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The Biologist

Coronado, California
Thursday October 1st, 2015 9:20 am

 

 

      The next person Sarah found was the biologist, Tara Coleman.  Tara was a single parent with three children. Tara’s parents were both dead so her children were her only family.  Tara lived on a boat and would dock it in a slip located on San Diego Bay.  Most of her work involved oceanic plant life, so she often used her boat for work. 

      Aaron had hoped to get Tara to visit them in Nashua, but she had nobody who would be able to care for her three children while she was away.  She came from a small family and both her parents had died years ago.  Her husband had left her suddenly, shortly after their third child was born.  He sent her mail from time to time, and it was usually sent from different parts of Mexico.  He was not Mexican and had no ties to Mexico, so she had no idea why he might be there and what he was doing.  In some ways, she was relieved he was gone.  While he had been caring person, he had never helped with the children and rarely had a job.  As the years had gone by, they became more like friends than lovers.  She was upset when he left, especially since he left so suddenly.  Until she finally did get a letter, she feared the worst.  Her logical mind told her he could not be dead, since he took what little possessions he had. 

      The children felt the loss more deeply.  Tara kept what she knew from them for a while.  Finally, she just outright told them he left and hopefully he would be back.  They were naturally upset and blamed themselves for whatever thing they remembered doing to upset him last.  For example, Elizabeth, the oldest, had accidentally knocked his wallet overboard.  It sank too quickly to retrieve.  He was too afraid to use scuba gear to find it.  He would always panic when breathing through the regulator.  Tara went scuba diving for it but couldn’t find it. The wallet was made of black leather, and there was a large amount of scum and mud under the boat on top of the ocean floor.  The bottom was covered with over a foot of mud and dead vegetation.  It was so murky down there that even with Tara’s special lights there was less than two feet of visibility in any direction.  In the end, it was no big deal to replace all the things in the wallet.  It had less than $100.  The cards were all easily replicable.  Even his license was easy to replace, even through the DMV’s archaic website.  After filling out the online form, he got the replacement the very next day.  He had been upset, but it was not entirely Elizabeth’s fault.  On a boat, if you leave things topside, you are asking for trouble.  He quickly forgave her, but she could not stop thinking that if she had not knocked it over he would still be home with them. What made it worse was all the effort they had made to try to recover it.  Had he simply given up on the search and not sent his wife diving for it, the loss would not have stuck in Elizabeth’s mind so vividly. 

****

      Since Tara could not come to Nashua, Aaron and Sarah both went to San Diego and stayed in one of a trendy Coronado hotel.  They were up early and ate breakfast together.  It was almost like a vacation.  It was rare for them to be so close to the ocean.  Even though New Hampshire did have a small coast, it was too long a drive to be worth the ride from Nashua unless the kids really insisted.  However, since they started high school, they got friends to drive them.  Once Kara got her license, she could drive there herself.  So it was not much of a loss to Sarah and Aaron, but seeing the water in San Diego hinted to them that they took the ocean for granted.  Of course, the ocean water there was much clearer and warmer than New Hampshire’s. 

      Tara had told them to meet her at her boat after 9 am.  Sarah drove their rental car, which was a BMW, to the marina her boat was docked at. When they had picked up the car at the rental place, the clerk was very insistent that they not take it into Mexico.  If they did take it across the border, insurance would not cover any damages or its loss and they would have to pay the entire cost of the car. 

      When Aaron and Sarah got to the marina, they quickly found the gate to the set of docks that had Tara’s boat.  Occupants used a thumb pad to unlock the gate from the outside.  There was a small-weatherproofed computer touch screen for visitors to look up residents.  The system would tell the user if the resident they were calling on was currently docked by electronically checking the slip.  If the boat was docked, it would allow the visitors to connect to the boat’s private radio frequency.

      Aaron typed in Tara’s name and the screen said the boat, The Oceanic Shrubbery, was docked.  Aaron pressed the call button and after a minute, Tara’s voice came through.  “Come in.  I’m at the end of dock C on the left side.”  The door then made a buzzing noise and unlocked.

      They walked down the dock and most people they passed said hello to them.  Respecting their typical New England breeding, they only said hi in response and even that was awkward.  It was almost as if they said, ‘Hi, we’re strangers so don’t talk to us and we won’t talk to you.’  Such a creed had led to many a fine friendship. 

      At last they got to Tara’s boat.  It was very big compared to the other boats they had seen.  All but the first set of boats they passed had room to live on board.  The aft of the boat had been specially designed to allow divers to get in and out of the water easily.  Some diving equipment was on the deck.  Tara came out of the boat to meet them.  Tara was wearing denim shirts, a white t-shirt, an algae-green baseball cap that said, ‘Algae is your friend,’ and white sneakers with green socks. 

      Tara said, “Hi.  Welcome to my ship,” as she shook Sarah’s and then Aaron's hands.

      They exchanged some more pleasantries; then Tara invited them inside.  For a boat, it had a surprisingly large interior.  In fact, it seemed bigger inside than it looked from the outside. When they came in, there was a room with some chairs, various children's toys, some clothing strewn about and a TV/DVD combination machine.  Toward the aft was a closed door and toward the fore was a slightly lower area that contained a kitchenette complete with a stove, refrigerator, microwave, sink, and table.  Beyond the kitchenette was another door leading to the fore of the boat.

      Aaron and Sarah sat in chairs, and even though there were more than enough chairs for all of them, Tara sat on the floor.  Tara explained, “Oh, like, don’t mind me.  I’m more comfortable down here.  Would you like something to eat or drink?”

      Aaron and Sarah both declined. 

      Tara asked, “So how was the trip?  Have you been to San Diego before?”

      Sarah replied, “The flight was uneventful.  We have both been here before for business.”

      Tara smiled, “Ah, business.  Like, so, you’re both in the security business, right?  So how can I, like, as a biologist, be of help or interest to you?"

      While they had not made a ploy about why they were visiting Tara, as they had with inviting the Stefanos for a programming job, neither Aaron nor Sarah had expected to be asked so bluntly and so quickly.

      Aaron said, “Well, first we need your assurance that what we tell you will be kept confidential.  It’s very important not only to our project but to the safety of people in the project that the information be kept private.”

      Tara nodded, “You can trust me, I promise.”

      Unfortunately, Aaron did not find her promise very reassuring.  Tara had a bit of a valley accent, which made him nervous.

      Sarah asked, “How do you feel about the government?”

      Tara said, “Oh, well, I don’t pay too much attention; it doesn’t, like, consume my time you know.  But, I always vote Green Party . . . even now when I have to write in the name because they get too few votes to be on the ballots.”

      Aaron asked, “How do you feel about the ballot changes?”

      “Oh, they’re awful.  It’s like making it a yes/no or yes/yes vote.  Most people I know gave up and stopped voting.  I feel really bad for the Green Party; they really deserve better, you know?”

      Aaron said, “If I told you we could prevent such dramatic changes from hurting the future, how would you feel?”

      “Well, first I think I’d want some of what you’re drinking!  Kidding aside though, it sounds dangerous.  If you could prevent future harm, you could also prevent future good.  But what are you really talking about?”

      It was at this point that, while her speech seemed simple, she proved herself intelligent.  This caused Aaron to reply, “Let me give you some background-”

      “OK, cool.”

      “I am close friends with a person who has similar viewpoints as I do on how history has shaped our world and lives.  We found that in many cases one event or person completely changed the world with negative results-”

      “Like Hitler and Stalin?”

      “Yes, exactly.”

      “But, like, in the same way some individuals have changed the world with positive results like Joan of Arc or Ben Franklin.”

      “Right, so our project asks what would happen if we removed the bad events or people? What would happen if there were no September 11th terrorist attacks?  What would have happened if Republicans lost in Florida?”

      “OK, I get it.  So shape time for the betterment of the species.”

      “Right,” said Aaron. 

      “Well, that sounds cool, but how could you do it, you’d totally need a time machine . . . .  Do you have a time machine?”

      Aaron smiled, “Yes.”

      Tara shook her head no, “Impossible!”

      Sarah said, “It’s true, we’ve seen it work.”

      Tara said, “OK, so like you have this cool mission and you have the means, but why do you need me?  I’m just a single mom that likes sea plants!”

      Sarah frowned, “That’s actually pretty special in and of itself!  Regardless, we need a biologist . . . and children.”

      Tara said, “Woo, OK, like now your freaking me out.  We aren’t going to join some bizarre cult!”

      Aaron raised his hand to stop her, “No, we’re not a cult.  We want to live apart from the rest of society because-”

      Tara interrupted, “Because you’re a cult!”

      Aaron said, “Please, listen.”  Tara sat back.  “We can’t just go around messing with the time stream.  If I went back and prevented September 11th, we wouldn’t be able to have this discussion, as it was the catalyst that caused us to create this plan and the time machine.  We have to live separate in a colony and monitor human evolution.  When a catastrophe like a nuclear war starts we can’t be in the thick of it.  We have to be able to safely return to a time far enough back to prevent the events.”

      Tara said, “OK, I get it.  It’s still freaky, though.  But, like, I guess my fondness of algae is freaky as well.  So you need kids for the colony.  Why do you need a biologist?”

      Aaron explained, “We’re going to create a biosphere and we need plants as well as an expert to care for them.”

      Tara smiled, “Ah, flattery.  So, like, how can you make a biosphere work?  You’ve surely seen how disastrous previous attempts have been!”

      Sarah said, “Our survival will rely on this biosphere, which was never true before. The stakes here are far greater, and so the effort must also be greater.  Also, we have a device to help us regulate some things like air and water if levels get unbalanced.”

      Tara said, “What kind of device?”

      Aaron said, “It’s a machine that takes apart and builds atoms and molecules.”

      Tara said, “Incredible.  I really don’t believe you could have invented a time machine and something to build atoms!”

      Aaron replied, “I would give you an example, but I couldn’t risk CTF finding it.”

      Tara giggled.  “CTF is such a joke out here.  Whenever they come by we all go out to the ocean.”

      Sarah said, “If only we were so lucky.  Although, they don’t bother us specifically since we were in the FBI.”

      Tara said, “Listen, your idea seems cool.  Where is the biosphere going to be?”

      Aaron replied, “Switzerland.”

      Tara said, “When you guys have it built, give me a call, and I’ll go.”

      Aaron asked, “Really?  Are you sure, even your kids?”

      Tara nodded, “You still need to make the biosphere.  If you can do it, I’ll go.  I’ll even start getting a list for you of the plants that will be key to oxygen levels and eating.”

      Sarah said, “That’s great.  Welcome aboard . . . no pun intended.”

      Sarah and Aaron gave her the details of the current time frame as well as information on who the other colonists would be.  When they were done, Aaron and Sarah offered to take Tara to lunch, but she said she needed to get to work if she was going to get anything done before her children got home from school. Aaron and Sarah left and were back in Nashua in time for dinner.

Copyright (C) 1998-2001 East Coast Games, Inc. and 2001 - 2006 Forest J. Handford

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