“So where did you find this place, Professor?” Normandy asked the leader of their expedition in a slight Australian accent. The island looked artificial and Normandy had to admit that he’d never seen it on map before. It was like a petri dish on a massive scale. The island was mostly a rock wall in the shape of a circle except for a small gap ten feet wide. The rock wall was sheer on both sides, a dozen feet thick, and flat on top, allowing anyone to walk along the edge and look down into the center of the rock wall, or the ‘Valley’ as the Professor called it.
“I had it made,” Professor Morton replied in his American accent.
“I’m not sure how you make an island, but this is impressive,” Normandy was indeed impressed. They stood at the entrance to the Valley. It was several square miles of some forestry, a freshwater spring bubbled up in a pool, but mostly a wide flat plain of waist tall grass.
“Thank you, Captain. I could’ve used any island for my experiment but I’m taking an extra precaution that none of the specimens will get out. That is why you’re here.”
“Unless you’re planning on putting something in there that can climb fifty feet of sheer cliff, if you’d just put a gate up here,” Normandy indicated the ten foot gap in what would’ve been a perfect circle of rock, “You’d probably not need me at all.”
Professor Morton looked at the Australian man in his rugged gear and rifle slung across his back. Captain Ben Normandy had once been a decorated officer in the military, and then something had happened, after some AWOL time and more time a military prison for being AWOL, that was where Morton had found him.
“A gate is to be installed but there may be on occasion we’ll have to venture into the Valley, and I’ll need an escort,” Morton replied and turned to walk away from the entrance. Normandy followed a few steps behind.
Normandy hadn’t liked Morton the moment he’d laid eyes on him through the bullet proof Lexan glass that had separated them. If Morton grew a beard he’d be mistaken for Santa Claus with his white unruly curls, and nearly perfect round body. There however was something in the eyes that had repelled Normandy. Eyes were the windows to the soul and there wasn’t a soul behind those eyes. The only reason Normandy was here, walking with the Professor on an island in the middle of nowhere, agreeing to protect the seedy bastard was because… Normandy wasn’t in jail anymore and the money had been too much to pass up.
They’d only been on the island for a few hours and already, the camp was well underway. Only it didn’t look like a camp, it looked like a damned city was being erected. Normandy was under the impression that Morton would of course need a laboratory, but other than that, Normandy had been rather expecting to ‘rough it’ slightly. A hammock between two palms, a few canopies for shade or shelter from rain, but as he watched in rather slight awe at the building materials being unloaded from the ships that had brought them to the island, and real block buildings being built.
“How long are we staying, Professor? I was under the impression for a couple of months. This looks more permanent,” Normandy commented. He was there to protect Morton, but as far as he knew the only threat to the Professor was lack of a strong enough anti-perspirant.
“Oh, yes. I’ve been meaning to talk to you about renegotiating your contact,” Morton turned with a smile on his face. Normandy’s eyes narrowed. “I’m certain my experiment will take years to see the true outcome, and I can make you a very wealthy man if you’d agree to stay on through the duration of the experiment.”
“Years? On this island?” Normandy asked. He almost added, ‘With you? And no women?’ Well there was one woman, Dr. Savannah Davis, but she was a self-proclaimed lesbian with a black belt in more karate than Normandy could count on one hand.
“Perhaps if you see what my experiment is, you’ll be more inclined to remain,” Morton stated and Normandy followed him down to the construction. The lab was constructed first, and soon as it was completed, Morton all but vanished into it, and didn’t return until the gate had been installed and camouflaged over the gap in the rock wall.
Within days, the entire camp, had been erected. They had hot showers, which was really unneeded in the tropical climate, a complete emergency triage that could make some hospitals jealous, actual beds and not just bunks. The chef that Morton had brought along could make anything, literally anything. The ‘camp’ felt more like ‘resort’ than a scientific expedition, but Normandy had to admit, it was better than prison. Even if the only girl on the island was a dick, hated dicks and was flat as a surfboard on both sides, but blessed with a natural complexion that supermodels got airbrushed for.
Normandy stood outside the laboratory. He’d heard something within its walls sound more like alligator grunting or growling. He’d explored the entire island, and the Valley. It was void of animals except for some birds, bugs, rats, mice and rabbits. He had his rifle in his hands. The laboratory was the largest building on the island, and kept locked by a keypad. Only Morton and his assistants ever came and went.
“We are ready!” Morton shouted bursting from the laboratory door. Normandy nearly shot him.
“Ready for what?” Normandy asked.
“To release the first specimens into the petri dish.” Normandy realized that Morton had a crate in his hands. He could hear hissing from behind the tiny slats.
“What is in there?” Normandy asked.
“The first specimens. Dimetrodon grandis,” Morton said with such happiness that he could’ve passed for Santa Claus at that moment.
“A dinosaur? You’re experiment is to study dinosaurs?”
“No. My experiment is evolution and these aren’t dinosaurs, they are considered mammal like reptiles. I simply want to see if mammals will evolve from them.” Normandy gave Morton a look of, ‘Oh dear, the wheel is still spinning but the hamster is dead.’
“Professor. Let’s not mention the fact you’ve managed to bring an extinct species back to life but you do realize that evolution took millions of years?” Morton laughed at Normandy’s comment.
“Once I release these into the Valley, I’ll explain to you what I’ve done.”
Morton and Normandy stood in the center of the the Valley, have ridden there on a Mule. Not the four legged kind with the stubborn temperament but the 4×4 looking golf cart one. Normandy had his rifle in his hands as Morton placed the crate, which seemed to be getting heavier the longer he held it, pulled the lid off and tipped it over on it’s side. About half a dozen finned lizards scrambled out over each other, hissing and eventually skittering away from them.
“Professor?” Normandy asked.
“Yes, Captain?” Morton replied standing there watching his specimens.
“What are you going to feed them?” Normandy asked backing slowly towards the Mule. He was bringing his rifle up.
“Feed?” Morton seemed lost in thought and Normandy reached out and grabbed the fat man by the shoulder.
“Get in the Mule. You released predators in this place… and we’re the only prey,” Normandy whispered as the finned lizards suddenly turned around to notice the two men.
As soon as Morton was in the Mule, Normandy fired it up, and stomped his foot down on the pedal. The mule wasn’t built for speed and as he looked back, the dimetrodons seemed to suddenly notice each other and began to snap and fight until death, tearing into flesh, gobbling each other.
Normandy halted the Mule and brought his rifle to his shoulder, put the first remaining dimetrodon in his sights and… The shot went wide as Morton grabbed his arm.
“No! Not my specimens! I admit I was in such a hurry to see the evolution I didn’t think on a small scale. I was wrong, I’ll immediately see to releasing an herbivore food source for them.”
“I still don’t understand how you’re going to see evolution, Professor,” Normandy tried not to sound angry that Morton had grabbed him. He slid back into the Mule’s driver seat.
“That is the beauty of this place. I’ve discovered how to speed up their lifecycles exponentially. For them, years pass in a matter of hours. A lifecycle of years will now only take days.” Normandy slammed on the brakes of the Mule at this. Morton was tossed forward but not from the vehicle as he braced himself.
“Professor. You’re playing God. That is…”
“That is what, Captain?”
“No good can come of it.” Normandy said bitterly and continued on towards the gate.
Captain Benjamin Normandy sat at an outdoor table next to the Mess Hall. It was more like a cantina than a mess hall, and of course with Etienne’s cooking, was more like five star restaurant than a cantina. Before him was breakfast. A bottle of Johnny Walker Blue and glass. Leaned against the bench he sat on, was his rifle, a model 70 bolt action Winchester. The rifle was for big game, Normandy had a Colt 1911 tucked in the back of his pants for human problems.
“Captain?” It was Dr. Davis. Petite, blonde bobbed hair and probably the only person on the island who could tear a man’s face off with her thumbs, well Normandy could probably do it too, but he’d just prefer to shoot rather than getting his thumbs bloody.
“He stepped out,” Normandy replied to her.
“Morton is looking for you, says he has some “food” for the dimetrodons, needs you to escort him into the Valley to release it.” Normandy looked up at her.
“Did you know?” He asked. She was silent a moment and he took that as an affirmative.
“What were you expecting to do in this place?” She asked him.
“I honestly don’t know,” he replied to her and stood up, cradling the rifle in his arms.
Once again Normandy was standing in the Valley with Morton. Morton had another crate in his arms. Normandy kept his rifle to his shoulder, expecting three meter finned dinosaurs to attack them at any moment, but so far everything had been quiet.
“They aren’t dinosaurs, Captain,” Morton reiterated. “They died out 50 million years before the Triassic.”
“I don’t give a good God damn, mate, I’m not gonna be dino chow,” when Normandy got upset his accent thickened.
“I really should have released the Casea broilii at the same time as the Dimetrodon, but I was just in such a hurry. I suppose I expected them to feed on the rabbits and mice.” Morton placed the second crate on the ground and like the first, tipped it over, with the lid off. Another half a dozen reptiles, they were squat, fat bellied, looked like deformed iguanas.
“What are those?”
“Herbivores, from the same time period as the Dimetrodon,” Morton explained.
“So what now? We like wait a week and then come back to count how many there are,” Normandy asked.
“Oh no, we shall be back tomorrow,” Morton said happily and walked back to the Mule.
For about a week, Normandy escorted Morton back and forth daily to make sure that the Dimetrodon and Casea were thriving. Normandy was incredibly surprised; a cycle had seemed to settle into place. The Casea were eating the plant life and the Dimetrodon were keeping the Casea population from exploding. However he’d noticed that when the Dimetrodon’s food source got too low, they began to eat each other, until the Casea could replenish. It had become a daily tagging job for him. It would seem that Morton had indeed cut down their life cycle to about four days. Day 1, birth, Day 2, prime, Day 3, elderly, Day 4, dead… if they managed to live to become old dinosaurs, sorry, mammal like reptiles.
However, Normandy wasn’t seeing any signs of evolution. They weren’t developing feathers or fur, or doing anything except, eating, sleeping, mating, dying. Then another week past. Until Morton went to the Valley without him.
From day one that Normandy learned that Morton was playing God, he’d tried his best to keep an eye on the Professor, but he wasn’t allowed into the laboratory, even tried to break in once, and that led to him pretending he was drunk, and oh he may have accidently leaned up against the keypad that unlocks the door. He failed to get in.
What made Normandy suspicious of Morton even more was when Dr. Davis showed up one night next to his hammock wearing only some type of sheer shirt. Normandy though missing a woman’s touch sent her away. She was a lesbian, said so herself on the boat ride to the island. It was the movement of the Mule’s headlights through the darkness that really made Normandy push her aside. What was Morton taking to the Valley?
“You God DAMNED son of a bitch! You could you do this!” Normandy had taken a swing at Morton when he saw what was unloaded from the back of the Mule into the Valley. “They’re people!” Normandy was now being restrained by the three assistants that Morton had brought with him to the Valley to unload the half dozen humans from the back of the Mule.
“Homo sapiens neanderthalensis,” Morton began. “Neanderthals, Captain. Calm down.”
“I can’t be calm, you bastard! How are these people to survive against the dinos? They have nothing, no food, no training, no shelter, no weapons! This is wrong, Morton!”
“I really had hoped you wouldn’t be a problem,” Morton said with a sigh as the three male and three female adolescent looking Neanderthals milled about around them. “They will be fine. Like the dimetrodon and casea they have been… programed with certain instincts.”
“You are not God!”
“Yes. Yes I am.”
Years ago Normandy had seen a cartoon called, ‘The Far Side.’ In it were two aliens holding a giant jar with a human and a bear in it. One alien was saying to the other, ‘Shake it and see if they fight.’ That was exactly what Morton was doing with the Valley. That was the big secret here, human evolution. Well not exactly under controlled conditions, but Normandy had seen that the Neanderthals had the same life cycle as the dimetrodon and casea. Day 1, birth. Day 2, prime, Day 3, elderly, Day 4, death.
He’d been kept away, basically under arrest in his own room, which he rarely used, preferring the hammock on the beach, for about ten days, and in time terms of the Valley, five generations later. Morton finally let him out and now he was on the rock wall around the valley, looking down into it with high powered binoculars.
“As you can see, the experiment is coming along fantastically, Captain!” Morton was so happy he was practically clapping for joy. Normandy wanted to throw up. Truthfully, the Neanderthals seemed to be thriving. They were hunting both Dimetrodon and the smaller Casea, had procreated and were now in a small family group of maybe twenty in a large dwelling of hides and bones. They seemed to have some sort of language and a hierarchy.
“I don’t care, Professor, what you’re doing here is wrong,” Normandy said.
“What do you propose we do? Let them loose in Los Angeles? Shoot them like injured horses?”
“First of all, you never should have created them and second of all, you don’t shoot injured horses anymore,” Normandy snapped.
“Professor?” Normandy began looking again through the binoculars. This was the part he didn’t understand. “Since they’re life cycle is as short as everything else in that pit, why aren’t they aging before my eyes?”
“Oh, it has to do partly with the genetic code I introduced into their DNA and the equivalent of an overclocked temporal transmitter in this rock wall.”
“What the fuck did you just say?” Normandy asked.
“Time is sped up inside the Valley,” Morton explained with a sigh.
“Wait, I’ve been in there with you, why are we not older?”
“Because I’ve designed the temporal transmitter to stop whenever we enter the Valley.”
“So you’re saying than when one of us enters the Valley, time in there slows down to normal?”
“Yes. Well not just in the Valley, us being up here does it too.”
“I can’t watch anymore,” Normandy said and handed Morton the binoculars. He stood up from where he’d been laying on his stomach. He glanced once more at the Neanderthal dwelling, and squinted. “Give me those!” He snatched the binoculars from Morton.
There seemed to be some sort of distress in the dwelling, one of the Neanderthal women was on her hands and knees, others were around her. Another one of the Neanderthals collapsed.
“Something is happening,” Normandy said. He realized that he was watching them get sick. “They’re ill. We have to help them.”
“No we must let nature take its course,” Morton replied.
“Nature? This is not nature, this pulling the wings off flies!” Normandy all but slid down the ladder from the top of the rock wall. He jumped into the Mule and headed for the encampment.
Normandy practically drove the Mule into the open cantina to roughly grab Dr. Davis by the arm.
“What do you think you’re doing?” She tried to tug her arm from his grasp and Normandy expected a fight, she was only trying to pull from him and was surprisingly allowing him to drag her towards the medical building.
“The Neanderthals, they’re sick, we’ve not much time, you have to help them,” Normandy’s voice had never been so cold in all his life. This experience was making him a different man than he’d been before.
“No,” Dr. Davis managed to squeak out at him. As if defying him was worse than defying God.
“You help those people or so help me I will put a bullet in that pretty little temple of yours,” Normandy’s voice was beyond cold, it was deadly. Dr. Davis’ blue eyes looked a moment at Normandy’s and quickly nodded her head. Normandy released her and it took her no less than two minutes to return with a duffle bag.
Normandy drove the Mule as fast as he could, actually passing a walking, then shouting Morton, on the way to the gate. Normandy hadn’t been inside the Valley since being dragged out after the release of the Neanderthals. Normandy opened the gate long enough to drive the Mule through and closed it again.
Evolution had happened, the dimetrodon had actually gotten smaller, and so had the casea. Some were trying to move about on two legs, fur had sprouted, so had feathers. Even the plants had seemed to begun to change. They were all getting larger.
Normandy hadn’t expected the reaction to the Mule, but should have known it was going to happen. When he literally pulled up to the Neanderthal dwelling, they tried to attack it with their crude spears and any rocks or sticks or bones they could get their hands on. Normandy reached into the small of his back, stepped out and fired the Colt 1911 up into the air. The Neanderthals suddenly ran away, some tried to pull their sick with them, but eventually as Normandy and Dr. Davis neared, they sick were abandoned.
Normandy paced, looking for the hiding Neanderthals. He’d spot one pop its head up out of the grass, and when he looked at them, they’d hide again. He explored the dwelling, the inside of the large hut had several hearths, a place for making tools, and what looked like lumps of clay, as if they were trying to figure out how to make pottery, and weaving looked to be in practice, they hadn’t quite gotten ‘baskets’ down, but they were working on it.
“They have chicken pox,” Dr. Davis finally said.
“Chicken pox?” Normandy looked from the doctor to the Neanderthal girl she was examining. The three other sick Neanderthals didn’t look any better. They were moaning, clutching their stomachs, they did have the telltale rash, but these people looked on death’s door.
“I have no idea how chicken pox will affect them, they aren’t genetically human, and since they aren’t… sanitary, their chicken pox can quickly develop into a bacterial infection that could be fatal.”
“Do you have the vaccine to give them?” Normandy asked. Dr. Davis nodded.
“I didn’t bring any with me. I didn’t expect… chicken pox.”
“We can’t leave, if we leave, these people age, the entire tribe could be wiped out in day.”
“We shouldn’t even be interfering,” Dr. Davis stated at him.
“The moment Morton bred these people in a test tube or whatever he does in that lab of his, was interfering.” Normandy snapped back her. She flinched.
Chicken pox lasts 2-4 days. So Normandy forced Dr. Davis to help him care for the sick Neanderthals, until they either died or got better. Normandy wasn’t sure if the tribe realized they weren’t there to hurt them, but to try to help, the others slowly approached, and by the time the first sick Neanderthal had recovered, Normandy and Dr. Davis had been accepted completely.
There was a huge language barrier. The Neanderthals did have a spoken language, but it was mostly grunts and hand signals. They could not pronounce ‘Normandy’ or even ‘Ben’ for that matter, and Normandy couldn’t understand their names either. Normandy and Dr. Davis were give the choicest cuts of meat, which not all of it was consumed cooked, and if it was cooked, it was dropped right into coals of the hearth fires.
They stayed a week in the dwelling with the Neanderthals, to make sure that everyone who got sick was going to make it through the chicken pox, and to show others how to care for the sick ones. The Neanderthals were curious and wanted to inspect everything but at the same time were incredible cowards. What surprised Normandy most of all was that no one had bothered to drag him or Dr. Davis out of the Valley. However Normandy could see a glint on the rock wall. They were being watched.
“You have no idea the consequences of your actions,” Morton said as he paced in front of Normandy. Normandy had been ‘arrested’ for the lack of a better term and was not cuffed with those annoying ass zip ties, and one his knees while Morton acted like a dictator.
“Your specimens are still alive,” Normandy spat at him.
“If they had died then it could’ve been proof that humans didn’t evolve from them.”
“Wait. What?” Normandy looked shocked at Morton. “I can only tell you this so many times. This is wrong. You need to stop, give them the entire island, and prevent anyone from coming here and stop the aging.”
“I can’t do that, and since you’ve contaminated this batch, I’ll have to purge the experiment and start over.”
“No. You can’t do that, they’re people! They are a family!”
Apparently the week that Normandy had spent in the Valley with the Neanderthals, Morton had been busy having one of the rooms in the housing building converted into a proper jail cell. Normandy paced. He didn’t know what was going to happen to him. If Morton was going to expel him from the island on the next supply ship, then Normandy would go to the press. Tell everyone what Morton was doing here.
“Please don’t let Morton let me rot in here,” Normandy whispered. Cause that was the other two options, Normandy would die in this cell, or Normandy was going to be assassinated somehow.
The supply ship took six weeks to make its delivery to the island. Normandy had been in the cell for four of those weeks and now he was under the impression that Morton was just going to toss him onto the next ship and send him back to civilization. As time passed for him, Normandy wondered about the Neanderthals. Had Morton killed them all? Bred new ones? If Normandy could, he’d shoot Morton first chance he got.
Four weeks outside the Valley meant fourteen generations had passed inside the Valley, and then Morton appeared at the entrance of Normandy’s cell with shaking hands and the keys.
“I think I may have… underestimated evolution,” Morton said and Normandy shot him a hated look. “Out of curiosity after your involvement I didn’t purge the experiment, however… I think you need to come look at them.”
Fourteen generations later, the huts had evolved, the spears were more efficient, bows and arrows invented. The Neanderthals weren’t looking exactly like Neanderthals anymore, they were walking more upright, and as their faces flattened, better speech was emerging.
What blew Normandy’s mind was the statue carved from a massive tree trunk in the center of the now Neanderthal village. They’d gotten a few features wrong, but the problem was they got most of it right.
“You saved them. They think you’re a god,” Morton said flatly.