Blue paces the length of the inclosure. She gives her head a shake. Echo is laying down on her side in the shade. Delta approaches and flops down beside her, snuggling against her. None of her siblings smell like a family, none of their scents are similar enough to be truly related, but Delta and Echo smell the most alike.
They share a closer bond than any of them.
Maybe they are happy just to be together, but I need a mate. This enclosure is too small. In the world outside she could search for others of her kind, for males, for a mate to raise chicks. Enough room to have her own pack.
She would let her chicks kill. She would bring them wounded prey when they were small so they could learn to kill and have something to amuse themselves. She remembers when she still stayed in the room with painted walls there were balls to play with and sometimes Mother would throw them or roll them around for her to chase. These toys were the only thing she'd ever been allowed to catch, the food was always dead and unmoving.
There aren't any toys now.
Nothing to do.
She doesn't mind the games Mother plays with them. Complete tasks, find things, chase things, look up, stop or go. It's something to do at least, when she's in the mood for it. She just wants to be able to play on her own terms. Playing isn't as fun if you can only do certain things and only on someone else's terms.
Charlie trots up to her. She's had time to cool off and nudges Blue walks a few pace and then gives a high pitched cry almost like a whistle and takes off running. The invitation is clear. "Chase me!"
Blue loves to chase. Prey drive is written into her genes. The drive to hunt, to chase, to catch, even in play. Blue gives an eager shriek of delight and takes off after her little sister. "I'm gonna catch you!"
When Blue gets close Charlie turns and crouches.
Owen and Barry trained the raptors to perform several behaviors. Rewarding the behaviors with food. Ideally, to the animals the behaviors would be game. Activities they'd enjoy doing because the tasks were stimulating and came with the promise of treats. Some of behaviors were for the animal's health. Being able to examine the animals was important for veterinary care.
For velociraptors that meant training the animals to place their snouts into a specially designed muzzle on the side of the enclosure and stay while the Barry or Owen examined them or administered medications if needed. The muzzles were sounded by stalls and once they had their head in muzzle a door would close behind them so they couldn't back out. Keeping them from panicking while trapped like this took a lot of time and training.
The animals had to know they were safe. They would be released again. As with all other tasks asked of them, there would be rewards. Most importantly, Owen or Barry would be right there with them, comforting them as they had since the raptor's first hatched.
It wasn't always the raptor's favorite activity, but it was necessary. A lot could be gleaned about the animal's health from their eyes, nostrils and gum lines. Usually it wasn't so bad, the pack also enjoyed having their eye ridges scratches or their necks patted. They were social creatures, and grooming or nuzzling each other reinforced bonds. To the raptors, the trainers were part of their pack.
Blue enjoyed affection as much as any of her packmates, whether it came from Mother or Aunt, but today she was tense. Her pupils shrank down to slits. There is a stranger here still. The Big One. She can smell Delta's unease, fear and anger. The pack picked up cues from each other. If one has a problem, they are all on alert.
Aunt reaches out and gently strokes her head. There's a spot above her eye ridges that she particularly enjoys having preened. She blinks, eyes closing in contentment for just a moment. Her heavy, stressed breathing becoming slightly more regular. He reaches under her chin and strokes her neck. She blinks again, but not fully, only letting her inner membrane slide across her eye so she can still be on guard.
The Big One is approaching. Blue glares at him. Her gaze should be warning enough to make it stay back. It comes closer, towering over Aunt who is kneeling down. Blue gives a low growl, but the human continues to stare at her. The Big One's arms on his hips, this seems like a threat display, this rival female is making themselves appear bigger and more powerful. The body language says the Big One wants to intimidate Aunt.
Delta gives a scream. Blue snarls, but her mouth cannot open in the muzzle. She pushes against the side of the cage, claws scraping metal so hard it shakes. She hisses at him. "Get away!"
He jumps back in surprise, mouth open and face momentarily contorted into a look of fear. She can smell it on him too. A jolt of adrenaline. He backs away.
Aunt is showing his teeth, but Blue has learned from watching Aunt and Mother that this gesture is not a threat. It means pleased.
Aunt doesn't like the Big One either, and they both enjoy seeing him squirm.
Beside her Delta stares at the Big One, showing as much teeth as she can with the bars holding her in place. Delta is worried for Aunt. Their bond is like the on Blue has with mother. They all love Mother, but in some ways Delta is more Aunt's chick. Delta doesn't like Aunt being there with the Big One Around.
"Threat!" Delta says, in the raptor way of communicating such things.
Aunt moves to her to steady her, but the Big One Follows.
Blue growls with everything she has as the Big One passes in front of her. The human gives her a wide berth, and looks back at her. She can still smell his fear, but the Big One understands she can't get at him now. "Clever girl."
The rest of the pack can smell their stress. Charlie screams from back in the cage. Stress means the pack should be together, defensive positions. Blue forces herself to breath. They are safe. Aunt is there.
However, Delta would rather be the one defending Aunt. Blue can see it in her face. If it wasn't for the cage she'd put herself between the Big One and Aunt.
"Stay away from my family!"
The Big One made an enemy that day when he disrespected Mother. Now he was doing the same their with Aunt and right in front of Delta. There was murder in Delta's eyes, Blue could see it, her sister wanted nothing more than to tear the Big One appart.
Delta continues to growl even as Aunt tries to comfort her with preening. Echo gives a trumping call. The other members of the pack can't see what's going on, but they know something is wrong. They can smell it.
Blue's next hiss is more scream. Loud enough for the Big One to turn away from Aunt for a moment to look back at her. As if to check she was still restrained and wasn't about to leap on him while he was vulnerable. Unfortunately, she's still trapped.
He turns back to Aunt and continues to talk, communicating in ways she doesn't understand but can guess is disrespectful. The way he postures and points. He turns back a moment and points at her, and then at Delta.
Delta's breathing is rapid, oxygen pouring desperately into her lungs to fuel her racing heart. She does not want the human near her, but he's moving closer. The Big One reaches out and put a hand on the side of her neck.
"Don't touch me!" Delta screams and snarls, body thrashing and claws attacking the walls of cage. "I'll kill you! Get away!"
But she is helpless to attack.
"Shh," Aunt coos, petting Delta just how she likes, trying to calm her panic and rage.
The Big One continues to touch her, ignoring her growls and that everything about her is saying no.
Echo gives another cry. Worry for Delta, her beloved.
There's a beeping sound, and Aunt looks away from Delta.
Charlie screams. She wants Blue. Everyone else is upset and she wants her big sister to comfort her. She wants their leader after mother to assure her that they will be alright. "Big sister! You are strong. You will always protect me."
Aunt walks away, calling up to other humans on the platform above the cage. They call to each other. Something is happening.
Aunt walks away, and Blue smells anger and fear. The Big One is still standing near Delta, but all she can do is snarl.