I took the four-wheeler back to the employee garage, making it to work right on time despite the fact that I'd spent more than planned at the raptor's containment unit. The ease Owen had made me feel was quickly vanishing and I suddenly couldn't stop thinking about him standing in the middle of that paddock, surrounded by his four velociraptors. I couldn't get their yellow, slanted eyes out of my head, the cold calculated intelligence within them.
I tried to brush off the anxiety and ignore the sickly feeling in my stomach as I slid behind the bar and clocked in. Thankfully, the restaurant was busy. It was the midst of the lunch rush which helped to take my mind off of things. If I was constantly worrying about Owen and the dangerous possibilities of his job, I'd never get anything done for the rest of forever. I had to remind myself that he was perfectly capable and that he knew what he was doing.
The park seemed more crowded than ever. Outside of Margaritaville, it was a perfect day covered by a cloudless blue sky. Main Street was packed with people, crowds bumping should to shoulder down the midway. Claire was probably celebrating, with numbers these high. I hoped she was out having fun, enjoying the sunshine and the humidity with her two nephews.
I felt less anxious by mid afternoon as the day raced past, hours filled with drink order after drink order. That feeling was shattered, though, when Owen suddenly appeared outside. I stopped what I was doing, an empty margarita glass in my hand, as I watched him weave his way around the tables until he reached the bar. I knew something was wrong immediately by the look on his face. He was sweaty, his skin and clothes covered in a thin layer of dirt. And he reeked of something that smelled strongly of gasoline. Something that tasted a lot like fear gnawed it's way from the pit of my stomach and into my mouth.
"What's wrong?" I asked, the second he had reached the bar.
He shook his head. "We gotta go. Now."
I furrowed my eyebrows with him, looking around at the crowded restaurant. "Now? Owen, I'm in the middle of a shift! We're slammed!"
He rounded the side of the bar and pulled out my bag from the shelf underneath the bar, shoving it into my arms. "I'll explain later, but for right now, I'm not letting you out of my sight."
The half a dozen customers I had at the bar were watching us curiously. I grabbed Owen's arm and tugged him out of sight, into the busy kitchen. "Fine, the only reason I'm not going to argue is because you look seriously freaked out right now. I have to at least tell Denny I'm going."
"I'll tell him." Owen said quickly, turning abruptly and stalking his way through the kitchen to the small office at the back. He knocked once before pulling the door open. Denny glanced up from a stack of papers in front of him, eyebrows shooting up. He opened his mouth, no doubt to ask what the hell was happening, but Owen was shaking his head. "I'm taking Rylan, and I think it'd be a good idea for you to shut down the restaurant for the rest of the day."
I peeked over his shoulder to see Denny still staring at him, confused and wide-eyed. "Did something happen?" He asked carefully.
Owen glanced over his shoulder, but the cooks were too busy to even pay the slightest bit of attention to him. It wasn't the first time Owen had appeared in the kitchen, usually to talk Denny into selling him a bottle of liquor or a case of beer. He stepped further into the room, speaking in a quick, hushed tone. "There's a code 19 happening right now. Whatever you do, do not cause a panic. Just try and keep calm."
"Code 19? What the hell is a code 19?" I demanded. I had a pretty good idea that it was something bad, though. If Owen's weird behavior hadn't been a giveaway, the way the color drained from Denny's face at the phrase was plenty enough. Owen ignored me.
Denny nodded. "Thank you for telling me. " He said in a weak voice, paper work forgotten. He looked between the two of us. "Please be careful."
Owen nodded curtly, before nudging me from the office and back out into the hot kitchen. I stumbled in front of him, knowing better than to try and ask questions until we were out of the restaurant. I slung my purse strap across my chest, ignoring the questioning looks from customers and employees alike as Owen and I moved quickly out onto the crowded, busy midway. He immediately took the lead, grabbing my hand and leading me in the direction of the visitor's center.
"Owen, are you gonna at least tell me what a code 19 is?" I hissed.
He shot me a look. "Don't say that too loud."
I looked around me, but no one had even given me a second glance. "Why not? None of these people are gonna know what it means! Owen, I get that something is obviously very wrong and I'll do whatever you need me to do, but at least tell me what the hell is happening. I at least deserve to know that, right? Since you pretty much dragged me away from work and are using all this secret theme park lingo!"
For the first time since he had shown up in the restaurant, he slowed down and really seemed to look at me. "I'll explain everything, I promise. Just trust me right now. Please, Rylan."
My eyes scanned his face, reading him enough to know that what was happening was bad. Bad enough to even scare him. I nodded. "Okay. I trust you." I said quietly.
He gave a grateful look before leading me up the stairs and into the visitor's center. We were barely inside the glass doors when Claire came barreling towards us. "Rylan!" She exclaimed, looking relieved to see me. She completely caught me off guard then, by throwing her arms around me. "Thank god, you're okay. You're okay."
I gently pried her off of me. "Yeah, I'm fine..."
She bit her lower lip anxiously, before looking towards Owen. "My nephews are still out in the valley. Please, you have to help me find them."
"They aren't with you? They're alone? I thought you were spending the day with them!" I blurted out before I could stop myself.
She shot me a guilty look. "I know, I should've but I was busy! They were with Zara, my assistant, but she lost track of them..." She trailed off, looking shaken. "Just help me find them. Please."
"Do you know the last place they were?" Owen asked.
"The gyrosphere. There's still one that hasn't been accounted for yet, that must be them." Claire answered in a rushed voice. "We can take one of the park's jeeps out there. Come on."
"Wait, wait, wait!" I said loudly, stopping both of them in their tracks. "I'm not going anywhere until somebody tells me why you guys are freaking out. If there's something going on, I have a right to know so I can freak out too!"
Owen's eyes widened, clearly surprised by my outburst. Claire on the other hand let out an exasperated sigh. "Not here. In the car."
"Fine. Then you tell me everything." I said sternly.
She nodded in agreement. "Fine. Let's just go."
She turned and lead the way through the halls of the visitor's center, out an 'emergency exit only' door that led to a filled parking lot in the back. She pointed out the jeep parked closest and Owen slid into the driver's side and Claire took the front, leaving me to sit in the back. I positioned myself in the middle, so I was leaning forward between to two of them. Claire flipped down the driver seat's visor and a key fell into Owen's lap. He started the car and the tires squealed as we tore out of the parking lot.
"Someone explain." I said, breaking the tense silence. I tried to ignore how weird it was that this was the first time the three of us had ever been in a room together. The awkwardness was clearly there, at least felt by me.
"A code 19 means there's an asset out of containment." Owen said. "Claire's new, exciting genetically modified hybrid is on the loose. The thing nearly killed me." He said bitterly, shooting Claire a glare.
She rolled her eyes, crossing her arms over her chest. "It's not my fault it escaped. I had no idea the type of dinosaur the people in the lap created...I didn't know it would be so...so.."
"Hungry for human flesh?" Owen offered.
"Okay, stop. Please." I said, gripping the seat tightly. I felt faint suddenly, wavering in my seat as we bumped down the main road. Surprisingly, they both shut up. I took a deep breath. "Let me get this straight. There's a dinosaur on the loose, a carnivore, and even better, a carnivore that's never even existed before? Not even 65 million years ago? Are you people insane here?"
I could feel Owen's eyes on my in the rearview mirror, but Claire was suddenly swiveling in her seat to look at me. "I had the best intentions, Rylan. There's no way anyone could have predicted this would happen."
"Um me? I could have told you it would. You made up a new species of dinosaur, raised it in captivity, didn't bother to learn anything about it...recipe for disaster right there." Owen chimed in.
Claire spun around, poised to fight back. I was raising my voice, yelling out before I could stop myself. "Stop arguing! I don't care! Just tell me someone is doing something about it! Like how the hell did it even get out with all these fancy, state of the art security bullshit?"
Claire sucked in a deep breath. "We have ACU on it. We're doing everything we can to stop it."
"What's left of ACU anyways." Owen muttered. I stared at the back of his head as Claire winced at his words. I decided I didn't want to know.
"What about an evacuation?" I asked quietly. "What about all of the people here?" The car became silent and I knew we were all thinking the same thing. There were hundreds of families here, along with hundreds of more employees. All of their lives were now in danger.
"I shut down everything north of the resort. Everyone should be moving towards the park's center. If we don't get this thing under control..." She trailed off before clearing her throat. "Then I'll start the evacuation."
For the first time in many years, I felt disappointed in her. She didn't need to say it, but the reason an evacuation wasn't happening right at that moment was for the sake of the park. Her job was taking precedence over people's lives. "Okay, fine." I finally said, sitting back in my seat.
Owen took an abrupt turn off the road and we bounced over the grassy plains towards the last place the runaway gyro sphere had been located. We hadn't gone very far, though, when Owen suddenly stopped the car.
"What is it?" Claire asked, peering out the windshield. I leaned forward again and my breath caught in my throat at the creature blocking our path.
"Apatosaurus." He answered, climbing out of the jeep with his gun slung over his shoulder.
I pushed open my own door and followed after him. My heart faltered. The huge animal, with it's long slender neck was lying on the ground just a few feet from the jeep. It huge gashes on it's hind leg and along it's torso. There was no mistaking the huge, deep claw marks of something much larger and vicious. I glanced over my shoulder at Claire, who was still sitting in the car looking shocked.
The apatosaurus suddenly let out a low bellow that clenched my heart. Owen was already kneeling by its head, whispering soothing words to it. Our eyes met for a split second. This animal was dying and there was nothing we could do. I sucked in a shaky breath, falling to my knees. I ran my hand along the curve of its long neck as another heartbreaking moan escaped it's mouth. It's side was heaving up and down as it struggled to keep breathing.
"Shh, I know. I know." Owen was whispering.
Its eyes found me then and I felt a rush of grief at the pain in its eyes. Her eyes, I remembered. All the animals on Jurassic World were female. I couldn't fight the tears that began to stir behind my eyes before they were rolling down my cheeks. It lifted it's head off the ground, letting out another cry. I wanted it to stop, I wanted to do something. She was suffering and there was nothing I could do. I stroked the side of her face, focusing on the soft sound of Owen's voice. I saw Claire next to me out of the corner of my eye, kneeling on the ground beside me.
The animal let out one last bellow before her head fell to the ground, eyes rolling back into her head then shutting forever. I fell back onto my bottom, shaking my head. "Poor thing." I heard myself whisper. I couldn't seem to stem the flow of tears. Owen stood and held out a hand to help pull me to my feet. Using his thumb, he wiped a fresh tear from my cheek before walking towards the edge of the grassy hill.
"Jesus." I heard him curse.
I moved to stand next to him and followed his gaze. My hand clapped over my mouth. "Oh my god." The words were muffled by my fingers. The field in front of us was littered with the bodies of dead apatosaurus. All of them had the same deep gashes, the blood still fresh. The ground underneath me suddenly felt unsteady. How could this have happened?
"It's killing for sport...it's not even eating them." Owen said in shock. I felt his eyes on me and then his arm was around my shoulders. "You okay?" He asked. His thumb brushed against my shirt sleeve as he rubbed my arm.
I shook my head. "No." I wiped my face with the back of my hand before turning and heading back to the car. I passed Claire, who looked just unstable as I felt. Her skin was paler than usual, her blue eyes glassy. "Let's go."
She nodded and followed me back to the car. This time I climbed into the passenger seat and she slid into the back. Owen was back in the driver's seat seconds later, turning over the engine. The silence in the car was heavy was we continued our path to the restricted area, which the boys had for some reason wandered into. After seeing what the Indominus was capable of, I was terrified for them. I let my head fall back against the seat and shut my eyes. For some reason, I had a feeling I hadn't even seen the worst of it yet. By the end of the day, anything could've happened.
"Stop the car!" I yelled, bracing my hands against the dashboard. Owen slammed on the brakes. "Look!" I pointed a shaky finger towards the windshield. Just through the other side of the trees, was a mangled looking gyrosphere. Claire was out of the car before I even finished unbuckling my seatbelt.
I tore after her, my heart racing. Dread filled my stomach as I skidded to a stop next to the broken down ride. Claire had her hands in her hair and was muttered under her breath. The glass was cracked, completely missing on one side. Jimmy Fallon's cheerful voice sputtered and skipped as the machine continued to short circuit.
"This thing is trashed." I shook my head, nudging a piece of glass aside with my foot. Something sticking out of the metal skeleton caught my eye. "Is that a tooth?"
Owen stepped forward, and used his knife to shimmy the tooth out. He held it in between his thumb and pointer finger, examining it. I swallowed hard. It was the length of my entire hand, from fingers to wrist.
"How big did you say this thing was?" I heard myself ask.
"Oh god! Oh no! No no no no!" Claire cried out, kneeling to the forest floor. I scrambled to her side to see she had gathered a broken cell phone in her hands.
I placed a hand on her arm. "I'm sure they're fine...don't panic yet." I said, in a voice that was much calmer than I'd expected it to sound.
"They are fine." Owen agreed. He stepped around us and pointed to the mud. "See? Two sets of tracks leading away."
I followed his gaze and let out a breath of relief when I saw the two distinct set of prints. "They're alive! Come on!"
We followed the tracks through the thick, towering trees. I had my eyes and ears peeled for Zach and Gray, but also for something else. I sure as hell didn't want that thing creeping up on us when we least expected it. I didn't want it creeping up on us at all. Owen was in front, leading the way through the mud towards the sound of rushing water. When we emerged from the trees, we were met with the spectacular sight of a towering waterfall, the water cascading down the steep cliff into a clear pool below.
"Holy shit! They jumped!" I exclaimed, peering over the side. The tracks stopped just at the edge. Next to their much tinier tracks, was the huge imprint of a clawed foot. The Indominus had followed them right to this point.
"They jumped. Oh my god, they really jumped." Claire was saying quietly, swaying on her feet. I grabbed her by her shoulders and turned her to face me.
"Get a grip, okay? If we're gonna find them you need to be brave. If they hadn't jumped, they would be dead."
"Brave kids." Owen agreed, peering out towards the woods on the other side of the waterfall. "Probably swam to the edge and disappeared through there."
"Gray! Zach!" Claire suddenly screamed, stumbling towards the waterfall. I grabbed her arm and yanked her back.
"Shhh!" Owen snapped.
Claire looked at him in shock. "I am not one of your damn animals!"
"Jesus christ! Just stop!" I stepped in between them as Owen took a threatening step towards her. "He's right, Claire. Unless you wanna get us all killed, you need to shut the hell up!"
She opened her mouth wordlessly before letting out a frustrated groan and peering around me towards Owen. "Can't you like...track their footprints? You know, pick up their scent!"
I made a face. "Who do you think he is? Pocahontas?"
"Exactly! I was with the Navy, not the Navaho!" Owen added, staring at her with the some disbelief I was feeling.
Her face fell, and I shook my head. I reached towards her hand, squeezing it. "We'll find them. Okay? They're tough kids. Look at what they're capable of!" I gestured towards the steep drop off the cliff.
"How?" She asked weakly. "They could be anywhere!"
"I'll follow in the direction they might have gone, see if I can find anything. You two, though, can head back to the control room and keep an eye on things from there." Owen answered.
Both Claire and I froze for a minute before starting in on him at the same time. I placed my hands on my hips. "You're insane if you think you're going out there alone!"
"They're my nephews! I can handle it!" Claire added.
"Who's gonna watch your back? I'm coming, whether you like it or not. Claire can go back." I told him.
"Excuse me?" Claire said, looking between the two of us. "What is this? You're picking him over me?"
"No!" I said quickly, fighting the urge to roll my eyes. "Claire, you're the operations manager of this entire park. They need you right now. Let us find your nephews for you...we'll bring them back, I promise you. Plus, you're not exactly dressed the right way for for this."
"And you are?" She asked, eyeing my jean shorts, Margaritaville t-shirt, and converse sneakers.
"Can you run from a dinosaur in those?" I hissed, pointing at her nude pumps.
She shifted uncomfortably. "I'm their aunt. It should be me looking for them." She finally said. "I should've been with them in the first place."
I gave Owen a pointed look from over my shoulder and he sighed before retreating a few steps away. I turned back towards my best friend, placing both my hands on her shoulders. "Listen to me. It doesn't matter now, okay? All that matters is we find them and bring them home. We both know you're a badass when it comes to fixing things. Go back to the control room and work on getting all these people to safety. Work on how to take this Indominus thing out. We'll find the boys, okay?"
She watched me uncertainly for a moment, nervously chewing on her bottom lip. Finally, though, she nodded. "Okay."
"Thank you." I said, relieved. "I have my phone, I'll call you if anything happens." She nodded again and I wrapped my arms around her. She hugged me back tightly and when she pulled away, I could tell she was trying to put herself back together. "Do me one more favor. Call Violet and tell her what's happening...she should know." I added, thinking about the one other friend I had here on this island completely unaware.
"Sure, I'll call her back at the control center. Just...be careful." She told me. She unwrapped her arms from around me and stalked off towards Owen, standing in front of me with her hands on her hips. "If anything happens to her on your watch, I'll kill you myself." She warned him.
I fought back a smile as Owen stared at her wordlessly. She stepped around him and headed back through the trees towards the parked jeep. Owen watched her go before turning back around to look at me. "You know I should make you go with her."
"And you know you're gonna have a hell of a time trying to make that happen. You're stuck with me out here, Grady." I informed him, shrugging my shoulders.
He finally cracked a smile, looking more like the Owen I knew and cared about. "Yes, ma'am." He joked. He gestured for me to start walking. "Let's go then. Just like taking a romantic stroll through the woods..."
I snorted. "65 million years ago maybe."
He chuckled quietly, falling into step behind me.