Happily Ever Raptor

“We’re almost there. I can feel it.”

Drew watched as Adam looked through the lenses of the microscope. “Be gentle.”

Adam chuckled. “Don’t make me laugh. This is sensitive work.” He wore gloves that were connected to a virtual network. He was controlling the nanomachines that were connected to the base of the microscope. Through the scope, he could see them, two tiny arms doing something humans could never do without this kind of technology, technology Drew had designed himself.

“I wasn’t joking. Everything hinges on that embryo. One misstep, and we cost AlphaZinc millions.”

“Not to pressure me or anything, right?”

Drew smiled. He could still remember when Adam had first started at AlphaZinc, four months ago. He had been so jealous at first. He had worked there for over a decade, was in his late thirties, and head of his own department. He had made great strides on his own, and he was insulted when they brought in a twenty-two-year-old hotshot straight out of college.

It only took Adam a week to impress Drew and prove his worth. He was a genius, taking everything Drew had done pushing the research farther than he had ever thought possible. It had only been months, and they were on the brink of something that should have taken years, maybe a decade or two. Drew had the utmost confidence in Adam.

“If I get this embryo knocked up, I get to name it,” Adam said.

“You got a deal,” Drew agreed.

“What kind of parent would I be if I didn’t let the mommy name one of the herd?”

“Herd?” Drew repeated. “Wouldn’t ‘flock’ be a better term?”

“Look it up. A group of dinosaurs is called a ‘herd’. How do you work in dinosaur cloning and not know this?”

“Don’t you need to concentrate?”

Adam smiled. “It’s easier when you’re talking.”

“You’re doing most of it,” Drew said.

“I can’t believe we’re so close,” Adam whispered, the microscopic needle piercing the lab-made embryo. It was what Drew had called a smorgasbord of reptilian and amphibian DNA and stem cells. If his theory was right, the dinosaur DNA that Adam was attempting to inject inside the embryo that was put inside the ostrich egg would combine. If it worked, they’d have a real-life dinosaur egg.

“This is a dream of mine ever since I saw Jurassic Park as a kid,” Adam said. “My dad let me stay up late to watch it. It scared the shit out of me the first time. After that, I was inspired to do the same.”

“I got to see that in theaters when I was a kid,” Drew teased. “It was way better than on TV. The book was better anyway.”

“Yeah. The book is always better, right?”

“Almost always. You realize half the cast of that movie were eaten by dinosaurs, right?”

“It’s a risk I’m willing to take for science.” The needle pierced the embryo, and Adam injected the dinosaur DNA AlphaZinc had provided into the mix, breathing a sigh of relief. “I got it. Take a look.”

Adam stepped aside, and Drew looked through the microscope. “Son of a bitch. We did it.”

“Assuming it fully forms in the egg, grows, and hatches. All those x-factors aside: Son of a bitch. We did it.”

Adam smiled and jumped a step closer to Drew, grabbing him a big hug. “I don’t believe it!” He pulled back and looked into his partner’s smiling face. Without warning, he leaned forward and kissed him on the mouth.

“Whoa!” Drew exclaimed, pulling back. “Where’d that come from?”

Adam blushed and turned away. “Sorry. The moment kind of overtook me. I didn’t mean to offend you.”

“No,” Drew said. “It was fine. It was just unexpected.”

“Just give me a little warning next time you try to kiss me, OK?”

“OK.” Adam leaned forward again. This time, Drew returned the slow kiss, holding Adam’s arms. They broke apart and looked at each other.

*           *           *

Eighteen Months Later

A woman sang a rapid-beat pop song from a clock radio in a dark bedroom. Adam groaned and rolled over. “What is with you and this music?”

Drew laughed. “It’s catchy.”

“Not at four-thirty in the morning! Can you at least shut it off, seeing as we’re both awake?”

“I just want to hear the chorus. I’ll go shower after that.”

Adam sat up, yawned, and swung his feet to the floor. “I can always sleep at my own apartment you know.”

Drew came from behind Adam and wrapped his arms around his slender body. It was a stark contrast to his chubbiness, but Adam never seemed to mind it. “Why would you want to do that? You spend every night here anyway. You can always move in.”

Adam sighed. “I am not having this conversation again. You know AlphaZinc frowns upon their employees dating one another. Besides, my roommate likes getting half the rent paid and living alone.”

“You’re the one who brought it up, knowing how much I want you here with me.” Drew groaned, pulling away. “I need to get cleaned up for work.”

“You’re so grumpy in the morning!” Adam tossed a pillow at Drew, who ignored it and let it fall to the bedroom floor. “I’d say we quit AlphaZinc and work somewhere else, but then we won’t get to see our baby boy!”

“You’re the one who’s grumpy in the morning,” Drew muttered, closing the bathroom door behind him.

*           *           *

Adam took his portable coffee mug from the Keurig and put it on the table next to Drew’s. He grabbed his car keys from the bowl by the door and put them in his coat pocket. “You just about ready to roll?” he called.

“Wait,” Drew said, coming down the stairs. He held a small package in his hand with a red ribbon around it.

“Wait?” Adam asked. “We’re just going to see each other at work anyway.”

“You’re the one who asked if I was ready,” Drew muttered. “If we can admit you usually spend the night here, we could just carpool into work instead of taking separate cas.”

“Again, AlphaZinc -”

“Frowns upon it.” Drew rolled his eyes. “I know you’re oh-so-young, so I’ll spare you the story about my in-the-closet days  and how I’m not a fan of reliving them now.”

“I’m not in the closet,” Adam groaned. “It’s just because of work, and you know it. Are you going to tell me what you’re holding?”

“Oh,” Drew said, looking at the thin, six-inch black box in his hand. “This is for you.”

“What is it?”

“A present. You open it.”

Adam sighed. “I know I didn’t forget my birthday. Why’d you get me a present?”

“Because I felt like it. Will you just open it?”

Adam feigned annoyance and untied the ribbon. He opened the box and looked inside. “Why did you buy me a pen? We have a million of them at work.”

“It’s not just a pen!” Drew snapped. He walked over to Adam and took it out of the box and showed held it between them. “This is a silver pen.”

“I can see that.”

“No, you don’t. It’s not colored silver. It is silver.”

“Oh.” Adam took the pen from Drew’s hand and looked at it. “That’s an expensive pen. Am I supposed to chuck it when it runs out of ink?”

“You can refill it.”

“Fancy. You didn’t have to do that. Why’d you buy me such an expensive gift for no reason?”

“I remember my mom giving my dad one when I was a kid,” Drew explained. “He loved it so much, and it was always in the front pocket of his lab coat. And there is a reason for you getting one. I got it for you because I love you.”

Adam smiled. “I love you too, Drew. But you didn’t have buy me this just to let me know.”

“Just say ‘thank you, Drew’ and put it in your pocket.”

“Thank you, Drew.” Adam put the pen in his shirt pocket. “I’m going to need a silver-plated pocket protector to go with this, you know.”

“I’ll remember that,” Drew muttered, picking up his mug of coffee. “We need to get to work. Our baby boy is going to miss us if we don’t visit soon.”

“Right.” Adam grabbed his own mug and walked to the door with Drew. “I know how Lizzie gets lonely when we’re not there.”

Drew sighed. “I can’t believe I let you name him that.”

Adam kissed Drew. “Come on. No time to waste. Let’s get to work.”

*           *           *

“The possibilities are literally endless!”

The rough yet booming voice came from Stan, head of the science division at AlphaZinc. He wore a dark brown suit with a bright red tie. Drew tried to look away, as the clashing colors made something lurch inside him. Adam had a theory that his wife hated him and didn’t tell him he looked like a clown heading for a funeral before he left the house. A man as old and successful as Stan Girard should know how to dress himself.

“Think about all the species we could bring back from extinction!”

Stan was giving a presentation to a group of people in suits and brand new AlphaZinc hardhats. Drew knew what that meant: Investors.

“Our client is only interested in your most current success,” one of the men said, adjusting his glasses.

Drew perked up and stopped writing his notes on his clipboard. He was talking, of course, about Lizzie, and Lizzie’s existence was not supposed to be public yet. It meant the board had been talking about it.

“Right, right,” Stan muttered, ushering the small group out of Drew’s lab. “We can talk about that later. Let me show you what we’ve got planned for the near future. Maybe your client can play a pivotal role in bringing back a species that should have never been wiped off the planet.”

Adam walked in from the other entrance. “Is it safe? Is Stan and his admirers gone?”

“They’re gone,” Drew said, making one last note. He looked up and noticed the new pen in Adam’s white lab coat. “That pen looks good on you.”

“It does,” Adam agreed. “And I have something to stab a werewolf with if I ever get attacked by one.”

Drew shook his head and looked back to his notes. “You won’t be joking if one really did attack you.”

Adam sighed and leaned on the table, propping his head up with his elbows down and his face in his hands.

“Yes?” Drew asked.

“You gonna come with me to see him or what?”

Drew looked up. “I can put off these calculations until after lunch. Math isn’t going anywhere.”

“Yes!” Adam said.

They grabbed their white hardhats from the rack by the door. Drew used his keycard to get into the restricted area of the AlphaZinc labs. They made their way to the paddock near the back of the compound, the one that had been built for their baby boy: Lizzie.

“How is he today?” Drew asked Sandy, a middle-aged woman with light-brown hair. She was in charge of guarding the paddock during the day and noting any odd behavior from Lizzie.

“He’s playing hide-and-seek,” Sandy replied. “I’m not sure he likes me.”

“I’m sure he likes you fine,” Adam reassured.

“He’d like me as a snack maybe,” Sandy muttered.

“Speaking of which,” Drew said, “has he eaten?”

“Just had himself a hell of a time with a hog for breakfast. You’re lucky you didn’t have to hear it. One of the perks of this job is the amount of weight I’ve lost because of my loss of appetite. I’m one more death-squeal away from becoming a full-blown vegetarian.”

Drew nodded. “Alright, Sandy. We’re going in.”

Sandy nodded. She pulled a high-powered stun gun from the wall. “No worries. I’ll be right behind you.”

Drew used his keycard to open the gate that led into the paddock. The visitor area was cut off from the rest of it by titanium bars. Sandy carried her stun gun at the ready, just in case one of them got close enough to the bars for the resident dinosaur to try and take a bite.

“Lizzie!” Adam called,  rushing up to the bars. “Where’s my baby boy?!”

“Stand back a step,” Sandy said. “I know he’s used to you guys, but it still makes me nervous when he -”

There was a rustle from the brush, and Lizzie trotted toward them. He was longer than he was tall, his tail making him almost ten feet at the longest. He was over two feet tall too, making him big for his young age. There were a lot of variables Drew hadn’t worked out from the DNA smorgasbord they had used to grow Lizzie in the ostrich egg, so there was no telling how big he would get when he was fully grown.

Lizzie stopped just short of the fence, turning its head to look at Adam through the gate. It purred, an odd sound coming from the raptor. His lips curled, and his teeth showed. They were still tinged with blood from his breakfast.

“Look at you, Lizzie,” Adam said, crouching. “Look at his coloring, Drew. He’s getting darker. Remember when he was a baby and he was almost all green and blue? He’s losing that stripe along his back.”

“I noticed,” Drew said, crouching next to Adam. Lizzie moved to look at him next, bouncing as he changed his footing. “Look at the area under his arms an along his back. He’s going to grow feathers!”

“I knew it!” Adam said, laughing. “I need to get a closer look to take some notes.” He moved toward the door that separated them from Lizzie’s area.

“Nope!” Sandie snapped. “You know the rules.”

“But he just ate!” Adam whined. “We’re allowed to go in right after.”

“Not without the chain-suit,” Sandy retorted.

“Oh, come on!” Adam groaned. “Lizzie’s a good boy!”

“I’ve seen Jurassic Park,” Sandy said. “I know what these velociraptors can do.”

“Lizzie isn’t a velociraptor,” Drew explained. “He’s a deinonychus. Jurassic Park used deinonychuses as models for the velociraptors in the movie, but an actual velociraptor is about the size of a turkey. Lizzie is the bigger version. He’s in the raptor family, though, so to speak.”

“You’re such a nerd,,” Sandy muttered. “Still, you should have cloned a cuter dinosaur. Even if you had, though, you need a chain-suit if you want to go through that door.”

            “Fine,” Adam groaned. “I’ll put on that heavy-ass suit just to say hello to my little boy.”

Drew sighed while Adam went in the next room to get his custom-fitted suit of raptor-armor. It was steel mesh inside tough fabric with a chainmail-like outer shell. They called them chain-suits as a joke, and the name stuck. It was heavy, but Drew agreed with the rule that any of Lizzie’s handlers or AlphaZinc staff of them get near Lizzie without one, as friendly as the raptor may have been.

“How are the two of you, by the way?” Sandy asked. “You guys seem happy.”

Drew smiled. Sandy was one of the few people who knew of Adam and his relationship. “It’s going really well, actually. I didn’t think he’d stick around too long with an older guy, but it’s been a year and a half.”

“Good for you,” Sandy said. “I’m glad work doesn’t get in the way. I used to date Mark in security, and things got weird, seeing him here every day.”

“It gets like that sometimes,” Drew added, “but we’re not sick of each other yet.”

Sandy smiled. “I hope you guys don’t get to that point any time soon.”

Drew laughed. “Me neither.”

“Alright!” Adam exclaimed, announcing his return. He was wearing the full chain-suit, and he was putting on a waddle so Sandy and Drew knew what a pain it was to be forced to wear it. “I’m ready to give Lizzie a good morning.”

“Not without the helmet and mask,” Sandy retorted.  

“Dammit, Sandy! Let me see my baby boy!”

*           *           *

Adam walked through the door. He had to look ahead of himself through the plexiglass mask and heavy helmet of his chain-suit. “Hey, baby boy,” he said, offering a smile to Lizzie as he approached.

Sandy was on the other side of the bars, the end of her stun gun aimed at Lizzie. There were two other guards on the upper corners above the visitor area. One had a tranquilizer rifle ready, and the other had one that fired a net. It was all a precaution, and Adam was sure it wasn’t going to be needed.

Lizzie stopped in front of Adam and looked at him. The human’s whole body was covered in the suit, but there was an unmistakable look of recognition on his face.

“I’m just going to take a close look at you,” Adam said in a calm voice. “Is that OK?”

A small whine came from Lizzie’s throat. It was an unthreatening sound. Adam had no intention on petting the raptor like a dog or trying to rub its belly. He knew Lizzie was a good boy, but he wasn’t a pet.

“You’re going to grow feathers. I can tell now. You’re going to be so beautiful when your full coat comes in.”

Lizzie move forward a step, and Adam could hear Sandy move too, ready to fire a shock that would put the raptor down for the count. He’d be OK after an hour or so, but his trust in humans would be damaged. So far, everything had gone well.

“You’re a good boy, Lizzie. You’re the best boy!”

*           *           *

“The lizard’s really taken to humans, hasn’t he?” Stan asked. He had come into the visitor area of the paddock unannounced. Drew had been watching Adam interact with Lizzie. They often went together, but he liked watching Adam. He almost glowed when he was with Lizzie.

“He’s used to Adam and me,” Drew replied. He turned back to watch. He had been startled by Stan’s sudden appearance, but Sandy hadn’t taken her aim off Lizzie. She was well-suited for her post.

“Do you think it’ll do well with others?” Stan asked.

“Lizzie stays clear of his feeders, and security doesn’t go in there often. His handlers haven’t been attacked, but Lizzie gets a little anxious with them. When he gets older, he may become more of a danger than he is right now.”

Stan nodded. “Ah.”

“Why do you ask?”

“No reason.” Stan walked up to the bars and watched Adam inspect Lizzie. “It really is a beauty, isn’t it? You guys did better than expected when you brought that thing to life.”

“He brought himself to life,” Drew said. “We’re not gods. All we did was give him the means to be born.”

“You’re a goddamn poet. You know that?”

Drew sighed. “Sure. I’m a poet.”

“I need to know soon if your pet there is ready for the next step, Doctor Waters.” Stan only called Drew “Doctor Waters” when he wanted to be taken seriously.

Drew turned away from Adam, who was checking the skin behind Lizzie’s ears for evidence of more future feather growth. “We’re still studying him,” he replied. “Besides, Lizzie isn’t even fully grown yet. There’s so much we can learn from this whole experience. It’s too soon.”

“Walk with me, Doctor Waters.”

Drew looked to Sandy for a moment. She gave him a nod,  not taking her eyes off Lizzie for a single millisecond. “I got this. He’ll be OK.”

Stan left the paddock area, Drew walking beside him. “I don’t want to be a hard-ass, but the investors are clawing at the door, looking for a profit from our division.”

“We cloned a dinosaur,” Drew replied. “Can they not see the scientific and historical merit in what we’ve done?”

“A lot of money was dumped into this project, and they just want to see their return. How ready is your specimen for transport?”

Drew sighed. He hated Lizzie being called a specimen, but it was better than “Property of AlphaZinc”, which is what Stan would call him if he got cross enough.

“Lizzie is young, but he can live away from the paddock. He hasn’t needed humans to feed him for some time now. If you send his lunch to him, he’ll kill and eat on his own. He can live and thrive with little human interference, but…”

“But what?”

“I want you to try to urge the board to keep him here a little longer. As I said: We’re still studying him, and we discover something new just about every day.”

“You have his DNA, right?” San asked.

“Yeah,” Drew admitted.

“Then make more. I’ll get you authorization to make two next time. You can breed the ugly bastards and publish our papers on the findings. You’ll be a science superstar! We’ll have people lining up to clone endangered species. Do you have any idea how much the liberals in congress will dish out for something like that? We’ll all be millionaires or better.”

“But Lizzie…”

“Right,” Stan groaned. “I’m getting ahead of myself. Get as much blood as you from your specimen to grow a new one. Let your assistant know too.”

“Adam is my partner.”

“Whatever.” Stan walked away toward his office. The chuckle he failed to suppress jiggled his multiple chins.

Drew watched him go, wondering how he was going to break the news to Adam.

*           *           *

The table of the lab was covered in notebooks, and Drew had two laptops opened. He was going over everything they had researched since he and Adam first fertilized a dinosaur embryo inside an ostrich egg. It was an overwhelming amount of data, but there wasn’t enough missing for him to make a proper counter-argument for him to keep Lizzie, especially when the promise to clone two more raptors was on the table.

“Wow,” Adam said, entering the lab. “Are you studying for midterms?”

Drew took his glasses off and pinched his nose. The headache that had been threatening to come to the surface had made its appearance. “It’s nothing. I just needed to verify some old information.”

“What’s wrong?” Adam asked.

“Nothing,” Drew replied. “I already told you.”

“Don’t make me force it out of you.”

There was no point in lying to Adam or putting off the conversation about Lizzie’s departure from the AlphaZinc compound. Adam knew something was wrong, and he’d harp on Drew until he spit it out.

“Sit down, Adam,” Drew said.

Adam did as Drew requested, taking the seat next to him. “What’s up. Are you OK?”

“Yeah. I’m fine. I wanted to wait to tell you this, but… dammit.”

“What? Just tell me.”

“I had a conversation with Stan. The board made a decision about Lizzie. They’re going to ship him away.”

Adam looked like he had been punched in the gut. “No. It’s too soon!”

“Please don’t yell.”

“But it’s too soon, Drew!”

Drew sighed. “I know. I argued that with Stan, but he won’t listen. The board wants profits from Lizzie’s cloning, and they’re not going to get it with him in the paddock.”

Adam stood. “And you’re just letting him do it?!”

“That’s why I’ve been going over all these notes and files. If I can find a reason for us to keep him, then we can make our case to the board.”

“Good.” Adam took a breath and sat back down. “What did you find?”

“I found that you and I are very good at our jobs.”

Adam blinked a few times. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means that there’s nothing concrete I can use to argue our point. Stan doesn’t care that Lizzie isn’t fully grown. The board wants their profits, and they’re giving us the green light to clone two more deinonychuses, a male and a female.”

“So AlphaZinc can give them away too?”

Drew showed his exasperation. “Look, Adam. The fact of the matter is that Lizzie is theirs. We cloned him, but they sign the paychecks. We both knew this day would come. I wish we could have longer too, but that’s just how it is.”

“Don’t talk to me like I’m ten fucking years old, Drew.”

“Don’t swear at me.”

“Don’t be a shit.”

Drew stood this time. “Lizzie isn’t a pet, Adam. He’s not a puppy. He’s a science experiment, albeit a successful one. AlphaZinc holds all the cards here. If they say Lizzie has to go, then he has to go.”

Adam gave one short huff of a sarcastic laugh and pushed his chair away, knocking it over as he got to his feet. “I never pegged you as a company man, Drew. Now I know your true colors.”

“You’re brilliant, but you need to show some common sense here.”

Adam walked away. “That’s the last time you patronize me, Doctor Waters.”

“Where are you going?” Drew asked.

“I’m going to find a way to keep Lizzie until he’s ready. Maybe you’ve given up, but I sure as hell haven’t.”

“If there was a way -”

“I’ll find it!” Adam left the lab, slamming the door behind him. Drew watched the door, expecting him to return, but he didn’t.

*           *           *

Drew sat at the desk in his office. He hadn’t done much with the rest of his workday since his fight with Adam. It was all he could think about. He kept thinking Adam would return and talk through what had happened, but he didn’t. It was five-thirty. He had stayed late without realizing it. He groaned when he got up from his chair. His computer had been off for some time. He had accomplished nothing since the argument, not for AlphaZinc, not for himself, and not for Adam. He felt guilty and wanted to extend an olive branch.

Adam was in his own office, burying himself in notes like Drew had done earlier in the lab. He didn’t even look up from his desperate attempt to save Lizzie from being sold.

Drew knocked on the door.

“What?” Adam asked, still refusing to look away from his work.

“I’m heading home,” Drew replied.

“Good for you.”

“Will I see you there?”

“I don’t know, Drew. I have a lot to do here.”

Drew’s fist clenched. He wanted to launch into another tirade about how foolish Adam was being. He wanted to remind him that nothing he could find would stop AlphaZinc from doing what they want to do with Lizzie. It was hopeless.

But he knew Adam wouldn’t believe it unless he came to that conclusion on his own.

“Don’t burn yourself out,” Drew said. “I hope you find something I missed.” He left.

The drive home felt lonely, even though he and Adam never drove home together. His home, the one he had felt was their home now, felt empty. He had made it over a year and a half without an epic fight with Adam, and he felt shitty that the first fight was over what had brought them together in the first place.

Drew waited. He got himself ready for bed, peeking out the window often, hoping Adam’s car would bless the driveway like always. But he didn’t come home. Drew was reminded that Adam still had his old apartment and a roommate across town. He had probably gone there after work instead of home. That thought made Drew wonder if Adam even considered this place his home.

At ten o’clock, Drew decided to call an end to the charade of waiting for Adam like he hadn’t gone back to his old apartment. He turned out the lights and went to bed, alone.

*           *           *

Drew woke up exhausted from a night of tossing and turning. His mind wouldn’t drop the thoughts of Adam and the empty space on the left side of the bed. He got ready for work like normal, but the morning was off. Adam wasn’t there to complain about the pop music on the alarm clock at four-thirty or make the coffee while Drew finished getting dressed.

There were no calls or texts from Adam. Drew had hoped there’d at least be a text. He held his phone, thinking about sending something to Adam, an apology, anything. He decided against it. Adam needed to cool down on his own.

Drew looked for Adam at AlphaZinc too, but he wasn’t in his office. He wasn’t in the lab either. He walked to the paddock and found Sandy. “Hey, Sandy. This might sound weird, but has Adam been by here this morning?”

Sandy shook her head. “I haven’t. You guys OK?”

“No,” Drew admitted. “We got in a fight yesterday, and I haven’t heard from him since.”

“Sorry, dear. If I see him, I’ll let him know you’re looking for him.”

“He probably called out.” Drew couldn’t believe it. With Lizzie facing the last of his days at the AlphaZinc compound, there wasn’t a minute to waste with a sick day. Adam could have given up hope, though.

That thought broke Drew’s heart.

Drew went to Stan’s office, finding him on his computer. “Hey, Stan. You got a minute?”

Stan closed his laptop with a snap. He looked startled to see Drew. “Sure, but I may only have a minute. What’s up?”

“Do you know if Adam’s called out today?” Drew asked.

“No,” Stan sighed. “Adam quit last night.”

“He quit?!”

Stan stood and walked to his office door, closing it. “Sit down, Doctor Waters.”

Drew sat in one of the chairs as Stan went back to his side of the desk. He couldn’t believe it. In a fit of disappointment, Adam had left his job and left Lizzie too. It wasn’t like him to do something like that. The pressure of what AlphaZinc wanted to do had gotten to him.

“Adam was upset last night,” Stan explained. “He stormed in here, making all kinds of demands about what he thinks we’re supposed to do with the raptor. He quit on the spot.”

Drew couldn’t wrap his head around it. “Impossible.”

“He was passionate about that dinosaur. It’s tragic, I know, but we’ll have to move on without him.”

“I can’t. I need Adam.”

“We have his notes. If need be, we can recreate the experiment with another scientist.”

Drew looked into Stan’s face. He didn’t understand Drew’s meaning, but that was for the better. He didn’t know if he’d be able to create another raptor without Adam either way. He wasn’t sure he wanted to.

“We’ll get through this,” Stan continued. “I know the two of you were colleagues and friends, but they come and go. We’ll get you a new partner, you’ll clone two more raptors, and you’ll forget all about Adam.”

Drew stood. “I need to go.”

“OK. Take it easy today. We’re going to post the job by Monday and start the interview process. We’d like to include you.”

Drew didn’t want to talk anymore. He left Stan’s office and went back to his own. He closed the door and sat behind his desk. He grabbed his cellphone and sent a text to Adam: “Call me ASAP.”

The text was sent. The tiny message under it said it was delivered, but it didn’t change to “read”. Drew sat in his chair, watching his phone. It didn’t change. After a few minutes, he got impatient and called the phone. After a single ring, Adam’s voicemail picked up. “Dammit, Adam!” he exclaimed to his empty office.

His desk phone rang, and he picked it up. “Hello?”

“Doctor Waters!” It wasn’t Adam.

“Sandy? What’s wrong?”

“It’s Lizzie. He’s sick. They told me to call you and ask you to come down.”

Drew stared at his wall. After a moment, his paralysis broke. “I’ll be right there.”

*           *           *

Lizzie way lying on the ground, panting. His eye moved, focusing on Drew as he entered his paddock in his chain-suit. Sandy had her stun gun aimed at the sick raptor, ready to fire on him if it jumped on the two handlers who were with him. “What’s wrong?”

One of the handlers, a young zoologist named Carl, looked up. “He’s had a rough morning. He didn’t eat much, and he’s been like this since he tried.”

Drew made a mental note of the hog that had been mauled and only partially eaten. It’s carcass lay in a pool of blood just outside the brush. “Have that cleaned up and tested for anything that could make Lizzie sick. Is he sedated?”

“We had to,” the other handler, a middle-aged woman named Diane replied. “We couldn’t rule out him faking to get us in here.”

Drew knelt next to Lizzie. His head moved toward him, and he heard the stun gun move against the metal hole. But Lizzie wasn’t going to snap or bite. He was nervous, and he recognized Drew as a friend, maybe even as a parent. He and Adam had been present when he was hatched for this reason.

“He’s not faking it,” Drew said. His hand was on Lizzie’s side. He felt his breathes, more labored than usual, as his ribs rose and fell. “Other than not eating, is there anything else wrong with him? Has he defecated like normal?”

“No,” Carl replied. “We believe he’s constipated. Can we give him some Pepto-Bismol?”

“You can’t give a dinosaur Pepto!” Diane said.

“Why not? My vet said I can give my dog Dramamine for car sickness.”

“A dinosaur isn’t a puppy!”

“Enough!” Drew snapped. He wished Adam hadn’t decided to quit his job in a fit of righteous passion. Lizzie looked around. “You miss him too, boy?”

“What?” Carl asked.

Drew sighed and stood. “Nothing. I’m not sure if we can give him anything for the upset stomach. Reptiles don’t take well to medicines like that. Maybe it’ll pass. If it doesn’t, bathe him in some warm water and rub his stomach.”

“OK,” Carl said, nodding at the request.

“Let me know how the test results from the pig come back, and make sure I’m kept abreast of Lizzie’s behavior. For now, we’ll have to wait and see unfortunately.”

Drew left Lizzie to his handlers. He took one last look. The raptor looked like he wanted to move toward him, a look of something odd in its face. Though it could have been the sedatives or the illness. Drew turned back toward Lizzie and knelt down again. He put his hand on the raptor’s snout, doing what he thought Adam would do.

“It’s OK, baby boy. You’re going to be alright.”

Lizzie moved his head, nuzzling Drew’s hand. He wondered if the raptor could sense something, if he somehow sensed the tension between his human parents and Adam’s disappearance.

The thought of Adam hit Drew again. He gave Lizzie one last rub and left. Sandy was standing at the fence, her stun gun still aimed inside while the handlers finished.

“Sandy,” Drew said. “I need to ask you a favor.”

“What do you need?” Sandy asked.

“Can you look into the paddock’s security feed from last night?”

“Sure. I’d just be doing my job. What am I looking for?”

Drew thought for a moment. “Anything odd that would cause Lizzie to get sick. I also need to know if Adam was in there after you left for the day.”

“Why would he be?”

“I can’t say. He may have wanted to do some research after hours.” Drew left out the part where Adam was desperate to save Lizzie from being sold. He may have wanted to visit his “baby boy” one last time before quitting AlphaZinc too.

“Alright. I may be able to get it tomorrow of the day after, though. I’ll let you know as soon as I do.”

“Thanks.” Drew left, heading back toward his office. He tried his best to push Adam from his mind so he could concentrate on figuring out what was wrong with Lizzie. He hoped he’d have some time to himself in order to work it out.

*           *           *

“Any luck with the big lizard?”

Drew looked up to see Stan in the lab, staring at him. He was so engrossed in his notes and research that he hadn’t noticed him enter.

“I got nothing,” Drew admitted. “It might be a passing thing, or it might be a virus.”

“How bad?”

Drew shrugged. “If it’s something that was in his ancient DNA, there’s no way to tell. There’s so much we don’t know. That’s why it’s a bad idea to move him while he’s still young.”

“Not this again.” Stan rolled his eyes and took one of the stools. “I need you to make sure the specimen is healthy and ready to be relocated. This isn’t an argument.”

“I can’t help it if he’s sick.” A thought occurred to Drew. “I need Adam back.”

Stan looked as if the request had slapped him across the face. “That’s not happening.”

“Adam knows Lizzie better than I do, Stan. If anyone could help him get better, it’s him. Can you call him and try to talk some sense into him? I really need him on this.”

Stan shook his head and got up. “We are not having this conversation.”

“Why not? I’m sure whatever he said to you was a misunderstanding. If you reached out -”

“I will not!” Stan’s face was red. Drew could tell he had pushed too far. Whatever happened the night before was worse than he thought. Adam must have told off Stan in a bad way. “This will not be up for discussion again. I will replace Doctor Young. In the meantime, you will do your best to get that raptor healthy as quickly as possible. Is that clear, Doctor Waters?”

Drew nodded. “It’s clear.”

“Good.” Stan left, the conversation at its abrupt end.

Drew sighed. Maybe Stan wasn’t going to do anything to get Adam back after his quitting, but Adam had a charisma about him that few did. If he called or returned, he’d be sure to charm Stan Girard into offering him his old job back. He may not do it for Drew, but he might do it for Lizzie.

Drew took his phone from his pocket and opened his text messages. The text he sent earlier was still ignored, but he typed a new one anyway. “You need to call or text me. Lizzie is sick. Even if you hate me, your baby boy needs you.”

It was low, but it would work. He was sure. He read it again, hesitating on sending it. He was playing with Adam’s heartstrings, but he’d want to know if Lizzie was sick. He sighed and hit send. He left his phone on the table, studying dinosaur and lizard illnesses while he waited for it to buzz.

It didn’t.

*           *           *

Drew was distraught by the time he left work. Lizzie’s condition hadn’t improved, but it hadn’t gotten worse either. His handlers had given him a warm bath, but he still wasn’t eating. During his visit at the end of the day, Drew could swear he saw something akin to sadness in the raptor’s face. He shook the thoughts from his head as he walked to his car. Lizzie was a dinosaur, and he was projecting his own feelings onto him.

The text still hadn’t been received or read. Drew sent one more text before he drove, saying he really needed to talk to him about Lizzie. He called too, but he was once again put straight to voicemail. He was sure his number was blocked at this point, but there was still a chance he’d unblock it and read his messages at some point. Adam couldn’t stay mad forever.

Drew was halfway home when he decided he wasn’t going to play these phone games. He pulled over and got his address book app on his phone open. He had the address for Adam’s old apartment there. Adam may not have wanted to have this argument, but he needed to have it as much as he needed to know what was happening with Lizzie.

Adam’s old apartment building was on the other side of town. It started to rain on the drive. Drew parked and jogged to the front of the building. A kind old woman held the door for him to help him out of the rain. It worked on in his favor, stopping Adam from refusing to buzz the door open.

Drew stepped to the apartment door and knocked. He was nervous. He had no idea what to say when Adam found him standing in the hall, wet from the rain. He waited. He knocked again, hoping he wouldn’t be ignored in person. He heard someone moving from the inside and took a breath. A moment later, the door opened.

Drew’s heart dropped when he saw it wasn’t Adam on the other side.

“Hello?” It was Adam’s roommate. He was chubby with a thick beard and glasses. He held the door open only a crack and peered outside. “Can I help you?”

“Sorry,” Drew sighed. “I’m looking for Adam.”

“Adam who? Adam Young?”

“Yeah. Is he here?”

Adam’s roommate opened the door all the way. “He’s not here right now. Wanna come in?”

“OK.” Drew followed Adam’s roommate. The apartment was a mess. Clothes were strewn all over, and there were bowls and dishes stacked in the sink. He didn’t know how he’d put up with a messy roommate, being as neat as he was. It made sense that he had stayed at Drew’s as much as he did. “Look… Uh… I’m sorry. I don’t remember if Adam ever told me your name.”

“Call me Thor.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Honest to God. My folks named me Thor.”

“OK, Thor. When’s the last time you saw Adam?”

“You’re not a cop, are you? You gotta tell me if you are.”

Drew sighed. “I’m not a cop. I’m Adam’s boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend?” Thor asked. “I thought Adam was shacked up with a chick named Drew.”

“I’m Drew.”

“Oh. I thought you were a woman, like Drew Barrymore.”

“What? Did you not know that Adam’s gay?”

“I know that. That’s why I thought it was weird he was dating a woman named Drew. Makes sense now.”

Drew noticed the bong on the end table, and things made sense to him too. “Adam and I got into a fight yesterday, and I haven’t seen him since. I thought maybe he came here for the night. Have you seen him?”

Thor shook his head. “No. He comes by once a week or so to check his mail, but I haven’t seen him this week.”

“That’s weird. Where could he be?”

“Did you try your house?”

“Yeah. I live there.”

“And he wasn’t there?”

Drew sighed again. “No. He wasn’t there.”

Thor shrugged. “Wish I could help you, man.”

“Yeah,” Drew said. “I wish you could have too. Thanks anyway.”

“You want me to tell him anything if he does show up?” Thor asked.

“Tell him Drew was here. Let him know I’m worried about him and we really need to talk.”

 “OK. I’ll let him know.”

Drew nodded. “Thanks again, Thor.” He turned and left, dejected and disappointed with the short adventure to Adam’s old apartment. As he drove home, he hoped Thor was right about Adam’s whereabouts, and he’d be there, waiting for Drew with open arms and an apology.

*           *           *

The rain poured, hitting the windows of Drew’s house with loud clicks. Drew ate a small dinner alone. His mind raced about Adam. How could he just quit his job and leave no trace of himself like this? If it was over between them, he just wanted to know at this point. He had heard that the younger generation was into “ghosting” their former lovers after a break-up, but it was ridiculous for Adam to go this far.

Then a dark thought circled Drew’s mind. He had finished his dinner, throwing almost half of it into the garbage. What if Adam was actually missing? It was one thing to break up with your boyfriend, but to quit your job and go completely off the grid was insane.

Drew decided to give Adam another day. He remembered hearing somewhere you need forty-eight hours before you could get the police involved with a missing person, but that may have been a TV thing. Either way, they would suggest that Adam was staying at a hotel or something, a thought that occurred to Drew as well. He’d be going in as an upset boyfriend, nothing more. If Adam had moved in, he could at least make a case they were more than how they appeared on paper.

The drive to work the following morning was dreary. The rain continued through the morning, pelting Drew’s car. It lighted enough for him to not get drenched as he rushed through the front doors of the AlphaZinc building. He scanned his badge hung his coat up in his locker, trading it for his white lab coat.

Once he was ready to work, he made a beeline to Lizzie’s paddock. He wanted to check on the raptor and see if Sandy had found anything on the security footage. To his surprise, Sandy wasn’t there. A burly, bald-headed security guard had been stationed there instead.

“Where’s Sandy?” Drew asked, not caring how rude he sounded.

“She’s out,” the replacement said.

“Doctor Waters!” Stan said, coming into the room as well. He looked out of breath, like he had been running through the compound. Though a man of his size would have to catch his breath after a brisk walk. “Can I see you?”

“What’s it about?” Drew asked. “Is Lizzie OK?”

“It’s fine. I hear it’s doing much better, actually. I just want to see you in my office.”

Drew took a look in the paddock, but he didn’t see Lizzie. All he saw where his two handlers, Carl and Diane inside wearing their chain-suits. “Alright. Your office?”

Stan nodded and led the way to the elevator and up to his office. He sat behind his desk. “I wanted to see you first thing this morning. I expected to find you in the lab.”

“What’s wrong?” Drew asked, sitting across from his boss.

“We need to move the timetable for the raptor’s departure,” Stan replied. “There will be a board meeting this afternoon to go over the particulars.”

“Lizzie’s just getting over an illness!” Drew argued. “I understand the situation, but I want to make sure he’s healthy enough for the change.”

“If you want to plead your case to the board, I’ll give you that chance.”

Drew was taken aback. He hadn’t expected that. He knew, though, that the board wouldn’t be swayed when it came to issues of money and profit. He also knew that this was the best he was going to get out of Stan.

“Thanks, Stan. I mean that.”

“It’s the least I can do. Maybe you can sway them from selling the raptor to Candice Cole.”

“Candace Cole?” Drew asked. “The woman who made herself an uber-celebrity with those awful sex tapes? She’s buying Lizzie?”

Stan looked at Drew. “I shouldn’t have said that.”

“No. You shouldn’t have sold Lizzie to a bubble-headed celebrity. What the hell were you thinking?!”

“We need to get paid here, Drew! The board needs to get paid! If they’re not happy, you can’t work on coddling your baby dinosaurs. Oh, and you won’t get paid for it either. You remember we’re your employer, right?”

Drew sighed. Stan was furious, and he figured it was as good a time as any to open another wound. “Is that what Adam found out the day he left?”

“He quit. What does it matter why?”

“But did he say where he was going?”

“Home.”

Drew sighed. “He wasn’t there.”

“You went looking for him?”

Drew looked into Stan’s face, realizing he was entering more territory he should be avoiding. Even if Adam was no longer an AlphaZinc employee, he may still be chastised for hiding his relationship. “I needed some info on his notes,” he lied, “for Lizzie’s sake. For AlphaZinc’s sake if you want to avoid a lawsuit for selling off a sick dinosaur.”

“He just said he was going home,” Stan said.

Realization came to Drew. “Home? Like back to Ohio?”

Stan nodded. “Yeah. I’m sure he said something like that. It’s best to just let it go and move on. You were the brains behind the operation, right? You invented the technology that created a dinosaur, and you can do it again. That’s what I’m telling the board anyway.”

It was no use arguing. “Sure. Whatever you say, Stan.”

“Good.” Stan opened his laptop and booted it up.

Drew’s phone buzzed, and his heart leapt. He thought Adam had finally come around to returning a message. It was from Sandy, though, urging Drew not to ask about her.

“The meeting with the board is at two,” Stan said, clicking away on his computer. “See you then.”

“Yeah.” Drew turned off his phone and left Stan’s office. “See you then.”

*           *           *

Drew was worried. He acted like he forgot something from his car and went back to the parking lot. He went in his car and called Sandy. She picked up on the first ring.

“Where are you?” Sandy asked without saying hello.

“I’m in my car. What happened?”

“What I tell you stays between us,” Sandy replied. “OK?”

“OK. Just tell me.”

“I dug into what happened the other night. I found the security tapes had been erased. It was weird, so I asked if there had been a malfunction. I was told to stop asking. This morning, some AlphaZinc security thugs came to my house, telling me to stay home or they’d have to detain me.”

“Holy shit.”

“That’s not all. I had their lawyers calling me too, telling me to keep my mouth shut or I risk my retirement funds. I’ve been there for twenty-one years, Drew!”

“What about the guys in the turrets? Did they see anything?”

“I don’t know.” Sandy sounded exhausted. Drew didn’t blame her. She was having a rough morning.

“I’m sorry. I hate to be cruel, but did you find out anything else?”

There was a moment of silence from the other side of the phone. “Whatever happened, Adam is involved.”

Drew felt like his heart was going to spring from his chest.

“He went to the paddock after hours,” Sandy continued. “I don’t know what he found, but it couldn’t have been good.”

Drew thought about everything Sandy had said, what Stan had told him, and all of the events over the course of the last couple of days. It was some equation he just couldn’t grasp. Had Adam found out where Lizzie was going and try to stop it? Was he so scared of whatever AlphaZinc had said to him that he went all the way back to his parents’ house in Ohio? Why did they erase the security tapes? The only thing he knew for sure was that AlphaZinc was up to something sinister.

“Are you there, Drew?”

“Sorry. I’m here.” He needed more information. “You don’t know where Adam went after he visited the paddock?”

“That’s all I know, Drew, honest.”

Drew sighed. “Thanks. Stay safe and keep out of trouble.”

“Funny,” Sandy said. “I was gonna tell you the same thing.”

Sandy ended the call, and Drew sat in his car, looking at the AlphaZinc building with the dark clouds behind it. It looked ominous, and it felt that way too. What else were they hiding?

*           *           *

Drew returned to Lizzie’s paddock once he was back inside the AlphaZinc compound. “I’m going in,” he told Sandy’s replacement. He didn’t waste time with small talk. He had been kept from Lizzie so far today, and he wanted to see if there was anything odd that Adam could have found on the last day he’d been employed by AlphaZinc.

Once he was in his chain-suit, Drew entered Lizzie’s area of the paddock. The raptor sprinted from his bushes, stopping ten feet or so from Drew. The new security guard wasted no time aiming the stun-gun.

“You’re looking better,” Drew said. He had come in with a bucket of treats. He took the top off and held the deboned rabbit carcass for Lizzie to see.

Lizzie’s feet patted the ground, and his mouth opened. Drew smiled as he tossed the rabbit. It was caught in the air, and Lizzie chomped away at it.

“Good boy. Mind if I look around?”

Lizzie swallowed his snack and looked at Drew, his head tilted. He got one more carcass for his agreeable nature, and Drew left the bucket with the top off so he could eat to his heart’s content.

If Lizzie was his old self again, it meant he had emptied his bowels and expelled whatever was causing the blockage in the first place, assuming that’s what made him sick. The only way to be sure was to examine his feces.

Even with the mystery of Adam’s disappearance, Drew still had a duty to Lizzie and AlphaZinc. He pulled a long plastic glove over his hand and looked around the paddock. He found the pile of raptor droppings in the usual spot. He knelt next to it and dug through it. It was the usual raptor leavings, maybe a bit runny from Lizzie’s sickness. Drew was ready to give up the search when his hand hit something hard.

Drew picked it up with a groan. He was going to make sure someone had their ass handed to them for it. Of all the things they’re told, leaving any items in the paddock was close to the top of the list. That’s why Lizzie was constipated. Someone had dropped a pen.

Through the brown disgustingness on the pen, a hint of something shiny came through. Drew wiped it way with his gloved hand to see it was silver.

“Holy shit.”

Upon closer inspection, Drew found shreds of cloth too. “Adam, what happened to you?”

“Doctor Waters?!”

It was the security guard. When Drew turned to see what he needed, he saw Lizzie standing by him, just a few feet away, pouncing distance.

“He’s OK!” Drew called in return. He saw Lizzie’s face. He didn’t look like he was ready to attack. Why would he? He just ate a bucket of bloody rabbit carcasses. Drew had projected feelings onto the raptor’s face, and he could swear he saw something resembling remorse on it.

“Lizzie,” he said. “What did you do to Adam?”

Lizzie tilted his head, showing that he heard what Drew was saying, but he didn’t understand. He knew something though. Whatever happened to Adam in the paddock, Lizzie knew.

*           *           *

Drew sat in his office. The pen was on his desk, sitting in a petri dish with a plastic cover over it. He had washed it off in the lab’s sink with antibacterial soap, but he couldn’t bring himself to touch it. Not because it had passed through Lizzie’s intestines, but because it was his. It was Adam’s.

And Drew was now sure Adam was dead.

There was no other explanation. But why had Adam been foolish enough to enter Lizzie’s paddock without his chain-suit? He had expressed his feelings in the past that he didn’t need it. He had done so that morning. But why did he go in after Sandy had booked off? And why was AlphaZinc covering it all up?

“Candice Cole,” Drew muttered. They didn’t want Lizzie’s sale to sour if word got out that he had killed a human being. So, the tape was deleted, and they staged Adam’s disappearance.

Drew felt sick. He turned and vomited into his trashcan. He couldn’t believe it. Lizzie had killed and eaten Adam, and AlphaZinc was covering it up. There was no proof other than the pen though, and that wasn’t enough.

Drew left his office around lunch time. He wanted more proof, needed it. He didn’t want everyone to think Adam just left and went into some black hole somewhere. He wanted people to know the truth, and he wanted AlphaZinc to take the blame for hiding what had happened.

He peeked into Stan’s office. He was in there, typing away on his computer. He had a slick smile on his face. Drew wondered if he was planning on spending the money he was going to be making from Lizzie’s sale. There was a fire alarm box two doors down. Without thinking too much about it, Drew pulled it down, sounding the sirens.

Stan rushed from his office. “What the hell is this?!” he exclaimed. Others were coming from their offices, and Stan got pushed down the hall. With the chaos, Drew slipped into Stan’s office. He was pleased to see his gamble paid off. Stan had left his office without logging out of his computer.

Drew clicked through Stan’s emails. He saw the chain of conversation between him and the rest of the board. They were going to move forward with Lizzie’s sale, despite allowing Drew to speak on the raptor’s behalf. He then found a file that was sent to him from the head of security. With a shaking hand, he opened it.

A video played. It showed Lizzie’s paddock. The time was just after seven o’clock at night. Lizzie was restless. Running about and making noise. Drew had seen that before. He was asking for food.

“No! Don’t throw me in there with him!” It was Adam. He was off camera, pleading with someone. He came into the frame, stumbling into th enclosure. “Let me out!”

“It’s feeding time, lizard boy!” someone shouted. Drew tried to place the voice, but he couldn’t recognize it.

“My God,” Drew whispered. He didn’t want to see what happened next, but he couldn’t look away. He needed to see it. He needed to know.

“Hi, Lizzie,” Adam crooned, turning to Lizzie, who was approaching slowly. His head was low, and he was sniffing the air. He was hungry, and they had kept his dinner from him to make sure he was famished when they finally fed him. They wanted to ensure Lizzie would devour his meal, all of it.

“I don’t blame you, baby boy,” Adam said. It was his last words. Lizzie pounced on him, bringing him to the ground, gouging his prey with the claws on his feet. Drew covered his mouth as he watched. He retched and vomited again, this time in Stan’s trashcan. The file ended a moment later with Lizzie tearing the flesh from Adam’s corpse.

“Adam,” Drew said, tears spilling from his eyes. “How could they have done this to you?”

And he knew. He had found out what AlphaZinc had planned. Stan had a big mouth and had probably told him during their argument. Only Adam hadn’t played along like Drew had. He would have threatened to go public, made threats against the company and the board. In a fit of rage, they decided the best way to shut him up was to have their best asset take care of their dirty work.

Two fire engines pulled into the parking lot. Drew didn’t have much more time with Stan’s unlocked computer. He foraged through Stan’s drawers and found an old flash drive in the back of one. He popped it in the side of the computer and made a copy of the file. He dragged over all the recent emails from the board too, saving them all. When it was loaded, he took it and put it in his shirt pocket. He was going to make everything AlphaZinc had done public.

But there was still Lizzie, the perpetual victim in all this. They had made him kill one of his fathers. Drew had seen the remorse in his face, the tears in his reptilian eye.

And Drew wanted to make sure Lizzie had his own version of revenge.

*           *           *

It was ten minutes till two when Drew walked into the paddock again. Sandy’s replacement was reading a magazine at his desk. “You goin’ back in?” he asked.

“I just want to look is all,” Drew said. “He’s beautiful, isn’t he? We called him our ‘baby boy’, Adam and I. Did you know that?”

The security guard rolled his eyes and went back to his magazine. That suited Drew fine. He counted on it, in fact. Lizzie saw him through the bars, his head tilted in a silent question. Drew moved slow, picking up the stun-gun from its wall mount. “Were you involved?”

“What?” the guard asked. He looked up from the magazine to see the stun-gun aimed at him.

“Were you involved with what they did to Adam? Did you help them drag him in there? Did you help them kill him?”

“Look, pal,” the guard replied. “If I did anything, I was just doin’ my -”

The shock hit him dead-on in the chest. His body convulsed and fell to the floor. He shook twice before he stopped moving. Drew didn’t take the time to find out if the shock killed him.

Drew went into Lizzie’s side of the paddock next. He didn’t bother putting on a chain-suit. He didn’t want one. He left the stun-gun behind too. It was discharged and useless anyway. Lizzie approached with the same questioning look.

“Adam forgave you,” Drew said. “I forgive you too. You can’t deny your own nature.”

Lizzie took a cautious step forward. He wasn’t ready to pounce or snap. He was just curious. If he hadn’t been so well fed that day, Drew may have been on the menu.

“Come on, baby boy. We have a meeting, and we’re going to be late.”

People leapt into their offices and locked the doors at the sight of Drew walking through the halls of AlphaZinc with Lizzie in stride. They took the elevator to the top floor, where the board was having their final meeting on Lizzie’s sale. Drew walked past the horrified receptionist and into the board room. They all went silent when they saw a man and a raptor standing at the end of the table.

“I believe you’ve been expecting me,” Drew said, locking the door.

“Have you gone insane?!” Stan exclaimed.

“This company hired me to toy with nature,” Drew replied, keeping his calm. “I think it’s time nature toyed with you.”

The board, all thirteen men, stepped away. Lizzie watched, his eyes moving toward each of them in turn. His lips parted, and he growled. He could smell the fear of the men in the room.

“Lizzie,” Drew said. The raptor turned to look at him. “It’s feeding time.”

Lizzie leapt, jumping on the table, lunging to the throat of its nearest victim, taking him to the floor. He didn’t waste time with the flesh and meat. He moved onto his next prey, tearing at the robust man with his claws. He went on like that, from man to man, tearing and biting. The boardroom was a bloodbath. The air was filled with screams. AlphaZinc security was sure to be on its way, but it was too late. They weren’t faster than a raptor with revenge on his mind.

“Why?” Stan pleaded, as a blood-covered Lizzie made his way to him, his teeth bared in a macabre grin.

“Don’t blame me,” Drew said. “I’m not the one who gave him a taste for human flesh.”

Stan’s eyes opened wide. He was going to say something, but Lizzie was on him before he could. Teeth clamped around his neck and head, and he fell to the ground. He gurgled as Lizzie tore him apart.

Someone was pounding on the door. It was sure to be AlphaZinc security. Police cruisers pulled into the parking lot. Lizzie looked up, his face and snout covered in a crimson mask.

“Good boy,” Drew said, smiling. “You’re a good baby boy.”

Lizzie walked across the board room, sat on the floor, and put his head on Drew’s lap. Drew stroked his scaly head while he waited for the police to find them and accept their surrender.

 

Daniel Aegan (he/him) lives outside New Haven, working full time and writing in the spaces in between his busy life. He began writing in his mid-teens, influenced by Stephen King.

Years past with no movement on the paper. Daniel didn't pick up the pen again until he was in his thirties. He's been writing ever since, honing his craft, and self-publishing his work. He enjoys helping other independent authors whenever and however he can.

When he's not writing or working, Daniel is embarrassing his family in public, being chased by his dogs, or relaxing by the firepit with a cold beer. He also hates writing about himself.

Daniel Aegan