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Aberrant: 2011 - Trip to Paradise


Dr. Akaisha Ross

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Akaisha looked out the window as the small plane set down on the lush, tropical island. She couldn’t believe her luck, winning a contest for an all expense vacation to the posh resort but she was hardly going to complain even if she couldn’t remember entering any contest. She’d spent the last seven years in school and had never had much time to take a break in all that time. As gifted as she might be, that would wear on most anyone.

Peeling her face away from the window, she glances around the plane’s passengers. Most didn’t give her a second glance at this point. You didn’t come to this island if you weren’t wealthy or the lucky winner of a contest. She was the only one who fit the second description. She had gotten plenty of stares when she got on board the flight. With a slight sigh she turns to watch the final approach. A slight bump and the roar of the engines announce their official arrival.

With a thud, the bellboy sets Akaisha's bags heavily on the floor of her room. He wasn't being careless but they were heavy. He grunts as he sets them down and then stands up straight, looking over at her, “Is there anything, miss…?”

Akaisha is dumbstruck for a moment and doesn’t hear him. As she steps into the room she lets out a breath. The contest said she’d won a vacation and paradise but she had no idea what she’d really received. The suite she was staying in had a kitchen, living, and bedroom. From the foyer in the front, she could see the living room was well furnished with a plush, black leather couch and matching love seat. They were arranged in front a large flat panel television of some sort on a thick burgundy carpet.

“Miss…?”

The bellboy’s question got her attention and she turns to face him. He actually didn’t look to be much older than her. “Er, no, these are all of my things. Thank you!” She grins and looks back into the room, still taken in by the luxury.

The bellboy, however, hasn’t left yet, “Well, mmm, thank you, miss.”

Akaisha blinks and turns back to him and then her eyes widen when she realizes her faux pas, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m not used to this.” She reaches into her purse and pulls a few bills out of her wallet, “Thank you for bringing my things up.”

The bellboy chuckles and starts pushing the luggage cart out, “It was my pleasure ma’am.”

Akaisha grins once more and looks around the room. Openning her luggage, she pulls out some clothing that would be more comfortable to wear on the nature trails. It was still the morning so she had all day to roam the island. Pulling out a small day pack that she could stock up in the lobby she begins to get read. This was definitely going to be fun.

Wearing her khaki Funkamental shorts and a blue Naja pullover, she steps out into the lobby and looks around. Before she was mostly ignored; now she was getting a few looks. Her clothing was functional but stylish hiking gear and she cut an attractive figure. She’d left many boys pining back in New York. They never were able to compete with her books, though, and she had dated only occasionally. So always dressed well though and there was always the rumor she had her own crush. If she did, she didn’t let anyone else in on it.

Making her way over to the store in the lobby, she walks in and looks around. Everything she’d need for a day of hiking was in the store. Trail mix lined the walls along with energy bars and more basic granola bars. Several large fridges held sodas, energy drinks and various sports drinks. Grabbing a basket, she grabs all of the supplies she’ll need for the day and walks over to the cashier.

The middle aged woman smiles at her and holds up her hands, “Dr. Ross, if I’m not mistaken.”

Akaisha blinks and stops, “Well, yes. How did you know?”

The woman holds up a card, showing a picture of her on it, “You’re here as part of the contest. You don’t pay for anything while you’re here. Enjoy your hike!”

“Wow, I know this was all expenses paid, but I thought, I mean…” she barely knows what to say but doesn’t argue. Opening up her blue and gray Recon II day pack, she puts all of her snacks and drinks inside before filling up the bladder with water. Affixing the bag on her back she waves to the cashier, “Well, thanks!”

The woman smiles, “We want to make sure this is a vacation you never forget.”

Akaisha sets off, glancing back at her once more. There was something about the way she looked at her when she said that that left her uncomfortable. She didn’t know what it was and before long she was at the start of the first nature trail. Whatever had been bothering her a few moments ago was forgotten as she looked at the sign. “Hmm, four miles to Paradise Cove? That sounds nice.”

With a glance at her watch she sets off. It was 10:30 am. She could easily get there and back with more than enough time to wash up for dinner. And she definitely didn’t want to miss what promised to be an amazing meal.

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By noon, the sun is beating down on Akaisha. Even with the shade from trees, the tropical climate was unforgiving. Fortunately, she had more than enough water to carry her through her hike. She pauses and glances at her watch. By her guess, she had another hour until she got to Paradise Cove. She drops her pack to the ground and leans against a tree, letting herself slide down. She begins taking an energy bar out of her pack when movement catches her eye. She looks up to see what it is.

She’s surprised to see that staring back at her is a red fox. Forgetting the food for a moment, she stares back at it. The fox doesn’t seem scared by her presence. After watching her for a few moments it turns and saunters back into the underbrush. Akaisha absently opens her energy bar and thinks about what she just saw. ‘Red foxes are northern animals. What was that one doing here?’ She shakes her head and shrugs, finishing her bar and putting the wrapper back in her pack. Leave it how it was when you got there. ‘Must have been imported in by the resort.’ She doesn’t give it another thought as she flips her bag onto her back and sets off down the trail again.

The ocean crashing against the shore was getting louder with every step. Akaisha could smell the scent of the sea already and seagulls shrieked overhead. When she stepped out from the trees, the site took her breath away. Living in New York City the past several years made it hard to see unspoiled wilderness. And here was as unspoiled a beach as any she’d ever seen. Not another soul was visible among the sand dunes. With a grin, Akaisha drops her bag and pulls off her shoes and socks. Setting them aside she goes strolling down the beach, looking for shells to collect. ‘Maybe I’ll make a necklace if I find enough.’

Akaisha scours the beach and easily comes up with more shells than she can carry. Being as far from the resort as it is, it was clear that people didn’t make it out here very often. Many of the shells were very high quality and would make for a nice piece of jewelry. Spotting an especially smooth shell, she pulls a cowry out of the sand. These were some of her favorite shells since they had a natural shine and were as smooth as glass. She pauses before pocketing it and examines it closer. ‘Huh, this one isn’t Caribbean. It looks Hawaiian.’ She shakes her head and pockets it. Regardless of the oddity of it being on this beach, it was a beautiful shell. Akaisha takes one more look over the beach when a chill washes down her spine.

She glances at her watch and turns around, heading back towards her things. ‘I should head back anyway.’ Glancing back over the desolate paradise one last time, she hurries back down the path unable to shake that always eerie feeling someone was watching her.

Akaisha steps out of the bathroom wearing nothing but a towel. The shower felt so good after the exertion of the afternoon. The bath looked even more inviting and she hoped after dinner she could put it to good use. For now though, she excitedly goes into the closet and pulls out the dress she bought especially for this trip. The dress is a vivid shade of blue and supported by spaghetti like straps that are a very light shade of yellow. She smiles as she glances at the two inch heels that are the same light yellow. She was amazed that she got a pair that matched the color on the dress but she’d looked everywhere until she found them. After all, she didn’t get to go to dinners like this often.

It was still quite a bit until the she could actually get dressed. Her thick red hair took quite a while to dry and it was until another half hour had passed that she could put the dress on. Twisting and turning in front of the mirror, Akaisha was very happy to see the dress fit perfectly. Slipping into her heels, she shimmies her way down to the dining hall.

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The dining hall was as overwhelming to Akaisha when she got there as anything else she's seen on this island. A full bar dominates the far side of the dining room and has four bartenders keeping the drinks flowing. Round tables are arranged throughout the room for the guests to dine and a stage graces the front of the room for shows and announcements. When Akaisha enters the room, the maître d' smiles and motions to her, "Welcome, Dr. Ross. If you would follow me, we have a special table prepared for you."

Akaisha blinks and follows the maître d' towards a table near the stage, "A special table? For that?"

"Well, you are here by yourself. The proprietor of the island will be joining you for dinner tonight."

She feels her face turn warm as she stammers out a thank you to the waiter and takes her seat. This was entirely unexpected. Actually the whole thing confused her. First she won a contest that she never knew she was in and now owner of the private resorts was going to dine with her?

"Is this seat taken, doctor?"

Akaisha snaps out of her internal musing and looks up to the source of the voice. The man smiling down to her was older than her but had the polished looks of a movie actor. "Well, I seem to be at a disadvantage here. I'm supposed to have someone joining me but I don't know who."

The man chuckles and sits down, "My name is Kevin Thompson and I run this island along with several other holdings. I apologize for the subterfuge but I was afraid that if you knew my reasons for having to the resort you wouldn't come." He motions the waiter to set the wine glasses down on the table and takes a sip before continuing, "I wish to hire you but I'm sure that Mr. Gibbons would have taken exception to our advance. And I was afraid you might not have wished to hear my proposal."

"This is a little surprising. I'm not sure I like the method of bringing me here but I am here now so I'll at least listen to you," she sighs and looks at the light colored wine sitting in front of her and takes a sip, surprised by the dry sweetness of it. "I'm not familiar with your company though."

Thompson holds up his hand, "I assure you that you will be when I tell you. But let's enjoy the meal first. I promise you that I meant no harm by tricking you to come out here and the hospitality you've enjoyed so far is nothing more than I would give any guest. And you will enjoy it for the remainder of your time here, no matter your decision."

A waiter walks over to their table and serves them each a Caesar salad. Akaisha notices that there is blackened grouper in it and that the vegetables are extremely fresh. For the remainder of the meal they make small talk, discussing her schooling and how she's enjoyed her stay on the island thus far. When the main course arrives, they are treated to a dish of red snapper and couscous. The meal passes quietly and soon the other guests begin to filter out, bound for other parts of the island.

Akaisha puts her utensils on her plate, "The meal was very good, Mr. Thompson. I would like to hear your offer though."

Thompson summons a waiter over to collect their plates and nods, "You have been more than patient. But please, call me Kevin." He looks around the room, noting that the last of the patrons are finally departing, "I do a lot of work with species preservation. Some of the results of that work can be seen here on this island."

"I did notice that there were an odd collection of animals here when I spent the day at Paradise Co..." she breaks off her statement and looks past Thompson. Immediately her heart feels like its going to jump out of her chest as it starts pounding. From behind the stage, a sleek form prowls into the room in the shape of a white Bengal tiger. It seems to eye the two at the table before heading straight towards them.

Akaisha barely notices what Kevin is doing since she's so focused on the tiger. Too petrified to move, she simple stares at it as it heads straight for her. Suddenly, with a terrifying roar, it pounces. The next few moments are a blur as she tries to dive out of the way, stumbling and falling out of her seat. The tiger seems to hit her and send her rolling up against the stage. She turns to run when she bumps her head against the side of the stage, stumbling a moment in confusion. Turning her head again, she sees the tiger has laid down and started grooming herself.

To her further surprise, she sees Kevin Thompson walking towards her, unfazed by the events and holding a piece of blue cloth, "Dr. Ross this wasn't exactly what we thought would happen."

She sees him motion to someone and realizes she's looking up at him from a lot lower to the ground than seemed right. In still more confusion she tries to back away and pauses, realizing she's on all fours. Nervously she looks down and sees a paw not unlike the other tiger's where her hand would be. With the confusion and sudden headache she could feel coming on, suddenly she was looking at her hand again and could feel someone putting a robe around her.

"Dr. Ross, my apologies once again." Kevin kneels down in front of her and grins, "We didn't think your job would ever allow you to properly develop. I would like to see if you would care to work for Project Utopia, however."

Akaisha pulls herself into a sitting position, leaning against the stage, "I think I need a drink." Movement out of the corner of her eye catches her attention and she looks down, seeing a tail swishing next to her. "Never mind, I need two."

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Akaisha opens her eyes, laying in the bed for a few minutes, staring up at the ceiling. Soft, morning sunlight was visible past the blinds. She wanted to enjoy this for a few minutes. For the first time in two weeks, two weeks that had seemed an eternity, her head was free of even a dull throb. It had been agonizing to lay there in pain for so long. Nothing they gave her really helped much. Sleep was the only escape and it was so hard to make it there while trying to ignore the migraine.

In some ways, the lengthy period of being incapacitated was good. Pain or no pain, she had a lot of other things on her mind now. What would her parents think? What about Mr. Gibbons? Would she be able to return to her normal life? She was angry at first. Angry at Mr. Thompson for doing this to her, for one. Even more upsetting was the subterfuge. Given the choice and knowledge she had the potential for eruption she may not have chosen this.

Or would she have? She spent her entire life up to this point working hard to be the best. She excelled in her classes and had always been naturally bright. And yet, there was a group of people out there that could accomplish things more amazing than she could dream of. Until now. It took some time but she was able to come to grips with everything that happened. Her anger faded soon after. If this is what she was then it wasn't anyone's fault. She'd spent her life as a precocious child. Was this so different?

She rolls out of bed and wraps a robe around herself before standing in front a mirror. 'Funny, I look the same.' She pauses for a moment, grinning wryly to herself as she remembers the tail, 'Well, nearly. Though I feel like a computer that just got a processor upgrade...' With a sigh, she goes to her bag and looks into her luggage. 'I have powers I never dreamed possible. Why am I so scared?'

Not long after, Akaisha found herself in the lounge. The staff had made sure to deliver her room service so she didn't go hungry but she was looking forward to being out of the room. She was a bit surprised to see Kevin Thompson standing at the entrance of the resort's cafe. He grins and walks over to her, "Ah, good morning, Dr. Ross. My staff warned me you were finally up. I hope you'll join me for breakfast?"

Akaisha nods, "Yeah, sure. I'd be eating alone otherwise."

As the two sit down, Kevin clears his throat, "You've had a lot of time to think the past couple weeks I'm sure. Will you come join us in Project Utopia? I'm certain that you would find yourself a highly valued member." He pauses to take a sip of water, "And they can help you. You have a lot to learn about yourself."

Akaisha grins when she sees the cart coming over with a plate of French toast and scrambled eggs. She doesn't answer the question immediately. Instead she takes a few bites from her meal. Finally, she looks back up at him, "I...will consider it? Mr. Gibbons is a good friend of mine. I know I have a lot to learn though that only Utopia can teach."

Kevin pulls out a card as he stands up, "When you get back to New York, take this to the Project Utopia office there. I'll let them know you're coming." He grins, "Good bye, doctor. Hopefully we'll be working together in the future."

Akaisha watches him leave before slipping the card into her purse. She had a lot to think over on the way home.

Akaisha quickly grabs her luggage and hurries out of the airport, head down. 'Of all things...a tail!' She couldn't help but feel self conscious, as if everyone was staring at her. With good reason, though, as everyone WAS staring. As soon as she gets outside, she flags down a cab driver. She notes that he doesn't seem to give her a second glance even though he did look down at first. 'I guess when you're in a new world yourself, everything is a little strange.'

"Where to, miss?" he asks of her, clearing her mind for the moment.

She sighs and pulls a card out of her purse. She stares at it for a few moments, not saying anything. The Project Utopia insignia was emblazoned brightly on the front.

"Ma'am?"

She looks up and nods, knowing what she needed to do, "I'm sorry, yes, could you take me here?" She reaches forward and hands him the card.

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