Project Biotica: A Survey of the Island ~ Day 1
Raptor 4 | Dark Sci-Fi | Photojournalistic Series
After completing the poetic introduction of Raptor, you overwhelmingly voted to see more. I’ve decided to delve into a new series that explores Raptor’s existence and what she is truly capable of. Let me know what you think in the comments! ~ WM
Day 1: Return to the Island
10:12 - Testing. Testing.
10:12 - Finally, my phone has connected to a Helix sat-link. You’d think technology would work as advertised in this day and age. I’m uploading my trip logs in case the threat on the island has survived the recent cleaning operation. I just hope those trigger-happy mercenaries left the natives alive.
10:17 - Where the hell is my ride?
10:19 - I guess I should provide amplifying context to describe my mission. My name is Charles Gharib. I’m the head bioengineer within Helix’s R&D department, and chief scientist for the laboratory on Natus. They evacuated us from the island after the… incident. I’m returning without the company’s knowledge in order to document my findings. I’ll be recording a log in real time and uploading the information to my encrypted folder in the Helix Cloud. Photographs taken with my phone will allow me to prove that I’m not making it all up.
10:24 - Here is my current view as I await my vessel:
10:26 - I’m thankful it’s still early in the morning and the heat hasn’t gotten to me. But where are the fishermen?! They said to be at this very spot to be picked up.
10:27 - While I wait, I suppose I can give you a rundown of my credentials so that anyone reading this may actually believe what I’m saying is legitimate. As a graduate of Harvard in the field of Molecular Pharmacology, I went on to pursue a career in bioengineering where I focused on the elucidation of molecular mechanisms in differing biological systems and diseases. I was brought on full-time by Mariana Labs, a relatively unknown marine biology firm in Florida which functioned less like a science lab and more like a SPAC (special purpose acquisition company). The perk being that they left me to my work. I was able to use their limitless stream of funding to get close to the development of a regenerative balm meant for reviving dead skin cells by combining DNA-tissue from several Cnidarian and Anuran species; jellyfish and frogs, respectively. That was when funding suddenly dried up and I couldn’t complete the project.
10:31 - Ah, look at that. Here they come… finally.
11:03 - I’m now aboard their vessel. The men seem as agitated as I am. They tried to squirm out of their obligations and weaseled more money out of me. Bastards!
11:06 - I’m already hungry and the vessel hasn’t even left the dock yet. Luckily, I’ve brought snacks in my backpack, among other things.
11:11 - We’ve departed. One of the men leapt off the ship’s deck into the water and swam ashore. I’m worried they know something about our destination that I don’t. However, it could be superstition driving their fear and not any real threat of danger present on the island. The captain ignored the fleeing fisherman and continued sailing out to sea.
13:55 - We’ve been sailing for hours and the men do not know English. I’m accustomed to workplace chatter, so this idle silence buffeted by the waves slapping against the hull of the ship is slowly driving me mad. There’s a persistent sweat accumulating on my forehead since the sun has awakened fully in the sky above. The fine mist of salt water splashing up would annoy me at any other time, however, I welcome its revitalizing nature.
14:08 - Oh yes. I forgot—I never finished explaining my background. I left off where funding had ceased. Apparently, Helix Corp–the company I later found to be the primary investors in Mariana Labs–caught word of my breakthrough. They sent a team of “scientists” down to Clearwater to recruit me for what they called, “Project Biotica”. They considered my work on the healing balm revolutionary and promised funding for its completion if I assisted with their endeavors. I was naïve at the time and jumped at the opportunity.
14:09 - I quickly rose through the ranks of Helix’s R&D department. I helped stand up the laboratory on Natus. After years of meaningful work, I’m proud of the accomplishments we were able to achieve in the realms of artificial intelligence and cellular robotics. However, in our undying quest to see if we could we never stopped to ask if we should (that old cliché, I know). And now here I am once again in the middle of the South Pacific, searching for answers to questions that may end up killing me.
14:11 - I tell you this because–despite my authority within the organization–I believe that Helix will not come clean about what happened on the island, what we potentially unleashed upon the world. Maarku Mahajan, my financier, authorized Operation Extinction to cover it up, but I have my doubts relating to its success. I doubt they killed her though. She, the Raptor, is likely smarter than anything else on the planet.
15:37 - I’m beginning to feel sick. I’m unsure if it’s the undulation of the ship, the unrelenting stench of fish guts assaulting my senses, or the fact that we are nearing our destination.
15:59 - The men grow tense. They are moving quickly about the deck and casting lingering glares at one another. We are close. There is a blotch on the horizon that may be Natus.
16:31 - I was right. We’re here. The sky is grey like ash, and I’m unsure if the island’s volcano has become active or if it’s simply the illusion put on by the clouds above. Either way, it reminds me of why I was so eager to leave in the first place.
16:39 - Side note: The island is isolated from the rest of French Polynesia. That’s why we (Helix) chose to build our lab on it to begin with, away from the stifling regulations of government oversight. The island is larger than it appears in photographs, much of it obscured by the volcano rising up on one end.
16:45 - After idling for some time, the sailors have grown quiet and many are biting their nails or fidgeting with their hats. They refuse to take me ashore.
16:51 - One man has been bullied by the captain into chauffeuring me in a smaller craft to the beach. He seems panicked, rowing with intense determination. I would assist him but the amount of money they pilfered from me would lead me to believe that I’m owed this.
17:02 - The man tossed my luggage into the sand behind me as I exited, turned the craft around and left. Not a word. The impudence.
17:26 - I’ve been met by the local tribe at the beach. They must have seen the fishing vessel approaching from afar and waited to see what I was about. Unfortunately, I do not know what they are saying as I don’t speak their language.
17:36 - The indigenous inhabitants of Natus are a tribe that speak a rare dialect of Marquesan. I never learned it during my initial time here. I hadn’t intermingled with the tribe and hadn’t anticipated I’d need to. However, even after our complete evacuation, I have been welcomed by them. They are very kind and hospitable. There’s a small child–I’m not sure if girl or boy–that follows me, smiling and prodding me whenever my back is turned.
18:08 - They escorted me to their small village near the coast. It’s set somewhat inland, but the land is marshy and flooded. It appears to be a sunken region cleft out of the side of the mountain.
18:21 - The architecture is truly remarkable. It shows signs of western influence, but there are no traces of it in anything other than their structures. It’s possible they imitated the tall buildings Helix had built on the opposing end of the island. I do not remember much about how they lived before we’d arrived. Sadly, I was too absorbed in my work and gave little attention to the indigenous life. Seeing the world through this new lens has made me realize that I’d unwittingly abandoned the part of myself that had once cared for the planet and other peoples.
18:30 - Oddly enough, the child doesn’t follow me near the outer limits of the village. Come to think of it, I’ve seen none of the villagers stray far from their respective households—other than the group that came to inspect my arrival on the coast. I do not know what spooks them in such a way, but I hope to discover the source before I venture into the southern wilderness tomorrow morning.
18:53 - My host family beckons for me to join them in their meal. I oblige and sit next to the child. Her name is Hauata, I believe. They seem like a happy family. I envy them.
19:08 - Our meal is basic: fish cooked over an open flame. I picked at the meat along the rib cage but lost my appetite. They seemingly explained to me that they only eat the fish. I could not parse out the details of why that is, but I hope it has nothing to do with our experiments on the island.
19:19 - I’m going for a short walk to get out of the cramped cottage and give my hosts some space. The sky is overcast like a storm is brewing. I remember distinctly that it had always seemed on the verge of rain on the island. We are within a seasonal typhoon belt. A season that just so happens to be all year-round. I hope that tomorrow is dry, but who am I kidding? Nothing on Natus remains dry for long.
19:35 - The wildlife appears non-existent. I’ve seen no avian species nor any of the small mammalian creatures that once frequented the laboratory grounds. On my way back to the village, I caught sight of a small fly or beetle. I can’t tell even now upon looking at the image to which family it belongs. It’s of a molecular build I’ve never before witnessed in my studies of biological life on Earth.
19:44 - I’ve taken an image of a blossoming angiosperm, at least I think it is an angiosperm. At first glance, it isn’t all that odd, but it’s growing out of a boulder and as solid as the rock itself. If it has emerged to pollinate, what is it spreading exactly?
19:49 - More of these “flowers” populate the forest floor and trees. In each instance they are of the same mold as the object in which they sprang forth. Although this is my specialty, I do not have an answer for this uncanny phenomenon. I will continue to document more anomalies as I see them.
20:32 - I’ve returned to the coastal village. Night looms and I must rest for my travels tomorrow to the other side of the island. I cannot wait to share what I discover along the way. But as I type this, a storm brews out over the ocean and will find its way here. One can only hope that it departs us as swiftly as it comes.
To be continued…