A loud clatter echoed in the hallway behind the corner. The guards jumped and pointed their weapons towards the corner.
"Who's there?" the first guard asked.
"Just me. Sorry about the startle. My mop fell to the floor," came a familiar voice. It was the janitor. He came to the guards' view, holding the fallen mop while pushing his cart with his other hand. "Clearance 669A, wasn't it?"
"Indeed," the other guard told, nodding. "Right on time, as always."
"Of course. One can't clean a building like this without a plan and a timetable," the janitor told. He put the mop back into the cart. "May I go in?"
"Yes, all the scientists have left," the first guard told. As the janitor passed the guards by, he was scanned for anything suspicious – as always, there was nothing like that, but the guards knew that in a place like this, they had to be extremely careful. Even the simple, dutiful janitor who was only best at what he did could be replaced by an impostor willing to steal their secrets.
Once the laboratory door was closed, the janitor sighed and started mopping, just like he always did. While he worked, he checked out what difference the scientist team had made on sample X07, a strange substance made of components they could not identify. As far as they had managed to conclude, finding a way to utilize and replicate it would revolutionize the fuel industry – unless it proved to cause toxic wastes worse than what they currently used did, of course.
Today, it had been a day of discussing via notes. One of the scientists was convinced that the unknown blue substance had to be Energon from Transformers or at least should be named that – no matter whether it could be a copyright infringement or not – while others were more skeptical about the origin of this unearthly sample they had managed to recover in the deep icy depths of the South Pole. Well, at least this scientist's team members were well-educated and intelligent people. Probably. At least their CVs had told so.
The janitor chuckled at the note discussion. If the group only knew that their boss was checking up on their work every evening in the disguise of a janitor... That would cause them to censor the discussion quite a lot, that the janitor was certain about.
But they did not know and thus the boss could play the janitor for a reason, get everywhere and see everything without anything hidden from his eyes. What a fantastic idea it had been to do this and fool everyone – even his vigilant guards who were the best in their league!
The Gauntlet 2021 9: The Man Who Hardly Spoke
CHALLENGE: The Plot is Lying to You!
Your first challenge element is to include three tropes in your story: Applied Phlebotinum, an Almighty Janitor, and an instance of The Guards Must be Crazy. Check.
Plot twist! One of these elements must be Inverted! The rest you may play with as you desire, but not inverted. Check: Inverted The Guards Must be Crazy trope.
What does all this mean?
- Applied Phlebotinum is The Substance. You know the one. It does anything you need it to. It breaks the laws of physics, it drives normal scientists insane. The application of it... well. It takes a genius to design anything that can use it.
- The Almighty Janitor at first appears to be just what their job description says: a janitor, or similar non-descript low-level worker. But in reality, they are one of the most powerful people in the company. Who says you need to be the CEO to have power? Not the Almighty Janitor.
- The Guards Must be Crazy is when the guards patrolling a place are... not the best people for the job. They ignore noises, or go off to investigate instead of raising the alarm. They don't worry about that box that moves when no one is looking at it. Or so many other problems it makes one wonder why they got the job in the first place.
- Inverting a trope is when it has been turned on its head. For example, a trope that typically applies to heroes is applied to a villain, or a trope that typically applies to males is applied to a female character. Need some help with this? See here, here, and here for examples of these tropes inverted and otherwise played with.
This story (c) Me