Pangaea, Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Fifteen

“Isn’t this—” Anna sniffs, still breathing heavily, and wipes her nose on her sleeve, “Where are we? Are we in the habitat?”

Malcolm nods, his head starting to spin, the words no way out, no way out repeating in his brain. Maybe there would be a way for them to get out if they were in the ceratopsid area, near the entrance to the habitat, but they aren’t. He recognized these woods as soon as they entered them. They’re in iguanadon—and euoplocephalus, he remembers—territory. He starts to panic and looks around for any nearby animals. None are visible, and he can’t hold still long enough to see if any are close to them and camouflaged.

“I heard the T-rex behind us,” Anna says, starting to cry again. “It’s coming this way.”

“I know,” he says, trying hard to make his brain grasp at rationality, its usual comfort. “We’re, ah, we’re in the back of the park, right?” She nods. “Okay. Okay. If we can’t stop it from getting out of Pangaea, the cops should be somewhere in Islands. Maybe if they-” He stops. “Did you say… did you say the park is open?”

“Probably opening right now,” she sniffs, and then realizes the same thing her father did. “Oh no. There’s people in the park. There’s people in the park… what if it gets out?”

The doors fly open and a huge tyrannosaur head pokes through; Anna screams at the top of her lungs, and Ian grabs her and holds her close, hissing, “Don’t move, don’t move an inch.” The rex stomps through the doors, roaring, and men in uniforms swarm around its feet, shouting and waving around weapons.

Two of them hold up a huge metal pole with a ring on the end of it, trying in vain to get it around the rex’s neck, and one of the workers shouts, “Get me the team! I need the whole team in the Cretaceous!” into a walkie-talkie. Right on the heels of the first rex, a second dinosaur crashes through the doorway, causing the men around their feet to scatter. Both tyrannosaurs roar angrily and snap at the workers, trying to grab them in their jaws; the workers run in different directions, most of them heading for the doorway.

“No! Get back here!” Ian shouts, but they’re long gone. Two of the men stand in front of the rexes, waving their arms and obviously trying to stop the animals from advancing. One rex leans down, grabs one of them in its jaws and passes it to the other rex, which grabs the flailing body and chews it up. Ian winces and tries to block out the sickening crunch of bones, looking instead at the other workers, who are disappearing through the exit doors. Now he and Anna are alone, completely alone, and two of his worst nightmares are roaring triumphantly in front of him.

He tries to calculate whether it would be worth it to turn and make a run for their lives. “Anna,” he whispers quietly. “What do you want to do?”

“Can’t let ’em get to the park,” she says softly. “People are gonna die.”

The two dinosaurs look right at them, tilting their heads and sniffing. “Gotta keep ’em here, then,” Ian whispers, his voice trembling. “Stall ’em.”

“How do we do that?”

“I don’t know.” The two rexes start walking around, searching the area for something, sniffing and making low chirping noises at each other, seemingly having forgotten that there are still two humans around. “We can distract ’em. Run back into the tunnel so they chase us. Get them back in the building and-”

The doors open again, and a familiar figure slips into the jungle, something tiny that Ian doesn’t look at bouncing around her heels. Emma, oxygen mask on her face, still holding that briefcase, looks around for a moment, sees the rexes and then sees Ian and Anna. “Got you, bastard,” she says. She runs over to them and starts waving her arms.

“No!” Ian hisses.

“Over here!” Emma shouts. “Suppertime!” She grabs Ian’s arm and thrusts him forward. The two tyrannosaurs turn their heads sharply, and for just an instant, Ian can see their eyes. For a brief, fleeting second, recognition, almost human, flashes in their eyes and is quickly replaced by animal rage as they stomp forward, roaring in unison. Emma lets go of him and steps to the side, but instead of lunging for Malcolm, like she clearly expects them to, one rex leans down and lets out the most angry, primal, screaming roar that Ian’s ever heard at her, and snaps its gigantic jaws. Panic flashes on her face, and she turns and starts to run into the jungle, with the tyrannosaurs in hot pursuit, still angrily roaring.

“Dammit!” Ian yells. “Get back here, you moron! Get ’em back here!” Going against his every instinct, he runs after the disappearing tail of the second rex, Anna quickly following. “She’s going toward the entrance! Get back here!

It’s not hard to see where the rexes are going; they knock down trees as they stomp forward in pursuit of Emma. When they reach a thick part of the forest, several iguanadon, standing in a group, scatter and make obviously enraged noises at the group of intruders. It seems like it only takes an instant for them to get through the dense forest, and then they’re in front of a gently- flowing river. Malcolm sees Emma ahead of them, with her back to the river; she glances back, and a rex shoves her in with its snout. He hopes against hope that this is it, that they can lead the rexes back now—I don’t care if they eat her, just don’t get out, please, don’t get out—but a pair of hands grips the riverbank and, holding her briefcase tightly to her chest, Emma pulls herself out, soaking wet, and starts running again.

The tyrannosaurs roar in frustration, and one steps across the river with ease. Without thinking, Ian grabs the end of the other one’s tail, and Anna holds onto him tightly. The rex steps across the river and takes the two of them with it; Ian’s ankles hit the riverbank, and the two of them fall to the ground in a heap, knocking the breath out of his lungs. He pulls himself and Anna up, and he’s about to start running again when he sees the little creature on his daughter’s back. “What’s on me? Get it off!” she yells, and Ian whacks the animal—somehow, through all the panic and adrenaline, his brain identifies it as a compsognathus, a compy—as hard as he can. The compy chirps angrily and scrambles to regain its footing on Anna’s shirt, and a second before Ian slaps it again, knocking it to the ground, it sinks its teeth into her shoulder. She swears, grabbing where it bit her, and Ian grabs her hand and starts running again.

There must be at least a hundred hadrosaurs in the valley they’ve reached. Emma, panting and glancing at the ground to avoid tripping on nests, runs straight through, and the rexes go barreling after her. As soon as the hadrosaurs spot the tyrannosaurs, they honk in panic and flee, all at once, like flocks of birds, as far away as possible. As they run through the nearly-empty valley, baby hadrosaurs in their nests squealing in panic and scrambling to get out of their way, Ian feels something tugging his arm backward and sees Anna beginning to slow down. “Come on,” he says, pulling her forward. “Come on, honey, gotta keep going.”

She nods, her eyelids drooping slightly, and they run along; it doesn’t take long for them to reach another set of woods. Without even thinking, they follow the rexes in, running as fast as they can as branches slap their faces and sticks on the ground cut at their ankles. They quickly come across a cluster of ankylosaurs, gathered around a nesting area of some kind, and they swing their tails threateningly and bellow at the group; Emma veers around them, and so do the tyrannosaurs. As they crash back out into the open, Ian suddenly realizes the pain in his chest and his screaming muscles, and he wishes more than anything that he could stop for just a second. But he looks ahead, and as soon as he sees the far wall of the habitat, a walkway and train tracks leading from it, the panic that filled his entire body a minute ago renews itself, and he dashes forward again. Anna’s doing her best to keep up, but she looks exhausted, like it’s becoming increasingly difficult and painful for her to move. Ian pulls her along.

The group of ceratopsids in front of them get out of the rexes’ way, the ground rumbling as they run to the sides and form protective circles around their squealing young. The animals lower their heads, brandishing their razor-sharp horns, but the tyrannosaurs don’t notice them. Emma sees the swamp in front of her too late, and she runs through it, the two rexes pursuing; the thick sludge and two or so feet of water slow Ian down, but they seem to hinder Anna a lot more. He gives up and grabs her in her arms, grunting with difficulty as he carries her to the end of the swamp. A few more feet and they’re right in front of the titanic glass wall; Emma has her back to the glass, and the rexes are snarling at her, swishing their tails.

“Turn around!” Ian yells at her. “Run the other way! There’s another way-” She doesn’t even listen and turns to the glass, grabbing an iron girder and hoisting herself up. “Goddammit!” he shouts in frustration. One of the rexes snaps at Emma, but she dodges it, beginning to climb the wall by using the crosswise poles as handholds and footholds. “What does she think she’s doing? Anna, climb on my back.”

“You going up too?” she mumbles, turning around and grabbing her father’s back.

“Yeah,” he breathes. “Got a good hold?” She nods. He runs to a spot next to the distracted rexes—they’re still trying to grab Emma in their jaws, and miraculously, she’s somehow still avoiding them— thinks, Here goes nothing, and hoists himself up onto the wall, his muscles protesting as he starts to climb the girders. “Anna,” he pants as he forces himself to keep going despite the pain and the effort it takes to breathe. “Listen to me. Do you—do you hear me?”

“Yeah,” she says; her voice is muffled through her mask and because her face is resting on his back, her head lolling to the side. “I—I hear you…”

“I want- I want you to go get someone,” he says, pausing to pull himself up. He’s gotten about hallway up the wall and starts to climb almost on autopilot. “When I get up there, I’m—I’m gonna get you out of here, and—and I want you to run and get someone to help. Anyone. Okay?” There’s no response. “Anna, stay awake for me.”

“I’m trying, Dad,” she groans. “I’m trying.”

Emma’s already reached the top, holding a girder for dear life; through the glass in front of her, Ian can see the lobby of the building. The rexes keep snapping at her, ramming their heads into the glass, but she’s just above them and they can’t reach her. As Malcolm gets to the same level, a few feet to her left, one of the tyrannosaurs lets out a bloodcurdling roar dripping with rage and throws its entire, scaly green body against the wall. It steps back, shaking itself, and Ian hears the unmistakable sound of cracking glass. The second animal takes a few steps back and does the same, throwing its full weight against the girders. The metal structure shakes, and Ian and Emma scream in alarm and hold tighter to their bars. The rexes make some sort of warbling noise to one another, and both back up simultaneously. Ian grips the bar he’s holding as hard as he possibly can, and both of the giant animals’ bodies hit the wall, making a deafening slamming noise, causing the girders to shake violently and cracks to form in the glass in front of them. Once the metal bars are a bit more stationary, Ian reaches out and swings with all his might at the glass behind the girders, where a series of cracks has formed a jagged circle. He punches repeatedly, as hard as he can, blood starting to drip from his knuckles, until it gives way and a section of glass falls out.

“Can you get through?” he pants. Anna nods and grabs the girder, slowly pulling herself up so she’s hanging on the pole next to him. Her pain and exhaustion and the sheer effort that this takes is very clearly written on her face, but she somehow manages to grab the edge of the hole, get a good foothold and throw herself at the hole in the wall. Only her torso goes through, and she slips for a second—Malcolm yells in alarm—but she reaches up and, with great effort, pulls herself through the hole and into the lobby. She lies there for a moment, groaning, and then gets up and stumbles through the lobby, disappearing from sight.

The tyrannosaurs seem to be at the end of their ropes and are attempting to jump up and grab Emma. To hell with her, Ian thinks, and starts sliding over, closer and closer to the hole in the glass. He reaches it soon, and he’s taking a moment to figure out just how to get through the hole in the girders—he’s much bigger than Anna, so it’ll be harder for him—when he hears a screech next to him. The rexes are still slamming their upper bodies into the girders, and Emma’s slipped from her handhold. She screams at the top of her lungs as she free-falls, and Ian relaxes a little from relief, but she reaches out and grabs the next girder down, crying out with fear and pain as she pulls herself up again, the tyrannosaurs snapping at her heels with renewed energy.

Ian loses his focus on the possible escape in front of him and watches, seizing up with dread, at the two carnivores trying with all their might to pull Emma down. She pulls her legs up, her knees touching her chest, but that doesn’t deter them; she’s only holding herself up with one hand, the other still clutching her briefcase, and it doesn’t appear that she’ll last very long the way she is. She looks up and sees the same thing Ian does—his leg is hanging less than a foot from her arm. I could pull her up, Ian realizes, and the thought strikes her at the same time. She looks further up, and her eyes meet his, full of quiet desperation. “Please,” she says, her voice cracking.

He stares down at her, several debates going on in his mind at once, and then he remembers Eddie. He remembers Eddie, and Gennaro, and the tyrannosaur attacking Sarah and Kelly. And, despite everything that’s just happened, one thing is obvious—no one deserves to die like that. He looks down at Emma, who’s rapidly losing her grip and crying out with fear. “I’m not like you,” he says over the bellowing rexes, and she looks back up at him. “I believe in second chances.” He moves his foot closer to her hand, she grips it, and he pulls himself up as far as he can.

It takes a huge amount of effort, and his entire body screams in pain, threatening to give out, but Ian somehow manages to reach out and grab the bottom of the hole in the glass, balanced between it and the girder. Emma pulls herself further up his leg, her weight threatening to pull him down completely. “Drop—your damn— briefcase!” he gets out.

“I can’t!” comes the reply. Ian grits his teeth and, with all of his remaining strength, pulls himself forward, so that he and Emma are hanging on the edge of the hole in the glass. The rexes are still behind them, growling angrily and preparing to strike again, and Ian takes a second to gather his strength before he pulls himself up again. He reaches in, barely able to breathe, and grabs the carpet, forcing himself to crawl forward. The glass scrapes his stomach, and he’s acutely aware that all of the oxygen is gone from his body, everything hurts, his strength is entirely gone, and there’s no way, no way at all, that he can possibly make it through—

And then a gloved hand grabs his and, grunting, the person it’s attached to pulls him and Emma through the hole, and they just lie on the ground for a moment until someone pulls them to the side. A huge crowd of men in uniforms, some white and some blue, rush past him, all holding some kind of weapons in their hands. It’s a surreal sight, and Ian feels almost as if he’s in a dream as he hears crashing, roaring, and angry shouts in the dome behind him. He hears both the noises of a fight in the distance— a shout of, “Tranquilizer! Not guns, tranquilizer! Shoot ’em both!” drifts to his ears—and Emma’s sobbing, right on the floor behind him, at once.

One man, wearing a white uniform with ORLANDO ANIMAL CONTROL on the back, stays behind and runs over to him. Gently, he deposits Anna on the ground next to him and helps him sit up. “They’re here, Dad,” the little girl mumbles, her eyelids closed. “They got here, Dad. They got here… I found them… they found us…”

“Good job, sweetheart,” he whispers. She slumps over and rests her head on his sweat-soaked chest.

The man in the uniform grabs one of her limp arms, pulls a syringe out of a white box and injects something into her. “Sir. Sir, can you hear me?” Ian wordlessly nods. “I don’t know what happened to her—”

“Compy bite,” he mutters.

The man pauses. “Yes—well, I’ve never seen this before, and I don’t know if we have the antidote. Seems to be some sort of neurotoxin.”

“It is. Makes you tired.” How that information managed to come back, how his sluggish yet adrenaline-soaked brain pulled back that memory, is beyond him.

“We’ll treat her as soon as we can—”

“When you’re done with the rexes.”

“Of course. When we’re done with the rexes, we’ll treat her. Until then, I’m giving her a stimulant to keep her awake.” He looks over at the habitat area. “They’ve got the animals tranquilized. Shouldn’t take long.”

“She—she’ll be all right?” Ian asks; the unused adrenaline that fills his body is making him shaky and dizzy.

The man nods. “She will.” There’s a crashing sound behind them. “They downed one of them,” he says. “Everything will be fine. Just stay awake for me, sir.” He moves over to Emma. “Ma’am, are you hurt?”

The roaring on the ground below ceases to a gurgle and then goes silent. Ian listens to the sound and the ensuing commotion as he sits, strokes Anna’s hair and finally lets himself rest.

Author’s note: This isn’t the end! Stay tuned!

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