TLNC Chapter 12 – Welcome to Desire Research Institute (DRI)

Welcome to Desire Research Institute (DRI)

Desire Island… That was the setting that I, the rest of the Literature Club, Asahina Asuka who’s the Computer Club President, and Hoshino Akane the cute maid/event manager at Moe Delight Maid Café Empire came up with, and which we would execute with the help of the patrons at the Maid Café. All this started with the Robot Maid Event which I would write about in the Computer Club’s new magazine. The protagonist would be a Journalist called McDougal Arthur, aka Mac, and the heroine would be Izumi Makoto, a researcher at the mysterious island research institute, “Desire”, set up by the prestigious World-End Economica Foundation (WEEF).

It is the near future. The world has become highly information-technology dependent, with vast corporate regional-information networks which are mutually exclusive, covering the planet like patchwork. The nation-state has ceased to exist in a multi-polar world of regional alliances, empires, and corporate dynasties. But ethnic groups still exist.

And at the edge of the Neo Eastasia Co-prosperity Sphere (NECOS), off the south-eastern coast of Airstrip-2 (formerly Japan), lies a strange WEEF-run research institute located on an artificial island called “Desire.” I have been sent here by The Times, granting me the rare opportunity to get into the WEEF’s top-secret institute.

My girlfriend, Izumi Makoto works there as a researcher. All public communication networks are banned on the island, only physical post is allowed, and all messages get checked and censored if there’s any information about the research, so I have not met or really talked to Makoto in half a year, since she started working there. Of course, I am looking forward to reuniting with her.

Due to Non-Disclosure Agreements that she has signed, I have been kept in the dark about what she’s been researching, she is not at liberty to speak of her research even to her family members, let alone me who’s a journalist working for a major newspaper but even if it’s not from her I am sure I’ll be able to gleam something off from my own eyes.

The flight to Desire Island was on a private jet with a three-winged angel symbol, the WEEF logo, printed on its side. I boarded the plane at Narita airport and got to skip all of the annoying airport security. It was a pretty short but not uneventful flight. I made my first violent encounter with someone who works at this mysterious research institute, my attempts to pry at what was happening on the island were not treated kindly from the start.

Rumours about what’s going on in Desire’s research facilities are numerous, and with the sanction of the WEEF’s President, Dr. Randolf Teufel von Hölle, I was granted permission to visit the island to write a report to clear the name of the institute, from sensationalist narratives, spread by tabloid publications less serious than our own, and by conspiracy theorists, about such speculations as human experimentation being carried out at the site of ancient human sacrifices. Needless to say, it is absurd for there to have been a site for human sacrifice when there didn’t even exist an island until the land was reclaimed a few years ago. In any case, I will only believe what I see with my own eyes.

The flight took off at 8am. Most of the scientists on the flight were rather taciturn men in their mid-twenties or older. I was expecting some sort of guide or handler to keep an eye on me from the moment I boarded the flight, to keep me from prying too much but there was no such thing. There were already a few hundred researchers and other assorted staff on the island so I didn’t expect to stand out too much once I got there.

As some of my readers who read my “As I Please” column may be aware I am not a professional photographer, so I was not initially going to have to take pictures myself, until the Foundation at the last moment clarified that they would only let one reporter on the island, me, to come to the island to collect the material for the news report. As such I hope that you will have to forgive me for the poor quality of the images. I had to use a camcorder that I happened to carry on me, obviously, my smartphone was confiscated and sent back to my employer, before I even boarded the flight. Yes, I will have to take notes on paper the old-fashioned way, with journalistic shorthand, just like we were taught in journalism school.

Nothing worth mentioning happened until the small jet approached the island. I pulled out my trusty Panasonic camcorder and started to record the approach, but soon something soft but cold caught my wrist and pulled the camera out of my hand. When I looked up I saw a familiar-looking chestnut-colour-haired girl in her late teens, I had seen her in brochures related to the Foundation, and also in some publications which my science-reporter co-worker at The Times shared with me. The one I met on the plane, whose teal-coloured eyes glared at me, was none other than Dr Asuka Teufel. A child prodigy, and by the look on her face, an irritable girl.

“Who gave you permission!?”

She questioned me with one hand on her hip and the other holding out my camera.

“We are going to land soon so please return my camera, and kindly go back to your seat ma’am.”

I tried, in vain, to calm down the girl who’d lost her composure.

“Who gave you permission to take pictures!?”

“Dr Teufel did.”

“Grr! I don’t remember ever giving you any permission to breathe. You must think I am dumb!”

The girl bared her teeth at me, in anger. Quite a primitive reaction, for a genius girl, I thought.

“Not, you.” I tried to explain. “Dr. Randolf Teufel von Hölle. Your grandfather, the founder of the WEEF.”

“Ah, you must be that snooping rag rat sent by my grandfather to report what I am doing to him.”

“No, I am from The Times of London. I am not here on behalf of your grandfather. Now hand over my camera.” I pressed the release button to remove my seat belt and reached out to take back my property. That camera was a gift from Makoto and I wasn’t going to let some brat, genius or otherwise, snatch it.

The plane made a sudden lurch to one side and sent us both tumbling down the aisle with my camera also rolling down. I hit my head on a seat armrest and landed down on my face. I then reached around to feel if my camera was still in one piece but instead, I grabbed something small and soft in my hand. Huh, this didn’t feel like my camera. And before I knew it something hit my solar plexus hard and I lost consciousness. The last thing I heard was the angry fading voice on the flight intercom system: “Could the passengers please remain calm and seated, especially Dr Teufel. I am attempting to land a plane here if you hadn–.”

When I woke up, I was lying on a single bed looking at an unfamiliar ceiling in a white room with no windows. The camera I had just fought for was laid on a bedside table next to my pillow. I grabbed it and opened the side-screen panel to confirm whether it still worked, I got out of the room and followed the white-walled corridor with a floor with a bright shiny finish, like a hospital, only to end up in a noisy aircraft hanger. I approached a worker there to ask for my whereabouts and my belongings. It was a tomboyish pony-tailed brown-haired girl in oversized dark blue overalls, a spanner in her breast pocket, and a baseball hat turned backwards. She was working away on a jet engine while occasionally peeking at some large manual.

The girl was a distance away from me. She tilted her head in thought for a moment when she saw me approaching her, and then she dropped the large book on a bench with a thud and scurried my way, even though there was a sign saying not to run.

“Hello. I am McDougal Arthur, from The Times. And…? Sorry but where is this?”

“MacDougal? Mac? You must be Makoto’s boyfriend. Haha. You look just as I expected. I am Lucia Akane. Nice to meet you.”

“Wait, you know Makoto Izumi, what did she tell you about me?”

“Why don’t you ask her yourself, Mr Reporter?”

But yes, the worst had been avoided, I was on Desire Island. I feared that I might have been deported back to Japan or England due to the accident on the aeroplane.

But wait, why wasn’t Makoto waiting for me here? I am sure she wrote to me that she’d come pick me up… Along with Professor Stella, her supervisor.

“Ah, about that, Makoto-san did come here on time when the plane landed but you were still out cold, so Professor Stella recalled her to the laboratory to do some urgent tests, although don’t ask me any questions about what they’re doing, Mr Reporter, I am just here as an aircraft mechanic.”

“An aircraft mechanic, huh? Why work so far out here, in such an isolated place? I can understand why the researchers work here but I doubt there’d be much work. According to my research the flight which I was on, is a monthly flight, unless of course there are some secret flights which are not made public.”

“Ah, that’s right you reporters really like to ask all sorts of questions, don’t you? Well, whatever, I wouldn’t mind being included in your report… The pay is good here, and it’s good ‘experience’ for my career to say I worked for the Foundation. That’s all there is to it. I don’t really care, know anything about, or want to get involved with whatever they are researching here, which might be why I was hired. I am just going to work here until my contract is up and then leave.”

Just then two men in blue mechanic’s overalls, just like Lucia’s, came and scolded the girl for not doing her work, and turning to me the men also complained about how they had to carry me to the infirmary in the aircraft hanger because I had lost consciousness after being beaten by the feisty Dr Teufel.

I hoped in vain that Makoto wouldn’t find out I had been beaten by a little girl. Lucia, who was a friend of Makoto, seemed to know about it already, so I expect rumours have spread. However, it also seemed that Dr Teufel’s violent attitude was well-known too.

With nothing to do and no one to escort me, I decided to go outside and have a look at the pristine artificial beach. At least it would be less loud and cold than the air-conditioned hanger. The sea breeze felt pleasant but I soon got tired of that and decided I would turn back to the hanger. There were a few seagulls which didn’t seem to mind my presence, mulling about, like I was.

Just then I don’t know what took over me, maybe exhaustion, or maybe I had hit my head too hard due to a certain Dr Devil but I took off my shoes and socks, rolled up my trousers, and stepped lightly on the cool water at the beach. There was a structure that looked like a lighthouse but actually, it was something else. On top, where there should have been a light or a beacon, there was only a plaster-caste statue of the Virgin Mary. Very unusual for a scientific establishment I thought, this island didn’t exist before, so it must have been part of the WEEF’s plan for the island.

I pulled out my camcorder to take some pictures before intending to go and have a closer look but while adjusting the camera’s zoom function around I took sight of an alarming silhouette through the camera’s LCD screen. I immediately rushed forward, camera in hand, it was a young girl, about ten years old, with long auburn hair. She was lying on the sand as if she had been washed up on the beach. She was wearing a long green dress with a white collar and black ribbon around the neck and she was barefoot. I shook her up in an attempt to wake her, her eyes were closed and she was whispering something over and over again… I couldn’t catch her words except for “The light.” Afterwards, she became silent and I feared the worst but I quickly noticed her breathing, she had just dozed off. I tried to carry her in my arms, bridal style, but she was surprisingly heavy so I carried her on my back. There was no time to put on my shoes as she seemed cold, probably from being in the water, so I burned my feet on the hot sand a bit.

As I walked back I noticed that there was a vintage jeep next to the entrance to the hangar. A woman was leaning on the side of the vehicle while smoking a cigarette looking absent-mindedly at the sky until she noticed my approach and waved at me with a smile. She made no move to come and help, preferring to watch from afar without any sign of perturbance. As I got closer, even though it was an emergency I couldn’t help but notice the ancient open-air jeep, it was a well-maintained World War II museum piece, like the one I had seen at Acorn Computers’ BCOF (British Commonwealth Occupation Force) Museum in Kure, when writing a report on it, a few months ago.

There was a prominent image of an angel anime girl on the Jeep’s bonnet. Maybe a mascot of the research institute? Well, that wasn’t there on the BCOF jeep, so this must be another specimen. There aren’t that many well-preserved combustion engine vehicles left so this would fetch a good price.

Next, I took note of the woman who stood next to the jeep, she was a tall, long-haired blonde woman of indeterminate age wearing a lab coat, a red blouse, and a black mini-skirt. She pushed herself straight with one hand and tossed the cigarette away before stepping on it lightly. Then she crossed her hands and grinned at me, she had a commanding aura about her, more like a Yakuza gangster than a researcher.

Before I could approach her, she took a phone out of her pocket and made a call. Huh? I thought that all mobile phone communication was banned here? In any case, this resulted in the two old men from the hangar and Lucia coming out to help the young girl up. They also lent me a pair of steel-toe boots begrudgingly so I didn’t have to run all the way back to recover my shoes… The girl had apparently woken up while I was carrying her and was now looking at me with large expressive heterochromatic eyes, which means she had mismatching eye colours: her right eye was green, the left red… Apparently, Lucia and the old men knew who the little girl was, and took her to the infirmary room in the hangar while making a fuss about where she had run off. What was a little girl like that doing here? I thought the institute didn’t allow you to bring any family. She also seemed to have no trouble walking now. This left just me and the Yankee girl in a lab coat whom I had correctly assumed to be a researcher.

“Professor Hoshino Stella, and you are Mac, right?”

She reached out her hand for a handshake, I obliged, and she squeezed my hand as hard as she could while making a smile with narrowed lips and eyes on her face. Was this a handshake or just some kind of primitive test of strength? I tried to look unperturbed and smiled back at her. Are all the women on this island gorillas? No, Lucia was normal at least… I hoped Makoto hadn’t been influenced or corrupted by her peers.

“Yes, that’s what my friends call me… I guess Makoto must have spoken to you about me too.”

“Well, there aren’t many girls in a place like this so… Anyway it’s getting late, I have work to do. Let’s see… I’ll take you to the Global Gadgets Research Laboratory. You can meet Makoto there too, even though she’s working. Feel free to ask any questions as we drive there.”

I got in the front passenger seat of this open-air Jeep and sat next to the professor. I put on my seatbelt and noticed that Stella hadn’t put on her own belt. Whatever, I guess it’s a short trip. On a small island like this, you can probably go around the coast of the whole island in thirty minutes. This was a good chance to ask some questions about the institute. I took out a notebook to jot down anything interesting in journalistic shorthand, but I soon realised that wouldn’t be possible.

“Hey! Prof. Have you got a driving license!?”

The jeep violently swerved off the road around a corner and came to a stop a few inches away from a cliff.

“Stop being such a wuss! I have got experience as a biker, okay!? Do bikers need seatbelts? No. Anyway, Japanese law does not apply on this island!”

After this short but nerve-wracking trip, where I didn’t ask any questions from Stella to not distract her from her driving, we arrived at the Global Gadgets Research Laboratory. It was a rather modern-looking glass building which sat on top of a hill and which had an upside-down trapezium shape, the wider base of the trapezium formed the roof of the building. Why would you build a hill on an artificial island? “To prevent flooding of the research facilities,” came Professor Stella’s reply.

There was a security guard with a moustache sitting at the gate to the laboratory reading some manga magazine. When he noticed us approaching he quickly put the magazine away and saluted us.

The Light Novel Club

The Light Novel Club

Status: Ongoing Author: Released: 2024
Ishikawa Isshin, a freshman at North High has decided to join his high school's Light Novel Club, hoping to get some inspiration and quiet, to work on his novel for a light novel writing contest. Unfortunately for Isshin, the club's non-talkative bibliophilic book girl and old-tech obsessed club president, Izumi, as well as other members of the school faculty are intent on getting in his way by dragging him off to participate in miscellaneous after-school club activities.  Will Isshin remain the reluctant member of the club and continue to regret his decision to have joined? Or will he come to love the club, and discover the true purpose of the Light Novel Club?  


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