Pangaea, Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven

The first thing Ian notices is that he’s struggling to breathe. He remembers how he took a trip to Ireland in college, and while he was there, his tour group visited a mountain range, which involved a walk through a particularly deep valley. It was hard to walk through that place without feeling like his lungs were going to burst, and after an hour or so, it took conscious effort to be able to inhale and exhale. High oxygen content, he thinks immediately; that’s true of both that valley and this building. They must pump it in through the ventilation shafts. His brain automatically panics for a second, but he adjusts his breathing rate and everything’s fine after a moment. Still, too much oxygen isn’t a pleasant feeling, and his thoughts go to oxygen toxicity. It’s humid in here, too, even more so than it is outdoors. He takes off his leather jacket and folds it over his arm.

Anna gets a funny look on her face. “Why’s it so hard to breathe?”

“The earth had a much higher oxygen content in the Mesozoic,” Emma explains. “The animals here have to breathe more air than we do. It’s what they’re adapted for. Don’t worry, no danger of oxygen poisoning, it’s a maintainable concentration for humans as well. Very carefully balanced. You might get a little giddy, but that’s it.”

“I get that—” Anna stops mid-sentence when she looks down; it seems they’re standing on some sort of carpeted walkway, suspended high above the floor. She slowly walks over to the railing, grabs the bars and leans forward, looking a little delirious. “Wait—wait a minute. Is that… is that…”

“Yes indeed,” Emma says, grinning.

Very slowly, Anna turns around, still holding onto the metal rail for support. She’s panting a little, probably from the oxygen—no, she’s laughing in complete disbelief. She doesn’t have any words for a moment and looks like she might tip over and fall on the floor, but then she manages to talk. “Dad,” she says, as if she doesn’t believe it herself. “Dad. There’s a triceratops on the floor down there.”

“Oh,” Ian says after a second; he can’t really think of anything else. “Oh. That’s great. That’s fantastic…” It’s not like seeing a dinosaur is a shock, and he knew what would be here. But there’s still a tiny bit of surprise there, buried somewhere under all of his confirmed worries and on-the-spot conclusions. Simultaneously, he realizes something terrible, feels vindicated and is just a little bit shocked. He makes his way over and stands next to his daughter, wordlessly staring at the ground below, and yes, there is a huge triceratops on the floor. This is a familiar sight and a familiar feeling, yet it’s somehow new in its own way. That’s the thing about seeing dinosaurs: they can scare the hell out of you and you can want nothing to do with them, but somewhere on the inside, you’ll always be a little kid staring up at a huge dinosaur skeleton in a museum, no matter what.

Malcolm takes a minute to quietly stare, and then turns around to see Emma still standing there, looking satisfied with herself. “That animal’s drugged,” he says.

“Excuse me?”

“That triceratops,” Ian says. “It’s not acting like a normal animal. It’s just lying on the ground. I’m sure it saw us, and it didn’t do anything. It’s either dying, or sick, or, uh, it’s drugged out of its mind.”

“Let’s go see it up close,” Emma says, turning to walk down a staircase. Anna breaks out of her reverie and bolts over, running down the wide flight of stairs, even getting ahead of Emma. Ian hasn’t been good with stairs in general since his leg injury and he knows it’ll take a while to get down the winding staircase, so he takes the opportunity to look around the building as he makes his way down. It’s tall and lit almost entirely by the sunlight streaming through the glass roof, giving the place the appearance of being open-air. The catwalk they were standing on is one of a network; the paths go in squares, allowing people to view the animal enclosures below from all different angles. The building, all in all, looks very neat, bigger and taller on the inside than it looks from the outside; it was probably built on the side of a hill or something. All in all, it has the air of a sort of futuristic indoor zoo. It rubs Ian entirely the wrong way.

The three of them reach the bottom of the staircase, where a glass door separates them and the animal. “Make sure your hands are clean,” Emma tells them, pointing to a row of hand sanitizer dispensers mounted on poles. All three of them quickly rub sanitizer all over their hands, and Emma pushes the door open.

Anna doesn’t hesitate for one second. She dashes through the doorway and over to the triceratops as fast as her legs can take her. Ian doesn’t anticipate this and tries to grab the back of her shirt when she starts to run, but he doesn’t get a hold and she’s across the room right away. “Anna!” he calls. “Get away from there!”

The girl doesn’t even try to touch the enormous, gray animal. She just stands two feet away from it, staring, seeming to analyze it. “Anna, don’t you touch that!” Ian says urgently, not wanting to yell and wake the animal.

“I’m not going to,” she says, quietly and soothingly, as if talking to an infant. The triceratops seems to hear her, but doesn’t seem to care much; its large brown eyes register her and then roll forward again. It’s an odd sight, an animal like that just lying there. In books and movies, triceratops are always fighting other dinosaurs or knocking down trees, and if they’re anything like the rhinos they resemble, it would look much more natural for them to at least appear aggressive. But this one just looks peaceful, lying on its side, its frill keeping its head up, its legs limp, its eyelids drooping. Its beak opens for a moment, and Anna takes a step back, but it doesn’t bellow or make any noise; it just yawns and then goes still again.

“Anna,” Malcolm says. “Right now.”

“She’ll be okay,” Emma says calmly, “if you let her alone.”

“She’ll be a shish kebab if I let her alone,” he whispers, his tone escalating. “Anna, what if that thing wakes up?”

She takes two steps back, so her father can hear her. “It’s okay, Dad,” she whispers. “She’s really sleepy. She doesn’t care if I’m in here.”

“You said it yourself,” Emma tells him. “It’s drugged. Full of morphine. There’s no danger. And anyway, look at its horns.” She points at the triceratops’ three facial horns, and he sees what’s different about them—they’re completely blunt. They just look like rounded white stumps. “Filed down, so it can’t use them as a weapon. Not that it’d want to, anyway. It’s very docile.”

“What?” he says, concentrating more on Anna than what Emma’s saying. The little girl kneels on the floor and scoots over to the triceratops, putting out her hand, and in the same soothing voice, quietly asks, “Can I pet you? That all right?” Slowly, the animal lifts its head to look at her. Anna giggles and touches its frill with the tips of her fingers. “Is this okay?” The triceratops grunts—Ian tenses and takes a step forward, oh God, what if it’s angry and we can’t get out—and then goes still again, closing its eyes. “Aww!” Anna says in her regular voice. “She likes it. You like being pet, don’t you?” she asks the animal in her high-pitched, babying tone. “Yeah. You’re such a sweet girl!”

“It likes you,” Emma says.

“I…” Ian puts a hand on his forehead. The overwhelming urge to yank Anna away from the triceratops is still there in full, but the animal is almost oblivious to his daughter. He silently watches as she strokes its frill and then the side of its face; the animal lies completely still, and he comes to the cautious conclusion that if it wanted to hurt her, it probably already would have, and if it wanted to now, it couldn’t get up too quickly or make any sudden movements, and she’d be able to get away before any damage was done. He addresses Emma, not taking his eyes off of Anna, ready to jump up at the slightest hint of the triceratops’ anger. “All right, uh, I guess now’s as good a time as ever.”

“Got a few questions?”

“Yeah,” he says. “First—first of all, ah, why is this animal drugged?”

“For all intents and purposes, it’s a petting-zoo animal,” Emma says. “It’s been around humans since birth, and it’s comfortable around people. It even responds well to strangers and young children. It probably wouldn’t hurt… ah…”

“Anna.”

“Wouldn’t hurt Anna, even if it weren’t drugged. But we wanted to take as many safety precautions as possible, and we couldn’t take even the slim chance of it acting hostile, so we relaxed it a little, just in case.”

“By shooting her full of morphine.”

Emma blinks. “Yes. How did you know?”

“I spent an entire six months under the stuff,” Ian tells her grimly. “I know the symptoms. You’re planning to just keep all the animals full of drugs for the rest of their lives? You do realize—”

“No,” says Emma. “This is just to ease them into a crowded environment. We’ll drug them in smaller and smaller doses as the park’s been open longer and longer, and after a few months, they’ll act like normal dinosaurs. Ones that cooperate with being stroked, of course.”

“Or, uh, you could do that with proper socialization. Or something crazy, like not putting Cretaceous animals in a petting zoo.”

“This isn’t a petting zoo,” Emma swiftly cuts in. “It’s an interactive experience and it’s an experiment. Varied human interaction will teach us a lot about these animals’ behavior.”

“Why, ah, do you even think this is necessary? Because soon, these animals will be domesticated and you won’t be able to learn much more about their behavior.”

“It brings in money,” Emma says simply. “It’s one thing to see a penguin at SeaWorld, and it’s quite another to be able to pet one. It’s attractive. Simple as that.”

Malcolm shakes his head. “And,” Emma continues, “the animals don’t mind. They even profit from it. Some of them quite enjoy being petted. They like being around humans.”

“What about the ones that don’t? You can’t just confine an animal like this for its entire life. It’s in the very nature of a living thing to push its boundaries as far as possible. That’s part of what I was going to tell you. My theory about—well, that’s not quite applicable here, but still. You can shoot these animals full of drugs and you can let as many kids poke them as you want, but you can’t expect them to enjoy it. Or stay around for too much of it.”

Emma looks him in the eyes. “These are my animals, Dr. Malcolm,” she says. “I created them, I engineered them, I trained them. I’m done with these animals, and now I can do whatever I like with them. I could make them into steaks if I wanted to. And nothing could stop me.”

Anna stops petting and gets up; the triceratops doesn’t seem to notice a difference. “What else is here?” she asks, face aglow.

Emma smiles and walks through the door. “Quite a lot,” she says. “Follow me.” Anna follows her through the door and up the stairs, her father reluctantly in tow. They get to the network of suspended walkways again, and Emma leads them to a different square section. Malcolm leans over the rail, trying to see what’s down there, but he doesn’t see anything; there are a few rocks on the floor, and a couple of toys—It’s like an animal shelter, he thinks disgustedly—but there’s no animal to be seen. “Go ahead down, Anna,” Emma says. “Your father and I want to talk.” Anna nods and starts walking down the staircase leading to the pen, and Ian notices the sharp contrast to her normal behavior when she’s asked to let adults talk on their own. He watches for a second, and then turns his attention back to Emma.

“Uh, ignoring for a moment everything wrong with this operation, why, um, did you do this? This entire thing. Why didn’t you open your own park? And how did you get InGen running again? An incident like San Diego tends to-”

“One at a time,” Emma says, holding up her hand. “First. Pangaea will be a park on its own soon enough. If my financial team’s calculations are correct, we’ll have enough money to break off from Universal within a year, if we get a big enough influx of visitors. I only chose to make it a part of this park because Universal was willing to provide the funding we needed if I did. Second. InGen was still running when I got it; it was unpopular, but still a business. We still had Hammond’s cloning technology, his stockpiled amber, everything. Since I was old enough and I’d already gotten my bachelor’s from business school, and my great-uncle, well, died soon after the incident, InGen went to me when my father—” She halts for a moment and swallows hard, and Ian almost takes a step back when she looks back up at him. She usually has an intense look, but this time, it’s different—he catches something that looks beyond annoyance, something that might even be hate. That impression is fleeting, though, and even though that look must have lasted only a millisecond, it leaves Ian more than a little unsettled. Emma’s face is back to normal just as quickly as it changed. “When my father died.”

She pauses for a moment, and then starts talking again. “I wanted to continue what John Hammond and my father did, but in a way that would work. In the way that experiments like this were supposed to be done. I’ve studied what they did and learned from their mistakes. The San Diego Incident was bad publicity, of course, and it was terrible. The product of what my great-uncle did wrong.”

“You mean, what your father did wrong,” Ian points out.

“No,” she snaps, startling Ian a little. Her voice returns to normal immediately. “The incident was regrettable. But we couldn’t allow it to stop the pursuit of knowledge. Really, all John Hammond wanted to do was learn. He wanted to study an ancient environment. It’s not much different than paleontology, really. I created Pangaea to study dinosaurs.”

“That’s funny. The only thing I’ve learned since I’ve gotten here is that Triceratops gets drugged-up the same way I do.”

“These aren’t for study,” Emma says, still looking at no particular point in the distance. “Not these dinosaurs. They were raised with constant human interaction. No, no. These dinosaurs don’t tell us much beyond their physiology. But we can learn from the natural environment that we have here.”

“What natural environment? This place looks like-”

“The natural environment you haven’t seen yet,” Emma cuts in. “We do have fully-functional Jurassic and Cretaceous ecosystems running here. You’ll see them shortly. Those are what we study.”

“Hmm. I doubt you could create two completely authentic ecosystems, especially not in, what, five years?”

“Six,” Emma says. “I began this project as soon as I inherited the corporation. InGen bought this land the day after Hammond’s funeral.”

“I’d call that disrespectful, but that’s probably what he would have wanted,” Malcolm sighs.

“InGen still had its old information. We knew about the necessary gene sequences of dinosaurs, and had some vague ideas about how they behave.” Emma smiles. “Your photo record and Dr. Harding’s book didn’t hurt, either. So we set to work on making animals that achieved full maturity as quickly as possible, which, luckily, previous InGen scientists had already done. We had a batch of reproducing animals within two years.”

“What about the environments?” Malcolm says. “There’s a theory put forth by a colleague of mine. It basically states that adaptations in plants toward the end of the Cretaceous caused changes in behavior in dinosaurs, leading to increased bifurcations that pushed them off the edge of chaos, which in turn caused their extinction. If you cloned plants from too late in the Cretaceous, then soon enough-”

“We took that into account,” Emma tells him. “We bred the animals in one place and set up their environment in another. After two years of trial and error, we had a functioning ecosystem of Cretaceous plants. And we had plenty of information about ancient plants to start with. The original Jurassic Park scientists did a lot of research on the subject. We made a late-Cretaceous environment with what we knew—not too late, of course, we’d heard of theories like the one you mentioned—and completed a similar process with Jurassic plants. Long story short, we integrated the animals into their environments, they bred eventually, as did their progeny, and today you’ll see the third generation of Pangaea dinosaurs.”

“But what about the different species? You can’t have thrown them together and expected them to work like a fine-tuned machine.”

“That’s exactly what we did,” she says, “and it worked out very well. We introduced the different species one at a time, and always in areas without many other species. There were a few incidents between animals as the ecosystem self-organized, but that was bound to happen. Sooner or later, in both environments, territories were established and habitat isolation went to work. There’s not a lot of symbiosis, but if it’s going to develop, it’ll develop soon.” A small, dreamy smile crosses her face. “This is where everything starts to change. We know the animals will stay in their habitats, and they’ve sufficiently adapted to their environments. Now we’ll really see what the Mesozoic was like. We can watch the dinosaurs raise their young and work together. We can see them form social groups. We can watch history unfold before our eyes, and we can share what I’ve created with the world.”

“Yeah, but have you ever thought that the past is the past for a reason? Trying to re-create it-”

“Re-creating it. We’re past the phase of trying. We’ve done what John Hammond set out to accomplish, without a shadow of a doubt. Now it’s time to sit back and watch what happens.”

Ian sighs. “Okay. Seeing as I’ve heard that speech twice already, and I’ve been in two places exactly like this, I could tell you everything wrong with what you just said. I could hand you a set of mathematical proofs to show you why this place needs to be bulldozed right away.” Emma just keeps smiling. “But I haven’t seen your, ah, authentic environments yet, so I can’t point to specific flaws in them. That’s for later. What- what I can tell you is the problem with running a facility like this one.”

“Inspire me,” Emma says, rubbing her eyes.

“It’s like any other zoo,” Ian says. “In zoos everywhere, animals are in open-air cages. I won’t digress into why animals aren’t yours to stick in cages, but, ah, that’s obviously not the rhetoric your ears are open to. I’ll tell you this, though—how often do people throw trash into lion habitats? How-how often do kids throw their candy wrappers at a zoo elephant to make it wake up? Every day. And zoo animals escape routinely. So what do you expect when you not only allow people to, ah, physically interact with an animal—not just bother it, not just yell at it, actually touch it— and not only that, but make the animal in question something that’s evolved over millions of years for the specific purpose of fighting off animals that bother it? Do you expect a triceratops to sit and purr while fifteen kids fight over who can pet it? When has that ever worked out?”

“I told you,” Emma says, annoyance finally seeping into her voice. “We have all kinds of precautions to prevent any mishaps. Drugs if they’re necessary, socialization, behavior modification. The animals in here even have slightly altered genes to make them calmer. And as I said earlier, I made these animals. I own their patent. They have no rights. If I want to let children pet them…”

Ian leans over the railing and stops hearing Emma’s voice when he sees Anna, kneeling on the floor below them. Gently, she’s reaching out to touch the snout of a small animal, which appears to be—

Ian’s standing behind a log; Nick and Eddie are on either side of him. Far away, but still visible, Sarah’s crouching down behind a bush, reaching out to pet the head of a baby stegosaur. It’s compliant for the moment, but Sarah won’t leave it alone, why won’t she leave it alone? She should know better than to get that close! She’s going to get hurt, she’s going to die, the stegosaurs are going to come after her! Ian tries as hard as he can to call her back, to get her to leave the baby alone, but he’s too late; the baby bellows, and the herd of enormous animals begin stampeding toward Sarah. Ian yells out and tries to run after her, even ready to get in front of the herd long enough for her to get away, but someone holds him back, and Sarah’s right in front of those gigantic, angry animals. She’s going to die, and there’s nothing he can do about it! Nothing—

He’s back in the building, at the bottom of the stairs, in front of a transparent glass door. On the other side of it, Anna and the baby stegosaur she was just petting are both looking at him, Anna with concern and the stegosaur with a blank, cow-like look. “Are you okay?” the girl asks.

Ian puts his hand on his forehead. “Yeah… um… what just…”

“Dr. Malcolm,” comes Emma’s voice from the walkway above. He looks up, his head swimming, and sees the disapproving look on her face. “What did you mean by that?”

He shakes his head. “I just… Anna, I saw you with the stego, and it reminded me of… something that happened.” Embarrassed, he notes where he is; he must have run down the stairs during his flashback. “It happens sometimes.”

“Please do try to keep it under control,” Emma says, a clear note of disapproval in her voice.

Ian turns to Anna. “Was I yelling or something?”

“You kept saying, ‘Sarah’,” she tells him, clearly worried. “Are you sure you’re all right?”

He sighs again. “I’m okay. If it’s all right, Anna, I think I’d like to see the rest of the park now.” She nods, gives the baby stego—I guess I thought it was a rock, maybe it’s time to start wearing glasses again—a final pat on the snout and exits the room. The two of them head up the stairs until they reach Emma’s spot on the catwalk.

“This way,” she says, turning around. “We’ll leave through the entrance. Anna, you can come back here later, if you like.” The three of them, not exchanging a word, head out the door.

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