Meg nightstalkers, p.1

MEG: Nightstalkers, page 1

 

MEG: Nightstalkers
 



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MEG: Nightstalkers


  Begin Reading

  Table of Contents

  About the Author

  Copyright Page

  Thank you for buying this

  Tom Doherty Associates ebook.

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  This novel is dedicated to my friend

  BELLE AVERY,

  whose incredible dedication, hard work, and belief will bring the MEG series to the big screen.

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  It is with great pride and appreciation that I acknowledge those who contributed to the completion of MEG: Nightstalkers.

  First and foremost, many thanks to Tom Doherty, Whitney Ross, Amy Stapp, Sean Agan, and the great team at Tor/Forge. Thanks as well to my longtime literary agents, Danny Baror and Heather Baror-Shapiro at Baror International, and my dear friend and MEG movie producer, Belle Avery.

  Very special thanks to Tan Ngo, 3D modeler and 2D artist (www.tan-artwork.com) whose brilliant interior images add to the reading experience, along with forensic artist William McDonald, who contributed with his amazing submarine designs. To graphic artist extraordinaire Erik Hollander at Hollander Design, Mario Lampic, and underwater photographer Malcolm Nobbs (www.malcolmnobbs.com) for the cover art.

  Thanks as always to the tireless Barbara Becker for her editing and her work in the Adopt-An-Author program, as well as Robert Nash. And to my webmaster, Doug McEntyre at Millenium Technology Resources, for his excellence in preparing my monthly newsletters.

  Last, to my wife and soul mate, Kim, our children, and, most of all, my readers: Thank you for your correspondence and contributions. Your comments are always a welcome treat, your input means so much, and you remain this author’s greatest asset.

  —Steve Alten, Ed.D.

  To personally contact the author or learn more about his novels, go to www.stevealten.com.

  MEG: Nightstalkers is part of Adopt-An-Author, a free nationwide program for secondary school students and teachers.

  For more information, go to www.adoptanauthor.com.

  The Adopt-An-Author program recognizes the generous contributions from the following MEGhead VIPs:

  Robert Gibbons, Teresa Ritter, Mohammad Mallouh, Dawn M. Hurtienne, Andrew Slatford, Aaron Rahn, Alexia Rhodes, Alton Davis Reece, Amberly Halbert, Andrew Mussler, Angel Bartolotta, Barry Zuckerman, Ben Hintzmann, Bonnie Mangino, Brian Gilbert, Brice Kelling, Bridgett Nelson, Bryan Lewis, Carrie Norris, Chris Hansford, Clyde Wallen, Cody Greene, Conrado Fabricante, Corey LaBranche, Corey Venezia, Dalby Schmidt, David Lindahn, David Underwood, Deborah Calvert, Denise Lowery, Diana Leesekamp, Domenik Davis, Don Wainwright, Dona Powers, Donald Schwartz, Douglas Dvorak, Dylan Butler, Dylan Matheson, Ed Cooney, Edward Baetiong, Elizabeth Hull, Enrico Barisione, Gene Evans, George K. Egert, Gerald Manchester, Gilbert L. Gregg III, Heather Dugan, Heather Halcomb, Hilmi Ari, Jake Witt, James Matherley, James Finley, James Sanders, Jared Betz, Jason Atchley, Jason Clark, Jeff Gatchett, Jeffrey Pease, Jennifer Johnston, Jeremy Evans, Jerrod Mahurin, JG Carroll Insurance Services, Jodi Jenkins, Joel Stover, John Wagner, Jonathan La Barbera, Jonathan Phillips, Jordan Denny, Jose Alvaro Hernandez, Joseph Williams, Joyce E. Driscoll, Judson McCurdy, Kariane Phillips, Katey Robinson, Katherine Mackay, Keith Radbill, Kelli McCloud, Kenneth Rutter, Kenny Powell, Kirsty Brunt, Kurth Warren, Kyle Knori, Lance Zhou, Laura Mahurin, Lauren Peters, Lawrence Preijers, Leroy Gutierrez, Lisa Shuff, Lydia Gagnon, Lynn McDonald, Marcus Eberlein, Maria Rose Randazzo, Mathew Kushner, Mathew Mader, Megan Staples, Melissa Smith, Michael Badger, Michael Cash, Michael Chlebowy, Michael Davies, Michael Feng, Michael Intravaia, Michael Kezlaw, Michael Selby, Michele Alegria, Michelle Bijloo, Michelle Boltz, Mike Chick, Misty Van, Molly Wilken, Mustang Beam, Nancy Seeloff, Pamela Hanvey, Patricia Moreau, Paul A. Jones, Paul Agricola, Peter Niedzinski, Phil Lian, Rhonda Havig, Rianne Wert, Richard Wildt, Richard Gatenby, Ricky Roberts, Riley Bates, Robert Arca, Robert Andersen, Robert P. Baron, Jr., Robin Dennison, Robyn Welty, Ryan Blount, Ryan Skinner, Sara Jernigan, Scott Smith, Shannon Corder, Sharon Carr, Shelley McMurtrey, Stephanie Collins, Steve Zamarripa, T. Tommy, Tab Nickels, Ted Austin, Teresa Richards, Theresa Baggett, Theresa Chimenti, Theresa Paulhamus, Thomas Edward Moore, Tina Jordan, Tina Tanner, Wallene Helms, Wayne Turner, Will Robertson, William Blessing, Xavier Solis, and Zane Graney.

  PROLOGUE

  Dr. Timothy Schulte

  Family Wellness Center

  Monterey, CA.

  PATIENT: Taylor, David

  AGE: 21

  DATE OF SESSION: 26 September

  PATIENT SESSION 3

  (Transcribed from audio)

  TS: David, I’d like to begin today’s session by talking about the girl who died …

  DT: Kaylie.

  TS: Yes, Kaylie. How long had you two known each another?

  DT: Eight weeks … the summer. What difference does it make? I loved her.

  TS: You never told me how she died. I know—from what little your parents have said—it was very traumatic. I think it might help if you—

  DT: She was eaten.

  TS: My God. Was it Bela and Lizzy? Did this happen after the Megs escaped from your facility?

  DT: It wasn’t the sisters, it was a Liopleurodon. A freak of nature; it was bigger than Angel.

  TS: I don’t understand. Where did it—

  DT: They discovered a prehistoric sea located beneath the Philippine Sea Plate … an ecosystem that’s been around for hundreds of millions of years. Kaylie and I were hired as submersible pilots by a Dubai prince to help capture these creatures for his new marine exhibit. We’d enter the Panthalassa Sea through a borehole and bait whatever life forms chased our submersible up into the nets.

  TS: That’s … incredible. And obviously incredibly dangerous. How, uh … did—

  DT: Kaylie and I were trapped at the bottom of the Panthalassa inside a titanium sphere. The sphere was anchored to the ocean floor; it had been used as an observation post and docking station by Michael Maren, the scientist who discovered the hidden sea. My father rescued us; he freed the anchor and guided us back to the surface using Angel as an escort.

  TS: Angel? Yes she’d certainly make an intimidating escort. But I thought I read somewhere that she had died.

  DT: She was netted as she surfaced. The Liopleurodon eviscerated her while she hung suspended along the side of a tanker. Kaylie and I were in the water; there was blood everywhere. We were holding on to my father’s submersible; Kaylie on one side, I was on the other … as close to each other as you and I are now—that’s when that thing came up from below and took her from me.

  TS: That’s … a lot to live with.

  DT: You think?

  TS: When did you cut your wrists?

  DT: I dunno. Maybe a week after I got back to California.

  TS: After all the two of you had been through, do you think Kaylie would have wanted you to end your life like that?

  (1:45 s
ec elapsed time)

  TS: David?

  DT: It hurts. I can’t … think. I hate being in my own skin. I want to scream … I want to punch my way out of this nightmare. She was so beautiful. I see her in my dreams, and then …

  TS: Your mother says you’re drinking.

  DT: Weed makes me paranoid.

  TS: What about the new meds I prescribed?

  DT: They leave me with brain fog. Plus they dry out my nose and eyes.

  TS: Give them another week. Adjusting one’s brain chemistry takes time. And the night terrors … do you still wake up screaming?

  DT: Yes.

  TS: Every night?

  DT: Unless I’m drunk.

  TS: And how often are you drunk?

  DT: Lately? Every night.

  TS: A bit excessive, don’t you think?

  DT: Adjusting one’s brain chemistry takes time.

  TS: David, therapy means very little unless you’re a willing participant.

  (1:22 sec elapsed time)

  TS: Your mother mentioned to me that you and Monty moved into an apartment together. He’s the bi-polar fellow.

  DT: Is that a problem?

  TS: You tell me.

  DT: He babbles and I scream. We make a nice couple.

  TS: And the two of you get drunk together.

  (00:45 sec elapsed time)

  TS: I understand your father’s been in touch with Kaylie’s parents. He said they wanted to meet you. It could be a good thing. Sharing grief can sometimes ease one’s sorrow.

  DT: Sorrow’s a funny thing. There’s the sorrow one feels when a loved one dies, say, of cancer; that’s a pretty bad sorrow. You feel empty inside. You share that grief with others. Eventually you move on. Then there’s a different kind of sorrow … like, say, I shoved a gun in your wife’s mouth and blew her head into a million fucking pieces. That sorrow’s a little trickier to deal with. Basically, you have three options. The first is to take the easy way out. That’s where my head was when I got back.

  TS: What changed?

  DT: I lived. When I came to in the hospital I realized my actions were selfish, that I was pulling my family into the same hell hole I’m wallowing in. Not cool.

  TS: You mentioned three options to deal with a traumatic death. Suicide was the first—

  DT: The second is to go numb while you talk about shit with professional sorrow sharers like yourself, as if anything said in this room’s going to change a thing.

  TS: I see. And the third option?

  (00:25 sec elapsed time)

  TS: David, where are you going?

  DT: This’ll be our last session. Me and Monty, we’re going away for a while. Call it a business trip.

  TS: Do you think that’s a good idea? You’ve only been out of the hospital three weeks.

  DT: Yeah, well, it beats the other two options. See you in my dreams.

  (End Session 3)

  * * *

  Jonas Taylor handed the transcript of his son’s last therapy session to his wife, Terry. “He’s not going after Bela and Lizzy. He’s going after the Liopleurodon.”

  PART ONE

  THE

  SISTERS

  1

  Strait of Juan de Fuca, Salish Sea

  British Columbia, Canada

  The Salish Sea (pronounced SAY-lish) is an intricate network of waterways located between the northwestern tip of the United States and the southwestern tip of the Canadian province of British Columbia. The entrance into the Salish Sea from the Pacific is the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a hundred-mile-long deepwater channel named after the pilot of a Spanish ship who, in 1592, bragged to his fellow mariners that he had located a passage which connected the port cities of Seattle and Vancouver to the open ocean.

  The Salish Sea is nourished by the Pacific Ocean’s submarine canyons which stretch out like knotty fingers, channeling dense, cold, nutrient-rich seawater toward land. The deep waters off the southern coastline of Vancouver Island are home to chinook and salmon, rockfish, lingcod, and the giant halibut—the major carnivore fish of the Pacific Northwest. Thirty species of marine mammals inhabit the Salish Sea and its barrier islands, including sea otters, sea lions, and harbor and elephant seals—a favorite delicacy of the great white shark. Humpback whales forage the strait for plankton funneled in through the tides. Gray whales follow an annual migration pattern that routes them south from the Bering Sea past Vancouver Island on their way to the Baja Peninsula.

  Situated atop the Salish Sea’s food chain are the region’s killer whales. Several hundred transients pass through these waters each summer, gorging on salmon. Resident orca pods patrol the straits like lions roaming the Serengeti, their black dorsal fins rolling the surface with each chuff of breath, the mammals shadowed by tourists in whale-watching boats and thrill-seekers in kayaks.

  Now, another apex predator has made this waterway its home—two female siblings born into captivity to a parent whose sheer size and brutality had forged the sisters’ bond of survival.

  Carcharodon megalodon: the most ferocious species ever to inhabit the planet. For most of the last thirty million years these giant prehistoric great white sharks had ruled the oceans. Adult females reached sixty to seventy feet and fifty tons, their male counterparts a more subservient forty to fifty feet. But size was only one component that made these monsters the menace of the Miocene era. The creatures possessed an upper jaw that unhinged when hyperextended, yielding a bite radius that could engulf a small elephant while delivering a force of forty thousand pounds. Its triangular teeth were lethal; serrated along the edges and as large as a man’s hand. The lower teeth were more pointed and used for gripping their prey while the wider uppers were used to saw through flesh and bone. As hard as diamond, the ivory cutlery was backed by replacement teeth set in rows beneath the gum line.

  Megalodon was far quicker than the cetaceans it hunted; its powerful caudal fin able to accelerate its torpedo-shaped body at bursts of thirty knots. The sharks’ enormous girth also functioned as an internal heat factory, its moving muscles channeling gobs of hot blood into its extremities through a process known as gigantothermy, enabling it to adapt to even the coldest Arctic temperatures.

  As if size, speed, and the deadliest bite ever to evolve weren’t enough, Nature had endowed its ultimate killing machine with senses that gave it the ability to see, hear, feel, smell, and taste its prey for miles in every direction.

  And yet for all its advantages, the creature had vanished from the paleo record approximately 1.8 million to 100,000 years ago—roughly about the time primitive man had learned how to use fire. Perhaps God or nature or evolution had not wanted these two dominant species to mix. Perhaps that is why those Megalodon that managed to survive the last ice age did so in the oceans’ deepest abyss.

  Seventy percent of our planet is covered by water. Modern man has only explored five percent of the oceans and less than one percent of its extreme depths. We know more about distant galaxies than the abyssopelagic and hadalpelagic zones—habitats whose depths exceed 13,000 feet.

  The deepest location on our planet is the Mariana Trench. Located in the Western Pacific near Guam, the gorge plunges 36,201 feet—nearly seven miles. The 1,550-mile-long, forty-mile-wide canyon was forged by the seismic activity generated by the Philippine Sea Plate subducting beneath its behemoth neighbors. And yet as unlikely as it seems, this isolated abyss became home to a prehistoric food chain—thanks to the very process which had created its extreme depths.

  As cold water seeped into cracks along the Philippine plate’s fracturing ocean floor, it was heated by molten rock in the Earth’s mantle. Exposed to oxygen, magnesium, potassium, and other minerals, this superheated elixir was forcibly ejected back into the trench by way of hydrothermal vents. Once this hot mineral soup met the cold depths of the Western Pacific it generated hydrogen sulfide, which in turn fueled bacteria—the foundation of an abyssal chemosynthetic food chain. Tube worms fed off the bacteria, small fish off the tube
worms, and bigger fish off the smaller fish. But it was the formation of a hydrothermal plume—a ceiling of soot coagulating a mile above the vent fields—that formed a warm water oasis, which attracted history’s most dominant predator.

  During the Pleistocene epoch, cooling seas decimated many whale species—the staple of the Megalodon diet. As its food supply diminished, hungry adults turned to cannibalism. This allowed pods of orca access into shallow Megalodon nurseries and the rein of history’s apex predator was over.

  It was the Megalodon nurseries located along the coastline of the Mariana island chain that preserved the species. Hunted by orca, the juvenile sharks went deep, discovering a warm water abyss that was stocked with food—albeit nothing as high in bio mass and fat content as whales.

  Survival depends upon adaptation. Megalodon survived in the Mariana Trench by consuming squid instead of whales. The drop in fat content and protein lowered the sharks’ metabolisms, affecting their ability to hunt. Further adaption came with the loss of their dorsal pigment, their albino hides better suited for attracting both prey and mates. Spawning was limited by the availability of food; when food was scarce they turned on their own.

  For several hundred thousand years the species remained trapped in its warm water purgatory … until modern man showed up and everything changed.

  * * *

  Jonas Taylor wasn’t looking for giant prehistoric sharks when he entered the trench’s Challenger Deep; the navy’s best deep-sea submersible pilot was escorting two scientists on a top-secret dive to vacuum manganese nodules off the trench floor.

  It was on their third descent in eight days that disaster struck.

  An excerpt from the recently released Defense Department files—courtesy of Eric Snowden—includes Jonas Taylor’s testimony, where he describes Homo Sapien’s first documented encounter with Carcharodon megalodon: “The Sea Cliff was hovering about ten meters above the hydrothermal plume. Dr. Prestis was working the drone’s vacuum and the soothing vibrations of the motor were putting me to sleep. I must’ve drifted off because the next thing I knew the sonar was beeping—an immense object rising directly beneath us. Suddenly a ghost-white shark with a head bigger than our three-man sub emerged from the mineral ceiling, its gullet filling my keel portal.”

 
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