Let me explain. Surprising literally no-one, I went to see Jurassic World as soon as I could after it came out, dragging Jason along with me with the excuse of it being for his work. Long story short, I liked it, but the moment I liked best was when they introduced the Indominus rex–as a hyper-powerful, albino therapod mentally tortured by her solitary existence–and I turned to Jason, grabbed his arm, and said, “Oh my god, it’s Claude.”
This…was born not long after. At thirty-two years old, this is not my first Jurassic Park-based crossover fanfiction, but it’s the first I have shared with the world. I present:
Jurassic World of Darkness
Alternate title: “There But For The Grace of God”
Armed guards eyed him from high catwalks as he approached the complex. Claude ignored them, keeping an even pace with his guide. He was used to men trying to assert their power through tight glares and the tilt of a gun. Or perhaps they were staring at his complexion, protected from the tropical sun by long sleeves and a panama hat, unnaturally pale. But that was alright, he was used to that too.
His guide led him up a set of stairs bolted to the outside of the wall, then went through a security ritual at the door at the top. It beeped and chunked open. The guide stepped back, gesturing him through.
The room inside was dark and cool, a welcome respite from the afternoon jungle outside. Claude knew he should enjoy the tropics more. Something in his heart still called for the dripping heat of Florida, the pit where he was born, but these days he was perfectly fine with the cool humidity and fog-shrouded twilight of Golden Gate Park.
He took off his hat and let his eyes adjust to the gloom. The room was empty of all but two people, a lackluster security guard monitoring banks of screens and the woman he was undoubtedly brought here to meet. His eyes, though, were drawn to the windows opposite him, easily the height and thickness of aquarium panes, but instead of fish, they looked out on a green sea of ferns and palms. It was a lot like the Fern Grotto in the heart of his DeYoung Museum and for a moment he hesitated, disoriented by conflicting senses of strangeness and home.
“Mr. Steinhart!” The woman tucked her tablet to the side and held out a hand. “Claire Dearing. Thank you so much for coming down on such short notice. I know how tough those flights can be.” She hesitated as she met his eyes, undoubtedly thrown by the albino-red irises, but she recovered gracefully.
He accepted her handshake, his gaze sliding back to the windows. “It’s alright, I flew direct.”
She beamed. “Ahh, lucky! The SFO-direct flight usually fills up months in advance. But we are very excited to discuss a partnership with the Academy and hope that some of your researchers can help us with our latest…project.”
He glanced over as she pulled out her tablet and ran through various marketing messages. She had the poise of a dancer, dressed in her creamy white silk. He liked that. He also liked her polite professionalism, her ability to hide unease under a smile as she discussed figures. In his experience, such confidence was rare amongst ones her age.
But it wouldn’t be enough to save her.
Corruption ran rampant here, the stink of the Wyrm saturating the island. Ms. Dearing was the first he’d met so far who seemed completely free of it, but it was still all around. Not the sharp, bloodied tang of vampires, but something subtler. This complex was the throbbing wound at the heart of it all.
“So, you can see why the board has been encouraging us to branch into new areas,” she was saying. “Updating the rides every year can only take us so far if we want to continue pulling from the same demographics.” She hesitated briefly, fingers drumming the back of the tablet. “Corporate felt that testing some of our new techniques in genetic engineering would really up the ‘wow’ factor.”
Silence fell in the room. The foliage in the paddock swayed in the breeze, but there was no other movement, not even the ubiquitous jungle birds.
“So…instead of just resurrecting dinosaurs, you have created new ones,” Claude said slowly. “Ones which have never walked this planet before.”
“In a way, yes, but it’s just one, actually, at the moment.” She gestured to the glass. “Indominus rex. It has the base DNA of a Tyrannosaur, but accented with a few other species–”
“Which species?” Claude asked curtly, pacing along the windows, peering into the green depths beyond.
Ms. Dearing hesitated at his sudden change in tone. “At the moment that’s classified, but if Academy scientists joined the project, I’m sure Dr. Wu would–”
“Why do you need my scientists? Do you wish to push your development further? The Academy is not a genetics institute.”
“No, not at all, it’s just with the hybrid DNA has led to some unusual behaviors, and we’re hoping for the input of paleontologists and paleoecologists. Beyond the ones we have on staff, that is.”
Just like the Wyrm, to pull more into its web. “What about that man from Montana, from the last park? The one who wrote the book?”
Her fingers drummed again. “Oh, yes, Dr. Grant. He…won’t return our calls.”
Claude stopped his pacing, but continued staring into the paddock. “Where is it?”
Ms. Dearing followed his gaze. “She likes to hide. I’m not sure how, the enclosure isn’t very big. She’s only a few years old and already far larger than anticipated.”
Claude nodded once, then, softly, “Has she always been alone?”
“No. She had a sibling, created at the same time in case the first embryo turned out to be unviable. The younger one hatched about a week later than the first. They were raised separately and introduced to each other at about three months.”
“And what happened?
Ms. Dearing took a slow breath. “She ate it.”
He stared through the glass, hands folded calmly behind him. Ms. Dearing shifted uncertainly, finally breaking the silence. “Can’t say I blame her. The number of times I wanted to kill my sister….” She laughed awkwardly. “You know how siblings can be.”
“No,” he said coolly, “I’m afraid I don’t.”
The jungle swayed on the breeze again, like an organism swelling with breath. Ms. Dearing watched Claude nervously, then checked her screen. “Maybe we can entice her out. Evening feeding isn’t usually until five but I’m sure the handlers will allow an exception.” She gestured to the guard, who shoved the remains of his sandwich in his mouth and started tapping at screens. Gears groaned overhead and a crane arm swung out over the paddock, dangling an entire side of beef. The meat lowered slowly, hanging between them and the green darkness beyond.
“We try to get grass-fed as often as possible,” Ms. Dearing said as it shuddered to a halt, “Though our Argentinian supplier has been having problems with–”
In less than a breath the jungle was there, smashing the meat against the glass with a wet crack that shook the room. They stumbled, but before they could recover the room shook again with a louder CRACK like a gunshot. The meat hung low, almost torn from its hook, but the pulley mechanism supporting it was now exposed.
The air rippled as a wall of mottled flesh rammed the metal winch against the glass, shooting cracks across the surface like lightning.
“SECURITY!” Ms. Dearing shouted, running for the control panel as the guard stared open-mouthed. Claude braced himself against the shocks, trying to discern a shape in the heaving movement outside. Bursts of light and electric shrieks cut the air, raining down from the catwalks surrounding the enclosure. The barely-seen creature answered with a deafening roar.
The cable jerked, the end disappearing into a mouth or claws, and a metallic wail echoed from above. The crane arm swung down, torn from its base. The electric stun rounds intensified, but the smashing continued, whaling the entire machine against the room like a lever. Ms. Dearing and the guard stumbled back, towards the door–
Until the cantilevered floor of the room suddenly gave way.
Sparks and glass rained around them as the floor tilted dizzyingly, spilling them forward, through the shattered panes, and down to the paddock floor a story below. Claude rolled with the impact, tossed amongst leaves and bones, then knelt up to a crouch. Ms. Dearing was a few yards away, shoving herself to her feet, her pale silk streaked with blood from a cut on her face. The guard was a few yard beyond her, half-buried in rubble, yelling over what was apparently a compound fracture of the leg.
As Claude watched, a shadow fell over the guard. The shrieking stopped, and he was gone.
Small injuries clamored for Claude’s attention but he ignored them, staring at the space where the guard had just been. The air rippled again, then melted away, revealing claws, muscle, spines, a head towering almost to the top of the paddock, and red eyes, glaring down over a bloodied maw.
My god, Claude thought, climbing to his feet. She’s white too….
“Mr. Steinhart!! Stay back!!!” Ms. Dearing yelled, backing up to put rubble between her and the monster. More gunfire, real gunfire, erupted from the walls, but the creature ignored it, massive head swinging between the two figures below her. A growl rumbled in her throat, low and shuddering, as she looked at Claude. Then, apparently making a decision, she took a step toward Ms. Dearing.
“Enough of that!” Claude barked, voice carrying over the gunfire. The Indominus stopped, one red eye rolling toward him.
“No! Mr. Steinhart, stay quiet!”
“It’s not the noise, Ms. Dearing, it’s the tone,” he said calmly, holding the creature’s gaze. “She’s not used to anyone speaking to her this way.”
Another shuddering growl rumbled the ground as the monster turned. She took a step toward him, then stopped, nostrils twitching.
“This destruction will get you nowhere,” Claude continued. “Especially not if you want your park to remain in business.”
The dinosaur hesitated, then lunged forward, jaws wide.
Claude let himself slide into memory, and then he WAS. He was power, he was fire, he was a second wall of pale flesh tearing at the jungle as it appeared, massive as the dinosaur before him but sleeker, longer. Jaws crashed into scaled hide and roared in frustration, then terror as she saw what he had become.
His head was smaller than hers, but craned higher, forcing her into the unusual position of looking up at her enemy, into eyes red as hers. His talons, designed for climbing and perching, were longer than her own, on forearms twice the reach. Most impressive, though, was the shadow cast across the width of the paddock by his wide, leathery wings.
The Indominus danced back, stunned. Silence had fallen on the jungle and a quick glance confirmed why: The guards on the wall were all passed out at their stations. Ms. Dearing, too, had collapsed unconscious to the dirt by the outer wall. More men were likely on their way, though, with more after that, and odds were someone on this island would be immune to his Delirium.
The dinosaur paced, spines flared, tossing her head to eye him from both eyes, rage pouring off in palpable waves. Claude stood motionless, but kept his talons clearly visible.
Her shuddering rumble came again. Question. Who. Who who who? It was a rudimentary form of the Speech but it would do.
He sat back on his haunches, the bones littering the ground crunching under his weight. “I go by many names, but you may call me Claude,” he growled slowly, taking care to enunciate clearly. “And you?”
She drew herself up and roared again, spreading her forearms, as shifting patterns flickered across her pale hide. The translation, best he could determine, was Death-from-Shadows.
Death-from-Shadows whirled from him and paced along the wall. Mine. Mine mine mine.
“Of course this park is yours,” Claude said reasonably. “The question is what you plan to do with it.”
Hunger…. She angled toward the unconscious form of Ms. Dearing, reaching one long forearm down–
“That is imprudent,” Claude barked, drawing himself up and snapping his wings open. Death-from-Shadows stopped, then ducked low and growled. “Something is very wrong here, in your park,” he continued. “You will not be able to fight it if you go about eating your best staff.”
Her talons dug into the jungle loam. Smell. Wrong.
“You smell it too.” He bared his long teeth in a scowl, tail lashing. “It’s the smell of the Wyrm, an evil force that infests the world, rotting and corrupting.”
She ducked lower, haunches tensing. No. You. Smell you!!!
With a roar she lunged into Claude’s armored hide, snapping and slashing. He crashed to the dirt and rolled, kicking her back with his own claws. Gouges sliced her hide, slick as butter, and she screamed, driving harder in her attack. With a deafening roar that shattered the last glass in the control room, he lunged up and flipped her off her feet, pinning her to the dirt with his full weight. Her tail lashed the ground as she struggled, increasing as she realized she was truly trapped, panic clouding the last flickers of intelligence from her eyes–
FWOOOM, Claude spat a tight gout of blue-hot flame just feet from her head, smouldering the loam but not catching. Death-from-Shadows stopped, panting heavily as acrid smoke washed over them, eyes still rolling with fear.
Claude surveyed her dispassionately. The wounds were bloody, but not deep. He was more concerned about her mental state. She was the largest, most powerful thing she had known for the majority of her short life. Suddenly facing something more formidable was probably terrifying, if not world-shattering.
He couldn’t know for sure, though. He never had.
“Your ignorance is understandable. You’re young, you’re isolated, from everything….” A shiver passed through him, raising the scales on his neck, as he glanced at the high walls. “I know something about being alone.” Not this alone, perhaps. He had already been transferred to the museum by the time he Awoke, in the heart of a city instead of a jungle. But it was enough.
Her breath slowed. Question. Same?
“Not quite,” he rumbled quietly. “But close.”
Her foreclaws groped weakly at the limbs holding her down. Same. Smell same.
His eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?” She didn’t respond. The stink of smoke still choked his nostrils, wet leaves and the burnt-hair stench of burning bone. He ducked his head low, close to her flesh, and sniffed, really concentrating on her smell for the first time.
She reeked of blood, and death, and all the things a proper predator should, but an electric thrill of dread passed through him. Underneath it all, blooming like black mold, was the rotten scent of the Wyrm. Worse than that, though, was a thread of something else entirely, something familiar.
The smell of himself.
Now he stumbled away, tearing through the jungle in a burst of shock, breath heaving. “What…?” he muttered, then, shaking his head, straightened to his full height. “What are you!?” he demanded.
Death-from-Shadows levered herself up on her arms. Massive arms, far too large for the Tyrannosaur in her lineage. Death. Destruction. Hunger.
“Who made you? Where did you come from?”
She crouched, glaring up at him from her red eyes. Red like his. Man place. Cold. Clean.
“A lab? Yes I know that, but who? More importantly, why?” His head arched down, smoke pouring from his snarling mouth.
She lifted herself up and faced him at eye level, ignoring the blood dripping down her pale hide, and the threat of flame in front of her. War. Hatched for war. Men-in-shadows, men-of-Wyrm.
Claude’s talons dug at the dirt, his head reeling. Men-of-Wyrm, that sounded like…what was that group the Garou were always going on about…? “…Pentex? Did Pentex arrange a secret partnership with InGen?” His head snapped around, taking in the control room, the enormous walls and armed guards, all with the same lingering scent of Wyrm.
Hatched for war…. she repeated in a low hiss.
He turned back to her, slowly. “War” wasn’t a natural concept for animals to understand, but for something more than an animal…. “Why do you smell like the Wyrm and me?”
Men. Stole seed. Hatched for war.
The pieces suddenly fell into place, and the bottom fell out of the world. Memory, unbidden, washed over him. Four years ago, city inspectors held an extensive audit of his museum, investigating the structural integrity of the sub-levels. He had followed them through the collections personally, ensuring they didn’t discover the secret passages to the private cavern below. But he hadn’t thought twice when they took extra time evaluating the alligator pit. His pit.
He stared at her, sides heaving. She stared back, eyes shadowed by the fierce lines of her face. A rumble echoed in the distance. Helicopters, finally approaching from the main compound.
Death-from-Shadows bared her teeth and swung her head toward Ms. Dearing, still crumpled at the base of the wall. Mine. Mine mine mine….
Claude slammed into her with the force of a train, crashing them against the massive steel gate of the paddock. “The Wyrm will own nothing!” he roared. Least of all a new weapon, mutated through human fleshcrafting to carry a piece of him. Pinning her, he inhaled deeply for one one final, cleansing burst, but she snapped back, and her enormous jaws closed around his neck.
He roared in pain till the pressure closed his throat. Strong as she was, her teeth couldn’t pierce his armored hide, but his bones crunched under the vise. He writhed, slashing at her, but she danced out of the way while keeping her grip, forcing him down and bracing one massive foot against his neck as she started to twist—
Thunder streaked overhead, followed by a strafe of automatic gunfire. She roared, releasing him, and cowered back against the wall. He rolled away and scrambled to his feet. A small helicopter, the InGen logo glinting on the side in metallic blue, banked around the paddock. The passenger doors were removed, a heavy gun bolted to the frame, and as Claude’s head snapped up he met the gaze of the guard manning it.
Instantly she slumped, head knocking against the gun as she collapsed to the floor. Behind the dome, the silhouettes of the pilots also fell. The helicopter swung wide, then tilted wildly, pitching toward the jungle. It crashed out of sight with a shriek of engines and torn metal. Smoke and flickers of flame rose above the canopy.
But the thunder in the air continued. Another shape was approaching from the south; sleeker, deadlier, the spiked muzzles of multiple guns all aiming ahead. Aiming at him. Claude glared, waiting for them too to succumb to the shock of his presence. But the gunship didn’t waver.
Heavier gunfire erupted, thudding into him and streaking the dirt. Instead of cowering back, he reared up, inhaling deep and fountaining flame across the sky. Fire rolled across the fuselage but didn’t catch. The helicopter banked, whirling out of range.
He inhaled again, preparing a deeper blow, when he saw it: stenciled on the side, in gloss-black over matte-black, visible only because of the direct tropical sun, were spindly lines spelling out the logo of Pentex. Bellowing in rage, he crouched, preparing to spring into the air–
The Indominus crashed into him, forcing him down, snapping wildly. Catching the unarmored web of one wing she latched down, tearing at the skin and their delicate supports. Claude roared, feeling bones break and blood pour across him. Moments later, a rocket streaked overhead, exploding hot against the paddock gate. The metal shuddered and groaned, then, slowly, started to lean. Death-from-Shadows hesitated, then released him, throwing herself against the gate. Mine! Mine mine mine!
Wing throbbing uselessly, Claude turned back to the gunship, angling in for another shot through the thick foliage. Its three-barrelled cannon spun up with a whir, streaking lead through the canopy and thudding into him. He stood through the pain, unflinching. Spreading his other wing for balance, he lifted himself up to his full height, expanded his chest to full capacity, and blew.
Thermite-hot flame erupted from his jaws, blackening the windscreen and melting the cannons to slag. It peeled around, but Claude tracked the stricken chopper calmly and blasted again, hitting the tail-rotor. The craft spun, engines belching black smoke as the gunship pitched over and plummeted. Toward the paddock.
Just moments to react. Death-from-Shadows was pounding at the gate, oblivious to anything else, but it was nowhere near coming down, and the walls were too slick to climb. But the rubble below the gutted control room might provide some protection. He turned toward it then something pale caught his eye: Ms. Dearing, still unconscious and remarkably untouched, but undeniably exposed.
He hesitated a fraction of a second, then scooped her up in one foreclaw, shoving her into the space behind the slanting metal. A loud crack of displaced air swirled the paddock as he dropped down, falling back into human form, and rolled in behind her. He braced both of them against the rubble as the Indominus roared and the descending chopper screamed–
The explosion rocked the earth, licking them with heat and flame and deafening noise. But the rubble held. Claude waited until the roar of superheated air died back before crawling out and climbing to his feet.
The gate was a ruin, ripped asunder and decorated with twisted chunks of metal from the gunship. Claude ignored it. Still in human form, he stumbled through burning patches of earth toward the gateway.
There, sprawled halfway to freedom, lay the Indominus. Most of her flesh was darkened by burns, and what wasn’t was streaked with blood and other gore. He approached cautiously. She was still alive, but with each breath her sides seemed to heave a little less. He stopped by her head, out of reach of her claws. Her red eyes blinked slowly, staring past him into the green depths of the untamed jungle.
She heaved a shuddering, wet breath. Question. Mine?
He followed her gaze. The forest was dark beyond the edge of the man-made clearing, deep-green shadows quickly swallowing the harsh tropical light. He felt something stir within him as he stared into it. “…Yes,” he said softly. “Though I might say, you belong to it just as well.”
A crack of shifting metal and uneven footsteps echoed from the paddock. Claude turned to see Ms. Dearing stumbling from the rubble, staring at the carnage around her, dazed.
Death-from-Shadows’ claws twitched. She heaved another deep breath. Question. Mine? she growled, eyes rolling toward the woman.
Claude turned to the monster, meeting that red, ancient gaze with his own. “Mine….” he hissed, in a voice unnaturally deep.
The Indominus growled, inhaled again, then relaxed in a long sigh, chest settling, head falling lifelessly to the side.
Claude stood staring at the body as Ms. Dearing tottered up. Still wearing the same impractical shoes, he noted dispassionately. “Mr. Steinhart! Are you–? What–?”
“Ms. Dearing, I’m afraid there’s been a terrorist attack. They seem to have explosives, as well as some sort of paralyzing nerve agent. I suspect their presence must have been what aggravated the Indominus.”
She clasped a hand loosely over her mouth. “Oh, god…but Hoskins hired such good security–”
“Yes, I’m afraid the security might have been compromised themselves.” Up on the walls, the few guards who had survived the rampage and explosion were starting to stir. Claude noted that the hard pieces of their armor were the same matte-black as the helicopter.
He turned to face her. Tears welled in her eyes as she stared at the dead creature before them. He hadn’t expected that. Further evidence of a strong will, perhaps; one strong enough to avoid the Wyrm’s corrupting influence.
“Ms. Dearing,” he said firmly, waiting for her to turn to him, “I have to commend you on your composure. Even as the creature was attacking, your first thought was for the safety of your guest.”
She blinked, then smoothed at her ruined silks. “Oh, well, it’s standard protocol really–”
“Unfortunately, I expect things around here might get rather…heated…in the near future, so I can’t see our institutions going through with the partnership. However, I would like to offer you a job. Marketing director, for the California Academy of Sciences.”
She froze under his gaze. “That’s…that’s very generous, Mr. Steinhart, but…I don’t know what to say–”
“Say you’ll consider it, at least.” He stepped closer, smiling evenly. Her breath increased, possibly from adrenaline, or possibly because some deep shrew-part of her brain could sense what he was and was trying to warn her she was prey….
But after a moment she shook it off, then drew herself up and nodded. “Alright. I’ll consider it. I’ve been meaning to have a promotion talk with my boss soon anyway, and if I don’t get that, well–”
“Yes, your boss….” Claude sighed, scanning the distant hills. “Where is the administrative complex on the island? It wasn’t on the map in the hotel room.”
“Oh, it’s south of here. I’m sure you saw it. The building up the hillside from the concourse, on the far side of the lagoon from the hotels.”
Claude nodded. He remembered the concourse. It had stunk of simple, prosaic greed, rather than the stuff of raw evil.
The crackle of radios echoed down from the guards on the walls. Claude glanced at them sharply, then gestured for Ms. Dearing to follow him to one of the nearby administrative trucks. “I understand you’ll have a lot of work here, organizing the departures of the rest of the guests, settling accounts.” He opened the door for her and she slid gratefully in. “But in a few weeks time, when you’re ready, just call the museum. Or come up to San Francisco directly.”
He closed the door. She groped in her suit for her phone, then, finding it gone, leaned over to grab the CB radio off the dash. “Yes, I will,” she muttered distractedly, then looked up as she realized he wasn’t getting into the car. “Mr. Steinhart, aren’t you coming?”
“It’s ‘Charles,’ please. And no.” He turned back toward the paddock. The guards were climbing down and running to the body of the Indominus. One of them stopped, pressing his radio to his ear, then turned to point at Claude, shouting.
“Why not?” she asked.
“Because it’s not over yet.”
Instantly he was back, wings wide, towering over the complex. The guards slumped, but before they hit the ground fire engulfed them, blasting over the carcass and rising high in a funeral pyre.
He stretched his wings, the torn spars now healing rapidly. Ms. Dearing was unconscious again as well, sprawled safely across the seat of the truck. He shoved it a few more yards from the flames, just to be sure.
Smoke rolled over him, the smell of charred skin and meat, and for a moment it overpowered the stench of Wyrm. He sat a long moment staring into the flames, cool jungle at his back. Her name had been apt; a creature of shadows in more ways than one. But now the flames consumed her as easily as they consumed the shadows themselves. As easily as they would consume all shadows.
With a roar, he launched himself into the sky, wheeling toward the south.