Pangaea, Chapter Ten

Chapter 10

Say what you want about Emma, but she’s damn good at interior decorating, Ian thinks, glancing upwards at the domed ceiling of the restaurant. The main room is a rotunda with—what else—a dinosaur theme. Several trees that Ian knows are prehistoric but can’t name are growing in square stone pots in front of the columns between rooms; like the rest of the park, this place is clearly designed to accommodate plenty of people. The room next to them has a jungle-river theme, and this one seems to be inspired by ancient Greece; a stone frieze on the ceiling above them depicts a roaring triceratops in a swamp, with a flock of pterodactlys soaring overhead. The walls are some kind of pale orange stone and the lighting is dim, coming mostly from candles in wrought-iron holders on the walls and several warm-yellow spotlights directed at the ceiling. Overall, it feels like being in the ruins of a Greek temple, an impression helped by the faux vines creeping along the walls and by the utter emptiness of the place. Besides the waiter that took their orders and the kitchen staff that they haven’t seen, they’re the only ones in the huge building; both of them are starting to get used to being alone in huge places.

“I wish there were pterodactyls here,” Anna says, following his gaze. “I wonder why they don’t have them. You said they lived on Sorna, so they could have cloned them.”

“Flying animals aren’t, uh, easy to contain, I’m sure,” he says. “And the things are huge. Ever seen a Quetzelcoatlus skeleton?”

“Yeah, at that one museum at UT. I remember now.” She pauses. “Yeah, I guess I wouldn’t make one of those either.” They’re both silent for a moment; she starts tapping her fork on the table, bored, and then looks up, suddenly remembering something. “You know, sometimes hippopotami eat meat even though they’re herbivores.”

“What?”

“You said something about cannibalism,” she explains. “Whether herbivores eat each other. Well, sometimes herbivores eat meat. Deer eat steak sometimes, too.”

“What are you saying?” He pushes his menu aside. “Did you, ah, notice what I noticed?”

“About the bodies?”

“Yeah.”

“It doesn’t make sense,” she says earnestly. “An entire generation of animals is dead, plus more from the fighting that went on. And there are two really dangerous animals running around in the same area. So why didn’t we see any dead dinosaur bodies?”

“I had an argument all planned out,” Malcolm says, shaking his head, “but now I can kill two birds with one stone. This is at least enough evidence that they’re, ah, tampering with the environment much more than they say they are. The maintenance crews—they’re going—going in and taking out the bodies of dead animals. That’s the only possible explanation. They—they want to show their guests a pretty little park where nothing ever goes wrong, so they’re taking away the things that guests wouldn’t want to look at.” He slaps his hand down on the table triumphantly. “There we go. Not an authentic environment at all.”

“The older ones probably decomposed by now,” Anna begins. “I get that.”

“Yeah, but we’d see the skeletons lying around.”

“But you know what? Lots of deaths of herbivores in nature happen because carnivores killed them. Territory fights and old age—they don’t kill as much as, like, predators and stuff do. How do they keep the population under control the way carnivores would?”

“Who knows? Marines with snipers? They definitely interfere somehow. And, maybe worse, they, ah, take the bodies out afterward, instead of leaving them to rot, like they would in a real natural environment. Plants need compost. Maybe—maybe that’s why the plants don’t grow very fast. As fast as they should, uh, at least.”

“You never know, though,” she continues. “Maybe we weren’t looking in the right places.”

“What do you mean?”

“There’s a lot of thick forest in there. Maybe those territory fights happened where we couldn’t see them, in the middle of the woods, and that’s where the bodies are.”

Ian leans forward. “Doubtful, but still probable.”

“Or,” Anna continues, “the other animals in the herds drag the dead bodies somewhere we can’t see them, or even bury them. Lots of social animals mourn their dead. You know, pigs and elephants and stuff.”

“Those are huge animals,” Ian says. “Not a lot of room to bury them.”

“But the bodies could still be hidden somewhere,” Anna insists, growing more animated; she’s always loved to debate. “Maybe a bunch of dead, say, parasaurs could signal to the ankylosaurs that their rivals for territory are growing less and less, so the paras hide the bodies so they don’t give that away.”

“Or the ankylosaurs take any dead bodies near them,” Ian adds, “and take them to the woods to use as food for their babies. Their—their nest was right in the middle of the woods.”

“Yeah! And they’re strong. They could drag a body. Who knows?”

“Good point,” Malcolm says, looking into the distance and thinking. It probably isn’t very likely that every single dead animal was hidden away—or eaten—by the animals themselves. There was no evidence of any animals ever having died in the Cretaceous habitat, and it’s highly doubtful that all of the dead animals with several-ton corpses were so neatly disposed of by the animals themselves. But science, especially chaos theory, means having to consider even the most improbable possibilities. Still, though, Ian Malcolm, as always, has lots of doubts.

“I mean, I still wonder if…” Anna trails off. “Nah. Wouldn’t make sense. You know what I wish they had here? Sauropods. I want to see a Diplodocus.”

“Way too big,” Ian says. “Keeping a sauropod herd in that building would—would be like keeping a gorilla in your room.”

“Yeah, I know. But I still want to see them. Have you ever seen one?”

He nods. “I saw a Brachiosaurus once.”

“What was it like?”

“Loud and smelly.”

She giggles, and a tall, thin waiter appears and sets down two plates in front of them, one with a steak on it and one with spaghetti and meatballs. “You’re sure these are soy meatballs?” Anna asks the waiter, looking up.

She smiles politely. “Yes, I’m sure. Will that be all?” They both tell her yes, and she strides off.

“Vegetarianism might actually be beneficial here,” Malcolm says. He pokes at the steak in front of him with his fork. “In case this is what they do with the dead bodies,” he says, half-joking.

Anna sighs. “That wouldn’t surprise me at all,” she says, and begins eating.

-xxx-

“I feel like a three-year-old,” Anna says, falling down on the twin-size hotel bed.

“That comfortable, huh?” Ian says, not looking up from the desk where he’s looking over his paper. “Makes you feel nine years younger? I might have to try it out.”

“No, the bedding looks like mine did when I was little,” she answers. “Remember when I was three, and I was so into dinosaurs? My whole room was filled with dinosaur stuff. Dinosaur toys everywhere, dinosaur posters, and my bed had a dinosaur pillowcase.” He can hear her run her finger over the pillow. “Almost exactly like this, with little sauropod shapes all over it. Remember?”

He pauses; she must have forgotten that he wasn’t around when she was three— he was in the hospital in San Jose, recovering from the events on Nublar—and he doesn’t want to remind her, as it’s still an uncomfortable topic for both of them. The fact that they only saw each other regularly when she was very small—he had to stay in Costa Rica for half a year, and he and her mother divorced soon after—is something that they both like to pretend never happened; discussing it never does any good, it only brings them both pain. He turns the swivel chair to face her; the look on her face says what they’re both thinking. “I, um, forgot,” she says awkwardly. “Sorry.”

“You really do like sauropods, huh?” he says after a moment, trying to change the subject. This was, actually, a new piece of information to him.

“Yeah,” she replies. “I thought you knew that.”

“Just thought you liked dinosaurs in general.”

She shakes her head. “Kind of. But I love sauropods. They’re why I got into reptiles.” There’s a moment of silence; Malcolm tries to think of something to say, but no words come to mind. “Do you really have to shut this place down?” Anna asks quietly.

“I do,” he says, surprised by how regretful he is. “There’s no way it can end well. If—if things looked like they would work, I’d be giving you a different answer. But this place—it’s Jurassic Park, just, ah, with different mistakes. I’ve never been wrong about this kind of thing.”

Slowly, she nods—she knows what has to be done. “What’ll happen to the animals?” she asks. “We can’t…” She trails off, as if trying to find the right way to put it.

Ian sighs. “I know what you mean. We shouldn’t let them die. They didn’t do anything wrong. I think everything should, uh, be just fine as long as people don’t come in here. If Pangaea stays separate from Islands of Adventure and no one goes in, then, ah, it should sort itself out. We can get some veterinarians in to sterilize the animals, and after a few years, the animals will be,” he swallows, trying to word this delicately, “all gone, and they can just tear the place down and, ah, be done with it.”

“Or they could fly them all to Sorna,” Anna says hopefully. “They basically live in a wild environment now, I’m sure they’d be happy on an island. Wouldn’t be too different.”

He smiles. “Good idea. I don’t see why not. As long as they’re far from civilization, ah, they’ll be fine and so will we.” He stands up and pushes the desk chair in, barely even noticing the twinge of pain in his leg. “But first, I have to get Emma to listen to me.”

“I’m sure she will,” Anna says.

“I’m sure she won’t, and this— this might take a few tries,” Ian tells her. “We might have to stay here longer than I thought. She’s invested in this thing, I’ll tell you. But I can do it.” He holds up his paper. “I have experience, and I have this.”

“What is it?”

“Remember that theory I told you about? This is, ah, the paper I wrote on it. Never got it published, but I did get it peer-reviewed, had a few colleagues look it over. The—the mathematics are sound, and the experiments have a clear result. Should help show where I’m coming from, to say the least.” He gathers the small heap of prose, proofs, conclusions and printed phase-space diagrams into a neat stack. “Where’d that guy say she wanted to meet me again?”

“In her office,” Anna says. “First floor.”

“Okay,” Ian says, exhaling. He walks over and sits down on the bed. “I know you won’t stay in just this room even if I tell you to, so you can hang out in here or in your room, or run around the halls if you want. They didn’t charge us for the restaurant or—or for staying here, so you can use the mini-bar if there is one, just don’t go crazy.” He pulls out his wallet and hands her a five-dollar bill; she glances at it and slips it into her pocket. “I think I saw vending machines downstairs, so if you want, you can grab something with this. Now, let me know honestly. This place is five stories high, and all the rooms seem to be unlocked. There’s—there’s sugar on hand and a good view of the dinosaur habitats, at least from these windows. This should be enough to keep a way-too-energetic twelve-year-old occupied for at least a couple hours. Am I right? Let me know now if I’m not.”

She looks over at the window; the curtains are drawn, but if they were to be opened, one could see the Cretaceous hadrosaur area in the valley below. “Yeah, I’ll be fine.”

“Good. Cause some trouble.” Her hair is spread out on the pillowcase; he reaches out and fingers one of her black curls, not exactly like his own but similar enough to denote a genetic resemblance. “The staff must be, um, pretty freaked out by how empty this place is. Maybe you should put on a blue dress and just stand out in the middle of the hall.”

“How original,” she says, rolling her eyes. “How long will you be gone?”

“Two hours,” he guesses. “Maybe a little more.” He looks at his watch; it’s eight-fifteen P.M. “You can stay up a little late if you want, so I might be back in time to tuck you in. Like I said, this, ah, this might be a several-day process.”

She yawns. “Maybe. I’m kinda jet-lagging a little. Well, good luck.”

“Thanks,” he says, standing up. “That’s always good to have. See you in a little while, okay, sweetheart? Ask someone where her office is if you need me.”

“Okay,” she says. He leans over and lightly kisses her forehead; she smiles and turns over, possibly to go to sleep. Malcolm turns and leaves the room, shutting the thick wooden door behind him; he would have to worry about her a lot less if she would fall asleep and stay put, but he doubts that’ll happen. The one thing Anna never does is what he expects her to do. That’s the best part about kids—anything and everything can and does happen. At least she’ll be safe in here, he thinks as he heads down the neat, ambiently-lit hallway. Won’t she? Of course. It’s late and she’s tired, she won’t go wandering off for too long. He finds the elevator in a niche in the wall and presses the button for the ground level. It doesn’t take long to arrive, and the ride from the third floor to the first only takes a minute or so. The elevator drops him off in the lobby; when he asks the girl at the counter where Emma Ludlow is, she tells him to go to the end of the hall. He finds her office, a door that’s slightly more official-looking than the rest, Emma’s name engraved on a nameplate above it. He knocks three times.

“It’s me,” he says.

“Come in, Doctor,” an increasingly familiar voice answers from behind the door. He opens it, and quickly takes in her office; it’s roomy but not too distinctive, with a framed diploma on the wall, a neat bookshelf taking up an entire wall and a well-organized desk in the center. Emma’s sitting at the desk, a cup in her hand. “Take a seat,” she says, motioning to a brown leather armchair that’s facing her desk. “I’ve been waiting to talk with you.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s