They appeared in my office one day, without appointment or notification. Said they had an offer - a once-in-a-lifetime one. I've unearthed a Brachylophosaurus in Montana and was chased for two days by Marxist rebels half-way into a dig involving a family of Sauropods in Colombia. To me, once-in-a-lifetime offers are a dime a dozen. Such language mildly piques my interest, nothing more.
What did intrigue me was the secrecy with which they concealed their project. The bombasity I typically encounter when someone's selling me an endeavor leaves the purveyor promising a mountain of opportunity that we both damn well know equates to a moll hill. These guys were different - desperate. I'd never encountered such desperation coupled with a refusal to divulge information. I knew something big was sitting in my lap, but couldn't tell whether big would land me in prison, a casket, or on the cover of national geographic. Ask any of my ex-wives, and they'll all tell you it doesn't matter. I've lived enough lifetimes for a dozen people, but a baker's is always better. The intrigue was too much. I was in.
Grad students spending their summer at a dig site think I'm one of the best because of my ability to delicately part fossils from their earthen coffins. They're wrong on two counts. First, I'm not one of the best - I'm the best. Second is the why; I can navigate out of a situation like a real life Jason Bourne. I'm James Bond without the pretty face and frilly drinks. Any asshole can dig a hole in Nebraskan loam. No one else can play two warring tribes in Saharan Africa against each long enough to expertly recover a set of petrified remains, let alone demonstrate the balls to secure the site before escaping once the tribes turn their machetes towards their white invaders. They didn't want me for these callused yet delicate hands - they wanted me because I'm as cool under fire as they come.
Boast as I might, nothing could have prepared me for when we landed on that island and first witnessed those beasts wandering the land; eonic anachronisms millions of years past their prime. Yet there they were, roaming before us. I'm normally quiet by choice. This was the first time in my life that, left with the choice, I was truly unable to fill the silence.
Three days of catered meals and behavioral observation lulled me into state of euphoria and security I should have recognized as false. Three days to scrutinize the social, physical, and intellectual properties these brilliant specimens displayed. Over dinner that night, a layer of their secrecy was peeled away. Michael, the prinicipal funder and typically jovial leader became quite serious:
"We have a problem with one of the dinosaurs."
"You never mentioned a raptor."
"You didn't bring me here to simply observe your magnificent genetic breakthrough, did you?"
"You're here because you're the best."
"Five days. This is why we were so insistent on your expedited arrival."
"So you've got a pair of the most adept killers the animal kingdom has ever known working in tandem to terminate every specimen on this island you've spent billions of dollars and likely decades of work to create."
"Seemed direct to me. 'no,' as in, I won't do it. I'm ready to head back to the main land."
"Mr. Thoman, you act as though we present to you a choice. The fact of the matter is, no helicopter or boat will leave this island until the threat is subdued. You simply have no choice."
"You will require provisions eventually. Until then, I am content to wait."
"But Mr. Thoman…"
"Additionally, I believe you've revealed more then you intended with your language. 'Subdued?' You expect me to 'subdue' these monsters with the tools supplied to riot police in a Western nation? These creatures are not WTO protestors, and only a dead fool would hunt them with anything less than weapons primed for maximum lethality. Gentlemen, I have had my fill for tonight, and believe it is time to retire. I'm sure we shall revisit this issue in the morning over breakfast."
"We shall, Mr. Thoman. However, we suggest you not tarry too long before changing your mind - your room is, unfortunately, not primed with the best security to thwart all dangers. I hope this situation can only expedite your willingness to reconsider your options."
"Good night, sir."
(To be continued...)