Pangaea, Chapter Three

Chapter Three

Ian puts the pill bottle back on the table and puts his right hand back on his forehead, trying to concentrate on the sounds of the cicadas outside. He still feels sick to his stomach, not helped at all by the defrosted lasagna he just ate, and the Advil he just swallowed probably won’t kick in for a while. And his left leg hurts again. That always seems to be a symptom of this kind of thing.

“Are you okay, Dad?” Anna asks, pushing aside her empty plate. “Do you need me to get any more medicine or anything?”

Ian sighs. “I’m fine, Anna. I promise. Just fine…” The words are empty, but he needs to say them— she’s never seen him panic like this before. He’s usually very calm under pressure, but there are exceptions.

Anna thinks for a second. “They didn’t have any carnivorous dinosaurs, I think. Just herbivores.”

“Except that rex at the end.”

“They must have shown all the species they have. It’s just Triceratops, Stegosaurus, a couple of ankylosaurs and an Iguanadon, I think. And a few hadrosaurs.”

“Did it say who made the animals? Did any names come up?”

Anna shakes her head. “They just showed a couple of scientists with test tubes and one watching a baby dinosaur hatch. Something about the miracle of cloning.”

“And you’re absolutely sure these are real dinosaurs. Not robotic ones, not puppets, not one of those damn, ah, chickenosaur things.”

“Nope. Real live dinosaurs.”

“Nothing about a company called InGen?”

Anna gets up. “I’ll grab my laptop. Universal definitely has a website.” She strides across the kitchen and up the stairs.

Ian lets his hand drop to the table and considers taking another Advil, or maybe even some, just a little, of the morphine in the first-aid kit in the upstairs closet. It’s a stressful enough situation, he doesn’t need any more pain or nausea or horrifying flashbacks on top of—no. He pushes the bottle away and avoids looking at it. He refuses to let himself go down that road again.

Anna comes back down, a small silver laptop bouncing in her arms, and sits primly down at the table next to her father, setting it down and opening it; he smiles and says, “Thanks, sweetheart.” The Universal Orlando website is already pulled up; under the huge logo, there’s a CGI rendering—no, probably a photo—of a woman in a lab coat, holding a duck-billed hadrosaur that appears to be a baby. Under the photo is a headline, reading, “LIVING DINOSAURS AT PANGAEA!” and beneath it, “Using cutting-edge technology, our scientists have done the impossible: brought legendary beasts back to life. Click to learn more.” Ian reaches over and clicks on the headline.

Another screen pops up, with photos of children playing with intrigued-looking herbivorous dinosaurs lining the top. The text reads,

“Here at Universal Orlando Resort, we are now offering the opportunity of a lifetime: to see, hear and even touch the beasts that ruled a bygone era. Using the latest technology in genetics and cloning, scientists from the InGen Corporation have teamed up with Universal Orlando to open up a one-of-a-kind experience from a land long ago. Here at our park, we are now home to a unique environment populated by dinosaurs—but not the kind that would cause any danger to ourselves and our guests. Using specialized genetic engineering, we have created herbivorous (plant-eating) dinosaurs; these gentle animals are more docile than their ancestors, and they are entirely friendly. So friendly, in fact, that we will soon allow guests to interact with them. Imagine petting a Triceratops. Think of seeing a Stegosaurus or playing with a Parasaurolophus. These dreams and more will soon come true in our all-new attraction, Pangaea—only at Universal Orlando.”

Malcolm stares at it for a minute, combing it for any extra information. There’s a ‘Buy Tickets’ button and a ‘Learn More About Dinosaurs’ link, but other than that, there doesn’t seem to be anything to be learned about the park. Except—he only notices it when he skims over the paragraph—two words. They jump out, and other words and memories associated with them leap to Ian’s mind. The intermingling smells of jungle mist and blood, the sound of pounding footsteps and screaming, the slapping of tall grass against his skin and a sickening amount of adrenaline. And a phone call, one he’s had to put effort into disregarding, and a certain name—

The shrill sound of a ringing phone blares from the kitchen counter. Ian gets up and makes his way over to it, slightly limping, and Anna sits and begins reading the website. He lifts the white cord phone and presses it to his ear. “Ian Malcolm. Hello?”

“Dr. Malcolm,” a smooth female voice says, and Ian freezes. “This is Emma Ludlow. Head of InGen Corporation. We’ve spoken before. Remember?”

“…Yes.”

“Wonderful. I don’t have much time to chat, so let’s get straight to the point. I assume you’ve seen the new Universal Orlando TV spot?”

“Unfortunately.”

“And what did you think?”

“I’m not a big fan.”

The woman, Emma, laughs a little. “I’m not surprised. But you have to admit, Doctor, you did say we’d never do it. And I did watch three baby maisauria hatch this morning.”

“Growing in a lab, hatching and isolating infants from the only species whose defining quality is caring for their own young,” he says. “What a wonderful job you’re doing of following what nature intended.”

“As a matter of fact, you couldn’t be more wrong,” Emma cuts in. “But I don’t have time for this. I know you’ll be opposed to this park, no matter how successful it is for how long. I won’t argue with you, because even when I gave you an opportunity that millions of other scientists would kill for, you were so attached to your own philosophies that you refused to see what was in front of you. But I’m not like you. I believe in second chances. So, while it’s too late for you to be a consultant to Pangaea, I’ll still allow you to endorse it.”

“Endorse it? Why the hell would I endorse this mistake?”

“Because your support would mean the most to the public. You were there for the… incidents on Isla Sorna and San Diego. You were the one who wrote those books about what happened on those islands. For the past few years, you’ve been in the public eye, and the whole time you’ve done nothing but decry what John Hammond did and prostelyze about how dangerous and terrible cloning is. Well, frankly, now we’ve proved you wrong. And you’ve seen a similar project—similar, but not identical—and how it worked. So if you of all people make a statement and tell the public that our park is nothing like Hammond’s and that it’s completely foolproof, everyone will believe you.”

Anna looks up and points to her mouth, looking questioningly at Ian; he shakes his head no, he doesn’t want her to loudly ask him for something so he can get out of a rambling phone call, although they’ve done that a few times before. “You’re exactly right. I’ve seen both of Hammond’s parks, and I’ve seen exactly what they were—what they were like and what was wrong with them. And I see exactly the same problems in your little dinosaur swamp.”

Emma sighs. “I could spend all day disproving you, but I won’t. Here’s the deal. We need an expert to come to Florida and spend a few days looking over the park. I’ve already told you why you’re InGen’s first choice. But you’re not essential; we could find someone else in an instant. We’d prefer you to come and look the place over. You could inspect the facilities as much as you wanted, you could spend as much time with the animals as necessary. Once you were done, we’d negotiate your pay and then begin publicity. You could even bring a guest so we could see how it fares with our target audience. Maybe one of those kids of yours.” Ian throws a sidelong glance at Anna; of course Emma knows he has kids, everyone does, there’s no reason he should be uneasy. “Transportation to Florida would be paid for, of course, and we’d throw in a trip to Islands of Adventure. What do you say?”

Malcolm hesitates. “I-”

“Listen,” Emma cuts in. “I’ve booked a flight to Orlando from Santa Fe Municipal tomorrow at seven P.M. Two first-class seats. I’ll have someone wait for you at the Orlando Airport when your plane lands. If you’re not there, I’ll find someone else to endorse it. But think about this, Doctor. A chance to have your name attached to the most innovative attraction in the world.”

“An attraction like that already exists. It’s been quarantined for six years. Didn’t you see it on the news?”

“Consider it. All expenses paid and no possibility of being harmed. Your tickets are already reserved.” She chuckles a little. “You could come and see life find a way.” There’s a click, and the line goes dead.

Malcolm hangs the phone up. “Everyone uses that line,” he says.

“Who was that?” Anna asks. Ian sighs, walks over and sits down next to her, limping more heavily and resenting the medicine for taking so long to kick in. “That,” he says, “was Emma Ludlow. You, uh, know who Peter Ludlow was?”

“He was eaten by that T-Rex and its baby,” she says matter-of-factly. “They broke his leg and then tore him apart. The guys on the boat found his bones after the San Diego Incident.”

Ian swallows and keeps his voice as steady as he can. “He was the head of the InGen Corporation, after John Hammond was. How did you hear about that?”

“I read Dr. Harding’s book. There wasn’t much detail about it in yours.”

“I thought I told you there was no need to know the gory details.”

“I wanted to learn about feeding behavior,” she says. “Who’s Emma Ludlow? His wife?”

“His daughter,” Ian tells her. “Apparently she took over the company after— well, she runs it now. I don’t know how she salvaged it after San Diego, but, ah, apparently she got InGen up and running again. A long time ago, five years, I guess, she called me on the phone and asked if I wanted to be a consultant on a project involving-involving dinosaur cloning. She said it held a lot of promise and that they were planning a theme park attraction, using what previous InGen scientists had discovered.”

Anna sits up straighter. “You knew about this?”

“It was still in the beginning stages then. I told her I wouldn’t be a part of it, and I gave her all kinds of valid reasons why-why the park would be a disaster, if it even made it to its opening. I said that judging by InGen’s track record, no one would go near the place, ah, even if it wasn’t like Hammond’s other parks, and the way she made it sound, it would be. They called a few times after, trying to convince me, but eventually they gave up. I assumed they’d either listened to me or run into enough roadblocks that the park wouldn’t happen.”

“I just don’t get it,” Anna says. “Everyone already knows about what happened the last time someone opened a dinosaur theme park. And there are already living dinosaurs, and no one wants to go near them. Why would anyone clone more of them?”

“I have no idea. To be honest, I, ah, thought at least someone would learn their lesson after the Incident, at least the head of the company responsible. But even I’m not right all the time.”

“And they’re making another park anyway.”

Ian sighs. “Yep.”

“Why did she call you, then? To rub it in your face?”

“Partially. She also wants me to come to Orlando and endorse the place.”

“Visit the park?” Anna grins widely. “That’s great! Are you doing it?”

“Doesn’t look like I have much of a choice,” Ian says grimly. “If I don’t go, they’ll get some paleontologist who’ll fawn over the dinosaurs for a day or two and, uh, and then tell them to open the park so everyone can see the magic of the Mesozoic. Or they’ll just hire someone from another biotech company to spit out some statistics and do commercials in a lab coat. And I’ve talked to Ellie Sattler and Alan Grant a couple of times since I got that phone call— and Sarah, too, ah, of course- and any of them would have mentioned it to me if they’d gotten a call too. No, I-I have to go. If my predictions are correct, and this park is the way I think it is, I need to go and do as much as I can to shut it down. Or at least do my part to control the chaos.”

“You can’t control chaos,” Anna reminds him. “Especially not if the system is made up of animals. If it’s a chaotic system, it’s unpredictable. You can’t control it. I think.”

Despite his heightening worry, Malcolm can’t help but smile. Anna never shows much interest in chaos theory, but she does absorb information well when he teaches her about it. “You’re right. But that’s not what I mean. I, ah, I made a lot of predictions after I heard about Pangaea. The idea sort of inspired me. Actually, that’s the last time I can remember doing original research that wasn’t, ah, about extinction. Well, I did some research and a few—well, a lot—of experiments, since the idea of the park got me interested.”

“Experiments on what?”

“It had to do with the interaction of natural systems and mechanical systems. I actually worked, uh, pretty hard on it. I found a strange attractor for the behavior, um, of a natural system confined within a mechanical system. I did hundreds- hundreds of experiments with computer models and found out how a balanced system would react, one with just herbivores, one with just carnivores… I could go on. After a while, I applied my theory to a system like Pangaea’s. It didn’t take long to find a conclusion: that park is a mistake. It’s bound to fail. On a smaller scale than Jurassic Park, perhaps, since what they’re doing isn’t, ah, isn’t entirely the same. But, like you said, they’ve created a chaotic system, and Pangaea can end in nothing but complete and utter chaos. And when everything goes to hell, as it inevitably will, at least one person should be there who knows what they’re doing.”

Anna nods slowly. “All right. When do we leave?”

“My plane leaves tomorrow at seven. I should only need the weekend, maybe another day or two to oversee it when they shut down the park. Who would you want to stay with? I think you’re old enough to sleep over at a friend’s house, who should I-”

“Wait,” she says. “Aren’t I coming with you?”

“You are not. There is absolutely no way I’m letting you go to that park. Where-where did you even get that idea?”

“You have custody this week. You’re supposed to watch me, not someone else. I can’t stay with Mom because she’ll be at her convention, and you can’t just dump me at home and take off. Not like you did when I was little.”

A pang of regret shoots through Ian, and he angrily slams the laptop shut. “Don’t bring that into this. I’ve explained it to you before. I had to go somewhere important and I couldn’t have taken you. And I-I didn’t plan on almost dying while I was there. That’s the end of it.”

Anna rolls her eyes. “Sure.”

“Don’t you roll your eyes at me. Besides, I’m looking out for your best interests, just like I’m supposed to. You’ll be a lot safer at a friend’s house. No danger of being eaten there.”

“I’ll be okay, Dad. I promise. I’ll stay with you the whole time and I won’t touch anything. Please? It’d be a good learning opportunity. You know I want to be a herpetologist, and it’d be great to see the dinosaurs and learn abo-”

He stands up, pushing his chair in. “I don’t care if it’d be worth your Ph. D. That place is a death trap. You-you are staying here, period.”

She gets to her feet, pushing her chair to the side. “I’m not a baby, Dad.”

“You’re right, you’re not. That wouldn’t make it any less terrible if you ended up as something’s lunch.”

“What are you so afraid of?” She steps closer to him, her eyes blazing. “It’s just a bunch of herbivores. It might not go wrong. You don’t know everything.”

“I know a lot more about this than most people,” he says firmly. “And I know enough about dinosaurs, and-and I care enough about you, that I don’t want you going anywhere near them. You’re staying home and that’s final.” He looks at his watch. “It’s eight forty-five. Go brush your teeth and get ready for bed. I’ll call your friend Marissa, she’ll want to have a sleepover.”

Anna storms past him. She turns her face away, and her voice quavers as she says, “I hate you.” She runs up the stairs and out of sight.

Ian watches her go. He has two other kids, another daughter and a son, both teenagers, so this sentiment has been expressed towards him before. He’s heard it enough times, even from Anna, that he’s usually not bothered by it. This time, though, he’s still hearing Emma’s voice, and unexpectedly, a few faces from the past flash into his mind’s eye. Old regret comes back as he watches her go, so familiar that it’s become emotionless, repeated words, so worn out that they’ve lost their meaning. Somehow, though, it’s a little fresher now, and he can’t help thinking, You should.

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