by Brian Lusk
XENON SEWER DRAIN CLEANING AND MAINTENANCE LOG:
"Janitor Second Class Roger Wilco recording. The cleaning of the sewer and drain system in the Xenon capitol city is proceeding on schedule. Sectors 3 through 6 were completed yesterday. Sectors 7 through 9 are scheduled for today. Only 5246 sewage sectors left to clean in this cycle."
Roger Wilco wiped his brow, streaking fresh grime over his already-slime covered uniform arm. Three solid sixteen hour days in this muck was getting old. Shucks, it was old after the FIRST sixteen hour day!
He carefully swapped the bucket of cleaning solution to his other hand. No wonder his boss on the XOS 4 had grinned so wide when giving him this temporary assignment. Roger was sure the man was not happy with his performance, especially after being caught asleep while scrubbing the plasma conduits on C deck. This just proved it.
Roger began his work, spraying the interior of the sewer pipe with cleaning solution. He wasn't certain which smelled worse, the sewage of a million toilets and showers, or the cleaning solution, which smelled like sweaty socks dipped in fresh Orat droppings. Roger mumbled to himself, "I shoulda stayed on the Deltaur when it blew up..."
Many hours later, the soiled sanitation engineer paused and looked at his chrono. "Lunchtime!" he thought. Sitting on the bucket of cleaning solution, Roger pulled his lunch sack out from his bottomless pocket. Biting into his Terror Beast Tuna sandwich, he leaned against the wall and shut his eyes. A long shift, indeed. And only half over besides. Maybe if he rested his eyes a little, he would be able to handle it for another eight hours...
Meanwhile, in a small, dark apartment, Creytis opened the door to the bathroom. The tall, ugly Xenonian looked back at his co-conspirator, and said, "Not a word of this, Corath, not a word. If the Xenon ruling body discovers our plans before we put them in effect, it means instant death for both of us." The scar on his face glowed red, puss and blood oozing from the cracks between stitches.
It was an ugly scar on his right cheek, starting from the edge of his brown eye and running in a jagged curve down his cheek until it crashed into his chin. His bushy eyebrow covered the start of the scar, and framed his deep-set eyes. His nose, slightly crooked, seemed to hang in midair, as though it was forced against its will to stay with a face it abhorred. Thick lips slurred his words slightly, giving credence to the source of the scar.
Corath twitched, uncomfortable. His thin body was no match for Creytis, but he knew he was safe. For now. Once the plan was put into effect, Corath knew he was expendable. His position as Deputy Director of Security was not particularly important, but gave him access to the information Creytis needed. And, enough power to make reports like the one in Creytis' hand dissappear from a locked room before being reviewed by anyone, including the ruling body of Xenon.
Creytis turned again, walking into the bathroom. He dropped the report into the toilet, flushed, and watched as the last incriminating pages sunk into oblivion. "Go now, Corath. I will ensure the agent that delivered this report meets with an unfortunate end."
Roger turned, seeing the horrid monster again. "NO! I won't let you destroy me!" he cried. "NOOO!" The monster rushed closer, closer, closer... Running down endless sewer pipes, Roger fled from the pursuer, knowing he would never make it. He turned one last time, as the monster engulfed him...
BLOOOSH! Engulfed him in the water of a toilet flushing, that is. "Yuck!" he yelled, leaping from under the pipe he had fallen asleep below. Grabbing at the nearest item, he scrubbed his face clear of the excrement and sewer slime. "Blech... that's the last time I fall asleep in the sewer!"
Finally, with eyes clear enough to see, Roger examined his 'towel' and found it to be a report of some kind, stamped 'TOP SECRET'. "Huh, may be interesting reading! Perhaps I'll read it at the end of my cleaning shift." Shoving the report in his pocket, Roger grabbed the bucket and sprayer, and continued his work of cleaning the sewer pipes.
XENON SEWER DRAIN CLEANING AND MAINTENANCE LOG:
"Janitor Second Class Roger Wilco recording. Completed sectors 7 through 9 today. Large blockage in section 9 pipe 15b required extensive work to clear. Recommend pipe in question be subjected to high-pressure steam cleaning."
Roger dropped his soggy stylus onto the log pad. Not just 16 hours today. The clog in 15b had required an additional four hours of hand work to clear, and he had a huge amount of garbage under his fingernails. "What a day." he muttered.
The janitor looked up and around the small room. Then Xenon Sewage Maintenance manager had found the seediest motel room in the worst part of town for Roger to stay in. The six locks on the door attested to that fact. Police hovercars ran over his motel room every 15 minutes, sirens blaring like cats stuck in a drain pipe. He wasn't sure what the stain on the far wall was, but there was no way he would get close to it.
Roger glanced out the window through a hole in the tattered drapes. Deep night, indeed. Murky mists seemed to hover around this motel, obscuring everything outside. "Even the stars above seemed to avoid this pit", he mused. Roger sighed, then headed for the bathroom to change clothes and get a shower.
Shower complete, Roger clicked on the TV, hoping for some good holo-drama, or perhaps a leftover news clip from the Golden Mop ceremony a few months ago. The TV only received two channels, one played a rerun of the "I Love Zeusy" show, the other displayed an all-news channel. He left the TV on the news channel, and picked up the report he'd obtained earlier. "Perhaps," he thought, "there will be something in here to put me to sleep tonight."
"In other news, a horrid traffic accident occurred late this afternoon at the corners of Phleebut and Fronzel streets. The driver of a late model Cataract 9150 hovercar slammed into the side of the Ministry of Security building. Police report that open bottles of Keronian Ale were inside the vehicle, and drunkeness is suspected. The driver, one 'Rames Bondo', died at the scene."
"Rames Bondo? Is that?" Roger stared at his report in disbelief. His hand shook, and water dropped from the pages into his lap. Through blurred eyes, the janitor stared until finally, his eyes cleared enough to see. The name of the delivering agent, written in the bottom right corner, was Rames Bondo!
Roger paused in front of the Ministry of Security building, a plastic Husky sack hanging from his left hand. His janitor's uniform was heavily soiled from the last several days of drain cleaning, but there was nothing more he could do about it now. He looked upward at the building he was about to enter, and steeled his nerves to make the entry.
Even though the building was clearly modern in design, it gave off a medeival aura. Although Roger couldn't put his finger on exactly why, it gave the impression that it was an ancient castle, with dungeons and torture chambers awaiting the unwary. Two matching guard-bots bracketed the door, discouragement to the casual civilian. Roger gulped, then proceeded toward the entrance.
Roger had read the report now contained in the sack three times last night. Each time, he had barely understood what passed before his eyes, but knew instinctively the report was important. Names were mentioned, people he only knew of, important people. Members of the Ruling Body, Defense Director and some staff members, key leaders in the military, and other names he didn't recognize. Words like 'anarchy', 'new regime', and 'seize power' had been sewn throughout the report. He knew he had to get the report back to the Director of Security, somehow.
Roger walked past the scrutiny of the droids, and into the sinister building. A long hallway stretched ahead of him, with many bleak doors along both sides. As he walked down the shadowy hallway, he read the names of the many rooms: Interrogation Chemistry; Laboratories A, B and C; Foreign Affairs; Surveillance Technologies; Weapons Technologies. Finally, he came to a small desk where a wonderous sight came into view: a fellow Xenonian! And, a cute one at that!
"Hello, may I help you... why, you're Roger Wilco, aren't you?" The young woman stood up, smiling broadly. "I read all about the incident with the Sariens in the newspapers, and couldn't be more honored to meet you in person."
"Um, thank you, Miss... Um..." Roger squinted at the name tag on her shirt. "...Miss Buxomly. I'm looking for the Director of Security. I have something very important to deliver to him."
The young woman frowned, then checked the papers on her desk. "I'm sorry, Mr. Wilco, but the Director has given me specific direction that he is not to be disturbed for any reason at all. Perhaps someone else can help you?"
"Well, I was cleaning the sewers yesterday, and found this report... are you sure I can't drop this off to the Director? It seems awfully imp..." Roger stopped as a thin man stepped out of an office behind the young receptionist.
"Mr. Roger Wilco, isn't it?" the thin man asked. "I believe I can deliver your report to the Director. I'm headed to his office now, and can easily include whatever might be in your, um... sack."
Roger thought it over for a moment, fighting his nervous desire not to trust anyone with this report. "Well... all right. But you need to promise me it will go directly to the Director himself, and noone else, OK?"
"Very well, Mr. Wilco, the Director and noone else will see this report," the thin man assented. "My word on it."
The janitor reached out his hand, shook the other man's hand, and said, "Thank you, Mister... er..."
"Corath. The name is Corath Turpin, and I'm the Deputy Director of Security. Don't worry, Mr. Wilco. Your report is safe with me."
Creytis put the phone to his ear, then listened. Although he couldn't believe what he was told, action had to be taken. Resetting the phone hook with his hand, he dialed another number, then spoke in a low tone. He dropped the receiver back into the cradle, then sat on a chair next to the phone.
Two of his men were even now moving to find Wilco, and terminate his existence. By tomorrow morning, the janitor would be found dead in his own sewers, a victim of mixing bleach and his own sewer cleaner in an attempt to speed his work.
Wilco's supervisor had been at it for three solid hours... standing in a sewer, no less! The two thugs shifted uncomfortably, standing ankle deep in slime they couldn't identify. And, the smell! One thug had tried holding his nose for the first two hours, but nothing seemed to block the stench.
The other thug peeked around the corner again. Wilco and his supervisor were just a few feet around the corner, but the bucket of cleanser they had been trying to reach was on the other side of the janitor. Impossible to reach, the two hoodlums waited impatiently to dump the bleach into the cleanser and be gone.
Ah, finally! The supervisor turned to leave, and Wilco was walking him to the nearby manhole cover and escort him out. He slithered around the corner, and watched the supervisor and janitor carefully as he quietly poured the bleach into the bucket. He slithered back around the corner to wait a little longer, since the mixture would take only three minutes to explode. Their instructions were very explicit: wait for the explosion, then ensure the nosy sanitation engineer was dead.
Roger sighed, then walked back toward his cleaning supplies. His supervisor had chewed him out for being late yesterday, and wouldn't accept the truth. Now, he had to finish cleaning sector nine as well as sectors 10 through 12 that were scheduled for today. For a minute, he wondered if he were actually cut out for different work, starship command, maybe.
He stopped in front of his cleanser bucket, and contemplated his future briefly. His stint in Sewer Maintenance was only scheduled for another three weeks, then he was supposed to return to XOS4, and after that...
Roger absently picked up the bucket, and threw its contents around the corner of the nearest pipe. According to the Material Safety Data Sheet, he had to obtain fresh cleanser every four hours once opened, or it lost cleansing power.
Deep in thought, Roger walked back to the manhole, and climbed out to get more cleaner. He slid the cover in place just in time to miss the surprised yells of the two thugs and the explosion that ended the yelling.
XENON SEWER DRAIN CLEANING AND MAINTENANCE LOG:
"After working for 26 hours, sections 9 through 12 are clean. I found some weird stuff in section 10, red fluids and pink scraps of something, but I didn't have time to figure out what they were. Sections 13 through 15 are scheduled for tomorrow, and I hope I'll be able to wake up in time to start my duty shift."
Roger dropped the log pad into the read slot in the Sewer Maintenance workshop, then retrieved it when the light blinked green. He walked home wearily, exhausted from the long hours of hard work. Section 12 had been extra grimy, and had contained a lot of industrial waste. Nasty stuff, but the cleanser he used had finished the job.
Finally, he stood before his motel room door. As he fished for the key in his pocket, he noticed the door was damaged, more so than before. The adrenaline washed through Roger, with little effect. Reaching out, he pushed the door open, just hoping to make it into his bed without collapsing.
He walked into the room, then tripped over a chair. "What's that doing there?" he mused, then walked on. His clothing was in a pile on the floor, and his matress was half off the bed frame. "Strange. It looks like someone searched my room." he muttered to himself. He bent over to haul the matress back onto the bed frame.
Searched my room... heh. The adrenaline finally hit Roger full power, and he whirled to check, just in time to intercept a heavy fist as it crashed into his head. The last thing Roger saw before his eyes closed to a starry blackness was an ugly red scar.
Roger's head exploded with pain as he finally began to regain conciousness. Either he'd been drinking too much Keronian ale, or someone had performed amateur surgery on his head. Unfortunately, judging from the lack of stomach nausea, it must have been the latter of the two options. Through the pain and haze, he heard a low, slightly slurred voice speaking.
"...wakes up. I want to find out how he killed two of my best men, and I need to know how much of that report he read." Another voice responded, "Right, Boss. I'll be right here outside dis door."
The door shut, leaving Roger alone. Moments passed, as Roger fought the pain to open his eyes. Blinking into focus, he studied the ceiling and the single light bulb above his head. He climbed to his feet, then looked around the small room. Four blank walls and only the one door. Not even a window to look outside. A sagging dresser adorned one wall, a bed frame and stained matress the other.
With nothing else to do, Roger idly began searching the room for clues. The top drawer contained nothing but socks and somebody's underwear. In the middle drawer, Roger found some pants and t-shirts, but still nothing useful. Among the gloves and scarves in the third drawer, the janitor finally found something interesting, if not potentially useful: a dirty spoon, left by some previous meal-eating patron. He pocketed the spoon.
Roger knelt next to the bed, and searched underneath. He pulled out some huge dust bunnies, but nothing useful. "Wait, what was that?" he thought to himself. Scrabbling a little farther in, Roger's hand touched a soft round object, a ball of yarn. He pocketed this as well, then sat on the bed.
SPROING! Roger jumped off the bed, barely managing not to scream. Poking through the matress was a bed spring! "Gee, that smarts!" he thought. Pulling the spring out, he slipped it into his pocket and sat back down to think.
An hour later, no idea as to how to escape had come to the janitor's mind. If he wasn't locked in a room with no windows and a guarded door, he might have a chance, but as it stood, no options. Just as Roger was about to sink into despair, the door opened, and in stalked two thugs carrying laser pistols.
"Out. Boss wants you."
"How did you kill my men?" Creytis demanded. With each passing moment, he was getting more frustrated at the janitor.
"I've told you! I don't know what you're talking about!" Wilco cringed, waiting for the scarred-man to slap him again. Roger had been tied to a chair, and subjected to severe beating for two hours. He was mystified at this entire line of questioning. He'd killed no one, at least not since the Sariens on the Deltaur. "Are you a Sarien agent? I swear, I didn't know that Star Generator would..."
Creytis turned around, facing away from the prisoner. "Shut up, you moron. The Sariens would shoot you on sight, then ask your dead body the questions." He didn't understand how this janitor could withstand this much torture without breaking. He hadn't even acknowledged the fact that he had killed two men!
"I've just about had it, Wilco. Yesterday, in the sewer, my men were to set you up for the explosion of your pitiful life. A whole bottle of bleach in your sewer cleaner should have... heh... wiped you clean out of your own drainage pipe. What happened?" The glare Creytis sent Wilco was enough to freeze a Keronian desert.
Roger thought hard, trying to remember yesterday morning. "I think yesterday my supervisor dropped in and chewed me out. He was at it for three hours, kinda sounded like you do now." The janitor paused, then his face lit with excitement. "I threw out the sewer cleaner right after my supervisor left! Your men must have stayed in the sewer pipe, 'cause I just dumped it around the nearest corner, then left to get some more."
The blow Creytis hammered Roger with knocked him clean out of his chair. With his hands tied behind his back, the janitor had no way of stopping his fall, and ended up on his face. "You are telling me that you didn't know? Come on, Wilco! Surely you can do better than that! You are telling me it was pure luck, and you had no idea?"
"Well, basically, I suppose..." Roger mumbled into the carpet.
Creytis grabbed Roger's hair, and pulled him off the floor. Standing him up, Creytis pushed Roger into the chair. "How much of that report did you read? Huh?" Creytis brought his arm back for a roundhouse blow at the janitor.
"Wait!" Roger cried out. "I read the whole report, but I hardly understood half of it! I figured it was important enough that it needed to get back to the Ministry of Security. That's it! Honest!"
Creytis smiled slowly. This would be all right, he concluded. The janitor clearly knew nothing important, and his real problem, agent Rames Bondo, was dead as well. Even so, Wilco had to die, but in a way that couldn't be tied back to him. The smile broadened further, as he thought...
"Where are you taking me?" the janitor demanded for the fifth time. There were two other men in the hovercar which skimmed just inches above the ground. Accelerating even faster down the tiny alleyway, the driver just rolled his eyes in disgust and ignored the question.
The other man leered at Wilco. "Ya really want to know, eh? It ain't gonna be pretty, I guarantee that!" The man shoved the laser pistol into Roger's ribs even harder. "Don't worry none, though. You'll be well dead before it gets TOO nasty!" The man chuckled under his breath, then sat back in his seat.
Roger worried anyway. The section of city they were driving through was the dirtiest industrial section of the city. In fact, two months ago an entire sewer cleaning crew was found dead in this section, only skeletons remaining. One of the processing plants in this sector had dumped thousands of gallons of highly corrosive acid into the pipe, literally on top of the heads of the crewmen. Roger was assigned here to replace the cleaning crew after every other member of sewer maintenance quit, rather than enter this section.
The light dawned in Roger's eyes. "You aren't... no, that's just cruel! You aren't going to dump me in some of that acid, are you?"
One of the thugs smiled. "You're pretty smart, for a janitor. What better way to eliminate the body? Besides, we's gonna shoot you first anyway, just to make sure."
Roger tried to think of some way out of this mess, but he only carried some yarn and a couple odds and ends. Besides, his hands were tied behind his back, a most unfortunate place for hands to be at a time like this. He thought furiously, trying to come up with some kind of plan.
The hovercar settled to the ground behind a large, apparently abandoned processing plant. The two men got out of the vehicle, then circled the area checking for unwanted visitors. When they returned, one man grabbed Roger's shirt and hauled him out, then leaned him against a nearby wall. Roger felt a sawing motion against the ropes, then they fell from his hands.
When Wilco turned around, he saw the other man removing the grate from a large underground storage pit. He was marched toward it, from which vantage he could see a vile-looking purplish liquid which smelled very bad was contained in the pit. Roger closed his eyes, waiting for the laser blast in the back that would end his life.
The blast. Screaming. Shouts of dismay.
Roger opened his eyes. He was still alive! He turned in time to see one thug shot down before his eyes. The other sprinted toward the hovercar, weaving back and forth to avoid the laser fire from above. Roger thought to himself, "From this distance, I might be able to knock him off balance with a well thrown rock, or something."
Casting about for something to throw, Roger found nothing. He reached into his pocket to see what he could use, and found only the ball of yarn. Without contemplating further, he aimed and threw the yarn as hard as he could at the fleeing felon.
Unfortunately, Roger's throwing arm is about as good as his love life. The ball fell far short, then unravelled as it rolled after the criminal. But wait, it caught the thug's foot, tripping him headlong onto the pavement! Diving at the first man's laser pistol, Roger leaped up and aimed, prepared to blast the man at the slightest provocation. But, he was out cold.
From above Roger's head, he heard the whir of a rapelling harness. A thump to his left, and another man stood next to the janitor. "Mr. Wilco?" Roger nodded. "Pleasure to meet you. I'm Rames Bondo, Ministry of Security agent."
Wilco and Bondo cruised down a little-used back road deep in the heart of the capitol city. After Roger's narrow rescue, Bondo had made short work of the scene. He had searched the dead man's clothes quickly, relieving him of IDs, credit cards and a small arsenal of weapons. He then dumped the body into the pool of acid. The second man was similarly relieved of his arsenal and then tied up and secured in the back seat of the hovercar.
Roger finally asked the man beside him, "I saw on the news that you were killed in a car wreck. What happened?"
Bondo's face saddened. "Actually, it was my twin brother that they killed. I was supposed to meet him at the Ministry of Security for lunch, but was running later than expected. I saw what happened..." He gulped. "Anyway, that's when I realized that they were after me."
He turned towards Wilco, scrutinizing the janitor carefully. "Now I want to know why Creytis wanted you dead, Wilco. You weren't in their plans at all when I first heard about this plot, just... well, a variety of high officials in the government."
Roger thought, then spoke. "Well, Creytis asked me a lot of questions about the report I took back to the Ministry of Security. The report had your name on it, too."
"What do you mean, 'took it back'?" Bondo demanded. "I submitted that report directly to the Ministry of Security myself. It should never have left!"
Wilco contemplated briefly. "Actually, it was flushed on top of my head while I was cleaning the sewers in sector eight. I never did know who flushed it. When I turned it in, I handed the report to some guy... I can't remember his name... Deputy something or other."
"Deputy Director of Defense Corath Turpin?" Bondo asked quietly.
"Yeah, that's the guy!" Roger exclaimed.
Bondo gripped the steering wheel harder and stared out the windshield. "Corath Turpin is not only the Deputy Director of Defense, he is also my direct contact into the Ministry of Defense. And the man I submitted that report to originally."
Roger sat behind the wheel of the hovercar, waiting for Rames' signal. After interrogating the captured thug, Bondo had lined out a basic plan to stop Creytis and his group of criminals. Roger's role was simple: he was to create a diversion, allowing Bondo to enter undetected and kill Creytis. He would... Roger's mind wrenched back to the present... Rames Bondo was signalling.
One of the two captured pistols sat on the chair next to Roger, the other was grasped tightly in his hand. "Three... two... one... NOW!" Roger slammed his foot on the gas, propelling the vehicle faster and faster, towards the building wall. Closer... closer... Roger closed his eyes, looking away from the oncoming doom. Time stretched, longer, longer...
The hovercar blasted through the brick wall, scattering mortar and bricks into the building, and finally bumped to a halt in the middle of the cavernous factory floor. Kicking open the door, the dazed janitor fell out, and fired the pistol blindly. A man yelled, then the thud of a body hitting the floor resounded through the open space.
Roger opened his eyes, and looked around the large, but empty room. He spotted a man lying on the floor, and assumed it was the man he had shot. Carefully checking every nook and cranny, Roger stalked toward the unknwon body to check for identification. Kneeling by the fallen man, he rolled him over, and looked.
"Oh for crying out loud!" Roger mumbled. The man he had shot was none other than Rames Bondo.
Rames stirred, then opened his eyes. "Wilco, you idiot! You shot me in the arm!"
Bondo wrapped a rag around his arm, then stood and looked around. The factory appeared totally deserted, even the equipment gave off an aura of death. Roger and Rames puzzled over their find, wondering what had happened to the busy operation they had expected to find here.
Rames spotted a group of offices towards the back of the building. Together, they trotted across the giant room toward a set of double doors in the office section. Gently nudging one open, the two men sneaked into the office section, then down the corridor clearing rooms one by one. Roger found the room where he had been incarcerated, then later the room where he had been interrogated.
Rames used his one remaining good arm to beat on the computer terminals and equipment in hopes of extracting additional data on the criminal group, but in vain. Data storage media and computer fixed storage alike were wiped clean. Drawers and file cabinets alike were bare, emptied of their contents.
Finally they reached what was clearly Creytis' former office, where they performed their most intense search of all, hoping to find a clue as to the villain's current whereabouts. The entire room had been swept clean by the inhabitants. Even the dark corners behind the credenza... wait a second. Roger took a closer look behind that dark credenza. It appeared to be an ancient magnetic backup media... a DDS-23 backup tape!
Rames Bondo commandeered the tape, and hauled it back to the server room they had already searched. Popping the tape into the tape drive, he began the restore process and settled down to wait.
This story is ©; 2002 Brian Lusk.
Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
None of this story may be reproduced, copied, or sold without the written permission of myself and crediting the author.
All Space Quest references are ©; Sierra On-Line. All rights reserved
short story archive - novel archive - help - contacts - broomcloset