Need more motivation to grab a copy of MEG: Generations by Steve Alten? Today, as a part of MEG Week: A 7-Day Period of Shark-Related Content, we’re sharing another excerpt with you!
About MEG: Generations:
DUBAI: An impossibility is being taken to the Middle East. The transport vessel Tonga is carrying a liopleurodon to the City of Gold. But while investors gawk at the prehistoric creature, any even more dangerous creature is beginning to stir.
The megalodon shark that Jonas Taylor worked so hard to capture is coming out of it’s drug-induced stupor and refuses to be contained. No both ancient creatures, older than mankind itself, are loose in the waters of the Arabian Sea, and the region will never be the same.
The disgruntled naval engineer plugged his headphones back in as the helicopter began its vertical descent over the Tonga’s helipad, their arrival having done little to slow down the crown prince’s pitch.
“. . . That’s the beauty of internal fertilization. All the pups are female, each a genetic clone of their mother. That means our Liopleurodon pup will grow into a thirty-seven-meter monster, just as Angel’s daughter, Zahra, will be her mother’s mirror image.”
A smattering of applause was followed by the chopper’s landing gear touching down. One by one the men climbed out, crossing the tanker’s enormous deck to where a set of bleachers had been set up before a three-story-high, five-hundred-thousand-gallon aquarium.
Bin Rashidi was the last person to deboard. As he stepped down from the helicopter he was met by the crown prince. His cousin’s personal attorney, Kirsty Joyce, was standing two paces behind him hold- ing a leather briefcase.
“Fiesal, things have changed. Our costs have skyrocketed, and I need to recapitalize the venture or we’ll be bankrupt before we open.” He turned to the British woman, who handed him two copies of a legal document. “I’m releasing another ten million shares of the company—” “Diluting my twenty percent to . . . ?” Bin Rashidi scanned the five- page addendum, his hand shaking. “A buyout? I was the one who came to you with this idea . . . the location of the Panthalassa Sea . . . the design of the tanks. Cousin, how can you do this to me?”
“I am offering you ten million dollars for your stock. Most people would be grateful.”
“Once it’s open, the park will make that every hour.”
“You mean, if it opens. My accountants estimate our start-up costs will exceed twenty-four billion before we book our first reservation. Will you be putting up that money, Fiesal?”
“We’re already booked three years in advance.”
“And those deposits must all be returned if I cannot recapitalize the venture. Sign the contract and Ms. Joyce will wire the funds into your account. Don’t sign, and my next offer will be half that amount.”
Fiesal bin Rashidi felt the blood rush to his cheeks. Taking the pen from the blond attorney, he signed the two signature pages, the crown prince’s authorizations already stamped and notarized.
Kirsty Joyce filed one of the copies in her brief. Removing her iPhone, she quickly texted instructions to the crown prince’s bank. “The funds have been wired.”
“Plans within plans, eh, cousin?” “Excuse me?”
“It’s been nine days since the Tonga arrived, nine days since the blood sport occurred in the Tanaka Lagoon. And yet the Miocene whale has still not been released, the contract to sell the Taylors’ facility to Agricola Industries is yet to be signed.”
“As Ms. Joyce will tell you, there are still several deal points being negotiated.”
The attorney nodded. “There is a legal question as to which party owns the teeth from the two deceased Megalodons, as well as the adult Lio. As you can imagine, each tooth can bring in quite a lot of money. Mr. Agricola is claiming owner’s rights to the albino Megalodon, Lizzy, since he captured the shark after it had escaped—”
Fiesal held up his palm. “There is an old Arab saying, ‘Avoid the com- pany of liars, but if you can’t, then be sure you never believe them.’ I may not be royalty, Ms. Joyce, but do not take me for a fool.” He turned back to his cousin. “I see Governor Skinner is among your entourage.” “Is it a crime to extend the courtesy of an invitation to a political ally?” “You mean a future bedfellow, don’t you, cousin? There will be no deal with the Canadian. You mean to keep the Tanaka Institute for yourself, along with the Miocene whale, which will occupy the lagoon.” “And will I also be spending half a billion dollars to place a dome over this thirty-year-old facility?”
“The sale of the two Megalodon siblings’ teeth alone would cover that expense.”
“And when the bull dies?”
“You have a living specimen and a modern relative in the sperm whale. Cloning the species would be a relatively easy task for our genetics team, on par with what the Russians are doing to bring back the woolly mammoth. The bigger concern is one of real estate. How much land will the governor make available for you in Carmel and Monterey to build your hotels and theme park?”
“An interesting theory, Fiesal—one I’d advise you to keep to your- self. You wouldn’t want to violate the nondisclosure section of the buy- out agreement you just signed.”
“Is that it then?”
“I see no reason for you to attend tonight’s festivities. Gather your belongings and the pilot will take you back to San Francisco.”
The crown prince turned to his attractive personal attorney. “Come, Ms. Joyce . . . let us introduce the Lio to our new partners.”
At eleven hundred feet from bow to stern and a hundred ninety-six feet wide, the Tonga was as large as an aircraft carrier, and when her hold was filled to capacity, she displaced more weight. A floating steel island, the Malacca-class crude tanker was anchored less than a mile of shore, her starboard flank several hundred yards from the entrance of the canal that led into the Tanaka Institute’s man-made lagoon.
The ship’s superstructure towered twelve stories above the stern, the Lio’s holding tank erected in its shadow. Sixty feet in diameter and thirty feet high, the circular Lexan aquarium had been flown in from the Dubai-Land resort and assembled by Jacqueline Buchwald and her staff to better care for the Lio pup during the anticipated three-week voyage to Dubai.
Like excited children on Christmas Day, the crown prince’s entourage hurried across the deck to join the other invited guests and members of the media, all of whom were busy snapping photos and taking video of the star attraction.
While the business pitch from their billionaire host had certainly been convincing, it paled in comparison with actually seeing the Liopleurodon circling within its tank. Only a month old, the pliosaur was already a dangerous predator, its jaws sporting two-to-five-inch dagger-like teeth, the largest of which jutted outside of its mouth. Flapping along its short, powerful neck were six gill slits. While the creature’s ancestors that had dominated the Late Jurassic seas were air- breathing marine reptiles, the subspecies that had escaped extinction in the Panthalassa Sea had adapted to their new deep-water environment by growing gills, rendering them “reptilian fish.”
What really surprised the crown prince’s guests was how large the Lio had grown in such a short amount of time. When the public had last seen the pliosaur, it had measured eight feet from the tip of its crocodile-like snout to the point of its stubby tail and weighed just under two hundred and fifty pounds. Its transformation during this past week in captivity had been startling. While its length had increased by 50 percent, its girth had more than doubled. The marine biologists on board the Tonga theorized the pliosaur’s incredible growth spurt could be credited to a diet much higher in fat content than the prey the juvenile might normally find in the Panthalassa Sea, combined with the aquarium’s increased oxygen content. The latter also helped to explain the creature’s hyperkinetic movements.
Lead-gray on top with a speckled belly, the juvenile killer glided around the tank on a single burst from its paddle-like forelimbs with the dexterity of a seal, using its hindquarters as a rudder from which to steer. With both sets of limbs pumping in open water, it could give a speedboat a run for its money.
The animal remained close to the inside of the glass, the dark pupil of its yellow right eye appearing cold and calculating as it circled counterclockwise, watching the watchers.
A few of the VIPs had brought their children to the event. When a six- year-old boy went running toward the tank, the Lio banked on a dime to intercept, its jaws wide and outstretched and ready to swallow the shrieking child down its hideous pink gullet, had the three-inch-thick, bulletproof Lexan glass not been in the way.
This reaction naturally spurred a dozen copycats, and within minutes, the videos had gone viral.
Fiesal bin Rashidi entered his stateroom, not surprised to find his be- longings already packed, his two suitcases and duffel bag tagged, the airline ticket left on top of his laptop. He checked the itinerary. San Francisco to Dubai, leaving at eleven-thirty tonight, with a layover in New York. Not only does he have me on the red-eye, he has me flying coach . . .
“No good deed goes unpunished, eh, cousin.”
The jolt felt as if the Tonga had run aground, only Fiesal knew that was impossible, as the tanker was poised over the depths of the Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon. A quick glance at his watch confirmed it was only 12:52 p.m.
I told Buchwald 2 p.m……. I was very clear—
His walkie-talkie buzzed and he grabbed it of its charger. “Bridge to Mr. bin Rashidi.”
“I’m here. Go ahead, Mr. Slatford.”
“Sir, did you feel that jolt? The captain’s concerned the whale may be attempting to break out of the hold. I tried to raise Ms. Buchwald, but she hasn’t responded. The skipper wants me to send an armed detail below—”
“That’s not necessary. I’ll check on Brutus; you can send one of the crew to my quarters to load my belongings on board the chopper.”
Walkie-talkie in hand, Fiesal left his suite and headed down a corridor to the stairwell. He descended three flights, exiting to a small corridor which led to a watertight door set inside the bulkhead.
Keep Door Closed at All Times
Fiesal selected one of the fur-lined parkas hanging from hooks along the wall and slipped the coat on. He grabbed a flashlight from a footlocker and tested it to make sure the batteries were good. Then he pressed down on the steel handle of the watertight door, wrenched it open, and entered the hold, pulling it closed behind him.
Stepping out onto the walkway, he was greeted by a howl of chilled air. The narrow steel path ran from the stern to the bow, hugging the starboard bulkhead.
Fiesal aimed the beam of his flashlight at the water, surprised to see an enormous wake rolling away from him toward the bow. Why is there a wake in the hold? We’re not moving; there should be no—
The voice was female and faint, coming from somewhere up ahead. He proceeded down the walkway, guided by the strand of Christmas lights until he reached the catwalk’s bridge or what remained of it.
Fiesal aimed the beam of his flashlight below, where Jacqueline Buchwald was holding on to the guardrail.
“Get a rope!”
Before he could reply, an immense silver-gray mass raced beneath the collapsed catwalk—
—followed by a massive swell that swallowed the bridge, and the female biologist with it, the wave cresting three feet over the starboard catwalk, soaking Fiesal’s lower torso as it rolled in the direction of the stern.
The enraged whale struck the keel’s steel plates with the force of a train hitting a brick building—
—while the swell climbed the far end of the tank to blast the under- side of the deck five stories overhead, the displacement of ballast actually raising the Tonga’s prow three feet out of the sea.
Fiesal ran toward the impact as the swell receded beneath his perch in the opposite direction, the retreating depths revealing the creature’s midsection as Brutus squeezed through the gap it had created in the hull, its wriggling torso pushing the opening wider—
—until the leviathan’s fluke disappeared into open ocean.
The Pacific rushed into the tanker, the water level rising quickly. Yanking open the watertight door, bin Rashidi stepped out into the corridor and resealed it behind him. He tossed the coat on the floor and hurried up six flights of stairs, his mind racing.
Get to the chopper; don’t create a scene. As long as the watertight doors remain sealed, the ship will stay afloat.
He emerged on the main deck, realizing his pants and shoes were dripping wet. He slowed his pace to a natural walk, watching the producer of Dubai-Land’s reality show stalking him in his peripheral vision.
“Mr. bin Rashidi!”
He struggled to recall the man’s name. Barry . . . Tucker? Barry Walker? He spotted the Star of David hanging around his neck. “Yes, Mr. Zuckerman?”
“What just happened? It felt like we ran aground.” “Nonsense.”
“Then what was it?”
“It was Brutus. Our marine biologist had to add seawater to his pen to bring him out of his stupor. He’s getting a bit agitated; she may have to release him earlier than we planned.”
“Why wasn’t I told? There’s a ton of shots we still need to get on video.” He retrieved a walkie-talkie from his Windbreaker pocket. “Pony- boy, it’s Barry. Get your second unit down to the hold—the whale is conscious. Is that British MMA actor on board yet?”
“Lee Shone? He’s posing by the Lio tank.”
“Bring him below and get his shots.” He looked at bin Rashidi. “How much time do we have?”
“Not much. “Turning on his heel, bin Rashidi headed for his cousin’s helicopter, his soaked shoes and socks leaving a trail of wet marks.
The swell had hit the catwalk like a thirty-foot-high tsunami, the cur- rent stripping the sneakers and socks from Jackie’s feet as she held on to the guardrail for dear life—until the entire span of twisted metal was swept away, dragging her with it.
She released the anchor of steel and fought her way to the surface, only the wave refused to let her go, carrying her a hundred feet be- fore lifting her straight up the stern bulkhead to the ceiling. Flailing blindly, she managed to grab hold of a ceiling strut and hold on as the swell suddenly fell back into the tank, leaving her dangling from a new perch—seventy feet above the retreating waters.
Grunting and shaking from the cold, she raised her right leg up to the ceiling’s steel framework, her bare foot snaking its way atop a sup- port beam until she was able to pull herself into a seated position.
Jackie looked down. As she watched, the water level rose above the starboard walkway’s rail, causing the Christmas lights to spark and short.
Brutus must have punched through the hull. . . .
“Oh, Jesus, I’m going to drown.”
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