Elsie Heartwing uncovered all kinds of information when searching through the files of the lower floor. Chiefly among them, and certainly most alarming, was the personal file of the bounty hunter Mr. Rex Bowler, contained in a letter sent by John Backhaus. Reading through the brute of a man’s history, Elsie found his story a little touching, but the circumstances of his past did not excuse his actions of the present.
Elsie learned that Rex’s true name was Cuthbert H. Bowler, and that he grew up in Edith Post as part of a working family. His father, it seemed, was a cruel and unpleasant man, and because of it Rex left home at the age of sixteen and joined the military in Victoria City. From there he served all over Peal Isle and also outside in distant foreign places. He obtained strong relationships with his fellow soldiers, served his time in the army diligently, and even won a few metals. At the age of thirty a grave tragedy had befallen him. Elsie was surprised to learn that the frightening man she encountered in Edith Post was once a husband, until his wife passed away from a cancer of the lung. Being so stricken with grief, Rex was no longer himself, and after expressing various misadventures during his following year in the military he was granted dishonourable discharge. Alone and without any apparent purpose, he used the skills he obtained in the army and became a bounty hunter, working discretely with the police in each of the three cities of Pearl Isle. When his renown became great among some of Pearl Isle’s more underground organisations, Rex began taking up jobs for whoever was willing to pay, regardless of who the target was. And that’s how he came into the service of Mr. John Backhaus.
Elsie wondered what might have happened if Rex’s wife had lived – perhaps his own life would have been therefore set upon a happier path. Instead he was enthralled in the service of a snake, sent to hunt them down and probably kill them for all she knew. Whatever the case, it made her terribly sad.
Setting the file down, Elsie glanced around the large room in search of anything else that might be of interest. A few minutes later she set her eyes upon something that appeared dreadfully familiar. On a desk beside a set of double doors was a book – or rather, the remainder of a book – where the pages seemed to have been torn away from its source. Upon further investigation Elsie knew with all certainty that it was indeed the remainder of Charles Vandenberg’s journal. Hastily, she picked it up and peered over her shoulder to ensure that she was alone. Perhaps if Jack and the professor would refuse to give her answers, this journal would shed the light that she had been searching for. Quietly, she began to read:
I am afraid I have made a grave and terrible mistake. How foolish I was to think that Robert Goodwin would ever forsake the tenacity to comprehend what am trying to achieve! For all his great deeds in the fields of science he is a remarkably small minded fool, and he is a coward! He claimed that it was wrong of him to ever think he could overcome the natural order, and yet here I am with my creations, and they are proof that nature was meant to be conquered by man. And so yet again Goodwin stands in my way, as I fear he will endeavour to put an end to my work. By my life or death, he will not succeed…
Something terrible has happened to my specimens. After two months following experimental treatment the old cephalopod groups proved inefficient in producing further results, and the bio-tech device I designed to reduce their aggressive behaviour is still faulty and requires further development. Despite this, my new side-project gives me hope that my work will soon continue unhindered. After a year now of enhancing the genetic code of previous cephalopod specimens – and combining positive evolutionary features from other specimens – I have at last created an entirely new species, and they are beautiful. But there is still much work to be completed. I was stricken with the cold hand of failure when I entered my lab and discovered that all six of my new specimen’s had perished. However, fortune favours me still, for initially I had created seven eggs, but one refused to give life until just yesterday, and therefore I am naming this one Specimen Zero, for she is truly a blessing! A touch of certainty fills my pen as I jot down there words; certainty that Specimen Zero shall be the instrument of my eminent success…
When the news reached me that Robert Goodwin’s dear wife Pamela had been murdered, I fell so deeply into the misery of guilt and shame that even my work provided no remedy for what I had done. When Robert came to my lab in the company of his colleague, a man named Theodore Heartwing, he was balancing unsteadily upon the borderline between life and death. He knew full well that I was the only man now with the knowledge and expertise required to save his life, and I saw in his eyes that all accusations made against me and my work were momentarily forgiven. Part of me still hated Goodwin, however I was no such monster as to let a good man die in my presence, no matter how many times he may have labelled me so. As I performed the surgery, this man Theodore explained that the professor and his wife were attacked in their home by a man of undoubtable military expertise. I then recalled a file sent to me by Mr. John Backhaus, which at the time I had thought nothing off, but now I knew that it was Backhaus who sent the bounty hunter after Goodwin. I saw the locket around Goodwin’s neck, shaped like a silver heart, it contained within the last memory he would ever have of Pamela. If he ever learns of my involvement in this, he will never forgive me. Still, I applied my own remedies to heal his wounds – and I was pleased to know that the formula was indeed successful on a human patient – however I was suddenly grasped with the challenge of keeping the professor’s heart beating. He was dying, and with little else to do, I collected one of the mechanical hearts that I designed after my days at RimTech and I installed it within his chest cavity. In the months that followed Goodwin’s recovery, something grim and forsaken had come over him, and he never thanked me for saving his life, nor did he acknowledge that the so called ‘perverted science’ of mine was the means in which I did so…
Two months have gone by since my last encounter with Goodwin, and in that time I have remained, for the most part, undisturbed. I did at one point receive a heavily worded letter from Goodwin’s accomplice Theodore Heartwing, urging me to seek caution and present my findings to the University of Victoria City, that I may continue my work in a controlled manner. I have sent no reply, nor do I intend to. If I am to leave my mark on the world I must persevere in exceeding all boundaries created by man and nature alike, so as to venture where no man has before been. Specimen Zero remains the picture of health and continues to grow at alarming speed. After a number of tests I have determined that she had displayed intelligence and resilience to physical harm unlike any organism I have seen before. I find myself constantly modifying and replacing the control mechanism as she increases in size and intelligence, however for the most part her behaviour – down to her very movements – are at my command…
How could he! How dare he commit such a vile and heinous offence against me! Were we not once friends? I have been forced to flee my abode at the Delta Facility. The day began by a meeting with that fiend Robert Goodwin upon the sands of the beach outside. I attended this meeting, and I was deceived, for he had instructed Theodore Heartwing to destroy my home while I was absent, and when I discovered their evil plot it was far too late. They left me stranded to bask in my sorrows as I watched the smoke rise. My research, my inventions, countless hours of work, and of course my Specimen Zero, who by the fate of the universe I was able to recover from the wreckage and devastation. At first I wept as I laid my eyes upon her, for the damage of the explosion had mutilated her, and I feared her dead. And then I was graced with the smallest of movements, and I knew that she could be saved! Using what I could salvage from the remains of the facility I fashioned anew the parts of Specimen Zero that had been eradicated, and in doing so I created a creature that in all respects was part living and part machine. She is the pinnacle of modern science, and in time her wrath shall be known to the entire world…
This is likely to be my final entry. The events of the past year have opened my eyes to a base and unrelenting truth: that there is no good, and there is no evil, there is only science, and the wonders that she can achieve when pushed beyond her limits. I have exceeded the understandings of mortal men. I have known things that others, those bound to their petty morals, would never imagine in a hundred years. Since the destruction of Delta Base I have travelled constantly between each of the seven facilities, rebuilding my life’s work and ensuring the safety of Specimen Zero. As the specimen grows older she is beginning to display more dangerous signs of agitation and aggression. The bio-mechanism that is keeping her alive has had to have been remodified in order to maintain any firm degree of control. I have also taken up business with Mr. Backhaus. I am certain now that with the creature soon to be of full strength at my control and with Mr. Backhaus’ innovative designs of the future of Pearl Isle, we may come to an agreement that will be suitable for the both of us…
Elsie Heartwing threw the journal aside, stepped back, placed her hands on her head, and took a very deep breath. What was she to do with such a tragic and frightening tale? Slowly, without quite knowing why, she pushed open the double-doors beside her and entered a darker room, absent from the glow of the ocean. Within it was a wall plastered with newspapers, and every one bore a story regarding Professor Goodwin. And then, smeared across the wall and the papers in violent red paint was the word: TRAITOR!
She also found, resting peacefully upon a book, a silver heart-shaped locket. She picked it up, as light as it was, and stared for a moment at the little image of who she assumed was Professor Goodwin’s wife, and suddenly she understood something that he had said some time back. It is often the small adventures that are most precious to us. She couldn’t believe how they had let it come so far. So much pain and tragedy had riddled their pasts, and even now, after so many years, they were still playing the same game.
Elsie decided that now she would confront Professor Goodwin and discover what he had to say for himself, however, as she made to leave, she was halted by a low and shattered voice. “So,” declared the voice, “you’ve read my journal. I suppose you have also uncovered the rest of my secrets. Were you touched by the tale? Or repelled like all the others?”
Elsie stood frozen and blackness gripped her as she looked upon the shell of Charles Vandenberg. He appeared as though the life had long since fled from his body. His hair was grey but long and untidy, and his face was thin and small and pale. Through small round spectacles his fading blue eyes ran over her, and they were insecure and untrusting. He was dressed in an old lab coat, stained with many colours of chemicals over the years, and its fabric showed many signs of wear.
“I should like to judge for myself,” Elsie claimed. “From what I have heard, the things you have done have been dangerous and unethical, but I don’t deem you a bad person, just misunderstood. Mr. Vandenberg, I believe I can help you.”
“Just like Goodwin helped me all those years ago. He nearly destroyed my greatest creation, and only by my own design was the creature saved!”
Elsie’s tone was soft and smooth. “Mr. Vandenberg, what exactly is Specimen Zero.”
Vandenberg stared at her with grim eyes. His eyes were menacing and broken, and in them she witnessed all of his pain and sorrow as he said, “See for yourself.”
Elsie then gazed into the eternal blue that surrounded her, for she presumed to find the thing that Vandenberg had created, but there was nothing. And then, in one swift and terrifying moment, the creature ascended from the very depths, and placed its great eye before the glass. So large was it in size that the ocean beyond could no longer be seen from left and right, and all that remained was a great and shining yellow light. It could hardly be described as any organic lifeform, nor was it entirely any machine that could have been constructed by man, and yet here it existed, and it was a monster – a great and colossal monster! What confronted Elsie most was the eye. Surrounded by a thick metal ring, the inside of the eye was constantly moving, and Elsie realised that these were brass cogs and spanners turning away inside the monster’s body. Surrounding the black pupil in the centre was a beaming light, so as to appear like a black island in a yellow lake. The flesh to the right of the monster’s body was dark red so as to appear black, and it was thick and leathery like armour, and spotted with circles of lighter dots. The left side of the mantle was more chaotic, as a massive steel plate existed there in place of flesh, and was held in place by a number of rivets. Encircling the left of the eye was a long silver ridge that made as though the eye protruded more than it did. What remained of the flesh on that side of the body was horribly disfigured. Two massive scars emerged from the metal place and ran down the length of the mantle like mountains of dead flesh. Another major blemish existed directly beneath the glowing eye, and one more above it.
Then the creature ascended further, and Elsie witnessed a mass of tentacles trail behind the creature’s body. They were abnormally long, especially the two arms, where, in between, the rest moved about in a convoluted mass. Some of the tentacles had been damaged too, so much so that many of the tips had been replaced with metal points, and from within the flesh of each tentacle protruded a score of metal barbs. Given the overall size of the great creature, and the force that could be inflicted with its metal points, Elsie easily understood how it could pierce the hull of even a large ship. Another, darker and more frightening thought occurred to her, having now witnessed the creature with her own two eyes. If Vandenberg was indeed able to control this thing using bio-tech, then by rights it was no longer a monster – it was a weapon.
Charles Vandenberg smiled as Elsie stumbled away from the glass in horror. “She is beautiful, is she not? She is the result of years of scientific experimentation, a true wonder of this modern world, and indeed the very pinnacle of our existence. With the technology and scientific understanding contained throughout her body we can enhance the very nature of mankind. Imagine, if you dare, a world without pain or suffering, hunger and despair, a world without war! Miss Heartwing, with this great specimen I believe that we may uncover the means to conquer death itself!”
“Men weren’t meant to live forever,” Elsie found herself saying. Vandenberg shot her a sinister look, and Elsie stood well away from the man and called for the professor.
“Yes,” cried Vandenberg. “Call Goodwin down here, I should very much like to speak with him.” Goodwin and Jack marched down the hallway and stopped when they noticed Vandenberg standing within. Mr. Adams and Doctor O’Donnell arrived shortly after. Vandenberg raised his arms to them. “Robert, my dear old friend, it has been too long!”
Goodwin was not at all happy to his old friend. “What are you doing here?” he spat.
Vandenberg drew away. “I am trying to protect what you and your team so diligently desire to kill.” Suddenly the others noticed the colossal monster as if it had been invisible, for with great swiftness it sped off, away from the glass window, and gradually disappeared into the blue abyss of the ocean. “I only knew that it was a matter of time before you found me. Are you surprised, Robert? You left me stranded upon an island with nothing but the wake of my sorrows. I was as good as dead, but I never expected any remorse from the likes of you – your heart is as black and cold as anyone else’s. You’re a machine, professor, and I made you just as I made Specimen Zero.”
O’Donnell’s eyes flickered between them. “Goodwin, what is he talking about?”
“A past I have long since left behind,” the professor answered. “But Vandenberg! Good God man, you need help! How can you not see what this monster of yours is doing? Over half a dozen ships and thousands lives have been dragged into the depths of the sea by your doing! Do you not care for them anymore? What happened to your purpose? You sought to preserve life, not destroy it. Or perhaps in truth, you are the monster, and that colossal abomination is but your thrall.”
“Do not dare speak of justice to me, old friend! Do you think I wanted to sacrifice so much life for the betterment of our species?”
“The nature of man has long since been damaged beyond repair. I’ve lost things too; my arm, my wife, my heart…”
“Enough!” Vandenberg cried. Suddenly, from behind Goodwin and his companions emerged Mr. Rex Bowler, coming upon them like a shadow. He cocked a pistol in his hand and said, “Hello again Jack.” Under the barrel of the gun, they were restrained as Vandenberg shuffled past them, and as he went he said, “I have decided to grant you the same fate you granted my research all those years ago. For what it’s worth, I am sorry, however I cannot allow anything to stand in my way now.” And so, fleeing yet again from the comfort of the facility, Vandenberg left Goodwin’s team within, and instructed Mr. Bowler to ignite the explosives.ns188.8.131.52da2