A large, isolated preserve 120 miles off the coast of Costa Rica.
Leased to John Hammond’s company InGen decades ago and the planned home to the very first Jurassic Park.
That had failed spectacularly.
Now, twenty-two years later and with millions of dollars at his disposal, Simon Masrani, CEO and owner of Masrani Global, had rebuilt Hammond’s dream.
It wasn’t just a tourist attraction. No, the goal had been to combine a biological preserve, a safari, a zoo, and a theme park. It was a luxury resort with hotels, restaurants, nightlife and a golf course. It was a research station where scientist from all over the world came to, studying dinosaurs from all eras.
A futuristic vision. A money machine.
* * *
“So, who got eaten?”
He chuckled at the remark. “It never gets old. Good morning, Professor Grant.”
Professor Alan Grant, world-renowned paleontologist, a man who filled university halls across the globe when he held a lecture, smiled.
“Alan. As often as I have to tell you, you’d think it should stick one day.”
“One day,” Owen agreed. “And everything’s fine. Just another day.”
“Working with velociraptors?”
“In a way. I’m still studying the same group.”
Grant looked at him, face serious. “You can’t still be thinking about actually training them.”
“Triceratopes, stegosaurs, yes to almost all kinds of herbivores, but not predators.”
“It can be done.”
“Because someone trained a mosasaur to play dolphin for a bunch of tourists? Because you can get a t-rex to eat a goat every two hours? You can’t compare a raptor to them, Owen.”
Grant sighed. “Where do I even start?”
It was an old argument, one that had been on-going ever since Owen Grady had had the nerve to write to the famous professor and ask for his opinion.
And ever since they had been in contact.
“I’m not talking about stepping into an enclosure full of grown raptors, an established pack, and challenge the alpha for her rank and power.”
“You just want to raise baby raptors.”
Owen didn’t even react any more. It was so normal for Alan to try and get him to reconsider the idea.
Grant shook his head. “Owen, think about it.”
“Constantly. Dr. Wu is, too. I’m in line for two eggs.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“Famous last words,” Alan only said, a resigned tone to his voice.
“I’ll call you with updates, send you videos.”
Grant had direct access to most of the camera feeds, using them as research of his own, but he hadn’t set a foot in the park ever since opening. Masrani Global had invited him and Dr. Delger, even Dr. Malcolm, but aside from Malcolm, no one had come.
“Good luck,” he now only said. “I know you’ll need it.”
Owen shook his head. “It has nothing to do with luck, Professor. Nothing at all.”
* * *
“You have a talent. It’s there, runs in our family. We’ve always been good with animals.”
“I like dogs.”
His grandma had smiled. “Yes. And they like you, too. You’re a natural leader. You have this knack.”
“Yes, like your grandfather. And his grandfather. It sometimes skips generations.”
“So Mommy doesn’t have it?”
“No, Owen. Not like you or her dad.”
She had ruffled his hair. “Yes. Yes, you certainly are.”
* * *
Working with raptors.
Running with raptors.
Raising them like they were nothing but harmless little dogs. Not vicious, cold killers with sharp instincts and a deadly focus on their prey.
Owen Grady had been called all kinds of things, from crazy to suicidal to a pioneer in his field. He didn’t care what the staff whispered about him behind his back. He knew he was good. He could do things others wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole while wearing body armor and aiming grenade launchers at the raptor.
There were park wranglers who worked with the herbivores. Not quite gentle giants, but a lot less vicious than a predator. No one was foolish enough to attempt to train a t-rex to do more than to show up throughout feeding shows and munch on her goat. Her caretaker – Laurel didn’t want to be called a trainer; that implied she could actually get the rex to do something she wanted – had managed her well so far, but there was no big progress. No one was stupid enough to try and pet her, or be around her when she was hungry. If she got sick, there was no way to treat her.
But Owen had always been fascinated by the velociraptors. Their behavior, their pack mentality, their intelligence.
Some called him the raptor whisperer. It had made him laugh and shake his head. They would watch him from the viewing areas as he worked with the freshly hatched babies, quickly growing into adolescents, and they would murmur to themselves, fascinated and terrified in one.
Some called him an insane s.o.b., someone who would end up as raptor chow and wouldn’t really know what had hit him. There were rumors floating around that he had already lost body parts to his charges. Owen could only shake his head and wriggle his fingers at the watchers.
All still there. All toes accounted for. And aside from a few scarred scratches, which was to be expected, he was fine.
And some, actually just a few, watched him with respect and interest, wanted to know about his progress, and they read his papers.
But almost everyone at the park had declared that he wouldn’t last a week.
By now it were five years.
Maybe he was bat-shit crazy, he mused as he buttoned up his shirt. Maybe he had to be insane to raise four velociraptors and train them like they were nothing but scaly, over-sized pitbulls.
But people didn’t know everything about him. For all their pretense that Owen was nothing but an overpaid park warden, an animal wrangler who happened to have some sensational moments with a pack of raptors, most people had no clue as to what he could do, what he was capable of and how invested he was in this project.
They knew nothing at all.
Owen Grady liked it that way.
The knife went into the sheath on his belt, at his back. Another on an ankle. His gun was loaded but secured.
Raptor Squad, they joked. Grady and his vicious little gang. There had been a manip of the four raptors in leather jackets pinned to his office door one morning, ‘Grady Gang’ written underneath. It had made him laugh out loud. They actually looked pretty cool in them.
He checked his messages.
Nothing new. Park schedule, staff meetings for the different areas, a heads-up that the Cretaceous Cruise would be short five boats today because of necessary overhauls, and the Aviary would be closing an hour before the park itself. He had a meeting with Dr. Marcus, one of the park vets, and he wanted to drop by the meat kitchens to stock up on supplies for the pack.
Slipping into his jacket, Owen stepped out into the fresh morning sun, listening to the sound of the waking jungle of Isla Nublar.
The forecast was medium temperatures today, with the occasional rain shower, which was normal this time of the year. The tourists might not like it, but that was nature.
Time to get to work.
* * *
“I bet I could talk to a dinosaur!”
At six, Owen Grady had been completely absorbed by dinosaurs. He loved them. He collected them.
“Let’s stay with dogs,” his grandfather, an accomplished vet, told him with a smile.
“Can I be like you, grampa?”
“You most certainly can.”
There was no name for what they did. They were just good with animals.
Owen just accepted it.
* * *
Riding through the theme park while there had yet to be any visitors was almost like a vacation itself. He wasn’t the only one. Cars, ATVs and motorbikes were everywhere, delivering or picking up goods and people.
Owen had little contact to the daily mass of tourists, since he didn’t run any shows, handled the petting zoo dinosaurs or gave lectures. He worked behind the scenes and he liked it that way.
At six in the morning there were the cleaning crews, pushing garbage cans, sweeping the main street, repairing small damages. A few employees from the shops were already setting up, making sure they had all their merchandize and supplies. The Jurassic Traders shops were prominently displaying rain gear. Today’s forecast promised good sales in that area.
Owen parked his bike. He grabbed a cup of coffee from an urn set up for the park employees by one of the restaurants, nodding at the young man behind the counter who was stocking the display case with bagels and muffins.
“Hey, Mr. Grady. Double chocolate chip?” Harry held up a huge muffin.
He chuckled. “No, thanks. Trying to stop the sweet tooth.”
“Good luck on that. You don’t know what you’re missin’. It’s just fresh out of the oven.”
“Not falling for it.”
It got him a laugh. Grady raised his coffee cup in a good-bye and walked. Dr. Marcus was at the mosasaur show area. Right now, with no tourists around, it was just a silent, massive piece of concrete. He nodded at a group of keepers who were on ATVs and pulling a load of fresh food for the triceratopes. He waved and got a wave back.
“Hey, Owen!” Nancy, head of the mosa show and also the main trainer, waved at him as he walked into the lagoon’s stadium.
He took the steps up to her two at a time. Nancy Hisada was having her own breakfast that looked suspiciously like an egg, cheese and bacon croissant. She gave him an easy smile.
“Heard the expected figures of today? Close to maximum capacity. Long weekend plus cruise ships and specials.”
Owen nodded. He had gotten several mails already, informing every employee of the park of ticket sales of today, ferry capacities, hotel occupation numbers, and so on. There were several companies spending a long weekend at the Hilton and one huge anniversary-reunion-birthday party at the botanical gardens.
It meant close to thirty thousand people throughout the next fourteen hours.
“How are the girls?” Nancy wanted to know.
“Eager for a run.”
“Marathon across the island?”
“They need about twenty minutes to cross the island. Won’t even breathe hard.”
She was about the only person who was genuinely interested in his work with the velociraptors. Working with a mosasaur wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. She had raised the mosa from the day she had hatched, but Nancy would never dare swim with her charge.
A huge back broke the water, a fin flapping down on the surface and creating a spray that almost reached up to them.
“Ah, there she is. Good morning, beautiful,” Nancy called.
A maw huge enough to swallow her in one opened, showing rows of sharp teeth, then the mosa disappeared beneath the surface.
“Looking for treats. She knows the first show’s just a few hours away.”
The mosasaur, like the t-rex, had been trained to show up every two hours for the feeding time show. It was always packed and people loved it. The splash zone was immense and everyone was crying with surprise and delight when the mosasaur hit the surface of the lake, creating a miniature wave.
“Doc’s in the back?” Owen now wanted to know.
“Yeah, he arrived a few minutes ago to prep the sharks with the supplements.”
“Okay. That’s why I’m here. See you, Nance.”
She gave him a warm smile. “Don’t be a stranger, Grady.”
* * *
His grandfather passed away a month after Owen’s eighteenth birthday. It was a blow to the teen, losing one of the few people who understood what it was like to be what he was. He had never told anyone outside his family; he would simply be a freak. Or a liar.
“There are people in the world who have talents. Different talents. Like you and me,” his grampa had always said. “Some of them go out into the world and call themselves all kinds of names: magicians, mediums, psychics… Some, like us, don’t do that. You don’t need to show off to do what you can do best. Just remember, kid: you can get lost. Hospitals have special areas where those who lost themselves spend their time talking to nothing. This is a gift; your talent. Use it wisely.”
And never to touch a human being, he had added. Because the human mind was too complex. It would be overwhelming; possibly fatal.
With the loss of the only other person he knew who understood what he could do, something broke inside him.
He joined the Army.
His parents had been shocked, his grandma saddened, but they had let him do what he wanted. It was his life.
Owen ended up working with animals. Military Working Dog handler. For ten years. The education benefits had enabled him to get a bachelor's degree in animal science and biology, as well as get a certification as a health technician. Animal psychology and obedience classes had been offered on top of that.
He was a natural, they told him. One of the best.
And in the back of his mind he still heard his grampa: never get too close. Never surrender your mind to that of the animal. Never get into a pack.
“What would happen?” a young Owen had asked, now at the age of eleven, when his grampa had once again repeated his warnings.
“You won’t be able to detach yourself.”
“It happened to someone I once knew. She created a bond.”
His grampa hadn’t explained just what a bond was, why it was so dangerous, and all Owen had always remembered was: don’t. Never get too close. Ever.
Nothing could have prepared him for a raptor mind, though.
Nothing compared to that sharp, cold knot of steel. This awareness of everything around it that was cutting edge and beyond any bird’s, even a harpy eagle’s. And those had been a challenge to work with when he had spent three months at the New York Zoo.
Maybe that challenge had helped prepare him for the velociraptors. Then again, nothing could have prepared him for that. Nothing at all in the world was like them.
Masrani Global, through InGen, approached him, tried to recruit him. Owen was twenty-eight, ten years in the Army, and one of the top MWD handlers.
He gave it a thought.
Jurassic World was a unique theme park and zoo-like structure. By the time Owen visited, invited by the company behind it all, it had been open for three years.
He liked it.
This was a one in a million chance.
“We want you for the animals, not as park security,” he had been told. “There’s a project we’ve been putting off again and again, mainly because the past handlers declined or left after just a few weeks.”
“Training and handling velociraptors.”
Owen started six months later.