A short tale about the abuse of science, the first and maybe last of a kind and a man's dilemma.
It's not every day that someone looks to hire the services of a big game hunter, especially in mainland UK, so when the famous hunter O'Ryan gets a call saying his services are required he is intrigued.
When he learns what his quarry is to be he is astounded. How could he refuse this once in a life-time opportunity (and not to mention the money!)
This certainly is no fox hunt!
"I Be Done Seen...
… just 'bout ever-thing, when I see a elephant fly-y, when - I - see - a - ele-phant - flyyyyyyyyy." The music faded and was replaced by astonished cheers from the audience as the tarpaulin slipped from the large square cage.
O'Ryan glanced away from the screen, "Holy shit, that's grotesque. Totally grotesque."
"A miracle of genetic engineering is what it is," replied Daniels thumbing the pause on the Blu-ray's remote. "But, if you think that way, perhaps we should get someone else."
O'Ryan laughed. "Like who?"
"There's always Lord Amiss."
"You mean good old, arthritic, myopic, Art Amiss? Doubt he could lift more than a peashooter, even with his good arm. His right arm is crippled you know; result of a run-in with a lioness about eight years ago. Still, if you want him, go ahead." O'Ryan rose as if to leave. "I'm telling you Mr Daniels, you won't find anyone else, because there isn't anyone else. I am the Last Great White Hunter. We're a dying breed; we are in actual fact becoming extinct." He smiled at the irony.
"No, please Mr O'Ryan." Daniels squirmed and gestured towards the chair O'Ryan had risen from.
O'Ryan smiled briefly and sat down again, saying nothing. Daniels re-started the Blu-ray. On screen, the already frightened animal reacted violently to the noise from the audience. It began to throw itself against the sides of the cage, a cage which, it was immediately apparent, was in no way suited to its task. The sides first of all bulged, and then one came away from the top entirely before being half flattened by the elephant's next lunge. The audience's cheers became shouts of panic and a mad rush ensued as, en-masse, they tried to leave the big top.
The rush of movement added further fuel to the panic blazing within the elephant. The side of the cage crashed to the hard packed earth serving as the floor of the arena and the elephant staggered free. Free to make its escape. It began to run in the same direction as the crowd; towards the exit. The arrival of two more handlers seemed to galvanise the two who had escorted the cage out into the ring and they all set off in pursuit.
A figure in a ringmaster's jacket pushed his way through the tide of fleeing public, who, seeing the shotgun clutched in his fist gave him a wide berth, which was quite a remarkable feat given the number of people trying to get through the one exit at the same time. The man stopped, brought the gun up to his shoulder in one fluid movement and fired both barrels.
O'Ryan shook his head in disbelief. "How the hell can anyone manage to miss an elephant at almost point blank?"
The elephant trumpeted with fear and veered round, away from the exit and towards the approaching handlers who stopped as one and screamed. The poor creature, for it had all O'Ryan's sympathy, bellowed in frustration, …
…unfurled its wings and with a mighty heave of its tree-trunk like legs, kicked off into the air. The four handlers flattened themselves face down into the dust as the elephant barely cleared their prostrate forms. Still in the image, O'Ryan could see the ringmaster struggling to reload his shotgun. The elephant spiralled upwards surprisingly quickly, followed by the camera, and was away through the open top bare seconds before two more shots banged out.
Daniels stopped the playback and looked at O'Ryan with one eyebrow raised in question. O'Ryan picked his metaphorical jaw from the floor – he had known it was a flying elephant, but knowing and seeing were two quite different things.
He looked at Daniels, barely able to keep the contempt he felt in check. "How? More to the point, why?"
"Why? Simply because we could. The how is …, a little technical."
"Too complicated for a primitive hunter you mean? Try me anyway, I need to know how; I need to know what's different about it.
"Basically, from a layman's point of view," O'Ryan bristled at this but remained silent. "The ears have been elongated and strengthened by the addition of new musculature, and it is these that form the wings. This gives the elephant control in the air, but by themselves they are not strong enough to provide lift. This is done with the aid of large, bladders, if you like, which are inflated with hydrogen produced chemically as a by-product when the elephant digests its food."
"And these modifications have been effected surgically?"
"Good lord, no! It has taken five generations of genetic engineering to reach this stage."
"And after all this tinkering you decide to cash in by selling it to Billy Small's Big Top?"
Daniels grimaced. "Not exactly." He added a tight smile to his facial repertoire. "At first we believed that it had escaped…"
"Elephants are notorious for that," drawled O'Ryan. "They just squeeze between the bars and tiptoe off in the dead of night."
Daniels ignored the interruption. "…but unfortunately it turned out to be something much murkier than that. One of our employees had far more debt than sense and decided to ease his financial woes with a little industrial sabotage."
"By selling Dumbo to a circus? Not sure that's really classed as industrial sabotage, but I'm only a hunter so what do I know."
"That wasn't. As I said, he had less sense than debt. We don't have any competitors, so as he soon discovered, there was no-one bothered enough to pay for our secrets. He tried the press who simply laughed him out of the office. Even the Sun, and they'll print anything."
"Probably," agreed O'Ryan. "Only look at the pictures myself. Page 3." He whistled appreciatively.
Daniels again ignored the interruption. "So, being unable to cash in on the secrets and with no interest in the story, the only option left to him was to sell the goods, as it were. He loaded Nellie, that's her name by the way, not Dumbo…"
"Oh, well, I'm glad you decided to go for something original instead Dumbo!"
"…loaded Nellie", he repeated, "into the transporter and simply shipped her to Billy Small in exchange for a not so small sum of money." Daniels tight smile reappeared for brief moment showing how pleased he was with his pun.
"And this employee just confessed to his crimes did he?"
"Let's just say that EvansTech is a very supporting and encouraging employer. They were particularly encouraging in this case. But what's happened has happened. We just need to tidy things up a now, and that's where you come in. If you are interested?"
O'Ryan sighed. He could not legally hunt elephants, anywhere in the world. Except for this one, a rogue elephant loose on mainland Britain. A challenge he could hardly refuse.
"Then you'll do it? We just want our property back. Dead or alive, but preferably the latter of course."
"Yeah, I'll cover your backsides for you, but it will cost you. Big money."
O'Ryan snorted, "Don't insult me. Two million Sterling."
Daniels made a strangled noise. "You're insane. There's no way EvansTech will pay that kind of money."
O'Ryan stood. "Suit yourself. EvansTech can try Art Amiss. And when you come knocking on my door the price will have gone up to four million."
END OF SAMPLE
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