Chapter Three: First Impressions
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or Jurassic Park
Ed Regis, who Hammond introduced as the head of public relations for the island, shook everyone's hand and gave Harry a more benevolent version of his elaborate smile and a pat on the shoulder as they were herded over to the grey and green jeeps parked on the gravel road at the base of the helipad.
Since no one really wanted to be in the same jeep as Gennaro and Regis, especially not with Hammond yammering on, Harry wedged himself between Alan and Malcolm in the back seat of one jeep while Ellie sat up front with her booted feet propped up on the dash. The man driving their car was dressed in a polo shirt, same as Regis, but wore steel toed work boots and industrial blue coveralls with the sleeves knotted around his waist. Clearly some people had been pulled out of their usual jobs, this guy probably from maintenance, in order to give them the honored guest treatment.
A few minutes down the road they came to the first of the electrified fences Alan and Ellie had noted on the schematics. Harry hadn't given them much thought but looking up at them, as they passed through a checkpoint and were waved through by the staff there, he realized that they stretched up a good twenty to twenty-five feet and the horizontally stretching metal cables were about as thick around as his forearm. The fence was camouflaged by the thick mists and abundant foliage all around them so it was hard to see for sure, but Harry thought he remembered Alan saying that most of the island was divided up into sections by these massive electric fences, fences that, according to the signs, had ten thousand volts of electricity running through them, and agreed that it was probably overkill. Nothing on the planet could possibly need that kind of security to keep it in.
They soon left the gravel track that spiraled down from the helipad and went bumping along on the dirt and grass instead taking the scenic route down the mountain.
Ellie was having the time of her life, reaching out to pluck specimens off their branches with impunity every time they slowed down.
"The primary ecology of the island is likely your more traditional tropical rainforest," she was saying to Malcolm, who'd asked about the leaves she was picking and now had a rather glazed look on his face, "But at the peaks of the mountains—you see the change in color, there and there—the changes in elevation and the abundant ambient moisture give rise to a deciduous rainforest microclimate and I've already spotted a number of instances of interesting hybridization."
"That's great Ellie," Alan interrupted, "But try not to get any of your important bits taken off leaning out of the jeep like that."
Ellie blatantly ignored him, going as far as to hook an ankle under her seat and lean out of the vehicle up to her waist to snag an interesting spade-shaped broadleaf.
The further down the mountain they went the warmer and wetter the air became. The early morning mists were just starting to be burned away by the rising sun as they drove out of a dense patch of vegetation and onto a savannah-esque landscape of rolling hills.
In front of them Hammond had Regis stop the jeep a few feet away and was hopping out, with some help from his cane, still rather nimble for a man of his age, and hurrying towards them.
Wondering why they'd stopped in what seemed pretty much like the absolute middle of nowhere, Harry craned his neck to the left and right and then finally backward and that's when he got his first glimpse of it.
At first glance it looked like a particularly tall, dead tree stump, nothing like the richly alive rainforest they'd been passing through and then it moved, not swaying in the breeze like Harry had first assumed but moving along the distant tree line and then out into the open plain.
A sudden recognition punched through his gut, and before he'd even realized what he was doing he'd kicked his backpack aside and was standing in the luggage compartment of the jeep with his mouth hanging open in shock and his hands trembling in excitement.
Next to him Alan had yanked off both his hat and sunglasses and dropped them onto the floor of the jeep and was standing on his seat, gawping just as unashamedly, because the figure that had emerged from the tree line was unmistakably an apatosaur, a brontosaurus.
Behind them Ellie was still muttering.
"This shouldn't be here," she said, tracing the edge of the leaf with the pad of her index finger, counting lobes, "Alan this species of veriformans has been extinct since the cretaceous period. This thing is— what?"
Harry didn't need to turn, he could practically see the expression on Ellie's face as she let the leaf flutter out of her nerveless fingers, got to her feet and stared just as unashamedly as Alan and Harry were.
"You did it," breathed Malcolm, "John, you crazy sonofabitch, you actually did it."
Hammond came up alongside the jeep looking delighted by their responses.
"I thought you all might like to see what you're really here for before we get started on the technicalities," he was saying as the two paleontologists and Harry staggered out of the jeep for a closer look.
"It's a dinosaur," were the first coherent sounds out of Alan's mouth.
"My god," sighed Ellie, "My god."
Harry's first thought was that the brontosaurus was actually quite beautiful. The pictures in books always portrayed the sauropods as somewhat slow, dumpy creatures, but the brontosaurus in front of him carried itself with a kind of elegant dignity, its long neck arching in a clean line as it bent to nibble on a bit of greenery.
Then all at once another, slightly taller, head came into view and regarded them with big doe eyes trumpeting a call like an elephant. A call that was echoed by yet more grazing sauropods, heads rising above the trees like towers.
"They're moving in herds," said Alan.
"And so fast," added Ellie, "Look at the activity, this creature doesn't live in a swamp," she laughed.
"They're…very lifelike aren't they," said Malcolm, seemingly stunned out of his usual flair for the dramatic.
"Yes, they are, aren't they," agreed Hammond, all but bursting at the seams with pride, "And as well they should be."
"This proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt, there is no way that this creature is cold-blooded. The neck must be twenty, twenty-five feet long," observed Alan his brain working a mile a minute, accepting the creature in front of him and discarding potential theories left right and center as he observed the herd's movements.
"Yes," agreed Hammond, "And the brachiosaurs typically get necks as long as thirty feet."
"Thirty feet," he breathed, "How fast are they?"
"Well, the sauropods are speedy for their size, grant you, but, even more impressively, we've clocked the T-rex at thirty-two miles per hour on open ground," said Hammond.
"T-t-rex," stuttered Ellie, turning away from the dinosaurs to face Hammond, "You said, you've got a T-rex?"
"Yes," agreed Hammond looking quite pleased with himself.
"Say again?" demanded Harry.
"We have a T-rex."
Alan made a low noise halfway between a laugh and a groan and staggered a bit on his feet.
"Easy, easy," said Ellie, catching his shoulder, "Put your head between your knees."
Rather than listen to her Alan just let himself fall into the soft thick grass.
"Dr. Grant, Dr. Sattler, and Harry, my dear boy, welcome to Jurassic Park," said Hammond grandly.
The three of them stared out over the plain watching as two of the brontosauruses moved into the shallows of a smallish lake where a heard of about twenty duck-billed hadrosaurs were gathered seemingly unconcerned by the giant herbivores.
"How did you do all this?" asked Alan, his voice barely above a whisper.
"On your feet, my lad, and I'll show you."
They clambered back into the jeep with some reluctance craning their necks to keep the dinosaurs in view for as long as possible, but soon they were out of sight of the plain and passing once more through one of the denser patches of wet, thickly green forest.
Everywhere they turned there was extensive elaborate planting that emphasized the idea that this wasn't their world. This was a small slice of a bygone era, a prehistoric tropical rainforest filled with wondrous, majestic creatures.
Beyond the tunnel of green, and another set of electrified fences, was the visitor's center. It was huge and luxurious and elaborate in a way that the architectural design couldn't convey. The building itself was done in marbled whitewash over smooth concrete to help with the heat, which was beginning to border on oppressive even though it wasn't even noon yet, and beyond the thick fronds of Jurassic ferns was an organically structured swimming pool with several tiers that featured fountains and waterfalls. The poolside bar was still under construction, as were the tennis courts along the back section of the yard but as Harry stepped out of the vehicle and onto the mulch drive he could practically feel the top of the line luxury.
"Your rooms are the first suite on the third floor, so take a minute to drop off your bags and freshen up a bit and then you can meet me back in the reception area and I'll give you the grand tour of the facilities, after that I thought we'd break for a bit of lunch before we send you out into the park later on this afternoon. I'll then join you for dinner and answer whatever further questions and concerns you have after that," said Hammond leading them through an elaborate, but unfinished, reception area and over to a set of elevators.
The rooms upstairs were just as lavish as the rest of the compound with huge beds and airy bedding with artful drapes of lacy intricate mosquito netting. Each room had an ensuite bathroom with tubs and showers and a mini-bar and the television featured programs with cutesy names like Sauropod Swamp and Pterosaur Peak, though when Harry flicked through the channels all he got was static.
Harry took a moment to rinse off the sweat and humidity from the drive, brush his teeth with the complementary toothpaste and toothbrush, and take care of a few burning necessities that had been nagging at him since the helicopter had landed and then bounced into Alan's room where both Alan and Ellie were comparing the architectural plans they'd received to the rooms themselves.
"You notice the bars they installed on the skylights?" Alan was saying.
"Oh yeah," said Ellie, borrowing Alan's mirror to pull her hair up into a twist, "They definitely changed the original plans. The windows are a couple of inches smaller and the glass is tempered and set into a steel frame."
"The doors are steel-clad as well," Alan noted, "And they added an electrified fence around the whole visitor's complex."
"Do you think that that lawyer is right?" asked Harry, "That the park is dangerous?"
"Mmm," Alan considered the room at large running a hand through his brown hair, "I couldn't say, but I'm going to take a guess that Hammond has had a few incidents and that all this is meant to reassure Gennaro and the moneymen that he's got things under control. Whether things actually are under control of course is a different story."
"But then again I guess that's what we're here for," shrugged Ellie, "To consult and have them make the changes that will hopefully make things safe for everybody. The ferns they have around the pool for instance, they're incredibly poisonous. Poisonous enough to maybe kill a child if they took a big enough bite, but no one except a paleobotanist would know that."
"And that's just the tip of the iceberg," snorted Alan, "The truth is that even though we've been studying these things for years we're in over our heads. There's so little about dinosaurs we can actually say for certain and given that these ones were cloned somehow, they might look and act differently from the real-thing, so to speak."
Harry laughed a bit, "I bet if you asked Ian Malcolm he'd say that it was inevitable and he'd predicted it."
"Yeah, well, I don't know about Malcolm, but if I'd known exactly what was going on here I probably would have left you with Darren and Quinn," said Alan ruefully.
"Well, I'm not complaining then," said Harry loftily, waving off his concerns, "I wouldn't miss this for anything. I mean come on, Alan, real, or at least real-ish, dinosaurs!"
"Yeah," sighed Alan, ruffling his hair, "That's what worries me, kid."
"Well, we're here already so there's no sense worrying about it now," said Ellie, "Besides, it seems like as far as safety precautions for the guests are concerned Hammond isn't taking any chances. Let's just go downstairs and get on with the tour."
"Ellie's right," said Harry as they left the rooms, "You worry too much Alan, I can handle myself."
"I know you can, but that'll never keep me from worrying, it comes with the gig."
Harry grinned up at Alan and allowed the older man to sling an arm over his thin shoulders.
They didn't talk about the Dursleys really, so Alan didn't know about the specifics, but until he'd been sent to Colorado he'd never smiled. He couldn't make friends, he didn't trust anyone. At the age of seven he'd been almost entirely self-sufficient, as long as there was food in the fridge or cupboards he didn't need Alan to do anything for him at all. He could cook, clean, dress himself, wash himself, organize himself for school and get there on time all without any trouble or any of what Harry called 'adult meddling'.
It had taken years of working away at that shell of self-sufficiency to get Harry to let him treat him like anything other than a very short house-guest, and he'd come to treasure him. As far as Alan Grant was concerned Harry was his kid, and with that feeling came the urge to protect him. Even, and probably especially, when he maybe didn't need protecting.
Lost in their thoughts Alan and Harry both were a little startled when they found that they'd followed Ellie and the others out of the visitor's center and into the reception area for the main operations building. In contrast to the luxurious feel of the visitor's center the main building was done in a very modern style, all sleek granite, steel girders and more tempered glass, it was cool and elegant and immediately gave off the impression of expertise and command.
Harry would bet money that this was where all the magic happened. The computers, labs, the running of the entire park would be done from this building and it was meant to strike awe into the hearts of mere men, just as much as the dinosaurs themselves.
"G'day, g'day, g'day," said Hammond cheerfully, all but bounding up the steps of the building greeting gardeners and construction workers, who answered with tolerant nods and demure 'Señor Hammond's.
Most of the laborers seemed to be locals, talking quietly to each other in lilting Spanish that Harry had trouble following with his limited knowledge of the language. The front atrium was dominated by a huge, and very realistic, plaster model of a tyrannosaur skeleton kept upright by cables and scaffolding.
"Now," said Hammond, leading them up a curving flight of stairs, "This is without a doubt and by far the most advanced amusement park in the world today, and I'm not just talking about rides, everybody nowadays has rides, even Coney Island has rides, no. I'm talking about living biological attractions, so wondrous they'll capture the imagination of the entire planet for years to come."
"So, what are you thinking?" asked Ellie.
"You've got your 'serious thoughts' face on."
"I was thinking that we're out of a job," snorted Alan.
"Don't you mean extinct?" interjected Malcolm teasingly.
"Before we get down to business," Hammond said, soldiering on without paying attention to whether or not his audience was actually paying attention, "There are a few people I want you to meet."
He took them through a set of double doors and into a small auditorium.
"Grandpa!" came the immediate joyful outcry.
"Kids," said Hammond grinning from ear to ear.
His arms were immediately filled with lanky limbs and flyaway hair.
"Did you like the presents?"
"We loved the presents?"
"And the helicopter ride?"
"It was so fun, and when we landed it, was like whoosh!"
"John," protested Gennaro as soon as the kids had broken away from their grandfather, "It was bad enough that you let Dr. Grant bring his son, now you're saddling us with more kids? When are you going to get it through your head that this isn't a weekend excursion? It's a serious investigation about the stability of the park. Your investors, whom I represent, are deeply concerned, and in forty-eight hours if they're not convinced, I'm not convinced. We'll shut you down, John. Do you understand that?"
Hammond waved him off, "You're not going to shut me down Donald, and in forty-eight hours I'll be accepting your apologies."
Harry was examining the other two kids with no small amount of skepticism. The girl was around nine, tall and tanned with a baseball cap not too different from his own covering her blonde braid. She seemed energetic, but Harry couldn't tell if that was from the excitement of travel and seeing her grandfather or if it was actual enthusiasm. The boy was around his age and only a half-head taller than his sister. His hair was a brown-red color but he sported the same blue-green eyes as his sister and grandfather, though he had none of their extroverted nature.
"These are my grandchildren, Timothy and Alexis Murphy. They'll be providing a spot of company while we tour the park and facilities. Lex, Tim, this is Dr. Grant, his son Harry, Dr. Sattler, Dr. Malcolm, and of course you'll remember Donald," Hammond introduced, "It will give you all a chance to spend some time with our target audience, and keep young Harry from being bored surrounded by adults all weekend."
Harry snorted at that, and sighed when Alan and Ellie both shot him twin 'behave' looks.
"Come on everybody, just take a seat anywhere," Hammond instructed, herding them all into the auditorium.
Harry slid into a cushy movie-theatre style seat in the front row, next to Ellie, with the two other kids a few seats away on his other side.
"What the matter with you?" hissed the girl as the lights dimmed.
"I know him," the boy whispered back.
He was staring at Alan with wide-eyed surprise.
"Well sure you do, Grandpa just introduced him," the girl pointed out.
"No, I know him. From before, I mean, I have his book, The Lost World of the Dinosaurs. That's Alan Grant."
Harry turned to look at the pair sharply, locking eyes with the boy. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad then? Anyone his age who'd read Alan's book had to really love dinosaurs. He was intrigued.
"Ah," interrupted Hammond, directing Harry's attention to the screen at the front of the auditorium, "Here he comes. Or, well, here I come."
Sure enough there was a recording of John Hammond, dressed in a charcoal grey suit, carrying his trademark cane. It looked like he was mounting a set of stairs and then when he drew level with the group he spoke.
"Hello," he said, "Hello."
"Say hello," urged John.
"Hello," said Ellie said hesitantly.
On her other side Malcolm was laughing with his eyes again as he waved at the screen.
"Oh that's right, I have lines—"
"Well fine, fine I guess. But how did I end up here?"
Hammond fished a set of cue cards out of his pocket and adjusted his glasses, "W-well, let me show you. But first, I'll need a drop of blood. Your blood," he said reading off the cards.
The 'John' on screen held out a finger, and Hammond reached over and 'pricked' it, just on cue for a cartoony 'sproing' sound.
"Ouch, John, that hurt."
"Relax, John. It's all part of the miracle of cloning."
Hammond was grinning as he moved to take a seat behind them next to Gennaro and on screen the 'Johns' were multiplying, stepping out from behind the original and saying. "Hello, John."
"Cloning," muttered Alan, "But DNA extraction from fossilized material has never been able to come up with a full DNA strand."
"Not without massive sequence gaps," agreed Malcolm.
"And where do you get a hundred million year old dinosaur blood?" asked Ellie rhetorically.
"Shh," hissed Gennaro from behind them.
"Oh, Mr. DNA, where did you come from?" said the original 'John' on screen.
"From your blood," answered a cartoon DNA molecule who flitted around on screen with googley eyes, mickey-mouse style gloves for hands and a thick Texan accent, "Just one drop of your blood contains billions of strands of DNA. A DNA strand, like me, is a blueprint for building a living thing, and sometimes animals that went extinct millions of years ago left their blueprints behind for us to find. We just had to know where to look."
The screen changed to depict a cartoon brachiosaur munching on a cartoon tree, and then panned out to zoom in on a mosquito.
"Millions of year ago, there were mosquitoes just like there are today, and, just like today, they fed on the blood of animals," explained the DNA molecule, "Even dinosaurs. Sometimes, after biting a dinosaur a mosquito would land on the branch of a tree and get stuck in the sap. After a long time, the sap would get hard and fossilized, just like a dinosaur bone, preserving the mosquito inside. This fossilized tree sap, called amber, waited for millions of years until, using sophisticated techniques, Jurassic park scientists extracted the preserved blood from the mosquito inside. And then, bingo. Dino DNA."
"Well, I'll be damned," said Alan, "That just might work."
"Very clever," agreed Malcolm, in a tone that suggested just the opposite.
"I assure you it does work," said Hammond a bit crossly, "You've seen the evidence of that, and with far better yield than that other technique—what was it again?"
"Loy antibody extraction," answered Ellie absently.
"That's the one," Hammond agreed, "Our geneticists have been able to get the greatest yield of protein, ever recorded using this very technique."
"But there are still gaps, aren't there?"
"Watch the screen," hissed Gennaro annoyed.
"Thinking machines, supercomputers and 3D simulators, break down the strand in minutes, showing the gaps in the genetic code, we then use the complete DNA of a frog to fill in the holes and complete the code."
"Mmm, tricky," said Ellie, "Even if only one to two percent of the genome actually codes for functional proteins, just putting any old gene sequence in the non-coding regions could disrupt the promoter regions of functional genes."
"Not to mention you have the transposable elements to consider," added Alan.
"And now we can make a baby dinosaur," said the Texan DNA molecule.
On screen an egg hatched to reveal a full-grown cartoon brachiosaur just like during the mosquito animation.
"Of course, this score and introductory animation is still undergoing revision, there are whole marches being written, very dramatic of course, spared no expense. But that's essentially the basics, and then of course the tour moves on."
A safety bar came down across their laps and the whole auditorium rotated the screen giving way to a window into a lab filled with people in hospital scrubs, lab coats and occasionally white decontamination suits.
The Texan DNA molecule continued to narrate but no one was really paying it any mind.
"This is overwhelming John," Gennaro was saying, "Are these characters, um—auto…erotica?"
Harry held in a sudden snort of laughter, not wanting Alan or Ellie, both of whom were pointing out certain machines and processes to each other, and by extension Malcolm, to ask what was so funny.
"No, no, there are no animatronics in Jurassic Park, those are the real miracle workers behind all this," said Hammond gesturing grandly.
"Wait a minute, wait a minute," cried Alan as they continued to rotate away from the labs without what he would consider sufficient explanation, "How do you interrupt the cellular mitosis?"
"Can't we see the unfertilized eggs?" pleaded Ellie.
"Shortly, shortly," insisted Hammond.
"Well, can't you stop this thing?" asked Alan wiggling against the safety bar.
"I'm sorry, but it's kind of a ride."
"Here, everyone together," said Malcolm, "On three. One—two—"
With a soft grunt of effort Harry, Alan, Malcolm and Ellie managed to push the safety bar up and scurried out of their seats even as the ride stopped automatically and the lights brightened.
The two other kids shared a look and then scurried after them.
"You can't do that!" protested Gennaro, "Can they do that?"
The door that they'd come through before now led out into a concrete corridor with lots of wide bay windows and an industrial feel. The entrance to the lab was marked with warning signs about tetratogenic substances and wouldn't open without a key card and a pin code.
"Well if you're that insistent," said Hammond, coming up behind them with a wry shake of his head, "I'll introduce you to our lead geneticist and he'll answer your technical questions."
Hammond swiped his card and punched in his code and the stainless steel door slid open with a pneumatic hiss.
"Henry, my dear boy," he called out jovially.
"Oh, hello sir," answered a man who was presumably, Henry.
He was of Asian descent, Chinese if Harry had to guess, and was a tall and slender man in his early thirties.
"This is Henry Wu, our lead geneticist," Hammond introduced, "Henry, I've brought you some visitors who want to hear all about your work. Skipped right out of the operations tour ride. If you've got a spare moment won't you answer their questions?"
"Of course," agreed Wu with an easy smile, shaking the adults hands.
All of a sudden Harry found himself relegated back into 'kid' status, as Wu favored him, Tim and Lex, with a benevolent 'ah, children, how cute, hopefully they don't get in the way,' smile.
The lab itself had the sterile medical scent of all labs and hospitals and was without the permeating scent of vinegar that their field lab sported. Computers clicked and machines whirred away and no one paid them much mind, apparently used to Hammond's boisterous interruptions.
Immediately Alan and Ellie began bombarding Wu with complicated questions, that even Harry, who was smart, well-educated, and even liked the technical side of things couldn't always follow.
"We developed and patented the process for the unfertilized eggs with a lot of trial and error, at first we were using unfertilized crocodile ova but we've been getting better results since we switched to synthetics," Wu was saying in answer to one of Ellie's questions.
"Timmy," whispered the blonde girl, nudging her brother, "This is boring. What are they even talking about?"
"Uh—it's kinda over my head, Lex."
"Do you understand then?" she asked, turning and expectant gaze on Harry.
Startled, Harry answered without thinking, "Yeah, a bit."
"Wow," she said, "An even bigger dinosaur nerd than Timmy, that's really something. So what's going on now?"
Tim was flushed with embarrassment and staring at his feet, but still listening intently, a frown of concentration on his face, and, seeing it, for once Harry didn't feel like getting annoyed about being called a nerd.
"Well, from what I can understand," he explained, "Dr. Wu, was able to get a good sample of DNA from the blood they find in the mosquitos because dinosaur blood, like bird blood, has nucleated red-cells. That means that the red blood cells have their 'DNA blueprints' inside them. In mammals you have to look for the white blood cells and there are a lot less of those in your blood."
"Smart kid," said Wu, "That's exactly right."
Harry started a bit, and then flushed, having not noticed the adults stop their conversation to listen to him. He got fond smiles from Ellie, Alan, and, surprisingly enough, even a lazily approving grin out of Malcolm.
"Come on," offered Wu, "Through this door here. I'll show you something really neat."
Wu led them out of the lab through a sliding door with an airlock labeled Hatchery. Inside it was like walking through a wall of water it was so warm and humid and Harry immediately felt the moisture beading uncomfortably along the surface of his skin.
"We keep the temperature here at about ninety-nine degrees Fahrenheit. The oxygen saturation is at thirty-three percent and we've got a relative humidity of one-hundred percent."
"Jurassic atmosphere," said Alan.
"Yes," agreed Wu, "Or at least, we presume so. If any of you feel faint just tell me, it sometimes takes a bit to get used to."
The hatchery was essentially a bunch of artificial nests, carefully labeled, with five or six pale, mottled eggs incubating in soft looking straw or silty sand.
"We used to keep the eggs under a heavy mist, crocodile eggs need to uptake water from their environment after all, but the switch to the artificial eggs made it unnecessary. We rely on thermal sensors to make sure the internal temperature is kept within the optimal ranges and we have machines and hatchery technicians that make sure the eggs are turned every hour."
"Impressive, what's your survival rate?" asked Alan.
"We've bumped it up with the last few batches, right now it's about forty percent," Wu said, "Naturally we're hoping to improve on that even further but this hatchery has produced over a dozen crops of extractions, and two hundred and thirty-eight live animals."
"How long until they fully mature?" asked Ellie.
"It depends on the species but generally the animals reach their full growth in between two and four years so we do have a number of adult animals in the park."
"How many species do you have?" asked Malcolm.
"Ah, at the last count it was fifteen distinct species," said Wu, "But that's changing all the time. Genetics is a very finicky business, and sometimes we think we have a successful extraction of a new species but then problems crop up after hatching, something isn't right or it isn't what we thought, and we have to start from scratch."
"Is anything hatching now?" asked Alan.
"No," said Wu, shaking his head, "We've just done an extraction but, in general, the incubation period runs for two months. But come this way and we'll go into the nursery and you can see the newborns."
The nursery was just as hot, humid and oxygenated as the hatchery and filled with bits of rags and pet-toys scattered across a mulch floor. The walls were thickly padded and there were a number of big incubators like you would see in the nursery wing of a hospital though they were all empty. A young woman in a set of scrubs with long red hair pulled up into a high ponytail was crouched with her back to them.
"What do you have today Kathy?" asked Wu.
"Not much," she answered, "Just the last of the baby raptors."
"Let's have a look at her," said Wu, "We bred three new raptors in the last round of hatching, but this little girl is the runt of the litter."
The animal on the floor was about two feet long and not much bigger than a toddler. It was a dark yellow-green with brown stripes like a tiger. It balanced easily on its hind legs, its long thick tail providing a counter-weight, and cocked its head, bird-like and curious, at the visitors.
"Velociraptor," breathed Alan.
"Velociraptor mongoliensis," Wu confirmed with a nod, "The amber we got this little beauty from was found in the north part of China so we've confirmed the subspecies."
Alan bent down to get a closer look at the raptor hatchling and immediately she jumped clean over his head and into Tim's arms.
"Hey!" exclaimed the other boy, wide-eyed, instinctively catching the infant and holding it close to his chest.
"Ah, I should have warned you, these guys can really jump," said Wu, "The adults too, but the babies start jumping as early as four weeks old."
"How old is this one?"
"About six weeks, coming up on seven."
"Is she heavy?" asked Lex.
"No," said Tim reverently, "She's so light, and soft, and warm."
"She's beautiful," Harry said, echoing Tim's tone as he reached out a hand to stroke the knuckle of his index finger along her neck.
The small triangular head was inches from Tim's face, those dark assessing eyes flicking shut, as she made a small pleased noise.
"Will she hurt them?" demanded Gennaro nervously.
"No, no," Wu assured him, "They don't even have egg teeth at this age and their claws are still too soft to do the same kind of damage as a juvenile. Besides, at this age velociraptors are astonishingly friendly and curious."
"It's a typical behavioral characteristic of infant animals who live in social groups," said Alan, "And you say they have no egg-teeth?"
"That's right, they poke holes in the tops of the eggs with their pointed snouts when they hatch and then the nursery staff usually help them out the rest of the way."
"Hmm? But what happens then when they breed in the wild?" asked Alan.
"In the wild?"
"When they make a nest," Alan clarified, "Or have your adult raptors not reached sexual maturity yet?"
"Oh, they can't do that," said Wu, waving Alan off, "It's one of our safety precautions. None of our animals is capable of breeding."
"How do you know that?" asked Malcolm curiously, a strange light in his eyes.
"Well with something as important as population control, obviously we don't leave anything to chance so firstly, all the animals in Jurassic Park are female, we design them that way. Then, before we introduce them into the park setting we irradiate their gonadal tissue with X-rays to make them sterile, just to be sure."
"This whole process seems to be somewhat holey, don't you think?" said Malcolm, "Irradiation is very imprecise, the dosage could be wrong, or aimed at the wrong part of the animal…and as for them all being female, how do you know for sure? Does someone, uh, I don't know go out into the park and lift up the dinosaurs' skirts? And another thing, how do you even tell the sex of a dinosaur anyway?"
"Look Dr. Malcolm," said Wu, a bit impatiently, "We're not amateurs here, we manipulate the dinosaurs chromosomes before we even insert the embryos into the artificial eggs. It's not that difficult. As I'm sure you know all vertebrate embryos are inherently female and it takes a specific hormone emitted at a specific time in the developmental process to make them male. We simply deny them that hormone. So I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the animals are all female. And I am absolutely positive they can't breed."
"Well, good for you," said Malcolm, shaking his head.
The little raptor trilled a bit at this assertion, and nudged at Tim's neck, whining plaintively. Tim giggled a bit.
"Stop, that tickles," he scolded the little creature with an adoring smile, "What does she want?"
"She wants you to feed her," said the nursery technician, Kathy.
"What does she eat?" asked Harry.
"Mice mostly," said Kathy, "But don't let this charmer fool you, she just ate."
Harry leaned in to get a closer look and the velociraptor immediately shifted in Tim's arms and stuck her nose into his hair, snuffling softly, hooking a forearm with a delicate wrist and hands tipped with three small claws over the shell of his ear.
"Alan," Harry said, hardly daring to breathe as he recognized the telltale downy fluff of an unfledged bird poking out of the soft pebbly looking skin along the back of her neck and arms, "She's got feathers."
AN: I wasn't really sure where I wanted to end this chapter but this seems to be as good a place as any. Next chapter will have them out in the park itself, not to mention more raptors, so for the people bored of the science-y stuff the action and interaction approaches, not to worry. Still trying to decide if I should have Ed Regis involved in the tour or not *those people who have read the novels please weigh in here* and I hope y'all don't mind I went fusion-style on Lex and book-style for Tim.
I was so happy to see such a positive response to my first couple of chapters and I hope you'll all continue to enjoy. Please leave a review and let me know what you guys think.