Thorne said, "I'm going to get that kid out of there."
"But how?" Levine said.
"The old-fashioned way, " Thorne said.
He climbed out of the car.
Sarah accelerated, racing the motorcycle up the mud banks of the river. The raptor was just ahead, cutting diagonally toward them, heading for the water.
"Go!" Kelly shouted. "Go!"
The raptor saw them and changed course, angling farther ahead. It was trying to get distance on them but they were moving faster on the open banks. They came abreast of the animal, flanking it, and then Sarah left the banks, heading back onto the grassy plain. The raptor moved right, deeper into the plain. Away from the river.
"You did it!" Kelly shouted.
Sarah maintained her speed, moving slowly closer to the raptor. It seemed to have given up on the river, and now had no plan. It was just running up the plain. And they were steadily, inexorably gaining. Kelly was excited. She tried to wipe the maid off her rifle, preparing to shoot again.
"Damn!" Sarah shouted.
Kelly leaned forward, stared past Sarah's shoulder. Directly ahead, she saw the herd of apatosaurs. They were only fifty yards from the first of the enormous animals, which bellowed and wheeled in sudden fear. Their bodies were green-gray in the moonlight.
The raptor streaked directly toward the herd.
"It thinks it's going to lose us!" Sarah gunned the bike, moving closer. "Get it now! Now!"
Kelly aimed and fired. The gun bucked. But the raptor kept going.
Up ahead, the apatosaurs were turning, their big legs stomping the ground. Their heavy tails whipped through the air. But they were too slow to move away. The raptor raced forward, heading directly beneath the big apatosaurs.
"What do we do?" Kelly shouted.
"No choice!"' Sarah yelled. She pulled parallel to the raptor just as they passed into shadow, racing beneath the first animal. Kelly glimpsed the curve of the belly, hanging three feet above her. The legs were as thick as tree trunks, stamping and turning.
The raptor ran on, darting among the moving legs. Sarah swerved, followed. Above them, the animals roared and turned, and roared again. They were beneath another belly, then out into moonlight, then in shadow again. Now they were in the middle of the herd. It was like being in a forest of moving trees.
Directly ahead, a big leg came down with a slam! that shook the ground. The bike bounced as Sarah swung left; they scraped against the animal's flesh. "Hang on!" she shouted, and swerved again, following the raptor. Above them, the apatosaurs were bellowing and moving. The raptor dodged and turned, and then broke clear, racing out the back of the herd.
"Shit!" Sarah said, spinning the bike around. A whiptail swung low, narrowly missing them, and then they too were free, chasing the raptor again.
The motorcycle raced across the grassy plain.
"Last chance!" Sarah shouted. "Do it"'
Kelly raised the rifle. Sarah was driving hard and fast, pulling very close to the running raptor. The animal turned to butt her, but she held her position, punched it hard in the head with her fist. "Now! "
Kelly shoved the barrel against the flesh of the neck, and squeezed the trigger. The gun snapped back hard, jolting her in the stomach.
The raptor ran on.
"No!" she shouted. "No!"
And then suddenly the raptor fell, tumbling end over end in the grass, and Sarah swung the bike away and pulled to a stop. The raptor was five yards away, flopping in the grass. It snarled and yelped. Then it was silent.
Sarah took the rifle, snapped open the cartridge pack. Kelly saw five more darts.
"I thought that was the last one," she said.
"I lied," Sarah said. "Wait here."
Kelly stayed by the bike while Sarah moved cautiously forward through the grass. Sarah fired one more shot, then stood waiting for a few moments. Then she bent down.
When she came back, she was holding the key in her hand.
In the nest, the raptors were still tearing at the carcass, off to one side. But the intensity of the behavior was diminishing: some of the animals were turning away, rubbing their jaws with their clawed hands, drifting slowly toward the center of the clearing.
Moving closer to the cage.
Thorne climbed into the back of the jeep, pushing aside the canvas cover. He checked the rifle in his hands.
Levine slid into the driver's seat. He started the engine. Thorne steadied himself in the back of the jeep, gripped the rear bar. He turned to Levine.
The Jeep raced forward across the clearing- By the carcass, the raptors looked up in surprise as they saw the intruder. By then the jeep was past the center of the clearing, driving past the enormous dead skeletons, the broad ribs high over their heads, and then Levine was swinging the car left, pulling alongside the aluminum cage. Thorne jumped out, and grabbed the cage in both hands. In the darkness he couldn't tell how badly Arby was hurt; the boy was turned face down. Levine climbed out of the car; Thorne yelled for him to get back in, as he lifted the cage high and swung it onto the back of the Jeep. Thorne jumped into the back, next to the cage, and Levine shoved the car in gear. Behind them, the raptors snarled and raced forward in pursuit, running among the skeletal ribs. They crossed the clearing with stunning speed.
As Levine stepped on the gas, the nearest raptor leapt high, landing up on the back of the car, and grabbing the canvas tarp in its teeth. The animal hissed and held on.
Levine accelerated, and the Jeep bounced out of the clearing.
In darkness, Malcolm sank back into morphine dreams, images floated in front of his eyes: fitness landscapes, the Multicolored computer images now employed to think about evolution. In this mathematical world of peaks and valleys, populations of organisms were seen to climb the fitness peaks, or slide down into the valleys of nonadaptation. Stu Kauffman and his coworkers had shown that advanced organisms had complex internal constraints which made them more likely to fall off the fitness optima, and descend into the valleys. Yet, at the same time complex creatures were themselves selected by evolution. Because complex creatures were able to adapt on their own. With tools, with learning, with cooperation.
But complex animals had obtained their adaptive flexibility at some cost-they had traded one dependency for another. It was no longer necessary to change their bodies to adapt, because now their adaptation was behavior, socially determined. That behavior required learning. In a sense, among higher animals adaptive fitness was no longer transmitted to the next generation by DNA at all. It was now carried by teaching. Chimpanzees taught their young to collect termites with a stick. Such actions implied at least the rudiments of a culture. a structured social life. But animals raised in isolation, without parents, without guidance, were not fully functional. Zoo animals frequently could not care for their offspring, because they had never seen it done. They would ignore their infants, or roll over and crush them, or simply become annoyed with them and kill them.
The velociraptors were among the most intelligent dinosaurs, and the most ferocious. Both traits demanded behavioral control. Millions of years ago, in the now-vanished Jurassic world, their behavior would have been socially determined, passed on from older to younger animals. Genes controlled the capacity to make such patterns, but not the patterns themselves. Adaptive behavior was a kind of morality; it was behavior that had evolved over many generations because it was found to succeed - behavior that allowed members of the species to cooperate, to live together, to hunt, to raise young.
But on this island, the velociraptors had been re-created in a genetics laboratory. Although their physical bodies were genetically determined, their behavior was not. These newly created raptors came into the world with no older animals to guide them, to show them proper raptor behavior. They were on their own, and that was just how they behaved - in a society without structure, without rules, without cooperation. They lived in an uncontrolled, every-creature-for-himself world where the meanest and the nastiest survived, and all the others died.
The Jeep picked up speed, bouncing hard. Thorne held on to the bars, to keep from being thrown out. Behind him, he saw the raptor swinging back and forth in the air, still clinging to the tarp. It wasn't letting go. Levine drove back onto the flat muddy banks of the river, and turned right, following the edge of the water. The raptor hung on tenaciously.
Directly ahead, lying in the mud, Levine saw another skeleton. Another skeleton? Why were all these skeletons here? But there was no time to think - he drove forward, passing beneath the row of ribs. Without lights, he leaned forward and squinted in the moonlight, looking for obstacles ahead.
In the back of the car, the raptor scrambled up, released the tarp, clamped its jaws on the cage, and began to pull it out of the back of the Jeep. Thorne lunged, grabbed the end of the cage nearest him. The cage twisted rolling Thorne onto his back. He found himself in a tug of war with the raptor - and the raptor was winning. Thorne locked his legs around the front passenger seat, trying to hold on. The raptor snarled; Thorne sensed the sheer fury of the animal, enraged that it might lose its prize.
"Here!" Levine shouted, holding a gun out to Thorne. Thorne was on his back, gripping the cage in both hands. He couldn't take the gun. Levine looked back, and saw the situation. He looked in the rearview mirror. Behind them, he saw the rest of the pack still in pursuit, snarling and growling. He could not slow down. Thorne could not let go of the cage. Still driving fast, Levine swung around in the passenger seat, and aimed the rifle backward. He tried to maneuver the gun, knowing what would happen if he accidentally shot Thorne, or Arby.
"Watch it!" Thorne was shouting. "Watch it!"
Levine managed to get the safety off, and swung the barrel straight at the raptor, which was still gripping the cage bars in its jaws. The animal looked up, and in a quick movement closed its jaws over the barrel. It tugged at the gun.
The raptor's eyes popped wide as the dart slammed into the back of its throat. It made a gurgling sound, then went into convulsions, toppling backward out of the Jeep - and yanking the gun from Levine's hands as it fell.
Thorne scrambled to his knees, and pulled the cage inside the car. He looked down inside it, but he couldn't tell about Arby. Looking back, he saw the other raptors were still pursuing, but they were now twenty yards back, and losing ground.
On the dashboard, the radio hissed. "Doc." Thorne recognized Sarah's voice.
"Where are you?"
"Following the river," Thorne said.
The storm clouds had now cleared, and it was a bright moonlit night. Behind him, the raptors still continued to chase the Jeep. But they were now failing steadily behind.
"I can't see your lights," Sarah said.
"Don't have any."
There was a pause. The radio crackled. Her voice was tense: "What about Arby."
"We have him," Thorne said.
"Thank God. How is he?"
"I don't know. Alive."
The landscape opened out. They came back into a broad valley, the grass silvery in the moonlight. Thorne looked around, trying to orient himself. Then he realized: they were back on the plain, but much farther to the south. They must still be on the same side of the river as the high hide. In that case, they ought to be able to make their way up onto the ridge road, somewhere to the left. That road would lead them back to the clearing, and the remaining trailer. And safety. He nudged Levine, pointed to the right. "Go there!"
Levine turned the car, Thorne clicked the radio. "Sarah."
"We're going back to the trailer on the ridge road."
"Okay," Sarah said. "We'll find you."
Sarah looked back at Kelly. "Where's the ridge road?"
"I think it's that one up there," Kelly said, pointing to the spine of the ridge, on the cliffs high above them.
"Okay," Sarah said. She gunned the bike forward.
The Jeep rumbled across the plain, deep in silvery grass. They were moving fast. The raptors were no longer visible behind them. "Looks like we lost them," Thorne said.
"Maybe," Levine said. When he had pulled out of the streambed, he had seen several animals dart off to the left. They would now be hidden in the grass. He wasn't sure they would give up so easily.
The Jeep was roaring toward the cliffs. Directly ahead he saw a curving switchback road, running up from the valley floor. That was the ridge road, he felt sure.
Now that the terrain was smoother, Thorne crawled back between the seats and crouched over the cage. He peered in through the bars at Arby, who was groaning softly.
Half the boy's face was slick with blood, and his shirt was soaked. But his eyes were open, and he seemed to be moving his arms and legs.
Thorne leaned close to the bars. "Hey, son," he said gently. "Can you hear me?"
Arby nodded, moaning.
"How you doing there?"
"Been better," Arby said.
The Jeep ground onto the dirt road, and headed upward along the switchbacks. Levine felt a sense of relief as they moved higher, away from the valley. He was finally on the ridge road, and he was going to be safe.
He looked up, toward the crest. And then he saw the dark shapes 'in the moonlight, already at the top of the road, hopping up and down.
Waiting for him.
He pulled to a stop. "What do we do now?"
"Move over," Thorne said grimly. "I'll take it from here."
At the Edge OF Chaos
Thorne came up onto the ridge, and turned left, accelerating. The road stretched ahead in the moonlight, a narrow strip running between a rock wall to his left, and a sheer cliff falling away on the right. Twenty feet above him, on the ridge, he saw the raptors, leaping and snorting as they ran parallel to the Jeep.
Levine saw them too.
"What are we going to do?" he said.
Thorne shook his head. "Look in the too] kit. Look in the glove compartment. Get anything you can find."
Levine bent over, fumbling in darkness. But Thorne knew they were in trouble. Their gun was gone. They were in a jeep with a cloth top, and the raptors were all around them. He guessed he was probably about half a mile from the clearing, and the trailer.
Half a mile to go.
Thorne slowed as he came into the next curve, moving the car away from the plunging drop of the cliff. Rounding the curve, he saw a raptor crouched in the middle of the road, facing them, its head lowered menacingly. Thorne accelerated toward it. The raptor leapt up in the air, legs raised high. It landed on the hood of the car, claws squealing as they raked metal. It smashed against the windshield, the glass streaking spiderwebs. With the animal's body lying against the windshield, Thorne couldn't see anything. On this dangerous road, he slammed on the brakes.
"Hey!" Levine shouted, tumbling forward.
The raptor on the hood slid off to the side. Now Thorne could see again, and he stamped on the gas. Levine fell back again as the car moved forward. But three raptors were charging the car from the side.
One jumped onto the running board and locked its jaws on the side mirror. The animal's glaring eye was close to Thorne's face. He swung the wheel left, scraping the car along the rocky face of the road. Ten yards ahead a boulder protruded. He glanced at the raptor, which continued to hold on tenaciously, right to the moment when the boulder smashed into the side mirror, tearing it away. The raptor was gone.
The road widened a little. Thorne had more room to maneuver now. He felt a heavy thump, and looked up to see the canvas top sagging above his head. Claws slashed down by his ear, ripping through the canvas.
He swung the car right, then left again. The claws pulled out, but the animal was still up there, its body still indenting the cloth. Beside him, Levine produced a big hunting knife, and thrust it upward through the Cloth. Immediately, another claw raked downward, slashing Levine's hand. He yelled in pain, dropping the knife. Thorne bent over, reaching down to the floor for it.
In the rearview mirror, he saw two more raptors in the road behind him, chasing the Jeep. They were gaining on him,
But the road was broader now, and he accelerated. The raptor on the roof peered over the top, looking in through the broken windshield. Thorne held the knife in his fist and jabbed it straight up with full force, again and again. It didn't seem to make any difference. As the road curved, he jerked the wheel right, then back, the whole jeep tilting, and the raptor on the roof lost its grip and rolled backward off the top. It tore most of the canvas roof away as it went. The animal bounced on the ground and hit the two pursuing raptors. The impact knocked all three over the side; they fell snarling down the cliff face.
"That does it!" Levine shouted.
But a moment later, another raptor jumped down from the cliff and ran forward, only a few feet from the Jeep.
And lightly, almost easily, the raptor leapt up into the back of the Jeep.
In, the passenger seat, Levine stared. The raptor was fully inside the Jeep, its head low, arms up, jaws wide, in an unmistakable posture. The raptor hissed at him.
Levine thought, It's all over.
He was shocked: his entire body broke out in sweat, be felt dizzy, and he realized in a single instant there was nothing he could do, that he was moments from death. The creature hissed again, snapping its jaws, crouching to lunge - and then suddenly white foam appeared at the corners of its mouth, and its eyes rolled back. Foam bubbled out of its jaws. It began to twitch, its body going into spasms. It fell over on its side in the back of the car.
Behind them he now saw Sarah on the motorcycle, and Kelly holding the rifle. Thorne slowed, and Sarah pulled alongside them. She handed the key to Levine.
"For the cage!" she shouted.
Levine took it numbly, almost dropped it. He was in shock. Moving slowly. Dumbly. I nearly died, he thought.
"Get her gun!" Thorne said.
Levine looked off to the left, where more raptors were still racing along, parallel to the car. He counted six, but there were probably more. He tried to count again, his mind working slowly -
"Get the damned gun!"
Levine took the gun from Kelly, feeling the cold metal of the barrel in his hands.
But now the car sputtered, the engine coughing, dying, then coughing again. Jerking forward.
"What's that?" he said, turning to Thorne.
"Trouble," Thorne said. "We're out of gas."
Thorne popped the car into neutral, and it rolled forward, losing speed.
Ahead was a slight rise, and beyond that, across a curve, he could see the road sloped down again. Sarah was on the motorcycle behind them, shaking her head.
Thorne realized his only hope was to make it over the rise. He said to Levine, "Unlock the cage. Get him out of there." Levine was suddenly moving quickly, almost panicky, but crawled back, and got the key in the lock. The cage creaked open. He helped Arby out.
Thorne watched the speedometer as the needle fell. They were going twenty-five miles an hour...then twenty...then fifteen. The raptors, running alongside, began to move closer, sensing the car was in trouble.
Fifteen miles an hour. Still falling.
"He's out," Levine said, from the back. He clanged the cage shut.
"Push the cage off," Thorne said. The cage rolled off the back, bouncing down the hill.
Ten miles an hour.
The car seemed to be creeping. And then they were over the rise, moving down the other side, gaining speed again. Twelve miles an hour. Fifteen. Twenty. He careened around the curves, trying not to touch the brakes.
Levine said, "We'll never make it to the trailer!" He was screaming at the top of his lungs, eyes wide with fear.
"I know." Thorne could see the trailer off to the left, but separated from them by a gentle rise in the road. They could not get there. But up ahead the road forked, sloping down to the right, toward the laboratory. And if he remembered correctly, that road was all downhill.
Thorne turned right, away from the trailer.
He saw the big roof of the laboratory, a flat expanse in the moonlight. He followed the road past the laboratory, down around the back, toward the worker village. He saw the manager's house to the right, and the convenience store, with the gas pumps in front. Was there a chance they might still have gasoline?
"Look!" Levine said, pointing behind them. "Look! Look!" Thorne glanced over his shoulder and saw that the raptors were dropping back, giving up the chase. In the vicinity of the laboratory, they seemed to hesitate.
"They're not following us any more!" Levine shouted.
"Yeah," Thorne said. "But where's Sarah?"
Behind them, Sarah's motorcycle was nowhere to be seen.
Sarah Harding twisted the handlebars, and the motorcycle shot forward over the low rise in the road ahead. She crested and came down again, heading toward the trailer. Behind her, four raptors snarled in pursuit. She accelerated, trying to get ahead of them, to gain precious yards. Because they were going to need it.
She leaned back, and shouted to Kelly, "Okay! This has to be fast!"
"What?" Kelly shouted.
"When we get to the trailer, you jump off and run in. Don't wait for me. Understand?"
Kelly nodded, tensely.
"Whatever happens, don't wait for me!"
Harding roared up to the trailer, braked hard. The bike skidded on the wet grass, banged into the metal siding. But Kelly was already leaping off, scrambling up toward the door, going into the trailer. Sarah had wanted to get the bike inside, but she saw the raptors were very close, too close. She pushed the bike toward them and in a single motion stepped up and threw herself through the trailer door, landing on her back on the floor, She twisted her body around and kicked the door shut with her legs, just as the first of the raptors slammed against it.
Inside the dark trailer, she held the door shut as the animals pounded it repeatedly. She felt for a lock on the door, but couldn't find one.
"Ian. Does this door lock?"
She heard Malcolm's voice, dreamy in the darkness. "Life is a crystal," he said.
"Ian. Try and pay attention."
Then Kelly was alongside her, hands moving up and down. The raptors thumped against the door. After a moment she said, "It's down here. By the floor." Harding heard a metallic click, and stepped away.
Kelly reached out, took her hand. The raptors were pounding and snarling outside. "It'll be okay," Harding said reassuringly.
She went over to Malcolm, still lying on the bed. The raptors snapped and lunged at the window near his head, their claws raking the glass. Malcolm watched them calmly. "Noisy bastards, aren't they?" By his side, the first-aid kit was open, a syringe on the cushion. He had probably injected himself again.
Through the windows, the animals stopped throwing themselves against the glass. She heard the sound of scraping metal, from over by the door, and then saw that the raptors were dragging the motorbike away from the trailer. They were hopping up and down on it in fairy. It wouldn't be long before they punctured the tires.
"Ian," she said. "We have to do this fast."
"I'm in no rush," he said calmly.
She said, "What kind of weapons have you got here?"
"Weapons...oh...I don't know..." He sighed. "What do you want weapons for?"
"You're talking so fast," he said. "You know, Sarah, you really ought to try to relax."
In the darkened trailer, Kell was frightened, but she was reassured at the no-nonsense way Sarah talked about weapons. And Kelly was beginning to see that Sarah didn't let anything stop her, she just went and did it. This whole attitude of not letting other people stop you, of believing that you could do what you wanted, was something she found herself imitating.
Kelly listened to Dr. Malcolm's voice and knew that he would be of no help. He was on drugs and he didn't care. And Sarah didn't know her way around the trailer, Kelly did; she had searched the trailer earlier, looking for food. And she seemed to remember...
In the darkness, she pulled open the drawers quickly. She squinted, trying to see. She was sure she remembered one drawer, low down had contained a pack marked with a skull and crossbones. That pack might have some kind of weapons, she thought.
She heard Sarah say, "Ian: try and think."
And she heard Dr. Malcolm say, "Oh, I have been, Sarah. I've had the most wonderful thoughts. You know, all those carcasses at the raptor site present a wonderful example of - "
"Not now, Ian."
Kelly went through the drawers, leaving them open so she would know which ones she had already checked. She moved down the trailer, and then her hand touched rough canvas. She leaned forward. Yes, this was it.
Kelly pulled out a square canvas pack that was surprisingly heavy. She said, "Sarah. Look."
Sarah Harding took the pack to the window, where moonlight shone in. She unzipped the pack and stared at the contents. The pack was divided into padded sections. She saw three square blocks made of some substance that felt rubbery. And there was a small silver cylinder, like a small oxygen bottle. "What is all this stuff?"
"We thought it was a good idea," Malcolm said. "But now I'm not sure it was. The thing is that -"
"What is it?" she said, interrupting. She had to keep him focused. His mind was drifting.
"Nonlethals," Malcolm said. "Alexander's ragtime band. We wanted to have - "
"What's this?" she said, holding up one of the blocks in front of his face.
"Area-dispersal smoke cube. What you do is - "
"Just smoke?" she said. "It just makes smoke?"
"Yes, but - "
"What's this?" she said, raising the silver cylinder. It had writing on it.
"Cholinesterase bomb. Releases gas, Produces short-term paralysis when it goes off. Or so they say."
"A few minutes, I think, but - "
"How does it work?" she said, turning it in her hand. There was a cap at the end, with a locking pin. She started to pull it off, to get a look at the mechanism.
"Don't!" he said. "That's how you do it. You pull the pin and throw. Goes off in three seconds."
"Okay," she said. Hastily, she packed up the medical kit, throwing the syringe inside, shutting the lid.
"What are you doing?" Malcolm said, alarmed.
"We're getting out of here," she said, as she moved to the door.
Malcolm sighed. "It's so nice to have a man around the house," he said.
The cylinder sailed high through the air, tumbling in the moonlight. The raptors were about five yards away, clustered around the bike. One of the animals looked up and saw the cylinder, which landed in the grass a few yards away.
Sarah stood by the door, waiting.
"Ian! It didn't work."
Curious, one raptor hopped over toward where the cylinder had landed in the grass. It ducked down, and when it raised its head, it held the cylinder glinting in its jaws.
She sighed. "It didn't work."
"Oh, never mind," Malcolm said calmly.
The raptor shook its head, biting into the cylinder.
"What do we do now?" Kelly said.
There was a loud explosion, and a cloud of dense white smoke blasted outward across the clearing. The raptors disappeared in the cloud.
Harding closed the door quickly. "Now what?" Kelly said.
With Malcolm leaning on her shoulder, they moved across the clearing in the night. The gas cloud had dissipated, several minutes before. The first raptor they found in the grass was lying on its side, eyes open, absolutely motionless. But it wasn't dead: Harding could see the steady pulse in the neck. The animal was merely paralyzed. She said to Malcolm, "How long will it last?"
"Have no idea," Malcolm said. "Much wind?"
"There's no wind, Ian."
"Then it should last a bit."
They moved forward. Now the raptors lay all around them. They stepped around the bodies, smelling the rotten odor of carnivores. One of the animals lay across the bike. She eased Malcolm down to the ground, where he sat, sighing. After a moment, he began to sing: "I wish in the land of cotton, old times there are not forgotten, look away..."
Harding tugged at the motorcycle handlebars, trying to pull the bike from beneath the raptor. The animal was too heavy. Kelly said, "Let me," and reached for the handlebars. Harding went forward. Without hesitating, she bent over and put her arms around the raptor's neck, and pulled the head upward. She felt a wave of revulsion. Hot scaly skin scraped her arms and cheek. She grunted as she leaned back, raising the animal.
"In Dixie land...duh-duh-duh-duh...to live and die in Dixie..."
She said to Kelly, "Got it?"
"Not yet," Kelly said, pulling on the handlebars.
Harding's face was inches from the velociraptor's head and laws. The head flopped back and forth as she adjusted her grip. Close to her face, the open eye stared at her, unseeing. Harding tugged, trying to lift the animal higher.
"Almost... " Kelly said.
Harding groaned, lifting.
The eye blinked.
Frightened, Harding dropped the animal. Kelly pulled the bike away. "Got it!"
"Away, away...away down south...in Dixie..."
Harding came around the raptor. Now the big leg twitched. The chest began to move.
"Let's go," she said. "Ian, behind me. Kelly, on the handlebars."
"Away...away...a-way down south..."
"Let's go," Harding said, climbing on the bike. She kept her eyes on the raptor. The head gave a convulsive jerk. The eye blinked again. It was definitely waking up. "Let's go, let's go. Let's go!"
Sarah drove the motorcycle down the hill toward the worker village. Looking past Kelly, Sarah saw the Jeep parked at the store, not far from the gas pumps. She braked to a stop, and they all climbed off in the moonlight. Kelly opened the door to the store, and helped Malcolm inside. Sarah rolled the motorcycle into the store, and closed the door.
"Doc?" she said.
"We're over here," Thorne said. "With Arby."
By the moonlight filtering in through the windows, she could see the store looked very much like an abandoned roadside convenience stand. There was a glass-walled refrigerator of soft drinks, the cans obscured by mold on the glass. A wire rack nearby held candy bars and Twinkies, the wrappers speckled green, crawling with larvae. In the adjacent magazine rack, the pages were curled, the headlines five years old.
To one side were rows of basic supplies: toothpaste, aspirin, suntan lotion, shampoo, combs and brushes. Alongside this were racks of clothing, tee shirts and shorts, socks, tennis rackets, bathing suits. And a few souvenirs: key chains, ashtrays, and drinking glasses.
In the center of the room was a little island with a computer cash register, a microwave, and a coffee maker. The microwave door hung wide; some animal had made a nest inside. The coffee maker was cracked, and laced with cobwebs.
"What a mess," Malcolm said.
"Looks fine to me," Sarah Harding said. The windows were all barred. The walls seemed solid enough. The canned goods would still be edible. She saw a sign that said "Restrooms," so maybe there was plumbing, too. They should be safe here, at least for a while.
She helped Malcolm to lie down on the floor. Then she went over to where Thorne and Levine were working on Arby. "I brought the first-aid kit," she said. "How is he?"
"Pretty bruised," Thorne said. "Some gashes. But nothing broken. Head looks bad."
"Everything hurts," Arby said. "Even my mouth."
"Somebody see if there's a light," she said. "Let me look, Arby. Okay, you're missing a couple of teeth, that's why. But that can be fixed. The cut on your head isn't so bad." She swabbed it clean with gauze, turned to Thorne. "How long until the helicopter comes?"
Thorne looked at his watch. "Two hours."
"And where does it land?"
"The pad is several miles from here."
Working on Arby, she nodded. "Okay. So we have two hours to get to the pad."
Kelly said, "How can we do that? The car's out of gas."
"Don't worry," Sarah said. "We'll figure something out. It's going to be fine."
"You always say that," Kelly said.
"Because it's always true," Sarah said. "Okay, Arby, I need you to help now. I'm going to sit you up, and get your shirt off...."
Thorne moved off to one side with Levine. Levine was wild-eyed, his body moving in a twitchy way. The drive in the Jeep seemed to have finished him off. "What is she talking about?" he said. "We're trapped here. Trapped!" There was hysteria in his voice. "We can't go anywhere. We can't do anything. I'm telling you, we're all going to d - "
"Keep it down," Thorne said, grabbing his arm, leaning close. "Don't upset the kids."
"What difference does it make?" Levine said. "They're going to find out sooner or - Ow! Take it easy."
Thorne was squeezing his arm hard. He leaned close to Levine. "You're too old to act like an asshole," he said quietly. "Now, pull yourself together, Richard. Are you listening to me, Richard?"
"Good. Now, Richard, I'm going to go outside, and see if the pumps work."
"They can't possibly work," Levine said. "Not after five years. I'm telling you, it's a waste of - "
"Richard," Thorne said. We have to check the pumps."
There was a pause. The two men looked at each other.
"You mean you're going outside?" Levine said.
Levine frowned. Another pause.
Crouched over Arby, Sarah said, "Where are the lights, guys?"
"Just a minute," Thorne said to her. He leaned close to Levine. "Okay?"
"Okay," Levine said, taking a breath.
Thorne went to the front door, opened it, and stepped out into darkness. Levine closed the door behind him. Thorne heard a click as the door locked.
He immediately turned, and rapped softly. Levine opened the door a few inches, peering out.
"For Christ's sake," Thorne whispered. "Don't lock it!"
"But I just thought - "
"Don't lock the damn door!"
"Okay, okay. I'm sorry."
"For Christ's sake," Thorne said.
He closed the door again, and turned to face the night.
Around him, the worker village was silent. He heard only the steady drone of cicadas in the darkness. It seemed almost too quiet, he thought. But perhaps it was just the contrast from the snarling raptors. Thorne stood with his back to the door for a long time, staring out at the clearing. He saw nothing.
Finally he walked over to the jeep, opened the side door, and fumbled in the dark for the radio. Ills hand touched it; it had slid under the passenger seat. He pulled it out and carried it back to the store, knocked on the door.
Levine opened it, said "It's not lock - "
"Here." Thorne handed him the radio, closed the door again.
Again, he paused, watching. Around him, the compound was silent. The moon was full. The air was still.
He moved forward and peered closely at the gas pumps. The handle of the nearest one was rusted, and draped with spiderwebs. He pulled the nozzle up, and flicked the latch. Nothing happened. He squeezed the nozzle handle. No liquid came out. He tapped the glass window on the pump that showed the number of gallons, and the glass fell out in his hand. Inside, a spider scurried across the metal numerals.
There was no gas.
They had to find gas, or they'd never get to the helicopter. He frowned at the pumps, thinking. They were simple, the kind of very reliable pumps you found at a remote construction site. And that made sense, because after all, this was an island.
This was an island. That meant everything came in by plane, or boat. Most times, probably by boat. Small boats, where supplies were offloaded by hand. Which meant...
He bent over, examining the base of the pump in the moonlight. just as he thought, there were no buried gas tanks. He saw a thick black PVC pipe running at an angle just tinder the ground. He could see the direction the pipe was going - around the side of the store.
Thorne followed it, moving cautiously in the moonlight. He paused for a moment to listen, then moved on.
He came around to the side and saw just what he expected to see: fifty-gallon metal drums, ranged along the side wall. There were three of them, connected by a series of black hoses, That made sense. All the gasoline on the island would have had to come here in drums.
He tapped the drums softly with a knuckle. They were hollow. He lifted one, hoping to hear the slosh of liquid at the bottom. They needed only a gallon or two -
The drums were empty.
But surely, he thought, there must be more than three drums. He did a quick calculation in his head. A lab this large would have had a half-dozen support vehicles, maybe more. Even if they were fuel-efficient, they'd burn thirty or forty gallons a week. To be safe, the company would have stored at least two months' supply, perhaps six months' supply.
That meant ten to thirty drums. And steel drums were heavy, so they probably stored them close by. Probably just a few yards...
He turned slowly, looking. The moonlight was bright, and he could see well.
Beyond the store, there was an open space, and then clumps of tall rhododendron bushes which bad overgrown the path leading to the tennis court. Above the bushes, the chain-link fence was laced with creeping vines. To the left was the first of the worker cottages. He could see only the dark roof. To the right of the court, nearer the store, there was thick foliage, although he saw a gap -
He moved forward, leaving the store behind. Approaching the dark gap in the bushes he saw a vertical line, and realized it was the edge of an open wooden door. There was a shed, back in the foliage. The other door was closed. As he came closer, he saw a rusted metal sign, with flaking red lettering. The letters were black in the moonlight.
He paused, listening. He heard the raptors snarling in the distance, but they seemed far away, back up on the hill. For some reason they still had not approached the village.
Thorne waited, heart pounding, staring forward at the dark entrance to the shed. At last he decided it wasn't going to get any easier. They needed gas. He moved forward.
The path to the shed was wet from the night's rain, but the shed was dry inside, His eyes adjusted. It was a small place, perhaps twelve by twelve. In the dim light he saw a dozen rusted drums, standing on end. Three or four more, on their sides. Thorne touched them all quickly, one after another. They were light: empty.
Every one, empty.
Feeling defeated, Thorne moved back toward the entrance to the shed. He paused for a moment, staring out at the moonlit night. And then, as he waited, he heard the unmistakable sound of breathing.
Inside the store, Levine moved from window to window, trying to follow Thorne's progress. His body was jumpy with tension. What was Thorne doing? He had gone so far from the store. It was very unwise. Levine kept glancing at the front door, wishing he could lock it. He felt so unsafe with the door unlocked.
Now Thorne had gone off into the bushes, disappearing entirely from view. And he had been gone a long time. At least a minute or two.
Levine stared out the window, and bit his lip. He heard the distant snarl of the raptors, and realized that they had remained up at the entrance to the laboratory. They hadn't followed the vehicles down, even now. Why not? he wondered. The question was welcome in his mind. Calming, almost soothing. A question to answer. Why had the raptors stayed up at the laboratory?
All kinds of explanations occurred to him. The raptors had an atavistic fear of the laboratory, the place of their birth. They remembered the cages and didn't want to be captured again. But he suspected the most likely explanation was also the simplest - that the area around the laboratory was some other animal's territory, it was scent-marked and demarcated and defended, and the raptors were reluctant to enter it. Even the tyrannosaur, he remembered now, had gone through the territory quickly, without stopping.
But whose territory?
Levine stared out the window impatiently, as he waited.
"What about the lights?" Sarah called, from across the room. "I need light here."
"In a minute" Levine said.
At the entrance to the shed, Thorne stood silently, listening.
He heard Soft, snorting exhalations, like a quiet horse. A large animal, waiting. The sound was coming from somewhere to his right. Thorne looked over, slowly.
He saw nothing at all. Moonlight shone brightly over the worker village. He saw the store, the gas pumps, the dark shape of the Jeep. Looking to his right, he saw an open space, and clijmps of rhododendron bushes. The tennis court beyond.
He stared, listening hard.
The soft snorting continued. Hardly louder than a faint breeze. But there was no breeze: the trees and bushes were not moving.
Or were they?
Thorne had the sense that something was wrong. Something right before his eyes, something that he could see but couldn't see. With the effort of staring, he began to think his eyes were playing tricks on him. He thought he detected a slight movement in the bushes to the Tight. The pattern of the leaves seemed to shift in the moonlight. Shift, and stabilize again. But he wasn't sure.
Thorne stared forward, straining. And as he looked he began to think that it wasn't the bushes that had caught his eye, but rather the chain-link fence. For most of its length, the fence was overgrown with an irregular tangle of vines, but in a few places the regular diamond pattern of links was visible. And there was something strange about that pattern. The fence seemed to be moving, rippling.
Thorne watched carefully. Maybe it is moving, he thought. Maybe there's an animal inside the fence, pushing against it, making it move. But that didn't seem quite right.
It was something else....
Suddenly, lights came on inside the store. They shone through the barred windows, casting a geometric pattern of dark shadows across the open clearing, and onto the bushes by the tennis court. And for a moment - just a rnoment - Thorne saw that the bushes beside the tennis court were oddly shaped, and that they were actually two dinosaurs, seven feet tall, standing side by side, staring right at him.
Their bodies seemed to be covered in a patchwork pattern of light and dark that made them blend in perfectly with leaves behind them, and ith the fence of the tennis court. Thorne was confused. Their concealment had been perfect - too perfect - until the lights from the store windows had shone out and caught them in the sudden bright glare.
Thorne watched, holding his breath. And then he realized that the leafy light-and-dark pattern went only partway up their bodies, to mid-thorax. Above that, the animals had a kind of diamond-shaped crisscross pattern that matched the fence.
And as Thorne stared, the complex patterns on their bodies faded, the animals turned a chalky white, and then a series of vertical striped shadows began to appear, which exactly matched the shadows cast by the windows.
And before his eyes, the two dinosaurs disappeared from view again. Squinting, with concentrated effort, he could just barely distinguish the outlines of their bodies. He would never have been able to see them at all, had he not already known they were there.
They were chameleons. But with a power of mimicry unlike any chameleon Thorne had ever seen.
Slowly, he backed away into the shed, moving deeper into darkness.
"My God!" Levine exclaimed, staring out the window.
"Sorry," Harding said "But I had to turn on the lights. That boy needs help. I can't do it in the dark."
Levine did not answer her. He was staring out the window, trying to comprehend what he had just seen. He now realized what he had glimpsed the day Diego was killed. That brief momentary sense that something was wrong. Levine now knew what it was. But it was quite beyond anything that was known among terrestrial animals and -
"What is it?" she said, standing alongside him at the window. "Is it Thorne?"
"Look," Levine said.
She stared out through the bars. "At the bushes? What7 What am I supposed to - "
Look," he said.
She watched for a moment longer, then shook her head. "I'm sorry."
"Start at the bottom of the bushes," Levine told her. "Then let your eyes move up very slowly....Just look...and you'll see the outline."
He heard her sigh. "I'm sorry."
"Then turn out the lights again," he said. "And you'll see," She turned the lights out, and for a moment Levine saw the two animals in sharp relief, their bodies pale white with vertical stripes in the moonlight. Almost immediately, the pattern started to fade.
Harding came back, pushed in alongside him, and this time she saw the animals instantly. Just as Levine knew she would.
"No shit," she said. "There are two of them?"
"Yes. Side by side."
"And...is the pattern fading?"
"Yes. It's fading." As they watched, the striped pattern on their skins was replaced by the leafy pattern of the rhododendrons behind them. Once again, the two dinosaurs blended into invisibility. But such complex patterning implied that their epidermal layers were arranged in a manner similar to the chromatophores of marine invertebrates. The subtlety of shading, the rapidity of the changes all suggested -
Harding frowned. "What are they?" she asked.
"Chameleons of unparalleled skill, obviously. Although I'm not sure one is entirely justified in referring to them as chameleons, since technically chameleons have only the ability - "
"What are they?" Sarah said impatiently.
"Actually, I'd say they're Carnotaurus sastrei. Type specimen's from Patagonia. Two meters in height, with distinctive heads - you notice the short, bulldog snouts, and the pair of large horns above the eyes? Almost like wings - "
"Yes, of course, they have the - "
"He went into that clump of bushes to the right, some time ago. I haven't seen him, but - "
"What do we do?" she said.
"Do?" Levine said. "I'm not sure I follow you."
"We have to do something," she said, speaking slowly, as if he were a child. "We have to help Thorne get back."
"I don't know how," Levine said. "Those animals must weigh five hundred pounds each. And there are two of them. I told him not to go out in the first place. But now..."
Harding frowned. Staring out, she said, "Go turn the lights back on."
"I'd prefer to - "
"Go turn the lights back on!"
Levine got up irritably. He had been relishing his remarkable discovery, a truly unanticipated feature of dinosaurs - although not, of course, entirely without precedent among related vertebrates - and now this little muscle-bound female was barking orders at him. Levine was offended. After all, she was riot much of a scientist. She was a naturalist. A field devoid of theory. One of those people who poked around in animal crap and imagined they were doing original research. A nice outdoor life, is all it amounted to. It wasn't science by any stretch -
"On!" Harding shouted, looking out the window.
He flicked the lights on, and started to head back to the window.
Hastily, he went back and turned them off.
He turned them on again.
She got up from the window, and crossed the room. ,They didn t like that," she said. "It bothered them."
"Well, there's probably a refractory period - "
"Yeah, I think so. Here. Open these." She scooped up a handful of flashlights from one of the shelves, handed them to him, then went and got batteries from an adjacent wire rack. "I hope these still work."
"What are you going to do?" Levine said.
"We," she said, grimly. "We."
Thorne stood in the darkness of the shed, staring outward through the open doors. Someone had been turning the lights on and off inside the store. Then, for a while they remained on. But now suddenly they went off again. The area in front of the shed was lit only by moonlight.
He heard movement, a soft rustling. He heard the breathing again. And then he saw the two dinosaurs, walking upright with stiff tails. Their skin patterns seemed to shift as they walked, and it was difficult to follow them, but they were moving toward the shed.
They arrived at the entrance, their bodies silhouetted against the moonlight beyond, their outlines finally clear. They looked like small tyrannosaurs, except they had protuberances above the eyes, and they had very small, stubby forelimbs. The carnivores ducked their squarish heads down, and looked into the shed cautiously. Snorting, sniffing. Their tails swinging slowly behind them.
They were really too big to come inside, and for a moment he hoped that they would not. Then the first of them lowered its head, growled, and stepped through the entrance.