They were talking.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, as he and a team of highly trained gunmen crouched before the chirruping dinosaurs, he was screaming very loudly. It was a sound that he'd never allow to escape, no matter how many times Echo play-pounced at him or Blue stared long and hard at him, calculating the pros and cons of challenging his Alpha status.
The forefront, though, was full of wonder. The five of them turned to face him - him, specifically, not the rest. His girls and their new best friend.
Owen stood up.
"What the fuck are you doing?" Vic yelled down his earpiece, obviously watching the feed from wherever he was, "You're gonna get yourself-"
"Hey girls," Owen said, calmly, laying his gun against the log he'd been using as cover. He stepped over and out in front of them - playing his part as their confident leader - and took a few casual but slow steps forward, "Who's this?"
Indominus, instead of simply snapping him up like she had half a dozen other people, made a low vocalisation that Owen knew really fucking well. He almost laughed - she was confused.
"Yeah, I know, it's pretty weird being out of the pen the first time," he agreed, "It's a big, scary world out here."
Indominus clearly had no idea what was going on - but Blue did. It was the same tone, similar words, as when he'd first introduced her and Echo to the world outside their cage, several months before Delta and Charlie had been born. He'd used the same tone again with them, and probably would again if anymore sisters were born.
Blue turned, beautiful, wonderful creature that she was, and let off a rapid litany of barks and chirps.
"I feel so bad for you," Owen muttered as Indominus replied. Blue said something else and their resident monster abruptly focussed back on him.
"Hi," he said, and against every instinct and feeling inside his frantic, terrified prey-brain, he reached towards her.
"Oh my god," Vic hissed in a strained whisper.
"I think," Owen said, taking a slow step forward, telegraphing his movements so that she could decide if she didn't like them, "I'll name you Alice. Because you are officially in the rabbit hole, and we're definitely all a little mad around here."
Alice twitched minutely backwards, but paused as he took another step. The only humans she'd ever seen moving towards her had been accompanied by loud noises that hurt her hide. The others had been staring at her through clear barriers or running away. This one had a tiny hand up, talking quietly and flanked by small-things-like-her that made reassuring sounds.
She lowered her head, more to get a better look than anything else, and the soft-two-leg slowly took another step. He laid a hand on the span of scales between her eye and the tip of her snout and slowly dragged it down and across, to just below her nostril and rubbed.
Owen grinned at the pleased noise Alice made. His girls, weirdly, liked the very ends of their snout and around their noses scritched - and he was very thankful that he knew that, or he might be very dead.
"What in god's name-?" Barry muttered behind him.
Owen wasn't in a position to make the snarky comment he wanted to, but he did continue scritching Alice's nose, using nails now. The huge hybrid rumbled, though her eyes had moved past him to examine the others - they weren't offering pets, and they were holding the noise makers.
"Guns on the floor," Owen warned, "She's watching you."
There was a fairly long pause, and then the gun started going down. Alice rumbled.
"Home base, girls," Owen muttered.
Blue barked, reinforcing his quiet command, and Alice stood up to her full height, looking around them and cocking her head.
"I trust you," he said, pointing a finger at Blue. She made the chittering noise that she used when replicating his laughter, the sign that all was well, and made to take off into the brush. Alice abruptly roared, and Blue looked back and barked again, Echo, Delta and Charlie joining in, agreeing that it was home time, and disappearing into the trees. Alice followed.
"Back to the Raptor Cage, people. And if anyone of you so much as think of firing, you're gonna have more than just Alice to worry about."
"What, the raptors are on her side?" one of the nameless mercs asked, "I though you were their leader?"
"No," Owen said as he switched on his bike, "I'm saying that if you shoot her, I'll shoot you."
His girls got home only a few moments before he did, hovering around the door but not entering.
"Yeah, she's not gonna fit in there," Owen grinned as he dismounted, "Round up, we'll sleep out here tonight."
"What do you mean, "we"?" Claire asked, staring, horrified, out the cracked open window of her remote veterinary unit, "You're going to sleep with them?"
"I do it, sometimes," he shrugged, "I used to a lot more when they were younger."
"You're such a badass!" the older of her nephews – Zach – called from the window behind her head.
"He's insane," Barry said, rolling his ATV up to the van, "Come on, we should return to the resort."
"I'll be fine," Owen waved them off, "Alice needs to have some things explained to her, and I'll hang the girls' headgear up on the fence so the command centre can monitor in case anything goes wrong."
"Alice?" Claire breathed, "You named it?"
"She needs guidance," Owen said, "Me and my lovely assistants are happy to provide it. You all go home - I'll take over here."
"Owen, I could kiss you for salvaging this mess-"
"Vic, if you come near here I will set a horde of angry dinosaurs on you," Owen snapped into his radio, making Charlie look up with interest, "You try and take my pack, I'm not happy. You try and take Alice, you'll be dead whether I interfere or not."
"You're going to train her, too-"
"We are going to teach her what she is," Owen interrupted, "But my girls don't like you - your smell or your personality - and she doesn't know how not to act on that dislike yet. She'll eat you, no questions asked."
Vic scoffed, "Not if you do your job."
Owen pulled out his earpiece and unclipped his radio, walking over and shoving them through Claire's window. "Go back to the resort. Get moving on building an enclosure - one that she can see out of, with plenty of room to run. Ethics was gonna clap you in irons after I reported that shoebox you were keeping her in."
"You were going to report me?" Claire asked, horrified. Echo following him over may have had something to do with that.
"A rabbit should have a hutch big enough for at least two hops in all directions. A carnivore should be allowed to reach top speed - big cats need twelve hundred square feet minimum per animal. Alice was barely managing twenty steps, let alone a proper run. She's huge, Claire - you had her in a concrete box with no enrichment besides a meat hook. No wonder she wanted out."
Claire's mouth was opening and closing, and Echo started copying the movement, which made Claire snap her mouth shut. Echo's snap was infinitely more intimidating.
Owen turned away, patting Echo's flank as he went, and made his way to where Charlie and Delta were playfully nipping and snapping at each other, while Blue dug at the ground to make herself a dirt pit to lie in.
Alice stood to the side, eyes sliding between the humans still warily standing around and the raptors.
"This isn't what I meant when I said round up," he grinned, and his girls all looked to him, "Front and centre."
They all lined up, more because they wanted their cameras off than because they were obedient. The other humans began to clear out, and Alice relaxed as they left. Owen collected four sets of headgear and hung them up on the enclosure, as promised, before turning to his pack plus one.
"I know it's a bit early for bed, but we have had a big day," Owen said, "Alice, come on. Round up."
Alice blinked. She already knew he called her "Alice" but really didn't understand the concept of "round up", any better than his girls had at first. Blue barked and turned in her dirt pit a few times before settling down. Owen repeated his instructions, and as Echo, Delta and Charlie made themselves comfortable, Alice realised what they wanted. She crouched, using her disturbingly articulate hands and arms to lower herself to the ground a couple of metres away. Owen would've loved to know where she got the arms from - his raptors had hands, yes, but their arms just didn't have that range of movement. She lay, legs tucked up like a cat and arms crossed and watched them.
Owen sat down beside Blue, cautiously moving back to see if she'd let him lean against her. Tonight, she did, and he made himself comfortable. Delta shuffled over to stick her huge head on his lap, and Charlie put hers on his shins. Echo grudgingly took up position at his side, unhappy at missing a spot resting on him, and he obligingly rested a hand on her head.
"Tomorrow," he sighed, "we're gonna go hunt. Were gonna teach Alice to eat what she kills, not to kill what she doesn't want to eat, and maybe see if we can find somewhere to stick you while they build your new home."
Blue chirruped, asking him to please shut up if he wanted them to sleep. Owen laughed quietly, and his girls softly repeated their imitation. To his alarm, Alice also gave it a shot, before laying her head down.
Tomorrow was going to be another long, long day.