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DinoLand, Serial Fiction

DinoLand | Chapter 9: An Interlude

Welcome to the latest chapter of DinoLand, by A.J. O’Connell and illustrated by Max Farinato.
For the previous chapter, click here. To begin reading at Chapter One, click here.

DinoLand, novel

Perdita Patrone, Vice President of Communications, DinoLand Enterprises, Inc.

The dinosaurs are a fairly recent addition to the park. Sometimes it’s still a shock to look out the windows of my condo and see the Herd grazing on the hill.

Before the dinosaurs, we were just a fairly successful amusement park. We had rides and water slides and roller coasters and a midway. We had a petting zoo filled with animals that had some relationship to dinosaurs. Birds mostly, and a crocodile that the kids, of course, could not pet.

Our major competitors were parks like Six Flags and to be honest, we couldn’t really compete with them.

I was really annoyed with Steve at the time, because he’d been moving away from what had made us so successful in the earlier years: dinosaurs. There were more rides and fewer fossils. He demolished our old museum. Our best attraction, the DinoWalk, was suddenly closed down and walled off, and Steve wouldn’t tell me why. He obtained more land from the town of Waterford through eminent domain and some more fences went up, but I wasn’t told anything, not even when the local press got on me about the seizure of the land.

I tried to tell Steve that I had to know what he was doing in order to defend it, but he was evasive.

“They’ll stop arguing once they see,” he said.

All I could see, myself, were sheds the size of airplane hangars and a lot of digging. I even tried snooping once, but security turned me around.

He was also expanding the theme park. He moved rides. He built a huge cafeteria, a gift shop and an Imax theater, and luxury condos on the grounds. I’d bought one before they were even built because it overlooked the old DinoWalk and my favorite old tree, but for six months after my move-in date, I had a fabulous view of construction, and I didn’t even know what was being built.

It was all very frustrating. Everything I loved about the job was falling apart, and so I decided to move on.

I spent one whole weekend in my apartment, typing up letters and email and sending out resumes. I took time off from work and went on interviews. Steve didn’t even notice; he was out in the construction site, doing whatever the hell he had been doing for a long time.

Then, one day he reappeared.

 

He strolled into my office one day, right after I received a particularly disappointing rejection from a museum on New York. I’d been in the top three candidates, but, they wrote, their public relations department wasn’t looking for someone with a “theme park background.”

It was a kick in the teeth, and I was considering taking the rest of the afternoon off, when Steve walked in without knocking. He filled up half the office by just standing there.

“Whoa,” he said, looking around at all the piles of papers and office supplies. “What a dump. We really need to do something about this place.”

Admittedly, it was a little cluttered. I didn’t have enough filing cabinets for all my junk. Nor did I have time to do my filing. Still, it wasn’t much worse than the rest of our offices, which were still squashed into that doublewide trailer, and after the email I’d just gotten, Steve’s comment stung.

I smacked my pen down on the desk. “You are absolutely correct. This,” I gestured to the office, “is a dump. Maybe since you’re so busy building things, you can go ahead and build us a new office. How about on the DinoWalk? It’s not like we’re using the land for anything else.”

As soon as it was out of my mouth I regretted it. In almost 10 years of working with Steve, I’d never talked back. He stopped in the middle of his thought and stared as if he had just noticed me for the first time. The office was suspiciously quiet. I was sure that the interns and our receptionist and Steve’s secretary were listening to us, in anticipation of hearing Steve – quite rightly – chew me out. He took a deep breath, and I tried not to flinch.

“Perdita,” he said, finally. “I know we haven’t talked in a while, but I think you might be forgetting something.”

I braced myself for the pink slip I just knew was coming.

“The DinoWalk is a special place and it’s being reserved for something special. So we can’t put the new office building there.” He grinned. “But I do have plans drawn up for a brand new building that we’re going to build on some of the new land. As always, we are on the same page, kiddo. You must be reading my mail.”

I relaxed into my chair, and decided that I may as well keep pushing my luck.

“That sounds great,” I said. “But this park cannot afford it.”

Steve’s grin widened. “Oh yes we can,” he said. “Perdita, come with me.”

 

When he brought me to the warehouse at the back of the park, the first thing I noticed was a mountain of amber, piled up against one of the walls. Some of it was polished to a high shine. Some, raw and unpolished, looked like petrified honeycomb. All of it glowed gently under the warehouse’s fluorescent lights like a mountain of hot coals. I must have gasped, because Steve turned around and laughed.

“Pretty, isn’t it?”

He picked up a chunk of the polished amber and pitched it at me. I flinched, catching it, and then held it up to the light. A bug was trapped in it, and a very small hole had been drilled into the center.

“It is beautiful.”

Steve snorted. “Great. Take as much as you want. Because it’s completely fucking worthless.” He kicked a chunk that had rolled away from the pile. “We drilled into all of them and got no DNA. Nothing. Crichton has no goddamned idea what he’s talking about.”

I pulled my gaze from the amber in my hand. “Wait, what?”

But he was halfway across the warehouse already. I ran after him, stuffing the amber in my pocket.

Steve led me through a series of rooms that had been built into the back end of the building. The first rooms had incubators with chickens in them, and the other rooms got progressively more baffling. I saw people I didn’t recognize working on computers, leaning over microscopes and Petri dishes. I worked at an amusement park. There was no reason for a facility like this to be anywhere on our property.

“Steve, what is this?” I asked him this as we passed the people with the microscopes. He didn’t answer. “Steve? I don’t believe we’re zoned for this.”

He walked me through the labs grinning like a child. Finally we reached one last closed door. He turned. “Perdy,” he said, “we’re going to be rich.”

I watched him use a card, a keypad and two keys to get through the door. Finally the latch clicked.

“After you,” he smiled, and swung it open for me.

I smiled back and took a breath. This reminded me of the times he used to bring me to Chamber of Commerce meetings, when I was an intern. Just us, Steve and his favorite employee; his protégé.

Then I stepped across the threshold into an unremarkable room and stopped short. It was like walking into an oven, hot and dry.

“Wow.” I started to shrug out of my cardigan. “Why is it so-“

“Hey. You can’t be in here!” Some guy I’d never seen before rushed at me. “You can’t be here,” he repeated. “I’m calling security.”

“Doug, Doug.” Steve entered the room behind me, holding out his hands placatingly. “Calm down. I want you to meet Perdita Patrone. She’s DinoLand’s head of communications. She’s been working here since you were what, Perdy? 16?”

I smiled up at him. “Fifteen, sir. You hired me a few months early and looked the other way.”

Steve laughed and gave my arm a pat. “That’s right, I did, didn’t I?”

The new guy eyed me, and crossed his arms. Except for the sour look on his face, he was attractive. He was young, maybe close to my age, wearing shorts, a tee shirt and a lab coat, and had that permanent tan people get when they’re outdoors a lot. His eyes were a piercing ice blue. He ran one hand through his sun-bleached hair and directed his scowl at Steve.

“This is a bad idea,” he said.

Steve ignored the comment and ushered me closer to the new guy. I touched my hair uncomfortably. I’d dressed for our freezing office trailer, and now I was sweating into my cardigan. My makeup had probably run off my face. My hair was in a messy knot. Was there a pen stuck in it? Sometimes I did that.

“Perdita,” Steve said, “this is Doug Dalena. He’s been working with us for a few months now. He will be taking care of the animals.”

I looked from one to the other. There were no animals in this room. Just cases, lining the walls and a table in the center of the room. “Animals? You don’t mean the petting zoo, do you?”

Doug looked coldly at me, and Steve let out one of the deep, fruity laughs I’d been missing so much lately.

“No, no. Let me show you.”

DinoLand

“They’re eggs, Perdita… We’re going to have dinosaurs here. Right in the park. Just like you’ve always wanted.”

“You really shouldn’t,” said Doug, but Steve pulled me over to one of the cases and lifted the lid. Inside, under red lights, was a collection of oblong shapes. They looked like big, blotchy footballs.

“They’re eggs, Perdita,” whispered Steve. “You’re looking at allosaurus eggs. We’re going to have dinosaurs here. Right in the park. Just like you’ve always wanted. Remember?”

Remember? I’d never forgotten how I’d snuck in early as a little girl, hoping to see dinosaurs. I’d never forgotten my time as a guide on the DinoWalk, exhorting my groups of children to imagine there were really dinosaurs in the field with them.

“That’s not possible,” I breathed, staring at the eggs.

Steve grabbed my arm. I hadn’t realized it, but my knees had gone weak. I had forgotten to breathe. The heat of the room made my head spin a little and I sagged against Steve.

“It is possible,” he said. “I figured out how to make them, how to grow them right here.”

I blinked up at him. “How?”

He closed the lid on the incubator and wagged his head. “That’s my secret.”

Steve grinned at me. “Kiddo, you don’t look so good and I’ve got to get to work. Doug, would you walk Perdita out of here? Get her a glass of water or something. Perdy, you’ll be hearing from me soon.”

Doug gestured for me to follow him, and soon I was sitting in a chair in the lab outside, drinking from a water bottle while he sulked nearby, clearly impatient for me to feel well enough for him to escort me out. I don’t remember thinking much about the dinosaurs at that point — it was still too much to process — but I remember having plenty of questions about Doug. How long had he been working with Steve? How had I never met him before? This secret Steve wouldn’t share with me, had he shared it with Doug?

“Thank you,” I finished the water. “I feel better now.”

Doug nodded and stood up. “Good. I will take you out. But look. You can’t say anything about this to anyone.”

I got to my feet and began to walk with him. “Of course not.”

“And you can’t come back here. Just because you’re sleeping with the boss doesn’t mean you can just come in here whenever you want.”

“What?” I stopped, forcing the new guy to stop with me. I must have not heard him correctly, I thought, even though I knew I had.

He sighed, making it clear that he didn’t have time for me. “It’s a restricted facility. We can’t just have anyone coming and going. Even if you’re his mistress or whatever. Especially if you’re his mistress.”

I crossed my arms and planted my feet firmly on the floor, ready for a fight. “I work here.”

“No one said you didn’t.” Doug gestured impatiently at the door. “Can we go?”

”I’m not his mistress,” I didn’t mean to raise my voice, but it came out loud. A couple of the people in lab coats looked over.

Doug shrugged. “Whatever you say.”

***

Click here to read Chapter 10: Sparks

To read the previous chapter, The Long Walk, click here.
To begin reading at Chapter One, click here.

If you’d like to see more art from Max Farinato, visit his site here. If you’d like to read more of A.J.’s work, visit her site.Want more serial fiction from Geek Eccentric? Visit MAJK’s steampunk epic To Live a Dragon’s Age.

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DinoLand | Chapter 10: Sparks

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