The badger breathed heavily as he removed the ropes from the docks. He looked at the kangaroo as she sat calmly in the dinghy just outside the perimeter of the harbor. Rob panted as he tossed the ropes into the water and ran over to the boat.
"Guess they didn't take all the boats. Lucky us, huh?"
Margot blinked and continued to look down. Rob's ears lowered as the beast stayed silent and kept to herself. The burly beast leaned forward and put a paw on the kangaroo's shoulder.
"We have to leave. You know that. I've seen this before…s'just collateral damage to them."
Margot turned her head and glared at the badger as a few tear drops fell from her face. But she didn't have the strength to fight or complain any longer. The roo blinked some tears away before she turned back around and looked down at the bottom of the dinghy again. Rob didn't know what else to say, so he sat down beside her and started to rev the engine. After yanking on the cord a few times, the motor started to sputter and turned on. Then the badger gripped the steering handle behind him and started to guide the boat forward. Maybe there was nothing else to say. Maybe there was nothing else they could do. So both creatures stayed quiet as they rode away from the city limits. As both of them entered open waters, Rob and Margot turned around and took one last look at the city. At night, sometimes the city would be so active with life that it sparkled at a distance. But all the sparkles were replaced with black smoke and the orange gaze from all the bombs that dropped. It wasn't until that very moment that the two creatures realized what they were leaving behind.
But this was the only way. That dragon was still out there, and so were some of the other pirates. If the dragon or pirates didn't kill them, then the military's bombs would. So Rob and Margot lowered their heads as they sailed forward, uncertain of the future that lied ahead.
Michum was surprised that it was all still intact. None of the bombs had maimed even a portion of the park. The hyena blinked and huffed as he limped around the concrete. Some bodies were spread around the park and a few of the fences were bent or had a few dead pirates littered around the metal structures. Michum blinked and glanced around at some of the park benches. As he stared at one of them, he ignored the stench of the dead and fires around him and started to wiggle his nose.
Don't eat that! Michum yelled.
It's a chocolate bar with pistachios in it! You really thing I'm gonna sit here and waste it?
You found that on the ground in an alleyway, Tully! It was soaking in juices from a dumpster!
Michum stared at the bench and smiled. He shook his head and chuckled after hearing the voices in his head from one of his various earlier moments with his best friends. The hyena grunted as he dragged his bloody footpaw along the ground and winced as he tried to step down properly. The spotted creature collapsed beside one of the half-pipes and swore as he looked down at his bleeding footpaw. The hyena inhaled sharply before he heard someone in the background sighing.
I told you, you gotta stop doing that, Tracey said.
It's go big or don't go at all, Trace! You know that! Ow, fuck…
Mich, keep it slow. No need to take on something you can't chew.
Michum blinked as he envisioned the okapi reaching down and grabbing the hyena's paw. He could still even see the tender smile on her face that day she helped him off the ground. Michum stood up and dusted himself off, then Tracey laughed as she ran in the opposite direction with her skateboard.
C'mon, start off with the quarter-pipes instead!
Michum grunted as he stood up for real and started to limp through the skate park again. Only this time, he stopped when he was near a set of handrails and a few trash cans.
Hey babe! Check this shit out!
Michum stared at the handrails and remembered Kelly standing in his exact same spot. Her boyfriend sprinted towards the grindrails before he tossed his skateboard down and skated for a few seconds. Then the reptile hopped up onto the rails and started to grind against the metal, emitting a few sparks in the process.
Oh yeeeeeeeaaaaah, you fuckers ain't got nuthin'—
Carson yelped when he failed to jump on time. He tumbled off his skateboard and dove face-first against the trash cans. All three of them created a deafening din as the cans tipped over, spilling the contents all over the ground—which Carson ended up falling muzzle-first into. Michum chuckled quietly while he remembered Kelly laughing so hard that she literally fell on her back and had to hold her ribs. He turned and looked down at the spot Kelly fell at before turning and looking at the same three trash cans, fully aware of the exact spot where the crocodile fell. Michum slammed his palm against his face, still surprised at how stupid the crocodile had been that day. The hyena continued to stroll around the skate park before he found himself against a metal fence that gave a perfect view of the whole park. Michum quietly sat down on the gravel and stared at the various funboxes, ramps, quarter pipes, stairsets, and other features scattered across the area.
Yeah, it's beautiful, ain't it, Kinz?
Eh, I seen better.
Seen better?! Lookit dis shit! This place was born for skaters like us!
Michum watched as the skunk elbowed the fox's arm. Course I know that, Jax! Just fuckin' with ya!
Funny, Kinz. Very funny.
The hyena envisioned the two creatures sprinting down the park before they hopped onto their bikes and started to ride around some of the bowls. Michum's smile started to fade. He thought all these visions would make him happier, but all he could think about were all these precious moments he'd never be able to savor again. The hyena closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them back up, they were watery. Michum sniffled as he pulled out his cell phone and started to scroll through his images. He stopped when he came across the one recent selfie Carson took of himself and the gang when they were at the gun shop earlier that day. He didn't even remember Carson forwarding the photo to everyone else's cell phones. Everyone seemed so determined and excited back then, even after Ajax had been killed. Michum sniffled again as two warm tears ran down his face. Both of the tear drops landed on his screen, and the hyena whimpered and wiped his nose. He shut his eyes and gritted his teeth, realizing that all of his friends were dead and would never come back. He placed his paw against the picture on his cell phone and whined softly. When he opened his eyes back up, he noticed that a giant bomber was slowly hovering above the city. Michum looked up, the plane's giant shadow covering the skate park. Then the hyena scrolled through more images on his phone and found a short video showing him and all his friends. He pressed the play button and sniffled.
"Okay, good, that's good! Now everyone stay still and say cheese!" Michum shouted.
"You can take a group selfie while you're shooting a video with your phone?" Tully asked.
"It's the future, Tull. Won't be long before they invent toilets that'll wipe your ass for you!"
"They did already. It's called a bidet," Kelly pointed out.
"Yeah, yeah. Y'all ready?"
"Ready!" the other six beasts shouted.
Everyone posed for Michum's camera. He made sure he got everyone in the frame before he smiled widely and gestured everyone to do the same.
"CHEDDAR!" Carson shouted, as he waved his arms and got in front of Tully and Ajax.
Michum lowered his phone and groaned. "Dammit—you're blocking Ajax and Tully!"
"Yeah, and he said say 'cheese'!" the fox shouted.
Carson grinned. "Cheddar is cheese."
"Whatever. Just do it again," Michum barked.
Everyone posed again as the hyena got his camera ready.
Michum and the others groaned, and the hyena was forced to lower his iPhone a second time over the crocodile's exaggerated phrase.
"You did it again, Cars! Just—smile. Don't even say anything. Shut your big-ass mouth and grin like an idiot like you always do."
"All right, all right, damn! Spoil-sport."
Michum kept watching the video and started to grin, already knowing what was about to happen next. The hyena gestured for everyone to pose again. The gang smiled widely.
"THAT'S NOT EVEN CHEESE, YOU DUMBASS!"
Michum almost dropped the phone from laughing so hard. He could hear everyone arguing and telling Carson to shut up on the phone's video. Although he couldn't remember the exact words everyone said, he remembered that everyone got into a brief tussle with Carson, which ended with Kelly strapping a muzzle over the crocodile's gaping maw.
"Okay. Like they say, fourth time's the charm, right?" said Michum.
Michum stopped laughing and smiled as he watched the video. He didn't care about the bomber hovering overhead, nor did he pay attention to the massive payload the pilot just released as it proceeded to carpet bomb the city block.
"CHEEEEEESE!" everyone said over the phone.
Michum heard Carson mumble in a muffled voice as he prepared to take the phone. As the hyena watched the video, he smiled and nodded.
"Cheese," Michum said quietly.
In the video, the hyena took the photo. In reality, the hyena heard deafening explosions coming several yards away from where he sat. Michum stared at all the fires that seemed to materialize in thin air, vaporizing all the vehicles and buildings in the surrounding area. He could already feel the heat against his fur as the bombs got closer and closer to the skate park. He thought he'd start screaming or would break down and realize his horrific death was imminent. But all the hyena did was smile as the fires came closer to the skate park. He couldn't even hear the bombs exploding anymore. All he could see were the various ramps and other sections of the skate park as they were destroyed and engulfed in smoke and flames. Michum looked down at his phone and the selfie he took, where all his friends were still alive and well, still happy and living a carefree life.
And then the bombs finally reached him, and his body disappeared in the orange inferno…
Rob didn't slow down. Even when he knew he was several miles away from the city, he kept sailing forward. The last thing he wanted was to get caught in a nuclear blast—which he knew the military was more than capable of causing. Margot didn't say anything the entire time. She kept gazing at the water or the bottom of the tiny dinghy. Rob turned around and looked at the city's limits for a brief moment and heard faint booms and saw more orange flashes in the distance. He was pleased, at the very least, that he couldn't hear the dragon's roars. Maybe they destroyed the mechanical beast. Maybe they didn't. All the badger cared about was getting to safety before a nuke dropped. After the badger sailed for another few minutes, he realized that they were starting to sail around aimlessly and proceeded to let go of the steering handle. The boat sputtered a few times as it gradually slowed down and stopped. Rob exhaled as the dinghy started to bob in the middle of the ocean and rubbed his forehead.
"I think we're clear. We should be safe out here."
Margot didn't say anything. She blinked and lifted her head as she looked around at all the water and how dark it was gradually becoming. She couldn't hear anything besides the water sloshing around and Rob breathing heavily. The badger exhaled as he tried to relax on the boat, but everytime he leaned or stretched his legs, he ended up brushing Margot's body or kicking her by mistake. The badger quickly brought his legs backwards and decided that he was better off sitting with his legs crossed to give the kangaroo some space. Rob scratched the back of his head and sniffed.
"I'm sure a boat or helicopter will find us soon. They're prob…probably scanning the city limits for more survivors. We should be rescued soon. We're not infected with anything; they won't shoot on sight. They just want…we'll be fine."
Margot blinked and flicked her eyes at the badger. Then she turned her head and looked away. The badger looked around at all the weapons they had. Rob still had a handgun, and Margot had a small knife on her. The badger released the magazine cartridge from his handgun and looked inside. There were still plenty of bullets left. He blinked and shoved the magazine back inside before he huffed.
"Got some bullets left."
Margot blinked and turned around. She stared at the badger before looking down at his handgun. Then she looked back up at the striped creature and sniffed.
"That's what you think of me? Really?"
Rob shrugged. "You got that look. Wouldn't blame you honestly."
Margot huffed. "My best friend…my coworker, just got burned alive. I lost everything that I own. I have no job, no money—I don't even have the photo of my grandmother and me smiling and standing beneath a pear tree in the summer. All I have is you, and this dirty-ass uniform from my shitty job delivering pizzas. And you…you wanna know what my first thought was when I jumped into this boat?"
Margot paused. And then she chuckled. "At least I don't have to worry about cleaning up the mold in the bathrooms before the health inspector arrives."
Rob smiled while Margot started to laugh out loud. She covered her mouth for a moment as her eyes started to water. She didn't understand why she was still laughing and sobbing at the same time, but that was what she was doing.
"Ohhhhhh, this day…this day."
Margot sighed and wiped one of her tears away. "Let me ask you-you somethin'." Margot paused and sniffled. "Um, you were in the war, right?"
"…Is this normal? For us to be feeling this way? I mean, I was just laughing a moment ago, even though I know everything's gone. I'm not crazy or anything am I?"
Rob shrugged. "Confused, maybe repressed. I'm sure you'll have some breakdown later; it's probably delayed. But I dunno…shit like this changes a person. You're talking to someone who caught a friend of his masturbating over a pile of dead bodies."
Margot stared at Rob with disgust. The badger scratched his head awkwardly.
"Yeah, I know; it horrified me too. Guy wasn't into necrophilia or anything like that. He was just so…proud. He wanted to rub it in the enemies' faces so much that he thought marking them with his seed would prove he was superior or something."
Margot blinked. "That makes no fucking sense."
Rob pointed out towards the city being bombed. "Does that make sense? Does it make sense that a robotic dragon even exists? Does it…does it make sense that someone like you who's done nothing wrong had to lose everything she loves dearly? …Does it make sense for a person like me to gun down a group of innocent cubs just because his commander ordered him to do it?"
Margot stared at the badger as he lowered his head shamefully. The kangaroo looked at the gun again and nodded slowly.
"Oh. That's why you kept the gun."
Rob blinked. Margot reached over and quickly snatched the gun from the badger's paws. She flung the weapon out into the water. Both creatures watched as the weapon disappeared in a matter of seconds. Rob lowered his ears and stared at the kangaroo.
"The hell was that for?"
"So neither of us tries to do something stupid."
Margot took her knife and tossed it into the ocean as well. Defenseless, the two creatures sat in the boat and began to look around, hoping that someone would come by sooner than later. The kangaroo, just like Rob, gradually grew bored as the time dragged on and struggled to make herself comfortable within the dinghy. Eventually, she settled with sitting down in the same fashion as Rob and rubbed her scalp. She slapped her leg in frustration before hearing a few seagulls crying up above.
"No, those are seagulls."
"I know. I'm just thinking about that stupid theory. Y'know, you spill a cup of water and don't clean it up. Someone slips on it, breaks their back. Turns out the person who slipped was someone's grandfather. Grandfather ends up in the hospital, dies, then his grandchildren inherit a shitload of money. So congratulations, you made a few cubs rich! …I mean, you killed an old man, but at least some kids are rich now!"
"This isn't like that. We just got lucky."
"No, this is just like that. Only reason why I'm here is 'cause of Deacon's stomach. Heh…he was right after all."
"We only stopped at the Macabre Grill 'cause Deacon was damn near about to shit his pants and he didn't wanna squat in an alleyway like I told him too. So then we stayed to get more food. Then we met you and that jerk of a tortoise. And…well, I'm still alive, aren't I? City's gone, but hey…still alive, right? That's what's important…right?"
Margot rubbed her head and lied down on the dinghy with her big footpaws hanging off the edge of the boat. "Maybe I should just rest for a bit…wake me up if you see any passing boats, all right?"
Rob and Margot stayed silent for a while, with the latter resting in the dinghy attempting to find some form of sleep. As the kangaroo tried to sleep, Rob looked all around the ocean, hoping that a boat or some form of plane would finally come along to rescue them. But all he could see was the horizon growing even darker, almost to a point where everything became pitch-black. The badger blinked a few times and realized that he was just as tired as the kangaroo was. He exhaled as he leaned over on the dinghy and gradually lied down. Then he closed his eyes and waited, hoping that a boat would come.
Rob and Margot couldn't remember whether it was a boat or a chopper. All they could recall were various beasts clad in military uniform hauling them up onto the vehicle. It wasn't until sometime later that they fully woke up and found themselves on some form of medical ship, with dozens of doctors, soldiers, and other civilians being nursed in the main sector of the vessel. Rob winced when a doctor shined a light in the badger's left eye.
"Do you remember your name?"
Rob grunted. "Yeah…yeah, it's Robert."
"Good. Do you remember how you got here?"
"I-I was…sleeping. Then I just remember hazy visions of me getting…now I'm here. What about…there-there was a kangaroo with me. Where is she?"
Margot groaned and rolled her eyes as she was shoved from behind a curtain wearing only a hospital gown. The marsupial looked at the soldier who shoved her and snorted.
"Do I really need to wear this shit? I don't want everyone lookin' at my ass when I bend over!"
"So don't bend over," the canine barked.
Margot flipped the soldier off before she walked over to where the badger was sitting. "Well, seems like you made it too."
Rob looked up at the doctor and blinked. "Can you give us a minute? We just wanna talk for a bit."
The doctor looked at the kangaroo and badger and nodded. "Sure. I'll check on you later."
Margot and Rob waited for the doctor to walk away before both creatures looked at each other.
Margot scratched her head. "Guess we made it."
"…So what now?"
Rob exhaled. "Like I said…you got two good legs. So walk."
Margot smiled and did the exact opposite of what the badger said. She groaned as she turned around and sat down on the stool beside Rob's cot.
"I've just spent all damn day running from dragons and wolves and whatever the fuck else was attacking us. …Think it's time to sit down, if you ask me."
The badger looked at the kangaroo and smirked. "Yeah…suppose relaxing for a moment won't hurt."
Rob and Margot relaxed in their seats and stared at all the survivors being treated by the doctors. The two creatures finally took a moment to calm down and genuinely smile, glad that they were finally safe from all the pirates.