When the lights went down, Jacobs the engineer didn’t have time to wait for R17 to climb the stairs from the pump-room. He ran up them two at a time, tripped, fell on his face, turned on the flashlight on his phone, and ran up them again. Bursting from the pump-room door, he ran across the corridor into the Trilobite Park control room. Backup power was on inside the room indicated – for some reason – by a red incandescent bulb that the unknown original engineer had seen fit to install.
“Converse with me, humans,” Jacobs said.
There was a long pause before a palid young man in an Aquaman t-shirt replied: “Do you mean ‘talk to me people?'”
“Yes,” Jacobs said, hoping that the reddening of this face wasn’t visible in the crimson light. “That.”
“Okay, so, we’ve got emergency power on,” the pale man said, “But the internet is down. Also, I’m out of Cheesels.”
“You, other control room person,” Jacobs said. “Report.”
The other occupant of the control room was a stern-faced middle aged man. He stood slowly, adjusted his tie and read off a clipboard: “Not a Cheesel to be had.”
“Oh, for… What’s happening out there in the Park?”
“Why do we call it a park, anyway?” the pale youth said. “We’re all indoors.”
“Because shut up and get on with it, that’s why.”
“Okay,” the pale youth sighed. “The Federal Police called and told us that we had a major security breach.” He pointed to screen showing a pudgy, goofy looking man. “Some ninjas or something are trying to kidnap this guy… Who was he again?”
The older man consulted his clipboard. “The Prime Minister.”
“That doesn’t seem right,” the youth mused. Anyhoo, there was a threat, so we locked down the Park.”
The older man stepped in, flipping pages on his board. “Yeah, turned out that wasn’t a good idea,” he said, pointing to a monitor. Jacobs saw that it showed several police cars parked outside the Park, and dozens of cops standing around scratching their heads.
“So… You’ve locked the Prime Minister in the building with the ninjas, and locked the cops outside?” Jacobs said.
“Yeah,” the youth said. “We were going to fix it, but there was a power surge just as we hit the panic button…”
“It wasn’t properly earthed,” the older man tut-tutted.
“Not earthed, yeah,” the youth repeated, “and it fried our fuses. We’ve restored emergency lighting, but some of the cameras are down we can’t get the security doors open.”
“Let me guess,” Jacobs eyerolled. “The circuit breakers are outside the security perimeter?”
“Oh, no, no,” the youth smiled. “It’s not that bad. They’re in room 807b.”
“Oh, good. Why don’t you go fix them then?”
“That would be because of the breach in tank 32,” the youth said. “Getting to the breakers means going through a roomful of escaped, flesh-eating trilobites. Boy, I’m sure glad I’m not the person responsible for fixing that mess. Hey, Pakesh, what poor sap is responsible for that deadly and thankless task?”
The older man checked his clipboard. “That would be the chief engineer.”
“Chief engineer!” the youth grinned. “I’d hate to be that poor loser!”
“Captain Pete, I’m glad I caught you,” Barry said. The possessing trilobite spirit was working hard inside him, trying to take full possession of his body, but Barry had paperwork to do so it would just have to wait a friggin’ minute.
The Captain had his hands against a huge trilobite tank, the glass of which was bulging dangerously outward, cracks just beginning to form. It looked to Barry like the Captain was trying to hold back hundreds of litres of water just by main force. Barry considered this very poor OH&S practice.
“This be not the best time Barry,” the Captain said.
“Oh, this will only take a moment,” Barry said. “We need you to send us those liability estimates.”
The Captain turned his head to face Barry, puzzled. “That be it?” he said. “I thought it would be something to do with the emergency we be experiencing.”
Barry waved his hand. “We knew what we were getting into,” he said. “That’s what LPR Finance does. If you need the money for a project and the banks think it’s too risky due to ‘horror concerns’, we’re the people you go to. Need to reopen a summer camp on the tenth anniversary of a killing spree? Want a research grant for mapping R’leyh? Can’t find the cash for your robotic kaiju? The banks won’t give you the money — but LPR might. We know the risks, and the cost for them is built into our interest rates.”
“Which be daylight robbery!”
“And nighttime robbery,” Barry said. “We don’t stop charging interest while you sleep, believe me. Now I need those estimates, and I need them quickly, before I succumb to an ancient evil.”
A flake of glass fell away, leaving a small opening in the bulging glass wall, from which poured a stream of water. The Captain grimaced and gestured to a young man who was wandering through the room. “Be ye a visitor?” he said. “Why are ye not with the other visitors for safety purposes?”
The young man tightened his neckerchief and adjusted his cylindrical hat. “Ja, I have around here somewhere lost my tulip,” he said. “I look for it, yes? Even though I am high on der marijuana.”
“Get over here!”
With a clattering of wooden clogs, the young man came over. “Ja?” he said, in between bites of raw herring.
“Can yer plug yer finger into this hole?”
The young man stared at Captain Pete for a long time. “Ja,” he said, solomnly. “I can do dat.”
“Right,” the Captain said. “Let’s get this paperwork taken care of, yer craven bloodsucker.”
“No, I’m not a craven bloodsucker yet,” Barry said. “The spirit hasn’t… Oh, that was an insult. I see.”