Author: LadyBonBon PM
It was just a competition. The best of the best assigned to work and compete for the honor of working on a project that would change everything. It was supposedly a friendly competition...there was nothing friendly about it. SE/OCRated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Suspense - Chapters: 3 - Words: 10,293 - Reviews: 20 - Favs: 24 - Follows: 37 - Updated: 04-09-13 - Published: 07-30-12 - id: 8376195
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Tank: Prologue
January 23: 1900 hours
The large creature thrashed about in the spacious enclosure that was its prison. It swam swiftly and without mercy to and fro throughout the large water box, its movements, if one could understand the movements of a shark, were full of anger. Yet, no one could know the actions and movements of a shark such as this one. Many speculated, but none knew for certain. Of course there were those that claimed that these animals knew nothing but bloodlust.
Sharks could not get angry, these men reasoned. They could not be sad or depressed. They were fish; animals that had no concept of pain, love, life, only death. They had only instinct to thrive on.
The men gathered around and watched as the large beast of the sea swam ever forward with angry like lunges at the glass. These men, these scientist, speculated that it had no perception of the glass. That this thing could not conceive a barrier; he was only seeing what was on the other side of the barrier.
If the shark was to be asked, the thought was never brought up for these men were scientist, it would probably have only one reason behind its motives. Whether that reason was to be free or to feed on the men's bodies is a mystery.
"Oh the shark has pretty teeth, dear
And he show's them pearly white.
Just as jack-knife has Macheath
And he keeps it out of sight…"—Bertolt Brecht
February 15: 10:35 a.m.
Destination: Gulf Enclosures
Standing over the edge of an aquatic pool, she watched as the orcas circled each other in the blue pool. Yin and Yang were perhaps her favorites (besides Polo, the enclosure's only walrus, who loved to give her big, wet kisses). She had trained them personally once they had arrived from an aquarium in Detroit and had become a big hit with the tourists and various marine biologists that came to study the animals. Yin and Yang were twin males and nearly identical in pattern; the only way to tell them apart, aside from their personalities, was that Yin had a small scar near his dorsal fin from a scruff he had with one of the other male orcas upon being brought into their herd. Ever since, the two were kept separate from the others for fear of losing them in a scuffle over dominance.
Christina glanced at her watch; only two more hours until the next visitor's tour. She looked around at the empty stadium that would soon be packed with tourists within the hour and remembered when she had used to become nervous talking about Yin and Yang and having them do tricks in front of so many people. Not long after her first few showings, one of the veterans, an older woman who worked with the main herd of orca and Christina's mentor, Kathleen, had explained to her that they were here to see the animals not the people and for her to get over herself.
She was pulled away from her thoughts when Yang splashed her with his tail fin and let out a squeal. Christina giggled softly at the act.
"Very funny," She said while splashing him back playfully. Yin, not one to be left out, swam up towards her quickly and splashed her as well. She chuckled again and leaned forward on the pool wall. A splash fight ensued leaving her clothes more than wet.
"Ms. Dranatelle! Ms. Dranatelle!" Christina turned towards the stadium doors in time to see the clean up boy, David. His arms flailed about wildly as he ran towards her with an envelope clutched tightly in his grip. She looked at him with slight exasperation. He was an awkward young man who seemed to clutch Christina at the hip.
"Yes, David." She called as he rushed forward towards her even more.
All too suddenly he slipped on the wet floor and fell face forward in front of her. She sighed and bent down towards the ground to be on eye level with him. He raised his head slightly and smiled before handing her a crisp, white envelope addressed with her name.
"This came for you; a young man dropped it off. He was dressed in some army getup." She took the envelope from David and stood. Quickly she opened it and pulled out a typed up letter that was brandished with an insignia that she couldn't quite place. Stapled to it was a form that had various blanks and questions. She returned back to the letter and skimmed over the contents briefly, jumping over legal jargon and the like until she got the gist of what was being asked.
It was an application form. "All respectable marine biologists, scientists, and animal trainers in their fields of expertise are being propositioned for the honor and privilege to work alongside the best military operation this country has to offer. If you find yourself interested in applying for such a position, please fill out the form stapled to this letter and mail it back to—."
She rolled her eyes and then scanned the application form. At the beginning there was the usual: name, date of birth, applicant's career position, etc. etc. Christina hummed to herself before eyeing David. The young man always seemed to be hovering around her, and now he was peering at her trying to get a look at the letter and its contents. She huffed softly at him.
"David, when does the next showing begin?" She asked with a dark eyebrow raised and he grinned sheepishly.
"'Bout two hours," he replied.
"That's right. So you better get back to mopping the hallways before Kenton sees you moseying around and not doing your job. You'll get us both fired if you don't get back to work."
David laughed and nodded before running off to finish mopping the hallways before the tourists flocked in. Christina sighed and set the letter and application form in her jacket pocket before going to the storage room to change into her black wet suit. She'd look over the application again later. Right now she wanted to go over the routine with Yin and Yang and then rest before the show started.
The showing had been a success. Yin and Yang had become overly boisterous and entertained the crowd with tricks while Christina played the part as educator for the crowd and fish thrower for every trick well executed by the two twin orcas.
She had studied marine biology at LSU before graduating with a bachelor's and then, after a year of working at the enclosure and marine biology study facility, went back to receive her master's. Christina's specialty had been sharks, as they interested her the most when growing up and entering college, but the only sharks in the enclosure were nurse sharks and one or two tiger sharks; they had already had coordinators when she arrived, so she had settled with training under Kathleen with the orcas. It had not been something she regretted, either.
Orcas, also known as killer whales and the wolves of the sea, were a pleasure to work with as well as a danger. Every day that she placed on her wet suit and climbed into their pin was a day she could lose her life to their rough housing. Not that they would try to kill her, but these creatures were large and they weren't domestic animals. She knew they could kill her if they wanted to. It had used to fill her with dread, it was not the same as swimming with nurse sharks, but Kathleen had told her that if Christina was going to be a pussy about it, then she was better off working with Nathaniel with his penguins.
She had gotten over her fear soon afterwards.
Christina sat behind her desk thumbing through paperwork and answering e-mails. The letter lay on her desk shuffled under a few pens and she looked at it suspiciously, as if waiting for it to jump up and latch a hold of her throat. It did not. She pulled apart the application form and began to fill it out; she didn't believe she would be accepted, she didn't have the years or experience that Kathleen had, but the least she could do was send it back with the form filled out. She wondered if Kathleen had gotten one and made a mental note to ask her once the day was over.
The application was long and tedious, requiring past job experiences, family history, political views (and she had actually gaped at that), and even groups or movements that she was tied to—not that she was tied to any but still. After filling all of it out, which took over an hour, she folded the application form up and placed it within an envelope to which she placed the return address upon it.
The letter had stated that if she was chosen, she would be required to vacate her residence for a period of two weeks where she would undergo a performance trial and then be considered for the position. If chosen, she would then have to stay a whole year to work on a special project that had yet to be disclosed.
Christina sighed while running a hand through her drying hair. Ms. Bitters would probably be upset at her leaving if she was chosen, which was unlikely, and her family would probably pitch a bit of a fit. She shrugged before placing the envelope in her outgoing mail pile.
2 Weeks later:
Christina stood in her wetsuit in front of the cheering crowd with a bucket of fish in one hand and a dead fish in the other. She waved the fish in the air and waited for one of the orca to surface. Yang shot forward and did a back flip for the crowd who cheered and screamed with excitement. She tossed the fish up in the air and watched as he surfaced quickly and caught the treat.
Yin, not to be left out, bounced a ball on the end of his nose and then tossed it to the crowd. A group of children on a field trip caught the ball and, at her instruction, tossed the ball back which was caught by Yin and tossed about in the air. Christina tossed a fish to him and watched as he ate it happily.
She had forgotten about the letter and the application form after three days of having received it. Kathleen, upon asking her, had said that she also had been sent a letter and an application which she had promptly thrown away saying she had no use to go anywhere else; she was happy here.
Christina understood. Kathleen had been working at the enclosure for a good twenty-two years now. She was close to retirement; another job was the last thing she wanted. But the older woman had encouraged Christina to broaden her horizons and to search out jobs that would test her. Christina had expressed that she didn't think she would be picked because of her lack of experience and less than adequate references, Kenton didn't like her too much. Kathleen had waved her words away as if they were a mere bug buzzing about her face and said she didn't want to hear anymore. Now, two weeks later, the letter and the job offer were gone from her mind. She focused on pleasing the crowd and throwing the dead fish to her two pals as they did their routine flawlessly.
After the crowd had dispersed and Yin and Yang were moved to their larger enclosure, Christina went back to her office after stripping out of her wet suit and into her work clothes. She slouched in her swivel chair and tried to remain awake. That had been the fourth performance and going over all the facts over and over again made her mind go numb. She twisted the hair around a few times and closed her eyes to keep from dizzying herself.
After a few turns, her office phone began to ring. She quickly stopped the chair and answered.
"Gulf Enclosures, this is Christina Dranatelle speaking." She cradled the phone on her shoulder while she began to sift through paperwork that she been putting off for some time. The man on the other line seemed to be cut off by static as he spoke. "Excuse me? Sir?"
She rolled her eyes, "Yes, sir. This is she."
The man was fading in and out, and Christina could barely make out his words. "Ajkafjhd application form made it to aksdjfirh require you to be at New Orleans airport tomorrow morning at eight thirty. Special private flight ahdklhfu cooperation, thank you."
"Excuse me? Sir? Sir!" But, the man had hung up leaving Christina to sit and gape at the audacity. "Asshole. At least give me a few days!" In a fit of frustration, she tossed the phone across her office and watched as it bounced off the door and fall to the floor with a crack going down the side of it.
She checked her office clock which read 2:35; she'd have to leave now. That is, if she still wanted to participate. Christina thought of the experience she could acquire from working with a government facility. It was a pleasing thought. Kenton popped into her mind as well, and she realized that there would be no turning in of a two week notice. He'd probably be pissed, and Ms. Bitters, since the decision would be at last minute, would most likely have a panic attack. Frank would be the most supportive of the bunch…
Christina glanced at the phone again and pursed her lips in thought. Her long nails drummed along the desk in a steady rhythm. After a few moments she picked up her purse, strapped on her heels, and made her way to Kenton's office.
Along the way she was stopped by David who was meandering about with his hands in his pockets. When he saw her he brightened up and shot her a smile. She returned it awkwardly and was about to pass him when he stopped her.
"What, David?" She asked.
"Kenton's lookin' for you." Well, this was going to be interesting. Kenton never sought her out unless he was angry at her. In fact, he just about avoided her at all costs.
"You know what he wants?" To this David shrugged and she let out a huff of annoyance. Of course he wouldn't know. She nodded in thanks and stalked past him towards Kenton's office where she knew he'd be in a mood. It will only make things easier.
She knocked on his office door and then entered when he beckoned her in with a gruff voice. Kenton was a middle aged, scrawny man who was balding at the back if his head. He tried to cover this over with a hat when welcoming visitors and honored scientist and whatnot.
Kenton looked up at her with his face filled with disdain and Christina braced for the onslaught.
"Ms. Dranatelle, where were you this morning?" His voiced oozed from his mouth and dripped like poison from his thin lips.
"I was with Kathleen and the herd, Mr. Kenton." He frowned and narrowed his eyes at her. Christina had to remind herself that she was a professional and that hitting him was not the act of a professional.
"You were supposed to be at stadium two performing with the seals!" He shouted, standing up from his chair so as to try to tower over her. Christina, when she wasn't performing with the orcas, helped Rodger with his seals. She mainly gave them fish and had them bounce balls about on their noses while the children, and adults, laughed and clapped for them all. It wasn't really a hard job to accomplish.
"I let Danielle do it, sir. She's been practicing." Danielle was the new girl, straight from college with only a bachelor's and a ferocious ambition. Christina had liked the girl from the start. This only served to make him even more upset. Blood travelled up his neck and into his face causing it to turn a bright pink color.
"You don't have the authority to decide things like that on your own. You do not run this facility; I do!" Kenton's blue eyes blazed as they locked with her dark ones. "You're fortunate I don't fire you right now for this."
"Mr. Kenton," She began in a strained professional voice. "I've been offered a job. I apologize for not having a two weeks' notice, and I will forego all payment for those two weeks."
Kenton could only stare with wide eyes, "Excuse me?" He demanded while his face turned ever redder. Christina smiled tightly.
"I quit, idiot." She then, in a most unprofessional way that would have made Ms. Bitters' heart drop, flipped him off and then left his office with him stuttering behind her.
David was hanging around near the entrance doors and watched as she walked with haste towards them. Her heels clicked with a defiance that matched the frown on her face.
"What'd Kenton want?" He asked.
Christina stopped at the doors and looked at David. "I told him I quit, David." His eyes went wide at this and his jaw dropped. "I've gotten an offer to work elsewhere, and I'm taking it."
She rolled her eyes before heading to the employee parking lot with David rushing after her all the while stuttering about goodbyes. "Don't worry, David, I'll write." She unlocked her car doors. "Please tell Kathleen that she'll have to take care of Yin and Yang and that I owe her one." She entered her car before David could say much else and slammed the door tight.
He watched her pull out from her faculty parking spot. She saw him and shot him a wave before driving off and heading home.
Upon arriving to her large home that was well off the beaten path, Christina was ambushed by Ms. Bitters.
"What on earth are you doing home so early?" The older woman placed a hand on her thick hip and cocked a graying eyebrow.
Katherine Baters had been watching over Christina for most of the younger woman's life. She had been hired by Christina's sickly mother to be sort of a caretaker for the young child while the mother tried to build up her strength and fight her weak body. Ms. Baters had been a very stern motherly figure in Christina's life, earning her the name Ms. Bitters to which her charge affectionately called her. Once Christina had left home at 18 with no intent on ever coming back, Katherine was left to tend to Christina's siblings and cousins.
A year after she had left, Katherine had gotten a job request from her former charge to come and run her household while she worked. Christina had explained that the house was too large for her to take care of all by herself and that she needed someone to take care of it when she could not. The pay was promised to be good plus a room for herself and time off whenever she wished it. Ms. Baters had jumped at the opportunity, not that she missed her charge, but because of the pay—of this she had reasoned.
"Ms. Bitters, so nice to see you so active for a woman of your age." Christina shot her a grin which the older woman returned with a hard frown and a waving of a wooden spoon, an obvious sign that she had been cooking.
"I asked you a question," she repeated sternly. The spoon waggled in the air threateningly, and Christina was brought back to the many times when her motherly figure had beaten the hell out of her with a spoon such as that.
"Excuse me!" The wooden spoon was now pointing at Christina's face while Katherine looked on at her with a shocked expression. The shock soon gave way to anger and she took that spoon and, with impeccable skill for a woman of her age, threw it at her charge's face leaving a bright red mark stinging across Christina's cheek.
"Ow! What the hell was that for?" Christina held a hand to her marked face.
"How are you going to pay the bills in this house if you quit your job? Did you even think this through? You stupid, stupid girl!"
"I got offered another job, you crazy old woman!" Katherine stared at her with her face blank before uttering an 'oh.' "Put you in a damn nursing home." Christina mumbled as she rubbed at her still red cheek.
"Well, where?" She placed her wrinkled hands on her hips and tried to make an imposing stance, but it was all for none. Christina wasn't five anymore and now towered over her once caretaker, much to her delight.
"Military offer." She shrugged and ran a hand through her hair. "Got the acceptance call today, late assholes. They want me to be at the New Orleans airport first thing tomorrow morning."
"You have to leave?"
"Yeah to some military base."
"You're really going to be leaving me alone in this house with that horrible man!"
Ah yes, Frank. About two years ago the house, as old as it was, had begun to fall apart. Shutters were sagging and falling off, door hinges were rusting and making it harder to close the door, shingles needed to be redone on the roof, and many more things that the two women just couldn't do. So, Christina had hired a handy man, Frank.
His real name was Francis Deboir. A born French man, Francis had moved to the states for a change of scenery and found himself working as a hired handyman. Christina had heard good things about him from a few friends and gave him a call. Before long, Francis was over every other day fixing something that broke or needed to be replaced; this was much to Ms. Bitters' displeasure for the man teased her in both French and English. It got to the point that Christina offered him a room and asked if he wanted to be their handyman. Francis had agreed, and from that point on continued to work on the house all the while annoying Ms. Bitters until she was blue in the face.
"Listen, Ms. Bitters, I don't care what you do. Just play nice with Frank," Katherine cringed at the sound of his name, "and I'll call you later with the details. I probably won't even make it passed the examination. Be home before you know it, and I'll send you money for the house and food and such." The old woman nodded reluctantly.
"Well, you better tell Frank before he bugs the bejeesus out of me about where you are and what you're doing!" Christina nodded and let out a laugh before hugging the older woman tightly. "Now don't you start getting all sentimental on me! Just, go on! Go tell that man, and then go get packed!"
Christina laughed again and made her way outside where she knew Frank would be tending to their broken fence.
A/N: Does this seem better? I thought it sounded a whoooole lot better and much more probable than the other one. ~LadyB