Nothing ever seems to get better these days, thought Tasha Carter as she crossed herself in front of her infuriated landlord’s front door.
She knocked again, harder than last time. “Marty, open that goddamn door and give me a chance!”
A raspy voice came from inside the large suburban home, muffled by the thick oak door. “Away with you, Natasha! I’ve given you more than enough time and you’ve squandered every chance I’ve accepted.”
She frowned – the bastard wasn’t budging, but could wait as long as he could, or so she wanted to think. “Until you open that door, I’m going to stand right here, bitching and screaming!” she called before adding, “Not like I have anywhere to go, you know?”
There was a rattle from the other side of the door and Tasha stuck her nose in the air, ready to continue the argument. A moment later, it flung open, the brass knocker beating jarringly as the door slammed into the wall indoors. There stood Marty Binasco, a heavyset, mustachioed man in his mid sixties, arms folded across his chest, puffing angrily. The big man frowned down on the petite form of Tasha, his face beat-red and his fingers curled into fists of frustration. “I told you, girl,” he growled, saliva flying from between gritted teeth as he spoke, “beat it or I’ll report your sorry little ass. I’m sick and tired of your excuses and my decision is final.”
Tasha forced herself to calm down – a skill that had come in handy over the course of her somewhat rough life. This enraged Italian thug certainly hadn’t been the worst she’d dealt with, and she was determined to win her cause. She had to play careful, though, since her only home was currently at stake. “Marty,” she began in her most sincere falsetto voice – which, she quickly realized, was perhaps too sincere – “I’ve been a fair and honest resident -”
But Binasco had heard enough. “Honest? Girl, you ain’t been paying me jack all for the past four months,” he sneered, his droning, heavily-accented voice making the man somewhat more intimidating, and Tasha shrunk down somewhat under his glare. “It’s a goddamn blessing for you that I was on vacation or I would’ve had you hauled out the second you came up short.”
Her temper boiling again, Tasha opened her mouth to speak up again, paused, and closed it again. Binasco gave one last disgusted look at the younger, auburn-haired woman, muttered something that sounded like an insult to her, and shut the door on her once more, leaving Tasha Carter standing there alone, mumbling curses to herself.
“Asshole,” she muttered as she stepped down from the landing and walked out into the dirty, trash-ridden street.
Natasha Marie Carter was never one to back down from a fight, but her wits told her otherwise. This fat mobster wasn’t worth her time, and neither was her dumpy apartment out here in the worst part of San Diego. There had to be a better alternative than this. But as she looked back on her options, she began to feel her situation become direr with each passing thought. She had never been very close with her family – her mother had passed away several years earlier, and her father had left for Portland when she was in her late teens. She had no husband or boyfriend to go to, and she didn’t really have any close friends living close by to go to.
She thought back about her brother, who had left on some research project for his employers two years ago and hadn’t been back since. What was Daniel up to, anyway? Tasha hadn’t gotten along well with Daniel, though she knew that he wasn’t a very social man, and she still wondered why exactly he hadn’t called since he got on that plane to Costa Rica back in the spring of ‘92. He had mentioned something about the whole thing being “ground-breaking”, and said that his leave – something that happened frequently while he was working for his current employers – could be quite long. Tasha hadn’t cared at the time, but she was starting to feel more and more estranged from her older brother.
No other ideas in mind, Tasha set off for the payphone on the corner a few blocks down. Whatever little change she had left would have to go into it, and if Daniel was unable to help, she didn’t have a plan B. She firmly told herself that she would never drop down and start begging, yet try as she might, she couldn’t get the image of herself sitting among the homeless out of her mind.
Not that things had ever been easy for her. When her mother had died and her father began drinking excessively, Daniel hadn’t been much older than her, and he’d been just as devastated by her death as the rest of the family. At nineteen, she’d moved with a twenty-one-year-old Daniel to downtown San Jose from their rugged house in suburban Oakland. Had it not been for Daniel’s undergraduate degree in zoology and the grants he and his team had received, they would never have had a home, but his work paid well and he eventually went on to work at Berkeley, doing projects with the professors there. Tasha, on the other hand, could never keep a job. Though her excellent looks - not only due to her rather more-than-adequate breasts - often assisted with male employers, her fiery temper consistently got her laid off time and time again.
Everything changed for the Carter siblings one day in late 1988. After four years of on-and-off work living in Daniel’s luxurious suite on the coast of California, a man named Ludlow had called asking for her brother. They spoke for quite a while, and as the conversation went on, Daniel’s normally unreadable expression and attitude quickly became more jubilant. It was around midnight when Daniel hung up and turned to tell a curious Tasha that he had been offered a job interview by one John Parker Hammond, CEO of a growing company known as International Genetic Technologies, Inc., regarding work in bio-engineering. Hammond had said the work would be groundbreaking, things never done before, and that Daniel was exactly the man he needed for the job based on his expertise in the fields of both biology and zoology.
Following the interview – which Daniel described excitedly as “undeniable” to Tasha before berating her on her previous five failed interviews – frequent phone calls had come to the Carter residence for nearly a full year, often lasting well into the night. During these conversations, Daniel would work fixedly on his company-shipped state-of-the-art personal computer, communicating over a very early version of the Internet with various staff at InGen. This work was all done in Tasha’s absence, and if she asked her brother questions, he would shrug them off or change the topic. She had always been curious, but nothing more.
Suddenly, one late July night in 1990, Daniel came home from another interview with high-ranking InGen staff, including John Hammond, Peter Ludlow – the man who had first called the Carters – and three heads of research named Halvorson, Warring and Wu, and he immediately proclaimed that he would be leaving the next afternoon for InGen’s laboratories in Costa Rica. At this, Tasha had protested, but Daniel dismissed her, saying that he would likely be going there and back again for unknown periods of time, and that he would be leaving twelve thousand dollars to her name. At first this worried Tasha, and she had called InGen’s headquarters in Palo Alto, California to inquire. “We are sorry,” the secretary had politely told her, “but company policy states that we cannot inform anyone outside of the approved research team or board leads of staff schedules, duties or locations.” Tasha had lied, saying that she was a member of some company division she had heard her brother mention previously, and when the secretary had asked for her name, department and tag identification, Tasha had grudgingly hung up the phone.
So it was that Daniel left aboard a private airline for some top-secret project in the tropics, leaving Tasha alone to look after the place while he was gone. Naturally, she hadn’t been able to maintain the fees required to live in such a luxurious apartment, and had been forced to move out by the next spring when her brother returned from one of his trips. Then, having borrowed money from a friend, she’d moved into the small apartment in the slums of San Diego, and there she had remained since.
Until now, it seemed. Now things were worse than ever, and she had only one person left that could pull her from this rut. Someone she hadn’t heard from in two years, not since he had left on the “biggest project in company history”.
Brushing a stray piece of hair from her downcast brown eyes, she reached the payphone at the intersection of Owen and Rosecrans and picked it from the receiver, inserting one of her few remaining quarters into the machine. From her tan jacket she pulled the scrunched up the blue sheet of paper that carried important phone numbers – something she had wisely grabbed on her way out – and typed in the number for InGen Headquarters, Palo Alto.
The phone rang for a short while before an automated female voice spoke back to her. “You have reached InGen Technologies, Inc. The main switch board is temporarily unattended. We apologize for this inconvenience.”
She didn’t hesitate nor attempt to hide her frustration as she dropped the phone down into the receiver, drawing a glance from some nearby businessmen. What was it with men in suits, anyhow? Never giving respect to those below them. They were like vultures, looking down upon others until they could strike out and rake in some extra dough. And they never seemed to think that a thing could go wrong in the world, either, she thought as images of her brother shuffling paperwork in an expensive suit came to mind.
With a sigh, she turned away from the chattering businessmen and stalked off once again down the street. The sky had begun to darken, and the quickly brightening lights of the city began to reflect off of the nearby glittering surface of the ocean in the waterfront. Tasha Carter didn’t look up as she walked in long, angry strides toward downtown San Jose.
The sun was long gone and artificial light had coated the city as Tasha arrived at the Seventy-Six brand gas station, some distance away from her abandoned apartment back near the waterfront slums. The giant orange 76-ball hypnotised her, and she stared into it, her mind a twist of scattered thoughts. What if Daniel didn’t return? She’d be begging like a common street bum in less than a day’s time just to afford a decent meal. Feeling around in her pockets, she touched her last ten-dollar bill. The thought scared her, but she forced herself to ignore the fear and concentrate on the problem at hand.
She quickly decided that a solid ten dollar bill wouldn’t keep her going for long, and she turned to walk up the pavement in front of the gas station’s main building. As she pushed the glass door open, she again cast her eyes to the ground. Coming in here just to ask for change wouldn’t look very classy, but it was something she knew she had to do to keep herself going.
She stepped inside of the building as the previous customer turned away and left the building. Aside from the store owner, the only other person present in the building was a middle-aged and heavyset businessman talking on a satellite phone in the corner. He ignored Tasha as she stepped past him and arrived at the counter. The man behind the counter, a slim, short African-American man, greeted her and she asked him for change. He smiled thinly as he broke up the bill, opening the register and counting out the mass of quarters and nickels. As Tasha stood there, she looked around the little store. Racks of food and drink made her stomach grumble, and she leaned against the counter. As she idly stared around the store, she caught a fragment of the heavyset businessman’s conversation.
“It doesn’t matter to us anymore,” he said in a gruff voice, “we have bigger things on our minds. It doesn’t matter what they’re saying, I don’t want to hear another goddamn word about InGen.”
A surge of excitement surged through her body and she focused her hearing on the businessman, making sure to avoid looking suspicious. He looked impatient to leave, and his voice wavered. But the man had mentioned InGen, the company Daniel was supposedly off working for. With a new found interest, she tilted her head and listened in on the man’s conversation.
“Who told you that?” grunted the man into the telephone, “He’s out of his fucking mind. What matters is our company, not old Hammond’s, you hear me? I’m not dabbling in this bullshit again.”
The man glanced around conspicuously, eyeing Tasha and the man behind the counter before continuing more quietly. “Look, these underground ideas of yours have dug us deeper into the hole than out. The company is on its knees, and the last thing it needs is another kick in the head.”
Tasha could tell the man was about finished with the argument, and at that moment she received a tap on the shoulder from the store owner, who handed her the clump of change with raised eyebrows. She pocketed the money and thanked the man with as much delay as possible so she could catch the final words of the burly fellow’s conversation.
“...the final answer is no. We’re done snooping around in other people’s business, especially that of a company about to file for bankruptcy. Right now, we need more than a miracle – we need absolute divine intervention.” he said, and with that he dropped the phone into the receiver and strode from the building.
Tasha turned away from the counter and hurried out of the building behind the businessman, but he quickly climbed into a black convertible and drove from the parking lot down the street. She wanted to call to him, but she knew it was futile – this man wouldn’t want to listen to her. Folding her arms across her chest, she watched until the convertible turned a corner and drove off into the frosty night.
Hours later, Tasha decided to call up the InGen headquarters once again on another payphone back in the suburbs. This time however a new voice answered, but she was quickly put on hold. Tasha was about to hang up the phone when a different woman’s voice which she recognized as the front desk secretary she had spoken to once before came through the line. “InGen Headquarters, Palo Alto, how can I help you today?”
Tasha raised the phone back to her mouth and asked to speak with Daniel Carter. The secretary asked who she was; she replied that she was family. Not expecting to get a reaction, she was surprised when the secretary put her on hold once again and she waited almost ten minutes before another voice answered the phone; the calm and tired-sounding voice of her brother.
“Daniel?” she gasped, barely recognizing her brother’s voice, “Where the hell have you been?”
Her somewhat impatient response seemed to cause a moment’s delay, and then a quick, unfocused laugh from her brother came back through the speaker. “I’ve been busy,” he said abruptly, and the way he spoke those words brought back memories of his belittlement of Tasha.
“No shit,” she said, a hint of balled-up anger in her words. “I haven’t heard a word from you for years now. What’s kept you? You can’t still be off on that research trip.”
Again, there was a short delay during which time Tasha could make out a faint droning sound, similar to that of a rickety old air conditioner, as well as the faint noise of background voices. “It took longer than expected. We’ve been working hard, it’s somewhat complicated,” said Daniel impatiently, “and I appreciate you calling me, but I’m really busy at the moment. Is there a time and a number I can call you back at?”
“What’s the hurry?” Tasha said, her temper beginning to waver once again. “Daniel, I’ve got something important -”
Daniel interrupted her before she could finish – something quite out of his character, she noticed. “Like I said, it’s kind of complicated. I can’t really explain it now,” Another pause, and when he spoke again Tasha thought she heard an apologetic tone to his voice. “Things are happening really fast, Tasha. It’s not very easy out here.”
“Daniel, just listen for a second…”
“I’m sorry, Tash. We’re loaded with work…”
“Daniel,” she groaned, but she could see that she was getting nowhere fast. Her brother, though quiet and often calm, could argue just as much as Tasha herself, and often came out on top due to his careful construction of points. Yet now he seemed different, unable to formulate a good reason to argue with.
“Fine,” she said, resigned, “I’ll call you later tonight. When will you be done? And is there a private number I can call you at?” she added, not wanting to go through the reception desk once again.
Once again, there was a short delay before Daniel responded, only this time there was a whirring sound as well, like that of a vacuum.
“Sorry, you have to go through reception. It’s company policy,” he told her. He added that he would be available after twelve AM Pacific Time; when Tasha asked why so late, he didn’t respond, as if he didn’t even hear her. “I’ve got to go, Tash, I’ll fill you in later. Everyone is waiting for me.” And with a quick goodbye, Daniel hung up, leaving a flustered Tasha listening to nothing but the monotonous dial tone.
* * *
She called back just after midnight on the same payphone, having wandered the waterfront for several hours until the clock mounted on a nearby office building had struck twelve. It was cold out, and a mist had fallen over the harbor. Tasha’s clothes were damp from the fog and perspiration.
There were so many questions she had for Daniel that she didn’t even know where she would begin. She wanted to hear his voice and feel the familiarity there, despite their somewhat strained relationship. At the same time she wanted to hit him, to yell, to make him endure the suffering she had experienced for these past few years without him. But he was her brother, and, despite their differences, she loved him too much to hold him on trial for mistakes that she herself had made instead.
The primary thought that still sat at the front of Tasha’s mind was of the conversation between the heavyset businessman and his company she had overheard at the gas station earlier that night. He had mentioned InGen and an apparent problem associated with it. Hadn’t he said that the company had gone bankrupt? If so, what would happen to Daniel? And why hadn’t he let her know about it? It sounded like the entire corporation was in trouble, and the men talking over the phone had been discussing it as if it were a matter of severe importance – yet they didn’t seem to be InGen staff at all, by the way they had talked about the company in such a negative light.
This and much more threw her mind into a state of chaos, and when a voice finally answered the phone, she exhaled in relief. She opened her mouth to talk back when she realized that the voice was the recording she had heard previously, informing her that the main switch board was temporarily unattended once again before repeating the same phrase in Spanish and playing a short musical cue. After a moment, the music concluded and she was left, her speechless gape quickly turning into a frown, listening to whir of the dial tone.
Her last shard of patience and hope gone, Tasha slammed the phone back onto the receiver, swore loudly, and stepped out of the booth and strode away without looking back. Daniel had lied to her; the company phone lines didn’t operate at this hour. He didn’t even want to talk to her, and as usual he had put work before family – something he had never done as long as Tasha had known him. But Tasha had heard something in the way that Daniel talked which made her curious, and she spent the rest of the night wandering the streets thinking over it.
What was he hiding from her?
_________________Sometimes I wonder why I continue to mod a broken, unpopular game from 1998. Then I remember the hilarious arm physics, the wonky dinosaurs, and, of course, the first set of boobs I'd seen close up in first person.Yeah, this certainly is the game for me.