Fiona's head swung toward the cabin as shouting rose from inside. She unconsciously growled at Riley's distressed voice.

"She's explaining," Roger said.

"Loudly," Buzz said, shifting his wings.

"Are you sure?" Max asked.

"I've got the best hearing here and you know it," Roger said.

"What are they saying?" Caruso asked.

"Riley said… oh. I guess Rob hasn't seen her scars."

"You mean the ones Veloci gave her?" Max asked.

"Yeah. They aren't that visible when she's in dino mode, you know."

Fiona, eyes fixed on the door, didn't contribute. She knew that Riley wanted to explain to Rob alone, without the rest of the squad hovering over Rob like a threat, but Fiona worried about the squad's youngest member. Creeping closer to the door, Fiona peered inside.

The shouting had stopped, but Riley was shaking and tears streamed down her red face. Rob had his back pressed against a wall, eyes wide and mouth hanging open.

Rob surged forward, saying frantically, "Mr. Veloci couldn't have done that to you!"

"He did!" Riley snapped, shaking harder. "He'd have killed me if my friends hadn't saved me."

"That attack last fall." Rob's voice was barely audible. "When Mr. Veloci was all beat up."

"That was from them defending me," Riley said. "Even though I'd hidden who my father was from them, they still defended me. Father, though, attacked me when I refused to come home like a meek lamb. I'm done, Rob, and I wish you could see the truth!"

"But Mr. Veloci has more control than that," Rob protested.

"Why would I make this up?! Father lost control of himself, Rob. He's-" Riley choked, then forced out, "Father is dangerous. These other dinosaurs have shown me more care and affection for me than Father ever did in my whole life!"

"Because Mr. Veloci lost control once?" Rob asked.

"I'm not even talking about him losing control anymore," Riley said. "This is about Father caring for me, which he never did."

"But he was worried," Rob insisted. "What else could have made him go feral like that but worry for you?"

"That isn't love!" Riley snapped. She rubbed away the remains of her tears and shook her head. "Stop defending him!"

"I'm just saying," Rob said, raising placating hands, "That, yes, what Mr. Veloci did was terrible. But you know how you are when you go full feral. Mr. Veloci couldn't help himself."

"Father's the one who's always telling me to control my emotions like he does," Riley said bitterly. "He never wanted me to control myself, he wanted to control me!"

Rob's eyes widened. "Riley!"

Riley growled at him. She literally growled, as her face lengthened and her hands morphed into claws. Her skin turned leathery and orange and she abruptly sprouted a tail. In seconds, Riley was in her dino form, her tail lashing in anger.

Fiona growled uncertainly, worried that Riley would attack Rob. But Riley's eyes remained clear and, to his credit, Rob's only reaction was to make a worried noise and touch her muzzle.

"Riley, I thought you had your fits under control," Rob said.

"Then I guess I'm more like Father than I thought," Riley snarled.

Riley started to turn away, but Rob caught her muzzle. Riley blinked at him, then released a gusty sigh that blew Rob's hair back.

"Riley, I just want to help you," Rob murmured.

Riley blinked at Rob, then opened her jaws and gave Rob a big, sloppy lick. Rob jerked back, belatedly fending Riley off.

"Hey, gross! No licking!" Rob said, half laughing.

Riley crooned with a self-satisfied grin. Rob stroked her muzzle.

"Today was… weird, huh?" Rob said.

Riley rumbled. "Yeah."

"Tell you what," Rob said. "Let's talk in the morning. Give us time to collect our thoughts. You know how I can't think in the evening."

"Two left feet," Riley crooned.

"Hey, now," Rob said lightly. "I'm not giving up on this, though."

"Of course not. You're the only one stubborn enough to get through to feral me." Riley's eyes flicked to the window. "Well… at Raptor Dyne."


"Terry can be pretty stubborn, too," Riley said with a toothy grin. "Just give them a chance, okay? They want to help, too."

"I'm not the one who needs it."

Riley shook her head and turned toward the stairs. "You're right. Let's sleep on it. We can make a decision in the morning."

"Okay." Rob crossed his arms. He glanced toward the window, then did a double-take. "How long has Spin been there?"

"Most of the conversation," Riley said. "She's a bit protective."

Fiona snorted. "And you're impulsive."

Riley grinned at Fiona, then began herding Rob up the stairs. Fiona turned away, knowing that Riley and Rob weren't in any danger.

"Well?" asked Max.

"Riley is going to try explaining again in the morning."

"Maybe we should all stay here the night," Buzz said, shuffling his wings.

Roger shook his head. "Ms. Moyniham will get worried if you don't report back to her. And radios are too risky to use."

"Agreed," Max said. "Besides, Caruso and I can handle it."

"Caruso knocked Rob out," Fiona said skeptically.

"Hey, he's the one who pointed the tar gun!" Caruso said.

"We'll be fine," Max emphasized. "Besides, not too many of us should spend the night here at once. We don't spend this much time in dino mode too often, so Caruso and I are going to need to be relieved in the morning."

Fiona nodded in grudging agreement. None of them knew if there were lasting side effects of staying in dino mode for extended periods of time. Ms. Moyniham said their transformations might drop suddenly like hers did, or there could be something else altogether. Or nothing. But the teens didn't want to test their luck until they could be sure Rob wouldn't give them away.

Buzz clacked his beak, but spread his wings and took off. Roger and Fiona headed into the woods in different directions, waiting until they were deep in the woods before turning human and changing direction to where they'd hidden their Tyrano-cycles.

Rob woke to a wooden ceiling. It was unfamiliar enough compared to the usual steel of Raptor Dyne buildings that Rob stared for a few seconds. When he remembered where he was, he sat bolt upright.

He was in a small but cozy room of the log cabin. Checkered, basic tapestries hung from the walls and matching curtains covered the room's one window. The red-and-black plaid blanket at his feet matched the rest of the bedding, and the cushion on the room's single wooden chair. A short dresser sat against the opposite wall, beside a small vanity that held Rob's gear.

Rob rubbed his eyes and swung his bare feet out of bed. He shivered at the touch of the cold wooden floor.

"Not a dream, then," Rob said aloud to himself.

Rob crossed the room to his gear. He inspected his tank, then set it aside and picked up the small device he'd found attached to it the previous night.

Rob knew a scrambler when he saw one. It would explain why nobody had tracked him down yet. He also knew Riley didn't know how to make scramblers.

Rob poked around the room some more. The window pointed to the rolling forest, which extended as far as Rob could see. The horizon was clear and in tones of pink and orange with the rising sun.

The dresser held a few changes of clothing, and a note from Riley saying she hoped she'd remembered his sizes right. She had, of course. They hadn't been apart that long.

Rob swapped out his slept-in, dirty jumpsuit he'd never really liked for the long-sleeved gray shirt and green cargo socks and sturdy hiking boots from under the vanity completed the look.

Rob slipped the scrambler into one of the pants' pockets before heading out of the room. As well-planned as the kidnapping had been, Rob had no doubt that there was a bigger, more permanent scrambler somewhere in the building, anyway.

Across the hall, rattling snores came from Riley's room. The volume told Rob that she was still in raptor mode, so he let her keep sleeping while he slipped downstairs.

Rob ignored the front door for the moment, instead peeking into the ground level rooms. He found a living room with big windows, a bathroom, a storage closet, and a small kitchen with a connected dining area.

Spotting a back door, Rob quickly crossed the room to try it. The doorknob opened without resistance, though the door only opened a few inches before stopping against something.

Rob peered through the gap, then slumped. In his excitement of a way out, he'd missed even the loud, huffing snores of who appeared to be Goz laying outside the door.

Rob turned and crossed the house to the front door. He rose on his tip-toes to see outside the window at the top of the door. Upon seeing no dinosaur blocking this door, Rob opened it and stepped outside.

"Going somewhere?"

Rob jumped and twisted. Rex laid at the corner of the house, with his head resting on the edge of the porch.

"Nowhere," Rob said slowly. Curiosity overcame him, and he said, "Do that again."

"What?" Rex asked.


Rex gave a dino-sized huff that made Rob step back. But then he noticed how the corners of Rex's mouth curved up in a rather human-like smile. He stepped closer, now more curious. Riley liked to bare her teeth when she was happy, but she rarely smiled with her lips while in raptor mode.

"Go on, take a look," Rex said.

Rob cautiously went to Rex's muzzle. He reached out, but didn't touch. He knew how Riley was and these dinosaurs seemed the same, but Rob wasn't ready to lose a hand to his curiosity.

"I won't eat you," Rex chuffed. He yawned, and Rob jerked his hand back. "I'm serious. Not even a nibble."

"What do you eat?"

"The same as Riley, I guess."

Rob studied Rex. "You are the same as Riley, aren't you?"

Rex huffed, blowing Rob's hair back. He raised his big head and swung it to the side, not answering. But it made more sense to Rob that there were more people who had gained the ability to transform into dinosaurs than if a simple animal had gained human intelligence with the mutation.

"You don't have to hide, you know," Rob said.

Another huff. "Because I'd rather be a lab rat. No, thanks."

"Nobody is turning you into a lab rat," Rob said. "Riley never was!"

Rex's eyes slanted toward Rob, who was again struck by the very human act on the dino's face.

"You can't honestly think that people would just be okay with us," Rex rumbled. "If we weren't stuck into a lab, then a zoo. The age of dinosaurs is over, Rob. It's about time Veloci figured that out."
"But it doesn't have to be," Rob said. "Just think, dinosaurs and humans living side-by-side. Some of the dinosaurs are human!"

Rex looked fully at him. "Would you give up your humanity to be a dinosaur?"

"Being able to turn into a dinosaur doesn't take away one's humanity," Rob said.

"Say that again when Riley's gone full feral and is about to rip your face off. Or Veloci, attacking his own daughter."

"We can prevent that from happening, though! There was some flaw in the original formula, one Mr. Veloci's been trying to fix ever since! That's why he wants to study you guys. Whatever formula did this to you, fixed the flaw. If he can figure out the formula-"

"He'll turn the whole world back to the Jurassic Period," Rex interrupted.

"You don't know that-"

"I've seen what he wants," Rex growled. "He'll stop at nothing until everything's been changed to what he thinks is the perfect world. It doesn't matter if people get hurt, as long as he can turn everything prehistoric."

"You don't know Mr. Veloci!"

"Do you?" Rex lifted his head. "What about Riley? She understands. You should listen to her, Rob. She knows more than any of us about Veloci."

"And she was just fine until you got involved," Rob said heatedly. "It's because of who she is, isn't it? You just want to fight Mr. Veloci, and his daughter makes a good target."

"Riley could have left anytime," Max said. "All we did was give her a chance to see what Veloci's doing from the outside."

"From the outside," Rob repeated.

"Riley said Veloci likes to pretend that his experiments never leave the lab."

"And they don't! Not intentionally!"

"That's a lie, Rob. One you'll see is true very soon."

Rob narrowed his eyes. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, nothing's going to Veloci from his experiments. Not connecting with his daughter to help her understand. Not rescuing his top scientists from a bunch of vigilante dinos."


Rob and Rex flinched at Riley's roar. Neither had seen her leave the cabin, but now she towered over Rob while baring her fangs at Rex.