Dying in an Ocean of Money was Worth It
rating: +29+x

In a distant realm, a junior researcher, known to others as Junior, died while shoving money into his pockets. While he was laughing and swimming in the Ocean of Cash, a few quarters lodged themselves in his throat.

At the same moment of this Junior's embarrassing death, something mundane was going on in a different universe.

Three losers sat in an office room deep in the caverns of Site-99.

One was making paper airplanes. His head was down on a desk and one eye closed so he could perfect the paper crease. The second was a quite rotund fellow and was pecking away at a slippery-looking sub. The third was online shopping. His eyes hugged the screen as he scrolled from one Rolex to the next.

"Hah…how nice would one of these guys look on me," he mused without looking up.

Neither of the two men responded. They didn't care enough to.

After a few hours of paper plane perfectionism, an abnormally lengthy lunch, and timepiece window shopping, the door to the office slammed open to make way for a young-looking man wearing sunglasses

He had a bronze tan and dirty blond hair that was tied back in a ponytail. There was a bit of scruff on his face, paradoxically he seemed disheveled but maintained. Like all the rest in the room, he wore a lab coat but something was a bit off. Underneath the white overcoat peeked a Hawaiian shirt and swim trunks.

"Where the hell is everyone!?" He boomed.

"The whole damn wing is empty. No lieutenants, no researchers, nothing! I just found a new pet and I wanted to show Castro." The man at the door eyed each of them.

With great effort, the online shopper stood up.

"Errr, good afternoon Vice Director. A portal to the Hell dimension opened on a mountain in Turkey. So all employees in the department were flown out by the Asian Headquarters," he said with passivity.

"Huh…so what are you guys still doing here?"

"We're junior researchers, so the boss told us to not touch anything and wait here. There was an alarm and everything. Weren't you here?"

"Uhh, no I actually was busy on a mission." The Vice Director uttered while looking away.

His clothes certainly didn't indicate any urgent operation. He turned to the sandwich-eater.

"There's an important meeting today and I come all the way out here, put my damn coat on, but the nerve of Castro. Not even freakin' here." Instead of dealing with the aridity of a board meeting, Castro, the director of Extraversal Affairs, decided to handle a demon lord.

No one said anything.

"It's our annual budgetary meeting. If you'd like to know."

No response still.

"Well anyways, one of you needs to come with me. It just so happens that both department heads need to show up to plead their case." The Vice Director sighed and looked down. He slapped his face with both hands and kept them there — thinking.

After a few minutes, the Vice Director shot up.

"Hmm, this might actually be a bit of fun. And I do have a new friend too…" the Vice Director continued as he walked up to the online shopper.

"Okay! You, by the computer, come with me. We'll have you…pretend to be me," the Vice Director grew a smile as he pointed towards the Junior Researcher.

"But why, sir?" In truth, the online shopper was a lazy bum. There was a reason these three were left behind when all the other junior researchers got a chance to go on their first mission.

"You think those two weirdos look like Vice Director material?" The Vice Director gestured back to the other junior researchers who kept working diligently at their tasks.

"Your new name is Duchamp. And I am going to be Director Castro, alright?"

"Yes sir, Mr. Vice Direct…" As the Junior Researcher spoke, Vice Director Duchamp came up close and put his finger on the researcher's lips.

"Shhh, I'm Director Castro, remember?"

Vice Director Duchamp smiled and winked, but no one saw. He was still wearing sunglasses.

Site Director Gallagher was very ugly. At least, that's what Duchamp told the Junior Researcher in preparation as they walked to his office. He had a robust stomach, a fake-looking toupée, and a fetid gaze that made the Junior Researcher's stomach churn.

"Say that again, Director Castro, you want how much?" Site Director Gallagher tilted his head downwards. His glasses lowered down his nose so his eyes could look straight at the department head. He looked at the two college-aged looking men wearing professional suits that didn't match their temperament.

"That's correct, Director Gallagher, we want 55 million dollars. And this is not including other overhead and maintenance fees."

Director Gallagher took off his glasses and got up from his chair. His down-to-earth stature accentuated his roundness.

"I don't know if you understand this Castro…And you probably don't considering how often you stay in those extra ‘worlds’ of yours. But here in the real world, we have to think about costs. And your proposed budget makes your department one of the most funded. Even above critical infrastructure like transportation or AIAD…"

He shuffled back towards “Castro” and “Duchamp.” The latter of which stopped paying attention since the meeting began and started to daydream of high-end cars, watches, and clothes.

Out of the corner of the Junior Researcher's eye, he saw a hint of a movement. He turned his head and squinted to see some rustling behind a potted plant.

"Are you listening, Vice Director Duchamp?" Gallagher howled.

The real Duchamp placed his hand on the Junior Researcher's shoulder.

"He's a bit slow, don't mind him, Director Gallagher."

"…Umm, I think there's something over there," the Junior Researcher stammered. As he was speaking, something jumped out of the corner of the room.

It was quick but the Junior Researcher was able to make it out as it scurried up the walls.

It was a small creature, perhaps a half meter tall. It was wearing a dark gray cloak and from the hood emerged a contorted green face. Pointy ears were sticking out from ear sockets and a large, pointy, bent nose flailed alongside a forked tongue. Its skin was forest green and its cheeks were embedded with gold rings. It carried a brown burlap over its shoulders which was emblazoned with some unidentifiable insignia.

It bounced across the room, before flying through the air and snatching Director Gallagher's toupée.

"No!" Director Gallagher screamed. The goblin snickered and crawled up to a corner on the ceiling. Its body began to swirl before vanishing entirely. The only thing remaining was its laugh, which decided that it would hang out in this plane just for a wee bit longer.

The Junior Researcher was hiding underneath the Site Director's desk. Gallagher was on his knees. Duchamp was still sitting down with a blank stare on his face.

Site Director Gallagher ran to his office phone, but as soon as he picked it up Duchamp took it out of his hand.

"I know what that was, Gallagher. They are some kind of interdimensional creature that's been harassing our researchers recently. They are attracted to our reality when we break holes in it. But no need to mind them, they always take harmless trinkets and nothing more."

"Why in the world have you not contained them yet?!"

"They speed through realms.” Duchamp said while waving his hand. He continued.

“Later this week, we were planning on requesting advice for hunting them from the Multiversal Foundation."

Gallagher's bald head shone in the bright light.

"Was there anything important about that item the creature stole?" prodded Duchamp with a crafty tone.

"Suffice it to say, I need it back immediately. It is quite irreplaceable. Is it possible for you to get back now?"

"Normally, yes. But as you know there is an emergency in Turkey and we need all-hands-deck. We haven't been able to get new hires due to some constraints. If you follow me." Duchamp grinned as he continued.

Gallagher and Duchamp were face-to-face.

"Haha! I underestimated you, Director Castro. You’re one sly bastar—fellow." Veins bulged around Gallagher's head as he suppressed his anger.

"I think we can come to an agreement regarding the budget provided you get me my item back," Gallagher belched accepting the blatant blackmail.

"Of course, sir, I'll have my best man on it. Right here, Vice Director Duchamp," said Duchamp as he pointed to the Junior Researcher still cowering under the table.

On the walk back, the two passed one individual. One lanky long-haired researcher who was smoking a pipe. She didn’t look at “Duchamp” and “Castro” as they strolled past. Soon they reached a cluttered closet in an unknown annex.

“I don't want to do this," whimpered the Junior Researcher. Duchamp was fitting his head into the inter-universal transporter; oddly enough, it happened to look like a football helmet.

The Department of Extraversal Affairs had dozens of backrooms where old experiments rotted away.

"You think I'm like Gallagher, don't you," said Duchamp bluntly as he fiddled with the solenoids attached to the sides of the helmet.

"Obviously, I'm not like that idiot. I know how to reward my subordinates. You want a watch don't you?" The Junior Researcher looked up with credulous eyes.

"I stole a glance back in that other office. Brother, it's okay. After you're done with this small job, you'll be able to have all you want and more." The Junior Researcher’s greed overcame him and he grew silent.

Though it was not like he had a choice on whether to go, either way Duchamp would persuade him.

"Okay, everything seems to be set. Here take this mask too. That little guy might've gone somewhere without air. And take this ear-piece too. Me and you need communication."

The Junior Researcher pondered, "Don't you mean 'You and I'?"

"Now, now. We don't want you to get too smart. By the way, I didn't catch your name."

"My name is…," as the Junior Researcher was speaking, Duchamp interrupted him.

"I'll just call you…Junior. That's what it says on your lab coat anyway. First name 'Junior,' last name 'Researcher.'"

Duchamp stood up with a smirk and headed towards the door. As he did, the suit he wore transformed. The suit faded away and the lab coat, along with Hawaiian shirt and swim trunks, blinked onto Duchamp.

As the vice director walked to the door, he put his hands together and then shuffled through a series of hand signs.

He opened the door and on the other side was a glimmering white beach and the whisper of the seabreeze.

"Good luck!" Duchamp traipsed in and the door closed behind him.

Junior walked to the door and opened it. He only saw the empty, run-down hallway of Site-99 waiting for him.

A few seconds later, Junior blipped out of the universe.

Follow Junior?

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