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[breaking into sneaking into an aquarium]

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The owners owed him a few favours. Or they were afraid of him. Which didn't really matter. But they let him keep a small lab when he was in town, because occasionally they dragged in something that caught his interest.

He was just leaving when his heightened senses heard just the tiniest of sounds. He smiled. It certainly wasn't a fish.

-----------------------------

Jackie is stepping carefully but it's hard to stay quiet when you're in an aquarium....that you have all to yourself. Or so she thinks.

She hefts herself over the last gate, careful not to alert any security measures as she sneaks towards the dolphin pools.

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He followed her path silently, hands folded behind his back.

Well this was curious. She was better at getting in than the usual idiots who wanted to steal something exotic or toss something in to see if the sharks would eat it.

She was heading for the dolphins. He hoped she didn't disappoint by just being some giggly girl who wanted to get up close to dolphins. Frankly, they were cunning little murderers half the time.

-----------------------------

She might disappoint eventually. At the moment, she was all in black, could even be mistaken for a burglar...from a 1950's movie maybe.

Jackie grins, leaning up against the glass as the dolphins swim by, making happy noises. At least she hopes those are happy noises.

Time to start stripping down to her swimsuit, excited that this is actually going to happen...

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He grins, watching all this. Oh, he's not going to stop her from stripping down to the swimsuit. It's more fun if he doesn't. He does, however, silently sit down on a convenient bench, leaning back on his arms and crossing his legs.

He'll wait until just the right moment before he speaks. Wait for it, wait for it...

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It's a dark blue one piece, nothing terribly exciting. There's a small camera and tripod too she takes from a duffel bag and starts setting up, grinning to herself.

"Right...showtime..." she says, going to climb up the ladder to the tank.

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It's not about being exciting - though any show of form is nice from his point of view - it's about the maximum moment of confusion. Because he's like that.

"Would you like a spotlight for the show?" He says, finally, grinning.

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Thanks a lot, Mr. whoever you are, just when she's leaning over the water's edge...he speaks.

And she looks up in surprise, her hand slipping on the wet surface and Jackie tumbles head over heels into the water with a yelp.

So cold. She flails to the surface, trying to get a breath. "Eeeaygh!"

-----------------------------

He grins, standing up, walking to the edge of the tank as she makes it to the surface.

"All that effort just to swim with the dolphins?"

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He wasn't security. Couldn't be, right?

"....yes." Fine, she was caught, she'll defend it. Jackie treads water, trying to look nonplussed. Which is hard to do when you're soaking wet, surrounded by DOLPHINS. "Totally worth it."

-----------------------------

He leans on the edge, watching them for a moment.

"Depends on the dolphins. These ones are pretty tame, but some of them are horny little murderers. So, I'd watch out for Flipper, over there."

He points at one dolphin at random. Because he is, above all, a bit of an ass when it comes to amusing himself.

"Still," he says, as if reluctantly, "you made it this far. The last one to try tripped over the outside gate and ended up hanging there by the pants leg."

-----------------------------

Creepy dude. And way too thin.

Jackie hesitates, wondering if she should rethink this and come out of the water. One of the dolphins tickles her feet and she makes a squeak noise before she can stifle it.

"Dolphins don't hurt people. Sharks, they hurt people. Don't you watch Animal Planet?"

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"Don't buy the propaganda. Sharks think we taste awful, but occasionally we look like flopping seals. Dolphins'll do it for the fun of it."

He grins.

"Never trust a species that's always smiling."

He watches the dolphins for a moment, which seem to be keeping well away from him for some reason.

"And don't worry, I'm not security. I just have an eye for the interesting, you might say."

-----------------------------

Jackie scoffs at that...hesitantly. "So...guess that leaves out humans, huh?" Present company included.

Now that was confusing. Jackie has one hand on the railing down into the pool, looking him over. "What are you then? Dolphin...biologist?"

-----------------------------

"Oh, humans can just hide it," he said, casually.

"And no, I'm not. I keep a lab here for when...unusual specimens come in. I'm Nikola Tesla."

And he'll just grin as he says it.

-----------------------------

"Tesla?" That rang a faint bell, but history wasn't Jackie's strong point. Fortunately, having a good eidetic memory helps. That and the fact she's seen every episode of Eureka. "Like the coil?"

He's a scientist and he's not kicking her out of the dolphin pool. What if he is waiting for her to get ea--... "Wait, unusual specimens? Like what?" Now thinking about sea monsters and mermaids. If they were here, she totally would want to see them.

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"Yes, exactly."

Well, it was recognition, of a sort at least.

"Oh, you know," he said in answer to her question, "the usual sort of thing."

It was a test, really. Of intelligence and curiosity. Because he did tend to toy with people a little bit.

-----------------------------

Jackie eyerolls and strokes towards the platform that's just barely under the water so people can sit on it, pulling her dripping self out of the water to do just that. "Unusual usual sort of thing. Sure, like makes any sense at all."

A dolphin comes up to nudge her leg and cackle at her. Jackie can't help a girlish smile, reaching a hand out to touch the dolphin's nose before it dives away. Animals were so amazing but being up close and personal with animals hardly anyone else had was even more amazing.

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One closes in on Tesla. He looks at it, grins, and says 'boo' quietly, watching the animal stream off.

But good, question everything you've been told. That's step one.

"Well, this places has seen things more unusual than the Coelacanth, kiddo."

Though Magnus gets very upset if they try to hold on to any Mer-people.

-----------------------------

Pfft, now he was just making up words. Coa...whatevers probably weren't even here.

"Sure they do. Listen, I've only got so long before Tony, the security guard finishes his coffee and donuts and actually does any rounding. While I enjoy the whole," she gestures around at his area "creepy scientist thing you've got going on, I've been waiting since I was four to swim with these guys. So unless you've got the Loch Ness Monster in the back, I think I'll be good here."

-----------------------------

"Oh, good ol' Tony. Hang on."

He pulled out a cellphone, pressed a button and waited.

"Tony? It's me. Yes, back in town. Anyways, we've a guest in the dolphin pool tonight. Fresh towels, if you don't mind." And he hung up.

"Call it a gift for trying to call me out." That hasn't happened in a while.

He turned to leave, waving, then called over his shoulder.

"And it's too small for Nessie - probably a juvenile Liopleurodon, though. Be seeing you."

-----------------------------

What?? "What??! You....rat." He ratted her out to the guard. How could he do that?

Jackie gets up on her feet, curious despite herself. An animal with a name she couldn't spell, much less pronounce...it sounded like a dinosaur.

Argh, she couldn't just pass up a dinosaur. After a moment, she hops out of the pool. "Sorry guys, I'll try to be back later." Apologizing to the dolphins as she tries to follow where the creepy Tesla dude went.

-----------------------------

He raised an eyebrow at her as she followed.

"You weren't listening. I said 'guest'. If I wanted to rat you out I'd have said 'intruder'. Really, do I look like someone who follows the rules?"

"Still," he added with a grin, "you followed out of curiosity- should've waited for the towels, though."

-----------------------------

"Oh...well, I've heard it both ways." Guest could have been facetious. AKA, guest that needs tossed out, etc. "If you don't follow the rules, why do they keep you on?" Seems like they would want a scientist that did follow the rules.

Jackie looks down at the drips on the carpet and her wet footprints behind her. "Oops." Well, she'll dry out eventually. If there was some sort of secret section of this aquarium, she wanted to see it.

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"Who said," he replied with a grin that nearly split his face, "that I work for them?"

He pushed open an innocuous looking door that said 'Janitorial', and behind it was another, far better secured door.

"Don't worry about it," he added, "it'll help us find out way back if we get lost in the labyrinth."

He briefly waved his hands to accentuate that statement before fishing out a key card.

-----------------------------

Jackie just got this chill, all the way up her spine to her brain. Part goosebumps but also knowing this was something secret...EEEEE, now she had to see it. "You aren't supposed to be here either?" That was just...thrilling to think about. He could be a super spy or better. Secret scientist with secret experiments...like Bruce Banner. "Is this the part where you say don't make me angry?"

She grabs a jacket off the janitor's cart, putting it on. Better than walking around in her swimsuit anyway. "Labyrinth? I think I saw that movie once."

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"Oh, they know I'm here. They just know to leave me to my work."

He grins at the next statement. "Oh, I'm very hard to annoy. Feel free to try, though. I'm sure it'll turn out great for you."

Her last statement, as the door unlocks, makes him sigh.

"You know, once upon a time kids actually got the reference to Theseus and the Minotaur. I hear they don't even teach Greek and Latin as a given."

Which, to the very wise, might raise some alarm bells about a difference between his visible age and his actual age.

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"Yeah well...be glad you caught me and not my cousin. He'd give you a run for your money." Jackie could at the very least say she was one of the less annoying of the Spencers. Which wasn't saying much in the long run.

She misses that entirely, figuring Greek and Latin are standard for all big time scientists anyway. "You probably wouldn't get a Phineas and Ferb reference, so we're probably even." Where were they going? Who builds a labyrinth under an aquarium? Cool people, probably.

-----------------------------

He shrugged.

"Never much cared for platypi, real or cartoon."

And there isn't a labyrinth beyond the door, he's just being...well, Tesla. Always throw people off if you can, even if it's just for the sheer fun of it. What there is is a considerable lab, with a very large, very murky tank.

He reaches up towards the sole light, and in the dark it's hard to see that he pulls no switches, but merely touches the light and the bulb comes to life.

"I wouldn't advise swimming in this particular tank. The fish is most definitely biting."

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She actually pauses right in the corridor at that. "Ok...now I'm impressed. And I just saw you open a secret passage in an aquarium." The fact that he knew about Phineas and Ferb was more impressive somehow.

And continuing...oh wait, they were already there. "That had to be the shortest labyrinth ever."

Odd. Must be some new kind of light...right?

"Fish? Singular?" Jackie peers into the murky water, trying to see what kind of animal it might be. Also, keeping one eye on him in case he goes ax murderer on her and decides to dump her in the tank. Because that's what always happens in the movies.

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"I'm full of surprises," he said, in answer to her first statement.

As for the second.

"Yes, and thankfully a juvenile - there's no aquarium in the world that could hold an adult. Spot of luck there. Well, until this one grows."

He taps on the glass with a knuckle, then waits. And a pair of jaws emerges from the murk, a body at least that of a human with four powerful flippers - but the jaw full of teeth takes of nearly a third of its length. A juvenile but fully functional Liopleurodon.

"Meet the largest predator that ever lived. Well, will be when she grows up. I'm thinking of calling her Margaret."

-----------------------------

Jackie windmills backwards a bit, seeing the scary thing from monster tales swimming around in there. Another strangled noise that she will be ashamed of later coming from her. "...yeah...lucky."

"This may be a dumb question, but how do you know it's a she?"

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"Not seen an adult - and this one is probably very lost in time. These things happen. Well, I actually hope it is, because the alternative is that there's survivors around. And the last thing people need is thirty to fifty feet worth of angry Pliosaur."

In answer to her second question...

"Careful observation and educated guesswork. The alternative being trying to fish her out of there, and even I'd prefer not to do that."

-----------------------------

Argh. "Thanks so much for ruining yet another summer related activity." I.E. surfing.

"Yeah, I can see how that would be a problem." But it also begged the question, "I'm no expert but eventually she is going to grow up? I suppose there's some sort of idea or plan for when that happens, yeah?"

-----------------------------

"Oh, it's probably a crack in time. Pretty sure people would notice if a population of these were feeding."

It'd cause rather a dent in fish stocks. And potentially people.

"Eventually. That's the fun part, I've got no idea yet how quickly she grows. I'm thinking it's environmental, like a crocodile, rather than a per-year thing."

"And yes, I've a friend who is making preparations."

-----------------------------

Jackie gets a bit braver and a little closer to the glass. "Wow...so it's a bonafide sea monster." Cool. Very cool.

"Good to know you guys are on top of things." Though why he was showing her when she was an intruder, she wasn't sure.

-----------------------------

"Oh, absolutely. Durable, too. She's taking to modern seawater like a duck to a pond."

He stood with hands on his hips, watching the creature as it briefly swam out of the murk.

"And yes, in a few days? It will be like she was never here."

-----------------------------

There they were again. Goosebumps.

"....should I even be down here? You going to get into trouble or something for bringing onlookers to see your sea monster?"

Jackie tries to pretend she didn't just jump a bit when the creature bumps the glass near her. No, that didn't happen.

-----------------------------

"Hmm? Oh, no, you shouldn't, but I've always been bad at the whole rules thing."

And he'll not mention that the creature was testing the glass. It always did when people were in the room. Just in case it could eat somebody.

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"...cooool..." It was like someone saying Oh, here's Bigfoot by the way. She might be the first outsider to see this.

"Ok, well...this was fun. I probably should go get my clothes now." Hopefully this won't be the part where the bad guy says oh no you can't leave.

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"Pity," he said, with a grin, "I was rather enjoying the mermaid act."

He was on good terms with Bigfoot, actually. Well, terms. He kept emptying the wine cellar, which the big guy didn't much care for.

"If you'd like to go skinny-dipping with the dolphins, I promise not to peek."

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"Aaaand not going to happen." Jackie walks out of the room back towards the dolphin pool.

If he was going to let her hang out, she was going to take advantage of it and swim as much as possible. "Being a mermaid would be cool though. I wouldn't have to hold my breath."

-----------------------------

"Quite complex gill system, though."

Because he does love to tease with information.

"And you can't blame a mad scientist for trying."

He snapped his fingers as he exited, shutting the light off. Even when nobody was watching, always the show.

-----------------------------

"Why would it have to be complex? Works for fish, why not people?" Jackie takes off the coat, replacing it in the janitor's closet exactly as she found it. Wouldn't want to leave any evidence behind.

"Please...you don't even have nifty..." gesturing at her eyes like taking off glasses "nerdy glasses frames." Can't be that mad of a scientist.

-----------------------------

"The more advanced the brain, the more oxygen it requires. Fish don't have fingers to deal with, either. It all adds up, needs a more efficient system?"

Is he hinting there's such a thing as mermaids? Perish the thought.

"Ah, yes, I prefer to look good at what I do, thank you very much. And I haven't been mad for a while, truth be told. Since the Philadelphia Experiment, now I think of it."

-----------------------------

She's ok with talking about real or fictional mermaids. "Ok, possibly. I could see that. But that's assuming mermaids are more human than fish. What if they only have fish brains? Just because Arial can sing doesn't make her smart." Yes, that was a Little Mermaid reference.

Jackie has her feet back in the pool, giving him a sidelong glance, "You look like you're modeling Calvin Klein's stalker edition."

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"Ah, you're forgetting convergent evolution. Opposing thumbs are useful no matter what species develop them. Some forms just work."

He shook his head at her latter statement.

"You show a girl a sea monster and she compares your taste to something so gauche. See if I ever show you wonders again."

He turned to leave, not the sort to bother with a closing salutation.

-----------------------------

"A thumb ain't a brain. Just saying."

She leans up out of the water as he's going, remembering she didn't say it. "Thank you by the way! That was pretty cool."

-----------------------------

He stopped, looking back over his shoulder.

"The least impressive find of my life, but yes, it really was."

-----------------------------

Hm.

"Not like you have any other finds here anyway."

Perhaps she's being way too transparent in her attempt to bait him for more info, but it's worth a shot. If they have that hidden away, then what else might there be?

-----------------------------

He laughed, briefly, walking off into the darkness.

"Nikola Tesla, look me up! The one, and the only!"

Because his best finds weren't ever in some rinky-dink aquarium. And he'd given her all he would. A little glimpse of the strange and amazing for amusing him. The best part being he'd never actually told her why. A little impish turn.

-----------------------------

"I'll do that." Even though he'd probably gone out of the room by now. "....you're in the book, right?"

Jackie smirks to herself, well this night shaped up to be more interesting than she thought. Time to have some fun with these dolphins.

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Jacqueline Ann Spencer

2017

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