All Quiet in Site-101

rating: +3+x

"Another day at Site-101" thought Dr. Oskar Wysocki turning up for his shift. He liked his job, of course. Digging through ancient stuff brought in from all over the world all day long, often before any other organisation so that he and his colleagues may check for the presence of anomalous phenomena. In a nutshell, he had a preview of many historical discoveries. But damn, it felt boring from time to time. They had been removing dirt from an artifact for days and in the end it was a disappointment. Now it was time to get rid of the waste.

Oskar was signaling the operator. "Ok, open the hatch and let the dirt onto the truck." The operator heard him through his headphones and gave a thumbs up. The dirt began to flow under the not so keen eyes of the researcher when he saw a glimpse of something. "Wait… STOP!" The other man seemed confused, but complied. Oskar then turned to a colleague. "Maciej, grab a shovel and help me out! Hurry up!" The two researchers climbed on top of the truck and began to dig. Finally, after 2 long minutes, a shovel hit something different from dirt. "What is it?" asked a voice from below. "No idea." At that point a small crowd of researchers and operators had gathered around the vehicle. Oskar saw something, something white. Cloth? Yes, it was cloth, like a lab coat… "Holy shit… it's a dead body."

"Any idea who this is?"
Oskar turned to see the head of the project looming over his shoulder. "Ah, Doctor Witkowski. No, he had no documents, but the medics are getting an identification right now." Both men looked at the personnel sent from the medical wing. Luckily the face was mostly intact, so they simply needed to do a visual check of the site archives.

A couple of minutes later one of the medics got up and headed towards the duo. "We've confirmed he's… was one of us. His name was Łukasz Szulc, he worked at the ornithology lab. I've already sent word to notify his superiors." He looked for a moment as he thought he was forgetting something. "And his family, of course."
"Of course." Repeated Dr. Witkowski.

After the medic got back to the body, Oskar addressed his superior. "What do you think happened to him? We are far from the ornithology lab." Witkowski looked at his young colleague with a patient face. "We work near a mess hall, maybe he had an accident on the way there." Oskar could not believe what he had just heard. "An accident!? How could he have ended up in the dirt? And so far down the surface of the tank? It would take quite a lot of digging and climbing to do so, not something one does by accident."
Witkowski sighed. "Maybe he's been there a while and slowly got covered by the dirt we were removing from the artifact." But Oskar was ready to reply. "Impossible. We would have received word if a researcher disappeared more than a day ago. Plus he was way too well conserved to have been there for more than a few hours. How can you not see this was done intentionally?"
His superior once again turned to him to reply, this time in a mildly annoyed tone. "Look, kid, I ain't dumb, but trust me. Stay out of this, it's for the best. Sometimes it's just better not to ask." He looked around for a second. "Now excuse me, but there's a meeting I have to attend to."
Oskar felt a bit shaken, but Witkowski had always helped him since he arrived at the Site. He had no reason to doubt his judgement this time either, so he decided to try and not think about it.
The incident had led to a stop of all activities, so he had the rest of the day free. The best thing was to go back to his room, read a book to calm down and maybe get some sleep. After all, he really needed it after the extra hours he put in the last project.

The sleep and rest Oskar had hoped for never came. He kept thinking and moving in his bed. No. He could not let this slide. He would need to investigate this matter, on his own if necessary. What Dr. Witkowski had said had only got his gears working more. Clearly it was not the first time something like this had happened, everybody was too calm, and yet nobody was asking questions or doing anything else about it. Security barely even got involved… unless they had been involved from much before. Maybe that's what his boss meant. Fuck.

He would need to go higher, to the chief of security or maybe even the director. Yes, the director was well respected at the Site, you could ask anyone and all would have the same answer "A great and brilliant woman, always happy to help." But first he needed proves, or at least clues. Oskar got up, dressed and exited his room in a slight hurry.

When he arrived at the morgue he found it empty, with all lights off. Hopefully they hadn't done an autopsy on the body yet, or even worse got rid of it. To avoid unwanted attention instead of using the lightswitch the researcher used a torch he had brought with him and, after a bit of looking around, he found it. Łukasz Szulc.

Now, time to find some clues. But what was he even looking for? "Hm… oh, right, cause of death first." Now that he could see the entire body, naked and without dirt, that was pretty easy. A large wound on the side of the head; he was probably hit by something heavy… but there was something in the wound, other than some remaining dirt that is. Oskar took a sample and got to the closest microscope. Rust. Rust? Where the hell would he have found rust? Definitely not in the research wing; everything there was new and clean. Must have been in one of the warehouses. For a moment he thought about going now, but clearly, someone was willing to kill for… for whatever reason the murder had happened. The warehouse was a no go, for now. He needed to go see the director.

For the first time since he had begun working for the Foundation, Oskar did not feel safe. Well, of course there was always a risk of dying due to an anomaly, but that he had signed up for. Getting murdered was another thing. The young researcher was looking left and right. He tried to not look backwards suspiciously, but he was too agitated to succeed. Luckily there was no one around the amministrative sector corridors at that hour of the night.

"Fuck, I'm an idiot. She must be sleeping now. I'm gonna have to wait until morn… or maybe not." The initial line of thought quickly ended when he saw the sign on the door was green, indicating the director was available to receive visits. She really was a night owl. Oskar knocked on the door, hoping not to sound like he was in a hurry. "Enter." said a voice on the other side of the door.

"Hello, please come in. What brings you here this late? My researchers need rest to work efficiently." Director Dąbrowska was sitting at her desk, with an heartwarming smile and a tall pile of papers in front of her. She looked a bit tired, but that was to be expected at 2 am.
"Sorry, to disturb you, director. I'm researcher Oskar Wysocki-"
"Ah, yes. You had quite the day today. I read head researcher Witkowski's report. It's always a sad day when we lose a colleague."
She had such a calming tone, Oskar felt relaxed and secure; nobody in the Site could touch her, and by extension, nobody could touch him. She also was very pretty, but the researcher tried not to think too much about that detail. He had to concentrate now.
"Yes, that's why I am here actually. I think Szulc was assassinated."
"Assassinated?" Her expression seemed doubtful. "Look, I know this must have been a shocking-"
"I checked his body! There was clear sign of trauma. And someone has to have put him in the dirt pile silo!"
The director stayed silent for a few seconds. She seemed to have been at least willing to listen to him. "I see. And why would that not have been mentioned in the report."
"I.. I don't know, ma'am. My theory is that someone high up is covering it. Possibly in security."
A shadow was cast on the young director's face as she lowered her head.
"If what you say is true, the situation is troubling. Any idea who might be involved?"
The sadness in her voice was more than obvious. She had worked hard to be so liked at the Site, the thought of betrayal must have hit her hard.
"No, but I have a lead. The murder most likely happaned inside one of the warehouses, probably one of the closest to the archeological laboratory, where the body was found. I know that doesn't narrow it down by a lot, but it's a start."
"I see. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I'll get a trusted medic to exhamin the body once again. In the meantime, get some sleep. You look like you need it."
"I have to admit I don't feel very safe, director."
"I understand." She was smiling again, just a way to help him relax probably, but it was appreciated. "You don't know who to trust. It's fine, believe me. I'll post a guard, a personal friend of mine, near your room, if that makes you feel better." The fact that she took his well being so seriously was flattening, but she was know for caring about her subordinates after all. He could not help but blush a little anyway.
"Yes, thank you very much, director."
"Good night, Oskar. And good work."
"Thanks. Good night."

While the sleep was far from relaxing, it did help Oskar to round up some ideas. Most importantly, he decided to do the investigation himself. He would ask the director for permission, of course, but he had to see the end of this. He could not trust security, he could not trust anyone. And secondly, the rust. In the warehouses it could be found for any reason, but it would make sense to start where it's most likely to be, near the dock. It made sense, water had a tendency to oxidise metals pretty fast after all. But first, he needed food. As researcher Wisocki exited his room, the eyes of the guard put there by the director followed him until they met his. They nodded at each other and Oskar continued on his way to the mess hall.

The young researcher was usually delighted to go to the mess hall, one of the few places located in the small above ground part of Site-101. Natural light from windows was the sacrifice for secrecy when having a Site at the edge of a sea town. However, today the food mood was not the usual one. Oskar got a couple of fried eggs and then found a seat, alone, at a table near the corner of the room from where he could keep an eye on all Foundation employees present. There were many. Some appeared to be from the ship that had been docked at the Site for maintenance for the past couple of days… could their presence be linked to the murder? Possible, likely even, but he had no way to investigate the ship by himself, too well guarded.

While lost in his thoughts he had finished eating, so he got up and headed back to his room. However someone was waiting for him outside the mess hall, the director herself.
"Hello, Oskar. Slept well?"
"Oh, yes. thanks… and uh good morning."
Her face was unusually serious.
"I have a favour to ask of you."
"I'd like you to make some investigations on your own. I don't know who I can trust in security, and all of them are kept in check, while you… you could go around and no one would notice."
Oskar smiled. "I was about to ask you the same thing myself."
"Oskar. This could be dangerous. These people killed before, they will kill again."
"I understand, director, but I can't let you down."
"I see. Thank you. I'll make sure to get you out of trouble if necessary."
"My pleasure, director."
"Just call me Agata, it's faster. Good Luck."
"Thanks… Agata."
She smiled and began to walk towards the administrative sector.
Oskar had to admit to himself that even from behind, she was a great sight. Well, he had a mission now. To the dock warehouse!

It took him some time to get there. The long corridors leading from the main structure to the docks were pretty long when traversed on foot. Luckily there was enough traffic to make him an unnoticeable presence. From what he knew, they were still moving objects from last week's delivery. Once he reached the dock, his search began. A search for what? He wasn't sure.

So started a long and quite obsessive search for clues. He looked in every corner, behind every crate. A couple of workers asked him what he was doing, but he simply said there was a piece missing from the last artifact they had received and was sent looking for it. They seemed content with the answer and left him alone. After three hours and two and a half warehouses checked, he finally found a lead. Pipes. Rusty pipes, previously part of the external infrastructure of the dock. Of course the murderer had gotten rid of the weapon he used, but such a crude killing was probably done on the spot, withour preplanning. This led Oskar to believe that it had to have happened close by… maybe even within 5 meters.

He looked around one last time, checking that nobody was watching him, and got down on the floor. Being an archeologist had trained him to have a very keen eye and it didn't take much of the close examination to find what he had been looking for: blood. Not much of course, just a couple of stains on a crate nearby. He could not be sure about it being Szulc's, accidents happen in warehouses, but the shipping info said the crate had arrived recently and that was proof enough for the young researcher.

He had found where, he had a rough idea on when and now he needed to know why. Fortunately, he already had an idea on how to find out. Unfortunately, as the researcher set up his masterplan, a pair of eyes was observing from the shadows.

Oskar's plan was one of those plans so stupid that they actually work. He had found a crate which had not been moved in years, emptied it, made a hole from which he could see outside and got inside. Now it was only a matter of waiting. The young man had never been very patient, but these people were willing to kill. And as such he definitely was willing to shut up and wait.

And wait he had, for quite a long time. Quite a few hours after the sun had gone down and the lack of light made the work on the external dock quickly slow down and stop, one of the gates of the warehouse opened and a vehicle entered. Oskar could not see it, they had parked it outside the sight clearance of his hole, but he would have bet it was some kind of van. Shortly after the passengers finally came into view. A man, dressed like a gentleman and two thugs with guns. They were clearly not Foundation personnel, unlike those who arrived to greet them. Four members of Site Security were there.

The well dressed man spoke. "So, is everything alright? This early delivery was unexpected."
The guards looked at each other and then one responded: "I've been told to inform you that there will be a delay for the shipment next week. We had troubles."
"I'm guessing that's why you were in a hurry to get this stuff out. What kind of trouble?"
"I've not been told to tell you. If the boss wants you to know it, you will."
"Fuck. I'm gonna get an aneurysm from dealing with idiots like you. Whatever, tell Czerwiński that I want answers. Understood?" Holy shit, the fucking deputy director was involved? Shit. Shit. Shit.
"Yes, I will pass on."
"Good." He then spoke to his thugs. "Exchange the crates. Fast."
His men unloaded from the van what sounded like empty crates and took 3 crates from the warehouse. The well dressed man gave the guard a briefcase. Full of money, probably.
When the loading was complete, both parties left, leaving Oskar alone in the room.
He waited 10 minutes just to be sure, but it was time; he had to check the crates unloaded by the thugs. Maybe they'd give him a clue on what they once contained.

"DO NOT OPEN", was written in big letters on top of the crate. Yeah, I get that, but why. He had to find the seals which indicated what type of dangerous item it contained… alive maybe? Or toxic? Or… He finally found the seal. Memetic. They were selling memes? Those crates could have contained hundreds of papers… but why? What kind of memes? Memes are dangerous. No, memes are not dangerous. Memes can be dangerous, but there are so many varieties. They can provoke nearly any kind of effect by tricking your brain… maybe they were selling them as if they were a drug? Giving pleasure to the users? Most likely. But now there was no time to ponder, he had to get back to Agata's office. If the deputy director knew, she was the only one who could stop him. "You shouldn't be here, Dr. Wysocki."

Oskar froze. He slowly turned around, to see the face of Emil Wróbel, chief of security. Maybe he could help him. "Chief, I can explain. I've been sent here by the Director and-"
"You shouldn't be here." His voice was cold and firm. He had his gun out.
"Oh, so it's like that."
"Unfortunately for you. Now move, the boss will want to see you."
The chief looked surprised. "How the… you're good eh eh. It was nice while it lasted. Come on."

Oskar began to walk. The cold barrel of the gun on his back. They slowly moved through the empty corridors, heading to the amministrative wing. He felt as if he was walking to the execution chamber. And maybe he was.

"Before I… die. May I ask a question?"
"Sure, I guess."
"What happened with Szulc?"
"Ah, the dead guy. He noticed some inconsistencies in the shipping records. He decided to investigate, not unlike yourself, but he was caught and in the heat of the moment one of my guys killed him. You are we could say, his spiritual successor, but no one will continue the search this time."
Oskar had to get out of this situation, no matter what. Not only for him, but for the director, surrounded by criminals, and for the Foundation itself. He could not let their mission be compromised by these assholes, it was too important. They were passing by his lab now… he could only hope. A loud thump came from inside. Yes. Emil, surprised by the noise, pointed the gun in that direction. It was time to strike! Oskar turned around and punched him in the jaw. He then kicked the gun to the other side of the corridor and ran away. "FUCK. RUN LEGS, RUN."

Orskar reminded himself to thank Dr. Zawadzki for always being up late working and making noise, when he got the chance. But now, he just had to run like his life depended on it. It did, after all.
His only chance was the director. Nobody in this damned Site could touch her; it would be a death sentence. Or so he hoped. He had already gotten far and he heard nothing from behind, but he would not take the chance at slowing down. After what felt like an eternity, there it was: the director's office.

Oskar burst in like a tornado. "DIRECTOR!"
She was there, in her chair, smiling as usual. "Oskar, breathe. You look exhausted."
"There's no time!"
Now her face was much more serious, ready to take in what had clearly shocked the young researcher.
"It's the deputy director! And chief Wróbel and others! I think most if not all of security might be in on this. The situation is dire, there is no one we can trust. They already tried to take me, but I managed to escape. I came directly here, I know you can fix this, all of this."
The director was looking at him. Her expression was enigmatic to say the least. Oskar was about to start talking again when a voice interrupted his line of thought from behind.
"I told you he was good."
The researcher turned around to see deputy director Czerwiński himself sitting on a chair in a corner of the room.
The director answered to the man, in a calm voice. "You were right. He got to you within two days."
Oskar was confused for a moment but it didn't take much to piece it together. "What… you! You were in on this as well! How could you do this! The entire Site trusted you; I trusted you."
"It's just business, dear Oskar."
He gulped. "When the Board of Directors learns of this…"
"They won't. Most definitely not from you." As she said this, chief Wróbel and another guard entered the room.
"You… you can't do this!"
"I can and I will. Take him away."
Oskar began to scream in a mix of panic and rage. The couple listened as the sound slowly faded into the distance.
"What should we do with him, Agata?" Czerwiński asked.
"Find out if he told anything to anyone, then bring him to the Farm. Tell our operatives there to feed him to the pigs, that should get rid of everything, unlike your sloppy work with Szulc."
"Dead, for fuck's sake. We're businessmen, not goddamn animals."
"Sorry, had to ask."
"A shame, really. I kinda liked him, naive as he was. But it was bound to happen with all that goodwill and nosy attitude. We risked a lot this time. You better tighten up security on this part of the operation."
"I will. By the way, the raid on that building where they were selling the stuff they stole from our transport wente smoothly."
"Good. Anything else to report?"
"No. I haven't been able to get in contact with ALDA yet."
"Well, I guess we can't blame them. The Foundation forces in Italy actively oppose their operations; no wonder they don't trust us. Keep trying."
"Yes ma'am."
"Now go get some sleep."

Dr. Witkowski was sitting on a bench near the entrance of the Site. It was lunch time, but he never liked the mess hall, so he was enjoying the meal his wife had prepared for him. That's when he saw deputy director Czerwiński approaching him. "Ah crap, here comes trouble."

"Good day, Dr. Witkowski. I need to talk to you."
"Of course, deputy director. What is it you need?"
"I don't need anything, I'm just here to notify you that Dr. Wysocki has resigned from his position." The old researcher had a bad feeling about where this was going.
"May I ask why?"
"He was too shocked by the events of the other day, with the dead body and all of that. But do not worry, you'll get a replacement soon."
"I see, can I speak with researcher Wysocki? Say goodbye?"
"Ah, I'm sorry to say he left in a hurry. I don't think we'll ever see him again, if you get what I mean."
Fuck. "Yes, I understand."
"Good. Have a nice lunch."

As the deputy director headed back to his office, Dr. Witkowski realised he suddenly wasn't hungry anymore. Shit. He should have been more insistent with Oskar when he tried to dissuade him from investigating. He should have helped him, he should have done more! Instead he had let him get killed. Another victim of the shithole that the Site had become. Great and safe, as long as you kept your mouth shut and closed an eye. People like him were the ones that could try and do something, but he was not willing to risk his family. Never in a million years. Maybe one day things would change, but how? He could only hope they had mercy on Oskar, but he doubted it. He sighed. Witkowski threw his lunch in the bin and began to walk towards his lab. "Another day at Site-101."

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