MEG: Nightstalkers: New Excerpt

MEG: Nightstalkers by Steve Alten
MEG: Nightstalkers by Steve Alten
Nightstalkers is the 5th installment of the New York Times bestselling MEG series  (Available June 14, 2016).

Bela and Lizzy, the dominant Megalodon siblings from Angel's brood, have escaped the Tanaka Institute to roam the Salish Sea in British Columbia. While Jonas Taylor and his friend Mac attempt to either recapture or kill the “sisters,” Jonas's son, David, embarks on his own adventure, motivated by revenge. Having witnessed his girlfriend's gruesome death, David has joined a Dubai Prince's ocean expedition, tracking the 120-foot, hundred-ton Liopleurodon that escaped from the Panthalassa Sea. Haunted by night terrors, David repeatedly risks his life to lure the Lio and other prehistoric sea creatures into the fleet's nets, while battling his own suicidal demons.

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.”

Taylor’s first instinct was to jettison the sub’s weight plates into the creature’s mouth while executing an emergency ascent—a maneuver not recommended below 10,000 feet. The sub’s pressurization system faltered, turning head wounds into fatal hemorrhages.

The two scientists died and Taylor was blamed. The physician-on-duty ordered a ninety day evaluation in a mental ward, after which the commander received a dishonorable discharge—a parting gift from his commanding officer, who intended to deflect his own culpability for ordering the exhausted pilot to make the dive.

His career over, Jonas set out to prove the albino monster he had encountered was not an aberration of the deep. Five years later he graduated from the Scripps Institute with a doctorate degree in paleobiology. A year later he published a book which theorized how ancient sea creatures living in isolated extremes could evolve in order to survive extinction.

Colleagues panned his work.

While Jonas struggled in the world of academia, world renowned cetacean biologist Masao Tanaka was completing construction of a new aquatic facility on the coast of Monterey, California. The Tanaka Oceanographic Institute was essentially a man-made lagoon with an ocean-access which intersected one of the largest annual whale migrations on the planet. Designed as a field laboratory, the waterway was intended to be a place where pregnant gray whales returning from their feeding grounds in the Bering Sea could birth their calves. Masao was so convinced his facility would bridge the gap between science and entertainment that he mortgaged his entire family fortune on the endeavor.

Rising construction costs forced Masao to accept a contract with the Japanese Marine Science Technology Center. The mission: to anchor sensory drones along the sea floor of the Mariana Trench, creating an early-warning earthquake detection system. To complete the array, D.J. Tanaka, Masao’s son, had to escort each drone to the bottom using an Abyss Glider, a torpedo-shaped one-man submersible.

When several of the drones stopped transmitting data, Masao needed a second diver to help D.J. retrieve one of the damaged aquabots in order to diagnose the problem.

He sent his daughter, Terry, to recruit Jonas Taylor.

Jonas accepted the offer, desiring only to recover an unfossilized white Megalodon tooth photographed in the wreckage—the evidence he needed to prove the sharks still existed.

The dive ended badly; Jonas and D.J. coming face to face with not one, but two Megs. The first was a forty-five foot male, which became entangled in the surface ship’s cable; the second was its sixty foot pregnant mate, which was lured out of the trench into surface waters teeming with food.

The Tanaka Institute took on the task of capturing the female. Jonas and Masao were determined to quarantine the monster inside the whale lagoon, with JAMSTEC agreeing to refit the canal entrance with King Kong-sized steel doors.

The hunt lasted a month, culminating in an act that would haunt Jonas’s dreams over the next thirty years. All was not lost—the Megalodon’s surviving pup was captured and raised in Masao’s cetacean facility—and a monster shark cottage industry was born.

Angel: The Angel of Death.

Two shows daily. Always your money’s worth!

Angel grew into a seventy-foot albino nightmare that drew crowds from across the world, earning the Tanaka-Taylor family hundreds of millions of dollars. She also managed to escape twice, birth two litters of pups, and devour no less than a dozen humans—five of them in her own lagoon.

And yet people still lined up by the tens of thousands to see her and they wept when it was announced she had died.

The public had an entirely different reaction when they learned “the sisters” had escaped.

Angel had given birth to five female offspring four years earlier, but two of the sharks were nearly twice the size of their three smaller siblings and far more vicious.

Elizabeth, or Lizzy for short, was pure albino like her mother. The voting public (swayed by various European blogs) had named the shark after Elizabeth Bathory, purportedly the worst serial killer in Slovak history. In 1610, the infamous “Countess of Blood” had been charged with the torture and deaths of hundreds, mostly young girls. Her cold savagery seemed to match the personality of the stark-white juvenile, who often took a calculated second position to her more ferocious twin, Bela.

Known to the staff as “the Dark Overlord,” Bela was the only Megalodon offspring born with pigmentation. Though her head was pure white, the rest of her dorsal surface was a dark charcoal gray, giving her a rather bizarre, sinister appearance. Named after Belle Gunness, the infamous “Black Widow” who teased and killed fourteen of her suitors back in 1908, Bela was the brawn to Lizzy’s brains—an aggressive predator that had to be separated from the pack during feeding time by trainers using bang sticks on reach poles to keep her from going after her smaller siblings—the blood in the water driving the forty-six-foot, twenty-one-ton killer into a frenzy.

As terrifying as the sisters were, they always feared their parent. For filtration purposes, the Meg Pen and the lagoon were connected by a five-foot-wide channel. Angel couldn’t enter, but “mom” could smell her brood. Every once in a while Angel would slap her tail against her side of the grating, antagonizing her maturing pups.

The intimidation tactics forged a bond between Bela and Lizzy. The two juvenile Megalodons would circle their habitat in tandem—Lizzy in the dominant top position, the darker Bela below, the pigmented shark’s albino head just behind her sibling’s pelvic girdle so that the trough created by her sister’s moving mass towed her effortlessly around the tank.

And then one day, their domineering parent was gone, drugged and transported inside a refurbished hopper-dredge on her journey back to the Western Pacific. The move was precipitated by pressure exerted by a rogue animal rights group and the fact that Bela and Lizzy were getting too big for the Meg Pen. Bela had already attacked the acrylic walls in the underwater viewing area and the sisters had to be moved into Angel’s lagoon before the damaged glass shattered.

But the animal rights group wasn’t satisfied and bribed one of Jonas’s staff to release the sisters into open waters—and now every boater, diver, and fisherman from Baja California to Alaska was experiencing more than a bit of anxiety.

*   *   *

Situated off the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island is the San Juan archipelago, a cluster of over four hundred islands, islets, and rocks, only a fourth of which were deemed large enough to actually name. The Salish Sea is littered with these oddly shaped landmasses, their forest-covered hills of evergreen and pine dwarfed by the snow-peaked Olympic Mountains which dominate the waterway’s horizon.

There are no bridges linking the archipelago to Vancouver Island or the Canadian mainland; access being limited to boat or air. The island chain is surrounded by heavily used shipping channels, with swift currents and dangerous riptides fueled by the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the south and the Strait of Georgia to the north. Haro Strait serves as the western channel connecting the Port of Vancouver with other destinations in the Salish Sea. Rosario Strait lies to the east and is used as the major shipping channel for oil tankers originating out of the Cherry Point Refinery to the north.

San Juan Island is the second-largest and most populated landmass in the archipelago, its year-round residents numbering just below seven thousand. Its main hub is Friday Harbor, an Old World seaport with New World charm, located on the east side of the island. Built on a hill that overlooks the marina’s crystal green water, the community is a tourist Mecca for vacationers looking to experience the unspoiled beauty of nature.

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Eric Germata was an adventurous outdoorsman with a sense of humor; at least that is what the food and beverage manager from Chicago had highlighted in his Match-Date.com profile. He and Ashley Kuehnel had been Skype-dating for three months when the blond twenty-eight-year-old had suggested they plan a whale-watching vacation together. Rendezvousing in Seattle, they had taken a charter flight together to San Juan Island, arriving at the Friday Harbor Bed and Breakfast in the late afternoon—Ashley having reserved two rooms, just in case things didn’t work out. Their first official date was a walking tour of the harbor’s quaint shops, followed by dinner, drinks, dancing, and a carriage ride back to their B&B where they spent the night together in Eric’s room.

Ashley had chosen the San Juan Islands because she wanted to kayak in open water with orcas. Eric was an outdoorsman; what he wasn’t was a good swimmer. The thought of being in deep water surrounded by thirty-foot killer whales in a boat barely wider than his waist gave him serious trepidation, but if he wanted his second night on the island to end like the first, Eric knew that his girlfriend’s wishes had to be honored.

They had checked out of the B&B after breakfast and had taken a bus across the island to Mitchell Bay, their destination—the Snug Harbor Resort and Marina. Eric secured the keys to their seaside cabin while Ashley went down to the docks to reserve two spots with Crystal Seas Tours for a six-hour kayaking adventure.

Their group was made up of two other couples. Natalie Baker and her friend, Vicky, were a lesbian couple from Britain. The Cunninghams were a married couple from Houston. Nikki Cunningham was part Korean, part Italian, and with her brown hair, gray contact lenses, and freckles, looked neither Asian nor European.

Eric couldn’t recall the husband’s first name.

Their instructor was a Nashville native named Nic Byron. A fit, heavily tattooed man in his early thirties, Nic had vacationed in the San Juan Islands six years earlier and never left. He spent the first twenty minutes instructing the three couples on how to climb back inside their two-person kayaks in the event they tipped.

Their route would take them out of Mitchell Bay where they’d follow the western coastline of the island to the south, making land at Lime Kiln State Park at a place called Dead Man’s Cove. After exploring the trails they’d enjoy a cookout before the return trip at sunset.

Because the water was cold, they’d be using sit-inside cockpits. There were two types to choose from. Recreational models—being shorter and wider with larger cockpits—were recommended for beginners. Touring kayaks were thinner, longer and not as stable but were faster in the water.

While the other two couples went for stability, Ashley lobbied Eric to go with the sleeker touring model used by their instructor.

It was nearly three o’clock by the time the trio of two-man kayaks followed their leader out of the docking births. Nic Byron gave his group free rein within the confines of Mitchell Bay, to get a feel for their boats. Situated in the stern cockpit, Eric quickly mastered the rudder pedals, his mind wandering as he stared at Ashley’s muscular back and the pair of blue angel tattoos adorning her shoulder blades.

Once out of the harbor the tranquil surface became two-foot swells that had Eric silently cursing his male ego. On their left were miles of unspoiled coastline. Patches of rock yielded to arching Madrona trees that reached out like gnarly copper-brown fingers, their berry-filled branches providing relief from the sun for fish living in the crystal-green shallows. Birds flitted about by the thousands and Nic pointed out several bald eagles soaring above the pine trees, their stark white heads and chocolate-brown feathers easily recognizable.

On their right was a forty-mile stretch of sparkling blue water culminating in a spectacular horizon of snow-peaked mountain ranges looming in the distance like a mile-high tsunami.

Nic gathered his charges. “The waters around the San Juan Islands are nutrient rich, perfect for migrating fish. Our resident orcas come here every year to dine on their favorite delicacy: Chinook, the largest species of salmon. The killer whales consist of one clan subdivided into three pods—about eighty individuals in all. That includes Granny, whose age is estimated at one hundred and two. The first person who spots an orca fin gets a pass on cookout clean-up duty.”

Nic led them into deeper water, keeping the group about three hundred yards off shore. Ashley pointed to a whale-watching boat moving south through Haro Strait while Eric fastened two more clips on his life vest, keeping his eyes focused on the water.

His pulse raced when Vicky yelled out, “I saw an orca fin!” She pointed fifty yards to the northwest where a series of black dorsal fins were rolling along the surface.

Signaling for the group to stop paddling, Nic scanned the surface using a pair of high-powered binoculars. “Good spot, Vicky, only those are Dall’s porpoises. They’re black and white and look just like miniature killer whales, only they’re a lot smaller.”

Ashley pointed to one of the whale-watching boats. “That boat just circled back; maybe they spotted something?”

Nic aimed his binoculars. “Congratulations, Ashley, you spotted members of K-pod. Guess you’re excused from clean-up duty.” He passed her the glasses. “Take a look. You can’t miss the adult bull’s big dorsal.”

“Can we get closer?”

The Cunninghams chimed in. “Yes, let’s get closer.”

“We’ll halve the distance, as long as there are no standing waves and the current cooperates. Stay together and be prepared to link up in case the whales want to get a closer look at us. Remember, adult males can weigh as much as six tons.”

Eric felt the blood drain from his face. “Uh, exactly how safe is it to be kayaking so close to an adult male orca?”

“In six years, I’ve never witnessed a single act of aggression against a kayaker or boater by a killer whale. That’s not to say they couldn’t cause a kayak to tip—which is why we link up. Like their dolphin cousins, orca can be playful. Usually they’ll just pass under the boats.”

The group started paddling, their leader keeping the three double-occupancy kayaks on an intercept course for several dozen black specks moving south on the horizon. Ashley’s back muscles flexed with her increased effort. Eric eased up, fearing his girlfriend wanted to beat the rest of the kayaks to the whales.

After a ten minute sprint, Nic abruptly raised his hand. “They’ve changed course. Everybody link up, you’re about to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience!”

Eric’s heart raced as he reached out to the Cunninghams’ kayak. He managed to clip his bungee cord to their fast-line a moment before the British females’ boat abruptly rammed his left flank from behind, nearly sending him head-first into Nikki Cunningham’s ample cleavage.

Nic Byron clipped his single kayak to Ashley’s bow and then all seven kayakers held their collective breath as the killer whales moved closer.

And then suddenly they were all around them, passing under the boats before breaching the surface behind them with powerful blasts of expelled salty air tinged with sea water.

Eric’s fear turned to amazement as a mother and her calf swam straight towards him before diving directly below his kayak. They reappeared on the opposite side of the flotilla, the entire pod racing for shore.

And then something else passed beneath Eric’s kayak—something infinitely larger.

Its head was bullet-shaped and pure white like the bald eagle’s, and it was followed by a lead-gray torso as wide and as long as the commuter plane in which he and Ashley had arrived twenty-four hours earlier. A rigid expanse of pectoral fins spanned the entire width of the flotilla; the tail seemed to take forever to appear as the creature completed its leisurely trek beneath their boats before disappearing into the depths.

Eric’s throat tightened, rendering his voice box mute. An orca moves through the water in arching north-south bursts as it surfaces to breathe. The creature that had just passed beneath his kayak swam in east-west undulations, powered by its half-moon shaped caudal fin.

Shark …

Megalodon.

Bela!

Unable to speak, barely able to move, Eric reached forward with his paddle to tap Ashley. She screamed as he connected with the blue angel on her right scapula, her expression aghast in terror as she pointed.

Ten feet in front of Nic’s kayak, poised above the choppy surface like a white buoy, was the enormous triangular head of another Meg. The shark was spy-hopping, its blue-gray left eye clearly analyzing the flotilla and its human passengers.

The depths surrounding the forty-six-foot Megalodon glowed like a turquoise-blue island, identifying the albino monster as Bela’s sibling, Lizzy.

Time seemed to stand still, life reduced to whitecaps and ten knot winds, the fading chuffing of the fleeing killer whales and the pounding pulses of the kayakers who shivered and waited while an inquisitive killer debated their fate.

Nic Byron broke the silence. “Slowly and quietly, detach your lines.”

Eric’s hand trembled as he struggled to unclip his bungee cord from the Cunningham’s kayak.

As if sensing the disturbance, Lizzy’s head slipped below the surface.

Now the real terror began.

“She’ll come up beneath us!”

“Vicky’s right; we need to go.”

“No one’s going anywhere.”

“You’re not in charge!”

“Keep your voices down; it can hear you.”

“Listen to me,” said Eric. “There are two of them; Bela, the dark one, passed under my kayak—she was after the whales. I think we need to get to that whale-watcher boat.”

They turned in unison, locating the tourist craft a good mile to the west.

“We’ll never make it,” Nic said from behind his binoculars. “See those ripples? Those are standing waves, five feet high inside the trowel. They’ll come right over our heads.”

Ashley gripped the instructor by the Moby Dick tattoo covering his right biceps. “I don’t want to be eaten.”

“No one’s being eaten,” said Natalie. “These Megs were raised in captivity. Humans aren’t on their menu.”

“How do you know what’s on their menu?” Eric demanded.

“I studied marine biology back in London. I think I know a little bit more about it than a food and beverage manager.”

“Yeah? Well, Lana Wood was human and they ate her!”

Nic searched the mile-and-a-half of sea separating them from San Juan Island’s coastline, then shoved the binoculars into a watertight compartment. “We’ll head south, working our way back to shore. Nice and easy, no splashing. You see a big shark fin—break for land.”

They set out, paddling quietly. Hearts raced, flesh tingled. The Cunninghams prayed aloud for God to watch over their three children. The British women whispered softly.

A shrill orca cry caused everyone to cease paddling.

Less than a mile to the northeast the surface erupted—Bela’s upper torso rising out of the sea, a twelve-foot juvenile killer whale thrashing within her hyperextended jaws.

Eric gritted his teeth as the impaled orca and the Megalodon flopped sideways in an explosion of bloody froth, the sharp clap reaching them on a three second delay.

“Let’s move!” Plunging his oar into the water, Nic set out on a brisk pace which forced the other kayakers to keep up. He counted a hundred strokes to the south, then cut the rudder hard and set out on a direct beeline for shore, targeting the Lime Kiln State Park lighthouse.

Now it was a race, every boater for themselves.

Ashley’s shoulder muscles ached as she pulled great gouts of water, each stroke accompanied by a grunted word. “Aren’t … you.… glad … you … listened … to … me … and … picked … the … faster … kayak!”

She was right, they were flying through the water, pulling nearly eight knots as they passed Nic Byron. Within two minutes they were thirty yards ahead of the others and had halved the distance to shore. The late afternoon sun reflected brightly off the lighthouse’s lens; waves lapped along the shoreline of Dead Man’s Cove—bloody waves.

The couple was less than fifty yards from the rock strewn beach when Eric saw the first dead orca … then the second.

And then he was airborne.

The twenty-four-ton albino had launched its upper body out of the water just ahead of the kayak, the underside of its lower jaws striking the deck of the bow so hard it flipped the plastic craft’s stern into the air like a catapult, tossing Eric Germata out of his cockpit and over the outstretched jaws of the Meg into the shallows.

The fifty-six-degree water might as well have been electrified. Seconds after sinking, Eric was scrambling awkwardly to his feet, stumbling onto land past the eviscerated remains of a beached juvenile bull orca that was bleeding out in Dead Man’s Cove.

Eric dropped to his knees in shock, the island spinning in his vision.

Then he remembered the girl. “Ashley?”

He stood, searching the cove. The shallows were littered with the bobbing, bleeding, butchered members of the orca pod, many still alive and squealing. Twenty yards from shore Lizzy’s bloodstained dorsal fin cut slowly across the surface, her thrashing caudal fin frothing the sea pink.

Eric’s eye caught movement. The others had come ashore a quarter mile to the south. He took a quick head count—Ashley was not among them.

Then he saw their touring kayak.

The craft had washed ashore, intact but upside down. Eric struggled to roll it over. He took one look inside the bow cockpit, turned his head and retched.

Ashley was still inside the watertight compartment, at least her lower torso was. Her body had been severed at the waist; her upper torso having been bitten in half as she was flung head-first into the breaching Megalodon’s open mouth.

 

Copyright © 2016 Steve Alten.

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Steve Alten is the New York Times and International bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including the MEG series about Carcharodon Megalodon, the seventy-foot, 100,000 pound prehistoric cousin of the Great White shark. His work has been published in more than 30 countries and is being used in thousands of middle and high school curriculum as part of Adopt-An-Author, a free teen reading program, which he founded with teachers back in 1999.

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