Irregulars: Origin of the Species: Chapter 1

“Rodentia”

I’m not a bad man.
My lies were necessary…

***

Osaka leans back in his chair, looking at the first words written only a few hours ago in his new journal. The outcome of tonight will determine how he finishes this entry. Will it be his last, or will it be the first.
He has always kept a journal, but when one of his immature colleagues discovered it, he became a mild amusement for them. They had a good laugh at his simple, robotic entries. They ignored the purpose of everything he wrote and mocked him for style. He hid his rage at their laughter and ignorance behind indifference.
Once alone with his journal, he tore the cheap soft-cover book to shreds.
Their discovery of his journal was infuriating, but what truly enraged him was what the journal represented. It was him, and his life as he saw it.
He reaches up and grabs the top of the page he wrote upon. The pain of that memory, of his humiliation, scream at him, telling him to tear this page free, and the few that follow. He wants to crush them into a ball and toss them away so no one will know his mind, what he’s done, and what may come.
His hand hesitates, then settles back beside the journal. He flips forwards, glancing over the history of the past year that he has finally committed to paper. He doesn’t need to read it, with it still being quite vivid in his memories. The only reason for chronicling everything was to ensure that what he was experienced was true and real.
He closes the expensive, leather-bound book with gold trim and lettering that states on the front the obvious revelation that this is…

LO OSAKA
JOURNAL

The journal was a gift from his father before his death, thus the Chinese placement of the last name first. He would have preferred it stayed with the rest of his father’s things, buried at the back of his closet. Using it isn’t out of some attempt to reconnect with a man he never truly knew, and never knew him. He was necessity. He needed a new journal.
Osaka wasn’t one to believe in ceremony or honoring the dead, or any sort of religious hokum. Any belief in a superior being or karma died the day his mother was taken from him by the utter randomness of life. As a chubby little boy, he couldn’t understand how a car mirror racing by his mother, breaking her arm, could lead to a blood disease that would kill her in less than a week. Even his genius-level intellect, a top-notch education, and simple logic couldn’t make him understand her death. By then, any faith he once had was long since crushed.
When cancer took his father, his death was a release from responsibility. His funeral an inconvenience.
Osaka rises from the office chair in the deserted lab that has been his place of employment for the past few years. Although he runs the place, it has become a prison. The purpose of the lab is to search for new medicines, or chemicals, or some such thing. In truth, he doesn’t really know or care, so long as something is produced that seems promising to the stock-holders, so they can make more money
He corrects himself for calling the lab a ‘prison’. It’s the inmates, his colleagues, that make it feel like a prison. He has always felt at home in these kind of places, filled with machines, glass tubes, black and white boards filled with thoughts, equations, and creations. This is where the world is truly discovered. Here, anything is possible. When the day comes, his lab won’t be a slave to corporate greed. It will be filled with the greatest minds, the most advanced technology, and free from the limits imposed by society.
He walks to the window. The Tokyo skyline stands like glimmering mountains of light and steel. He places his hand on the window, wishing he was there, instead of in some make-shift industrial park, mixed into some indistinguishable suburb.
He drops his hand and looks down on the street a couple of storeys below. The darkness of the lab and the exterior lights from the street keep his presence hidden from those outside. Many people below are just passing by, but across the street, sitting out on the patio of a restaurant, are the interns and his supposed colleagues. They talk and laugh, probably about him.
“Wasteful.” he murmurs aloud to no one. His unfeeling indifference hides his jealousy, like it has all his life.

***

Being both Japanese and Chinese wasn’t difficult for Osaka. Being only half Japanese in a school with full-blooded Japanese children, where any differences were mocked; add to that his weight problems and excellent grades, made him a prime target. He was never popular, never had a lot of friends, and preferred to get lost within the pages of a science book, fact or fiction. Reading and learning became an escape for him after his mother died. It also helped him fill the void left by a father who didn’t seem to know what to do with a child. By the time he was a teenager, reading and learning were his obsessions.
Knowledge fed his intellect, and vice versa. Without his intelligence, he’d have become a suicide statistic. Average school work became tedious. Advanced schooling wasn’t a challenge. He graduated university with three degrees in half the time. His interests of study included biology, chemistry and genetics. After graduating, during what would be classified as his ‘fifteen minutes of fame’, he was courted by the biggest and best of the scientific world. He did what everyone expected of him and soon, he faded back into obscurity, where he was most comfortable.
He never mentioned to anyone where his true passion was, and that it had all stemmed from an unlikely source.
While in university, he traveled to America to participate in a lecture series. There he met a man named Malcolm Fain. Despite a brilliance that made Osaka see him as a true peer, he retained a wild, youthful passion. This lead him to the discovery of a book called ‘Watership Down’, by Richard Adams. It told the story of a group of rabbits that could talk, think, and even had their own belief system and mythology. Fain had bought it for himself, marveling at the metaphors and symbolism.
Osaka had never really allowed himself to read any fiction, save for those of Arthur C. Clarke and other hard sci-fi authors. But the idea of anthropomorphic animals stayed with him. He ignored the religious themes of the book and began to focus on the scientific potential of intelligent, genetically altered animals. Many medicines had been developed from various venoms. Certain lizards could regenerate lost limbs. Diseases that killed humans may be cured via animal counterparts. Changing the animals into something more resembling a human might aid in the creation of these chemicals and vaccines.
He began to develop what he called ‘The Theory of Animal Biological Reconfiguration’. He contacted other scientists about his theory, only to be met with shock, disbelief, skepticism, and ridicule. It reminded him of his childhood. But unlike then, when he just shut down and disappeared into his books, he kept searching for answers.
Then the letter came.
Mixed in with his regular mail was an unusual envelope. It was small, made of thicker paper that had a rough texture and edging. His address was hand-written in cursive English. Inside was a small piece of paper of similar quality as the envelope. Written on it was one sentence, a question, in the same style of hand-writing as the address…

“Is your search for knowledge a noble one?”

Inside the envelope was a long strand of hair.
Osaka examined the hair in the lab after everyone had left for the day. The results weren’t right. He examined it again. And again. He re-examined it numerous times, not believing what he was seeing. He feared it was an elaborate hoax.
But it wasn’t. The hair was from a species of rodentia, yet it genetic structure was drastically altered. It was no longer some rodent. There were hints at more advanced genetic material. This creature was something else.
Someone else had brought Osaka’s theory to life.
There was a return address on the reverse side of the envelope, for some remote part of Japan. He immediately responded, wanting answers, wanting to meet and discuss how this person had succeeded. While he fostered a sincere correspondence, part of him still remained skeptical. He hired people to seek out this man he had come to know only as Doanobu. They came back empty handed, save for the letter warning Osaka about involving others and seeking him out.
Although frustrated, Osaka continued to maintain contact with the mysterious Doanobu. Over the next year, Osaka learned things far beyond anything he had learned in university. Processes that, by the known laws of nature, shouldn’t have worked. But everything he knew told him they would work. Basic, single cell tests confirmed it. Despite all his studying and education, he was discovering ideas and methods of genetic manipulation unheard of in standard scientific realms. Questions kept surfacing in his mind. Where did this knowledge come from? Why weren’t these ideas known? But more importantly who was this Doanobu? Why had he chosen to share this knowledge with him? Why had he not shared it with others?
Although he maintained a friendly rapport with Doanobu, his own dismay at the staggering advancements he was learning via hand-written notes from some stranger grew into jealousy. He was being given everything he wanted, and he realized he didn’t want to share it with anyone.
Another thought came to Osaka as he assembled and finalized his theory of biological reconfiguration. It was a thought that he easily chased away, yet it nagged him, like a small child’s voice at a banquet. Throughout their correspondence, Osaka always felt that Doanobu held much back from him. Although he politely pressed, he never got an answer. That nagging thought would always arise then. It wondered if maybe, knowing the truth about the source of this knowledge, might be something he couldn’t handle. Maybe it would change his perception of the world. Maybe it would change him.
He continually ignored that voice, that fear, overwhelming it with his grand plans for the future, for what awaited him.
In a few months, Osaka had developed, with Doanobu’s help, a solid, working theory of biological reconfiguration. He proposed to be able to take a being’s distinctive genetic code and alter it to the point that a new being would be created, one containing only the certain genetic characteristics desired. The only problem was the method of the biological reconfiguration. Physical operations would be impossible. Genetic modifications within the embryo would possible, but success could only be truly measured when the subject reached maturity.
Doanobu had a solution, but Osaka sensed a reluctance on his part to share. Despite their frustratingly slow correspondence, and Osaka’s mistrust, they had formed a bond. It was this bond that finally convinced Doanobu to finally meet, face-to-face. In doing so, he would provide the final piece to the puzzle.

***

Osaka lifts his head from the scene of his colleagues below. For a moment, he sees a figure in the shadows behind him. He whips his head around, his heart racing, fearing what he might see, that he might be back. To stop what he has already set in motion.
The lab is empty, save for Osaka and the equipment.
He walks back to the desk and plops himself down. He glances at the clock, the hour and minute hands march their way towards midnight. Time has barely moved. He opens one of the drawers, making sure the revolver he illegally purchased is there, in case the meeting goes wrong.
He closes the drawer and leans back. He finds himself unsure what he’s more fearful of. The potential deal that may be finalized, or Doanobu’s revenge for is betrayal.
He flips open his journal to the first page…

I’m not a bad man.
My lies were necessary…

***

Their meeting was at a temple far out of the city. It took Osaka a while to find it, making him late. He feared Doanobu would leave, yet when he approached the steps of the small, ancient shrine, he saw a short figure standing in the shadows.
As Osaka approached, he noticed how Doanobu remained in the shadows, or kept his features hidden by the hood of his cloak. He also noticed his clothes. He looked like a short monk.
Their talk was small, due to their hesitation and reluctance.
Finally, Doanobu said, “Brace yourself. You have not seen the likes of me before.”
Doanobu removed his hood and stepped forward into the minimal light thrown off by the lanterns.
Osaka’s mind swirled, first in disbelief, then in wonder and awe.
Doanobu wasn’t human.
It was a strand of hair from his body that he had sent to Osaka all those months ago, not some test subject as he had thought.
Doanobu tried to calm Osaka, repeated things they had shared, as if to confirm that it was he that had contacted and corresponded with him.
Osaka barely remembered his exact words, but he must have convinced him he was calm.
But he wasn’t.
Standing in front of Osaka was the very thing he had sought to create. Someone had perfected the process! This creature was everything he had been theorizing. He retained what seemed to be rodent-like characteristics, but he had a bipedal stance. His limbs, although covered in short, course fur, looked human! He had small, rodent-like claws instead of finger and toe nails! Every minute detail he had dreamed was here, standing in front of him! The most physically remarkable was his head. It was unchanged! The snout, the whiskers, his pointed ears, his two large front teeth, his dark, intelligent eyes.
As Doanobu continued to talk, Osaka’s mind reeled at the thought of this creature’s intelligence. But it was more than just that. There was something much more behind those black eyes. There was a knowing of great things, things that stretched far beyond anything Osaka could imagine. It was that thought that scared Osaka the most. What else did he know? What other secrets could he unlock? He seemed to have all the answers he could ever want. He would not allow this opportunity to escape him.
Doanobu never tasted the powerful sedative that lined one of the glasses Osaka brought to drink Sake with, to toast their meeting. Originally, he thought he might of used too much. But with him not being human, he concluded too much was just enough.
He dragged Doanobu’s unconscious body back to the lab’s van he had borrowed and went to a separate lab he had rented. Once there, he secured his test subject and began to experiment. He learned more in three days with this creature than he could have ever learned through their correspondence.
Doanobu never pleaded or begged for Osaka to release him. He just glared at him with those dark, knowing eyes.
Osaka put a sack over Doanobu’s head, to cover his eyes. He maintained his objectivity and continued with his experiments. But, despite everything he learned, it wasn’t enough. To make his theory reality required money. Lots of it. To get that money, he needed a subject.
While Doanobu was drugged into unconsciousness, Osaka created ‘Rodentia’.
He video taped the ‘faked’ creation of his biological reconfiguration process, that he dubbed Altergen 13. Using a chemical processing vat, and some trickery, he turned a simple rat into Doanobu, who he called ‘Rodentia’. With his genius and grainy footage, he created the means to his ends.
The next night, when Osaka returned to his lab, Doanobu was gone.

***

Osaka jerks out of is thoughts and looks around the lab, thinking every shadow hides a threat. But he’s still alone.
The clock reads a few minutes to midnight.
He opens the drawer, takes the gun out, and tucks it into his lab coat, hopefully out of sight.
Many questions about Doanobu and his escape linger in his mind, like nightmarish slivers in his brain. Why did Doanobu never attempt to destroy any of Osaka’s ‘Rodentia’ footage, or the files he had? Did that mean he could have escaped at any time? If so, why did he stay? Why did he allow Osaka to experiment on him and create his ‘Rodentia’ footage? Although those events happened nearly a year ago, he suspects they will haunt him for many years to come.
“Dr. Osaka Lo?”
Osaka freezes, unable to move. In that moment, he’s sure Doanobu has returned.
“Dr. Lo?” the voice asks again. This time, it sounds nothing like Doanobu.
Osaka slowly turns to see a well-dressed Chinese man who is one-part intimidating, and one-part playboy nightclubber.
“Yes?” Osaka finally says.
“My name is Tak Cheung, Mr. Kawaga sent me.”
Osaka gains some courage and stands up, offering his hand. “Ah yes, glad you could make it.”
“Mr. Kawaga usually prefers to deal with future associates personally.” Cheung smiles, oozing charm. “Regretfully, he’s out of the country. But he wanted me to let you know he’s very intrigued with the footage and accompanying files. He has agreed to fund continued research into this Bio-Reon/ Vat technology.”
Osaka seems to stand up straighter.
Cheung reaches into his suit jacket pocket and takes out a cheque, handing it to Osaka. “He also felt your request was not enough. Consider this a first installment.”
Osaka takes and looks at the cheque. The zeroes at the end of the number dwarf any he could have received through conventional means.
“Our lawyer will call you tomorrow to set up a formal meeting to sign documents. Upon his return, Mr. Kawaga will be in touch with you personally. Nothing special, just a meet-and-greet.” Cheung takes out a business card. He holds it in both hands and bows, offering it to Osaka. “Please feel free to contact either of us.”
Osaka bows and takes Cheung’s card.
Cheung straightens up and offers his hand to shake, which Osaka does. “Mr. Kawaga wanted to convey his most fervent wishes for a long and productive partnership. He sees many great things to come for both you and his company.”
Osaka can only nod and watch as Cheung slips out of the lab as quietly as he came in.
He turns and nearly falls into the chair. He looks at the cheque in his hand, remembering the words that Cheung spoke. He feels a tear trickle down his cheek. The darkness and questions from the past year are mere clouds on the distant horizon.
He gets up, picks up his journal and tucks it under his arm. He gathers what items of his he wishes to take from his now former place of employment, and strides out.
His mind races at the new possibilities and discoveries that await.
*****

Irregulars: Origin of the Species Copyrighted © 2010, 2013 Mark James MacKinnon.
Any use of these characters, without permission, is strictly prohibited. Any similarities to individuals, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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