Monday, 25 October 2010

Captain Lesley Harrison - Log 2.0

It’s taking a lot less time than I thought it would for the crew to lighten up to the idea of dragons. I mean it’s one thing to tell someone or to read about it but when you're working with them day in day out then I guess it sinks in pretty fast that these things are real and they're not going away. The only one who seems to be having any trouble at all is Lewis. I think because he is so sure in what he knows and so sure that they didn't exist that he was always going to have some trouble. But the Doc is helping him along.

I think she's really been looking for someone of a similar intellect to talk to. Not that any of the crew is what you would call stupid. Even Jack is a lot more intelligent than anyone would believe after looking at him. Or talking to him. Or in fact spending any kind of significant time with him. But it’s just the fact that Doctor Bob can sometimes find it hard talking in layman terms that it’s good to have someone who does understand a lot of the specifics involved in our work. And the fact that she can explain the specifics means that a lot more of it is sinking into Lewis's brain.

We had a tour around the zoo planned for the crew so I had gathered them in the cafeteria which is pretty much our HQ. No one complains though as I think everyone enjoys the cooking from the Flames Restaurant. It’s not exactly hi-tech in there but it has tables and chairs which is all we need. Gray complained once. Well I think he did. As always he talks in riddles:

'Zere was once a chair in a bar. Zee chair was broken and would fall whenever someone were to place zemselves upon it. But the chair was kept in the bar none zee less as the people zere knew of it and found it amusing to watch others fall. But soon zee chair became so broken and torn zat everyone seeing it would not sit on it and so zere was no more laughter at zee bar. Zis is why we need new chairs in zee cafeteria.'

Anyway he seems to put up with it just like he puts up with everything. He was not the least surprised about the dragons in the zoo. I think about all the secrets he has in his past and I get the feeling he may have dealt with things more surprising then dragons. I would quiz him on it but no doubt he would give me a riddle or just shrug and say “Boff.”. He can be very unapproachable when he wants to be.

I had the team assemble and explained how we were going to be shown around by Lucy Arnold. She arrived late and apologised, but Jack had to throw out a sarky remark. It’s his way of testing the water whenever he meets a new girl but a quick slap round the head and a Look managed to shut him up as I have no intention of him trying anything with this girl. He has managed to form a friendship with Alexis and I would be happy if he were to form one with the Arnold girl too. The information she has on the dragons seems to be equal to that of even the Doc so if any of that knowledge rubs off on the crew then we would all be better for it.

She started by showing us around the pens for the lizards. All the lizards are kept behind flame and shatter proof glass to protect the viewing public from flames and any physical attacks which apparently are not so common now they are used to their surroundings. The Welshies were first to be visited and were in a large enclosure which had a lot of tall trees. They were together in a group and seemed very friendly. Lucy told us that though they look friendly they can be just as vicious when they want to be and remarked how the one brought out to show the crew was actually the runt of the litter and a lot more docile then his big brothers and sisters. While we were there a loud WHOOOMPH noise and a flash of orange caused us all to spin round away from Lucy and just in time to see a small melting circle on a patch of scrub near the group. Gray of course had not moved and continued smoking while staring at Lucy. I could see that he was making her uneasy as he does most people so I asked her about their habits.

She told us how though they can produce very hot flames they learn to control them soon after hatching. This allows for the habitat to be mostly woodland, like their original setting in the Welsh hills. Occasionally the odd play-fight will get out of control but they have managed to never set off a full scale forest fire. They are excellent flyers and will happily zoom around the enclosure most of the day playing and firing off short bursts of fire at each other. It’s no wonder that they are the crowd favourites at the zoo and the symbol of the zoo itself.

Next up was the water arena. This area was the home to the Scottish Sea Dragons though we didn’t get to see any on our visit. Lewis seemed extremely disappointed on the no-show as Doctor Bob had spent some time describing the research on them. As they have not been viewed flaming they were the dragons that were considered the least lethal and therefore various behavioural tests had been performed with them. Jack and Alexis were trying to wind him up teasing him about his obvious disappointment but the Doc butted in to defend him. Even though I didn’t say it at the time, the look on Jacks face made me feel happy inside. To him it was like Bob was picking Lewis over him and this is something he cannot even comprehend, let alone stand so it’s always good to see him feeling rejected once in a while. He needs his ego kept in check.

When we made it to the so called English Myths Zone there was a bit of commotion. It was feeding time and a group of the zoo officials and Pen Keepers were gathered to watch. The English Tyrant has a bit of a reputation within the zoo as being the one to watch yourself around. They are fast and ferocious when it comes to anything entering their territory as the Arnolds found out when they tried to keep two in the same enclosure. Lucy was the one who found what was left of the smaller lizard.

This is when Lewis decided that he wanted to feed the tyrant. I don’t know whether he wanted to make himself look more macho in Jack and Lex's eyes or in the Docs eyes or both but he insisted that he could and would do it. No one really knew what to say and I realised that everyone was looking to me for approval. I always say the best way to learn is to do so I told him, “Be my guest.”

The pen keepers kitted him out with a flame proof chain mail. This was actually necessary and not just some English Myth gimmick. The tyrant has a powerful bite as well as flames and has been known to go for the arms or legs of anyone who is stupid enough to turn their back on it. Once he had his flame retardant headgear, gloves and boots on Lewis was handed a large bucket of beef and pork joints and wandered into the pen.

The Myths Zone is mostly rocky as the tyrant originates from caves in the Lake District up north. When Lewis made it through the gates and into the enclosure there was noticeable movement up in the cave where the remaining lizard had formed its den. The doc called to Lewis and asked for him to be careful, to keep his eyes open and once he saw the dragon to never let it out of his sight. Lex was pressed up against the glass like a child grinning with anticipation while Jack took the opportunity to put an arm around Bob and tell her not to worry and he was there to look after her should anything happen to her sidekick. She shrugged him off and kept her eyes on Lewis.

Suddenly the tyrant appeared as if fired out of a bloody rocket from the cave. I’d been told how they can propel themselves into instant flight with their phenomenally strong hind legs but I’d never seen it in action. There was a grey streak through the air above Lewis who was holding out a large chunk of meat at arm’s length. He seemed determined to prove that he could work outside of his safe little workstation. The grey streak was still circling overhead. Lucy said that this was while it was scoping out for food as it would have already picked up the scent. She also mentioned that the Pen Keepers normally leave the meat on the floor rather then hold it out for the dragon...

The tyrant’s flight path dropped and it came down fast towards Lewis before speeding past him and shooting back into the air. The steak was gone from Lewis's hand. As were three of his fingers.

Lewis immediately turned and ran back to the gates holding his wrist in his good hand as blood dripped out of the glove where his fingers should have been. Jack and Alexis were almost on the floor laughing as the doc ran to the gate to help Lewis through. He was biting his lip to stop from screaming and was rushed off, along with the doc, to the onsite hospital. I had to wait a full 10 minutes for the kids to stop laughing and one of the keepers brought them over some tissue to wipe away the tears. During the entire episode Gray hadn’t taken his eyes off the lizard. He was stood watching it now. The bucket of meat had been knocked over and the tyrant was hungrily tearing off hunks from the big pieces of meat that now lay around. Gray was staring at it, watching closely how it was behaving as he took another long drag on his cigarette. It would be my guess that he already knows more about these animals then anyone.

After that Lucy brought us round to the jungle zone which had only recently been prepared for a new dragon, the South American Fish Hunter. This species was a lot larger than the other three already at the zoo, standing at around 10 foot but was relatively quiet when compared to the likes of the Tyrant. We would be needed when it arrived next week as part of security to ensure everything went smoothly. I had already talked to Bob and Lewis about firepower and they had assured us that they had a few new weapons up their sleeves to help tranquillise the lizard should we need to. From what I've heard from other reports, this dragon would still only be a baby compared with some of the other dragons out there. Only that morning I'd received word from Stephen Arnold that there have been sightings of a monstrous dragon in New Zealand with a 30 foot wingspan. Chances are that we would all be taking a trip down to try and capture it ourselves. Finally I would be able to test the team out in the field.

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