It remembered the seas. That was all it remembered, all it was. Just a memory. But it remembered itself, and memory is important.
It couldn’t feel the seas now. Water, yes. Water it could feel. But small waters, slow and contained. Where were the vast oceans? Where were the endless seafloors?
It didn’t know. All it could do was wait.
It was good at waiting.
In a sub-basement of the Trilobite Park building, in a concrete box of a room full of pipes and pumps and damp, Chief Engineer Jacobs was examining the systems. The water inlet was simply a mains water inlet — but simplicity ended there. The rest of the system was a maze of filtration units, salination podules, water conditioners, more filters and output pipes (both normal and emergency).
He wasn’t happy with any of it. Oh, it looked like it would work, sure. Most of the time. But there was just something wrong — like there was too much of it; too many pipes with too many bends; too many systems with too many parts. It looked like an overenthusiastic set designer’s idea of what a trilobite tank water filtration system would look like instead of… well, instead of an engineer’s idea.
“I don’t like this, R17,” he said to his assistant.
“Beep,” R17 said.
“That is not exactly helpful,” Jacobs said.
The basement door opened, and in came two rather similar looking women in caps and overalls. “You wanted to see us?” said one, her voice accented with Italian.
“Are you the plumbing contractors?” Jacobs asked.
“That’s us. I’m Maria, this is Lenora.”
“Oh, I was expecting…”
“Well, I was expecting overweight men who smoke too much,” Jacobs admitted. “But that doesn’t matter. You’re the plumbers who installed this mess, right?”
“Hey, don’t blame us,” Lenora said. She was taller than her sister, and thinner. “We did everything per the blueprint we were given.
“Couldn’t you see there was something wrong?”
“Yes, of course we could,” Maria said. “We can see the designer was an idiot. But we’re not paid to call people names, ya moron.”
“Error!” R17 said. “Insult paradox! Redo from start. Ready?”
Jacobs sighed. “So you realised that whole system is massively overdesigned, overcomplicated and, consequentially, overpriced? Did you bring this to the attention of management?”
“Sure, we told ye olde sea dog guy…” Lenora said.
“Right, Captain Pete. We told him that this design is basically live-action Mac Pipes. He just asked if the system would work anyway, and paid us.”
“We did our bit,” Maria said, with a wave of her hand. “Told the boss. Ethics achieved, eh?”
“And you’re sure it will work?”
“Look, chief, we may not know much about trilobites,” Lenora said.
“Not so much as we know about turtles,” Maria said.
“Yes,” Jacobs said, “I’m starting to think you both know a lot about mushrooms.”
A silence would have settled over the pipe-filled basement, were it not for the constant sound of the pumps and R17’s occasional beeping.
“Did he just call us druggies?” Maria said. “I didn’t travel to that magical fantasy kingdom all those times just to be called a druggie when I got back.”
“Be fair, sis,” Lenora said. “We just had to build this maze. This poor bastard has to run and maintain it.”
Maria did a yeah-but-no-but sort of head waggle. “All right, all right. Maybe we can help you simplify this pipe-spaghetti. But it won’t be free.”
“I have a small discretionary budget.”
“Great,” Maria said, adjusting her tool belt. “We can do a quite small amount of work for you.”
All Jacobs could do was nod his head, and hope it would be enough.
“Advanced bookings are looking good,” Wellsey said. “Who knows, maybe this place will make money after all.”
June sighed deeply, but did not answer. She had dropped into Wellsey’s tiny, windowless office, on her way back from seeing Thag.
“Grand opening should be pretty… well, grand,” Wellsey continued. “The Prime Minister will be here.”
“Which one?” June said.
“Current one. I guess?”
Wellsey was head of marketing, and looked like the last person who would be in marketing at all, let alone ‘head of marketing’. He was a bald, pale, heavily tattooed, middle-aged man who looked very out of place behind a desk and dressed in a suit. June knew that he’d come to marketing late in life after thirty years in retail, preceded by five years in prison, preceded in turn by five years as a petty criminal. June had been suspicious of him at first, but soon found out that he was the most stable and easy-going person at the Park.
“School booking are good, too,” Wellsey continued.
“Who cares?” June said. “The students don’t. They’re just coming along because their teachers make them.”
“How else do you learn things?” said Wellsey who, like a lot of youthful tearaways, seemed to have grown up to be extraordinarily conservative.
“Through enthusiasm?” June said. “Curiosity?”
“Then encourage enthusiasm and curiosity,” Wellsey shrugged. “If the kids don’t come here with your love of trilobites, then it’s up to you to convince them that these stupid underwater cockroaches are cool.”
June glared at him. “You’re not a fan yourself, then?”
“I’m a marketing man. I love what I’m paid to love.”
“And how long have you been in marketing, anyway?”
“I got my TAFE Certificate in Marketing two months ago,” Wellsey said. “And the way I see it, if I could talk myself into this job on the back of a qualification like that, I must be a pretty good marketer, hey?”
Something about this cut through June’s gloom. “I’m new at my job, too,” she said. “So’s Thag in HR. And Hay in food services.”
“It’s a new business. We’re all new.”
“I mean all inexperienced,” June said. “Even that engineer guy, Jacobs, he hasn’t been an engineer long. Why did Captain Pete hire so many inexperienced staff members?”
“Maybe he wants to give new people a go.”
“Some new people, sure, that makes sense. But so many? And in key positions?”
Wellsey stood and stretched as best he could in the tiny office. “Five o’clock. Quitting time.”
From his desk drawer, he took a bottle of single malt, and poured tiny dashes into the bottoms of two plastic cups. He handed one to June, who took a tiny sip, just to be polite. Wellsey knocked back his own, but didn’t pour a second.
“You ever work somewhere really weird?” Wellsey said.
“Not really,” June said.
“Well, you don’t want to. Trust me. The best place to work is somewhere really boring. Save ‘interesting’ for your down time. The guy who gave me this scotch worked somewhere interesting, and he got walled up in a cellar. That’s why I picked this job, yeah? It’s basically just writing advertising copy and press releases… anyone could do it, really. I’m hoping this job never gets interesting. At all. If you think it is going to get interesting… well, let me know, so I can start updating my resume.”