Irving vs Fievel
~A concept for McBrega v Belyayev~
“Am a widdwe teapot showt and stow,
Hewe am da handle, hewe am da spow,
When am get aw steamed up
Heaw am shouw,
Tip am owah
And pour it ow!”
The creature that sang this had dead lifeless eyes. Its arms mimicked the action of the nursery rhyme, jerking with each movement. After it finished its dance, the creature proceeded to grab the cup of tea. Though unsteady, the bear-like creature brought the dainty vessel up to its lips, slowly consuming the liquid.
At the sight of this, the crowd started to clap. Despite being presented as an animatronic, the robot was truly and clearly consuming the liquid. And among the loudest to clap in the audience was a silver haired boy with big round glasses.
It was the second day into the World’s Fair when the McBrega brothers made their presence. While Henry and Maurice were elsewhere in the fair, Irving had just entered the bio-animatronic exhibit. Here, various scientists had depicted “living” recreations of the extinct dodo and Tasmanian tiger. Although genetic engineering was now at least a century old, the science was inadequate in reviving entirely extinct species. This was especially true in the case of the Dodo, which had been wiped out over a century before Darwin and Mendel’s collaboration. In contrast, Bio-animatronics seemed like the perfect alternative. As the bones and DNA of these creatures still existed, it served as a framework for scientists and artisans who specialized in this field to not only recreate such creatures, but give them a basic biology, though limited. With Bio-animatronics, scientists were able to recreate and portray animals as how they existed. At the same time, and because they could be programmed, they could be controlled.
But that led to a new question – what if an entirely new creature could be crafted from the bio-matter? A bio-animatronic based on a completely fictious character?
The researcher was proudly presenting the answer.
“This creature here is like nothing in the Animal Kingdom! A living teddy bear, made possible by American science!”
The creature reminded him a lot of the cartoon bears that he had seen on the nickelodeon. When he was younger, Theodore Roosevelt had famously spared a bear cub while on a hunting trip. The incident led to the popularization of the teddy bear, as well as cartoons depicting fluffy bears speaking in a rather cute accent and language. One of the famous cartoons he could remember was Steamboat Fluffy, which featured a Teddy Bear and a Fancy Dandy Pony sailing down the Mississippi.
“What exactly is the point of this? Why make a robot that’s entirely organic?”
“Well for one, it won’t need an external fuel source. All robots have to rely on a form of energy. By giving a digestive system, this robot is able to eat normal food!”
Irving imagined creating more creatures like that. A perfect toy, a toy that could interact with its owner, a toy that had a life and mind of its own.
In a room filled with mirrors, a young boy was holding up a metal spoon. The foal looked upon the finger with much curiosity. Very quickly, the foal carefully bit on the spoon. It was not too hard a bite, as the foal was familiar with the hardness of metal. Rather, it was a soft bite, so that his tongue could feel the cold surface of the metal, which itself had a different taste from the plastic utensil that the boy had used.
The foal begins to make an utterance. However, instead of the typical horse neigh, it’s a slow chirp, like sort a young parrot could make. After a while, it made a guttural sound, and then, the sound become a bit more complex.
“Good, clever boy!”
And the foal recieves a little treat.
The boy in question is Fievel Belyayev. The creature currently in his care is Alex, the fourth descendant of the host of fancy dandy horses that had been brought over to the Americas from Russia. However, and with the slow changing and reshaping of the minds of these creatures through the introduction of certain genes, their language mimicry and acquisition was vastly improved.
The test then went on to the colours of the various materials. Fievel held up a yellow circle, and asked “What colour?”
Very good! And the fluffy got a treat.
Then, he held up a red circle.
And another treat! But as this was going on, Alex noticed his own reflection in the mirror. Pointing his hoof towards his mirror self, it was the fluffy’s turn to ask Irv a question.
“Wat cowow am fwuff?”
Surrounded preserved animals and other taxidermized specimens, a teenage Irving was putting the finishing touches on his most recent creation.
It started out first as an elaborate drawing. Aside from being a genius biologist, who was also an accomplished artist. One of the first things he made was a realistic rendition of a bird’s feather, which became the basis for a sculpture of said feather. With said sculpture, he had gotten to work on crafting the bones for this wing with his bio-lathe. Meticulously, he had hand-crafted each feather which was to be attached to this wing. From the phalanges to the humerus, he had managed to create a life-size wing. This was followed by utilizing preserved organs an unidentified roadkill bird. Though the species was not exact, it seemed to do the job. Attaching the organs together, the bones, and the preserved muscles, all that was left was to insert the fresh brain, one that had been grown from a sample that had been provided by his father. The brain cells of one of the few remaining passenger pigeons in existence.
The electrodes had been attached. A current had been passed through the body. But there was no sign of life.
Irving tried again.
Slowly, the bio-animatronic pigeon got up. It surveyed its surroundings, unaware of its previous existence. Perhaps the brain cell had preserved latent memories. But that was beside the point.
In his mind, Irving was jumping for joy. He had made his own bio-animatronic! Entirely by himself!
Many years later, the world was plunged into the most catastrophic war in the history of humanity. To the Americans, it was known as the Good War. To the Soviets, it was known as the Great Patriotic War. But the most agreed upon moniker for the conflict was the Second World War, or World War 2.
A young Irving McBrega was standing before various military officials and scientists. Now a member of the biotech division of the United States Navy, he was giving a presentation on his work in bio-animatronics. In the audience, Irving could recognize a number of highly esteemed military personnel, as well as members of the National Defense Research Committee.
“Gentleman, I would like to present to you, the Intelligent missile.”
On the board, Irving unveiled a blueprint. The blueprint had the brain of a pigeon, which had been grown in a vat. After the brain had been fully grown, it was then placed within a reconstructed head. Kept alive by a simple life support, the animatronic was trained to peck at a target with its artificial beak.
“Utilizing these pigeon bio-animatronics, we have the basis for a more sophisticated guidance system for our missiles.”
A hand went up from one of the officials.
“Why not just use live pigeons?”
“Live pigeons are too unruly and have needs. In contrast, what we’re relying on is the intelligent brain of the bio-animatronic to ‘guide’ the bomb. Because this animatronic is not connected to a stomach or other systems, it is kept simple. A basic life support can keep the “brain” alive for as long as the ordnance is needed.”
A few minutes later, Irving concluded his presentation. Following a gentle round of applause, the next speaker was introduced. It was Fievel Belyayev, a researcher attached to the United States Marine Corps. He was carrying a cage which was covered with a white cloth. After placing the cage on the table, he proceeds to address the officials.
“As you know, our forces have been employing code-talkers as a means of secret communication, especially with our allies in remote locales.”
He removes the white cloth that was covering the cage, revealing a fluffy covering his eyes. As rehearsed, the fluffy lowered his forelegs, and proceeded to wave to the audience.
There are a few gasps. While fancy dandy horses have developed some partial fame as pet horses that could mimic speech like a parrot, it was not quite the same as this horse that not only recognized that it was an audience, but was waving towards it eagerly.
“Fwuffy hab bigges’ happies ta meet ‘ou aww!”
“This version of the fancy dandy horse is what I call a fluffy pony. We have managed to get it master a language, that being the English language. The process took a few years, but we managed to develop a creature that has a conversational mastery of a human language.
Our current plan is to use it for infiltration – Europe has a sizeable population of fancy dandy horses. Utilizing these improved fluffies, information and codes could be relayed to resistance groups. As the enemy does target these animals specifically, these creatures could make for a useful espionage tool.”
“But why does it speak with the lisp?”
“That’s one of the things we’re trying to iron out. However, the lisp is currently to our advantage. These fluffy ponies, the new versions of the fancy dandy, speak a unique form of English which is foreign to the Axis mind. “
About an hour later, the presentations were over, and dinner was being served. Irving took the opportunity to approach Fievel.
“That was a pretty swell presentation!”
“Why thank you. Yours was also rather interesting.”
Both men extended their arms into a handshake.
“Belyayev. Fievel Belyayev.”
Belyayev – are you a Russian?”
“Russian-American. My family emigrated to the Americas in the ‘90s.”
As the war raged on, the projects of both men were approved and applied to their respective fields. Irving’s revolutionary work in intelligent targeting was implemented in various missile systems. As for Fievel, the few fluffies that he had trained for espionage purposes played a key role in maintaining contact with the various resistance groups throughout the war.
Then, the announcement came. The war was over.
It was during the war that various crimes against humanity were recorded. Most notable was the usage of cadavers and grave robbing by the Axis forces to augment their own armies. In addition, the fascist nations had been experimenting on live human subjects, revealing the depth of depravity in their manner of torture and abuse on the ones they considered to be “inferior humans”.
The Second World War led to the creation of the Geneva Conventions. In addition, a fifth convention that was agreed upon was the Sanctity of Life. Under this convention, experimentation, abuse and trade of the human form, from living people to the very genome, was restricted. The convention was quickly created and ratified in the hopes that the horrors of the war would never be recreated in the modern world.
Irving McBrega was in a lab with Yuri Lily, a colleague of his. Both of them were working on a project related to artificially created life systems, and organisms that could be developed from such systems.
“What is it, Irving?”
“The Geneva Convention has stated that we can’t rely on any form of human material in the creation of bio-animatronics. After all, general experimentation on the human is generally barred.”
“I’m aware. The creators of the Living Teddy Bear of Princeton caught a lot of flak because the brain sample they used was from a victim of Free Congo State.”
“But what if were to work on an improvised animal?”
“Improvised, how? No animal in existence is capable of human speech.”
“Aren’t parrots and fancy dandies capable of mimicking human speech?”
“You just pointed it out. Its mimicking.”
Unlike Irving, Yuri fought on the frontlines of the War. The more recent work of the Belyayevs would have been unknown to him.
“Before, we were working with donations of human brain matter that was grown in vats, from which we fashioned ‘fresh’ brains for our biotoys. But now even donating such brains is barred because of what the enemy did during the war.”
Irving is deep in thought.
“There has got to be a way.”
“Irv! To what do I owe you the pleasure?”
“I was wondering if I could purchase one of your fluffies.”
“That’s rather sudden. You’re not going to turn one of my fluffies into one of your bio-animatronics, are you?”
“Of course not. I just want to better understand the creatures you created. Their sentience is unlike most other animals.”
Leading Irving to one of his barns, Fievel sought for a member of his stock that was not exactly ideal for breeding. Not too anti-social, which were the traits had to be bred out, but not docile and healthy either, which were the traits that he wanted to keep in the next generation, along with obedience. After a while, Fievel found the perfect candidate in one blue female fluffy, a direct descendant of Alex.
“This, is Suzy. She’s suffering from osteoarthritis.”
“Hewwo nice mistah…. Ow…”
Irving looked at Suzy with interest. Despite the pain in her bones, she had an intelligence and charisma that no other animal exhibited.
“You know, Irv. You could just ask me for a sample. I know you want to improve on your bio-animatronic.”
But Fievel insisted, “I think having Suzy here could inspire me greatly. I’m willing to buy her.”
It was a warm Saturday afternoon. Irving had a beer open, and was looking out to the lawn.
Irving had spent most of the past week observing Suzy. He had x-rayed her, as well as got her to perform various tests. He managed to acquire DNA samples of the fluffy pony through various means. And yet, despite everything he did, there was one thing about her that he couldn’t understand. And there was only way he could get the answer he wanted.
“Daddeh! Fwuffy am pwaying wif baww!”
But Irving couldn’t do it.
For the sake of dissection, Irving had killed lab animals before. To make bio-animatronics, the smell of death was his constant acquaintance, and he was very familiar with taxidermy. In many ways, his work as a biotoy maker was an evolution of such taxidermy.
And yet, as he looked into the eyes of Suzy, he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. She was too childlike. Too innocent. It just didn’t feel right.
Maybe it would be better to just keep Suzy as companion, figured Irving. Just, have her as a pet. A unique creative muse. Something to motivate him to make a “better” biotoy. He was an admirer of Dr Fievel Belyayev’s work, especially since Fievel had already achieved his doctorate, while Irving was still working on his Masters.
As Suzy continued to play the lawn, she started going out onto the road. Irving called out to her.
“Don’t go too far, lil’ Miss!”
And in a split second, a Jaguar car came into contact with the little pony. The impact sent the creature flying a few metres, before it landed, creating a red pool.
It was an accident. It was just a simple accident.
Irving was in grief. The driver had continuously apologized, opting to pay him the cost of acquiring such a fancy dandy pony.
But, as Irving stared at the dead body of Suzy, the gears in his mind slowly started to work.
Being familiar with animal anatomy, Irving observing the sinew, the dead eyes, the unique fluff of this highly domesticated creature. But the most important thing was to extract from the skull that bit of grey matter. The crowning achievement of a hundred years of the Belyayev research into improving the psyche of the fancy dandy horse, the brain of the developed adult fluffy pony. All he needed was just this small sample, the sacred ichor. It seemed forbidden, and yet, perfectly legal.
With the extraction complete, he got to work. He had everything he needed from what Fievel had given him. A detailed map of the skeleton of the fluffy pony, as Fievel had bred them, along with their inner workings and anatomy. All things that Irving could fashion, whether it’s from other preserved natural parts, or handcrafted with his own biolathe. But most important of all was this bit of grey matter. Placing it within a vat, Fievel was going to let this extract slowly grow, until it will form an entirely new brain within the solution.
Suzy deserved a proper burial. And as a taxidermist, Irving was going make her look as beautiful as she did in Life.
But Irving was also happy, as he had finally had what he needed.
A piece of unexpected news had reached Fievel at his family farm.
“What is it?”
“This mail came in, along with this newspaper and photographs!”
Fievel stared at the newspaper article. The report was talking about a family café that had opened in San Bernardino. It served the standard American fare of hamburgers, fries, coca-cola, milkshakes and orange root beer. But what caught Fievel’s eye was that the café was selling “fluffy ponies” in particular. Fancy dandies were rare in America, as they were mostly restricted to Belyayev’s own farm, and he had not yet sold fertile specimens of fluffies specifically to other horse farmers. And yet, this article was talking about similar horse being sold. And they weren’t fancy dandies, they were fluffy ponies specifically.
An explanation seemed to be in order. Fievel still had Irving’s phone number.
“Irving, what happened to Sucy?”
“She died of natural causes.”
“I see. I’m sorry to hear.
Listen, Irvie, a friend of mine was visiting your area, and noticed that you were selling fluffy pony biotoys.”
“Yes. I merely recreated the anatomy using biomatter. I did not steal your design.”
“That’s not it, McBrega. I did say before that if you wanted my help in improving your bio-animatronics, you could have just asked me.”
That was Fievel’s wife, Miriam.
“Not now dear! I’m in the middle of a call!’
“Honey, there’s a bunch of cops here!!”
Realizing that there was something far more pressing that he had to attend to, Fievel left a parting line in the call.
“We’re not finished.”
As Fievel stepped out of the barn, a plains clothes detective wearing a fedora and sporting a moustache. Behind him was a number of policemen, and a small fleet of police cars.
“Dr Fievel Belyayev.”
The detective’s manner oozed with an unnatural calmness.
The detective held up his badge, as he introduced himself.
“Agent Alois Hiedler. FBI.”
“How can I help you, sir?”
The agent didn’t respond. From another barn nearby, Fievel could see a bunch of policemen dragging out one of his workers, as well as carrying out a few of his fluffy ponies.
“What the meaning of this?!!”
“Mr Belyayev, did you bother to check the background of your workers?”
“Yes I do.”
“Then how do you explain this?”
Agent Hiedler held up what looked like a listening device. As the worker was brought up to FIevel and Alois, it was revealed that he was wearing a similar device. As was some of the fluffies.
“I…I…” stammered Fievel.
“It seems to be that you were harbouring some spies around here.
We’ll be monitoring you, Russki.”
The following years were long and arduous for the Belyayevs. Despite having lived in America for over three generations, the family’s strong Russian heritage, as well as their penchant for hiring immigrants from Slavic communities, had raised many an eyebrow. It was thus a rather unfortunate case that one of the men that Fievel had hired was, indeed, a sleeper agent from the Eastern Bloc.
Half a decade later, the shine that once was in Belyayev’s eyes was all but gone. His funding, which he once received from his local university, had been diminished, most of it spent on paying off his legal bills.
As time went on, Fievel developed a deep-seated resentment towards Irving. He knew that he couldn’t copyright DNA or genes, and thus, he couldn’t prevent someone like Irving from recreating fluffies, albeit in a different way. But he did crave some of the success that the McBrega’s were having.
Irving McBrega was currently giving a tour of his lab to a local politician.
“These are remarkable! And you say they are fluffies?”
“Indeed. Fluffy ponies. A lot more advanced than the fancy dandy horses.”
“McBrega, my boy, you represent the American dream. To think that you would take a mere mimic animal like the fancy dandy, and make it into an actual talking bio-animatronic. A literal improvement over the original!”
“I wouldn’t go so far as to say that. I was heavily inspired by the work that went into domesticating and improving the genetics of the fancy dandy horse. In many ways, my fluffy pony is a tribute to the work of Dr Belyayev.”
“I… I’m not sure about this Will.”
“We could roll it out. Offer customers a chance to try out your fluffies. Advertise them as a ‘new product’. One that can actually learn and has more interactivity than the old custom-mades.”
Gerry Vannevar was at his side, as he pointed out, “Plus working with your fluffies can help save our costs.”
“And,” added Nolan, “working with us will help facilitate your research in ways you couldn’t before.”
Fievel was hesitant. To him, his fluffy ponies were still rather incomplete. But the research was expensive, and he did have to finance research with the sale of the occasional defective fluffy as an exotic pet. But here was Will offering him the chance of a lifetime.
“So whaddya say, Doc? Wanna do some business?”
And more importantly – Fievel wanted to get back at Irving.
Irving McBrega was standing in the toilet. On the other side was Will Kroc.
Irving and his two brothers had built up McBrega’s to be a large business that had grown across the country. However, Kroc had also managed to start his own company, the Franchise Reality Corporation. With it, Will was able buy the land that was leased out to the franchisees. With the money he made, Will was now able to buy out the McBrega’s business from the brothers.
Irving confronted Will on why he just didn’t copy the McBrega formula.
“Would you eat at a place called Kroc or Belyayev’s? Or a Chinese place like Chef Wing’s?
But McBrega’s, now that’s a name. A fine, handsome, all-American name.”
Even though it was Mr Kroc saying all these lines, Irving could imagine that it was actually Fievel who was in the same with him at the moment. Like as though it were payback for the events that happened a few years ago.
But there was something in Kroc’s acquisition of the McBrega brand that caught Irving’s attention.
“So, if you can’t beat them, buy them?”
“Pretty much, yeah.”
As Kroc walked out of the toilet, Irving pondered on the response.
Nolan Turner was in the newly refurbished R&D department of the McBrega corporation. Now that company was moving away from bio-animatronics and using natural-born fluffies, the labs throughout the country were repurposed their focus to improving fluffies. Although the technology was still insufficient to iron out the language deficiencies and defects of fluffy speech, it was enough to improve their overall pyshical health.
Nolan was playing ball with Hermes. The fluffy was one of the first recipients of a revolutionary gene therapy. The breakthrough had been developed at Princeton, and had already marked the beginnings of a complete eradication of many forms of human cancer.
Dr Fievel walks into the room, and observes the rather natural affinity that Mr Turner had with Hermes. He noted, “You’re a real natural with these animals, Mr Turner. I though you specialized in biotoys.”
“I was, but I grew up on a farm. For generations my family had worked the land, but my father wanted to do something different. He saw the bio-animatronic craze, and wanted a piece of that pie.
It worked for a while. It was thanks to my dad’s business that I was able to get a degree at a university. But then the costs caught up with him, and he ended up in debt.
And then one day I found him hanging from the ceiling.”
“I’m sorry to hear.”
“It’s alright, Mr Belyayev. We managed to get by. I was just thankful that I was able to clear college.
However, openings in biotoy manufacturing were limited. It was a fad market back in the day. So during that time, I took gigs in cooking, as it was one of the things I learnt from my mom.
And then I heard about McBrega’s. I had applied to them before, but the main branch already had filled positions. So I applied as a fry cook instead.”
“Sounds like it was a stroke of luck. Will needed someone who knew how to make biotoys.”
But and you know Mr Fievel,” said Nolan, tickling the chin of a rather affectionate Hermes, “I’ve taken a liking to your own fluffies here.
I’m somewhat thankful that I got a chance to work with you. Raising these creatures feel a lot more interesting than making them. I don’t know if we’ll ever make a biotoy that can respond to us the same way a natural fluffy can.”
A young man is looking at an eye he was sculpting. He had spent at least fifteen minutes on this one eye, making sure that the lens, the retina and the sclera was correct. His job finished, he turned to his father
“What do you think, dad?”
The elder observes the eye. It was perfectly crafted, following the way he had taught his son. And yet, some something seemed off. Irving pulls out a miniature miscroscope, and uses its tiny lens to poor into details of the crafted eye, He sees something.
“There’s a blemish here.”
A confused Roy looks at the eye with his own special lens.
“I don’t see it.”
“Look properly. Where the sclera is.”
A visible mark could be seen on one of the cells, something that Roy had overlooked.
“Do you see it now?”
Handing the eye back to Roy, Irving raised his index finger, as he gently reminded the young lad.
“Never rush, my boy. Our buyers want a good product. Even if we’re selling toys, we’re selling them with pride.”
An angry Fievel Belyayev had stormed into the McBrega headquarters, his eyebrows were furrowed with anger, his eyes focused purely on his target. He paid no heed to the people in his way, as folders of documents from interrupted people fell to the ground. People looked on in astonishment, wondering what could have set a fire of fury in the mind of this most seemingly docile researcher.
As the door slammed right open, Will Kroc was surprised to see Fievel barge in.
“Dr Belyayev, what’s the matter?”
Slamming the manila envelope onto the table, its innards started spilling onto the table. It was filled with photos. In one instance, human hands were forcibly taking away a foal from a fluffy mare which had been amputated. In another, a blinded mare was being used to provide milk to various foals. In a third, a stallion that was pumped with drugs was mounting a crying mare that was strapped down, definitely against her will.
“When I agree to join your company, I didn’t agree to this.”
Will, trying to be diplomatic, calmly asserted, “Fievy, I didn’t know.”
”Your company keeps pushing production numbers. Do you even know the abuse that’s going on at these mills? Do you even know the state some of these mills are in?”
Will was silent.
“I want no part in this.”
Gerry Vannevar was sizing up the young man on the other end of the table. Will Kroc had retired not too long ago, and as Gerry was a mere decade younger than Kroc, the Chief Executive of McBrega’s still had some fight in him. It was especially relevant here in this most special of interviews.
The prospective employee was of a notable background, one that had invested early in the stocks of McBrega, and thus made a small fortune for itself. As is the case of most family businesses, the individual had bypass the rigmarole of the entry level job, and was going to enter a cushy position at a higher level available only to his kind. But Gerry was familiar with who this one man was.
“I’m a bit surprised that you would actually apply to our company.”
“Why should you be? You know full well who I am.”
Gerry observed the man. He was young, having just graduated from the university recently with a Master’s degree. He had not seen much of the world, and was very hot headed. But there was a fire in him, that Gerry remembered. It was a fire he himself had, a fire that Will carried until he passed into the grave, and it was a fire that Nolan once had. This man was nothing that Gerry had seen before. CEO Vannevar knew, in his heart, that this young man had an idea that would shake the free world.
“What exactly can you offer to McBrega’s?”
“Before I go into what I can offer, let me list for you the problems your company has.”
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