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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr
V: The Florida Project V
The Florida Project

Written by Tim Sullivan

(The page numbers come from the 1st printing, paperback edition, published February 1985)

A secret Visitor research station in the Florida Everglades conducts genetic experiments to create Visitor/human hybrids.

Story Summary

In the Florida Everglades, a young Seminole man fishing in the glades named Billy Tiger is taken prisoner by a squad of Visitors riding on floating silver discs.

Meanwhile, biogenetecist Dr. Sabrina Fontaine turns down a job at Nutech to accept a mysterious but generous offer from Visigen. She meets with the company's Dr. Morrow and he flies her in a helicopter into the Everglades to a hidden research complex camouflaged by a hologram of the upper canopy of Everglade trees. But upon arrival, she is greeted by a group of Visitors and taken prisoner.

On the Seminole reservation, Sheriff T.J. Devereaux investigates some missing persons reports.

And professional football player Jack Stern of the Miami Dolphins grows worried about his fiancée Sabrina's disappearance. He goes to her house and interrupts two intruders there who turn out to be Ham Tyler and Chris Faber. They are there working for the CIA, investigating Dr. Fontaine's disappearance and the possibility of Visitor activity in the area. Tyler informs Jack that the aliens have developed an antidote for the red dust and are performing operations nearby. Jack decides to join them in their search, in hopes of finding Sabrina.

Back at the Visitor compound, Billy is undergoing the tortures of the conversion chamber. But he persistently resists the Visitors' commands and urgings and is removed from the conversion program and placed in a new area where he undergoes less torturous scientific scrutiny and testing. He is told he will be the father of a new race.

In the morning, Tyler, Chris, and Jack drive out into the Everglades with three canoes strapped to the roof of their vehicle. They bump into Sheriff Devereaux and he agrees to join them in his search for the missing persons.

Held in separate rooms in the Visitor compound, both Sabrina and Billy hear a horrible, half-human, wailing scream from elsewhere in the compound. Billy thinks the voice sounds familiar somehow. Later, he has a terrible nightmare and wakes up screaming himself; hearing himself, he realizes the scream he heard earlier was very much like his own voice. Sabrina meets a human collaborator, Dr. Thorkel, who tries to convince her to help in the genetic project taking place but she refuses, calling him a traitor.

Driving as far as they can and arriving at the swamp's edge, Tyler and Chris each take a canoe into the swamp and Jack and T.J. take the third, heading in different directions in search of the Visitor presence. Jack and T.J. are ambushed by a force of the aliens and taken to the compound as prisoners. When they fail to meet Tyler and Chris back at the rendezvous point, the two CIA operatives head to the nearby Seminole reservation to ask the chief for help in the search.

Billy's brother, John, takes a canoe into the swamp to look for him and discovers the compound but is chased by Visitors on disks. He manages to escape on foot into the swamp, leaving his canoe behind.

At the research compound T.J. is placed into an arena with the latest prototype of the Visitors' genetics project...a monster that is part human, from the DNA of Billy, and part Visitor. After a brief battle with the human, the hybrid creature proves itself largely resistant to gunfire and soon kills the hapless sheriff. Dr. Morrow considers the test a resounding success, but the shocked Dr. Thorkel begins to rethink his allegiance. Meanwhile, Morrow is finally able to convince Sabrina to work for him by threatening to place Jack into the arena next. He reveals to her that, while the current hybrid creation will be useful as soldiers, their real goal is to create another starchild like Elizabeth. He decides that he will be the father and Sabrina the mother. He calls his commander, Medea, on her mothership hiding behind the moon and tells her of their success. Hearing this, she finally agrees to bring the ship back to Earth to pick up him and his staff.

John finally stumbles out of the swamp with help from Tyler and Chris. The Seminole tribe members finally agree to help fight the Visitors. Tyler calls up Mike Donovan to fly a load of captured Visitor laser guns in a skyfighter to their location. But a malfunction in the skyfighter puts the delivery late and Tyler and his rag-tag battalion are forced to move out towards the Visitors with standard weapons, hoping that Donovan will show up in time for them to finish the fight.

With Dr. Thorkel's help, Sabrina is able to confuse Morrow about human mating habits long enough to allow Jack to take him hostage. But Morrow bites him with his sharp teeth and turns the tables back again. In revenge, he orders Jack into the arena to do battle with the hybrid monster. Just as the creature is about to kill Jack, Tyler and his troops arrive and launch their attack on the compound. The hybrid is killed as the melee progresses.

Dr. Morrow communicates with Medea aboard the mothership and she sends a mothership to fly to Earth to aid in the battle. Just as it arrives, so does Donovan's skyfighter, with Julie, Elias, and Willie also aboard. Jack manages to escape the compound but Sabrina remains a hostage to Morrow. He joins Tyler and the others and is picked up by the humans' skyfighter. As the research compound's own skyfighters begin to lift off toward the mothership, the humans' skyfighter joins them and, with the help of some Visitor uniforms stored on board, they infiltrate the mothership with the intention of rescuing Sabrina and blowing up the ship.

As the mothership retreats back into space, the humans manage to take the command center and force the crewmembers to set the self-destruct. Dr. Morrow enters the command center with Sabrina and is grabbed by Jack, who promptly kills him. The humans then try to bluff their way back to the hangar deck to escape. It turns into a running firefight instead, but they finally make it to the hangar and board one of the skyfighters to freedom.

When they make it back to Earth, the tribe celebrates and a crew of exobiologists sift through the remains of the Visitor compound for leftover research. But they all know it's only a matter of time until the Visitors return and the war resumes.



Didja Know?

The back cover of the book says "The alien leader Diana has renewed her pledge to break the resistance." But Diana does not appear in the novel at all! I wonder if the book was written before a decision had been made about Diana's escape or capture after "The Final Battle" and the writer used Diana but the name was later changed to Medea (the fleet commander in the book).

In the acknowledgements, author Tim Sullivan thanks Somtow Suchartikul, author of two other V novels, The Alien Swordmaster and Symphony of Terror.

Didja Notice?

On page 2, we are introduced to a piece of Visitor technology not seen before, silver disks upon which a person may stand and travel aloft, defying gravity. The top surface of the disk holds the feet of the rider in place. By turning their torso, a rider can steer the disc left and right, up and down. The disks also appear in The New England Resistance by the same author.

As did the Visitors in Osaka castle in The Alien Swordmaster, the ones here in their Everglades hideout have mostly chosen to go without their dermoplast human disguises, showing their true reptilian selves.

I guess sports stars have a penchant for becoming resistance heroes. Page 7 reveals that Jack Stern is an offensive back for the Miami Dolphins NFL team. In East Coast Crisis, Pete Forsythe is a third-baseman for the New York Yankees.

Page 8 introduces Dr. Morrow. At first I wondered if he was any relation to President Morrow (depicted in both the V novelization and East Coast Crisis). But the doctor is soon revealed to be a Visitor himself.

Dr. Morrow's company is called Visigen, a clever name that must be meant to combine and shorten "VisitorGenetics". 15 years after this book was published, in 2000, a real biotechnology company was started with the name Visigen Biotechnologies, but they were bought out and closed down in 2008.

On page 8, Dr. Sabrina Fontaine waits to be picked up by Dr. Morrow at a small airport in the town of Lantana, which is a real town in Palm Beach County, Florida.

Page 11 reveals some Visitor hologram projection technology. Here it is used to project an image of Everglade trees to hide the presence of the secret research station.

On page 13, the Visitor Medea is introduced. She thinks on how some of the moons of the large gas giants in our solar system have water, but no industry already in place to help them drain it, hence Earth is a more suitable choice for exploitation. It's not until nearly the end of the book that the reader is informed that Medea is the current fleet commander. It is not revealed if her mothership is a new arrival or if it was one of the ones assigned to an Earth city during the occupation. Medea later appears in Symphony of Terror and To Conquer the Throne.

Page 15 reveals that the rule that the Visitor crewmembers on the motherships must wear their human disguises while on duty is still enforced in anticipation of a return to Earth.

Much of this novel involves members of the Seminole tribe of Native Americans and their reservation in the Everglades of Florida. Obviously, the Seminoles are a real world Native American tribe and the story of the Unconquered People is quite fascinating on its own if you get a chance to read about them. The tribe exists as both Oklahoma and Florida Seminoles, they never surrendered to the U.S. government during the Indian Wars, and they counted among their members African-Americans who escaped slavery in the south.

On page 22, Jack has called Coach Shula for a couple days leave from the Dolphins. Don Shula really was the coach of the Miami Dolphins at the time of this story.

Also on page 22, the town Jack is in is referred to as Boca Blanca ("white mouth" in Spanish), which is also known as "Silicon Beach." As far as I can tell, there is no town of Boca Blanca in Florida or a place known as Silicon Beach at the time. In recent times, there are reports of Florida being interested in developing a "Silicon Beach" region in the state, i.e. a center of software and computer design, similar to Silicon Valley in California.

On page 23, Jack gets on Interstate 95. This is a real interstate running north from Miami all the way up the eastern seaboard, ending in northern Maine.

On page 27, Ham Tyler reveals that he and Chris Faber are working for the CIA. Though depicted as working for the CIA here, "Liberation Day" reveals that Tyler started up his own security agency right after V-day; possibly Tyler's company was simply contracted by the CIA for the operation.

Also on page 27, Tyler says the Visitors are 800 years ahead of us technologically. How did he come up with that figure? Is it common knowledge from the occupation? Is it an estimate provided by his CIA connections?

On page 37, the conversion chamber which Billy is subjected to is described like the one seen in the episode "The Masterpiece", with a blue beam spinning around him. This indicates it is a real conversion chamber, unlike the makeshift chambers used by Lady Murasaki in the novel The Alien Swordmaster.

On page 41, our heroes drive on a stretch of road called Alligator Alley. This is the actual nickname of the Everglades Parkway which runs east-west through the Florida Everglades.

On page 42, after having agreed to work with Tyler and Chris, Jack begins to wonder if they are actually a couple of lunatics who never stopped fighting the war after the Visitors left. He thinks of such cases as members of the Irish Republican Army who kept fighting even after the truce with the U.K. and of Jesse James (1847-1882) who kept fighting for the Confederacy long after its surrender to the U.S. government during the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865). These are, of course, both real world cases of militants continuing to fight even after the official cessation of hostilities.

On page 56, the Visitors use a larger version of the anti-gravity disks which has a sleep-ray type gun mounted to it.

On page 65, Tyler warns Chief Wooster that the Visitors are centuries ahead of us technologically and have probably already developed an antitoxin as evidenced by their presence in the swamp. He also mentions their cure for cancer. Does he know they really have such a cure? The novel The Pursuit of Diana reveals that the Visitors never got around to giving Earth the promised cure.

On page 71, Jack witnesses the Visitors using an anti-grav ray that is able to move an uncontained volume of water with an alligator in it from a holding tank and out of the room. This is a piece of technology never seen in the series.

Page 72 mentions the Visitor called Dr. Morrow has a piece of Visitor artwork, a revolving light sculpture that changes hues, in his quarters at the research compound.

Page 73 describes Dr. Morrow laughing, "a rasping, hissing sound that was totally nonhuman." This is different than the description of Visitor laughter in The Alien Swordmaster, a "raucous hooting." Obviously there could be different forms and sounds of laughter among the Visitors just as there is among humans.

Page 80 describes the human/Visitor hybrid raised at the compound. It is 8 or 9 feet tall, has huge talons on it hands, and a hide thick and scaly like armor plating. It has a long snout like a gator but a human-sized cranium and human-looking eyes. And an 8-foot long tail. Later, Dr. Morrow tells Thorkel that they added a molecular density to the mix that makes the creature stronger and able to deflect projectiles. From the description of the snout and tail, it sounds like they must have added alligator DNA to the mix as well.

Page 87 introduces a tripod-mounted globular device which turns out to be a portable tractor/repulsor beam.

Throughout the novel the public does not seem to be aware of other enclaves of Visitors recently discovered on Earth post-V-day (most notably the Chicago and Japan enclaves from The Chicago Conversion and The Alien Swordmaster). Are the world governments generally keeping the discovery of ongoing Visitor activity secret?

Page 97 introduces a Visitor research device that projects a holographic image of cells, genes, or other studied materials which can be manipulated, color-coded, labeled, etc.

On page 99, Dr. Morrow reveals that his group has not been completely successful in developing an antitoxin to the red dust bacteria but they have synthesized a virus that temporarily holds the bacteria at bay. Since we see that the compound has communication with the hidden fleet, why didn't Dr. Morrow transmit their procedure for creating the synthetic virus so that all Visitors can make use of it as needed? We never hear about the virus again after this book.

Also on page 99, Sabrina sees the compound's hybrid maternity ward, where half-human, half-Visitor fetuses float in artificial wombs. The fetuses she sees look either human or Visitor with a few external traits of each other physically present on their bodies.

On page 100, Dr. Morrow reveals his lab is trying to create another starchild like Elizabeth.

Several times in the book Dr. Morrow speaks the Visitor language while in his human disguise without tearing the dermoplast skin as happened in the V novelization and East Coast Crisis. It may be possible for them to speak their language without damage to the dermoplast if they are careful in how they work their jaws when they speak.

On page 103, Dr. Morrow asks Dr. Thorkel to explain to Sabrina Fontaine his attraction to her. Thorkel compares the situation to himself as John Alden and Morrow as Captain Miles Standish. Alden and Standish came to America in 1620 with the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower and the legend goes that, after his wife died, Captain Standish sent Alden to ask one Priscilla Mullins and her family for permission to visit her. Alden carried out the request, though he was attracted to her as well and the two men were soon in competition for her love (Alden eventually won out). The triangle was made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1858 poem The Courtship of Miles Standish. The comparison here though seems tenuous at best and there is no indication in the novel that Dr. Thorkel has an amorous interest in Sabrina.

Also on page 103, Dr. Thorkel ponders the inclination shown by many Visitors to be attracted to humans. He questions whether they have some racial inferiority complex or perhaps are partly mammalian themselves? If part mammal, he realizes that may partly explain how Elizabeth was conceived.

When he hears about the Visitor compound in the Everglades on page 104, Elias jokes, "I'll be damned. Those Visitors are harder to get rid of than cockroaches." This may also indicate a knowledge on his part of the assorted post-V-day Visitor enclaves seen in the novels.

Page 104 also reveals that the L.A. resistance has a cache of captured alien weapons from assorted skirmishes in a warehouse. Has this cache been kept secret from the government? Or do they continue to act on Visitor incursions, as in this case, with government knowledge? Given all the converts who were part of the human world governments, it might make sense for resistance groups to keep some things secret!

Discussing the Florida situation on page 105, Elias comments that if the Visitor enclave is still working at their research compound in the Everglades, they must be expecting their forces to eventually return en masse. He goes on to say, "Most people are starting to think we've seen the last of 'em. Maybe this will wake 'em up." This seems to indicate that the former resistance members assume the Visitors will be back at some point.

When Dr. Morrow outlines to Medea his plan to mate with Sabrina Fontaine, she says, "...I have tasted the fruits of Earthly love, and I know how intoxicating a human can be." This would seem to indicate that she was present during the Visitors first invasion of Earth and not a new arrival.

On page 104, John Tiger is trying to convince his people of the Seminole nation to wait for the delivery of Visitor weapons to them by L.A. resistance members before attacking the alien compound. He points out the tragedy of Native Americans fighting against superior weapons during wars with the white man which led to the Trail of Tears. The Trail of Tears was the relocation of Native American tribes (including the Seminole) to the Indian Territory of Oklahoma. The name comes from a quote by the Choctaw chief to the Arkansas Gazette that the relocation was a "trail of tears and death."

On page 113, Dr. Thorkel ponders the differences in human and Visitor psychology. He believes humans have much more capacity for change and growth than the Visitors, noting that the Visitor Dr. Morrow is not able to conceive that Thorkel himself would change his allegiance after seeing the sheriff butchered by the hybrid monster in the arena.

Page 115 reveals that Willie has knowledge of repairing skyfighter engines.

Page 116 reveals that the Visitors have faster-than-light communication capabilities. Here, Medea has just completed an FTL communication with the Leader. This would seem to contradict indications in some stories (like The Pursuit of Diana) that communication with the homeworld would take over 8 years one way. Or, perhaps, the Leader is closer than that, on his way to Earth? The Leader does allegedly arrive at Earth in the final episode of the weekly series, "The Return".

Page 121 reveals that Sirians bred for military duty do not have names. Page 135 states that the two condemned soldiers here were created in the same lab; this implies that many Sirian soldiers are not bred in the normal manner even for Sirians and are probably genetically engineered in an attempt to produce the best possible soldiers.

Also on page 121, one of the condemned Visitor soldiers uses his tongue to grab a mosquito out of the air for a snack.

On page 122, Dr. Morrow is described as making a sound much like human laughter. It almost seems as if Morrow has become obsessed with human behavior. He remains in human disguise through most of the novel, whereas his cohorts in the compound do not; he is attracted to a human female, Dr. Sabrina Fontaine; and he begins to adopt human laughter. And on page 123, he thinks of the two condemned Visitor soldiers as "cowering salamanders" rather than in his own alien terms.

When Sabrina tells Dr. Morrow of the story of the serpent in the Garden of Eden on page 124, he tells her the Visitors' own myth of a race of apelike creatures at the beginning of time who ruled over their world and subjugated the reptilians, "stirring resentment and a desire for vengeance." This is similar to the myth told by Fieh Chan in the novel The Alien Swordmaster.

On page 125, Sabrina is using Morrow's ignorance of human mating rituals to help get her fiancé, Jack, free. She says that a woman must be introduced to a new partner by her former lover, telling Morrow it will be "...a beautiful experience for the three of, me--and Jack." I laughed aloud at the 3rd-person narrative that follows next: For a moment Dr. Morrow couldn't believe his earholes.

Page 141 states that Morrow's tongue is a foot long. What is the variation in tongue length among Visitor individuals? A scene in The Alien Swordmaster (page 65) seems as if Lady Murasaki's tongue was somewhat longer than that.

On page 167 Morrow refers to Julie as Dr. Parrish. At the beginning of V, in "Arrival", Julie is still only a second-year medical student. Though by the time of "Liberation Day", the first episode of the weekly series, she is now depicted as being a full doctor. Perhaps her work with the hybrid virus in the resistance has aided her in gaining her PhD quickly in the time between the "The Final Battle" and this novel.

When, on pages 167-168, Dr. Morrow tells the human resistance members of his plans to create a new starchild with powers for the Visitors to use against Earth, Donovan says, "The child can never hold that kind of power without the Preta-na-ma and the Preta-na-ma teaches peace." How has Donovan learned about the teachings of Preta-na-ma and its potential influence on the starchild? Who says that only the Preta-na-ma can harness the starchild power? Has he learned of some prophecies of the Preta-na-ma or Zon religions from the archives of the captured L.A. mothership or from Visitors left behind after V-day? In the weekly series episode "Dreadnought", Willie seems to have some knowledge of the Preta-na-ma religion (or may even be a follower of it), so perhaps he has described the religion to Donovan.

Page 169 seems to indicate that every mothership has the doomsday weapon built in and the humans force the Visitor crewmembers of the mothership that had been sent to rescue the members of the research compound to set it after they start travelling back into space. Previous sources have indicated that only one ship in any invasion fleet has this capability. Furthermore, only the highest-ranked personnel were said to have the capability of arming it. For purposes of continuity, it might be more reasonable to think of the self-destruct used here as a smaller detonation that destroys only the ship itself and not capable of dooming an entire planet.

Through the entire book, no mention is made of the Visitors' reverberating voices, including a scene in which Dr. Morrow is able to fool Sabrina into thinking he is human when he picks her up at the Lantana airport....until page 173 when we suddenly get, "Stop them!" a strident reptilian voice rasped. Since the Visitors' voice reverberation has disappeared without comment on the weekly series, perhaps it could be explained that they have invented a device to make them sound human while in disguise. Which would be reasonable to think except why would they bother at this point? Humanity already knows they are lizards and the Visitors aren't trying to hide their conquering intentions at this point. Of course, you then also have to ask why the Visitors continue to disguise themselves as human-looking at all?

Page 178 says that a team of exobiologists is currently going through the wreckage of the Visitor research compound. Presumably Tyler would have called it in to the CIA and they sent a government-sponsored team to do this.

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