Monster Zoo 8. The Birthday Present

By Joanna E Sears

© Copywrite the Monster Zoo

All Creatures Machines and People in this story are purely fictional and the result of my own twisted imagination.

Warning some elements of this tale are Steampunk.

Prologue

The Monster Zoo is a large animal preserve. It is home to dozens of endangered species. But not just conventional ones, like Tigers or Whales. But also those strange mythical beasts that everyone's heard of, but few have seen.

It is owned and run By Director Rackton. A brilliant scientist, who discovered a way

to create a Bubble Universe within of our own Timeline. It is within this bubble, that he has created his animal haven. No poacher or unscrupulous hunter can ever enter it. The zoo only has one entrance. Which can only be opened by use of an

*Entropic Displacement Chronomitor.*

Rackton is ably assisted by a team of handpicked specialists. Not least of which

is the Renowned Crypto-Zoologist, Frank Corvin.

Chapter one

It had been a very successful mission. Having flown to Greece in search

of the Mythical Hydra? Frank and his team had been faced with a nine headed

Fire Belching Coravoi. It had taken two weeks to track down the monster and

subdue it. But finally a reinforced dart tipped with an alloy of Titanium and Kerap Steel had penetrated its toughened hide and delivered a significant dose

of tranquilizer. Putting the huge creature into a deep sleep. One that would hopefully keep it comatose long enough for its new team of handlers to get

it safely back to the Monster Zoo. Where a specially designed habitat awaited.

Under normal circumstances Frank Corvin would be happy-satisfied with a

job well done, these were not normal circumstances. For a start the majority of the squad had yet to travel home. The Hydra and seven members of the squad had portalled across the abyss in Trevik Trucs. It had been planned for the others to follow in the Zeppelin. Unfortunately Frank had been alerted to a storm approaching. It was not yet safe to inflate the Aether balloon so he

and the remaining twenty man team had battened down the hatches and waited.

Now you might thing this wasn't so bad. It wasn't and the delayed departure

was not what was bugging Frank. It was his Birthday. As a rule he tended to

just mentally mark the day then let it slide quietly by. Apart from the Director no one knew the day was special. That was until this year. This year it was

different his brother now resided at the Zoo and he knew the date of his older brother's birth. Frank growled to himself.

"Why couldn't the damn boy have kept it quiet? Why did he have to broadcast

it to all and sundry?" Frank scowled in annoyance. It wouldn't have been so bad if all Jason had done was told a few people? Okay the felicitations were

embarrassing, but those he could have dealt with. No! Jason had to go and

buy him a present and not just an ordinary gift like a book or pair of socks.

Frank snarled again catching sight of the gift on the small fold up table by his

Campbed. It was so disgustingly cute it made him want to vomit.

"A Teddy Bear for crying out loud? A bloody mechanical Teddy? If I wanted a pet there are thousands of real live animals to choose from back home?" He thumped the nearest tent pole making the canvas shake. Big mistake! The sudden movement activated the motion sensor in his new toy. The reviled thing came instantly to life. Its eyes lit up, it raised its arms and cooed in an inviting manner. Frank contemplated how much satisfaction he would get if he

bashed it to a pulp with a nice big wrench. Then he sighed knowing he couldn't.

He wasn't bothered about offending Jason, Sue was another matter. Frank was

pretty sure she'd chosen the gift. He shuddered as it suddenly gave a gurgling little giggle. The pair of lovebirds hadn't even been discreet about giving it to him. Frank's scowl deepened he guessed that the idea to throw him a party had been his brother's idea that and presentation of the ghastly the toy in front of

everyone he knew. Frank wasted several seconds fantasizing about how much pleasure he would get, if he could shove the damn bear several feet up his

brother's fundament? A roll of thunder overhead bought Frank out of his reverie. Then he groaned as the sound set the bear off again. The blasted thing had acoustic sensors as well. He couldn't even take the batteries out of it. It didn't have any. It was powered by a light energizing crystal. Inwardly Frank resolved to discover who in the Engineering Department had built it and dock them a year's pay. The incessant cooing and gurgling was going to drive him barmy. Outside the storm intensified. Frank unable to sleep through the noise

stood in the shelter of his tent entrance and watched the storm unfold

He saw many others doing the same. The rain had yet to fall but the rolling

thunder was deafening. Then Frank saw something that made his mouth fall open. Instead of the normal flash lightening strange pulsating orbs of electricity

began to float down from above.

"Ball lightening," he murmured astonished to see such a rarity. The fizzing

spheres seemed to hover and skim about randomly. One exploded against a tree

Others passed through peoples tents leaving neat circular burn holes. Frank saw one of the orbs float towards him. He stepped smartly sideways as it entered

his tent. The ball of lightening appeared to pause in the middle of the enclosed area its blue glow seemed to flash brighter. Then without warning it flew across

the tarpaulin room and struck the reviled toy. There was a loud bang and the toy exploded in a puff of smoke. Small spurts of flame erupted in a couple of

places. Frank snatched a blanket from his bed and smothered them. A ghost of a smile drifted across his face.

"Oh dear! What a shame." He said wryly. Pete stuck is head through the tent entrance."

"You okay boss?"

"Fine! The ball lightening hit Jason's toy and it exploded." Frank saw amusement in his second's eyes.

"I can tell you're really upset."

"Oh yeah devastated!" laughed Frank. Outside it had begun to rain dampening down the rare light show. Jason also looked in. He surveyed the remains of

the wrecked toy.

"Are you sure you didn't engineer that storm?" his brother had a hard time keeping a straight face. The storm lasted for several hours. Most of the camp retired to their beds as the thunder and lightening gave way to persistent rain.

Frank came awake suddenly. He frowned! Puzzled! Not awake enough to locate the sound. But he was sufficiently conscious to know what he was hearing.

"It was the very distinct sound of crying. Something or someone was in distress. Frank sat up and listened the sobbing was louder now and it was definitely inside his tent. He switched on his Aether powered lantern then

climbing out of his sleeping bag swung his legs sideways to the ground. Standing up he looked around trying to locate the source of the sound. He raised the lamp in his right hand and shone it into each corner convinced that he'd see an animal in one of them. He saw nothing yet the crying continued. To Frank's trained ears it was more of a mewling than human weeping. He stood still and

listened anxious now to pinpoint where it was coming from. His frown deepened as he realised it was coming from beneath the blanket he'd carelessly chucked over Jason's ridiculous toy. Could there have been some other

creature nearby? That had inadvertently got caught up in the small fire that had consumed the bear. Frank approached cautiously so as not to alarm whatever was lying injured under the cover. He held his breath as he gently lifted the blanket. What met his eyes was not what he expected. Frank gave a small

gasp then leaned closer. His brain refusing to believe what is eyes beheld.

The toy he'd thought destroyed moved. Not as it had moved before. There was no whirr of mechanics or clunky shifting of hydraulics. Now the toy moved fluidly like a real animal. But not a happy creature. It raised its head and looked at him. Frank felt his blood freeze in his veins. The glass eyes were now real. Real and brimming with frightened tears. It lifted an arm and he saw

a patch of red skin. A bald circle where it's fur had been burned away. It lowered its head to lick at the spot then gave a loud hiss of pain.

"Oh my God!" Frank forgot his dislike of the teddybear. It was no longer relevant. All that mattered was it was alive and hurting. How it had come to life was a question that could wait. It was hurting and in need of treatment The poor thing had to be given some pain relief. Carefully he lifted the hurt creature in to his arms. It whimpered and pressed its head to his chest. He felt the dampness of its tears through his thin shirt. Trying to control his urgency Frank clutched the creature to him and headed for the medical tent.

Sue has CMO slept in a quartered off area. Jason as her partner resided there too. Frank stooped under the canvas entrance and called out for assistance. Sue her eyes heavy with sleep answered his desperate cries.

"Frank?" she expressed surprise upon seeing him. "What's wrong? Are you

injured?"

"Not me! He gently unwrapped the blanket to reveal his burden." Sue blinked

"You broke your toy."

"Take a closer look! It is not a toy anymore." Jason bare chested also entered

the main treatment area. Sue leaned closer to peer at the bear then gasped in shock. She raised her eyes to stare at Frank

"How can this be possible?"

"Don't ask me. All I know is it got it by some of that ball lightening Next think I know its awake and crying." He indicated several places where the creature's

fur had been singed." Sue swallowed she had no idea how to respond. Clearly

the bear was now alive. "It's in pain!" Frank pressed her to put her disbelief aside and alleviate the animal's discomfort. Sue's training took over. Frank

was right whatever the circumstances of its awakening? It was alive and it was

her duty to care for it. Gently she placed a stethoscope against the mechanical

animal's chest. She handed the instrument to Frank. He listened too.

"Is that what I think it is?"

"If you think it's a heartbeat? Yes!"

"Astounding!" Jason touched the living toy. Frank moved him aside and indicated a very nasty looking burn on the bear's right thigh. Sue still half dazed

with shock reached for a salve on a nearby shelf. She applied the cream to the

sore spot and three other similar patches. At length she looked up at Frank

"A normal animal would automatically lick at the cream. I think it's safe to assume this one will too. So I'm going to put a cone around it's neck.

Jason suddenly chuckled.

"Well! We wanted you to have a pet Frank." His brother snarled at him

"Sssh!" Sue suddenly separated the pair. "Pack it in. You're frightening it."

"IT?" Frank suddenly realized the creature was precisely that. It had no species

definition or name. "I can't keep calling him an it." Sue appraised the toy bear

It almost resembled a Bushbaby but for the spots on its fur. Frank sighed and made the decision.

"I guess we'll have to invent a classification for him. I think from now on we'll

refer to it as a Mechie." Jason grinned a second time. Frank chose to ignore his

amusement. "Will it need to eat?"

"More to the point what will it eat?" Jason could barely contain his laughter.

"A bowl of bolts and a beaker of Aether juice?" Sue tutted at him then to

Frank suggested.

"Let's try it on standard Bushbaby food. Fruits, roots and milk." He agreed

This seemed a logical suggestion. He looked to the East. The sky was lighter

Dawn was coming fast.

Ranulf was surprised when he entered his mess tent, the Corvin Brothers and The CMO were already there. Jason had made them all some coffee and Sue had raided the supply store for some potential food for the new baby. Her original thought had been correct. Mechie was happily sitting on a table in front of Frank nibbling a slice of Mango. He was watching it with an indulgent eye. Its coos and gurgles no longer nauseated him. He now found them endearing. Gradually over the course of the next thirty minutes the mess tent filled with early risers. All eyes focussed on Frank's little miracle. He smiled, the little fella seemed to sense it was special and played to the crowd. But the second Frank saw that first yawn he called a halt to the tickles and gentle strokes.

Liam provided him with a secure transport carrier. Mechie was already asleep when Frank wrapped it in the protective warm fleece and slid it into the basket. The sleeping sack provided by Sue would protect the new baby from the biting cold of the abyss between Dimensions. Pete Slater was assuming command of the camp. Frank was portalling straight home. Sue wouldn't be satisfied until Mechie was safe. She was travelling with Frank anxious now to give the strange lifeform a more thorough examination with the sophisticated equipment

at the Monster Zoo. It actually took all day for the Zoo's newest and most unique creature to be finally settled. Everybody wanted to see the living toy. A lot mostly women sighed over its cute little face and soft gurgles. A few wanted it, even several professional handlers. Frank refused the Bushbaby handler's offer of a home for the creature within his habitat. Mechie was his present and

therefore his responsibility. The nursery supplied a proper baby animal Incubator crib for him. But the moment Frank lay Mechie in it. It began to cry. Such was its distress that Frank couldn't bear it and so Mechie ended up, snuggled against his chest in his bed. Frank's last thought before he fell asleep was.

"Oh terrific! He snores!"

Fin