Zephyr World Zoo

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Chapter XX

Ian Leland

Ian finished cleaning his tools, after working on his latest project. In a bigger setup, he probably would have had an assistant or someone to do this chore for him, but the only people around that he could ask for help weren’t the sort to actually be of any use. He let out a sigh.

Honestly, he really wished that Marcus and the other thugs would take it easy on the ‘animals’. Sure, the treatment and health of the unique inhabitants of the zoo was his responsibility, but he was far too used to patching up these young people after a guard had been a bit too rough, or after one had tried to end their miserable existence.

But, such was the price of his paycheck. The doctor had signed on to do something unique, to learn more about these fascinating beings, but he might have signed that contract a little too hastily, all things considered.

Finished with putting away the tools of his trade, the young man left the hospital wing and headed out to get something to eat. He was starving.

Unfortunately, all thoughts of said hot meal was pushed from his mind when he saw a guard eyeing one of the girls, the small otter that he had treated a few times in the past. She frolicked through the water for the crowd, and the guard’s lips developed a peculiar, cruel smirk that Ian recognized immediately.

Ah. Nope. Not a chance he was going to let that happen. Not today.

“It’s time for her checkup,” he told the man, walking up and jerking a thumb at the otter’s enclosure.

“What? Now?” the guard asked, incredulous. “It’s the middle of the day!” He looked thoroughly disappointed, and a bit unbelieving.

“Yes, now,” Ian said impatiently. “Or do you want to risk explaining to our employer the death of one of his star attractions? She got hurt last night. Even a fool could see it. You don’t expect those creatures to know better than to avoid the ribs, do you? All that exercise, she could cause all kinds of further injuries to herself.”

He didn’t actually know if all that was true, but it was a safe bet.

With an annoyed sigh, the guard went to the enclosure and removed the otter, much to the disappointment of the crowd.

“Routine checkup, folks,” Ian assured them. “Our little otter will be back in action within a few days, I’m sure.”

The guard wrangled the otter out of the back entrance and into a carrying crate, and to the medical wing of the main building. Once inside, the big man deposited the crate onto one of the beds somewhat roughly, jolting its passenger.

“Be careful,” the doctor said, walking over and peering in at the female otter. “Head wounds are serious, and somewhat easily caused by stuff like that. There are a lot of veins in the skull, not to mention the delicate gray matter.” He glared at the guard.

He heard scratching from inside the small metal and plastic container. Looking down, he watched as the small creature ran in circles inside. From the sounds she was making, she was terrified, chittering in fear and clawing at the sides of the crate.

Ian shooed the guard from the room. “I’ve got it from here,” he explained, and without much protest, he left.

The doctor turned back to the crate, and opened the small door. “It’s alright, dear. You aren’t in any trouble. Come out so I can check your injuries, alright?” He paused for a moment, then added, “I have some snack bars if you’re hungry.”

Luna whimpered she stuck her head out of the box, looking around before crawling out onto the examination table. Slowly, she shifted back to her human form, and he watched, fascinated, as always.

“I can’t eat. It... it wouldn’t be right. If they found out, we would both be in trouble,” the girl whimpered, squinting her eyes against the harsh light of the room. He immediately felt bad for this small girl. She was only about sixteen, if he remembered correctly.

“I’m the only doctor on staff. I can do what I want for the most part,” he replied with a dismissive wave. “If they have a problem with it, then send them to me. I’m fairly irreplaceable.”

Which was very true. There weren’t many doctors out there experienced in both human and animal biology to such an extent that they could perform this job, let alone the willingness to keep all of this quiet.

He gave her a confident grin as he held out a meal replacement bar. “Doctor’s orders, I’m afraid.”

Ian waited for her to take it before taking a look at one of the worse bruises, one on her head. His fingers gently prodded around the bruising, checking that she wasn’t more seriously hurt than just the purple-black mark on her pale skin. He really had to talk to Marcus about talking to his prisoners about their treatment of their fellows. This was getting ridiculous. He was honestly surprised that she wasn’t more seriously hurt, all things considered.

He might just be going soft, but he didn’t think this sweet, tiny girl deserved such harsh treatment. Too bad he couldn’t do much to stop it.

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