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Parks and Rec/Jurassic World fusion: Parks and Rex (3/3)

December 9th, 2015 (12:48 pm)
awake

feeling: awake

PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE



-o-

Ron was annoyed. It was his own fault, really. He was the one who had agreed to this little foray back into the park, an exercise which he had known from the start was futile and pointlessly dangerous.

Then again, it was his fault for taking this job in the first place, for acting like the inevitability of failure would have no bearing on his moral fortitude or physical well being.

Ron knew better.

And yet, here he was.

Surrounded by idiots who wanted to do idiotic things.

“Even if April can get the Indominus to the allotted destination, we don’t have enough firepower to contain,” Ron reiterated, crossing his arms of his chest and glaring at Leslie as she paced in front of him.

Across from Ron, Donna nodded. “He’s right,” she said. “This animal can’t be saved. You need to call in air support and bomb this thing.”

“That would be awesome,” Andy said.

“No, it would be terrible,” Leslie said.

Ron grunted. “I realize you still see the Indominus as an asset--”

“It’s not the Indomius,” Leslie snapped, stopping herself. “Look around. We’re in the middle of the park--”

“A park that probably should not be saved,” Ron said. “We’d be doing everyone a favor by demolishing it now and putting off the ludicrous notion that it should ever be rebuilt.”

“But what about the other animals?” Leslie asked. “We can start destroying the infrastructure without thinking about the habitat the animals will be released to.”

Ron furrowed his brow. “That’s exactly how it should be,” he said. “Let them mix, and let nature take it course. Survival of the fittest.”

“They can’t even breed on their own,” Leslie said. “And we’ve got babies in the petting zoo. We can’t pretend like we’d be letting them into some better, natural state. We’ve already altered their natural state from the DNA up.”

“If they can, they will survive,” Ron said. “If not, they will perish as nature intended them to billions of years ago.”

Leslie stared at him, looking bereft. It wasn’t just money for Leslie, and Ron knew better than to actually think that. Ron didn’t agree with her, but she was a good steward for this park.

She was a good person.

They all were: Donna and Andy. April. Chris, Ben, even Tom.

Ron had never stayed for a system he didn’t believe in, but for the people who made it all worthwhile.

Normally, he would never admit that.

Desperate times, however, called for invariably desperate measures.

“It’s not just the animals we need to think about,” Ron reminded her, a little bit gentler now. “There are still humans on this island, and our first priority is and always should be to them. If this is about to become a survival of the fittest, we are about to lose.”

It was as much emotion and personal revelation as Ron would allow himself.

Ever.

He had hoped it would evoke a powerful response in Leslie, enough to make her abandon her more foolish notions and get them all to safety.

Instead, her eyes lit up. “The survival of the fittest.”

Ron felt his own face darken with trepidation.

“Ron,” she said, pointing her finger at him with growing enthusiasm. “You’re a genius.”

Usually Ron liked compliments.

He had a sinking feeling he would live to regret this one.

-o-

Ben twitched, wriggling his toes and tapping his fingers restlessly. He looked at the monitors; he looked at the main screen; he glanced at the toy dinosaurs lined up across his desk and fought the irresistible urge to scold them for making such a mess of things.

His rationalization that he couldn’t blame all dinosaurs for the action of one was not quite as reassuring as he wanted it to be.

Tom was sighing in utter boredom while the Saperstein twins amused themselves by fighting incessantly with one another and making inappropriate passes at every living thing in the command center. Mona Lisa even made a pass at one of the computer monitors and got much further than Ben cared to see before she asked for a cup of water.

Which she promptly poured over herself and complained that it was too tepid.

Chris was markedly agitated but holding it together better than Ben had feared. As the owner, Chris took his position seriously, which was probably about the only thing keeping him from a downward tailspin of emotions that would leave them all crashing and burning.

After all, this was bad, but it wasn’t quite irrecoverable -- yet.

Leslie still had her team in the park, and they were still devising a plan of attack. They could fix this.

Ben just didn’t know how. ACU had tried the nonlethal and lethal measures and been foiled at every turn. Now, with the Indominus in the center of the park, everything was at risk in a much more dramatic way. A guest death would have been catastrophic, but too much property damage would pose nearly as big an obstacle if and when they wanted to reopen.

Besides, there was no evidence how much firepower it would take. They might have to send a whole barrage of bombs to contain the threat, which was basically the killswitch on the entire operation. They wouldn’t recover from that, and it would put the entire ground team at risk, not to mention the command center itself.

So while it was all fixable in theory, Ben needed a practical outlet for that belief.

And all he had was a bunch of monitors and some plastic dinosaurs.

And Leslie Knope.

Leslie would figure this out. Leslie would make this work. Even where no one else could succeed, Leslie would be too determined to quit.

Then, the phone rang.

Everyone startled, and Ben knocked over a few dinosaurs as he scrambled to answer the phone.

“Hello?” he asked.

“Ben?” Leslie asked. “You’re still there?”


“Of course I am,” Ben said. “What’s going on?”

“Oh, you know,” Leslie answered breathlessly. “Trying to save the park and generally not die. The usual.”

“All of which I support, wholeheartedly,” Ben said, shifting monitors to watch as Leslie scurried away from the rest of the group. “But I guess the better question is how?

“Funny you should ask that,” Leslie said. “Because I have a plan.”

“You do?” Ben asked hopefully.

“Yeah,” Leslie said.

“Well, what is it?” Ben demanded anxiously.

“You know the details are a little sketchy, but what I do know is that you have to open paddock nine,” Leslie said.

Ben frowned, tapping a few keys to bring up the specs. “Wait,” he said. “Paddock nine?”

“Yeah, now, preferably,” Leslie said.

“But I thought the point was to put the dinosaurs back in its cage,” he said. “Not let more dinosaurs out.”

Chris was converging closer, eyes wide. Tom looked like he was about to run and hide.

“You have to fight fire with fire, you know,” Leslie said.

“No, you don’t,” Ben argued. “That just makes more things burn.”

“Look,” Leslie said in a clipped tone. “We have a massive, angry, psychopath dinosaur trying to eat everyone. We can’t stop it, not without effectively destroying the entire island. But we’re just measly little humans pointing measly little guns. We need more teeth to make this work.”

“But what are you going to do when those teeth come after you?” Ben asked. “How will you even get the t-rex to go after the Indominus and not just eat you? Leslie, this is a bad, bad idea--”

“Probably,” Leslie said. “Maybe. But it’s the only idea. So do us all a favor, and open paddock nine.

“You’ll probably get eaten!” Ben protested.

“That’s probably true either way,” Leslie countered. “Come on, Ben. I know you’re more than a by the book command center guy. I know you can be the hero of this story, the one person who had the guts to do the unthinkable.”

Ben hesitated. “If this goes wrong--”

“Then you’ll never be more sexy to me as you are right this moment,” Leslie said.

Ben leaned forward, hand hovering over the button. “You know I love you, right?”

“Maybe as much as I love you,” Leslie said, standing outside of paddock nine on Ben’s screen.

For anyone else, Ben wouldn’t even consider it.

For Leslie, though, Ben could never deny it.

He took a breath.

He closed his eyes.

Then Ben opened paddock nine.

-o-

Leslie had a list of impressive women. Women who had accomplished great things. Women who broke barriers and faced challenges with their heads held high. Hilary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Condoleeza Rice, Sandra Day O’Connor, Sally Ride.

Pioneers, groundbreakers, leaders.

And Leslie was about to blow them all out of the water. She wouldn’t need a wall of women heroes when she was going to be the best role model for herself of them all.

At least, she would be if she didn’t die.

Standing in front of paddock nine with a lit flare in her hand, Leslie had her doubts about that right then. The t-rex -- an impressive female in her own right -- came to the foreground, small eyes locked on the flare, and Leslie knew this was it.

This was her moment.

Even if it was her last.

The t-rex started to charge, and Leslie turned. Cursing, she half stumbled, kicking off her heels as she broke into a sprint. She’d left the back entryways open, leading the t-rex through the network of alleyways to the main part of the park.

As promised, the Indominus was already there, roaring provocatively at April, who was backing up toward where Leslie had left the others to hide. She could feel the t-rex gaining on her, so she surged ahead several more paces before hurling the flare straight at the Indominus.

It bounced off harmlessly -- but that was entirely the point. The contact brought the dinosaur’s attention around.

Narrowing in on the charging t-rex.

With the impending battle, Leslie could only dive out of the way, just missing the shifting feet of the Indominus as it engaged its latest combatant. The dueling roars was enough to shake Leslie down to her core, and she scrambled to her hands and knees to watch the desperate battle for what it was.

This was crazy, and Leslie knew it. Letting out one dinosaur to fight another. If this went poorly, then it was going to go really poorly.laughed.</i>

It was irrational, yes. But he couldn’t stop.

Ben took a step closer, but stopped. Tom glanced at him nervously.

“Um, Chris?” Ben asked. “Is everything okay?”

“My life’s work has ended in absolute disaster,” Chris said between chuckles. “I mean, it was probably inevitable, but I never thought it’d be so graphically destructive. Maybe I should go out there. Do you think I should go out there?”

Ben raised his eyebrows. “Why would you go out there?”

“It is my park,” Chris said. “I could take the helicopter.”

“Which would only end up crashing,” Ben pointed out. “We have too many people out there as it is. It’s best to stay put.”

“Of course it is,” Chris said, taking a deep breath to sober himself. He looked at the screen where the Indominus was steadily gaining the upper hand. “Of course it is.”

They watched for a moment in silence, and Chris’s humor faded bitterly, tightening in his throat. This was real. This was real. Chris had built his life on positive thinking, but sometimes reality was harsh. He usually delegated that sort of thing, passed it off as less important and avoidable.

It wasn’t, though.

Sometimes the bad had to be taken with the good, and sometimes people had to make hard choices in order to salvage what they could. Life wasn’t about perfection.

It was about doing your best in the absence of perfection.

Chris had to accept that, along with the finite nature of his business and the inevitability of his own death. Chris had to embrace that, and it was literally the hardest thing he had ever done.

This time, he could watch his world fall apart.

Or he could take action and save what he could.

Feeling strangely calm, Chris pulled out his phone, scrolling through his contact list.

“Who are you calling?” Ben asked.

“Wait,” Tom said. “We still have reception? I should have been live tweeting this whole thing! Hashtag style in disaster!”

Chris ignored them, selecting the number he wanted. “There is one more failsafe in the system.”

Ben frowned. “Really, but--”

When someone on the other line answered, Chris turned away from Ben. “Hi, Admiral Howser,” he said. “This is Chris Traeger. Yes, it’s good to talk to you to, but actually I’m terrible. Which is where you come in.”

Ben was next to him now, head cocked and eyes questioning. Chris looked at him steadily.

“Remember how you promised military support in case of extreme compromise?” Chris asked unflinchingly. “I think I’m going to take you up on that. Afraid so, and no, I’m not kidding. Because that would be a terrible joke.”

“Chris, you can’t--” Ben started.

Chris turned away, focusing on the call. “I want you in the air above the island as soon as possible but no one fires until I give the final clearance.”

He looked back to Ben.

“I can’t let this get out of control any more than it already has,” Chris said. “But my people are working on it. And if anyone can do it, they can.”

Ben visibly gritted his teeth, but said nothing.

Chris nodded. “Thank you, Admiral Howser,” he said. “We’ll be in touch.”

He hung up the phone, glancing back at the screen. The Indominus was clearly in control now with the t-rex wounded on the ground.

“It’s not a call I ever want to make,” Chris said. “But this is a day I never wanted to happen. The Indominus, the t-rex -- all of them are a threat to this island and to my people.”

Ben almost smiled. “And here I thought I was the heavy one.”

“Well, I did learn from the best,” Chris said. “Besides, maybe this could work.”

They looked at the screen as the Indominus held the head of the t-rex down for what looked to be a finishing blow.

Chris winced. “Right?”

-o-

“This is bad,” Leslie muttered. “This is really, really bad.”

Andy, of course, was in no position to disagree. They were crouched together behind a shattered storefront, watching as the two dinosaurs went at it.

And they were really going at it.

All things considered, Andy was starting to think this whole thing was getting out of hand.

“I thought you had a plan!” April hissed indignantly.

“Well, I thought it would go better than this,” Leslie said, gesturing at the fight that the t-rex was losing.

“You thought that a fifteen year old animal that has lived contentedly in captivity would be able to overwhelm a young sociopath on a rampage?” Donna asked.

“When you put it like that, maybe it wasn’t my best idea,” Leslie said. “But I knew we couldn’t stop it.”

“I’m not sure anything on this island can stop it,” Ron said.

“This is stupid!” April said. “You had me bring the Indominus here to, what? Murder an innocent t-rex?”

“Not to mention that after it kills the t-rex, we will be next,” Ron pointed out.

“I’ll say it again,” Donna said. “Why are we not in the emergency bunkers?”


“Because our job isn’t done yet!” Leslie said. “We have to do something. We have to give the t-rex a hand. We have to -- I don’t know -- distract it or something.”

The Indominus had the t-rex on the ground now, and Andy had watched enough professional wrestling and the animal planet to know what was coming next.

“With what!” April said. “I’ve been running around with this thing all day!”

“We really should be taking cover, now.

“I told all of you--”

“Come on!” Leslie said. “We have to do something--

So.

Andy did.

Because sure, it was nice to have a plan and all, but that wasn’t how things got done. Not for Owen Grady, raptor trainer. He was bold and fearless.

Streaking out, he whooped, waving his hands wildly at the Indominus.

It stopped, mouth still opened. It turned its head quizzical, eyes narrowing in on Andy.

And that was when Andy realized something else.

A plan wasn’t just nice.

A plan could sort of save your life.

Owen Grady might have a plan in a situation like this -- some foolproof way to evade the predator and save the day.

But he wasn’t Owen Grady.

He was Andy Dwyer.

And that was one gigantic dinosaur.

The Indominus roared, stepping over the downed t-rex to come after him. With renewed terror, Andy turned, running as fast as he could in the opposite direction. As he sprinted, he glanced back, realizing that the thing was catching up with him.

Running as fast as he was and blindly as he was, Andy barely saw the building in front of him. He managed to miss it, turning hard off the main street and stumbling through several protective barriers. In hindsight, he might have thought to examine those a little more carefully.

In current sight, he just didn’t want to get eaten.

So, when your current fear was getting eaten, falling into a pit was actually sort of good news. Because now Andy was falling, head over heels, tumbling down and down.

Away
from the Indominus.

That was the good news.

The bad news?

Hitting the bottom hurt.

A lot.

-o-

Donna, honestly, was too good for this kind of thing. She had no business traipsing around, hunting dinosaurs. It wasn’t in her character to be self sacrificial. Bravery, as far as she was concerned, was an overblown virtue.

But damn it all, she was surrounded by idiots.

Her bitch boss had her running around after dinosaurs. April Ludgate, who could be an actual demon spawn, chose tonight to start actually doing her job. And Ron Swanson -- what the hell? When did he actually stick around to help the establishment?

Then Andy Dwyer.

Poor, sweet, dumb Andy.

All those years pretending to train raptors, and he finally did something right.

With on, horrible fall, Andy had distracted the t-rex the time it needed to get back to its feet and launch an impressive frontal assault. Thus occupied, even the aging t-rex stepped up to the plate, ripping a nasty chunk out of the Indominus’ neck.

The Indominus let out a howl, and Donna could hear pain for the first time -- and the start of something different.

Something like fear.

The t-rex, old as she was, was a smart one, and she didn’t need a genetically modified brain to know that the tide was turning in her favor. She bit again, quickly backing up while the Indominus flailed in rage. Carefully, the t-rex backed up, using her long tail to annihilate anything in her path -- guard rails, benches, street lights, safety rails--

Donna raised her eyebrows.

Now that was an interesting choice.

“This is stupid,” April said. “She has nowhere to go.”

“Unless you modified these things to swim,” Ron pointed out.

“Of course they can’t swim,” Leslie said. “So why--”

The Indominus charged forward in blind fury, shaking the ground so hard they all had to brace themselves. Swiping her claws, she mangled the security posts even more, and sparks flew as the t-rex retreated to the side. Enraged, the Indominus lashed out again, gaining her footing as the t-rex kept her distance.

Donna chuckled. “Clever girl,” she said.

Because the t-rex knew this was a fight she couldn’t win alone. And despite ten years in a cage, millions of years of instinct were bred deep in her DNA. She knew that a water source wasn’t just a place to find your prey.

It was a place to watch your damn back.

That was when the water rustled and the Mosasaurus lunged out.

Most of the time, the Mosasaurus couldn’t see anything on the outside of its tank -- the security fencing kept people from being visible, which kept the Mosasaurus from making any swipes. But with the security fencing stripped away and given the damn size of the Indominus -- well, no one could blame her for going for it.

The bite landed on the neck of the Indominus, taking it to the ground. The Mosasaurus clenched its jaw, holding on as the Indominus jerked and failed.

Holding on straight into the water, pulling the twitching Indominus right in after her.

And that was that.

No one moved.

No one blinked.

Except the t-rex.

Turning back toward them, the t-rex narrowed its eyes.

“I do hope you had a plan to get the t-rex back into its paddock,” Ron said, not moving.

“Because it would really suck to be eaten now,” April hissed.

“Um,” Leslie said. “At least the Indominus is gone?”

Jerry farted.

The t-rex growled.

Everyone else had done their thing.

After all these years on the job, Donna figured it was finally time to do hers.

With a perfunctory sigh, she stepped out from the safety of their hideout.

“Donna, what are you doing?” Leslie hissed, reaching to pull her back.

“Good God, woman, there’s no need for this,” Ron said.

“Aren’t we supposed to stand still?” April asked, sounding actually concerned.

Jerry just farted again.

Donna waved a hand at them dismissively. “Trust me.”

It was a tall order -- as tall as a t-rex.

But Donna wasn’t scared. There was a reason she’d been hired for this park. And there was a reason Andy actually thought he could control the raptors.

And it was all about Donna.

Putting her hands on her hips, Donna stared the t-rex down. “Y’all had your fun tonight?” she asked. She pointed toward the cage. “Then go.”

The t-rex tilted her head.

“You heard me,” Donna said. “You get yourself back in that cage, and we’ll give you two goats tonight. We might even throw in a cow.”

The t-rex worked her jaw.

“Otherwise, I swear to God,” Donna said. “We will light you up with tranquilizers and drag your sorry ass back.”

Some people might think Donna was talking bigger than she could deliver, but she wasn’t. No, Donna believed in her own credibility, and no matter what the size of the t-rex might be, she was a smart, reasonable creature.

She knew what was what.

And she knew Donna meant business.

With a nod of understanding, the t-rex ducked her head, turning around and heading back down the street. She turned toward the alleyway, the sound of her heavy footsteps retreating into the night.

Donna turned back toward her friends. “Someone might want to call the command center,” she said. “Once she’s back inside, close the doors and feed her. Generously. Tonight is treat yourself, t-rex style.”

Leslie was gaping. “I...will do that,” she said. “I will do that.”

Donna nodded in satisfaction. “Good,” she said, looking around with a sigh. “Now that this thing is over, can we finally go home?”

-o-

Honestly, April knew this was one of the best days on her job ever. There was actual dinosaur chasing and it involved real guns firing real bullets. She had tracked a dangerous predator through the jungle and nearly died several times.

After years of disappointment, that was the sort of thing she’d been hoping for.

The thing was, though, she wasn’t happy.

She’d gotten to do everything she wanted, and she’d watched the most epically brutal dinosaur takedown ever, and all April could think about was Andy.

This entire day had been about Andy. He was the only person on this island whose fate she actually cared about, and that was sort of annoying.

More so because after everything, he was the only one not here.

Leslie was calling Ben; Ron was fixing the security fencing; Donna was dragging Jerry back to the command center.

And April was climbing into a pit for Andy Dwyer.

What was happening to her? What was this? Why did she care so much? What did it mean that she couldn’t imagine her life without him?

She found him, crumpled at the bottom. Her heart was pounding as she approached, reaching down to roll him over. “Andy?” she called. “Andy!”

His face was smeared with blood and his wrist was turned at an odd angle. And his eyes were closed.

She gripped him by the shoulders. “Andy!”

She loved him.

She loved him?

What the hell did that even mean?

Why was love so stupid and scary and overwhelming and--

He twitches, face scrunching up. One of his hands flailed, rubbing his forehead without much coordination.

Relief washed over her, so fast and furious that she actually smiled.

“Andy,” she said. “Oh, thank God.”

His eyes opened to slits, and he made a face. “April?”

“Yes, Andy,” she said, leaning a little closer and taking his good hand in hers. “Are you okay?”

“Now that you’re here, I am,” he said.

She grinned, almost laughing.

Then Andy winced. “Okay except for the broken wrist,” he said. He wobbled for a moment “Yeah, and probably a concussion.”

She swatted him gently. “You’re such an idiot,” she said. “What were you thinking?”

Squinting up at her, he cocked his head. “That the Indominus was going to eat everything, and that included you, and I couldn’t let that happen.”

“I’m perfectly capable of defending myself,” April reminded him.

“But I love you,” he said.

She stopped.

He stopped.

That was it, then.

That was it.

“How would you feel about having sex right now?” she asked.

“Pretty good actually,” Andy replied.

“And your wrist?”

“Can’t even feel it,” he said.

She tugged at his belt, pulling it clean off before ripping open his shirt. He fondled hers with his one hand, but she took matters into her own purview and promptly stripped down. She pressed herself on top of him, half smothering him with a kiss that he eagerly returns.

When she pulled away, he groaned. “April,” he said breathlessly, bucking up toward her. “Marry me.”

She locked her fingers in his hair, running her tongue down his cheek before she whispered in his ear. “Okay.”

-o-

Ben came to Jurassic World because he loved dinosaurs.

All these years later, though, that wasn’t why he was staying.

Sure, it didn’t hurt, but after watching a dinosaur threaten everything, it had to be more than that. Because he hadn’t been afraid of a dinosaur.

He’d been afraid of losing people he cared about.

So when the water in the mosasaurus tank turned red; when the door to paddock nine was shut and secured; when April pulled Andy up from the pit; when Donna and Ron half dragged Jerry back with them; when Chris and Tom hugged because this was finally over.

When the elevator doors opened and Leslie was standing right there.

That was when Ben knew.

That was when Ben knew why he was here.

That was when Ben knew why he’d always be here.

Crossing the distance, he wrapped his arms around her. She kissed him, and he laughed. “I can’t believe you did that.”

“What, kiss you?” Leslie asked.

“No,” Ben grinned. “You actually saved the park.”

Leslie shook her head, tired, weary and beaming. “No,” she disagreed as the others filed out behind her. “We saved the park.”

She was right about that.

Then again, Leslie Knope was right about most things.

It was one of the things he loved about her most.

-o-

So, genetic modification?

Was basically a terrible career choice. It paid relatively okay, but considering the fact that Tom was likely to be listed in every major lawsuit because he headlined the Indominus Rex made the cost benefit analysis turn out decidedly different.

Besides, it was boring. There was no pizzazz.

At least, no pizzazz that didn’t up and try to eat people.

Tom had no business in science! He didn’t even look that good in a lab coat!

“I can’t help but notice,” Jean Ralphio said, nodding at Tom. “That you’re not celebrating with the rest of them.”

Tom looked over where the others were, in fact, celebrating.

Jean Ralphio nudged him. “They broke out the bubbly.”

“It looks like a bottle from Wal-Mart,” Tom said miserably. “It’s hardly worth it.”

“That’s fair, that’s fair,” Jean Ralphio said. “But I have to admit. I never pass on free alcohol.”

Tom gave him a look. “What are you doing here anyway?”

“My dad gave us this trip,” Jean Ralphio said. “He’s, like, loaded. He was thinking about investing, but I don’t know.”

“Investing?” Tom asked. “In Jurassic World?”

“These dinosaurs, you know,” Jean Ralphio said. “They’re crazy.

Tom shook his head. “There’s no way he should invest in dinosaurs.”

Jean Ralphio raised his eyebrows.

“No, I’m serious,” Tom said. “The liability is ridiculous. The way I see it, you can’t build a future by relying on the past.”

Jean Ralphio nodded earnestly. “That’s brilliant,” he said. “That’s brilliant.

“Thank you!” Tom said. Then he leaned closer. “Honestly, I’ve got some killer ideas if your dad is serious about investments.”

“Tell me more,” Jean Ralphio said. “I’m loving it.”

“Working here has made me realize that a theme park? Is too tied down,” Tom said. “If you want to entertain people, you need to create a comprehensive entertainment experience. It needs to be versatile to meet the vast and varied needs of all possible clients.”

“An entertainment conglomerate!” Jean Ralphio said, snapping his fingers.

“Entertainment 720!” Tom exclaimed.

Jean Ralphio looked overjoyed. “That is the best idea I have ever heard.”

“So you think your dad will go for it?” Tom asked.

Jean Ralphio grinned. “One way to find out,” he said. “Come with me. We’ll pitch it together.”

Tom hesitated, looking at his friends and coworkers.

“He’s got a sick private jet,” Jean Ralphio said. “If it doesn’t work out, we can fly you back here in two days.”

“Really?” Tom asked.

“Really,” Jean Ralphio said. “Or, you know, we could skip the business meeting and just take the jet to Mexico. Rent a villa. Meet some ladies. Par-tay.”

“I think I want to try the sales pitch actually,” Tom said.

“Business first,” Jean Ralphio said. “I can respect that. Honestly, Tommy -- can I call you Tommy?”

“Of course,” Tom said.

“Tommy Boy,” Jean Ralphio said. “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

-o-

When the boat hit the dock, Ann wasn’t sure what to expect. It hadn’t even been 24 hours since she left the island, but the conditions hadn’t been favorable. Rumors had swirled all night, especially after military aircraft were spotted in the area. There were no signs of explosions, though. And no indication of further distress.

Ann tried calling, of course, but Leslie’s phone was off. Working with Shauna Mulway-Tweep, she’d been able to trade an exclusive first look for a secure, private ride back to the island, complete with relief supplies if needed.

It was a bit of a risk, maybe, because there was no way to know what they would find when they got back. But Ann knew Leslie, and she was willing to bet a lot that it was a risk that would pay off.

The signs of struggle on main street were disconcerting, and she tried not to pay attention while Shauna’s photographer took close ups of the shattered storefronts or the broken guardrails on the Mosasaurus tank. When they lingered at the large pool of blood, Ann shook her head. “Too big to be human,” she noted, trying to feel relieved by that.

If it didn’t look good, Ann just walked faster. Because there was no way that told the whole story. This didn’t end with broken buildings and puddles of blood. Not Jurassic World. Not Leslie’s park.

Her badge still worked on all the security checkpoints, and she moved faster the farther inside she got. At the main elevator to the control room, Shauna and her photographer had to run to get inside before Ann let the doors slide shut.

“We’ll know the full story at the command center,” Ann announced, trying to sound positive.

Shauna gave her a critical look. “And the damage on main street?”

“There was a massive dinosaur on the loose,” Ann snapped. “Did you expect it to look perfect?”

There was no time for her to answer when the doors opened. At this point, Ann wasn’t sure what she expected, but it wasn’t...this.

She stopped short, blinking in shock.

Because strewn about the room, slumped haphazardly, were her coworkers. Donna, Tom, Jerry, Ron, Ben, April, Andy.

Chris.

Leslie.

Safe, whole, and sound asleep.

She let out a breath, almost laughing.

From her seat in the front, Leslie startled, turning around. “Ann!” she exclaimed.

“Leslie!”

Leslie was out of her chair, stepping over the others to embrace her. “You’re here!” she said, wrapping her arms around Ann. She pulled away. “Wait, why are you here?”

Ann laughed. “Because I was worried about you,” she said. “You didn’t return any of my calls.”

“What?” Leslie said. She reached into her pocket, pulling out her phone. “Oh, right. I turned it off so it wouldn’t ring at the wrong time.”

From behind them, Shauna peeked out. “Is that normal for the Head of Operations to be out of contact?”

“Normal?” Leslie asked. “No, but then again, it’s not normal when dinosaurs are actually trying to eat me, so I made a few compromises.” She frowned, looking from Shauna to Ann. “Who is this?”

“Shauna Mulway-Tweep,” Ann said.

Shauna smiled. “From the--”

“The press, I got it,” Leslie said. She looked at Ann. “Why did you bring the press?”

“Because I thought we could use it,” Ann said, pulling out the paper from her purse. “This is today’s headline, thanks to an exclusive interview last night.”

Leslie took it, scanning it with her brow furrowed. “Wait,” she said, the discernment turning to shock. “This is...positive?”

Leslie looked at Ann in disbelief.

“We lost control of a deadly and expensive asset and this is a positive article?” Leslie asked.

Shauna inclined her head. “Ms. Perkins was very persuasive,” she said. “The nature of the park infers certain risks, but by all accounts, this incident was handle with care, concern and caution. Did you know there are no civilian casualties reported?”

“Because everyone got off the island immediately,” Leslie said.

“Exactly,” Shauna said. “People expect danger with dinosaurs. They don’t always expect the best leadership in the world to keep them perfectly safe during it. I’d love to do a whole series, chronicling the events as told in your own words.”

Leslie inhaled sharply, her eyes filling with tears.

Then, unexpectedly, she hugged Ann again.

Ann half stumbled. “Whoa, wait,” she said. “I didn’t write the article!”

“No,” Leslie said, head buried in her hair. “But this is still you.”

Ann relaxed, hugging back. “No,” she said. “I’m pretty sure this is you.”

Pulling away, Leslie shook her head with fondness. “Ann, you ever-resourceful, sun-kissed brachiosaurus.”

Ann made a face.

“And you can quote me on that,” Leslie said, turning to Shauna. “In fact, let’s put this whole thing on the record, shall we?”

Ann grinned as Leslie started talking, suggesting over the top headlines and possible angles. Things were getting back to normal.

Across the room, Chris stirred, blinking open and looking at her. His face lit up.

Ann bit her lip.

In fact, things might be better than normal.

-o-

Standing on the dock, Ron sighed. The sun was rising, and it would be a very different day than the one before. After all of this, Ron had been right about everything.

He purveyed the scene around him, noting that this could have been much, much worse. True, the damage to main street was considerable -- by any rough estimates, they would have to close several weeks to make the area usable for guests. A complete reassessment would be needed for both the mosasaurus and the tyrannosaurus, given the animal to animal incursions. These animals were carefully socialized, and there was no telling how actual combat would affect their ability to perform reasonably for guests.

Moreover, the incident would require a complete overhaul of the security measures and a tight critique of the science division. Ron would recommend cutting the science division entirely and shifting development to maintenance, but somehow he doubted that would ever happen.

There would be other formalities, of course. Guests would need to be placated, and the press would invariably pull through the events as much as possible. He suspected new governmental oversight, which was the exact opposite of what he’d wanted when he took this job in the first place. Several workers had lost their lives, and though they had all signed waivers, Ron suspected that Leslie’s personalized touch in the aftermath would prove effective in calming the families of the deceased.

Even with all this, Ron could not help but think of today as something of a victory. This annoyed him on some level; his worst case scenario had played out in graphic detail and somehow it was still Leslie’s shining moment.

After all, no guests had died -- not even the two idiots who had let themselves outside the park. And none of their attractions had been affected, except for the outer security fencing and the barrier around the mosasaurus tank. On top of that, the core group of dedicated Jurassic World employees that had stayed behind had not only survived, but successfully contained the incident.

Donna had provided excellent insight into animal behavior. April had shown courageous tracking abilities. Ben had not left his post to provide technical support. Tom had revealed critical details into the Indominus Rex and her DNA structure. Andy had been loyal and took action when others had had too much common sense to move. Ann had provided an appropriate public relations coup that would effectively control the news cycle. Chris had not let his need for profit outweigh the safety of the people on the island.

And Jerry, well, Jerry had inexplicably survived.

As for Leslie….

Ron furrowed his brow and tried to find something else to do as she approached. There was no such task, however, and he held his ground as she came up beside him while the others boarded the boat back to the mainland.

“So,” Leslie said. “Are you going to say it?”

Ron raised his eyebrows. “I assume you are going to elaborate.”

“I told you so,” Leslie said. “Are you going to say I told you so?”

“I believe I already have,” he replied honestly.

“True,” Leslie said, watching as Donna and Tom took seats on the stern. “But you know, this is your chance. No one listened to you before, and this happened again. You could make sure people don’t forget that.”

“Are you asking me to tell the public that Jurassic World is a horrible idea?” Ron asked.

Leslie chewed her lip, eyes tracking Chris as he helped Ann on board. “No,” she said. “But I expect you to tell me why I shouldn’t already be thinking about how to reopen the park.”

Ron huffed, almost smiling. “You wouldn’t listen to me.”

Leslie shook her head. “That’s not true.”

On the dock, April is helping Andy, who is limping with a temporary splint around the ankle he managed to break while falling down a pit. His head is wrapped in bandages, and he almost falls on April several times during the process.

“I couldn’t change your mind,” Ron told her. “If you’re going to reopen the park, you’re going to reopen the park.”

“Okay, you’re probably,” Leslie said. “But I still need you to tell me why it’s a bad idea.”

Ron regarded her quizzically. “Why?”

“Because,” Leslie said, gesturing helplessly. “Your questions make me better. You make this park better. All of you do. Without this team working just the way we do -- as strange as it is -- I’m not sure this would have turned out the way it did.”

Ron took a terse breath, rocking back on his heels. Ben had climbed on board now, along with the Sapersteins and the journalist. A small security detachment was staying behind, but Chris wanted to have everyone cleared by medical, just to be sure.

The exception, of course, was Leslie.

Leslie was always the exception.

She was staying, naturally.

And no one dared to talk her out of it.

“Maybe,” he said finally. “And for the record, I still think this park is a terrible idea.”

Leslie looked at him.

He held her gaze. “And you’re the only person who could possibly operate it.”

Leslie started to smile.

Ron cleared his throat. “Now, if you’ll excuse me,” he said. “I’m going to head to the mainland and find myself a large piece of meat and a stiff drink.”

“Ron, wait--” Leslie started.

Ron turned back for a moment. “Whatever it is you need to say, I think it can wait until tomorrow.”

Leslie tilted her head. “Tomorrow?”

“I assume critical staff will be expected to report tomorrow,” he said. “Unless I was mistaken--”

“No, no,” Leslie said quickly, starting to grin. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Climbing on board, he turned back and gave Leslie one last nod. As the boat pulled away, he took a steady breath and reminded himself that he had every reason to leave.

And just enough reasons to stay.

-o-

Jerry fumbled, missing a step as he tried to look at his watch. He had to stop entirely when he realized that it had stopped working with the face waterlogged.

He sighed, tapping it in dismay, before finally starting to move again. The boat was leaving, and he really wanted to make it back to the mainland. Gayle would be worried, he knew. And he could almost taste her fresh baked cookies.

Picking up his pace, Jerry made it to the docks, hurrying his way down. Breathing heavily by now, he smiled at the accomplishment of arriving in one piece.

It was then that he realized that he was the only one there.

Frowning, he checked his watch again. Chris and Ben had been the last one’s out of the command center, and Jerry had just stopped by the vending machine for a quick candy bar on his way out. It had only taken him several minutes, and then several more when he got lost on his way out.

And the extra debris on main street had made it hard to get around.

But he hadn’t taken that long.

Had he?


Chewing his lip nervously, Jerry looked around. There was no one behind him or on any of the other docks. In fact, the only thing he could see was the small bobbing figure of a boat on the horizon.

Maybe they were coming to get him, he thought hopefully.

Then the boat got smaller.

Maybe it was leaving without him.

“Guys!” he called helplessly. “Guys, wait!”

The boat couldn’t hear him, though, and it slipped out of view.

Jerry sighed, running a hand through his hair. “Aw, geez!”

-o-

In a lot of ways, what happened on Jurassic World was a disaster. Their newest attraction broke out and killed most of their other attractions. The entire park was overrun with dinosaurs, and the structural damage was extensive. They lost billions of dollars, and for a park that promised to provide excellence, this was a slipshod presentation.

But no one died. The visitors got out safely before anything bad could happen. The ACU was overwhelmed, but Leslie’s team came together when she needed it most. When people ask her why she stayed after the disaster, Leslie told them it was her job.

That was true, to some extent. But the deeper truth was buried back in the third binder that Chris Traeger still had on his desk back at his corporate headquarters.

Reason 503.

It was more true than ever.

Because there was no doubt they’d screw up, but they’d fix it, too.

They’d always make it work.

Together.