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Chapter 9: Running the Dharma Initiative
Dr. Chang had a very tough job to do.
It was already a bad start in the beginning. At the very first night they arrived at the island, he lost 4 important scientists, including the founding mother of the DI, Karen DeGroot, to a noisy monster which looked like a column of black smoke. The fifth victim screamed like a soprano. It hurt everyone’s ears, but the monster retreated. Since then they were busy setting up sonic fences.
A few days later, in the funeral for the scientists, the founding father of the DI, Gerald DeGroot became crazy and trying to dissolve the whole DI. He didn’t succeed, but more than 2 thirds of DI staffs left the island. After a while Gerald DeGroot himself disappeared and they didn’t have enough people to find him. His leaving had seriously damaged the morality of the 41 people who remained there.
One month later the sonic fences were done, they started to find some new recruits and setup tents. At that time they got the good news of Dr. DeGroot. He was still alive, and he brought them a truce with the hostiles, but he wouldn’t come back, so the whole management job fell upon Dr. Chang.
Just when Dr. Chang thought things could be easier from then on. The accident rate of building houses suddenly went up to an unbelievable level. One day Dr. Chang saw a strange one himself: a worker was using a hammer to put nails in a wall. When he wielded the hammer, the heavy iron head flew away, hit another worker’s head, killed him at the spot, and that worker was working with a power saw, that power saw dropped down to the basement and killed another one. The unlucky worker in the basement happened to be installing electric circuits. When he died, he short-circuited the power to a water pipe and killed another 3 who were holding the pipes. Dr. Chang refused to believe that was an accident. The further investigation showed that all those five dead workers were involved in a series of gang robberies. They got the money and tried to get away from the U.S. by join the Dharma Initiative, because the DI was as secretive as them, and no visa required. It seemed that some unknown force had punished them all in one blow. Since then DI started to do very extensive background researches on anyone who would come to the island. Good guys only, naughty ones no. You had to be a boy scout and a virgin in order to get in. It appeared that the accident rate went down considerably after that.
Still, bad things kept happening. It was like they were all cursed. A brand new gas stove would explode the moment the gas was on. A shallow pool would drown a triathlon athlete. And some experienced outdoor explorers became crazy and told people they heard whispers in the jungle. All those things made Dr. Chang feel exhausted and useless. The progress of building houses had slowed down to a crawl.
Fortunately the ex-military soldier, Paul, helped a lot. He taught his team how to scout the island in secret, avoid the confrontation with the hostiles, and use firearm effectively, but not to kill. With his training, DI guys successfully surveyed half of the island.
Paul had his wedding the day Amy arrived at the island. His newly wedded wife always went to see him. They were inseparable. Amy ended up spending so much time with Paul, that Dr. Chang decided to put Stuart as his second in command, instead of her. It seemed that Amy didn’t mind at all. She would stay in the Flame Station, and talk about Paul all day long. She said he was not a perfect man. When he was a teenager, he did kill someone and was in jail for some time.
Dr. Chang always wondered why no “accidents” had ever happened to Paul. One day he noticed Paul’s Ankh necklace and suddenly understood. Very soon everyone in the camp converted to an ancient Egyptian religion which worshiped deities with crocodile heads and four toes. A small Egyptian style temple was the second building that was finished (the first one was the Flame), and as everyone expected, no single “accident” happened during the temple construction.
Just when Dr. Chang thought things could be easier after a few months in the island, then along came a man called Richard, who knew English but spoke only Latin. He seemed to be the leader of the hostiles. There was never any good news from him. Either he would tell the translator where to pick up some unfortunate dead DI guys, or he would criticize some DI staffs had crossed the line. Actually nobody really knew where the exact boundary was, but if they didn’t comply with what he said, he simply intimidated them in Latin, “You are living in the island because we allow you to do so. If you keep invading our area, then the truce will be over. Are you really sure about that?” Dr. Chang cursed him many times secretly, but he had to do what he was told to do. It was always a bad experience.
Like it was not tough enough to settle all those matters, they got new problems from the supply. The plane which was supposed to arrive that day never showed up. The outside base said, “They were already on their way ten hours ago.” What was really going on? It was the third time a plane disappeared when trying to deliver food, water and all the other necessaries. Dr. Chang wondered where those airplanes had gone. They couldn’t just be vaporized in the thin air. Now the whole DI had to face the problem of food shortage again.
In just six months, a lot of Dr. Chang’s hair turned grey. Wrinkles crept upon his face. He was tired of fixing all those endless problems. He felt that he couldn’t manage the whole Dharma Initiative any more. He used to supervise a university and made it top of the ivory league, but now he thought about calling it quit all the time.
His close friend and sponsor from outside, Alvar Hanso, kept encouraging him to go on. He said, “Dr. Chang, from the very beginning, we all knew this would not be an easy job. Yes, it turns out to be more difficult than we have thought, but for the benefit of mankind, we have to continue the research. We will find out things that will change the world. Our technology will make a giant leap forward. So please bear with all the burdens of this job, I will give you all the support you need. Never mind those airplanes, those are just unavoidable losses...” His words always made Dr. Chang feel much better.
Since Dr. Chang met him in a charity convention, Mr. Hanso had been his friend for about ten years. He knew very little about his past, but admired his generosity. It looked like somehow he owned a kingdom and had unlimited money to spend. So far the Dharma Initiative already cost him more than 50 million dollars (in 1970s), but he didn’t even care to mention the budget once.
By the time those houses were completed, Paul and his men already discovered three “pockets of energies”. Dr. Chang chose a strong reacting one, and started to plan the building of underground lab of the Orchid station.
After learning it, Amy protested right away, “Richard is not an idiot. The moment you started digging, they will find out and stop you.”
“Yes, I am aware of that.”Dr. Chang replied, “That’s why we are building a Green House on top of it first, then we will dig the ground secretly.”
“Are you sure about that?” Amy said, “Don’t you think the island will know?”
Oh, no, not again! Dr. Chang frowned. Ever since Amy was with Paul, she became soft and religious. Maybe a woman in love was all like that, but this is seriously scientific research business, not a holy ground visiting.
He finally said, “I think you had heard too many rumors.”
Amy looked out of the window and said, “How could you not feel that? There is a higher being on the island. Maybe the island itself is the being. You just listen and look, and you will know.”
Oh, please, no more of the mysterious creature crap! I am glad that I have put Stuart in charge. This woman seems hopelessly lost her mind in love. Dr. Chang thought.
“I don’t feel anything. The strange things happen in this island for a reason, and we are here to find out why, not to establish a religion. Amy, you are the one who negotiated the deal so we can all come here, you should have known better.”
“Yeah, but don’t you think that this island is such a wonderful place, that we shouldn’t dig holes in it? Do you know that yesterday I saw my parents again, right outside of the bamboos? This time we talked a lot. I haven’t been so happy and crying like that for a very long time. Dr. Chang, don’t you want to meet someone again, someone close to you, but passed away? Dr. Chang, Dr. Chang?”
Amy realized that he was gone already.
1973, 20,000 feet above pacific ocean, a Boeing air cargo plane was flying in a bad weather.
“We are very close.” The pilot said, “According to the coordination, we are almost there.”
“How do you read the position?” the co-pilot asked, “The compass is circling like crazy.”
“That’s exactly the coordination we need.” The pilot said, “It’s time to dive.”
“Are you crazy?” the co-pilot said, “In such a bad weather and visibility? You will get us all killed.”
“Trust me on this.” The pilot said, “I have done it a thousand times.”
The plane flew down and started to stall. It was completely out of control and making crazy turns like a leaf in the autumn wind.
“I told you not to ... Aaaaaahhhhh...” The co-pilot was holding anything he could and screamed.
“Woooooowwww......” the pilot was acting like a child riding a rollercoaster, “This is really fun. I LOVE this job!”
Suddenly the sky is clear and the wind is no more.
The plane gradually regained control and flew straight. It was like nothing ever happened.
The pilot punched the still in-shock copilot on his shoulder, “See? What did I tell you? It’s a lot of fun!”
“Are you kidding me?!” the copilot got out of his astonishment, and became angry, “You almost got us all killed! This plane could have been torn up apart back there! We are very lucky that it is still flying in one piece.”
“Ha ha... That’s something I didn’t tell you yet. Actually, we are perfectly safe. This plane was heavily reinforced by titanium alloy for this kind of crazy actions. Nothing can break it... Wait...” He suddenly saw something, “It’s there.” Both of them could see the island was directly ahead. “It always shows up from nowhere. Isn’t that interesting?”
The copilot stared at the mysterious island, “So the myth is true.”
“I don’t care it’s myth or not. As long as I keep dropping the cargo, I will get the money. That’s most important.” The pilot said it with a big laugh, “Besides, you cannot have this much fun in piloting for Oceanic Airlines.”
“That’s true.” The copilot agreed.
The rest of the operation was very smooth. They dropped the cargo above the island. The parachute opened fully and the cargo landed at the right spot. A job was well done.
“Hey, buddy, It’s time to go home and fuuck your wife.” The pilot said.
“I hope you don’t mean that’s you.” The copilot grumbled in a low voice.
The weather got bad again. The plane circled upside down in an unnatural way. The copilot held his seat tight and tried his best not to scream, while the pilot yelling, “Yi...Haaaaa...”
As they expected, the sky became blue, and the plane was leveled again.
Looking back, the copilot was amazed, “It’s strange. I don’t see the island or the storm behind us. What did that all came from?”
“My friend, there is one thing I learned over the years working for Dharma Initiatives,” the pilot said as the veteran, “don’t ask and don’t tell, cause you won’t get an answer anyway.”
“Perhaps they don’t have the answer either.” The copilot said, “Anyway, the job is well paid and very exciting. I kind of like it.”
“Welcome to my world!” the pilot laughed out loud, “Like I said, now it’s time to go home, and ...”
“Fuuck my wife.” The copilot said.
“Haha!! That’s very right! You got it.” The pilot laughed even louder.
“Tower, tower, this is Air Cargo 48 from Paik Enterprise. We are approaching and requesting for landing.”
“What? What air cargo 48? What are you talking about? Who the hell are you?”
“I repeat. This is Air Cargo 48 from Paik Enterprise. We are low on fuel and we are requesting for landing.”
“You think I am a fool? We don’t have any airplane registered as Air Cargo 48. That’s the numbering 20 years ago. Now it’s all 3 digits. Again, answer us, who the hell are you?”
The copilot looked at the pilot with doubtful eyes. The pilot shrugged with confusion too.
Finally the copilot asked, “I’m sorry, but what’s the date today?”
“Well, in case of your idiots forgot. It’s November 21, 2004.”
“Terrific!” They both moaned.