Pangaea, chapter 16

Chapter Sixteen

One Year Later

A skill that Ian’s acquired and mastered over the years is ignoring reporters. They’ve been on his lawn ever since he went on that first talk show, and though the amount fluctuates and their reason for coming changes, there’s never a shortage of reporters outside Ian Malcolm’s home. At first, he talked to them, then he actively avoided them, and finally, he accepted them as a part of his life. Maybe in a few years, when the dust has settled, when they’ve done the ten-years-since specials about San Diego and Isla Nublar on television, they’ll leave him alone. Until then, he just pretends they aren’t there, sips his coffee and stares at the horribly-animated stegosaurs on his TV.

One of the dinosaurs lets out a sound not unlike a humpback whale, and Ian snorts and swishes his mug to stir the coffee around. Over the buzz and chatter that comes with four camera crews on one small apartment-complex lawn, he hears a distinct knock on the door and rolls his eyes. “I said no press allowed inside,” he shouts.

“Ian?” comes an unmistakable voice on the other side of the door. He freezes; it can’t be. “I’m not a reporter. I’m Sarah. Can I come in?”

Slowly, he puts his cup down, gets up and, heart pounding, opens the door. Sarah Harding, her frizzy red hair in a ponytail, a couple more lines on her face since the last time he saw her, is standing on the doorstep, holding a tape recorder. She smiles pleasantly. “Hey!” She leans forward before he can say a thing and hugs him, laughing a little, and he laughs as well, in utter disbelief. “God, I haven’t seen you in years!” She pulls back and grabs something hanging around her neck. “Can I come in?”

“Yeah.” Still shocked, Ian wordlessly holds the door open for her; she steps in and starts looking around, and he shuts and locks the door. “What, um… what brings you here?”

“I missed your mess,” she says, motioning to the heaps of books, videotapes and papers around the main room. She laughs a little. “No, wait, I remember. It’s not a mess, it’s—”

“—organized chaos,” he finishes, smiling.

“As always,” she laughs. “Seriously, though, I’m here for… well, I hoped you’d be willing to give an interview.”

“I thought you said you weren’t a reporter.”

“I need a primary source for my new book—I’m doing it on tyrannosaur behavior. I was just going to discuss the behavior of the animals we saw on Sorna, but now that more rexes are around, I have another source. To verify my guesses, gain more information. You know what I’m talking about?”

“You want me to tell you about the way the rexes at Pangaea behaved?”

“That’s the goal.”

“Yeah, sure. Sit down.” He motions to the kitchen table. “Just a second, let me turn this off.” He grabs the remote and switches off the television; a scene of two angry stegosaurs about to fight each other goes black, and he takes a seat across from Sarah at the table.

“Dinosaur documentaries?” she says, looking across at the TV. “Since when do you watch those?”

“Since I’m taking a break from writing and nothing’s on.” He’s a little apprehensive—she’s his ex-girlfriend, after all, and those kinds of interactions are rarely ever pleasant—but she seems just fine, used to him just like she always was. At least things will be easier without tension.

“I mean, I thought they gave you panic attacks,” she says. “You couldn’t even look at pictures of dinosaurs the last time I saw you. What changed?”

He shrugs. “Been going to therapy for a few months.”

“Really.”

“I can’t let my past control me, I guess. Can’t let what happened hold me back forever.”

She smiles. “Good for you.”

“Yeah. I guess all of this—I guess it made me see that stuff happens whether I want it to or not, and stuff might be, y’know, scarring, but I can’t change the past and I can’t just hope the scars go away on their own. I’ve gotta help myself if I want to get better, I can’t get stuck in—in the past, in what happened, and then just make myself get used to all the pain. I’m just a lot freer, now that the islands—and Orlando now, too—don’t own me, ‘cause I won’t let them.” He stops himself; he’s already slipped into the trap of thinking she’s still his partner, someone who would be willing to listen to that, but she probably has no interest in his mental health. Embarrassed, he quickly adds, “I’m getting philosophical again. How have you been?”

“Let’s chat after the interview,” she suggests. She takes a tape recorder on a lanyard off of her neck, presses a button and sets it on the table.

“Well, what do you want to know?” he asks, leaning back and getting comfortable.

“Well, I know the story. I know the details of what happened.”

“You’ve been following the investigation? My testimonies?”

“Yes, but there are some things I couldn’t find out from interviews and newscasts. Let’s start with the carnivores. There were lots of different species, both Jurassic and Cretaceous, right?” He nods. “They were all contained every minute of the day?”

“Yep.”

“In a building near where visitors frequently went?”

“In a building next to what would have, uh, been a frequently-traversed area, yes. On a hill above the herbivore habitat,” Ian says.

“Hidden because no one would go near the park if they knew there were rexes there.”

“Would you go to a place full of, ah, predatory dinosaurs? Especially after the Incident?”

“Were Tyrannosaurus and Compsognathus the only carnivore species you encountered?”

“Yes. We only saw the compy for a minute, when it bit Anna. You heard about that? How it broke out of its cage because the rexes broke through the wall on their way out? Just another thing to add to the suit.”

“Actually, I looked into that. I’ve seen her toxicology report, it’s interesting stuff. She’s made a full recovery, I heard?”

Ian nods. “Still added her injury to the damages. Not as serious as two people dying, of course. But, ah, still, a little girl got hurt. Got hit with a neurotoxin from the bite, you know.”

“All right. So the ones you saw were the only ones that escaped?” she asks.

“Other than the euoplocephalus. The one that charged at us—you know, it thought we were in its territory— found the door and, ah, found its way into the tunnel and the building. But that wasn’t a carnivore.”

“You didn’t even see any other apex predators?”

“Nope,” Ian sighs. “But they found at least three other species of large carnivores, I think. The investigation is still going on—have you—have you thought of going to try to get a look at, uh, seeing their behavior firsthand?”

“Nah. All I get to see is the details they show on the news. The police found holes in the walls in front of both tyrannosaur cages. Is that how they got out?”

“With assistance. One from a euoplocephalus, and one from its—those two rexes were mates, right?”

“Yeah. Explains their cooperation, doesn’t it?”

“They did seem oddly coordinated.”

“I saw the security footage of them smashing the habitat wall.” She gets that glint in her eye, the one that she always gets when she’s excited about a new discovery. “I’ve been playing the clip over and over. This is even better than them pushing our trailer over the cliff. This is… I’m off track. How often were they taken to the habitats to hunt?”

“I have no idea. Watch one of Emma’s interviews. Pretty often, though, I’d guess. Those—those animals were quick breeders. It’d take a fair amount of herbivore buffets to keep that kind of population in check.”

“Were they limited to one kill per hunting session?”

“I don’t know. I assume so.”

“You said you saw the tunnel that was used to take carnivores to their sections?” He nods. “Cretaceous carnivores went to the Cretaceous area, same with Jurassic animals, right?”

“In the interest of authenticity,” he says, making air quotes around the last word.

“Well, if they matured that fast, of course their genes are messed with and it wouldn’t have been authentic. They couldn’t hope to create an environment that was exactly like the Mesozoic, like they must have been trying to, it’s just not possible. I’m just considering all the factors at play here. These animals were carefully controlled when they were being brought to the habitat?”

“With huge teams of people and all kinds of weapons. I know for a fact I saw, ah, tasers in the tunnel. Which solves the mystery of why they hated their handlers so much.”

“And Emma.”

“She definitely had a part in making those animals’ lives hell,” he agrees. “It’s funny. She really did want to study them and—and learn about them, but she wanted to do it the fast and profitable way, not the right way. If there even is, um, a right way, with living dinosaurs.”

“Do you know what they were fed, when they weren’t eating other dinosaurs?” she asks, and he describes the feeding system in the rex’s habitat. For nearly two hours, Sarah asks about the animals’ speed, how much they ate, how they killed—that’s not very pleasant to describe, but for once, Ian can talk about death by tyrannosaur without having a panic attack—and everything else about the rexes and the way they acted that she can think of. They keep talking when she’s done; Sarah tells him about her recent field work in Kenya and extensive research on tyrannosaurs. He talks about the research he’s doing to fine-tune his theory on natural and mechanical system interaction, how he’s supplementing it with the events at Pangaea—“Fantastic example of how nature breaks free no matter how much you try—try to contain it. It’s not hard to extrapolate what would’ve happened with the herbivores, even without carnivores around,” he says earnestly—and his possible lecture series about his theory once it’s published. He might, he says, even expand it into a book.

“So you’re still chasing predators and I’m still doing equations,” he says after nearly three hours of catching up. “Nothing’s really changed, has it?”

“Not really,” she sighs. “Married anyone interesting lately?”

“No,” he laughs. “Don’t even have a girlfriend. How about you?”

She shakes her head. “Hasn’t been high on my priority list. Tell the truth, I’m getting a bit old for this new-relationship stuff.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You’re beautiful.”

“I know,” she laughs. “I’m not talking about attracting someone. I just don’t feel like flirting and playing games and wondering all day if someone will call back. You know?”

“I know.”

“I just want to be comfortable,” she says, looking around. “And to tell the truth, I kind of miss… I just miss having one constant in my life. Having the same place and person to come back to every day. It might not have ended well, but I liked what we had.” She looks like she wants to say something else, but doesn’t.

“I did, too,” he says. There’s a pause; Sarah avoids his eyes. “I never asked,” he says casually. “How do you like Santa Fe?”

“It’s nice and quiet,” she says, looking at him again. “Seems like a good place to take a sabbatical.”

“Got one coming up?”

“Taking one soon,” she says. “This seems like as good a place as any, at least for a little while. And… well, you know. I did leave something pretty important in this apartment when I left. I think I’d like to get it back.” She smiles, leans across the table and hugs him again; he hugs her back, unable to control the grin on his face. Sarah opens her mouth to say something else, but she’s interrupted by a loud voice from outside the apartment.

“No,” says a young voice, loudly and firmly. “No interviews. I’m not answering any questions.”

Ian smacks his forehead. “I forgot she was coming today,” he groans. “I’m sorry, Sarah, you know how I am with remembering–”

“Is that Anna?” Sarah asks. “I haven’t seen that kid in ages. You think she wants to see me again?”

“Pretty sure she does,” he says, getting up. “She loved you. You guys used to, ah, read dinosaur books and stuff together, remember?”

“I remember. I guess you kept your visitation rights?”

“Had to fight for ‘em, but yeah. She actually wants to visit me more often now—isn’t that great? Funny what it took to make us start to get closer. Listen to her,” he says; she’s telling a reporter outside that she’s not available for comment. “Dodging reporters like a professional. Bet she—bet she learned it from both of us.” There’s an urgent knock on his door. “Hi, Anna,” he calls. “One second.” He turns back to look at Sarah. “By the way. Do you—would you want to go out to dinner or something tonight? I mean, if you’re available?”

She smiles. “I’d love that,” she says. “I’d really love that.”

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