December 24th, 2011
Daniel Horatio Aeslinger, Psy. D. stood with his back to the room, facing the window. Outside all was quiet and dark, mostly dark. The single point of light in the room behind him only made the outside world seem more desolate.
On the desk, spread out in what would to the average observer look like a total mess, but was in fact a highly sophisticated method of organization that only he understood, lay eleven personnel files that didn't exist. They looked unobtrusive enough; simple manila folders with neat handwriting on the tab denoting their subjects. Eleven of them, and he had to work through them all. He'd been at it for the last six hours, reading, making notes, comparing those notes with those in the dossiers, written by his predecessors. One of them had asked for a profile on eleven of the twelve others, the twelfth one having gone to Bjornsen for some reason. And now he was weary, his hand ached and his brain was alight.
As he stood there, watching the dark calm, the first snowflakes began dropping. It was the one thing that could get him sentimental, snow. It brought back memories of his childhood, of misshapen snowmen and fortresses diligently made over the course of weeks.
What a way to spend Christmas eve.
He'd noticed a pattern in the files. Each of the employees portrayed in these documents was a well-adjusted, but not too well-adjusted person. Each of them had some small quirks, except for #6, whose quirk seemed to be that they were quirkless. Each of the people portrayed had an exemplary track record within The Foundation, having risen to power by simply doing their job better and more efficiently than their erstwhile colleagues. He didn't buy it for one second. All of the files before him had been fabricated, but he couldn't for the life of him think of a good reason why they would be this badly fabricated.
He leant back in the rickety chair he'd found in this office. Its usual occupant was probably busy having a ball at the Site's annual Christmas party. Closing his eyes he tried to walk through all possible scenarios that would leave him here, in a spare office on Christmas eve reading what amounted to fictional biographies of people that officially didn't exist. And didn't want to exist.
In the end the only reason he could think of was that they wanted to see how long it took him to see through the whole thing. But why then give Bjornsen the last one? Or was it perhaps a case of a pawn being reminded of their nature? Have someone do something useless just to remind them they can be made to do anything, even if it doesn't make sense?
He'd never be on the O5 council, that was for sure.
As the windows caked up with snow, the only sound in the sparsely decorated office was the haphazard snoring of a middle-aged man drooling on the folders under his bearded cheek.
Daniel awoke with a snort, causing him to profusely apologize to no one in particular. Several files were now impossible to return to records, but he figured they hadn't come from there in the first place anyway. When the courier came in the morning, he'd explain. He doubted the courier would care. Switching on the computer in front of him, he prepared to write up his final reports on those twelve people in charge of what was undoubtedly the biggest conspiracy in the history of mankind. As it was booting up, he stepped outside into the hallway.
When he'd started, he'd had a thermos of coffee with him. Coffee that he knew tasted like coffee, in stark contrast to the concentrated monkey's armpit juice they called coffee here. But that thermos had been empty for the last three hours, and his body was craving caffeine. Standing outside of the small room, he looked left and then right, trying to remember how he'd come in and whether or not he'd seen one of the Site's coffee machines. He thought he had, two lefts and a right from where he stood. As the computer behind him merrily bleeped its way through its awakening, Aeslinger closed and locked the office's door behind him and went on a personal quest.
It had not, in fact, been two lefts and a right. As the amount of both lefts and rights had now jumped to the double digits, he was fairly sure that he was as far from the office he needed to return to as he was from a cup of decent coffee.
He was now thoroughly lost and still caffeineless. He didn't recognize any part of the building he was in, and as he'd only received the key card to the one particular office he'd been working in until a little more than an hour ago, he couldn't look outside for potential landmarks. That is, if he'd be able to see them through the snow outside. He found a small bench standing against a nondescript off-white wall and sat down with his head in his hands. He had a good GPS tracker on his company phone, but that required him not to abandon it next to a booting computer, which he of course had done. He sighed and counted the emergency lights on in this hallway. It came to seven to the left of him and nineteen to the right of him. Nineteen minus seven was twelve. What a coincidence. He leant back too sharply and hit his head on the wall. Muttering, he nursed the back of his head.
Not to worry, he was going to get back to that office. Somehow.
Daniel Horatio Aeslinger was oblivious to the muted sounds of laughter and music making their ways through the miles of corridors. One leg dangled awkwardly down from the bench on which he lay, the other was stretched out on top of it. His jacket had been folded up and placed underneath his head, and his hands were folded across his belly. The steady rise and fall of his chest made it very clear he was not, in fact, going to get back to that office today. Perhaps on Christmas Day, and with help, but for now he would stay put. It didn't matter, the work wasn't due until the 27th.
In the office several feet to his right a computer patiently waited for one Daniel Horatio Aeslinger to input his credentials. It had nothing better to do on Christmas eve.