Sunday, 23 January 2011

DZ CREW - Jack 3.0 - Antarctic Prep

We stepped off the plane and onto a desperately deep 6 feet of snow. The only areas that weren’t white were the sides of the buildings and the runway itself. We made our way slowly to the nearest building, it was little more than a small wooden port-a-cabin. The grimace on Gray’s face suggested that he already knew this would be our accommodation for the night. The shelter provided by stepping inside the small hut did little to raise my body temperature – in fact, it seemed colder in the hut than outside.

I looked about me, there were no other rooms, just one central area with a long low sofa against one wall, a TV set in the corner and a small kitchenette area with a gas stove and a much used steel tea pot. Lex already had the gas on the stove and was filling the tea pot with water. I was surprised that water even made it out of the tap, by all accounts it should have been frozen solid.

“Right, this is it for the night.” Harrison spoke, his expression was determined as he sat his backpack on the floor. “Lewis, make sure you have all the kit we need ready. The motion detector etc. Lex, once you’ve done the brews you can get our ammo and weaponry ready. He turned and fixed his gaze on me. Jack, you just stay quiet and out of trouble. Maybe get some sleep.”

It wasn’t a question or a polite suggestion, it was an instruction. I looked about me in the small room. Gray had already filled most of the available space on the sofa and Lewis quickly took a seat next to him when he spotted my intentions. I sighed and set about sorting my roll mat and sleeping bag out. The floor space in this miniscule building could hardly contain the five of us. I resisted the temptation to point out that fact.

Once I’d laid claim to my little area – furthest area away from any draughty doors and windows – I got my diary out and began to catch up on the day’s events and the travels. I always tried to keep up to date with my thoughts and experiences, lately though I never had a chance to read any back, but in such strange and new times I felt that cataloguing our experiences with the dragons would be important.

I stopped writing and looked up, smiling when I noticed Lex holding out a cup of tea for me. I took it off her eagerly and sipped the warm liquid. It was vile.

“Yuck! What’s this? Where’s the sugar!” I complained noisily, breaking the relative quiet of the cabin.

“Jack, in case you haven’t noticed, there doesn’t seem to be much sugar cane growing out there.” Lex pointed to the desolate landscape outside. It was getting dark and there was a continuous stream of silent snowflakes settling on every available surface. I noticed that the footprints of five people tromping in the snow outside of the cabin had already been covered with snow. Tracking this lizard was going to be nigh on impossible.

Morning soon came and Gray and Harrison were already up and dressed when I slowly managed to focus my eyes. I looked around me, Lex had the tea pot boiling again and Lewis was still asleep in a huddle by the door. Around him were strewn bits of wire and plastic as well as many different sizes of screwdrivers, one was jabbing dangerously close to his crotch area. He must have been working most of the night. I smiled to myself, not guilty in the slightest in the wave of pleasure I felt at Lewis’ suffering. He was getting on my nerves lately.

I quickly got up and went to the toilet. By the time I was back Lewis had returned to consciousness and was groggily clearing away the electronics. I made short work of returning my sleeping bag and roll mat back to the back pack. I had my boots on and tea drunk and was ready to go. I checked the sidearm that Lex handed me. My gas pellet handgun was many of the non-lethal weapons that had been custom designed with the combined intellect of Lewis and Dr. Bob. This gun was an absolute beast. I could fire pellets over 200 metres with deadly accuracy, dealing a blast of gas with a radius of over 25 metres. This simple small handgun could have us all sleeping like babies for a week if I let it off in this room. I unintentionally laughed aloud at the thought which made Lex give me a very weird look. She thought I was a freak I was sure of it. I’d soon show her wrong.

Lex was very gung-ho. She ran around the place often putting herself in needless danger, blasting marauding dragons with the combination of her sound emitting vortex ring gun and her tranquiliser dart pistol. She’d certainly saved our hides a few times and I was desperate to prove my worth and even the score. More often than not I just felt like I was a nuisance. In any case they must keep me around for some reason. Despite the fact Harrison did little more than tell me what to do he must see some potential in me. Maybe it will be this Antarctic trek that I finally get to prove myself? I clicked the safety on the gas pellet gun and holstered it carefully into my belt. Our boat was waiting.

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Saturday, 22 January 2011

DZ Crew - Jack 2.0 - Getting closer to the Antarctic dragon sighting

When I opened my eyes I was surprised to find that I was still in the cramped confines of the aircraft. I’d been dreaming while I slept, dreaming of a blazing snow storm that had completely surrounded us. As the snow and wind whipped around us I just managed to look up in time to see clear blue skies before I awoke.

My dreams were always more vivid before going on an expedition, or a mission as Harrison calls them. I guess they’re some sort of mental preparation, a way of making me less nervous. I was just grateful that it relieved some of the pressure on my conscious thought.

I looked around me, the entire team were here, deep in their own thoughts. I was unfortunately wedged between the two giant frames of Harrison and Gray. I’m sure it was deliberate. I often think they try and keep me away from Lex. I looked over, her purple hair was in a ponytail and she was listening to her IPod with her eyes closed. Her head was resting against Lewis’ shoulder. Lewis looked up from the motion detector he was playing with and threw me a wink. I looked away with instant annoyance. He knew he shouldn’t be messing with electronic equipment on the flight, the pilot had even warned against it before takeoff. I tried to convince myself that his constant meddling with gadgets was the source of my sudden mood.

I was shaken from my thoughts as plane hit down hard on the runway. Bits of kit that Lewis hadn’t properly secured rained down from above him onto his head. The inner walls of the fuselage were covered in bright orange netting that was swinging around wildly as the plane hurtled down the runway. We bumped along at speed for some distance before the pilot finally brought the plane’s speed down to begin taxiing.
The plane had landed but we weren’t there yet. It had touched down at one of the research stations on an island off the main continent. We still had a boat journey that would take us to the mainland and close to the source of the dragon activity.

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Thursday, 20 January 2011

DZ Crew Update - Jack 1.0 - Dragon Sightings

These damn dragon sightings were beginning to get me down. It seemed like every week we were being asked to go somewhere else.

"It's the reputation of Dragon Zoo that's on the line if we don't"

"What if someone is attacked?"

"What if someone blames the zoo for the dragon on the loose?"

The problem was, whenever we responded to these sightings, there was always nothing there.

For one, it takes us at least 24 hours from the reported dragon sighting until we get to actually show up at the location. And secondly, it's a dragon. It doesn't hang about.

Well, it was with another large slice of my belligerent attitude that I finally got on the C130 Hercules aircraft that would take us to Antarctica.

We’d flown to the end of Chile via conventional airline but now it was time for something a little more robust, a little more military to take us to the extremes of the planet. Even if we didn’t catch a glimpse of anything whilst we were there, even we didn’t even see a single footprint, it wouldn’t matter. The excitement of going somewhere as cool as Antarctica had completely re-charged my batteries, completely made me forgive the last ten wasted trips.

As the plane took off I knew that funny rumbling feeling in my stomach wasn’t just because of the wheels bumping down the runway at 80mph, I knew it was excitement. I couldn’t wait to get there. But I HATED flying. This job in the DZ Crew often made me face my greatest fears and flying was definitely one of them. Unfortunately since these episodes of dragon sightings there’s been nothing but flying for me. I didn’t think I would ever be able to get anywhere in an aircraft without the feeling of nausea.

Despite my fears of flying, as a kid I always dreamt of going into space, visiting different planets like the ones you see in Star Wars movies. Deserts and Snow covered landscapes. Extremes. Well unless someone from NASA reports a dragon sighting on the moon I guess that’s one dream that’s not gonna happen. But Antarctica? That is as close as you can get to an alien landscape for me without leaving Earth.

I closed my eyes and sat still. I couldn’t wait for the flight to be over and the adventure to begin.

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