Location: missionCREEP > MouthWash > Man in the Basement > Section:  1    2    3    4

Section 3: Down, Down, Down
Into the Cold, Dark, Lonely Basement

Being short, I was able to tuck my body into a tight, compact ball and roll down the stairs without injury. In one motion I dove behind some boxes beneath the stairwell. Poot and his boys rushed down the steps and down the hall in the other direction.

When the coast was clear, I climbed out of my hiding spot and looked around. I was at the end of a long, dimly lit corridor. I walked down the hall and peered through windows into large computer rooms. I saw employees in lab coats, but no one seemed to notice me.

I trekked what seemed like a mile or so of basement corridor but saw no sign of Shropshire or his headquarters. I found a door with a "Do Not Enter" sign, so I opened it and went down another flight of stairs to a lower level of the basement. What I found were more hallways, although they were darker and dirtier.

I heard Poot and his gang marching toward me, so I slipped into a dark doorway. They passed just a few feet away from me. They had clubs, phazers, handcuffs, and God knows what other instruments of pain attached to their belts. I knew they would gladly use them all on me given the chance.

Poot was in the lead and spoke into a cellular phone. "We're in basement sub-level 2 traveling northeast in aisle K ... No sign of the fugitive contractor ... Pursuit continuing ... Over and out."

And off they went. I waited until their marching was out of earshot before moving.

There were several boiler rooms on this sublevel, and the entire area hummed from the fires roaring within several giant boilers. Steam shot out of various parts of the noisy behemoths, generating loud, high-pitched whistles.

Maintenance men in dirty overalls rushed through the hallways from one boiler room to another with toolboxes, gauges, wiring, and hosing. The men worked feverishly on the boilers, yelling and screaming at each other. "If we don't keep the pressure down," one yelled, "the whole thing will blow."

I stopped a maintenance man as he rushed by and asked him where I could find the man with the project numbers.

"Try that door," he shouted, pointing to a door down the hall, before running off. I approached the door, opened it, and stepped down another flight of stairs to the next basement sub-level.

And so it went, one level after another. I walked and walked, each sub-level darker, danker, and dirtier than the previous. There was no sign of the man's headquarters.

I hadn't seen Poot and his men for several floors, but then I heard his voice. I ducked behind a pile of debris. His voice got louder, and I heard only one set of footsteps.

"I sent the men back as ordered, sir," he said into a cell phone. "Continuing pursuit independently ... Yes, I'm aware of your order, sir, but I respectfully refuse to obey ... I will not return until the rogue contractor is apprehended, as ordered by Mr. Shropshire ... Over and out."

So Poot was in cahoots with Shropshire. That explained a few things.

Poot stopped and looked around not far from my hiding spot. I could see him, but he couldn't see me. "Goddamn it!" he screamed and threw boxes, boards, and other debris about, grunting, cursing, and stomping his feet as he did so. The man was losing control.

"I'm going to get you, you little twit! Do you hear me?" he shouted. "I'll wander these Godforsaken basements forever if I have to, but I'll get you! And when I do, God help you. God help you!!!"

The next basement sub-level was the dreariest yet. The walls were old and crumbling. Rats, snakes, and bats crossed the path in front of me. Strange people picked through piles of junk. Dressed in dirty, institutional clothing, they did not look like Ajax employees. They spoke in grunts and groans and eyed me suspiciously as I walked by.

A few of them stood near a door, which had a "Do Not Enter" sign above it. The words "Ever" and "No Exceptions" had been scrawled beneath the sign. They had sticks and clubs, and they seemed to be guarding the door.

A few of the freaks came toward me, mumbling their weird words. I slowly turned away, but there were more coming from the opposite direction. Soon I was surrounded. I thought of Claire and wondered if I would ever see those "most likely" yearning eyes of hers again.

The freaks held out their hands. I took a few coins from my pocket and gave them out. They grunted in excitement, and other mutants pressed in against me. Their grubby hands made for my pockets. I struggled against them, but there were too many.

Then I heard Poot. "Halt, Shorty," he shouted from the opposite end of the hallway and ran towards me.

He reached the crowd of subhumans and began fighting his way through them toward me. "You're under arrest, Shorty," he yelled. "Put your hands up."

I took what money I had, including the bills from my wallet, and waved it over my head.

"Here," I cried. "This is what you want. Take it. Take it all."

I threw the money up in the air in Poot's direction. Dozens of the subhumans, including those guarding the door, rushed toward Poot for the money.

A pile of squirming, fighting, screaming bodies quickly enveloped him. "No, no, stop! I command you. I'm a certified security officer," Poot screamed.

Poot walloped a couple of the mutants with his professionally-trained fists, but it did not stop them from eventually pulling him down under the pile of struggling bodies.

I took the opportunity to make for the door. I opened it and rushed down the steps. On reaching the bottom, I realized that I had reached my destination. Shropshire's infamous headquarters lay before me.

Instead of the dark, dank underworlds I had trudged through for the last several hours, there was light and laughter and music coming from the man's headquarters.

I crouched in the shadows along the outside wall and noticed a bed, couch, hi-fi, refrigerator, TV, microwave, and a safe. Dozens of empty liquor bottles were strewn about. The place smelled like a frat house after a big party.

And there was the man in all his glory. He was an imposing figure at well over six foot tall and somewhere around 250 pounds. He laughed and drank as if he hadn't a care in the world. He was obviously very drunk and very dangerous.

The man was dancing with a woman. She had bleached blonde hair that was dark at the roots. She was dressed in a black leather mini-dress, red high heels, and a tight, sleeveless, low-cut blouse. She wore so much makeup she appeared clownish. She looked to be in her late fifties--much too old to be prancing around in such a get-up.

Some old swing music was blasting from the hi-fi, and the man swung the woman around as they danced. Several times he smacked her on the buttocks as she flew by. She shrieked, and they both laughed uproariously, the woman's laugh an irritating high-pitched cackle. They paused frequently to take long swigs from a whiskey bottle.

At one point the man fell to his hands and knees and crawled after the woman, barking, growling, and snapping at her legs. She slapped at him and shouted, "Down boy. Bad doggy!" Eventually she climbed on his back and rode him about like a pony.

The man and woman rolled onto the dirty old couch. The woman ended up on the man's lap, and she kissed his bald scalp. He tickled her and grabbed at various parts of her body.

"Why you're nothing but a pervert," she said.

"You got that right, baby," he said, and slid one hand up her dress and attacked her bosom with his enormous tongue. She shrieked with glee.

The scene got even more repulsive when she removed the top and bottom plates of her false teeth and rattled them in the man's face.

She bit the man's large nose with the teeth, so he bent her over his knee and spanked her. She screamed in mock pain, and the man laughed deep and guttural as he landed one meaty paw after another on her leather-clad behind.

Eventually, she slid off his lap to the floor between his legs. "I can make you whimper like a baby," she said, showing the man her gums. She took Shropshire's hand and sucked on each of his thick fingers.

"Thank heaven," he sang, "for little girls."

I circled the headquarters in the shadows along the wall while they played out their sick ritual. I saw piles and piles of project number applications and several shoes boxes brimming with project numbers.

The woman pulled down the man's zipper, grabbed a handful of numbers from one of the shoe boxes, and shoved them into his open fly. The man moaned, his head lolling backwards.

"The numbers, yes, the numbers," she said, "that's what gets you off."

Soon they were rolling on the floor together, rubbing project numbers all over each other.

"Yes," she cried out, "Give me the numbers, all your numbers."

Suddenly, he grabbed the woman by the hair and jerked her head back. She screamed.

"Not all of my numbers, baby," he said. "Remember, you mustn't be greedy with Daddy's numbers."

"Whatever you say, Daddy," she said, genuinely afraid of him.

"Don't worry, baby," he said, letting go of her hair. "I'll give you all the numbers you can handle."

Shropshire grabbed a handful of numbers and shoved them under her dress. With that the laughing and the drinking and the rolling in the numbers started up all over again.

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