Pangaea, Chapter Six

Chapter 6

Anna was right; it might start to rain soon. In the air, she wondered aloud if the clouds were growing darker, and if it would start to rain by the time they landed. It didn’t, though, although the skies have been pale gray ever since they got off the plane, and the weather hasn’t improved the whole time they’ve been walking through Universal. Ian peers up at the sky, thinking that a little rain might be an improvement over this characteristic Florida heat. Santa Fe heat, or Texas heat, he and Anna can deal with. But here, when it’s hot, it’s humid, and a lot less bearable.

Getting to the park was easier than he expected it to be. A tall, silent man, holding a dry-erase board with IAN MALCOLM written on it, was waiting at the terminal, just like Emma had said. He took them to the airport parking lot, where a red van was waiting a short walk away, and drove them along a highway and then through the biggest tourist trap Malcolm had ever seen, complete with gigantic souvenir shops with huge murals on the sides and swarms of tourists holding plush Mickey Mouse dolls. Then they reached the entrance to Universal, parked in the garage, and the driver handed him two tickets and drove off without a word. It wasn’t nearly as hard to make their way through security, past all of the elaborate storefronts, to Islands of Adventure and through half of the park as it was to keep Anna moving forward through the whole trip. She kept asking him to stop for a moment, just a second, she knew they needed to get to Pangaea, she only needed a second. She didn’t seem to have much interest in shopping or going on rides, only looking, occasionally laughing for no other reason than being overwhelmed. He couldn’t say he didn’t understand; the kid lives in Santa Fe, and this is a whole new planet compared to the desert and Old Spanish architecture of her hometown. To tell the truth, he would have liked to stop and stare at the Hard Rock Café with the convertible lodged in the front, or the huge Grecian temple, or any other part of the glittering sea of consumerism. He kept walking along anyway; they’ll have time to gawk later.

Islands of Adventure is arranged in a circle around a lagoon, over which hovers the gigantic, green Incredible Hulk roller coaster. It’s separated into four distinct ‘islands’; they didn’t walk through Marvel Super Hero Island or Toon Lagoon, as they were informed by a guard that Pangaea is located at the back of the park, and Anna wanted to see Seuss Landing. They walked through the Technicolor area full of squealing children and alien-looking creatures, then through the heavily Greco-Roman land of the Lost Continent. Now, here they are, standing in front of a fence.

The fence is at least twenty feet tall, and painted tan, with a sign on the front; even so, they can see the top of a square white building over it. Anna stands back and looks up, squinting. “That sign. It says, ‘Pardon our Stardust’.”

“I think they mean blood.” Ian knocks on the fence a few times. “Hello? Is there any way to get in here? We’re supposed to—”

A blonde man in a khaki safari shirt and blue jeans comes running up to them. “Hi there! Sorry, we’ve built everything here except a door.” He laughs a little at his own joke. “You’re Ian Malcolm?”

“Yes. Emma Ludlow, ah, called me here?”

“Of course. She said to expect you.” He looks down. “Well, hello! Who might you be?”

“Anna Malcolm. Nice to meet you.” She smiles and offers her hand.

The man shakes her hand vigorously. “Nice to meet you too! Ms. Ludlow said your dad might bring a guest. Boy, are you in for a treat.” He stands up straight again. “I’ll take you through the workers’ entrance. Follow me.” He starts off along the sidewalk, and the two follow, Ian taking Anna’s hand.

They walk for a short distance, and then come to a break in the fence, where a nondescript door painted the same color as the rest of the fence waits. The man pulls a key out of his pocket, unlocks it and pushes it open, and the three of them walk through, into a small, empty courtyard. There are three structures, one on each side—a fast-food stand called Prehistoric Bites, an Information booth and some sort of gift shop—all of which are new-looking but abandoned. There are also two paths, one on either side of Prehistoric Bites, both of which are lined with thick foliage. “Everything’s ready for the opening,” their guide tells them. “We’re looking for people to staff these things right now.”

Malcolm nods, taking in the atmosphere; it’s immaculately clean, and seems to be built specifically to handle large crowds, as evidenced by the long queue areas in front of the information booth and Prehistoric Bites. There are banners hanging from poles, as well, which loudly proclaim, “Travel Back to the Mesozoic at PANGAEA!” Anna taps the man’s shoulder and points to a small structure, possibly three feet tall, in the center of the plaza, which Ian had assumed to be a trash can. “Is that a dinosaur’s leg bone?”

He smiles and tells her, “Sharp eyes. Yes, it’s a femur.”

Malcolm strides over to it; it’s not a trash can, but a display case, covered in Plexiglas, with a domed top covering an aged but well-preserved fossil. Behind him, she asks, “What species?”

Triceratops prorsus,” Ian says, looking at the small skeleton diagram on the information card. Anna and the man—worker or tour guide? Ian can’t decide—stand on either side of him, gazing at the bone.

“That’s from the Hell Creek Formation,” the tour guide tells them. “Triceratops is pretty common there.”

“Pretty well-preserved,” Anna says.

“Best we could get,” the man says proudly. “See that tooth mark on the lower right corner? Whoever this came from was probably attacked. That’s how paleontologists know how dinosaurs fought, you know. They look at injuries on fossils.” She shoots Malcolm an amused glance; she wanted to be an archaeologist like her mother a few years ago, so she’s quite familiar with this concept.

“This belongs in a museum.” Ian looks the man in the eye. “Do you know that there are paleopathologists that could actually, uh, advance knowledge with a specimen like this? Someone could have at least inspected it first.”

“I don’t think he’s the one who bought it, Dad,” Anna tells him.

“Doesn’t matter. It still shouldn’t be here.”

The man shrugs. “I’m just the-”

“Dr. Malcolm,” says a fourth, female voice with a noticeable British accent. All three of them look up to see a woman, probably in her late twenties, with blonde hair that falls to the base of her neck, wearing a neat black pantsuit. She walks over to them with an air of importance to be expected from her professional appearance. She smiles when she reaches them. “Glad you could make it. Welcome to Pangaea.” Ian silently takes her in; he’s seen her quite a few times, but only on television, doing press conferences on behalf of InGen. She never seemed the least bit apologetic, however, even when talking about how terribly sorry the company was for everything that had occurred, and she certainly doesn’t now.

“Good to meet you,” he says, and shakes her hand; obviously, both of them are trained professionals at working with those they don’t agree with, and no malicious undertone is apparent in either of their voices, at least not to the others present. “Looks like you’ve worked hard on the place. Disappointing that you’ll have to destroy it all so soon.”

Emma purses her lips and then smiles. “I’m glad for any positive opinion. Especially from such an… expert on dinosaurs.” The tiny note of condescension is barely audible, but not lost on Ian. Emma bends her knees so she’s at Anna’s height and leans on the balls of her feet so she doesn’t have to sit on the ground. “You must be our test audience.” She smiles warmly at Anna. “What’s your name?”

“Anna Malcolm,” she says, offering her hand. Emma looks surprised for a moment, and then shakes hands with her. She stands up, smoothing out her pants, and Anna asks, “You’re the head of InGen, right?”

Emma smiles again; the friendliness on her face is identical to a second ago, almost practiced. “Yes, that’s right.”

“Are you the head of this project?”

Emma glances at the tour guide, looking amused. “Yes. I’ve supervised it.”

“Every stage?”

“Yes.”

Anna considers this for a moment. “So you were in charge when they built the habitat? When they cloned the animals?”

Emma folds her arms across her chest. “Yes, I oversaw it all.” She turns to Ian. “She’s your daughter, that’s for sure.”

“I’m just asking,” Anna says, “because I’m curious about the way the park works. I just want to know how you made the dinosaurs, and how you built their environment, and everything.”

“Well, I would know best,” Emma tells her. She turns to the worker. “Go and get everything ready for the tour. I know it’s early, but I want everything ready.” He nods and briskly walks off. “Well, now,” she says to the two remaining. “I’m sure I don’t need to ask whether you want to see your rooms or go on the tour first.”

“Rooms?” Anna asks.

“We reserved a hotel room a few—a few blocks away,” Ian says.

“That won’t be necessary,” Emma says. “We’ve just finished our hotels. You two can be the first to stay in either building. There are a few rooms that have a lovely view of the Cretaceous lake, and I’ll have your bags taken there, but you can choose your rooms. Both hotels are fully outfitted, anyhow. Staffed and all.”

“Two hotels?”

“Pangaea is a park within a park,” says Emma. “It has its own restaurants and hotels, and getting in will require a separate ticket. Not very expensive, of course, but it’ll cost extra and it’ll be worth it. Who wouldn’t pay a bit extra to see real dinosaurs? And who wouldn’t want to stick around for a while to do it?”

“I can think of one person,” Malcolm says dryly.

“We’re not quite seeking to attract millions of you,” she says. “Ready to start the tour?” Anna nods eagerly. “All right. Follow me.”

“What about our luggage?” Malcolm asks.

“Right,” Emma says, pulls out her cell phone and makes a quick phone call. They wait for a few minutes, and then a man in a green polo shirt comes and takes their luggage. “Take it to the Cretaceous lobby,” Emma tells him; he nods and carries the two suitcases off. “Now then,” Emma says, clapping her hands. “Let’s begin.”

She strides across the courtyard and heads down the wider path on the left; the Malcolms match her pace, Anna trotting a little to keep up with the taller adults. The path is paved with dirt-brown cement that looks like it’s been imprinted with various fossils, and it’s closed in by ferns and tropical-looking trees, making it look more narrow than it actually is. Along the sides, thin metal poles with placards atop them are situated every few feet, engraved with pictures and names of herbivorous dinosaurs. “There are automatic and self-guided tours,” Emma says. “I’ll take you along the self-guided route, where you can spend as much time as you please. And of course there’s no tour for the interactive section. I’ll be taking you through the whole park. I’m sure you have a lot of questions.”

“Not as many as you’d think,” Ian says.

“I happen to have worked hard at what I’ve done,” Emma tells him, continuing to look forward. “It’s not very scholarly to assume you know everything about someone else’s creation when you haven’t even seen it.”

“It’s not very scholarly to make a carbon copy of someone else’s failed idea and, ah, flaunt it as your own.”

“Once again, you’re jumping to conclusions. I think you’ll have a very different opinion once you’ve bothered to look at what’s here.” They’ve reached the end of the pathway; all three of them stop, and Ian surveys the quadruple fork ahead. One path has a sign hanging from a tree that reads CRETACEOUS SECTION THIS WAY, the second path THIS WAY TO HOTELS, the third JURASSIC SECTION THIS WAY, and the fourth MEET OUR DINOSAURS. The third path is much shorter than the others; Ian can’t see where the first three lead, but the one on the far right seems to go towards a square white structure, the top of which seems to be made up of glass panels. Emma looks down at Anna. “Where would you like to go first?”

Anna looks around. “Can we meet the dinosaurs first?”

Emma smiles. “Excellent choice.” Ian and Anna follow her down the third path, and a rush of warm, almost muggy air hits their faces when she opens the door in front of them. They all step inside, and the door slams behind them. The sound rings through the forest around the building. No one hears it.

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