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|It's hard to choose your favorite of all the stories you have written, but this is as close as I'll get to having one. A special thanks to FanTCDude and the other talented authors of the MGS Yahoo! group for inspiration, as well as those persistent guys who wanted another Hulk story--here you go!|
|"Sir, we'll be landing shortly. Please return to your seat and fasten
Reluctantly, I moved away from the small bar in the rear of the plane and stumbled my way to my seat as the plane heaved its way through the low-level turbulence. After a six-hour flight on this crackerbox jet, I had needed something to bolster my courage and whoever stocked the plane had excellent taste in spirits. Sliding on my belt, I peered out the window, trying to catch a glimpse of what was going to be my home for the next two months.
The blue waters of the South Pacific stretched across the horizon, dotted with small islands that sparkled like jewels. Beneath the water, the dim outlines of the huge reefs outlined placid lagoons; tiny-looking palm trees swayed back and forth in the breeze. An altogether idyllic scene.
"Pretty, isn't it?" said Ms. Jennings, sliding into the seat next to me. I turned and looked at her, feeling my face slide into a sheepish grin. She had done that to me ever since the first interview when I saw that flawless body and Bacall-esque face. Corporate recruiter, heck�more like bait. You could just imagine the "fringe benefits" of the job.
"Yes they are," I answered. "I'm surprised there's not a Club Med on each of them."
She laughed. "Not a one. The Gamma Foundation owns the whole archipelago--part preservation and part ensuring that the research and exploration that are performed here can be carried out undisturbed. This is about as far from civilization as you can get on the planet."
"A whole chain of islands? That must have been a fortune!"
"Money is not one of the things Mr. Renner has to worry about," she said with a half-smile. That was a gross understatement. Gamma Concerns had come out of nowhere in the nineties to dominate the medical technology market, and, as sole owner, he had become a billionaire several times over. "In fact, his residence is here on one of the islands�he can keep an eye on the research taking place and�keep his privacy."
I grinned. Mr. Renner made Howard Hughes look like an exhibitionist� he was never seen in public and was extraordinarily secretive about his dealings. But if she and the pilot were any indication, he had a good reason--that island probably made the Playboy Mansion look like a Girl Scout meeting. "Will I get to see it?"
"I'm certain you will," she said, looking at me with almost a smirk. "He always takes care of his kind of employees."
The whine of the landing gear lowering suddenly filled the cabin. I looked out the window, watching the sea creep even closer�then, with a chirp, the tires contacted and we settled onto the runway, gently braking to a stop. Quickly, I gathered up my briefcase and headed towards the door, squinting as I stepped down into the bright tropical sunlight, wincing as the heat radiated up from the asphalt.
"Good luck, Darren," I heard from behind me. Ms. Jennings was waving from the door, her voice barely audible as the engines spooled up. She smiled, quickly shutting it as the jet pivoted on its main gear and accelerated down the runway. I stood there, open-mouthed as the plane quickly lifted off into the cloudless sky. What in the world?
"They never stay very long," chuckled a deep voice. I whirled and came face-to-face with a huge brown neck sticking out of the top of a tight white Panama shirt. I looked up and met a pair of intense green eyes in a square-jawed face. A breathtakingly-handsome mouth smiled, white teeth flashing against a deep tan. "I'm Steve, the station chief and physicist. You must be Darren." A huge arm came up, the peak of the bicep straining the cuff of the short sleeve as it pointed at a nearby Jeep. "I believe these bags are yours?"
"Yes�I.." I stared at Steve. An easy six-four, huge furry pecs barely covered by buttons that were plainly gasping for help, tight khaki shorts trying hard to obscure a tight butt and ropy legs�as well as a package that was beyond description. His shaved head glinted in the sun, goatee framing a nearly perfect face. No physicist I had ever seen at the U looked anything like that.
He laughed. "You'll find that this environment does wonders for you. It's very healthy here. C'mon, let's head back to headquarters."
We hopped in the Jeep and headed away from the airstrip. On either side of the road, the lush tropical vegetation rose, thick and impenetrable, huge coral rocks punctuating the landscape. Suddenly a clearing opened and we pulled into a circle with eight squat stone buildings arranged around it. A radio telescope stood on one side, a gigantic transmission tower on the other.
I stepped out of the Jeep and looked down at the ocean lapping against the shore. "I bet it was a challenge getting the equipment in here to build all this stuff. Where's the harbor?"
"Only way in is by air, Darren," Steve said, uncoiling his massive frame from behind the wheel. "The shoals here make it impossible for a ship to get anywhere near the islands."
"But�how did they fly in something capable of moving those rocks�and building things with them?" I said, looking wonderingly at the buildings. "That's fused coral�and it takes tons of pressure to do that!"
"You'll figure it out eventually, Darren," Steve said teasingly. He cupped his hands around his mouth. "Hey GUYS! Come out and meet the newbie!" he bellowed.
A chorus of sighs echoed from the nearby buildings as doors began to open�and my mouth dropped at the huge figures that squeezed through the openings and ran towards us. Not a one under six feet, and each of them looking like he could win the Olympia in a walk, clothes straining as they meandered over to us. What was this�the island of beautiful bodies? And green eyes, I noted as they came over and looked quizzically down at me. This was the first time in my life that being six feet and two hundred pounds had felt so pitifully inadequate.
"Steve, how long is this going to take? I have an experiment going!" sighed the brown-haired one. The others chuckled. "That would be Kevin, our chemist," Steve smirked. "This is Ed, our geologist,"�the black-haired one grinned�"and Tim, our engineer," the copper-haired one smiling and giving a light wave. "Welcome Darren, our new biologist."
"Pleased to meet you all," I said, wonderingly shaking the hand of each, feeling the power in each of their grips. There must be one hell of a weight room somewhere on this island�and I'd better get into it, I thought.
"OK guys, we can exchange pleasantries later. Back to work. Darren, you follow me�the time change coming out here is murder and we want you fresh tomorrow," Steve said, effortlessly hoisting the three bags that had almost broken my back in the airport on his shoulder. Kevin, Tim, and Ed headed back off, almost waddling as I watched, their huge quads barely able to slide over each other. Steve grinned, then strode off, pausing only when we reached the door of one of the buildings. He swung it open with a finger push, then tossed my bags inside. "Bedroom there, bathroom here, kitchen there. Be out in front of the main building at eight tomorrow."
"Where's the gym?" I said, looking around the quarters, then out the windows.
"There isn't one," Steve said. I looked at him strangely. He smiled. "Don't worry, Darren. You won't have any problems working out around here."
I walked into the house, almost staggering into the bedroom. Flopping down on the bed, I wondered�what was the deal? Isolated islands, technological complex, populated by bodybuilder scientists, without a gym�sheesh, I must be tired. I drifted off to sleep, wondering what in the world I had gotten into.
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