The Grumblegator slumped in his chair. He was in the cave again, waiting for the shareholder to show up for their scheduled meeting. He was not in a good mood. He had just received word that the Steward had taken the Sled of Infernal Roses from the Iron League.
He sighed. Why did he give the sled to the Iron League to begin with? They were just a bunch of nerd losers who likes to quote stuff.
Oh wait, he thought to himself sarcastically. The shareholder demanded it. Well, Mr. Shareholder, looks like your idea sucked.
The Grumblegator would never say that to the shareholder’s face though. He was on thin ice with the shareholder already, and he didn’t want to jeopardize his job. Especially not with Rick from operations gunning for it.
“Rick, you suck,” the Grumblegator muttered to himself.
He heard his phone ring. It was Ms. Pamola Cherry.
“What is it?” he said as he answered the phone.
“I’m having a great day, thanks for asking, sir,” Ms. Pamola Cherry retorted. “Have you had your meeting yet? How big and bad and scary is he? When are you going to invite me to one of your meetings so I can see how mean and scary he is.”
The Grumblegator wasn’t currently in the mood for Ms. Pamola Cherry’s mockery.
“I enjoy the good natured ribbing, Ms. Pamola Cherry,” he told her. “Really, I do. But you really don’t want to be down here. I legitimately think it’s better if as few of us as possible have to deal with this guy.”
Ms. Pamola Cherry didn’t seem to be moved by the Grumblegator’s uncharacteristic earnestness. “Whatever you say, sir,” she replied. “Anyway, I called to let you know that it looks like the Steward is on his way to Bowie. Looks like he’ll be at the Cloud Connection 20XX expo. Shall I proceed with our plan that we discussed?”
“Yes,” the Grumblegator answered. “You may proceed. Let’s just hope we find the artifact, before the Steward and his buddies do.”
The Grumblegator noticed the green gas beginning to form in the ring in front him. “I’ll call you back.”
“Say hi to the big, scary shareholder, Ms. Pamola Cherry managed to get out before the Grumblegator hung up on her.
The Grumblegator grumbled as the gas began to fill out the metal ring again. Soon enough, he could make out the shareholder’s features as if an image were projected onto the gas. More specifically, the Grumblegator could make out the one feature the shareholder seemed interested in showing off. It was an unnaturally wide grin, accompanied by excessively long teeth. It looked more like his mouth was filled with fangs than actual, functioning teeth.
The scaly green skin surrounding the grin warped into a smile. “It seems the Iron League has failed,” the shareholder said in what sounded like one voice and a thousand voices at once.
The Grumblegator hated that voice. It gave him chills. “They couldn’t handle the task they were given,” he answered. “They didn’t have what it takes.”
The shareholder’s smile turned into a frown. “Maybe,” he replied. “Or maybe you don’t have what it takes.”
“What do you mean?” the Grumblegator said, slightly panicked. “Did Rick say something? Because I just wanted to let you know that Rick steal from the break room fridge, and I know that you—”
“Silence,” the shareholder bellowed. “Do not concern yourself with Rick. His transgressions in your break room have been noted and he shall be punished swiftly and without mercy.”
The Grumblegator leaned back, unsure about what was going to happen next.
The shareholder’s mouth closed, at least as far is it could close. The teeth were so long, it looked more like a vicious grin.
“Perhaps this most recent failure is not entirely your fault,” he remarked. “You were not given the proper resources.”
The Grumblegator felt relieved to hear this. He was going to reply, but he was interrupted by the shareholder.
“Grumblegator, I have decided to grant you additional power. This power shall help you stop the Steward, but it will come at a grave cost. Do you accept this power?”
The Grumblegator didn’t like the sound of this. “Could you give me a little more on what you mean by grave cost?” he asked.
The shareholder didn’t seem to hear him. “I have decided to grant you this power,” he exclaimed. “Use it to stop the Steward. I expect to hear good news from you when we meet again.”
The gas began to dissipate. Suddenly, the cave was filled with a blinding white lift. The Grmublegator felt an indescribable sensation, as if some kind of energy was coursing through his body. It became increasingly painful with each passing moment.
“Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!” the Grumblegator whined.
And just as quickly as it appeared, the light was gone. The Grumblegator looked around, he didn’t know how to put it into words, but he somehow felt more capable. It was not that he felt smarter, but as if his brain had more channels. Like it could process faster and process more information at once.
“That’s not so bad,” he said to himself. He held up his arms and got ready to stand up, when he noticed something.
His right hand had three fingers.
“That’s weird,” the Grumblegator whispered. He was sure he had four fingers and a thumb, as all alligators do. He held up his left hand and confirmed that this was the case.
But his right hand only had three fingers. It didn’t look that he had a finger removed; it looked like his hand was built to only have three fingers.
The Grumblegator blinked. Suddenly he had four fingers on both hands again.
Then suddenly, without even blinking this time, his right hand went back to three fingers. He looked at his hand more closely and noticed his skin ripple, as if he were looking at it through water. He watched as a fourth finger reappeared, but this time out from the middle of his palm. It rippled before disappearing again.
The Grumblegator stared blankly at his warping hand.
“That’s not good,” he said.