Site DURABLE WICKET, located in Manchester, is the central processing and research facility for the Department of Residual Human Resources and is their newest and largest facility. This six-storey industrial building in Manchester was built in the late 1940s as a refrigerated warehouse for bulk foodstuffs. It featured a central cooling plant and enormously thick masonry walls lined with cork insulation that was a half-meter thick in places. It ended its commercial life in the mid-1980s and was more or less abandoned. In the early 1990s, a new set of owners tried to repurpose the old depot for office-space and light industrial uses, but it proved far too expensive to modify the building – the cost of rebuilding the walls to remove the flammable cork insulation would have been prohibitive, and simply removing the insulated walls would have brought the building down. Even the cost of demolishing the depot was too high, and so it stood. The last owner of record went bankrupt in 2000, and the building was left to rot. It was eventually acquired by the Laundry after an incident occurred there (Ref: ZEPHYR DRAEDEL CHAPBOOK, 2006), and site was given to DRHR in 2010.

The original cooling plant was demolished in 1992, but otherwise the hulking, windowless structure looks almost exactly as it did when the last trucks pulled away from the loading docks during the Thatcher era. The six floors are connected by rattling freight elevators, and the concrete floors and cracked tile walls are stained with ancient fluids that leaked out of the spider-web of cooling pipes that still nestle up by the ceilings. The Department of Internal Logistics’ Facilities Office (DIL/FO) undertook to repurpose the building to serve the needs of DRHR’s Applied Extension and Usefulness Working Group. This involved installing administrative offices, a canteen and a new generating facility on the ground floor, placing a capacious morgue and undertaker’s facility on the first floor, renovating the second floor to house a range of working spaces and labs peculiar to the needs of a group of research necromancers, and installing secure storage facilities on the upper floors. DRHR’s Office of Inventory Control has a very strong presence at the facility. Staff must always remain cognizant of the fact that DURABLE WICKET is the largest collection of RHRs in Great Britain – and possibly the world.

The Laundry are very serious about site security at DURABLE WICKET, and the facility and its procedures are designed to reflect this concern. The building itself is surrounded by mostly-vacant commercial properties, and via cameras on the roof of WICKET, security officers keep watch on traffic in the neighborhood. Site staff park in an indoor car-park one street over, and all pedestrian access into WICKET is via an underground tunnel that leads from the car-park to a security lobby beneath the administrative offices. Access into the tunnel is controlled by key-card, with a powerful geas of aversion in place that would affect any non-Laundry personnel who tried to enter. Electric door-locks that require a key-card to activate are used to control movement within the facility.

Truck access to the site is via powered gates which are controlled from within the building, and the loading dock on the ground floor is physically isolated from the rest of the facility by security doors and lifts. The docks are deep enough that a large box-van can roll in and the doors close behind it, allowing WICKET staff to unload without anyone outside the building being able to look in.

Anyone trying to force an entry at WICKET is in for a challenge. The building itself is built like a bunker, the video surveillance system is SCORPION STARE-capable, and the loading dock approaches mount deployable “dragons-tooth” anti-vehicle barriers that rise up out of the pavement, making a ‘ram’ attack unlikely to succeed. The building is surrounded by a three meter chain-link fence topped with barbed wire and while any professional assault team would come equipped to deal with that, it still would slow them down in a wide-open target zone.

For all the attention given to protecting the site from an “Outside Incident”, in truth the site security team are more concerned with the possibility of an “Inside Incident”. The ordinary RHRs employed at most Laundry sites carry fairly well understood EPEs and are bound with time-tested geases that are generally not subject to failure. TREMBLE COMPLINE, on the other hand, is exploring new and interesting EPEs and testing a wide variety of geases that aren’t in general use. All this means that the chance of their corpse-walkers “going off the rails” is far higher, and the site’s procedures are designed with this danger in mind.

First and foremost, the site keeps careful tabs on every corpse on the premises. When they arrive onsite, the Receiving Office tag each corpse with a bar-code that’s used to record its location and state. When they go from the loading dock up to the morgue, the morgue attendant scans each corpse’s tag to record receipt of the body. When they’re done processing it, the body is scanned out of the morgue and into whichever storage unit it’s placed into. Corpses removed from storage for experiments are scanned out of storage and into the lab, and at that time their record immediately changes from “Inert” to “Active”. A centralized computer system allows the Office of Inventory Control to track the recorded location and status of every corpse in the building.

In the morgue, bodies are treated to retard decay and are usually ‘wrapped’ for storage. This involves wrapping the inert corpse in several turns of industrial plastic wrap, secured with either nylon cargo straps or (when the supply of straps run low) duct tape. The wrap contains any fluids that might leak from the recently-embalmed corpse, and the dust tape makes it easier for the handlers to move the bodies around. Strictly on the QT, the handlers on the WICKET staff also believe that the straps and tape will buy them crucial seconds of warning if any of their charges “wake up”, though it’s usually only inert corpses that are prepped in this manner.

If a body is going directly to the testing labs, it usually doesn’t get wrapped – the scientific staff have complained about the hassle of “de-mummifying” their test subjects, and disposing of meters of slightly slimy plastic-wrap adds to the site’s waste stream. Almost everything that goes into the trash on the upper floors is classified as either Medical Waste or Thaumatologically Active Waste Materials. Since remediating these waste categories is expensive and requires adherence to reams of regulations, there’s an ongoing effort to minimize the amount of trash generated at DURABLE WICKET1.

It’s interesting to note that there are surprisingly few RHRs employed at DURABLE WICKET. For example, there are only a handful of RHRs on-site to fulfill the traditional night-watchmen role. The first head of site security thought that using the walking dead to secure a site from the walking dead might cause “moments of hesitation” among the living security staff, and so most of the RHRs designated for night-time patrol security have never been deployed. Except for a couple that are kept current for inspections and to fulfill the paperwork2, they’re all propped up in a disused storage room on the first floor, coated with a fine layer of dust and still wearing the sigil-inscribed Mylar binding tape across their mouths. They could be activated in a pinch, but doing so would take a few minutes and, unless it’s done according to the correct revision of the Initialization and Tasking Procedures Manual, there might be problems. (“Problems” usually means minor performance variances, like being slow to recognize an intruder or failing to patrol in an acceptably random fashion, but one cannot entirely rule out larger problems like the RHR leaving its assigned area of patrol completely, or being slow to recognize authorized personnel. One of the matters TREMBLE COMPLINE is investigating is the question of geas response variation over time, or the “Expiration Date” problem.)

The Handling Staff – the blokes in gum-boots and insulated coveralls who spend their days pushing gurneys and riding the cargo lifts up and down - are all living human beings, despite doing the sort of grunt work which often falls to RHRs in other facilities. Handling isn’t an especially pleasant job. It involves chemicals and dead bodies, the working environment is dank, cold and noisome, and most of a handler’s day is spent on his feet and on the move. Despite these drawbacks, the biggest danger a handler usually faces is from an Improper Lifting injury, which explains the safety signs posted everywhere and the biannual Warehouse Safety training module that’s mandatory for all staff. The job also requires handlers to read, make decisions and judgments, and to use computerized devices, so it’s beyond the capabilities of all but the highest-functioning RHRs. The handlers tend to be heavy-set men (and they’re all men, at least currently) with a phlegmatic outlook – nervous types don’t last long in the dimly-lit cold-storage spaces at the top of DURABLE WICKET.

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