The three members of the Paleontology club sat in the near-dark of Trilobite Park’s education centre. They sat apart from the other students, who they had come to hate in a very short span of time.
“This is not as much fun as I thought it was going to be,” Blake said. “You getting a signal yet, Juraj?”
“Still nothing,” Juraj said, holding up his phone. “Damn it, I have to log in soon. My Candy Train Empire needs constant updating if I want the Crystal Station built by Wednesday.”
“Cheese ‘n’ crackers,” Daisy sighed. “Turn off the damn phone. Everyone turn off your phones. You ain’t got no way to recharge ’em so just check in once an hour, capice.”
“How is he supposed to know when it’s an hour without his phone?” Blake asked.
Daisy pointed to the nearest wall, her expression even more sour than usual.
“The wall circle?” Blake said.
Juraj and Daisy both looked at him, disbelieving. “You know those ‘wall circles’ are clocks, right?” Juraj said.
“Of course,” Blake lied. “It was a joke. Ha ha. The moving lines that radiate from the middle indicate time in, uh, the usual way.”
“Cer-ipes,” Daisy said, shaking her head.
The door flung open. Mrs Vallerez, who had seemed to be watching over the students, suddenly jerked into life. Blake realised that she’d been napping with her eyes open.
“Who is it?” she said. “If it’s the Prime Minister again, you can f—”
“No, it’s me,” said a young woman, wearing a filthy apron. “Hay Ew. I run the canteen here. I need help!”
“Hayley Ewen?” Mrs Vallerez said. “Didn’t I fail you in… Well, everything?”
“Hi, Mrs Vallerez,” Hay said. “You were wrong about me. I’m not unemployable. I run the cafeteria.”
“Sweet merciful God in heaven!”
“Yeah, everyone says that,” Hay smiled. “But no time for that: I need some trilobite experts – stat!”
The Paleontology Club put their hands up.
“Oh, and there’s mortal danger involved,” Hay continued. “Probably should have mentioned.”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake,” Daisy muttered.
“What’s the problem?” Mrs Vallerez sighed.
Hay explained how Jacobs the engineer was trapped above a flooded room, full of flesh-eating trilobites. A weird guy with one eye and a mullet had saved him from the arthropods by hauling him into a vent, but now they were both stuck.
“So you can escape through vents!” Juraj said. “In your face, plumbers –”
But the plumbers were nowhere to be seen.
“It’s an unusually wide vent,” Hay said. “But still too narrow to turn around in. And Jacobs can’t come down. So they’re both kind of stuck there, above the pool of flesh-eating trilobites. That’s why I need some trilobite experts – to get them down.”
Blake looked at Juraj. Juraj looked at Blake. They both looked at Mrs Vallerez, who seemed to have gone back to sleep. In that moment, Blake and Juraj both knew that they didn’t want to go – and each knew that the other would back him up.
“How’s this Jacobs guy stayin’ above water level?” Daisy asked.
“He’s sort of sitting in the vent,” Hay said. “You know, like sitting on the very edge with his legs dangling and his body at a freaky angle. And Taipan is holding him around the waist.”
“Sufferin’ catfish!” Daisy yelled. “This I gotta see! C’mon, yez palookas!”
She followed Hay out of the room. Other students looked expectantly at Blake and Juraj, until they reluctantly got to their feet and followed.