“We gonna teleport again?” Ann asked as she took Snap’s hand.
“No. I just want to steady you.” He replied as he pulled her off the cot. Once they were standing, the wooden floor began to lower into the ground.
“Do I get an expense account?” Ann asked.
“A new apartment? Cause, ya know, mine was kinda destroyed.”
“A new car?”
As Ann continued to inquire about potential employment perks, the wooden platform lowered them down a shaft, lit every few feet by redirected natural light. When the platform reached the bottom, there was an opening in the rock.
“Finally.” Snap murmured. He led Ann through the opening.
Ann looked everywhere, and it was still too much to take in at once. Ahead of her was a massive cavern, maybe four stories tall and just as wide, with a gradual slope downwards to her right. When she stepped into the cavern she saw, to her left, the bottom of Lacuna’s Depth. At its base was a crystal blue lake that almost seemed to glow. Above it, a large, circular chimney of rock, carved over centuries of water erosion, as tall as a fifteen-story building.
Snap lead her away from the lake, down the slope of the cavern. Soon, the cavern separated into two paths. One continued to the left, expanding further, into an enormous underground space that looked like a cross between a laboratory and a workshop for engineers, but it was the size of a football stadium. Everything in this lab/ workshop was on a gigantic scale. The tools, the work benches, the computers, the monitors, everything was huge. At the far end was a gigantic door that lead into another chamber.
Snap took her up along a path to the right. Soon, they came upon a long section of structures that looked like store fronts, offices, and entertainment areas. Extending out from these structures was a long terrace that looked more like a park, filled with plenty of greenery, tiled walk-ways, and a small viewing area at the far end. The structures and terrace followed the curved contour of the football-stadium-sized cavern and overlooked the giant lab below.
Snap and Ann headed towards the viewing area. Overlooking the area was a gigantic computer monitor that she thought was a wall. Beside it, in the viewing area, were smaller, normal-sized tables, computers, monitors, chairs, even a galley-like kitchen and vending machine.
“Why is all of that really big?” Ann asked, pointing at the gigantic work space below.
“What I have to say may be hard to believe.” Snap started.
“Really.” Ann deadpanned. “After everything that has happened today, this will be hard to believe?”
“Yes.” Snap replied. “To put it simply, there are alternate dimensions, consisting of alternate version of Earth. Yurlunger is from one of those. On his world, he was a genius. On this world, he would be considered a monster. When you were originally hired, it was for a reason.” He gestured to one of the seats in the human-sized work area. “Please, have a seat. I have other things to attend to. Yurlunger will be along momentarily. He’s meditating.” He went to leave when he added. “Whatever happens, don’t be afraid.” He nodded and headed off.
“That isn’t very comforting!” Ann yelled back. She sat back in the chair, for a split second, before dashing over to the railing and looking around at the workshop below. She wondered who, or what used such large equipment.
“Greetings Ms. Bricken.”
Ann jumped back from the railing. The voice sounded like distant thunder. She looked around, trying to see where it was coming from. “Are you Yurlunger?” She asked, realizing that she was trembling.
“Then how about you show yourself?” Ann asked, trying to remain calm. But she didn’t feel calm.
A large head, the size of SUV, rose above the railing. It looked like something out of Jurassic Park. It had a bluish-grey skin along the top and back of the head, while the throat looked grey or tan. Although she could see muscles flexing under its skin, it looked thick and heavy. On the top of its head was a crest with two nostrils on each side. It sloped forward, down to a large snout that housed a mouth full of long, slender comb-like teeth. The head rose about ten feet above the railing on a neck was as thick and powerful as Redwood tree that had weathered centuries of hardship.
Ann backed up more, stumbling over a chair and falling on her ass.
“Are you all right?” Yurlunger asked. His voice rumbled like an avalanche. She felt it rumble in her chest. It was powerful, old.
Ann shook her head. “Yep.” She squeaked.
“You can be honest with me, Ms. Bricken.”
“You’re a frickin’ dinosaur.” Ann whispered.
Yurlunger smiled and nodded his head. “I suppose I am.”
Ann’s fear abated. She started to smile at seeing him smile. She giggled, feeling like a little girl. “You’re a dinosaur!”
“And you are looking for employment, are you not?” Yurlunger asked, gazing upon her with knowing eyes.
Ann got to her feet, nodding. “Yeah.”
“Good.” Yurlunger replied. He turned away, and his head lowered to the same level as the railing.
Ann raced to the railing and looked down. He had been standing on his hind legs to reach that height. Regardless, he was still huge. She tried to remember the movies, documentaries, and pictures she had seen of the kind of dinosaur he was. The only name that came to mind was ‘Long neck’, but she did know his species was one of the largest of its kind. He had the longer front legs, as she remembered, but his seemed slender, more articulate. But the feet still looked like tree trunks, with thick, stubby toes. His hind legs were much thicker, and incredibly powerful. His tail looked much short than her memory could conjure, and almost as thick as his hind legs. Although his body structure looked like she thought it would, there was something different about it, reminding her more of a person, someone who walked on two legs instead of four.
She watched him as he lumbered towards a large rack that held what looked like a metal tree with branches, and two metal rings with numerous robotic arms and hands extending from the other side. When he was close enough, he reared up on his hind legs and placed his front feet into the metal rings. The moment his feet made contact, the rings lit up and came to life. They flexed around his feet, becoming his hands.
He turned around and backed up against the metal tree. Once he was close enough, the limbs of the metal tree reached around him, as if strengthening his back. The bottom of the tree wrapped tightly around his tail, creating what looked like a third leg, giving him enough support for his massive weight. He turned back towards Ann, a tripedal sauropod with robotic arms and hands attached to his front feet.
Ann watched as he turned towards a large computer console and activated the gigantic computer monitor overlooking the viewing area. Although he was something that, mere hours ago, she would have thought was unreal and impossible, she realized the meaning of what Snap had told her. She imagined that someone like him, having the genius to create Snap, this underground home, and the devices he used, must have faced incredible hardship to reach this point in his life. It hit her, like a slap to the face, that maybe that was what he saw in her. They had both faced hardships, had their ups and downs, yet they were still here.
“Ms. Bricken?” Yurlunger asked.
She jumped, pulled out of her thoughts. She noticed the images on Yurlunger’s gigantic screen were the same being displayed on the smaller monitors in the human-sized sitting area. “Ya boss?” She replied as she walked over the monitors in the sitting area, and plopped herself down.
Ann took another sip of her beer before continuing. “He laid out the real purpose behind Brach Consulting, which consisted of helping high-tech companies, scientists, organizations, and governments deal with the criminal elements within and without. But instead of being all shadowy and stuff, he needed a face, namely me. I work as a liaison with the clients he helps, as well as a liaison with those he wants to stop. It can be a nasty job, but I got so much kick-ass training, I’m like Hit-Girl all grown up. And whatever I can’t handle, my back-up–“
“Ann!” Kara interrupted, a look of incredulous disbelief on her face. “You expect us to believe all this?”
Ann sat back. “It’s the truth. “
“I’m sorry, but this is bullshit.” Kara chortled, the booze giving her liquid courage to say what she would usually save for social media. “You have been watching too much of Big Bang Theory I think! This sounds like some geek’s superhero-slash-spy fantasy! Has your life gotten so shitty that you need to make up all this? I mean c’mon! If you’d stuck with something more realistic, we might have let it slide.”
Ann glanced over at Jillian, who couldn’t look her in the eyes.
“But you’ve always done this. Made up things to make yourself feel better, to be special, the center of attention.”
“Sorry for horning in on your racket, Kara.” Ann said, a smirk on her lips as she finished her beer.
“Oh shit.” Jillian whispered as she got to her feet.
“My racket!” Kara said, her anger boiling over. She pushed herself back from the table and got to her feet.
One of the well-dressed men from the nearby table put a hand on Kara and Jillian’s shoulder. “Ladies, I think you should leave.”
“Who the hell are you?” Kara yelled. “Get your hands offa me!”
The rest of the men at the nearby table got to their feet and drew automatic weapons from their suit jackets. Two of the five men at the table shot their weapons into the ceiling. The loud rip of sub-machine fire silenced the restaurant. Afterwards, there was screaming and crying.
The well-dressed man behind Kara and Jillian forced them to sit down.
Ann looked at his face and saw the hints of a scar across his face. An image flashed before her eyes. She remembered the day those gunmen attacked her in the office. One of them was slashed across his face by Jack. She smiled. “You found me.”
The scarred man leaned over Kara and Jillian, squeezing their shoulder, making them grimace in pain. “No. We found these two. It took a while, but eventually, we found you. Now that we have you–“
“You don’t have me.” Ann interrupted. She kicked back her chair into one of the men behind her, and pushed down on her side of the table.
The other side of the table flew up, missing Kara and Jillian, but slamming into the scarred man. His head snapped back, followed by an arc of blood.
Ann spun around, back, to her right, the beer bottle in her right hand. She smashed it across the face of another man that charged her, followed by a front kick from her left leg. The man collided with another man trying to move in on her.
One of the armed men aimed at Ann and fired.
Already off balance, she fell backwards, the bullets sailing over her chest and striking one of the other men, knocking him backwards onto the floor.
Ann tried to get to her feet, but was pinned by the sixth man working for the scarred man.
Beams of light flashed out in a circular pattern behind the sixth man. He was then yanked off Ann. The sixth man glanced over his shoulder to see Jack lifting him above his head with one arm. With similar ease, Jack tossed him across the restaurant. He crashed into the far wall before hitting the floor unconscious.
Jack grabbed Ann’s hand and hauled her to her feet. “See, no kinves! Ah can so be civilized!”
“Fine! I owe you a case of beer. Where’s Snap?” Ann asked as her attackers regrouped.
“Makin’ everyone chunder!” Jack replied, laughing.
Near the front of the restaurant, Snap appeared in a flash of light. In his closed hand, he held a bunch of marble-sized devices. When he opened his hand, all the devices, save one, zoomed out of his hand, attaching themselves to Kara, Jillian, the restaurant workers and patrons. When the remaining device flashed blue, beams of light exploded out of his chest, one for every device. Less than a second later, the restaurant was empty, save for Ann, Jack, and their attackers.
Jack and Ann nodded and tore into the men that remained. A few minutes later, they walked out the front door victorious. In the street, all the people Snap teleported were recovering from varying levels of nausea.
Snap approached Ann and Jack. “I have alerted the A.S.I.S. of this incident. I have also downloaded the information we have gathered on these men and their employers. It should be sufficient evidence to lock them away for one hundred and twenty two years.”
Ann nodded as her eyes fell upon Kara and Jillian. They looked at her, stunned by what they saw and learned. “We better go before the locals arrive.”
As Jack and Ann moved closer to Snap, beams of light engulfed them and they vanished.
Ann sat by the edge of the crystal blue lake at the bottom of Lacuna’s Depth, her legs submerged in the cool, refreshing water.
“You are troubled.” Yurlunger’s deep voice resounded throughout the cavern.
Ann remembered when his voice startled her. Now, it was soothing. “Meh.” She replied.
The waters rippled as Yurlunger rose from the lake. He walked past her, barely making a noise, onto shore. “I am a quick learner. Your response means that you are.”
Ann smirked. “Just surprised, I guess, and disappointed.”
“Your friends saw only who you were. They could not see who you had become.”
“Were you eavesdropping on our conversation?” Ann asked. When he didn’t respond right away, she looked up at him.
He looked up, avoiding her gaze. “Perhaps.” He finally answered.
“Protecting your investment, right, I gotcha.” Ann nodded.
“No!” Yurlunger replied. He looked down upon her, surprised. “I was protecting my friend.”
“Oh.” Ann murmured, feeling embarrassed, and comforted.
“I only hope that the life you have now is a good one.”
Ann sprung to her feet. “Are you kidding? This is the best job I’ve ever had! The pay is phenomenal, the perks are generous, the health benefits are top-drawer, and the vacations are all-inclusive!” She walked up to Yurlunger and patted his tree-trunk-like leg. “Plus, my boss is the coolest.” She looked up at him with a warm smile.
Yurlunger looked down and shared her smile.
“Can I get a ride now?” Ann asked.
Yurlunger sighed. “No.” and started to lumber down the slope towards his workshop.
“C’mon!” Ann pleaded.
“You’re huge! You wouldn’t even know I was there!”
“I would know you are there.”
“Well, yeah, you would know I was there, but in the tactile sense of the knowing–“
“For the two hundredth and forty-second time, no.”
“How about if I… clean your workshop!”
“How about completing your own paperwork, instead of getting Snap to do it.”
Ann stopped walking. “You knew about that?” She sighed. “Crap.”
Tales from the Infinatum: The Job Copyrighted © 2013 Mark James MacKinnon.
Any use of these characters, without permission, is strictly prohibited. Any similarities to individuals, living or dead, is purely coincidental.