“And that is why I am an unmitigated badass,” Taipan said. “Questions?”
Jacobs sighed. He had been sighing a great deal lately. On the other hand, it was good to be alive to sigh and be annoyed by this colossal idiot.
He sat in an unusually large ventilation tube, high in a wall over a room filled six inches deep with dark water and murderous trilobites. This position was embarrassing enough with the fact that the tube was occupied by the one-eyes, bemulleted idiot who called himself Taipan.
“Yes,” he said. “So you’re a criminal.”
“And they sent you to rescue the Prime Minister.”
“Because I have all the skills needed to get the job done!” Taipan said. “And I am expendable.”
“Ah, expendable, I see,” Jacobs said. “And the Prime Minister isn’t expendable?”
“No, of course not.”
“Right. But if you die, there’s no one to rescue him?”
“So, functionally at least, you’re not expendable.”
Taipan’s face fell. “No, I guess not. Huh.”
“Yeah, so they really should have sent in, like a squad of SAS guys, or at least those tactical police guys… do they still call them SWAT? No, I think they changed it, but I can’t remember…”
“Shut up,” Taipan said. “All right, screw it. I’m a non-expendable person with a completely inappropriate skillset and the numbers against me. But I still have a mission to perform and…”
Taipain was cut off by a huge belly laugh echoing across the trilobite infested room. Jacobs looked around. Standing by the door was Hay and three teenagers – so four teenagers, really. Two of the kids, boys, were using their phones as flashlights to scan the dark waters on the floor. The other newcomer, a girl, was pointing at Jacobs’ predicament and laughing.
“Hay!” Taipan sneered. “This isn’t funny.”
“Yeah,” the girl said. “It is.”
“Yeah well,” Taipan sighed, “yeah, it is funny. But stop laughing anyway!”
“Hello!” Jacobs called. “When you’ve finished laughing, can you help us?”
“Nearly done,” the girl said. “BWAAAA-hahahahahaha! Okay, what can we do?”
“Okay, there’s an electrical junction box…”
“Is your butt going to sleep?” one of the boys called out.
“Stop making fun!”
“He’s not,” the other boy sighed. “Juraj is genuinely interested. Really.”
“Oh. In that case, yes, it is.”
The girl started bawling with laughter again.
“Hay!” Jacobs called “Is this really the best help you could find?”
Hay shrugged. “Pretty much. So how do we get to this junction box past the trilobites? And what do we do once we get there?”
“Trilobites, huh?” Taipan said. “Have you tried punching them?”
“Ah, shaddup,” the girl who wasn’t Hay said. “Okay, we needs to get to the box… the trilos in this tank can’t get out of the water. Obvious solution: stilts.”
“What, like tin can stilts?” Juraj said, perking up. “Those are fun to make.”
“Might be too short to keep us out of the water,” the other boy said.
“I got some big cans in the kitchen,” Hay said. “Real big cans. Enough for us all.”
“Okay,” the other girl said. “We’ll go to the kitchen, make some big tin-can stilts and report back.”
The boy who wasn’t Juraj scratched his head. “Should we be standing in water, on metal cans and fiddling with an electrical…”
“We’ll be right back,” the girl repeated loudly. The boy stared at the floor. She turned back to Jacobs and grinned. Jacobs grimaced, guessing what was coming.
“I know, I know,” he said. “‘In the meantime – sit tight.'”
The girl tapped the side of her nose, and the kids departed.