Chapter 14: The Return
Anne heard the sounds of the restless Styracosaurs before she had entered the first room. She hurried outside, looking toward the animals, which had begun to form together, looking to the far side of the river, where the trees slowly shook.
She waited by the door, frozen as she watched the trees, waiting for the predator that had made the herd uneasy, but as several minutes passed, nothing happened.
The herd began to settle down, resuming their grazing, leaving Anne in confusion.
Something bugged them…It can’t have been the rex…No way. I mean, I would have heard something, right? It would’ve tried to attack the herd. But no, it just fed on those dinosaurs back at the lagoon. She shook her head. Yeah, but how long ago was that? It’s been way over an hour…Maybe more…Jeez…
Still pondering whether she had just missed the rex, she crossed the open field, back toward the waterfall pool.
She waded across the river, the water rising short of her shoulders in the middle, before making it to the other side.
Nearby she could see the slop rising up toward the waterfall, appearing as if it went directly in, and she moved toward it.
“Better watch my step.”
As she made her way up the slope, it became rocky and wet; made slippery by the waterfall. Within a foot of the icy sheet of water, the slope quickly veered to the left and made a roundabout behind it.
As she passed into the recess, she glanced at the waterfall to her right, seeing it falling from a side-view, before she completely passed behind it.
The recess here was small, running the width of the waterfall and several feet high. Machinery lined the back wall, either rusted or shining with fresh water. She pushed her way through, making it somewhere in the middle.
The sound of the rushing water behind her was loud enough to block out much of the sound that came from a machine she banged her foot on.
Ignoring a slight tinge of pain, she found the door built into the wall, marked MAINT 04. It was steel, and there was no knob to be found.
Just like the file had said, a panel rested on the left side of the door with a nine-button keypad. Scratched into the metal above the buttons was the number 1023, the same number she had read. She wiped away a small amount of dust and mold off the buttons lightly, careful not to press anything.
She entered the four digits and for a moment the door didn’t budge. Before her heart could sink, her eyes opened wide as the door made an aged hissing noise, popping open.
She pulled it the rest of the way, staring down a flight of concrete stairs that she guessed had not seen light since the days the park had been operational. They curved away, and on the wall was a sign reading Maint Vehicle 04/22 Charger with an arrow pointing down.
A flashlight was lying on two metal extensions on the wall to her right, and she stepped through the entrance. She looked down the steps again, with another trace of hope fluttering through her mind. “Looks like it’s time to get back…”
She made her way toward the first stair, and realized that the arc of light that had been illuminating the first few yards of the passage was starting to wipe away. She spun around, starting back for the door to find something to prop it open with when the crack of light that was remaining disappeared, throwing her into complete darkness.
A circle of dim light appeared on the curved wall alongside the stairs. Anne ran a finger over the lens of the flashlight she had obtained from the wall, wiping off a fine layer of age. The light became slightly brighter, but still not vibrant enough.
“Oh well,” she said, happy enough that the flashlight had worked. She had needed to hit it several times with her palm to get it started, but nevertheless, she was happy.
The air shown in the light was ripe with dust, and she could smell a definite odor of compressed age in the damp, dirty stairwell. It bent downward as she descended, and she didn’t bother keeping track of where it was going from the entrance.
When the stairs did stop, she set foot in a small area that served as the entryway to a tunnel stretching off into the distance.
She returned the beam of light toward the electric cart resting in the area, pointing toward the tunnel. She made her way around it, sitting in the driver’s seat.
She shone the light next to the steering wheel, seeing a key inserted in the ignition. She tugged it, trying to pull it out, but it was permanent. The ignition was labeled on the right side with three labels, the first starting at the top of the circle; the second halfway to the bottom; and the third resting directly at the base.
Anne read them aloud from top to bottom: “’Off’; ‘Charge/Stationary’; ‘On.’”
The cart was turned off, and Anne used her free hand to turn it halfway. There was a quiet beep from somewhere inside the cart, and Anne did nothing.
She felt the cart began to faintly vibrate, and she guessed it was recharging. After several long moments, a small light indicator above the ignition began to glow red.
“Thank God someone didn’t leave it on…”
She gave it another couple of moments before adjusting herself in the cart, turning off the flashlight and setting it on the passenger’s seat. She turned the cart completely on, feeling it jolt to life.
As she started the electric cart down the tunnel, she was reminded of how reminiscent it was of driving a normal golf cart.
Built into the ceiling was an occasional air vent, but many of them were completely shut: only a few had been able to stay open and unclogged, but they still only permitted a small amount of light to enter.
Anne could sense the tunnel around her without the flashlight, and after a drive she felt had lasted over fifteen long minutes, the tunnel began to gently slope upward.
She could feel herself being forced to lean back, and in one quick moment, the cart had burst out of the tunnel into dazzling light. She came over the rise of the top, slowing the cart down near a building. On its opposite side, she could see the side of the Visitor’s Center.
The building she was near was attached to the Visitor’s Center, and large, steel, vertical-sliding doors indicated it must have been a garage. She restarted the cart, driving it alongside the metal track in the middle of the road around the Visitor’s Center.
She slowed it to a stop and turned it completely off, before getting out. She looked back down the road that bent off from view she had just come from, and then toward the bend she had taken hours earlier, leading back to the park entrance.
She could still feel a slight chill left over from her clothes, and the breeze that had been made going through the tunnel hadn’t helped.
She made her way up the stairs to the recessed double doors of the Visitor’s Center, pushing them open and entering the trashed ground-floor lobby.
She crossed through the ruins of bone, toward the stairs. She stopped, listening to the quiet before it was broken by a loud clacking.
Anne spun around, checking for a dinosaur, but heard a short series of laughter instead. Her face twisted in confusion, relief, and a slight twinge of anger as she turned toward the stairs.
A female just a few years younger than her with shoulder-length black hair was making her way down the stairs in a hurry. She was wearing green khaki pants and a black shirt underneath a light-brown, sleeveless open jacket. Anne had forgotten how beautiful her cousin was, and now that she had seen her directly for the first time in nearly ten months, Anne couldn’t help but smile.
“Anne,” Lisa said, giving her a hug. Anne returned it, before allowing her cousin off and keeping her at a distance to eye her. Lisa said, “Just like scaring each other when we were kids…”
Anne couldn’t return a smile. “Lisa…Lisa. This…This isn’t like when we were kids.”
Lisa gave a distant, “Oh,” which trailed off. She sounded as if she had been expecting it.
“Lisa,” Anne said, “why?”
Anne had been unable to keep the question she had been pondering since her uncle had told her the news. Lisa’s blue eyes stared into her’s as she spoke. “You made it interesting.”
Anne felt a sudden rise of anger. How is that an answer? How can you explain idiocy with such a statement?
But Anne couldn’t bring about such words. Her mind was still trying to figure out a way to snap back at Lisa; to make her give her an answer.
Lisa continued, without bothering to build any more on Anne’s question. “How did you get here? My God, it’s been months since we last saw each other! I’m guessing my father told you? I can’t believe he’d actually send you here! When we get back I’m—“
“Your father,” Anne cut her off, “wanted you safe. I went to Costa Rica and searched all over for you, but it turns out you left before the time you told your dad you would be leaving.”
“No Lisa. You didn’t bother telling your father who these people were you left with. You never told him anything about this. He was fearful for you! He didn’t want the same thing to happen to you that happened to me. Neither did I. When I found out you were already here, I couldn’t just sit around and wait for someone to organize something through the government to get you. For all I knew it could’ve been too late.”
Lisa was quiet as Anne continued. “The ironic thing is that I was the one who ended up being stranded here. I’ve had to go back through hell just to find you and get out of here.”
“I…I don’t know what to say Anne. I want to say everything is okay, but obviously you’re angry.”
“Of course I’m angry!”
“I can understand that Anne. I never imagined you’d end up dragged into this. I never imagined you’d have to relive all that, especially when you’ve been doing so well in getting it all out of your head.”
Anne lowered her head, listening to her cousin with subsiding anger. Lisa went on. “It is okay Anne. I’m so happy you were thinking of me; that you wanted me safe. I’m happy you made it out of danger again. Now that we’re together, we’re both safe.”
“What about these other people you came with? Who and where are they?”
“Um, right. There were eight of us…The boat that brought us here was loaded with two jeeps. There’s a dock on the east side of the island; a road branching off from the park road leads there and back. We docked there and split into two groups of four, each with a radio. There were equipment boxes in the back; I never really got see much of them, but David—“
“Your father told me about him.”
“—yeah, so David gave me a camera from one of them and gave me specifications to taking pictures, since I’m sort of a tag-along. We found our way here and then one of the groups took off around the island to get pictures of dinosaurs they located through population maps, or something.
“Like I said, there were eight of us. The four guys who’ve been out and around the island for awhile I never really got to talk to. They were sorta quiet and dedicated. I know they brought along guns for protection. I think David and the other two are outside somewhere, checking the perimeter or something. We got back a few hours ago from the north part of the island; I stayed behind in the jeep since I was told the animals they were going to get pictures of were very dangerous…Took them awhile to get back, too. Anyway, on our drive back, we ended up getting tailed by the rex, but we lost him at these plains, where he went after a herd of Triceratops. I managed to get a picture, but it’s pretty crappy…He was still back on the road, and we were pretty much farther down. Trees were blocking the view of the herd, so I’m just assuming that’s what he went after.”
Anne closed her eyes, remembering that she had seen some sort of flash of light back when she had been in the Triceratops field, several moments before the rex had come bursting out of the trees on the side of the road. Had I just missed her?
Lisa went on. “I think they’ve left once or twice since we got back, but otherwise I’ve been looking through the rooms upstairs. You should see the lab; it’s interesting to see how they did it all…”
“I’ve already seen it.”
“The control room, too?”
“One of the computers was on, searching through security images. That’s how I found you. I was going to try and follow the park road to get to you; in case you were already leaving, but, uh…I wandered off the beaten path so to speak.”
Lisa nodded. Anne asked, “Did your, uh, friends turn the power on?”
“Some of the things they were able to bring back on. Things that the system probably made stationary after so long; the power sleeping, in a way. Larger things they couldn’t bring back. Other things wore out by themselves over time. We were able to bring the lights back on in certain areas, obviously a few of the computers. There’s been other minor things.
“It’s sort of amazing how this place has been able to preserve itself energy-wise. Did you see the cryogenics chamber in the lab upstairs? They were able to unseal the door a little while ago, but the embryos in the freezing tanks are long useless. They said it looked like the freezing tanks had worn out probably soon after the park was abandoned, but they weren’t surprised.”
“They said they weren’t surprised?” Anne looked up to the second floor. “What, were they planning to check out the embryos in the first place?”
“I don’t know…I mean, imagine if they had been preserved Anne. They would be rich, and I’d probably get something from it too, but I’m sure they’re smarter than to sell them and have something like this happen again.”
“Yet they come here anyway to take pictures…”
“Well, smart is defined in each person’s own words.”
Anne gave an absentminded nod, before Lisa touched her shoulder. “Come on, let’s go upstairs.”
Anne had left several questions unasked, and as they entered the control room, she figured that they could wait. For now, she would just let Lisa be able to explain.
Lisa rolled another chair next to the computer Anne had sat down at earlier in the day. The Tracking Movement Map she had left open when she had left the control room was now off the screen, closed out in favor of more security images.
The camera shot that now filled the screen was focused on the side of the Visitor’s Center she had come out of the tunnel on. She could see the tunnel opening rising out of the ground in the left-hand section of the screen, with the one edge of the garage poking into view in the lower-left corner.
“This is how I found you,” Lisa said, tapping the screen. “When we got back, I found the Tracking map up on the screen. I thought that I, or someone else, had just left it open without closing it, but it was interesting, so I left it open. I’ve been pretty much looking through the various security images, until a few hours ago when something started to happen on the Tracking map at a lagoon up here—in the north interior of the island.
“See, the island has sensors set up all over the island, forming one large grid to keep track of all moving dinosaurs in the park. Occasionally, a blue one is picked up, which would be a vehicle or something.”
“That’s how I found you.”
Lisa nodded. “Each of these sensors has, or had, a functioning camera when the park was operational, but obviously time has gotten to them, and it’s a miracle that the sensors were able to come back online when we turned them back on. But, then again, many of them still didn’t work, leaving many sections of the island where a population of animals could be living unchecked, so whatever surviving sensors there are try to stretch beyond where the previously existing sensors used to be, but that’s still no sure-fire way to track all of them.
“Anyway, the grid sensors in the area around the lagoon seemed to all be in check, and I was witnessing some sort of frustrated stampede of herbivores. When I saw the red dot, I knew that some sort of predator—“
“—like the rex had to be hunting them. I tried to use the cameras to see what was going on, but all the ones giving full witness to it all were out. I almost skipped over seeing a blue dot appear right at the very edge of the lagoon, and it had come and gone so quickly I figured I was imagining it.”
“It was me. I was there when that was happening. The rex attacked a herd of these dinosaurs. I took a raft and was able to make my way downstream.”
Lisa nodded. “Well, I would’ve taken it more into thought if I had been paying attention, but I was more interested in seeing what was happening than an imaginary blue dot. By this computer, they set up no sensors in or around the river at all, and I don’t know why, so that’s why I never saw you.
“But a long, long while later, that blue dot appeared again, now somewhere where the river paused to go over the edge.”
“Yeah,” Anne said. “Had a relaxing slide over a roaring waterfall, then took a dip in a nice big pool.”
Lisa laughed. “So, there was a field around this pool, and that same blue dot appeared on it, making its way toward a small building, in which it disappeared for a good ten minutes or so. I sat and watched, still unable to bring anything up with the cameras. During that time a herd of herbivores outside was frightened by a predator on the far side of the river extending from the pool.”
“I missed the rex, luckily.”
Lisa gave her a glance as if to say she might be wrong, before continuing. “The red dot disappeared and soon after the blue dot reappeared, heading back toward the pool. Now I knew I wasn’t imagining it; but right when I thought it’d turn away from the river and toward somewhere where a working camera could view it, it disappeared near the waterfall.”
“There was a passage behind the waterfall. It led to a tunnel leading back here.”
“Yes, and it took me a while to find something to help with that. Since there are no sensors underground, I didn’t know what happened to the blue dot. I didn’t even know whether it had gone underground or tried to make its way back up river. But I found another map showing the underground, but it was just one of several standard, computerized maps of the island. Here I could see the tunnel, and I tried to access the security cameras mounted every fifty feet along it to try and find something or someone trying to come down the tunnel.
“Fortunately, I got lucky and was able to catch a blur in one of the cameras underneath some sort of open vent in the ceiling. The vent was barely open, but that little bit of light was able to show something definitely coming.
“I used the exterior security cameras of the Visitor’s Center to locate the exit of the tunnel, and eventually an electric cart popped out. You slowed down to have a look at the garage, which allowed me a view of you.
“That’s how I knew it was you that was also here on the island.”
“By the way, if you felt like exploring the area, the garage is on the side of the Visitor’s Center. There’re also visitor lodgings in back, with the pool and tennis courts, stuff like that. A raptor pen is also out back, next to a submerged storage and shelter building. Also, there’s a trail near the raptor pen that leads to the maintenance shed for the park.”
Why is she telling me this? Why would I want to “explore” the place? We should be leaving. Besides, what if there are–
Lisa looked up from the computer. “What about them?”
Anne was suddenly confused. She had never thought about the subject since she had gotten here. “Why aren’t there any raptors here? I haven’t seen any.”
“They’re all dead. There were a total of eight when the park was operational, but they brought in another female that slaughtered all but two of them.”
“So three survived?”
“No. When Alan Grant was escaping, he, Ellie Satler, and two kids encountered a total of three raptors inside this Visitor’s Center. One of the kids locked one in the kitchen freezer downstairs, and the rex finished off the last two in front of the survivors’ own eyes.”
“But any of those raptors could’ve been male. That could’ve been why that female you said that killed the others off left them alive. They could’ve gotten her pregnant.”
“Then what? She laid the eggs somewhere in the park, or even in the raptor pen? Anne, the chances of that having happened are…”
“They’re fair enough. I mean, she could’ve laid the eggs in the park, like you just brought up, and they hatched on their own…I’m sure nobody could get close enough to check the surviving raptors inside their pen, so for all they knew a pregnant female could’ve laid the eggs inside the raptor pen and they could’ve hatched. Then they could’ve carried the young out of the pen when they escaped.”
“Anne, now you’re just pushing it. On the off chance that more raptors were born inside the pen, they wouldn’t have been able to go too long without someone noticing.”
“Then let’s say they were born outside of the pen…”
“They would’ve had no parental care. They’d have grown too vicious trying to survive and probably killed each other off one-by-one for food.”
“Anne,” Lisa said. “Forget it. There’s no surviving Velociraptors on this island. There’s nothing to question and nothing to worry about.”