nevgrem was sure that Werner was a problem by now and no longer an asset. Nevgrem had tried to contact Base One, Eight and Four. He even attempted to contact high command directly. There had been no response. It was as if they had all been wiped off the maps. Nevgrem was sure that Werner Hiks was involved in this strange occurrence.

The last person in the room had kept quiet. She was not fond of the situation, but she was here. She had not expected the invader to return and start to properly invade this time around. Maggy Spenser was part of the task force originally keeping an eye on White-Smile-Cat, the being that now claimed the title of "Head Caretaker". She knew force would be necessary to get rid of him, but the force needed to get this tumor out would destroy Base Six in the process. The cat had found the one hiding spot they could not just burn down with nuclear fire, there own base. When she had seen how the man in the suit looked after operation "Nuca-Field", she wanted to push harder, but the ones upstairs had seen his ragged form not as a "holy shit, why is there even something left of him?", but as a "If that is all he is now, we won".

Spenser's team had been fractured. It was no longer in control of the situation. The archive had thrown her out here. Where it put the rest of her team she could only guess. They had not contacted her or the high command. Ever since White-Smile-Cat had taken control over Base Six the Archive refused to be opened. At least the thing no longer produced Base endangering earthquakes. Spenser was worried about the rest of her team, but she also knew that she could not just sit down and wait. There was something deeply rotten in Base Six and she intended to fix it, before it consumed the base, its assets and eventually the entire Insurgency.

Terbold Nevgrem drew out a box from his briefcase. "We are not out of options yet. We still have an Arsenal to bring down on his head. I have made a list of what we have. As long as one of us stands, we will fight on. For the Insurgency."

"For the Insurgency." came the answer in unison. That it had been four voices answering Nevgrem staid unnoticed.

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