The time machine had malfunctioned for the second time, and now a tyrannosaurus rex stomped around the research bay chomping on the low hanging fluorescent lights.
“Those bulbs are hazardous if not disposed of properly,” Dr. Batkiss declared as she pushed the black-rimmed glasses with wide, black lenses up the bridge of her nose. “Be careful not to inhale the gas—it’s quite toxic.”
I didn’t stop what I was doing, which was trying to open up the weapons cabinet before getting eaten by the Jurassic era’s alpha predator, when I asked her what needed to be asked. “There’s a dinosaur fifteen feet from consuming us, and you’re worried about the fluorescent light bulbs?”
“I pity you for not having pride in your workplace.” Dr. Batkiss tsk’ed me and shook her head in those short condescending shakes that feel like being corrected by your mom in the middle of the toy store.
The tyrannosaur roared as bulbs from one light fixture fell and popped in concussive waves of broken glass and hisses of escaping argon and mercury. Instead of staying put as he was told, one of the interns screamed and darted from his research cubicle.
I’ll give him credit. Maybe the kid played some football or ran some track. He made it a good twenty, maybe twenty-five feet before the tyrannosaur got him. I can’t blame the dinosaur because the kid was screaming his head off. I mean, come on. We’ve all seen some strange, strange things in this lab. What’s one dinosaur more? The kid was clearly overreacting.
The tyrannosaurus leaned over and ate the intern whole. One quick bite. At that point I was convinced that this invader to my workplace was female. I quickly dubbed the dinosaur “Stephanie” after an ex-girlfriend who consumed my soul in quite the same manner.
It became clearer to me now. I had to send Stephanie packing. She didn’t belong in this lab, and I was running out of interns.
“Can’t you get that weapons locker open?” Dr. Mafuni screamed. Like he could do a better job. I’m the sixth smartest person on the planet. Mafuni’s only twenty-third. And from what I hear some fifteen-year old Indian girl from Alipurduar was about to take his spot.
I ignored Mafuni bout couldn’t help notice Batkiss still watching me. Her eyes followed along as I fumbled with the lock. She did this to me once before. In bed. That’s right, she paid more attention to my technique than being absorbed in the heat of the moment. Next time you get the bright idea to hit on a scientist remember one thing: if she’s not judging you on what you’re doing, she’s thinking up 3.1417 ways that you could be doing it better. No wonder scientists are always such a lonely lot.
A large crash alerted me that Stephanie was getting closer. I turned for only a moment to see another intern become a snack. Poor kid. Out of all the interns, he bothered me the least. She was the one with all the little Pokemon figures lining her cubicle. I wonder if I could grab some of them before anyone cleans them out. My nieces would die for her Polywhirl.
“I got it,” I said. It was stupid because I swung the doors of the cabinet wide open. Nothing like being so damned obvious when you’re trying to be so damned heroic.
Dr. Batkiss brushed past me and reached in to grab the Tesla-Senior. This gun had the longest barrel of all the rifles, and the polished stainless steel reflected what little lights that Stephanie had not yet knocked down.
“Figures you’d grab that one,” I said to Batkiss.
She cocked the weapon and sneered. “This is hardly a time to make Freudian quips. And I’ll give it back when I’m done.”
“No, you can keep it.”
“No, you need me to fix the time portal. I can’t have the sixth smartest person tinkering with my machine.”
“Look, you beat me by three measly points.”
Batkiss charged the weapon; it hummed as the coils filled with energy. “But I still beat you.”
Mafuni screamed. Again.
Stephanie had made her way right to us. Her tail swooped back and forth, and I cringed each time it came close to snapping the ion acceleration manifold on the weather changer. She raised her feathered head and had knocked hard against the roof. I sighed because I would have to get that Philipino guy that I can’t understand out to realign them. I hate calling that guy.
I grabbed the best weapon left in the cabinet—it was a Higgs-Bosun mark four. Inside a small container marked “WARNING: In Case of Dinosaur Threats” was a hunk of meat. We recycled it out every couple of days by putting the old meat in the “WARNING: In Case Of Zombie Threats” container. That reminds me, I need to restock both since that last incident.
Anyway, I stuffed the slab of beef in Mafuni’s collar and kicked him. Hard. He stumbled forward, landing right at Stephanie’s feet.
Stephanie stopped and smelled the air. Her nostril pulled big gulps as they honed in on the source of the teasing aroma. She looked down and found it—attached to the smartest man in Asia but the third smartest person in the room.
And he was pissing himself. No kidding. A small pool of urine collected on the floor next to his moccasins. Some people just can’t rationalize simple situations.
Mafuni collected his wits enough to run. Or maybe it was just adrenaline kicking in. I didn’t care, but unfortunately, he ran right for me. “No, you fool. Run that way.” I pointed down the hallway to the zero gravity chamber and break room. I had been working on the Lego version of the Millenium Falcon and was seventy-four bricks away from making the Kessel run in under ten parsecs. Whatever that means. If things went wrong, I would have to start over. But it was a sacrifice I was willing to make.
Mafuni somehow heard me and waddled down the hallway. Stephanie, like the good tyrannosaurus that she was, gave chase. Batkiss held up five fingers to remind me of her world ranking and ran where Stephanie had just been.
So it was up to me to keep the dinosaur occupied and having some Asian food. I readied the Higgs-Bosun mark four and hit the activate button. The previous three models, when tested, disappeared into nothingness like Schrödinger's cat at the opening of the box. From near as I could figure, the anti-matter induction cores were malfunctioning. I made the interns swear not to tell Batkiss because she would offer a solution. And she would probably be right. Well, at least the interns can’t tell her anymore.
Stephanie cornered Mafuni by the break room. He knocked over the vending machine in the hopes that Hershey Bars and Kit Kats would satiate the dinosaur’s taste buds. As the vending machine fell, it clipped the table that was my temporary Mos Eisley and sent the Millenium Falcon crashing to the floor, disassembling like the atoms in a fission reactor.
“Mafuni, I’m docking your pay. And you need to buy me the Lego Star Destroyer, too.” I added that last part because I remembered that this was my lab. Some times you have to be the boss.
“Help me,” he cried. Literally. Tears were running down his fat face.
“You need to distract it. Dr. Batkiss will require at least seven point nine-six--”
“Got it,” Batkiss called from the other side of the lab. “And your computational skills match those of someone who deserves to be the sixth smartest person on the planet.”
That Batkiss really knows how to hurt me.
I brought the Higgs-Bosun mark four to the ready. I took aim. I squeezed the trigger.
Reality—both time and space—slowed down in a circular area about the size of the splash pool at Six Flag’s Atlantis. The weapon jerked from my arms exploded outward, and opened a rift in the fabric of the universe.
I peered into the tear. Inside I could make out a figure. My height. My weight. He wore the same white lab coat with the same Voltron t-shirt underneath. But it was scaly. Reptilian. It was a dinosaur version of me. He looked over and saw my dinosaur on the loose. I peered down his hallway and saw a giant, naked human woman wrecking his lab.
Simultaneously we nodded. Only once. Twice would mean we’re gay and I’m not indicating to the sauropod version of myself that I want to suck his dinosaur dick. One nod meant good luck. We both would need it.
The rift closed with a pop like the explosion of a potato chip bag. Mafuni stood shaking and soiled amidst the broken glass and candy bars. Even Stephanie the tyrannosaurus rex perked up an eyebrow as if to ask what the hell had just happened.
“I can fix your little gun,” Batkiss called out from down the way.
Damnit, why did she have to see that?
“Come on,” I screamed at Stephanie. “I know you women are all alike.” I pointed to my chest. “My heart is still beating. Don’t you want to tear it out?”
Stephanie charged for me.
I made my way through the debris of the lab and headed for the open time portal. Sulfurous air tickled my nose. A blast of heat hit me like a Florida afternoon. Batkiss had managed to get the portal open and aimed at the right time to send the tyrannosaurus back home. Now I had to get Stephanie out of my life. Again.
As the dinosaur gained full speed I ran off to the side and hid under the particle reducer. Perplexed that its prey had vanished, the tyrannosaur skidded to a halt on the freshly waxed tile floor. She waved her tiny, useless arms and sniffed the air. Her snout aimed right at my hiding place.
Stephanie, jaws open and drooling buckets of saliva at the thought of consuming me once and for all, opened her mouth and leaned in to eat the particle reducer and me in one swift shot. She got so close that I could see the tattered white lab scrubs that were standard issue for the interns caught in between light-saber sized teeth.
Stephanie roared. I swore knowing I was going to die not having finished the Lego Millenium Falcon. Man, that sucked.
And Batkiss shot the dinosaur right in the ass with the Tesla-Senior. The shock had been so potent that Stephanie, fearing another blast, gladly bolted right through the time portal and back to the safety of her own time.
Batkiss powered down the machine. The room was quiet for a moment before I heard the familiar click of Batkiss’ Italian shoes on the tile floor. The rhythmic cadence was slow and stead like a metronome. I was about to get one hell of an “I told you so’s” from Batkiss. Again.
She stopped at the particle reducer, leaned over, and called out after me. “You can come out now.”
“I wasn’t hiding. I’m recalibrating the particle reducer.”
“No you aren’t.”
“Yes, I am.”
Batkiss leaned the Tesla-Senior against the wall so she could fold her arms and pout. “It’s a phase shift modulator in a gelatinous conductive colloid. There are no moving parts to calibrate.”
“Everyone okay?” Mafuni said as he peered around the corner to see if it was dinosaur free once again.
“Mafuni, you are the most worthless particle-physicist ever to come out of Osaka,” I said as I pulled myself out from under the machine.
I felt kind of bad saying that, but from what I understand Mafuni’s father talks to him the same way.
“What do we do now?” Mafuni said as he looked over all the wreckage and the now empty intern cubicles.
“Two choices,” I advised my colleagues. “You can either stay here and clean the lab or come get inebriated with me. This is going to be a bad one. I estimate by eleven o’clock I will go home and eat half my niece’s birthday cake, feel deep regret, and then drunk dialing my ex before the night is through. Who’s with me?”
“I’ll get the broom,” Batkiss said.
“And I’ll mop,” Mafuni added.
“I hate you guys.”
Batkiss waved her five fingers as I left to get drunk.