June Excited, Jacobs Frantic
The sun was high over Wellington Road as the crowds gathered outside Trilobite Park, waiting for the doors to open for the first time to the public. June Kim arrived a little later than she’d intended. In her eagerness for the opening, she’d almost left home without her briefcase, watch or shoes, and her mother had made her sit down and breathe deeply for ten minutes before letting her drive.
Now she was here, though – it was all happening! It was all real! The live trilobite aquarium was about to open. Look! Look at the news crews, all there for the occasion. Granted, some were trying to chase away a wild-eyed man in a white suit waving a ‘UFO Survivors for 9/11 truth’ banner, but — news crews anyway.
And there were celebrities in attendance, real celebrities like:
- the guy who was on that sketch show that time.
- the woman from the reality thing who had the personal tragedy.
- a chef from that show about chefs, and how they tend to cook.
- another woman who never seemed to do anything but was somehow unaccountably a celebrity.
- and a doughy, middle aged guy who seemed like the kind of deputy principal who tries way too hard to be friends with the students, only it turned out that actually he was the Prime Minister.
Kim wore her best suit and squeezed through the somewhat excited crowd of onlookers, up to the staff entrance and beeped herself in.
“Did you see the school group?” said Wellsey, who had arrived just a minute before she had.
“Yes, I saw one of the Palaeontology Club boys being interviewed.”
“Might see himself on TV later, eh?”
“Well, a girl from his club was making the ‘what a wanker’ hand gesture behind him,” June said, demonstrating. “So it probably won’t go out on free-to-air.”
Jacobs the engineer ran up. He’d made a bit of an effort for the opening. Instead of his usual plaid-shirt-over-a-Hulk-tshirt combo, he was wearing slacks and business shirt that he’d almost ironed properly. The effect was ruined by his sweaty panic.
“Have you seen the Maria sisters?” he said.
“Yeah, there were a couple of nuns in the crowd,” June said. “Which I thought was odd, because I wouldn’t have thought it was their sort of thing. You know, deep time and all that.”
“Well, hold on,” Wellsey said. “Speaking as Catholic myself, I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick there. Sure, the Church doesn’t endorse the theory of evolution, but there’s nothing in our Doctrine that forbids…”
“I don’t mean nuns!” Jacobs yelped. “I mean Maria the plumber and her sister whatshername… the other plumber. Have either of you seen them?”
June shrugged. “I think I saw them in the cafeteria yesterday, so they could be in hospital or dead of food poisoning.”
“This is bad, this is bad, this is bad,” Jacobs said, spinning in little circles.
“It was just a joke,” June said. “I’m sure they weren’t stupid enough to really eat anything in the cafeteria.”
June started and backed up a pace, as Jacobs’ creepy robot assistant came around the corner. It looked like a hatstand on the back of a Roomba with a creepy metal doll head.
“Beep,” it said. “Maria. Lenore. Jacobs. Beep.”
It turned and zoomed off, Jacobs close behind it.
“What the hell was that?” June said.
“Beats me,” Wellsey said. “I just hope something interesting isn’t happening.”
The Paleontology Club, Bemused
Blake was having his photograph taken with the Prime Minister and Captain Pete. Yes, that was right. The Captain Pete — the genius behind Trilobite Park. He had shaken the great man’s only hand and said something that sounded right to him, but which made Mrs Vallerez wince. But that didn’t matter. There was always time to make a better first impression… That was how the saying went, right?
“Well we trilobites here,” Blake said. “See. You see? You make. How?”
“Oh, for the love of…” Mrs Vallerez said, rubbing her eyes.
“Yar, worry not,” Captain Pete said. “Old Captain Pete speaks fluent gibberish. I apprehend yer meaning. It all started as I rounded the Horn in a howling gale in the terrible winter of ’87.”
“Gosh!” Blake said.
“Gosh?” Daisy sneered. “Ya really said ‘gosh’? Was ‘leapin’ lizards’ taken?”
“The rain slashed down like knives and the waves rose like mountains,” Captain Pete continued. “We were taking on water. Far from land, far from home, cold, wet and frightened, I got to thinking how if’n only I was a creature of the sea, I might survive.”
“So you decided that you’d like to be a trilobite?”
Captain Peter looked at Blake with utter incredulity. “No, I thought it might be nice to be a sea-bass,” he said. “Anyhow, me first mate had a fossil trilobite that he’d bought in Bahrain and I said ‘wouldn’t it be cool if you could bring that to life’ and he said ‘yeah, I guess, maybe.’ So I naturally I devoted the rest of me life to harnessing time energy to resurrecting all of the subphylum that men call trilobitomorpha.”
Dead silence settled over the little group.
“I, uh, what was the point of the storm in that story?” Blake said.
“Yar, I was just setting the scene. The narrative ’twas kind of threadbare wi’out it.”
That seemed to be the end of the conversation, but Captain Pete just stood there until the students began to feel awkward and wandered away.
“Whoa! That dude was whack!” said one of the non-Paleontology club students that Blake could barely tell apart.
“He may be ‘whack’,” Blake said, “Or possibly not, since I have no idea what that word means. But the important thing is, he’s a genius.”
“Hey now, kids, let’s not use this sort of language!” said a tryhard in a stupid cap who Blake vaguely recalled was the leader of his country.
A man in a black suit, sunglasses and an earphone ran up to the Prime Minister and whispered something in his ear. The PM laughed, clapped him on the shoulder and turned back to the kids.
“Some urgent political issue?” Juraj said. “A change to standing orders, perhaps? Or a mistake in the minutes of a meeting?”
“No, kids,” the PM smiled. “Just a minor emergency security alert. Nothing to be worried about.”
“Is it terrorists?” Juraj said.
“No, just some nonsense about me being on the deathlist of a secret ninja cult,” the PM laughed. “And we all know that ninjas are like solar panels — make-believe.”
Blake looked around to see the others, and saw his thoughts mirrored in their expressions. But just to be sure, Daisy said it out loud: “Cer-ripes! We’re gonna friggin’ die, ain’t we?”
The door to June’s office was blocked by some short, slender but very toned looking men in loose-fitting black clothing.
“Excuse me, this is my office.”
“We are Chinese dancing troupe, performing at opening of crab-monster exhibition,” one of them said. “And not suspicious at all.”
“I didn’t say you were suspicious,” June said. “I said to move out of my doorway, Mr…?”
“Watanabe? And you’re Chinese dancers?”
One of Watanabe’s men aimed a blow-pipe at her. Watanabe shouted at him in Japanese and the man lowered the weapon, bowing his head in shame.
“Ichi! Ni! San!” Watanabe bellowed. His troupe performed a half-hearted little soft-shoe shuffle.
“Whatever,” June sighed. “Just keep away from my office, okay?”