Milo’s birthday dinner was a happy and noisy one. When he wasn’t debating the finer points of Doctor Zone lore with Sara, or trading inside jokes with Zack, Melissa and Amanda, he was swapping stories, Murphy’s Law incidents for time agent adventures, with Cavendish and Dakota. Eventually, once everyone had finished eating, the remains of the meal was cleared away and Brigitte brought out a huge chocolate cake, covered in a thick layer of chocolate fudge icing, Milo’s favourite. The words “Happy Birthday Milo” were written around a large number “14” in blue icing. She set the large birthday cake down in front of her clearly salivating son. There were no candles. They had tried candles on Milo’s cake for his seventh birthday. It had taken a month for Milo’s eyebrows grow back.
Brigitte bent over and gave Milo a kiss on the cheek. “Happy birthday, Milo,” she said.
Milo gave his mother a kiss in return. “Thanks, Mom.”
After they sang happy birthday, Milo cut the cake and began passing out slices. It was double chocolate chunk on the inside. Milo’s mouth watered in anticipation. He picked up his fork and took a big bite. It was rich and moist and melted in his mouth. Milo felt his eyes go wide in delight. He swallowed his mouthful of birthday cake.
“Oh, Mom!” he said. “this is delicious.”
Brigitte chuckled. “I’m glad you like,” she said. “I wound up making three. I finally had to get your father to take Diogee for an extra long walk.” Martin had caused the first batch of cake batter to go sour when he had walked past the kitchen on his way out of the downstairs bathroom and had caused the second to come out of the oven completely charred when he had walked into the kitchen for a can of Pep.
Milo was shovelling birthday cake into his mouth as though he hadn’t seen food in a year. Sara was laughing at her brother again, as Milo practically inhaled his slice of cake. When he had finished his slice of birthday cake, Milo drained the last dregs of his glass of milk. He raised his hand to his mouth, stifling a polite burp. “That was really great, Mom,” said Milo.
“We all know your weakness for anything chocolate,” said Sara, smiling at her brother.
Milo grinned back his sister. “It’s practically my glorpium,” he replied.
“Well, that sure was the best chocolate cake that I’ve ever tasted,” put in Dakota, “your mom’s a hell of a cook.”
“Yes, Mrs. Murphy,” said Cavendish in agreement, “that was most excellent.”
“I’m glad you both enjoyed it,” said Brigitte, “I’ll cut you some extra slices and you can take them home.” Cavendish and Dakota nodded appreciatively.
“Well, we’re not done yet,” said Sara, getting up and collected the remains of Milo’s birthday cake. Martin got up at the same moment and began gathering up the plates and glasses from around the table. Diogee was hovering at Brigitte’s feet as she scraped food scraps into the compost bin under the kitchen sink. A few scraps of meat fell from the plate in her hand and on to the floor. Diogee gobbled them up, barked happily, then went back to sit on his accident prone master’s foot. Milo gave Diogee an obligatory scratch behind the ears and Diogee’s tail thudded happily against the floor.
In the commotion of people moving around the kitchen, Milo suddenly realized that Sara had disappeared and he wondered where she had gone. No sooner had the thought occurred to him, than she appeared, framed in the kitchen door, with an armload of brightly wrapped birthday presents.Milo suddenly remembered the small wrapped package that Cavendish and Dakota had given him early and pulled it out of his pocket. He put it on the table as Sara deposited the mountain of gifts in front of him. She sat down.
Milo immediately attacked the pile of gifts in front him, pulling a large box toward him. He recognized Melissa’s hand writing on the card. He opened Melissa’s birthday card and read it. “To my best friend, have a great birthday, best wishes, Melissa.” Milo turned his attention to the large box that the card had come with. He ripped off the brightly coloured wrapping paper, revealing a sky blue hard hat in a cardboard box. “Thanks, Melissa,” said Milo. “How did you know I needed a new hard hat?”
Melissa shrugged and gave Martin and Brigitte an appreciative look. “I had some help,” she said.
“The big crack in your old one was also kind of a subtle clue,” said Martin.
Milo chuckled, “oh, right,” he said, “I forgot that I hit my head during the woodpecker incident.” Milo continued to tackle the mountain in front of him, pulling another brightly coloured box toward himself. The envelope taped taped to the box had the words, “our son,” written on it in what Milo recognized as Brigitte’s round hand writing. He pulled off the wrapping paper, revealing a large boot box. “Hey,” said Milo excitedly, “great, I needed a new pair of safety boots.” He got up and gave his parents a hug.
“We know,” said Brigitte, smiling at Milo, “you’ve been hinting at new boots for at least a month.”
“You’re not always as subtle you’d like to think, you know,” chuckled Martin.
Milo reached next for three gifts taped together with generous amounts of scotch tape. The card read, “Keep being wizardy, happy birthday little bro, your sister, Sara.” Inside the card was a $50.00 gift for the Trashcandroid’s Dungeon. “Hey, cool, there are a bunch of Doctor Zone comics that I haven’t read yet.” The three gifts from Sara turned out to be a new full face filter mask and a sixth scale model of the Time Beehicle, “oh, Sara, this must have cost a fortune,” gasped Milo, gazing at the large and extremely detailed model. The third gift was, “Doctor Zone On-line,” enthused Milo. “Thanks, Sara, these are all really great.”
Sara shrugged and laughed at Milo’s obvious joy. “Well, you’ve tried to drop the XGB-720 into casual conversations that really had nothing to do with it, and as for the rest, well, duh!”
Milo laughed and got her point at once, “yeah I guess I do have the words,’Doctor Zone fan’ tattooed across my forehead, don’t I, I mean did appear in the pilot, after all.”
Everyone laughed. They were all well aware of the events of the Pistachion Incident.
Milo pulled a large gift bag from Zack toward himself and began to unpack its contents. “Hey, cool,” said Milo after reading the card, “new Doctor Zone T-shirts, thanks, Zack.”
“Keep going, Milo,” said Zack, “there’s more.”
Milo looked intrigued and returned to rummaging in the large gift bag. He pulled out several flat objects. They were all individually wrapped and then wrapped in scotch tape, like Sara’s gifts had been. He began pulling off the purple and gold wrapping paper, revealing a stack of hardcover graphic novels. “Hey, cool,” said Milo again, “I’ve been meaning to read these. How did you know?”
“I had some help from Melissa,” said Zack with a shrug. “And keep going. You’re not done yet.”
Milo looked amazed. “Seriously?!” He looked the bag, wondering what else Zack had gotten him. He rummaged in the gift bag again and pulled out two long rectangular objects. He picked one up and started to unwrap it. Milo got about half way through unwrapping it when he gasped. “Oh, Zack,” said Milo in amazement. A sixth scale Doctor Zone stared back at Milo. He quickly unwrapped the other one, to find a matching a sixth scale Time Ape. Milo gaped. “Zack,” he said again, “you didn’t have to do this.”
“No, we didn’t have to-“ started Zack.
“But we wanted to,” finished Melissa.
“We felt like you’ve been through a lot this year,” said Sara. She ticked off the Murphy’s Law events in succession. “First Octalia, then Duckburg, then the Shrinkatron.”
Melissa smiled at Milo. “We felt like you had earned something special.”
Milo gazed at Sara, as though he had just figured something out. “So all those times you kept sneaking off at the Danville Comic Con, you were co-ordinating with Zack and Melissa.”
Melissa nodded again. “Yep.”
“Well, that and I had get away from Murphy’s Law just to get my phone to work at all,” said Sara.
Milo chuckled. “Yeah, I can totally understand that one,” he said. Milo broke his phone at least a couple of times a week. There was even a box on the kitchen counter labeled “Milo’s phones.” It usually held at least five or six broken cell phones. Milo surveyed the table. There were only two gifts left. There was a birthday card from Amanda and the small package that Cavendish and Dakota had given him when they had arrived. He picked up the small, thin package from Cavendish and Dakota, wondering once again, what it could be. He unwrapped it and something that looked a lot like a high end smart phone fell into Milo’s hand. He looked at Cavendish and Dakota. “Uhhhhh, thanks guys,” he said a little confused, “but, what is it?”
“It’s an inter temporal communicator,” replied Cavendish.
“Yeah, technically we’re not supposed to let you have that,” said Dakota, “but this is an obsolete model and we figured that the Bureau won’t notice if one goes missing.” Dakota shrugged. “We tried to spring loose a quantum localizer as well, but the Bureau keeps those under close watch, even the outdated ones.”
Milo stared at the device in his hand, slightly stunned. They had given him actual time agent technology as a birthday gift. He had always had an easy rapport with the two time agents and had always liked them, but evidently Cavendish and Dakota placed a level of trust in him that he had not realized was there. Milo swallowed. “So how does it work?” he asked.
“It’s pretty simple,” said Dakota, and he quickly talked Milo through setting up his new inter temporal communicator.
“It’s range is rather limited,” explained Cavendish, “only around ten thousand years or so relative to your current time frame-“
“-And you’ll only be able to contact your home dimension so long as you’re less than thirty degrees off of the dimensional axis,” continued Dakota, “but we figured that given all the weird stuff that Murphy’s Law throws at you, this might be useful someday.”
“Yeah, thanks,” he said. “It might be, but how well will it stand up to-“ “ -You?” finished Dakota, chuckling . “To be honest, we have no idea, but the outer casing is made of carbon fibre reinforced with diamond filaments. It should take a hell of beating before it breaks.”
“Well, that’s good to know,” said Melissa.
“Yeah,” said Zack, “for the next time we end up in a parallel dimension full of talking ducks or something.” Everyone laughed.
Milo picked up the envelope containing Amanda’s card. The envelope was oddly thick, as though it contained more than just a birthday card. He pulled out the card, which simply said, “because you’re worth it.” Then Milo noticed that something was taped to the inside of the card. It was a pair of event tickets. Weird Al Yanchovich: Strings Attached-VIP Experience, Danville Arena April 18, 2020. As though from somewhere very distant, Milo heard himself say, “oh my god, Amanda, he’s my favourite-I mean-I just-“ Milo fell into a ringing silence. He had absolutely no idea what say.