Site 87 is one of those sites the O5s don't generally like to talk about. However, they do still have to monitor us. So, every couple of years, they send out an auditor to make sure the site hasn't fallen apart physically, mentally, and where it counts the most: financially. People get fired, entire departments get axed, anomalies are forcibly liquidated, work hours are cut… it's stressful for the whole site.
Considering some of the things that have happened at 87 in the past two years, I think this year's audit is going to be… interesting, to say the least.
- Agent Nicholas Ewell, Site 87 Chief of Security
The Tax Man rode into the town of Sloth's Pit, Wisconsin on a cold winter in the back of a black Volvo. It was the most discreet car they could find.
The Tax Man's job was simple: two days in this town, go to Site 87, write some reports about how all the departments were doing. This would be the first one he would be performing at this site… 87, was it? He looked at his watch, then up at the driver. "Is there any half-decent coffee shop in this town?"
"There's Rudy's," said the driver. "I hear that's good. We, uh… have a bit of time before we're supposed to be at Site 87. Would you like to stop there, sir?"
"So long as it isn't Charbucks," said the Tax Man, looking through several files on his tablet. The driver nodded, pulling up to the curb in front of Rudy's Coffee House. The Tax Man stepped out, shivering slightly. "Back in about 10, depending on how long this takes."
The driver nodded as the Tax Man entered the cafe, and was greeted with the warm scents of espresso and burning wood from the fireplace. The walls of the shop were covered with pictures and memorabilia of the town's history; newspaper articles, pictures of the town's founders and famous historic buildings, and even a large map of the area on display behind the counter. The Tax Man came up to the counter. "One espresso, please. Strong as you've got."
"You got it, sir." The man working behind the counter, whose nametag read "Rudolf", started up the espresso maker. The Tax Man looked around the walls of the place, frowning slightly as he noticed an article on the far wall recounting the 'Sasquatch Hunt of 1974', and another one right next to it talking about how Sloth's Pit was a sister city to a town located 'somewhere in the vicinity of Mercury'. Did the personnel at 87 not even try a cover operation?
He turned back to the counter; a photograph of Jackson Sloth, the founder of the town, hung above the latte machine. Sloth was a Caucasian who was about 50 years old, with his hair in muttonchops, leaning on a cane. All he was missing was a tophat and he would have had the Victorian gentleman stereotype complete.
The portrait suddenly developed a smile and winked at the Tax Man. The Tax Man did not like that, but was distracted by the fact that Rudy came back with his espresso. "Here ya are, sir. They don't get stronger than this." The Tax Man nodded, blowing on his coffee before taking a sip. "…I take it you're from outta town?"
"I am," replied the Tax Man. "Here on business. I'm-"
"Workin' with the plastics people, right?" The Tax Man nearly spat out his drink; they let the town know about them? What kind of a shim-sham operation were they running here? "Don't worry, your secret's safe with me. They're some of my best patrons; one of the gals from there helped me with a situation involving a gobsnipe eating half of my stock of beans."
The Tax Man's eye twitched. Not only did this town know about the anomalous, but they knew about the gobsnipes. The Tax Man finished his drink and put a 20 on the counter. "Keep the change." With that, he walked out of the shop, the portrait of the founder turning to face him. He didn't look back as he made his way to the car.
"…why are we stopping, driver?"
"We're just low on gas, Sir. I figured that it would be easier if we had a somewhat full tank in this weather." The driver nodded out the window, where a light snowfall had started up.
The Tax Man sighed, waving his hand. "Fine, fine. Just don't let this delay us too much, all right?" The car pulled up to a Speedway, and stopped at a pump. The Tax Man got out to light an electronic cigarette; not as warm as a real thing, but there was less chance of him spontaneously combusting around a gas pump. He looked up from his e-cig, raising an eyebrow as he looked into the windows of the station.
The cashier working the counter appeared to be something rather cervine. In fact, that's exactly what it was; it was a deer. Frowning, the Tax Man stepped into the warmth of the gas station. The deer behind the counter talked to him. "Hey, you can't smoke in here!"
The Tax Man's eyebrows could not possibly go higher than they were right at that moment. "It's… an e-cigarette. Water vapor."
"I don't care if it's the only way you can keep breathing, no smokin' in the shop unless it's a bubble pipe." The deer seemed to point (without using any of its limbs or even its face) to a no-smoking sign. How it did this, The Tax Man didn't want to know, but his attention was drawn towards it.
"Right… I'll just step outside." The Tax Man proceeded to do this.
"Yeah, you'd better. Fuckin' prick."
The Tax Man could not get back in the car fast enough.
Five minutes later, the Volvo pulled up to S & C Plastics. The Tax Man got out of the car, shivering as he swiped his security pass on the RFID scanner, admitting him access to the site. He walked up to the receptionist and shivered, handing her his ID card. "I'm here to see Director Weiss."
"You're her 10:00, then?" The receptionist quirked a brow as she saw his name on the card, but then saw he was the auditor, and decided it might be best not to say anything. She handed the pass back. "Her office is on the fourth floor. The elevators are down for scheduled maintenance, but if you leave now, you should get to her in time for the meeting."
The Tax Man groaned and made his way towards a staircase. It was 9:57- 9:58 now. He would be late, and The Tax Man did not like being late. He ran up the stairs as fast as he could, reaching the fourth floor and throwing the door open, going towards the director's office. He arrived at the receptionist to her office, collecting himself before saying, "I-I'm Director Weiss's 10:00." He tried not to pant; it made him look undignified.
The receptionist here smiled. "You're just in time." Indeed, the display on The Tax Man's watch said 9:59, and turned to 10:00 just as the Director opened the door.
"Director Weiss. I take it you know why I'm here?"
"How could I not know?" Nina Weiss led the Tax Man into her office, taking a seat behind her desk. "O5-7 has been sending me e-mails reminding me about this for the past six months."
"And all members of the site have been notified?" The Tax Man sat before her.
"Notified, and reminded for the past week. They're ready for anything you can throw at them."
"I should hope so," said the Tax Man, "because I've got a lot to throw this time around…"