Has she heard that some people are comparing it to the Titanic?
Claire Dearing gives me a look that is, if you'll forgive the gratuitous nature of the adjective, somehow reptilian. She doesn't blink, and her polite smile doesn't budge. I just have the vague urge to protect my major arteries.
"I have heard that, actually," she says.
We're in her Austin apartment, sitting on stools at the white-granite kitchen island, drinking iced tea out of tall glasses. In her blue Nicole Farhi silk blouse and black jeans, feet in nude pumps crossed neatly at the ankles, Dearing blends perfectly into her environment. Anyone who saw the shots of her that were floating around the Internet during August and September of 2015, tousle-haired and enigmatic as she dashed between hearings and depositions during the official inquiry into the Jurassic World disaster, might be surprised to see Dearing now. Her infamous angled red bob is sharper than ever, though a little longer, and I'm still working up the nerve to ask her about her lipstick. I figure asking about the blouse was pushing my luck far enough.
Does she think it's a fair comparison?
Dearing sips her tea. Her phone vibrates on the table. She glances at it once, then ignores it.
"If the point is the level of hubris involved," she says, "then I'd say...yes."
Some people say that there were two bloodbaths. There was Jurassic World itself, and then there was what came after.
-- Fossilized Memory: Claire Dearing and the Paradox of Profit, The New Yorker, November 2016
"Shit," Claire says, as the orange pencil lead snaps for the second time that day.
She throws the pencil onto the table with more force than necessary, stands, and tries to remember where she last saw the sharpener. It's a faded Disneyland souvenir that Gray gave her from his own pencil case, seemingly moved by her adult incompetence when it comes to simple things like stationery, and she keeps losing it. This is silly; there are only three rooms in this hotel suite. Even so, she's in the bathroom, guiltily contemplating using her Sephora eye pencil sharpener instead, when she hears the door open and close, and movement in the main room.
Acid clenches in Claire's stomach. There are shivers running down the backs of her legs. She holds onto the bathroom counter with one hand and firms her mouth in the mirror.
"Monica, is that you?" she calls.
Nothing but a steady rustling sound.
"Get it together," Claire tells her reflection, quiet.
Her legs don't shake as she walks back out into the living area of the hotel room. Owen is standing over the small table, flicking through her colouring book with one hand and eating a burger with the other. Sunlight catches the hairs on the backs of his arms.
"If you get sauce on my mandalas, you're in trouble," Claire says.
Owen looks up at her, raises his eyebrows, and manages to correctly interpret the expression on her face as: if you reply with a mouth full of masticated beef and cheese and lettuce, you're in lots of trouble. He chews furiously and then swallows.
"A lot of these pencils are broken," he says. "Have you considered the possibility that you might be repressing some anger?"
Claire bites down on a laugh. "I don't know. Can you think of anything that might be making me angry right now?"
Owen grins and takes another enormous bite of burger. There's a large paper bag on the table that wasn't there before, and he waves invitingly at it.
Claire moves closer and rescues the colouring book from any errant sauce-drips. "I was about to stop for the day anyway," she says. "It was nice of Karen to decide that I need calming activities, but after twenty minutes my hand starts to cramp. What's this?"
"Lunch," Owen says.
"It's four in the afternoon."
He shrugs. "Dinner?"
Wary of the burger, Claire peers inside the bag, but she pulls out a container of salad with chicken pieces, a bag of sweet potato chips, and a mango. The fruit smells incredible and it fits in her palm, warm and smooth, like an egg fresh from the incubator.
"No avocado in the salad," Owen says, as she's rummaging for the plastic fork and napkins.
He spreads his arms wide. A small piece of onion falls to the floor from the remaining fragment of burger in his hand. "A good alpha provides for the pack."
"Wow," Claire says, cracking open the salad. "Stop right there. The next time you refer to yourself as my alpha, or my anything, I'm telling every journalist camped outside this building that you're ready to give an exclusive interview about your innermost feelings and your tragic secret past."
Owen looks horrified for a second, then recovers. "What if I called myself your employee?"
"Ex employee," Claire says, stabbing at a piece of cucumber.
Owen winks at her. Claire contemplates throwing her chips at him, but she's hungry, and that's rare enough at the moment that she should probably eat everything in the bag. She hasn't woken up without nausea for three solid weeks. It's giving her deeply unpleasant flashbacks to her internship at Deloitte, where she lost eight pounds from spending every lunch break stress-retching in the ladies' room while unsympathetic EAs applied their lipstick at the other basins and a junior associate from in-house legal offered her what Claire was fairly sure was ADHD medication.
In the name of staying more connected with her family, she's tried telling Karen about how shit she feels at the moment. Karen asked if she'd done a pregnancy test; Claire left a judgmental over-the-phone silence that even Mom would have been proud of, before telling Karen that she was still a human being, not a dinosaur, and that would have required her to actually be having sex.
("I thought..." Karen said. "I mean, the boys kept saying... What about that trainer guy?"
"No, Karen!" Claire said. "No.")
A week later the colouring books arrived in the mail. Karen's got a new therapist and is going through an obnoxious post-divorce Zen phase where she thinks all of life's problems can be solved by pencils and intricate swirly gardens.
Claire finishes the salad and chips, and slices the cheeks from the mango before scoring them and flipping the flesh upwards. She offers Owen one of the cheeks automatically. Growing up with Karen meant one cheek each and then a fight over the flesh still wrapped around the stone, but Claire's feeling selfish today, and scrapes every fibrous scrap off with her teeth.
"And now I'm a mess," she says, when she's done. She wipes her sticky chin on the back of a hand and looks around for the napkins to clean off her fingers.
"Don't waste it!" Owen says. "That was an expensive mango, Claire. Lick it off."
They're in California, and it's summer; somehow Claire doubts mangos are a scarce resource. The juvenile act of sharing the fruit has clearly made her regress, because she waves her fingers in his face. "Lick it off yourself if you're so concerned."
The dry accusation on Owen's face falters as he looks between Claire's hand and her face. Then, when she doesn't move, it turns into another expression entirely.
"Wait, are you serious?"
Look. Okay. Claire's been asking herself that question for a while. The other thing that her body does when it's stressed is ratchet up her libido until she's nervy and tense and prone to wandering off into staggeringly dirty fantasies during bored moments. She can take care of things herself, obviously. But Owen's here, moving easily in and out of her space every day, her closest ally in this fucking circus of lawyers and analysts and insurance agents, providing jokes and food and company while her name gets raked so violently through the muck there isn't going to be much of it left. And Owen is still, infuriatingly, so much her type that it leaves her speechless: the sun on his arms, the thick strength of his thighs, his glinting eyes and the fact that she knows what he tastes like.
To put it frankly, Claire is at all times a couple of heartbeats away from shoving Owen onto the nearest surface and riding him until they're both exhausted. But she's still got enough self-control not to mess with the one pleasant thing in her life right now by acting rashly. And Owen's not pushed her at all. Owen just...watches her.
Like he's watching her now, very still and very intent as she stands there with her hand lifted in his direction as though they're at a ball in a Jane Austen novel and she's waiting for him to bow over it.
Come to think of it, he's watching her exactly like he watched his raptors when he was holding them at bay with sheer strength of will, which should be very unflattering and yet, somehow, isn't. Jesus; maybe Claire's the one who needs a therapist.
She lifts one shoulder in a small shrug. Time to run a check on the boundaries at play here.
"Well?" she says.
Owen's strong fingers with their close-cut nails take careful hold of her wrist. Claire's heart shoves at the inside of her ribcage, and at the first touch of Owen's tongue it actually skips an actual beat, or adds an extra one. Stress palpitations, Claire thinks, staring at Owen's mouth.
Owen sucks the mango juice from every one of her fingers, thorough but not lingering, and with the occasional scrape of teeth. By the time he's done Claire's heart is behaving itself again, but she's so turned on she wonders that her skin isn't giving off sparks where it bumps the furniture. She pulls her hand away, proud that it's steady, and stands up, because after all that she is still going to need to rinse it. The thing to do is pretend this is nothing out of the ordinary.
Owen leans back in his chair, still looking at her. Claire is seized with the suspicion that he's going to ask if she needs anything else, sounding either dead serious or flippant, and she can't decide which would be most horrifying.
"All right then," she says.
"All right," says Owen.
The lineage of Jurassic World is also the lineage of International Genetic Technologies, better known as InGen. John Parker Hammond founded the bioengineering company in 1985, only two years after the development of the polymerase chain reaction technique for amplification of DNA samples, and a whole eighteen years before the human genome would be sequenced. After the Jurassic Park/Hurricane Clarissa disaster on Isla Nublar in 1993, and InGen's subsequent plunge to the brink of bankruptcy over the next few years, Hammond's own company voted to remove him as CEO. He was replaced by his nephew Peter Ludlow, who died in the 1997 San Diego incident after what seems in retrospect like a stunningly ill-conceived plan to resurrect the theme park on the Californian mainland.
Given the public outcry against the company at the time--and given that the top job at InGen now seems more fraught than the position of Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts--Simon Masrani showed remarkable longevity. After his multi-billion-dollar company Masrani Global Industries purchased InGen in 1998, with the blessing of Hammond himself, the charismatic Masrani directed InGen's activities for almost two decades. Most importantly, of course, he oversaw the development of Jurassic World on the bones of Jurassic Park.
"I am hopeful that we can realise John's original vision," Masrani said in an interview in 2000, shortly after InGen's headquarters moved from Palo Alto to San Diego. "He dreamed of a place where people can experience the wonder of discovery, and appreciate the power of human ingenuity and science. The past and the future, coming together."
With its informational exhibits and simulated dig sites, as well as its hosted series of lectures by luminaries of fields from paleobotany to cutting-edge genetic splicing, Jurassic World seemed to be fulfilling its museum-like aspirations as well as providing the theme park spectacle to tourists. But it's hard to deny the fact that as a private corporation, InGen's primary responsibility was to its shareholders. Profit margins were still the order of the day. Claire Dearing was working for boutique consulting firm Donovan Friday when she was headhunted into the top managerial position at Jurassic World by Masrani and the other board members.
"It was pretty serendipitous," Dearing says. "I'd just finished up some work we were doing for the Smithsonian, and the director of the National Museum of Natural History was a friend of Mr. Masrani's, and mentioned my name to him. Next thing I knew, I was being flown to San Diego for an interview. It was a matter of timing and luck." She smiles faintly. "Good luck, I thought at the time."
-- Fossilized Memory: Claire Dearing and the Paradox of Profit, The New Yorker, November 2016
"Oh, hey," Monica says. "A software engineer was here earlier."
Claire freezes and looks at her purse, where her laptop has been safely stowed and kept at her feet the whole day. She isn't silly enough to leave it unattended while the media is still thirsty for any drops of her blood it can get its hands on.
"Oh, nah, nah." Monica waves away Claire's obvious concern. "She wasn't pretending she'd been sent to fix your stuff, or anything."
Claire steps out of her shoes and sighs at the stretch as she gently lowers her bare heels to the carpet. "What did she want?"
Monica shrugs. Monica is one of the most laissez-faire people that Claire has ever met; even Owen gets terse and picky about certain things, like people being ignorant about the raptor pack, or the prospect of anyone else working on his motorcycle. Monica looks as though her muscles have never been tense in her entire life. It drove Claire mad for the first two days after the temp agency sent her; after Zara, Claire hasn't found the stomach to interview for a permanent PA yet, and hell, it's not like she has an actual job right now. It just feels like she does.
But Monica's unflappable in the face of stress, bizarrely well organised for someone with a nose piercing and an arm full of tattoos (yeah, Claire's being judgmental; she's working on it) and she's got a knack for handing Claire a coffee or a phone charger or an Elastoplast just when she needs it. Monica and Owen have bonded over their inexplicable love of Metallica. Monica swore calmly for almost thirty seconds straight, at a particularly pushy reporter, in what turned out to be Romanian.
"She didn't want anything," Monica says now. "She didn't even try to get into the room."
"They all want something," Claire says tiredly.
Another shrug. "She left her card."
Claire takes the card. Above the phone number and email address, it says:
Minotaur Technologies, Los Angeles CA
"Why do I know that name?" Claire says. "Alexis--oh, my God." Her ribcage goes tense. She snaps her fingers. "Phone. Monica, phone."
The phone rings for long enough that Claire suspects it'll go to voicemail, but when it picks up, there's chatter and beeping in the background, and a warm, harried voice says, "This is Lex."
"Ms Murphy? This is Claire Dearing."
"Oh, yes! I was hoping you'd call." There's no letup in the warmth, no sudden frostiness or edge of disapproval. Claire's ribs relax the smallest amount. "Hey, hey, don't touch that yet! Sorry--we're having a bit of a crisis here, and we're rewiring half the servers by hand. Must be Tuesday."
Claire smiles and sinks into the corner of the sofa. "What can I do for you, Ms Murphy?"
"I thought you might want someone to talk to," says Alexis Murphy.
Claire bites down on her first answer, which is that she's been doing barely anything but talk; she's been explaining herself until she's not only blue in the face but gasping for oxygen behind it all, smothered and brutalized and still fucking unheard. The kindness in Alexis Murphy's voice suggests that she means the other kind of talk, and that's not much better. Claire can barely manage emotional openness with Karen when her sister's half a continent away, and she's just self-aware enough to be wryly amused at how strongly she's clammed up in the face of Owen's proximity.
She rubs the heel of her hand on the fabric of the sofa's arm. Jurassic Park, the original. Not an explosion but an implosion, and even back then there were kids involved. Claire's never read a word written by either of the Murphy siblings, never seen a single interview with them, even though there would have been more than enough interest, not just at the time, but during Jurassic World's development. It's the kind of silence that's deliberate enough to be a statement in itself.
"Yeah. Yes. Sorry, I'm here. How do you feel about coffee?"
"I work in tech. How do you think I feel?"
Monica works some magic, possibly involving the promise of sexual favours to the concierge, that allows Claire to slip out a service entrance of the hotel, a scarf draped over her conspicuous hair, and step into a cab.
"My assistant keeps telling me I should dye it," she says as she's pulling the scarf off again, in a tiny and crowded café tucked into the ground floor of a corporate skyscraper. "Go full goth."
"Hmm," says Alexis Murphy. "I bet you could pull it off."
Alexis Murphy--"Lex," she insists, and her tone's half joking but half managerial, like she's just as accustomed as Claire to giving orders--is a tall, pretty woman with a messy bun of blonde hair. She's wearing a nicer version of what Claire has always thought of as geek uniform: her jeans are expensive, her ankle boots have a low heel, and her red top has a sweetheart neckline. Something about her smile invites easy conversation. She's a year older than Claire, and also unmarried, though she makes brief reference to a longterm partner called Sam; the conversation moves on before Claire can make any polite enquiries as to Sam's occupation or gender.
"Hold on," Claire says, halfway into her chai latte. "Did we invite you and your brother to the opening of the Mosasurus exhibit? I'm sure I saw an email from PR about that. And another email that thought the whole idea was stupid and insensitive. God knows if I can remember which one won out in the end."
"Oh, yeah, you did." Lex grins. "Apparently I've got lifetime free membership to the park. Tim had his framed."
"What did you think?" Claire says before she can stop herself. "When you heard about Jurassic World?"
"You mean that it was being made in the first place, or--oh, okay. What happened last year." Lex taps her fingers on her phone, which has beeped with notifications every few minutes. She's been unapologetic about reading them, but hasn't responded to any. "Funny, everything was exploding on Twitter, there were people uploading these videos of themselves screaming, and all I could think was: somewhere, Ian Malcolm is swearing his head off about chaos theory and shouting I told you so."
Claire says, "I assume you want to know about what actually happened."
Lex spins her phone with a careful finger: one way, then the other. There's a tattoo on her wrist, but it's too small for Claire to see it clearly.
"Your nephews," Lex says, "what were their names again?"
Claire won't take bullshit, but she does know the power of tact. She is suddenly, profoundly grateful to Lex for pretending at ignorance here.
"Zach, and Gray."
"It's harder on the older one. Part of you will always be convinced that you failed in your job as a protector." Lex's mouth twitches. "But then, I suppose I would say that."
"Do you remember it?" Claire asks.
Lex leans back in her chair and watches her fingers, which are now tracing a rainbow path on her phone's lock screen. "Sometimes it seems like a dream," she says. "But I haven't forgotten any of it."
Claire nods. The espresso machine behind the café's counter makes a slow, sharp hissing sound whenever the barista froths milk in its jug. Every time Claire hears it, her heart tries to slam itself against her sternum.
"Okay," Lex says then. "I have a question."
"Everyone's got questions," Claire murmurs, but without any heat.
"Are you seeing anyone? A therapist?"
Claire blinks. "Excuse me?"
"Only--" Lex leans forward, nothing but a thoughtful kind of sympathy in her face "--you asked me if I wanted to know, but it seems like mostly you wanted to tell me."
If you were a corporation with a track record like InGen's, you'd probably be nostalgic for the early nineties, when it was a lot easier to keep a lid on something like human beings being killed and eaten by the creatures you'd created.
The only person to make a lot of public noise about the original Jurassic Park, calling it 'a mercifully stillborn clusterfuck' and 'a triumph of stupidity and myopia', was Dr Ian Malcolm. Peter Ludlow's refutations of Malcolm's report were blatant lies, but convincing ones, and public opinion swiftly wrote Malcolm off as a disgruntled lunatic. That is, until Isla Sorna and San Diego, with their much higher death tolls and the categorically undeniable spectacle of a Tyrannosaurus rex wreaking havoc in the San Diego suburbs.
On the other end of the publicity scale sits the slaughter at Jurassic World. It was broadcast in realtime, via Twitter and Snapchat and texts and Skype. And even, bizarrely, the creation of Vines, most of which were made by panicked high-schoolers crouching beneath benches and huddled in bushes, and many of which have since been acclaimed as miniature marvels of on-the-spot journalism and/or used as evidence in court. (If you're interested and you've got an academic library subscription handy, check out 'Williams, D. & Tsosie, N. (2016) Social media and emotive documentation: A case study of the Jurassic World disaster. International Journal of Information Management, 36(2), 51-57.' It's surprisingly readable.) The records for viewing loops were smashed and then smashed again. #jurassicworld shot to the top of trending lists and stayed there for an unprecedented length of time. Major newspapers rushed to break out a size of headline font not seen since 9-11, all clamouring to tell us the same thing: that, just in case mankind had forgotten exactly where they fit in the food chain, dinosaurs were dangerous.
Another unexpected side effect of the disaster has been to draw attention to the rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the wider community, and the sadly underfunded state of mental health care programs and facilities across the country. The much-publicised suicide of Marissa Etheridge, who lost her nineteen-year-old son Lincoln in the park tragedy, became a rallying-cry for charities and activist groups. It also served as fuel on the fire that became the brutal, drawn-out lawsuit against Masrani Global and every senior employee of Jurassic World who survived to stand trial.
During my conversation with Claire Dearing I make the mistake of asking after Dearing's nephews, Zach and Gray, who along with Dearing and Owen Grady were off the park's beaten tourist track, out in the wider wilderness of Isla Nublar--face to face with the Indominus Rex, and close to death a dozen times--even when the rest of the park's guests had been safely corralled indoors.
I've barely gotten their names out when the thoughtful woman in front of me shifts back to the poised and chilly one whose expression has claws of its own.
"You can stop right there. My family's been hounded enough. Because of me, my sister's name got plastered everywhere, so that any self-righteous idiot with an Internet connection could label her a negligent mother who packed her kids off to a massacre while she was negotiating a divorce settlement. So no, I'm not going to talk about my nephews' mental health with you."
What about her own?
"Yes," Dearing says: readily, and unflinching, but without thawing. "Is that what you're asking? Yes, I'm seeing someone."
-- Fossilized Memory: Claire Dearing and the Paradox of Profit, The New Yorker, November 2016
Claire's still snatching at the crumbs of what she was dreaming about, when she wakes up. The awful sourness in her mouth and another, more painful sourness in her stomach suggests that the best thing to do would be to let it go, but her thundering pulse has other ideas. Danger. Danger. Be aware.
If she screws her eyes shut and strains after her own thoughts, she can capture little pieces of it. Standing in the control room, watching. The display blinking red, then more red, then alarms sounding, and Claire unable to make her eyes focus on the map of the park because--because why is it in dreams your eyes are always fucking useless, even if you've never worn glasses in your life? People turning to look at her. People talking in small groups. The realisation that there are pteranodons staring down at her employees from a bashed-in hole in the ceiling, when did the hole get put there, and Gray screaming and pulling away when she reaches out frantically to take his hands and drag him to safety.
"Well done, Claire," she says, with her parched throat. "You remembered. Well done. Very constructive."
The sarcasm doesn't have the power she'd like, here in the empty hotel bedroom with darkness pressing in on all sides. If Monica were here she'd smirk, and if Owen were here he'd...actually, Claire doesn't know what Owen would do.
Actually, Claire has been trying not to think about Owen while lying in bed.
Claire sighs and rolls over to turn on the lamp; she knows from experience that she's not getting back to sleep in the next half-hour at least. She makes her way mostly by touch into the kitchenette, where the floor is patterned by city lights falling dimly through the privacy curtains. The curtains waft and dance slowly in the breeze through the screen door leading out onto the tiny balcony. It's warm and Claire's hair is sticking to the back of her neck, the air making half-hearted attempts to evaporate the sweat that's pooled at her throat. She downs half a bottle of cold water from the fridge before digging through the selection of free teabags until she finds something herbal, then fills a cup with near-boiling water from the tap and takes it out onto the balcony. An ambulance swoops by on the street far below. The wail of its siren rises and falls, lingering for a while at the edge of hearing even when the ambulance itself is out of sight.
Here are some other things to remember, Claire tells herself.
Here are some other things Claire Dearing has done: driven an ambulance at full tilt down a dirt path while a raptor tried to shove its teeth through the window, and two boys rattled yelling in the back. Lit a flare to tempt out the fuel of a thousand children's nightmares. Picked up a tranq gun she hadn't used since the single day of basic animal handling training she was given at the start of her work at Jurassic World. Animal handling, what a joke.
Claire shifts her weight back and forth between her bare feet where they're settled against the warm tiles of the balcony. She inhales the chamomile steam and keeps her eyes open, gazing up at the mere tease of starlight struggling to blink through the city haze. That was something, on Isla Nublar. The stars were incredible. On good nights Claire could see the arm of the galaxy soaring through the black like a pale brushstroke.
After a while she takes her tea back to bed. She checks her email and then spends some time playing a silly puzzle game that Zach turned her onto a month ago. She's never been one for video games, but she gets a jab of achievement every time she finishes a level that she's been stuck on for hours, and...she needs the excuse, with Zach. Or Zach needs the excuse. Either way, it suits the both of them to drop little bits of personal news or harmless complaints about their day into the middle of a furious texting exchange about strategies to open the locked chest in level 29.
After five failed attempts at a particularly pernicious level, Claire sighs and swaps out her uppermost pillow for one from the other side of the bed, which is cooler, though not by much. She explores the sheets idly with her bare legs. Last year she dated a guy called Brian, who stuck around just long enough to deserve the title of boyfriend and then called it quits. Two weeks in he told her, I guess you don't share a bed very often.
Claire opens her messaging app and taps the icon which represents Owen. It used to be the official Masrani HR mugshot, but at some point in the last few weeks either Monica or Owen himself has switched it out for a cartoon raptor head.
She scrolls idly through their last few messages, and then quickly sends a new one.
I can't sleep.
She watches the screen for a while. The glare of it smarts against her eyes, and makes the rest of the room seem darker again. It's close to three in the morning. Perhaps this wasn't a good idea. She's on the verge of going back to the puzzle game when three small dots appear and resolve themselves into:
yeah me neither
She debates it with herself for a moment. Then she taps out: Bad dreams.
do u want me to come over?
Claire runs her thumb over the words in their gray bubble. Her breathing is very even.
Thanks. No. I've got a one-person Banjoree tournament going on here.
Almost at once she gets back: if u tell me u have got past level 37 ur a damn liar claire dearing
It startles a laugh out of her: a sound that rises a little distance, hesitates, and then falls back into her own ears. Around her, the darkness is softened.
Why the Titanic comparison? Aside from the obvious reasons of scale, one can think about the grandiose claims of White Star Line around the great ship's unsinkable nature: the refusal to plan for disaster, the refusal to even admit its possibility. The Titanic carried not nearly enough lifeboats for those on board. Jurassic World had one passenger ferry which spent most of its time docked at the mainland, meaning that evacuation was both slow and delayed.
It's not a perfect metaphor. Jurassic World's disaster hardly took place on its maiden voyage; it had been running successfully, and to great acclaim, for many years. But perhaps that, too, was part of the problem. Why consider what could go wrong, when nothing ever had?
Dearing said it herself. Hubris.
"There's another way to look at it, though," Dearing tells me. "If they'd stopped the space program the first time astronauts died, where would we be today? We always want to show that this time, we've learned from our past. This time, we can handle it."
But surely, the difference is that the astronauts signed up for the risks involved.
"I know you probably think I should condemn the whole InGen project out of hand," Dearing says. "But I can't. I can't do that. I know that in hindsight it looks ridiculous: Jurassic Park killed people before it even had a chance to open! People went to the second site on Isla Sorna, three times that we know of and possibly more, and it always ended in death. Half the population of the planet thinks we should have abandoned the entire field of prehistoric genetic engineering a very long time ago. But I'm interested in the other half. They're the ones who kept coming back through our gates."
Three times, and possibly more? She is, possibly, correct. There have been no confirmed visits to Isla Sorna since 2002, but the key word here is 'confirmed'. Hammond relinquished his private lease and petitioned the Costa Rican government to have it declared a nature reserve, and Isla Sorna is now classified as a Level 1 protected environment: no human interference permitted. However, anyone who's ever seen an episode of Star Trek can tell you how well humanity does at sticking to that kind of directive. Blog posts, apocryphal video footage, wild claims by daredevil adventurers: there's been no shortage of people claiming to have braved tooth and claw to set foot on the now-abandoned shores of InGen's famous Site B. In 2009 a series of photos and videos was uploaded by MIT student Charles Clifford, seeming evidence of a weekend spent on the island filming various dinosaur species, but this was quickly debunked as the product of some ingenious image manipulation software. (Clifford later submitted the images as part of his senior thesis, and sold the software in question to Google for an undisclosed sum.)
Some people will always chase the adrenalin of the near-death experience. That can't be argued. But the general public?
"You think they didn't sign up for risk? We never made absolute guarantees of safety," Dearing says. "When I first started in the job, I thought we should. I was that confident of our security measures. And perhaps I was mistaken in that, but nevertheless: at the time, I thought we should. Do you know what every member of the marketing team, every focus group, told me?"
You can tell she's accustomed to being sure of her audience. She doesn't go on until I shake my head.
"They said: don't do it. Nobody's visiting a dinosaur theme park to feel safe. They want to see the biggest, the loudest, the most teeth. They want the thrill of proximity, of the little voice inside them asking what might happen if the fence went down. The danger is what will bring people back, again and again."
Dearing brushes back a near-invisible strand of red hair, tucking it behind her ear.
"And," she says, "they were absolutely right."
-- Fossilized Memory: Claire Dearing and the Paradox of Profit, The New Yorker, November 2016
You weren't there. You weren't there.
Claire has to take a breath in and another breath out, teeth held tightly together, so that the words don't escape as her answer to every question fired at her by the panel of lawyers. This phalanx of suits and jowls and expensive aftershave, looking for someone to blame.
None of you were fucking there.
"Ms Dearing, if we could go back to the events in the control room shortly after the Indominus Rex escaped its containment pen, killing two of your employees in the process."
Claire nods, and picks up the glass of water near her hand. She's not thirsty. In fact, she's starting to feel like one of those succulent plants that are watered to death by their anxious and well-meaning owners. And she's only taking tiny sips because the last time she asked for yet another bathroom break, a paralegal made the universal feminine do-you-need-tampons eyebrows at her; if any of the fucking lawyers decide to make the same incorrect mental leap, it'll be the equivalent of sharks sensing, for lack of a less unfortunate term, blood. Claire dated an asshole of a defence attorney for two years, fresh out of college, and he told her more than she ever wanted to know about techniques for discrediting or emotionally manipulating witnesses.
Claire doesn't need a group of men in suits deciding that her hormones are going to render her either vulnerable or volatile. She's had enough of that bullshit in her life already, and that was before she became Claire Dearing, Chief Operations Manager of Jurassic World and nominee for Most Likely To Get Nailed To The Wall For Criminal Negligence.
But picking up the glass of water, moving it to her mouth, concentrating on the sip, and putting the glass back down again, is a sequence of actions preferable to letting herself react to the the audible quotation marks around Indominus Rex, or giving in to the urge to snarl into her lapel mike that they can force her to rehash the story as many times as they want: it isn't going to make her any more likely to say what they want to hear.
"Simon Masrani pointed out that initiating a park-wide alert before the Asset Containment Unit had even been mobilised was likely to cause undue panic among the guests."
"Not so undue," someone murmurs, just loud enough for their mike to pick it up.
Claire lifts her chin. "There were twenty-two thousand, two hundred and sixteen guests on the island on the day in question, and a total of nine deaths from that number. A lot of injuries, yes. Nine deaths."
"Really?" That's Horace Manning, whose name Claire learned first, and whom she has privately nominated for the I Wouldn't Cross The Street To Pee On Him If He Was On Fire award. He's not even talking to her, now; doesn't have the decency to meet her eyes. He turns to his left, fact-checking. "Give me those numbers again, I thought--"
"The total death toll was thirty-two, Mr Manning," Claire says. "Most of those were ACU or InGen security officers, all of whom showed great courage in attempting to contain the Indominus and, later, the raptors. And every single one of whom signed an employment contract stating that they were fully aware of the risks of the position."
"We've seen those documents already," says Gerard Suez. Suez is Claire's favourite lawyer, if only because he looks as bored at this rehashing of yesterday's greatest hits as Claire feels. "I think we can move on. Ms Dearing?"
"As I was saying," Claire says. "Every single guest mortality was a direct result of the d--the damage to the aviary, which at that point we had no reason to anticipate. Just as we had had no reason to anticipate that the Indominus would remove its own security implant. Closing the island's northern attractions, followed by a staged evacuation back to the main centre, was in line with both my mandate as park manager and our situational awareness at the time. I stand by it."
Masrani Global's lawyers wince every time Claire uses words like mortality; they keep telling her it makes her sound callous. If she says death, she sounds too dramatic. Claire asked them yesterday if they preferred the term negative event, and they withdrew, snapping like a pack of--well. Like any kind of animal whose multinational, multi-billion-dollar corporation was suffering a severe financial haemorrhage.
Claire thinks about Masrani's helicopter, spinning and smoking, and Owen's horrified face blue-lit in the control room as he told them to evacuate the island. She looks at Manning's thick, pink neck where it rubs against the collar of his shirt, the vain wave of his white hair, and the oversized gleam of gold coming from his Rolex.
Her mother used to mutter, dinosaurs, when she saw men like him on the news.
"Is something funny, Ms Dearing?"
"No." Claire settles her mouth to neutral again and grabs one of her hands with the other, digging in her nails. "No. Sorry. Please continue."
Humor's as dangerous as irritation and just as explosive; when she keeps them contained, she imagines she can feel the slippery membranes that line her ribcage beginning to weaken and tear along thin and perilous lines with the sheer force of the pressure. By the end of the day, it hurts in tiny stabs when she breathes. There's a fist clenched at the base of her throat, sharp and heavy and difficult to swallow past.
"Water," Monica says firmly, fishing a bottle out of her shoulder bag and shoving it into Claire's hand. They're in the elevator. When Claire looks at her own reflection in the chrome and the glass, her lips are parted, but she doesn't look like she's gasping. She's contained. She's fine.
She drinks the water. It's cool and somehow twice as refreshing as any of the glasses she's downed throughout the hearings, despite being exactly the same liquid.
Monica says, "I'm just going to--you know what, Ms Dearing, you go and sit down in the room. Drink that. I'll be right back."
"I'm fairly sure I'm still your boss," Claire says.
"Absolutely," comes floating down the corridor.
Claire lets herself into the room. The water's helped, but she's still breathing hard, and she's much too restless to take Monica's suggestion and sit down. She steps out of her high shoes and paces, scuffing pale tracks in the carpet.
She finishes the bottle of water. It crackles and crumples in her hand. She didn't even think she was clutching it that hard, but suddenly the plasticky collapse of the thing isn't enough.
"Fuck," she says, snaps, "fuck, fuck the whole fucking lot of them," and throws the bottle against the wall.
"Wow," says Owen's voice from the doorway.
Claire spins around.
"Monica," she says, very evenly.
"I'm going to go and tell the ravening hordes of the press three different restaurants that you're going to for dinner, they'll all be wrong, you're welcome," Monica says, and closes the hotel room door on her escape.
Fine. Owen's as good a target as any, and Claire's just been forced to remember the day when he stood in her control room and insulted her authority to her face.
"It doesn't matter what I say," Claire spits. "It doesn't. They need to find someone at fault, and God forbid anyone start speaking ill of the dead. Not that Masrani--but Henry Wu is the only other senior employee alive and you don't know him, but I do. He's slippery, he'll claim he was a pure disinterested scientist, just following orders, even though he was the only one to know what actually went into the Indominus, when that information could have made all the difference. He knew all along what Hoskins was trying to do. And he's not even here! You know why? Apparently he's on stress leave."
The fist in her throat has returned, tighter than before, and now it's cutting off her air supply. The nausea is back, too. Maybe she'll vomit. That would just round out the day nicely.
Either Owen crosses the room faster than should be possible, or the black spots in her lightheaded vision are confusing her. He grabs her by both shoulders; if he shakes her then Claire's going to go for his instep and his balls in quick succession, but he doesn't. He just holds her, lightly enough that she could pull away, until her vision clears.
"Claire," he says.
"Of course I'm the scapegoat. I'm the only one left," Claire says. And that's the problem, isn't it: she worked at that place long enough to know what happens to goats. She's breathing again, but her calm's been fractured now, and up from the depths of her comes something searing, and huge, and--
She's angry. She's so angry.
"They're eating me alive," she says.
Owen is quiet until she looks up, bracing herself to meet his gaze. She hadn't realised how tall he would be when she's not wearing shoes. Owen lifts a hand and runs a thumb over one of her cheeks. Claire is briefly horrified; has she started crying without knowing, on top of everything else? But it's a dry brush of skin on skin. A comfort.
"Really," Owen says, after a moment. "Eating you--that's what you're going with?"
"God," Claire says, "you're such an asshole," and then she's laughing, shaking, leaning the little way forward until she's resting her weight against his chest.
Owen's arms come around her at once. It's like crawling beneath the covers in winter, or stepping into the ocean at the height of a hot noon. Every one of Claire's muscles droops with relief so heavy she's teetering on the edge of falling asleep.
"You know what I think," Owen says, half burying the words in her hair. "I think I should take you for a ride."
Claire's skin tingles all over. When she inhales she can smell him.
"Is that right," she says. She's aiming for flat, but it comes out a little wobbly.
Owen's chest shakes with a quick silent laugh. "On my motorcycle, Claire."
Claire's muscles have a go at tensing up again. They don't make it very far.
"Those things are dangerous," she says.
"Yeah," says Owen. "Funny, so are dinosaurs."
Claire exhales and pulls out of his arms. Maybe if they stood here for another hour, maybe if Claire rose up onto her toes and kissed him hard and with purpose, then the drumbeat of anger and frustration would settle. She needs something to happen.
"All right," she says. "Sure. Let's go."
There's another kind of hubris underlying InGen's research: not those parts of it that ended up on display at Jurassic World, but the facility in the north of the island. Under the direction of the late Victor Hoskins, a project was established in 2012 to assess the intelligence and behavioural characteristics of a raptor pack who were imprinted on a human keeper at birth.
Talk to anyone who was ever on Isla Sorna, or anyone involved in the original Jurassic Park, and they'll tell you that raptors are the number one reason why humans shouldn't have started messing around with reverse engineering extinct animals. But humans are used to ruling the world. Sure, dinosaurs give us an unsettling glimpse of a world where we are prey, but this just means that the next step in the machismo manual is to prove that we can subdue these deadly creatures and turn them to our own ends.
The very fact that Vic Hoskins was part of InGen's security arm gives a hint to the hoped-for endgame, which was something much more practical than adding to the body of knowledge in herpetologic behavioural science. During the park crisis, in the leadership vacuum that existed in the wake of Simon Masrani's sudden death, the board of InGen voted to grant this security arm special powers--a strange corporate equivalent of martial law--in order to contain the situation. This was done at Hoskins' urging. He seized the opportunity for a field test of the ultimate goal of the raptor project: use in warfare.
Hoskins himself was killed later that day, in one of the universe's blacker displays of irony, by one of the project's own raptors.
"I'm afraid that's classified," Dearing says, when I ask her if she knows anything more about the raptor program. She does look apologetic. She signed one of Masrani Global's famously watertight non-disclosure agreements when she was first employed, and without the force of a subpoena she hardly wants to be accused of anything with a whiff of corporate espionage, or open herself up to another lawsuit.
Even without knowing the details, it's a sobering thought. Surely, it was like letting kids wander around a weapons museum that allows them to play with loaded guns.
"The raptors weren't ever part of the theme park," Dearing points out. "The guests weren't anywhere near them." Just as I'm wondering if she ever gets sick of being on the defensive, of justifying a situation that led to what some would call entirely unjustifiable outcomes, Dearing changes tack. "But Owen told me once that the problem InGen had was just that: thinking about them like guns, like they were something that could be controlled. We didn't respect them for what they were."
There were rumours crawling over rumours about Dearing and Owen Grady, the ex-Navy raptor trainer employed by InGen's research arm. Photos emerged of the two of them, grimy and ragged, seated with shoulders pressed together and passing a bottle of soda back and forth in the sunshine outside the evacuation shelter on the Cuban mainland, and there was at least one completely unsubstantiated (and, frankly, hard to put too much credence in) report of the two of them sharing a kiss over the corpse of a dinosaur in the park, while chaos raged around them. Dearing's mouth curves when I mention this. She tells me readily enough that the two of them kept in touch, but she doesn't rise to my unsubtle insinuations.
"You know, Alexis Murphy told me that Dr. Ellie Satler got affronted letters from people who'd read her interviews," Dearing says, "when they found out she'd married someone other than Alan Grant. No matter what, I'm going to disappoint someone who thinks they know my story better than I do."
It's a quick, sharp dig. A reminder that we're only hearing Dearing's narrative because she's decided, in her own time, that she's ready to tell it.
Grady was applauded for his part in what happened at Jurassic World, which included the ultimately successful deployment of his small raptor pack against the Indominus Rex. News outlets reached saturation point with footage of the photogenic man, a stern combination of Steve Irwin and Indiana Jones, staunchly defending his 'girls' in the face of public outcry against carnivorous dinosaurs. Three of the four raptors died in the battle, and Grady talked about them like a captain mourning his fallen platoon.
Since then Grady has found work back in the armed forces, working as a trainer for special forces teams, specialising in strategy and tactics.
Dearing nods when I mention this. "Not at the moment, though," she says. "Right now he's in Australia for six months."
Her information is better than mine; I didn't get much more than a brushoff from the military media liaison office when I contacted them. Is he attached to the armed forces over there?
"No," Dearing says. She drinks some of her tea, but there's only ice left in the glass now. I wonder if she's hiding a smile. "Actually, he's attached to a wildlife park."
Suddenly, my Steve Irwin comparison is looking a lot cleverer. You heard it here first: Owen Grady, raptor trainer and sensitive action hero, the only person to come out the other side of Jurassic World with a positive public approval rating--even if that rating was dictated by Facebook polls--is now spending his time honest-to-God wrestling crocodiles.
-- Fossilized Memory: Claire Dearing and the Paradox of Profit, The New Yorker, November 2016
There's a flat, rectangular white paper bag on the hotel room table when Claire returns from what she's been told will be her last day of deposition. She's not racing to pack her bags just yet--she's been told that twice before, and each time she's been called back because someone has come up with a new piece of garbage for her to refute--but she can see fatigue even in Manning's face now. Surely, they're coming to the end.
There's a note attached to the bag, on hotel stationery, in Owen's handwriting.
I think your sister got it half right, the note says. Try these ones.
Inside is a set of artist's watercolor pencils: 48 colors in all, arranged in a fluid rainbow that soothes something inside Claire when she runs her fingers over them. The other object in the bag is a coloring book called Dino World! It is suggested, says the front cover, for children between the ages of 3 and 8.
Claire feels the grin break helplessly out on her face.
She makes herself a cup of chamomile tea and opens the book at random. A triceratops herd is grazing on one page, a nest of eggs starting to hatch on the other. Claire picks up the prettiest shade of yellow in the pencil tin, rolls it appreciatively between her fingers--unlike the cheap set from Karen, these are thick and triangular, and they feel expensive--and settles in. She finishes the eggs, and the peeking limbs of the hatchlings, and then flicks through the book until she finds the picture she's looking for.
Thoughtfully, she selects two shades of grey and a bright, electric blue.
Owen misses them, she can tell. Two nights ago he and Claire got quietly drunk in the hotel bar and he told her about them, Charlie and Delta and Echo and Blue, rambling on about their personalities and quirks and that time they adorably disemboweled a pig and brought him an unidentified bloody organ as either tribute or trophy. He talked about them like a cross between childhood pets and brothers-in-arms. Sisters in arms. He thinks they deserved better; he thinks Indominus deserved better, and under the influence of two vodka tonics and a triple measure of lethally peaty Scotch, Claire reached the point of agreeing with him.
"I'm sorry," Claire says, to the line drawing on her page. "Nobody got a good deal out this mess."
She still gets an unsettling liquid shiver of adrenalin down her spine when she stares too long at the teeth--a raw flashback is always hovering just out of her mind's reach, ready to plunge down and take over her body when she's not braced against it--but she can also pick up the pink pencil and give Echo a purse and a pedicure, which is a novel kind of therapy, but makes her smile anyway.
A knock sounds on the door and Claire looks up, startled, noticing first how dim it is in the room. Evening has crept in. She gets up and turns on the lights.
"Claire, you in there?" comes Owen's voice.
They left the bulk of Owen's deposition for today. He'll be fine. He didn't know about the Indominus until the day it escaped, he was wary about the limits of InGen's projects and reluctant to use the raptors for anything other than behavioural research, and he saved Claire's life and the lives of her nephews. They won't touch him. They can't.
"Hi." Claire leans against the doorframe, enjoying the sight of him. Someone managed to wrangle him into a shirt not designed to be worn while rolling around in the dust with animals, but he's still rebelled enough to roll the sleeves up to his elbows. The shirt is a sort of red-purple, like organ meat; above it, Owen's eyes are the same bright blue that she's been using to sketch out a lightning strike of colour running from raptor cheek to raptor tail.
"I don't know about you, but lawyers make me hungry," Owen says. "Dinner?"
Claire consults her elusive appetite and discovers that this is a possibility. "Sure. I should shower, though. Come on in. You can colour in a stegosaurus while you wait."
Owen only gets a few feet into the room before he leans against the wall and smiles at her, all casual muscle and smugness. "Yeah?"
"Yeah," Claire says. She closes the door. Despite what she said about showering, she leans back against the opposite wall, facing him in the tiny hallway that leads into the room proper. "Thanks for the pencils. That was--that was really sweet."
Owen looks at her, and his gaze doesn't drop from her face but it's still hot enough that Claire's whole body aches with it. She remembers the race of air past her exposed skin and the jubilant throb of the motorcycle between her legs.
"Oh, hey, I saw your geek," he says after a few seconds. "They finally called him in to testify. What's his name, Larry? He says hi."
"They tried to get you to say it was my fault, didn't they?" she says. "Screw it. Maybe you should."
"Bullshit, Claire. It's bullshit," Owen says, sharp. "You shot a dimorphodon off me, remember? You single-handedly went and baited a T-Rex, and saved all of us. Not even I had the balls to do that."
"You would have if you'd thought of it."
"Okay, but I didn't think of it."
Claire's heart is beating fast. For once, she doesn't think it's due to stress.
"It doesn't matter what I did. The media's going to nail me either way," she says. "I told you: I'm what's left."
Owen looks grim. "Then I'll yell louder." He stretches out an arm and prods a firm finger against her sternum, just above her breasts. Claire catches her breath. "You're a damn hero, Claire Dearing. I won't let anybody forget it. Especially not you."
A voice in Claire's mind shouts: what is it that you're afraid of?
Owen's right: she faced down a Tyrannosaurus rex. She almost died, more times than she can count on her hands. Her professional reputation is probably irretrievable. Her life is crumbling around her. She can do anything she wants to do, anything at all.
She pushes off the wall, takes a single step, and wraps her arm around the back of Owen's neck.
He's got good reflexes; his arm is crushing her body against his by the time their lips meet, and so Claire gives a little gasp, an involuntary release of air, against Owen's mouth. His other hand brushes down over her hip and desire tears through Claire like a stormfront, like the claws of something large. Owen's hands are warm and beneath them her anger is melting away; maybe this is why she waited, because she needed her anger to carry her through. And now she's filling up with something larger and better, and new.
So what's next for Claire Dearing? We've covered a lot of the past, in my time with her. We've had three glasses of iced tea each. I can tell you the scent of the hand soap in her bathroom (orange blossom) and the brand of her towels (Ralph Lauren). But her eyes brighten when I mention the future, and she sits up a little straighter, shedding some of the weight from her shoulders. We chat for a while about what she's up to at the moment, here in Austin; she's back to doing consulting jobs, for the most part, working short fixed-term contracts.
Is she happy, doing that kind of work?
"For now," she says. A self-deprecating smile creeps onto her face. "I'm weighing up some more permanent job offers. It seems like I'm still employable. I haven't made any decisions yet, though."
I like Dearing. I didn't know if I would, when I first pitched this story, when I first sat blinking in surprise at the email telling me that she'd agreed to the interview. She flicks between professional and warm like someone's flipping a switch, but both modes seem absolutely genuine. That said, I think she's practiced enough at answering questions by now that maybe I wouldn't know if she was prevaricating. Maybe she has made her decision.
"When my current project wraps up, I'm going to take a few months' vacation," she says. "Do some traveling."
I push my luck one last time and ask her: anywhere in particular? Has she thought about seeing Australia?
Claire Dearing laughs.
"I'm afraid that's classified."
-- Fossilized Memory: Claire Dearing and the Paradox of Profit, The New Yorker, November 2016