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Title: The Dinosaur Job
Author: jedibuttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not
Rating: T; gen
Prompt/Prompter: kerrykhat, who asked for "Owen approaches an old military buddy of his for the raptor program. Eliot wonders which idiot authorized this disaster waiting to happen."
Spoilers: Post-series for "Leverage" and pre-movie for "Jurassic World"
Notes: I did a really ridiculous amount of research for this! Also-- I know, I know, more? *adds to my list of AUs*

Summary: It was pretty obvious to Eliot that if a guy like Vic Hoskins was sponsoring the raptor project, he wasn't thinking 'theme park exhibit' or 'research papers.' 3000w.



Eliot took one look at the screen, then turned and gave Hardison a look. "Dinosaurs, man? Seriously? I thought Parker voted for the UAE next vacation, not Costa Rica; after the Skyspire, she really wants to jump the Burj Khalifa. Badass as it is, I don't think setting a T-Rex as your screensaver's gonna magically convince her to change her mind."

Hardison snorted and rolled his eyes. "This ain't about that. Though I won't deny I was pretty stoked to find the excuse. Nah; this is about iNGen." He clicked something on his laptop, and the next screen came up: the bioengineering company's nineties-style logo, next to an equally cheesy graphic representation of a DNA molecule topped with a floating pair of eyes and a cheerful smile.

"That's the company that made the dinosaurs, right?" Eliot furrowed his brow as he settled into a chair at the table. He'd brought two glasses of the brewpub's latest experimental ale; he slid one across the tabletop to Hardison-- man might as well suffer the consequences, if he kept insisting Eliot sell them-- then took a cautious sip of his own, running through what he remembered of the company.

He'd been just a couple weeks shy of his nineteenth birthday when the original Jurassic Park had made the news, far from anywhere he could have followed the fallout live, and he'd still been in the service four years later when a ten-ton 'tyrant lizard' had torn through the streets of San Diego. Eliot's nephew was a dinosaur nut, though; and he'd heard plenty about the place's history from Hardison when he'd been making his pitch for a Jurassic World anniversary vacation. The company'd survived the public carnage and Hammond's death four years later to remain a factor in the rebirth of the park, after their genetics guys managed to impress the son of one of Hammond's old friends. Masrani's influx of funds had sent them right back to the top of the heap, and then some; these days, they had a private security division to rival some PMCs in addition to their world-class labs and very toothy progeny.

"Yep," Hardison said, then looked up as Parker let herself down from the room's high ceiling. Neither of them had seen her sneak back in, but she was wearing her high-wire harness, and looked windblown and highly satisfied with herself; par for the course with Parker. "Hey, girl. I was just telling Eliot."

She detached herself from the harness, then hitched a hip on the table and swiped Hardison's glass. "Did you get to the part about the shark guy, yet?" she asked, looking at the screen as she absently took a drink.

Eliot smirked as she did a double-take at the contents of her glass, waved a hand in the air frantically as she forced down the swallow, then shoved the glass at Hardison. "That one is a mouth crime," she said, grimacing.

"Sorry, Parker; tryin' out the new brew. Soda's in the fridge. And no, he hasn't; what's going on out there that we'd need to meddle in? That guy I know in Jurassic World's ACU squad; he says Masrani's pretty easy-going, but he's also a straight shooter."

"But iNGen's Head of Security Operations, Vic Hoskins, isn't," Hardison said firmly, then put a pair of new images up on the screen: a slightly overweight guy in a beige uniform shirt with a goatee, side by side with a spreadsheet of financial data that looked pretty familiar, by pattern if not specifics. A lot of jobs had started from similar information since Nate and Sophie's retirement.

"Found several entries for iNGen in the Black Book, and when I took a closer look, I found a lot of shady transactions earmarked for something called the IBRIS project." Several lines on the spreadsheet lit up with neon highlighting. "The acronym isn't defined anywhere public, but a little more digging turned it up: the Integrated Behavioral Raptor Intelligence Study.

"You might remember from the last three major incidents off Costa Rica that the velociraptors featured pretty heavily in all of 'em? I'd think they'd damned well proved their intelligence already. But the project wouldn't exist if the investors didn't think they were gonna get something out of it, so I went snooping in the park's records, too. Turns out, there weren't any on exhibit anywhere on Isla Nublar when the funding was set up; the folks that run the place aren't actually idiots. But iNGen's hatched a few clutches since, playing around with their DNA each time; there've been four survivors, and the oldest's just reached an age to be released into a paddock."

Parker had flitted away to the kitchen while Hardison infodumped; she was back in her seat with a fresh glass by the time he advanced the slideshow again. This time, it showed a man in Navy BDUs that had seen some heavy service; the medals pinned to his uniform were very distinctive. Just as distinctive, in fact, as the face of the guy wearing them.

"I'm assuming that's where Owen Grady comes in," Eliot said, taking another sip of the beer. The flavor actually wasn't too terrible; still more 'interesting' than 'good', but it might actually sell. "Ran across him on an op or two over the years. Wouldn't have pegged him for this kinda project, though; he empathizes with the animals he trains too much. If you're right and this Hoskins guy is planning to sell his raptors as a product, he'd be more likely to open the cage and let 'em go."

"Could be Hoskins ain't told him the full story," Hardison shrugged. "Wouldn't be surprised if he hasn't told Masrani, either, or the park's Senior Assets Manager, Claire Dearing. On paper, IBRIS is all about the research data, and maybe teaching 'em enough routines to build a show exhibit somewhere down the line. But there's way too much black money involved for that to be all of it."

Briefly, Eliot pictured a world where private military contractors augmented their soldiers and drone fleets with sharp-toothed predators that could outrun Usain Bolt and wouldn't care what uniform their targets were wearing. "I'm in," he said, suppressing a shudder. "I'm assuming you want me in the Asset Containment Unit?"

"Parker was thinking of your friend Hamada, yeah-- but if you can get Grady to hire you for paddock security, that would be even better. Grady's research notes are all on standalone systems, if they're computerized at all, so I got no idea what the plans are for the actual training, or how much Hoskins is around; all important stuff to know if we're gonna publicly expose him and repurpose his funding. I'm thinking compensation, personally-- they barely paid peanuts to the families of the guys who died on Site B back in '97, before Masrani swooped in and rescued their asses from bankruptcy."

"Raptor money to raptor victims. Nice," Eliot commented.

"And something for the raptors, too. Did you know their name means 'speedy thief'? These ones haven't eaten anybody, and we can't let them kill them just because Hoskins is a bad guy," Parker said, propping her chin on a fist as she stared up at the brochure images Hardison projected next. Eliot couldn't tell which one fascinated her more: the picture of the Gentle Giants Petting Zoo, or the illustration of a zipline ride over a jungle river stocked with Stegosaurs. "I'll be playing the obnoxious tourist, for overall access; Hardison will be in the control center."

"Should be easy to get in; some kinda external computer security audit'll do the trick," Hardison nodded.

"Sounds a little thin for a job this big," Eliot said, draining his glass as he thought about it. "But doable, if we call in Quinn; he can be the one in the ACU, for backup." Then he cocked an eyebrow at Parker.

Parker grinned back and indulged his inner eight-year-old, eyes sparkling. "Done. Let's go steal a bunch of dinosaurs," she said.

"Aw, yeah," Hardison laughed and shook his head. "Jurassic World, here we come."



The first order of business on Eliot's part was to compose an email to Grady. Just a quick note that he'd heard Grady was finally out of the service; that he'd been talking shop with a friend who'd joined the ACU, and Grady's name had come up. The shop-talk was explained by his having retired out of the biz himself, now scraping for work in the downturned economy that didn't involve heading back into a warzone. He closed with a few chatty anecdotes about other mutual acquaintances, threw in a joking question about what the hell Jurassic World wanted with an animal trainer of Grady's qualifications, and then crossed his fingers and sent it winging its way to Costa Rica.

ACU would still work, if Grady didn't bite. But there were limits to how much he could grift on this job; there were both benefits and downsides to working under his actual identity for once.

Fortunately, Grady bit-- and exceeded expectations.

...Actually, you have perfect timing, Grady wrote in his reply. I've been watching and handling the raptors since they were born, and I can already tell their pack dynamics are going to be a lot more complicated than we were expecting. I'm working on hiring another old friend to help out as a caretaker; I'd be glad to offer you an in on the project, too. I remember you with those horses, man; I know you'd be an asset, if the teeth and claws don't put you off....

He was in. His next call was to Quinn, then Hamada; then it was Hardison's turn to get his wheels in motion. Parker was already on her way with a ticket for the ten-day "Apex Predator Package", the park's version of the E-ticket experience, and had packed for three separate roles: the rich eccentric tourist, her thief gear in case she found an opportunity to investigate the on-site iNGen labs or whatever else might come up, and a few key pieces of disguise in case they needed a major incident ASAP. Turned out Hammond's granddaughter Lex Murphy was just a year younger than Parker, only an inch shorter, about the same shade of blonde, and hadn't set foot on the island since the disaster in '93; no one there would be able to say otherwise if Parker pulled the name out of her back pocket.

They might actually be able to pull the thing off. He packed for his own role, drove to Masrani's HQ in San Diego for the HR song and dance, and then flew down to the temporary digs Hardison had rented for them in Puntarenas. The Jurassic World ferries, both customer and staff, left from the docks there every twenty minutes all day long; not quite as good as living on the island, but pretty damn close.

Two days later, they took those ferries over to Isla Nublar.

And Eliot got his first look at the animals they were there to protect.



"So, what d'you think?" Grady asked at the end of that first day, bracing his arms against the railing of the catwalk over the raptor enclosure.

"I think I don't remember you bein' quite this tall," Eliot snorted, looking up from the blue-striped raptor exploring its new environs below. Retirement looked good on Grady; he wore khakis, a button-up shirt, and a leather vest covered in pockets despite the sticky heat, and hadn't slacked on his physical conditioning at all. Eliot had tied his hair back under a bandana, but other than the vest he was dressed very similarly... except for the small fact of being five inches shorter.

Grady chuckled and threw him an amused look. "No, seriously, man. Raptors. You see the way she's exploring every inch of the fence? They say the ones in the first park did that, too; tested every bit of it for weaknesses. But they never bothered to establish any positive associations with human handlers with that group, and they just threw them all in together, didn't intervene in their dynamics. And of course the ones that survived Site B hatched without any human presence at all. It's no wonder they all turned out so vicious. Blue's still an apex predator, yeah. But she listens. She learns. I can't wait to get her sisters in here, too, really see what they all can do as a group."

"Seriously. It's amazing, no question, what you're doin' here. I get the draw, I do. But it also makes me wonder which idiot authorized this disaster waiting to happen. Grady, man...."

"Owen," the other man insisted. "We're not in uniform anymore, remember?"

"Owen, then," Eliot corrected himself. "Look... you gotta know if a guy like Vic Hoskins is sponsoring this, he's not thinking theme park exhibit or research papers."

Hoskins had been there to approve Eliot and Owen's other friend Barry that morning, in addition to a few other support personnel for the paddock; he'd made about as favorable an impression in person as he had from Hardison's research.

The smile faded off Owen's face, and he looked down at Blue again, following the half-grown raptor's movements as she turned her attention to the gate area. "Yeah, well. Why do you think I actually live out here? It's not just because I'm establishing myself as the pack alpha. I do my job to the letter, give him no excuse to get rid of me, but I'm always around. There's no way he'll get Masrani's authorization for a military project, so he'd have to act first, and that won't happen on my watch."

"You're risking a lot for these animals," Eliot observed, brow furrowed as he studied the man. "These aren't dolphins, man. Or even sharks."

"They aren't horses, either," Owen replied, turning a sharp gaze on Eliot. "But I saw the look on your face when I introduced you to Echo. Yeah, you get the draw, all right. Are you just here for the job? Or now that you've seen 'em-- are you here to really help?"

Eliot swallowed, thinking about the feel of the infant raptor's rough skin under his palm; the sharp prick of its already-deadly claws against his fingers as he'd helped with the feeding. Remembered assisting with new-born foals all those years ago, at the Martins' place: that instant feeling of wonder.

It was gonna be tough to do this for ten days and then just-- walk away. "What do you think?" he deflected, gruffly. "You got my number."

"Thought so," Owen replied smugly, then bent to stick a hand in the bucket at his feet. But instead of a rat for Blue, he came up with a pair of bottles labeled Cerveza Imperial.

Eliot took one, then clinked his bottle against Owen's. "You give Barry this speech yet?"

"Meeting him for dinner, later." Owen didn't bother denying it. "You taking the ferry back to the mainland tonight?"

"Yeah, still setting up the apartment there, and my partners don't cook, so..." he shrugged.

"Partners?" That surprised Owen, he could tell.

"That gonna be a problem?" Hopefully the man wouldn't ask to meet them. It was gonna be weird enough just living with Quinn instead of Parker for the next several days.

"Nah; I just remember you as the kind of guy who would never settle down," Owen shrugged easily. "To each their own, though. I'm still unattached, but I do have a date next weekend with Claire Dearing. Maybe I'll make a connection there." He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Eliot chuckled at him, picturing the organized, dressed-to-the-nines woman he'd met that morning at the kind of bar he remembered Owen favoring, and shook his head. "Better put a little more effort into it than you do your usual dates, then. Tequila and whatever clothes don't stink off the floor of your trailer aren't gonna cut it with a woman like her."

"And what would you know about a woman like her, anyway?" Owen scoffed, good-naturedly.

"You'd be surprised," Eliot said dryly, thinking of Sophie. Then he clapped the other man on the shoulder and gestured to the stairs. "Anyway, I'd better get going if I want to catch the next ferry. Thanks for the invite though-- seriously. I meant it when I said what you're doing out here is amazing."

"See you tomorrow, then," Owen waved him away, then turned back to his contemplation of Blue.

Eliot paused outside the paddock gates before crossing the parking lot, looking in at the multi-million-dollar creature so many people's livelihoods were now tied up in; according to Owen, even Dr. Alan Grant, who'd sworn never to set foot on the islands ever again, was consulting with him on the raptor project. Blue seemed to feel his gaze, and stopped her exploration of the paddock to turn one golden, slit-pupilled eye toward him, cocking her head curiously in his direction.

"I hear you, girl," he murmured, then tapped his earbud on.

"So how was everyone's day?" he asked, climbing into the company jeep he'd checked out that morning.

"Eliot," Parker spoke first, her voice hushed and reverent. "I did the zipline, twice. And they let me hold a baby dinosaur. It was amazing."

"Yeah, I saw you on the cameras; you were pretty cute with that gallimimus," Hardison's voice was warm. "Man, you just don't get the scale of this place until you're here; Dearing keeps this place spinning like a top. Twenty-thousand plus visitors a day, and her people keep track of every one of 'em."

"And you should see the arsenal the ACU has," Quinn whistled under his breath. "They are serious about keeping anything like '93 from ever happening again."

Eliot blew out a breath. Maybe ten days from now, he'd ask them how they felt about relocating Leverage, International to San José. But in the meantime...

"Yeah," he smiled wryly to himself. "It's been quite the day."

-x-

Comments

( 7 appreciated — appreciate )
ffutures
Oct. 30th, 2016 10:51 am (UTC)
I wonder if raptors can be cat burglars...
jedibuttercup
Oct. 30th, 2016 07:18 pm (UTC)
:) If they were smart enough, I'm sure they could learn. But why would they want to?
kerrykhat
Oct. 30th, 2016 02:09 pm (UTC)
This is so fantastic! I love the beginning in the brewery with Hardison briefing them but also dealing with the new beer, and how excited they are about the dinosaurs. Thank you so much for writing this!
jedibuttercup
Oct. 30th, 2016 07:19 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it; these characters are always fun to write, and it did seem like something they'd all be enthusiastic about!
xlade
Oct. 30th, 2016 04:28 pm (UTC)
0.o *drool* Oooh. Love this. More please! Please! This would be awesome to see continued!
jedibuttercup
Oct. 30th, 2016 07:20 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it! :) Hopefully, I will continue it eventually; I have some ideas.
(Deleted comment)
jedibuttercup
Nov. 11th, 2016 10:53 pm (UTC)
There's just no way Eliot's going to want to leave after the ten days are up. Especially once Parker gets into iNGen's files and discovers the baby I-Rex .... *grin*
( 7 appreciated — appreciate )

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