The sound of typing emanating from the surrounding cubes began to caress him softly into madness, like gentle raindrops of ectoplasm against his brain pan. Between assignments, staring at the gray fabric of his cube wall, he had finally begun to lose track of time. Was it day or night?
Other questions went unanswered. Someone kept moving the plants in the lobby. Byron had begun to suspect it was a code, and he'd begun taking notes in a journal that he kept hidden inside one of the air vents in the lavatory.
Wednesday: Tall plant next to couch, short fern underneath thermostat. Friday: Tall plant next to bathroom door, short fern next to couch.
Where had they first picked him up? Then it came back to him, sitting in the stall, his notebook clutched in sweaty hands, he remembered. They'd caught him loitering outside the HR depot. His skill set was obsolete, but the recruiter told him they were working a few psych warfare tricks to throw at the Chinese and they needed human subjects.
He'd signed the release forms. For the next six months at least, he was on permanent PTO, with a contact number listed at an off-world medical clinic. In fact, he was still on earth, so far as he could tell. How far underground he could only guess.
He began to suspect that some of his co-workers were not who they pretended to be. Some of them were researchers, he thought, taking notes on his every move. He occasionally would catch one of them on the stairwell, talking into a deep sea radio phone in a language that Byron did not recognize as human.
Once he caught a group of them whispering around the coffee machine and he was sure they were whispering about him. That afternoon the coffee machine exploded, blinding Mazursky and sending DeLuise to the morgue. They were toying with him.
The coffee machine explosion was blamed on a lone wolf. Byron knew better.