It was an uncomfortable, foreign feeling for an animal born and raised in a pack. Let alone a high-ranking Beta. Former Beta. Her Alpha was gone. By the laws of nature, she was the Alpha now. But what was a leader without a pack? Her family…her sisters, were also gone; slain, by the Strange. For her kind, there was no hoot or chirp that could describe what they had encountered.
The velociraptor once called Blue padded across the uneven jungle floor; the wreckage of the human world still smoldered in the darkness behind her. The moist leaf litter crunched softly beneath her talons, and the cool soil brought relief to her sore feet. It was the feeling of freedom. And yet, such a wonderful sensation held only painful memories.
It had been their first hunt. Their first real hunt. Free from the confines of the small world that they new. All of her sisters had sensed a change with the arrival of the new armored, tailess things that walked on two legs. Blue had been the only one that suspected what it might imply. It was that suspicion that allowed her, perhaps against her better judgement, to tolerate being restrained, as uncomfortable objects were fastened to their heads. The Beta’s patience was validated when their Alpha appeared, bearing the scent of their new prey. For reasons she could not understand, the smell was both familiar and yet alien. In more ways than one, it troubled her. Such confusion was cast aside the moment the gates parted.
They ran, with nothing held back. All the mattered was the Hunt. She lead her sisters with the skill and ferocity befitting her rank, while the Alpha held the group together, the way any leader should: as a single, fixed point. After that, it was almost all a blur.
The ecstasy of the hunt died all-too quickly the moment the Strange revealed itself. Like its scent, the beast was unnatural and yet, strangely alluring. The velociraptors found themselves fighting against the very instincts that had served them so well. Blue had almost made the decision to slaughter this source of distress on the spot, but then it called to them. Not in the strange sounds of their Alpha, but in the special cries that only she and her three sisters shared. It had been so easy to succumb. To give in and accept a far superior Alpha. And in doing so, the pack could finally be free!
Gone were the meaningless tasks. Gone were the repetitive commands! For the first time, they truly felt the pleasure of the hunt. Of the kill. And so they did, with reckless abandon, until none of the tailess two-legs were left standing in their presence. All it had cost them was the life of their youngest sister. And the protection and unity that they shared. Everything that had truly made them a pack. Gone.
The Strange cared nothing for their safety, and it felt nothing for them as a family. That much had become clear the instant they cornered their old Alpha. Their true Alpha. Even after they had abandoned him, he had stayed loyal. He was different from them. But he was also part of the pack. The strongest part: the one that held them together.
In response to their defiance, the Strange finished the process of destroying their family: striking down Blue and murdering her remaining sisters, before pursuing the Alpha and the small tailess ones he now protected. When the Beta recovered, she was truly the last. Her anguished realization awakened the ferocious rage that marked her kind. Intelligence and instinct fused as one, she channelled the vengeful spirit shared by her ancestors and charged the Strange in a savage attack! The action was little more than suicide for a single raptor, but by the bizarre strands of fate, the Beta was not alone in her vendetta.
Engaged in battle alongside her was a Great Killer; one with whom she shared no past or common ground—save for the total hatred of the Strange. Together, they forced the monster back to the edge of the great water, where a third predator unexpectedly landed the final blow, stealing the kill. Death was death, be it by the machinations of nature, or the jaws of a greater killer. The Great Killer! With the Strange gone, would the velociraptor be its next target? Even wounded as it was, the Beta entertained no delusions of defeating such a threat.
The Great Killer’s roar brought Blue’s thoughts out of the past. It seemed to come from everywhere at once: front, back, side, and above! With the earth-shaking cry came the light of a new day. Though the lone raptor had left the land of tailess two-legs far behind, the sun’s rays revealed yet another of their structures looming directly ahead of her; this one far older, and reclaimed by the jungle.
Warily, she sniffed her surroundings and was enveloped by a storm of scents. The Strange had been here, as had her Alpha, and even tailess ones! Smells of the Great Killer and of her own kind also haunted the area. Curiosity drove her forward through the patchwork of gloom and light. The gentle click of her claws on hardened floor reverberated through the halls of the old ruin, sometimes growing softer, sometimes louder. Each dislodged piece of rubble added to the cacophony. Her inquisitive nature waning, she was about to turn back, when a familiar outline caught her eye. Poised on two strong legs, perfectly balanced by a long stiff tail, was another velociraptor. A painting. A collection of colors smeared on the wall. That much was obvious to her. Painfully so. But in spite of recognizing the mural for what it was, she drew closer; picking her way through the debris until she stood nose to nose with the realistic rendition. It may very well be the last velociraptor she would ever see.
For a time, it appeared that a statue had joined the painting in the solitude of the ruins—destined to remain there in perpetuity. In the jungles outside, prey of all sizes grazed blissfully unawares, while fliers called fiercely in the skies above. All of this meant little to a velociraptor on its own. But the instinct to survive stirred the living creature from her melancholy. It as almost as strong as the drive to seek others of her kind.
Blue stalked back to the entrance and paused, letting the full light of a new day envelope her. Ahead were the smells and sounds of a world coming to life for the first time in recent memory. So full…and yet so empty. It would be her world now, and hers alone. The velociraptor turned and took one final look at the painting in gloom.
Perhaps out of desperation, perhaps out of spite, she gave one sharp, audible call, and listened, as it echoes and faded through the jungle, before returning, stronger than before.