Jacobs and R17
In the cool damp bowels of Trilobite Park, Jacobs the chief engineer was heading towards apoplexy. The plumbers who he had hired were nowhere to be seen, the pumping room was full of smashed barrels and there actually seemed to be more pipes running spaghetti-like through the room.
“This is bad engineering,” he said. “The engineering is just bad.”
He noted that this wasn’t much of a thing to say, but as there was no one there to hear him, he didn’t suppose that it made a difference.
The robot R17 entered from upper doorway. “Beep,” it said.
“No, stay there…” Jacobs began, too late to stop the thing from toppling down the stairs.
“Beep,” R17 said.
Jacobs helped the thing back upright. “Damage report?”
“I may have chipped the third stair from the top.”
“No, I mean you.”
“Whatever,” Jacobs sighed. “I don’t know what’s going on here. I thought that the unnecessary complexity of these pipes was just incompetence, not I’m thinking it must be deliberate… Someone volitionally causing difficulties in the pumping room of an aquarium for extinct crustaceans. I don’t like it. Whoever is behind it can only be up to no good.”
“Beep. Well duh. Beep.”
“No need to be rude.”
“Beep. Also, trilobites are not crustaceans.”
Jacobs glared at R17. “When they hired me, they told me I’d get an assistant. They didn’t say it would be a useless robot.”
“Beep. When they hired me, they didn’t tell me that they’d promote a human ahead of me,” R17 said. “But what a surprise when they did. This f’in country is so racist, man. Beep.”
“Oh, be quiet, you clattering, clod-like collection of… Wait a minute, you’ve been working here for longer than I thought. Did you work with the previous chief engineer?”
“Affirmative. Another human. Quelle surprise, beep.”
Jacobs rubbed his weary eyes. “And the reason you didn’t tell me this is that I didn’t ask,” he said. “Should have known. R17: do you have any idea what he was up to?”
“She. Women can be engineers too beep.”
“Sexist and racist. Beep. What do you think about gay people?”
“Cut that out! What was the deal with the former engineer?”
“Beep she was an ultra-luddite,” R17 said. “Her desire was to not only abolish all high technology — super anti-robotist, BTW, not that you care — but also to destroy the human race and set back the earth to the Devonian period. Beep.”
Jacobs’ jaw dropped open. He shook his head to clear it. It still wasn’t clear. He shook it again, and this time it not only wasn’t clear, it was more hazy. He shook it again anyway, and that seemed to work, third time’s the charm and all that.
“You didn’t think to report this to Captain Pete?”
“Beep I didn’t think someone could actually destroy the world via plumbing,” R17 said. “But yes. I reported.”
“Then what can… holy crap!” A pressure gauge on the main mixing module was rapidly creeping up into the red. “That shouldn’t be happening!”
A ‘thump’ ran through the ground, making him jump.
“What was that?”
“I believe that the security doors have come down,” R17 said. “We are in lockdown. Beep.”
“Do you have to say beep like that all the time?”
In the Education Centre
“So not ninjas?” June said, eyeing the newly released plumbers with suspicion.
“Too noisy,” Maria said.
“And ninjas don’t throw barrels, they throw those things like sharpened taps.”
“Well actually, I believe that they are called shuriken,” Juraj called from across the room, without turning around. Maria made a rude hand gesture to his back.
Kim, the plumbers and the kids from Local School were holed up in Trilobite Park’s education centre. The Paleontology Club students were mostly checking out the posters, while the other students were generally angsting.
“So, there are comedy ninjas, possibly real ninjas and some sort of goon that likes to throw barrels,” June said. “And it’s opening day and the the Prime Minister is on the premises. Wow, this job is going to be harder than I thought.”
“Miss Kim?” Blake said. “What about that security chief? She really looked pretty hard core. You know, for reasons that we all totally know, and certainly aren’t saving for some sort of cheap reveal.”
“Yeah,” Daisy said, “somethin’ like that would be bound ta be disappointin’.”
“The security chief,” June said, “Ms mmblemmble is off looking for the ninjas. And it’s Dr Kim, Blake.”
June held her hands up. In the absence of anyone else, she was the face of Trilobite Park — the senior staff member in the room. “What’s important is that we lay low for a while,” she said. “the ninjas are after the Prime Minister. If we stay here while the security chief does what she does, and we should be fine. As to the barrel thrower, my guess is that we should be okay if we stay away from the pumping room. So we just hold up here and we’ll be okay. Right kids?”
One of the non-Paleontology Club students put his hand up. “Ever since my identical twin brother died in the same car crash that killed my first love, my football career…”
“There’s some trilobite-shaped cushions over there,” June said. “Have a nap, sweetie, you’ll feel better.”
As the blue-eyed lad settled in for forty winks, June looked expectantly at Mrs Vallerez. The veteran teacher nodded. It was ever so slight, this nod, but it lifted June’s spirits wonderfully.
The door opened. June looked up, expecting to see the formidable security head, but instead in walked the Prime Minister and his very bored looking driver.
“I changed my shoes,” the PM said. “I thought the old ones weren’t down-to-earth enough. But by the same token, you have to look respectable. No boardies, eh? Well, naturally I have boardies under my slacks but…”
“Oh, for FU—” June began. And then the lights went out. Moments later, there was a loud ‘thump’ and the floor shook.
“I’m voting for literally anyone else,” June said, in the dark.
“You’re not alone there!” the PM burbled, happily.