Experimental Site 180
October 24, 2022
I remember the day I was told that I had been specially selected for this expedition. I had partially expected the invitation because I was one of the company’s best scientists, and I’d been studying this case for longer than many of the older participants. Obviously, I accepted the offer, barely hiding my ego. This expedition was everything I’d been working for, and really the only thing that mattered to me. I’d been studying this new life-supporting planet basically since the day the company had hired me so many years ago.
The next day I left for the planet with hardly a word to my fiancé. She wanted to talk about this trip and what it meant for us, but I didn’t have time to deal with her emotions. However, when I watched the alien writhe on the cold metal table, I felt that attitude of indifference slipping away.
I had begun noticing what we were doing to the ecosystem of this new planet about five days ago when my boss ordered some men to go out and build a new experimental site. Immediately when they began to build, the odd, vine-like plants died. Then bigger things started to die as well: the tree-like plants we had begun studying, the large, arachnid creatures all over the planet, and the aliens themselves.
The aliens were strangely human-like, with wide oval heads, four long arms that reached the ground when they stood, and two short legs. They also had two wide eyes that took up most of their faces, but we weren’t yet sure what they could actually see. They varied in color, but were mainly dark green or brown with splashes of purple.
The alien I watched then was the first one we had brought in. The boss sent out some of his employees to capture one and bring it back to the base site. Looking at the men he hired, I assumed it wasn’t done humanely, but that didn’t bother me. These aliens were an entirely new species, and the man who was able to study and communicate what he learned about them would become rich. The alien had been contained in a large glass tank so we could observe its behaviors without fear. Now that we knew it didn’t have any extreme defense mechanisms, we were allowed to begin experimentation. The big, muscular employees the boss had hired to capture the creatures had dragged one in and secured it to the table. I watched with anticipation, hungry to begin working on it.
When the men were finally finished tying it down, my colleagues and I began to quickly discuss what we should do first. “We should x-ray it,” Raymond said excitedly. Raymond was an older scientist, and he acted as though the x-ray machine was the height of technology.
“No, it might not show us anything. We should run blood and DNA tests first,” Sarah replied, and I was happy she shot down Raymond’s x-ray idea.
“We could cut it open and check its blood, bones, and organs at the same time,” I interjected. And, of course, that’s what we would do. I always had the best ideas. Sometimes it was hard to believe that the other scientists had any sense at all.
Since it was my idea, and I was very precise, I was the one who would be doing the most work. Everyone in the room helped hold the creature down while I drew a straight line down its stomach and chest. It screeched and squealed loudly the whole time. Once the line was drawn I was able to really begin. I put on a fresh pair of blue latex gloves, sterilized a large, glistening knife, and walked over to the animal. I lined the knife up with the line I had drawn and began to cut down the alien’s body. As I cut, a strange purple liquid spurted out of it, something I assumed to be its blood. Then my colleagues came closer and we began to look at the insides of the creature. It continued to thrash and screech, but we had been trained to ignore such things.
“No bones,” Raymond said in shock and disappointment while Sarah used this opportunity to get some of the animal’s blood into a test tube.
All of us inspected the thing for so long that its horrible wailing just became background noise. Once we had taken the appropriate notes and pictures, it was time to sew it back together. Sarah was the best at stitching, so Raymond and I moved to help the others hold the creature down. I held its head and shoulders still so that it wouldn’t be able to hit its head on the table and injure itself.
Sarah smoothed her lab coat, leaned over the table, and began to stitch. While she worked, I found myself looking right into the alien’s eyes. They bored into mine with an intensity I rarely saw in other animals, as though it was trying to communicate with me without words.
“Is it okay?” Sarah asked worriedly, and it was then that I realized it had stopped screaming. I glanced down to ensure that it was still breathing, and it was. I glanced back at its face, and its eyes were still moving. Still looking straight into mine.
“Yeah, it’s still alive,” I muttered. I heard Sarah sigh with relief, but I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the stare of the alien.
“Oh, thank goodness. The boss would kill us if this thing died,” Sarah joked. I didn’t reply, as I was too busy noticing the color of the alien’s eyes. All this time we’d had it in captivity and I hadn’t noticed. One was a deep green, and the other a light brown. Bizarrely, this creature was beautiful.
My heart sank as I remembered all the deceased ones we had pulled away from the new building site. So many of these astonishing creatures had been killed already, and we’d only been here a week and a half. Looking into the alien’s eyes, it was as though I could feel what it was feeling. Pain. Fear. That was the moment I knew that I had to do something to protect these exquisite creatures.
Six Months Later…
During the last six months on this planet my thoughts, my beliefs, and my morals had been on a rollercoaster. First, I had talked myself into doing something to save the aliens. Then I talked myself out of it, then I talked myself back into it.
On that day, one of the aliens we were studying died. We had already estimated their life-span, and this one had died approximately fifty years before it should have. It was obvious that it was because of us and our experiments. However, the thing that really convinced me was the way the other aliens in captivity reacted to the death. They mourned and grieved very similarly to the way humans do. Some seemed angry, but others became depressed. These aliens were the most emotionally intelligent creatures I had ever studied or encountered before. I couldn’t let mine and the company’s shared greed destroy the life on this wonderful planet.
Once I was one hundred percent sure that I was going to do something, I decided to call my fiancé, Anna. She always has great ideas, although I’ve never given her any credit for it. I was anxious to call her because I knew that I had been treating her horribly. I never listened to her suggestions, and we hadn’t begun planning our wedding because I always told her I was too busy. I hadn’t even called her yet, not once in the six months I’ve been on this planet.
Our regular phones obviously didn’t work up here, so I had to call her on the company phone. Each of us was only allowed fifteen minutes a day to use the phone because the boss didn’t want any of us to be distracted. I took a deep breath as I dialed her number.
“Hello? Who is this?” she questioned as she answered the phone.
“Hi, Anna. It’s me,” I replied. I can’t believe I haven’t called her yet.
“Ryan?” she asked in surprise.
“Yeah. Listen, Anna, I need your–”
“This is the first time you’ve called me in six entire months, and you’re just going to pretend that’s normal?” She cut me off, and I had to remind myself that she had a right to be angry.
“I’m sorry, but we really don’t have time to talk about this right now,” I replied calmly.
“That’s the problem, Ryan! You never have time for anything!” She was right. I had always brushed her off as though she didn’t matter at all.
“I know, and I’m sorry, but really I need your help with something,” I replied.
“What could you possibly need from me that you haven’t needed in the last six months? Or rather, the entire time we’ve been engaged?” she retorted angrily.
“I’m not sure that what the company is doing is right,” I told her quietly.
“That’s never stopped you before,” she shot back.
“No, Anna, really. They’re killing everything up here. They’re murdering these aliens,” I was desperate for one of her brilliant ideas.
“The company has killed things before, Ryan,” she sighed.
“This is different. These creatures are just like humans, but their whole ecosystem is so delicate, and everything’s dying. It’s horrible.” I needed her to understand. We would be cut off in about five minutes.
“So just because they’re more human, they’re worth more?” she asked pointedly.
“No. Anna, seriously, just help me figure out what to do,” I pleaded.
“Have you tried bringing it up to your boss?” she asked as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“No, he doesn’t care,” I replied.
“Just say something, and if it doesn’t work, call me again,” she said, and hung up. I groaned in frustration and turned around, but before I could take a step there was a tall, wide, bearded man blocking my way.
“Come with me,” he ordered. I was so shocked that I just obeyed. He led me down numerous dark tunnels and through many thick, metal doors. Finally, he stopped.
“Go on in,” he told me, and opened the heavy door. Confused and nervous, I walked in. There, at a large wooden desk sat the boss. He was a middle-aged, bald, greedy and money-hungry man.
“Doctor Owens,” he greeted me darkly.
“Hello, sir,” I replied. “Is there something I can do for you?”
“I heard you’ve finally been in contact with your fiancé,” he stated, gesturing to a speaker on the wall. He was listening to our calls. “You said some things about this investigation?” he raised an eyebrow.
Something in the back of my head told me to play dumb. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, sir,”
“Oh, I think you do. You were specifically chosen for this experiment because I’d been watching you,” he told me calmly. “I’d noticed your continued disconnection from the things we were doing,”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You didn’t care,” he chuckled. “You were cold. That’s why you were chosen,”
“What about Raymond and Sarah? They’re kind.” I didn’t know what else to say.
“They’re dumb. They don’t understand what we’re doing here,” he shot back.
“What are we doing here, sir?” I asked. I hadn’t actually realized how big this whole thing was, but I had a feeling that I should pretend ignorance. If it was bad enough for him to escort me to his office after an innocent phone call, it had to be something meticulously planned and purposefully kept secret. “I’d love to hear the details of your plan,” I smiled at him.
“So you haven’t figured it out?” he replied.
“I have a theory,” I said confidently, though I didn’t really.
“I’m surprised you’re willing to admit that,” he told me with a menacing grin. “You’ve always said how completely right you are. So I’ll tell you this, your precious aliens, and whatever else is on this planet, aren’t meant to last. They’re meant to be captured, killed, sold, and then wiped out. You know the business of this company.” His voice was matter-of-fact and uncaring. Suddenly, I remembered that moment with the first captured alien. How it’s eyes looked sadly into mine. I remembered the first time we saw one give birth, the way it protected its young. I remembered how they grieved when one passed away. I couldn’t let them be killed. It was in that moment that I had begun to formulate my plan, but I couldn’t let him know that.
“You’ll make me rich?” I asked with feigned excitement.
“Very,” the boss said smiling again, “As long as you don’t tell anyone the plan. We have devices planned and ready, but if anyone finds out about them it will ruin everything.” My stomach sank. What could he mean by devices?
“Yes, sir,” I assured him, and then the large man who I now recognized as a bodyguard escorted me out of the office. We walked down the long, dark hallways in silence. I was busy preparing to deal with the task at hand, and he wasn’t hired for talk. I scanned the walls, looking for something to make my plan succeed. After a while, I saw it: a bright red fire extinguisher hanging on the wall next to me. I drifted towards it, trying not to be obvious. Then, as quickly as I could, I removed it from the wall and slammed the bodyguard over the head. Luckily, I’d caught him by surprise and was able to knock him out. Now I really had to hurry. If the boss had listening devices, he most definitely had cameras.
I sprinted down the hallways, scanning the metal doors for labels or signs. I rounded a corner and saw two bodyguards standing outside of a door labeled Flight Room. It was the one I had been looking for. I ducked behind the corner and tried to figure out what to do. Then I realized that I had accidentally brought the fire extinguisher all this way. Perfect. I ran out from behind the corner and hit the first bodyguard as hard as I could in the temple. The other one looked at me in surprise for a moment, but before I could catch my breath, he threw a punch right at my face. His knuckles collided with my nose loudly. I whirled around for a moment. I’d never been hit before and I wasn’t sure how to recover. On instinct, I swung my arm again and smacked him with the extinguisher. These things are more handy than I ever expected, I thought to myself.
I rushed to push open the door and lock it before the bodyguard could recoup and come back for me. Then I scoured the room for a phone. There. I bolted over to it and dialed Anna’s number.
“Hi, it’s Anna,” she said.
“Anna, it’s Ryan. Don’t say anything, just listen. I just broke into the flight room of the ship, and everyone should be on it because it’s nighttime and it gets pretty cold and hard to work at night,” Everyone lived on the ship due to the slightly unpredictable environment of the new planet. “but anyway the boss had this horrible plan to sell the aliens on Earth and kill them here,” I rambled, “Basically I need you to tell me how to fly this plane,”
“What?!” Anna asked in shock.
“C’mon, this is a little urgent!” One of the bodyguards had begun to pound on the door, and they both had looked like they could break it down with enough effort.
“Alright, alright…” She took a deep breath and began to coach me on spaceship-flight. I don’t even know how she knew how to do it, but then again she was much smarter than I’d ever given her credit for.
With the help of Anna, I flew the plane and safely landed it back on Earth. There were some bumps along the way, but overall everyone was okay. While I flew, Anna and I discussed what would have to be done to prevent any more corrupt scientists from going back to the planet and destroying it. Once we’d exhausted that subject, I started apologizing for the way I’d been acting. I don’t know why she’d stayed with me for so long. For years, she’d been putting up with me dismissing and demeaning her, putting work before everything, and not caring at all about people. But I was glad she did. Once I’d promised her that things would change, we finally started to plan our wedding.
Three Years Later…
When I got back from space and spoke out about what had happened and why it needed to stop, it became a law that no scientist could return to that planet unless there was an absolute emergency. The aliens would be safe to age, reproduce, and live normal lives again.
Anna and I had a beautiful wedding despite all my past mistakes. We even have a one-year-old daughter now. Her name is Willow, and she’s perfect in every way. Anna makes an incredible mother. She knows all the right things to say and do, she’s kind and caring, and she’s teaching our daughter all kinds of smart things.
I quit my job as a scientist and decided to get a degree in environmental law so I can help other creatures and things live the life I was able to secure for the aliens. Once the company was overcome with lawsuits, Raymond decided to become a doctor who specializes in bones, and Sarah admitted that she’d always wanted to be an elementary school teacher.
Overall, everything is much better now. I’ll never forget the moment when everything changed, and I realized that I was not who I was supposed to be. That faraway planet in space and its inhabitants will always be the reason I have so much to be thankful for.