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Title: You Don't Have to be Crazy Dead to Work Here (But It Helps).
Part: 9/22
Author: Jashyr
Genre: Horror/Black Comedy
Word Count: 50,000
Disclaimer: These characters are mine. They live in my head and make me do crazy things like entering NaNoWriMo...
Rating: PG-13? Probably.
Warnings: Some gore. Written for NaNoWriMo last year and while it has been re-edited the punctuation police are still looking at it suspiciously.


Chapter Nine

The Few, the Brave, the Redundant

The Monday passed uneventfully for most of Holt’s employees. They’d noticed a large Toyota 4x4 parked in Ged McPherson’s old parking spot but no-one except the gossips in the telesales team paid it much attention. Everyone, however, was interested with the thumping and banging from the unoccupied top floor.

“Someone must have finally decided to do something to fix the roof,” announced Liam after he’d sneaked up the fire exit to have a look on late in the afternoon. “There are a bunch of big, hefty guys moving metal mesh and partition walls around the place. Looks like there’s a whole load of welding gear up there too.”

“About time too,” stated the normal quiet Nat from the other side of the room. “After everything that happened last week we don’t need another disaster like the last time the roof leaked.”

“And if they’re replacing all the payroll staff then the office upstairs will need to be spruced up a bit,” pointed out Kim practically. “It’s difficult enough to get financial staff on the peanuts that the company was willing to pay the old staff, if the new people take a look at the state of the old office they’ll never get anyone to join.”

“Piers said there was going to be an announcement about that at the team meeting this morning,” announced Raj, typing away. “I’m wondering if the police have found something.”

“Don’t be daft,” ridiculed Liam, “the papers would have said something if they had. The Tribune said the investigation was pointing towards an engine problem that no one could have predicted.”

Looking up from her desk by the door Shona addressed the rest of the department, “speak of the devil, Piers is on his way down here now. Looks like Internal Audit are in on this meeting too. Must be a biggie.”

Right on cue Piers pushed open the doors to the IT office and motioned Hella and Pete through ahead of himself. Taking one last look behind himself he clicked the manual lock on the door and went to stand in the centre of the office while Pete and Hella snagged some empty chairs. “Everyone, can you please listen!” he shouted to get everyone’s undivided attention. “I’m sure everyone has been affected by the tragedy last week and its fallout. Now our new parent company, Reapmore, has decided to step in to help us in these troubled times. From tomorrow their finance department will be running our accounts.” He stopped and held up his hands as a rumble of outrage swept across the department. “Now I know you’re all worried, and that’s understandable but this is only a temporary measure and all the IT equipment will remain in place. Reapmore don’t have the specialised contractor scheduling software that we need to run the business smoothly and they are also unfamiliar with our tools so they will be remotely connecting to the PCs upstairs. We, however, have a new problem that I need Shona and Kim to work on. Reapmore have a very progressive disability policy and our current data entry software is not designed for the levels of missed keys and invalid entries that we will soon be getting. Hella, Pete, we need to tighten up error checking, if you don’t mind. Raj, don’t worry too much about the networks, they’re putting in a dedicated line upstairs to deal with the additional bandwidth. Nat, Liam, you’re going to have to remote onto the PCs upstairs if any of them get a problem as your users will be several miles from them. Deal with it. Any questions?”

Nat raised his hand to the sniggering of Liam, “is it true that there will be redundancies?”

“Not in this department there won’t be,” promised Piers. “Reapmore have made noises about taking over our security details and possibly the cleaning of our offices to consolidate working practices but they're all contracting staff anyway. Our jobs are all quite safe.”

“Will we still have the party?” asked Hella, “or are we cancelling it as a measure of respect?”

“It’s already paid for and there’s nothing to gain by cancelling it,” said Piers quietly, “though we could really do with toning it down as it wouldn’t look good to the press if we went ahead in the town hall. Would any of you mind if we just had the food delivered here to the big meeting room and put the disco on the AV system? We’ll just order the booze in and call for taxis to take everyone home.”

There was an undetermined murmur from the assembled techies and Piers took that as assent. “Right everyone, I just wanted to also say how proud I am of the department’s reaction to the tragedy. You should all be proud of yourselves too.” He nodded to the crowd and headed back out of the door.

“Is it just me or does he seem even more stressed?” asked Nat quietly.

The others watched Piers disappear down the corridor. “Yeah, “agreed Kim, “but as he said we’ve all been under a lot of pressure recently.”

Pete and Raj just shared a worried look. “Shona, Pete, could you come and check that this new bit of wiring meets the proper standard?” asked Raj in the most nonchalant voice he could manage. “I don’t want it to interfere with the work upstairs.”

“Yeah, sure thing,” replied Pete heading towards the data centre room.

“Um, ok?” managed a confused Shona, never having had to check anything of Raj’s before. She wandered over to the data centre and was hussled in by the two guys. As soon as they were inside, half deafened by the fans of all the computers inside she asked, “ok, what’s all this about?”

Pete and Raj shared another worried look and Pete shrugged, leaving the explaining to Raj. “I think Piers knew about the accident before it happened,” he began.

“What!” exclaimed Shona. “You can’t possibly believe that!”

Checking to make sure the door was locked, Raj led the two of them round the back of the server cabinets where the fans were noisiest and there wasn’t even a miniscule chance of them being overheard. “He had an argument with Holt the Wednesday before the crash. Piers was shouting about how he wouldn’t let IT and Internal Audit be involved in the big reorg that Holt was planning with the finance department. He threatened Holt with both the police and, of all things, food hygiene inspectors. Holt backed off but not before Piers mentioned a ‘big trip’ for finance. I’d thought it was just about the Alton Towers vs a piss up celebration but now with Reapmore moving in to take over the company accounts I’m not so sure.”

“You can’t really think that Piers knew something about the accident and didn’t try to stop it?” queried Shona. “I know he’s management but I don’t think he’s sold out.”

“I don’t know how much he might have been privy to,” admitted Raj, “but Holt did threaten him and imply that he’s got a whole load of blackmail material on him because of his collusion with something else. About animal carcasses,” he shrugged. “That bit didn’t make much sense to me either. I’m wondering if Reapmore are part of those illegal abattoir sales that Channel 4 make documentaries about every so often. The ones they keep going on about being a front for terrorists.”
 
“Now you’re just being stupid,” snapped Shona. “You’re letting your imagination get carried away. Did anyone else hear this conversation?”

“Er, no,” confirmed Raj.

“Are you ENTIRELY sure about what you heard, considering that its taken you this long to piece together those little pieces into this complete nonsense?”

“Well, I hadn’t really thought too much about it until we got news of finance being farmed out.”

“Is the possibility that you completely misconstrued what was said SLIGHTLY more plausible than Piers being involved in a takeover of the company by an illegal meat packing plant that required all of our finance department to be killed off in a flurry of carbon monoxide and a weak-hearted driver?”

“…yes,” admitted Raj.

“You two watch too many spy movies,” snarked Shona as she headed out the door shaking her head in disbelief.

“Well at least we tried,” remarked Pete on his way back out into the office area.

“And a lot of good you were,” shouted Raj after him, quietly deciding to hide in the server room all day just in case.

****

Heading out after everyone else had gone home that evening, Raj passed Gerry, his least favourite security guard in the entire universe, sitting with his feet up on the reception desk and engrossed in reading a pamphlet emblazoned with the happy smiling snowflake emblem of Reapmore. Raj was being as unobtrusive as possible as he passed but Gerry called out to him, “evening Jeshi boy. So have you lot got one of these then?”

Shaking his head Raj politely meanandered over to the front desk to view the pamphlet whose front read ‘Reap more profits! Reap more benefits! Reapmore Cryostorage, keeping food fresh for longer!’ then in larger, more florid letters ‘Dealing Constructively With Your Redundancy.’

"Reap more? Rip off more staff is more like it," grumbled Gerry, running his hand through his white hair. “I’m 64 this year, who’s going to want to employ me any more? Heh? It’s alright for you young’uns, you’ve got years ahead of you but what about us security guards. Poor Errol is so upset he left without taking his church stuff with him.”

“Really,” said Raj desperate to get away. “I’m sure the company won’t leave you in the lurch, not with all the furore in the papers about the coach accident.”

 “Well considering they’ve got spacemen doing up the top floor nothing would surprise me anymore,” declared Gerry with a conspiratorial look in his eyes.

Raj was taken aback for a moment, “spacemen?”

“Yeah, I’ve seen them walking into the lift maintenance cupboard in work gear and coming out in spacesuits. Late at night, mind you. Never during office hours. Downright creepy if you ask me.”

“The maintenance room round by the ground floor kitchenette?”
“Yup”.

“Maybe I’ll go have a peek and see.”

“You go do that Jeshi boy. I ain’t lying about the spacesuits!”

Having managed to get away from Gerry but intrigued by the whole spacesuit thing, Raj wandered around the twisting ground floor corridors and into the kitchenette. Checking to make sure no one was watching him he tapped the admin code into the keypad by the side of the maintenance room and opened the door. To his surprise there were two grey biohazard suits on hangers at the back of the room, behind the toolboxes. The suits were obviously well used, dirt streaked the outside of them and the arms were spotted with brown marks. Breathing apparatus was stacked up beside them, also seemingly well used along with tongs and long handled litter grippers.

Hearing a noise from the corridor outside, Raj quickly shut the maintenance room door and opened the kitchenette fridge as if looking for something. Two large, burly men whom Raj had never seen before entered the kitchenette heading for the lift maintenance room but swerved towards the coffee machine once they noticed he was in there. Raj shut the fridge door, picked up his coat from where he’d slung it over the back of one of the chairs and nodded politely at the two men as he headed out. They nodded back and one of them called out “good night, sir” as Raj left the room.

Walking out to his car Raj made a note to call Shona and Pete about this. What in every gods’ names would the workmen upstairs need biohazard suits for. Asbestos removal? A Halon fire suppression system? Whatever it was Raj was sure that it wasn’t going to be something good.

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Jashyr

September 2010

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