Milz Dillvor panted as she sprinted through the halls, looking down at the guide one of her fellow inmates left for her. She knew someone could spot her immediately, but that was all right. If the information she received was accurate, then this area of the prison should be abandoned. Clad in her short-sleeved yellow prison shirt and long pants, the rabbit exhaled as she punched open one of the doors and was outside in the courtyard. All the lights in the watch towers were off—as she was told they would be. The barbs on the fence just near one of the walls had been taken off—as she was told they would be. So Milz took a huge breath and sprinted forward, her gray fur already getting soaked in sweat, her bare footpaws sore from all the running she had been doing tonight. The rabbit leaped forward and latched onto the fence, causing it to shake. Panting, she quickly scaled the fence and got to the top, before looking at the perimeter wall just a few feet away. The rabbit clung onto the fence and looked around. Then she leaped for the wall, twisting her body and grunting once she grabbed the wall and quickly climbed on top of it. She walked forward and spotted a drain pipe leading down to the rooftop of a smaller series of buildings. Grabbing the metal pipe, the rabbit slid down the cylindrical device and grunted once she landed on the roof. Milz started to sprint forward.
And shrieked when she broke through the fragile roof with a series of clutters as brick and concrete broke apart. The rabbit shouted when she banged her back against a table and rolled off, landing on the floor as a pile of mortar and dust fell onto her back, getting into her sweaty fur and ruining her prison uniform. Milz exhaled harshly, dust blowing forward from her breath, before she noticed a prison guard in her black and blue uniform sitting comfortable in a chair drinking coffee, acting as if Milz's sudden appearance had no effect on her. The feline gazing at Milz's wounded body set her coffee mug down on the table and exhaled.
"Hey," Milz said casually.
"Tried to escape again?"
"Made a mistake again?"
"Mm. I actually had the construction workers remodel the roof of this building. Word was going around that some prisoners were gonna try to escape crossing the break room's rooftop, so figured I may as well create a hole in the ceiling and replace it with fragile roof shingles."
"Of course you did."
The cat exhaled as she stood up and walked over to Milz's battered body. She lifted the rabbit off the floor and wiped some of the chunks of mortar off her uniform.
"C'mon, let's take you back to your cell."
As the prison guard took Milz outside the building, the rabbit smirked and chuckled. "I'm getting outta here someday."
"You keep telling yourself that."
Everything was black. Vogar Oblingor couldn't see anything, but he could hear distorted voices around him, indistinct chatter that would only make sense if anyone was standing close to him.
The molting alien screamed as another piece of his body was cut off. Someone in the background was talking about taking the piece to run more tests on it. Someone else laughed, mentioning how he did it just to see if Vogar would finally shut his mouth.
That was all he could see in his head now. The burly lion who stormed his lab. The feline who survived an assault from one of his feral creations and even killed most of his security guards. The overweight crocodile who assisted him and somehow managed to get away. He vividly remembered seeing his flesh molting, his scales falling off as his body decayed. All that hard work, and now there was nothing Vogar could do to repair the damage.
And it was all because of Cale Tomlik.
"Shut…already! So fuckin'…voice!"
Someone walked up to Vogar and stuffed a gag into his mouth. He felt the moldy cloth simmering around in his slimy maw, and he rebelliously spat it back out. Vogar turned his head, not knowing who or what to look at, and laughed weakly, his hollow eye sockets providing no vision.
"I'm…I'm coming…I'm…coming…for Tomlik."
"Yes, yes, we know! You've fuckin' said that a million times now!"
"Caaaaaaaaalllllleeee…I'm coming…I'm com—AGGH!"
Someone stuck their paw deep into his throat and removed his tongue. It wasn't hard. The pathogens he was exposed to turned half of his internal organs into taffy. The anthro who yanked out his tongue thought he was just grabbing a moldy piece of stretchy candy. Once the tongue was out, Vogar gurgled and vomited up some blood and bile, causing the scientists around him to groan with disgust.
"Fuck…more tests! You want…scalpel or lasers?"
"Lasers. It'll…flesh easier."
Everything was black. He couldn't see anything, but he could hear distorted voices around him, indistinct chatter that would only make sense if anyone was standing close to him. Something began to whir, emitting a high-pitched whine. And then Vogar whimpered as he felt scorching flames pulsing around his body, moving around in a strange, programmed pattern. For once, Vogar was very happy that he didn't have eyes any more.
He didn't want to see what the scientists were doing to his body.
Larry Wentworth. He heard the name before on various occasions, but he didn't expect to be thrown in the same prison as him. Gobor Grizzer panted as he was thrown down to his knees in front of the bull terrier, the floor still wet from the previous showers the prisoners took. Breathing softly, the naked, burly blue-nosed pit bull looked up at the nude, chubby bull terrier, gazing at his white fur and the tattoos spread around his body. Larry smirked as he wagged his tail and looked at Gobor.
"Real thick boy," he said, his voice deep.
The bull terrier walked up to Gobor and ran a finger against Gobor's wet fur, examining his abs. Gobor growled gutturally, and Larry moved his finger away.
"Hey. We all faggots here. Ain't that right boys?"
The two canines standing behind Gobor nodded and agreed with Larry. The bull terrier crouched down and got in the bigger canine's face.
"See? Ain't got nothing to be ashamed of here! Just a big ol' community of fags fuckin' each other."
"Back the fuck up."
"Why? Am I making you uncomfortable?"
"I ain't tryin' to smell your funky-ass breath. I ain't tryin' to be your fuckin' friend. Just leave me the fuck alone."
Larry lifted his head and backed away from Gobor, rubbing his chin. "Huh. Big boy here says my breath stinks."
"It does," one of Larry cronies responded.
"Shut up, Tarket. Hmm…well. You know, your breath ain't so fresh either, Gobor."
Gobor looked at Larry's shaft, noticing that his penis was gradually becoming erect. He looked back up at Larry as the dog folded his arms.
"I should wash your mouth out…the smell of my cock on your breath is much more pleasing. I'm sure many of the other prisoners will enjoy the odor too."
"No, no." Larry spun his right index finger around in a circle. "Other way around."
"I ain't suckin' your cock."
Larry clapped his paws together. "Listen. I know who you are, Grizzer. I know about all the rapes you committed. I know you basically ran Knochen City. That whole city was your domain. You were the top dog there. And hey, that's fine! What you earned is yours to keep!"
Larry bent back down, grinning as he got in Gobor's face. "But you fucked it up. You lost it all to some kitty-cat. And now you're in my domain. And in my domain, you do what I say, and we won't have any problems. We clear?"
"I told you before: get your stank-ass breath out my fuckin' face," Gobor said, still protesting.
Larry blinked as he backed away from the canine, rubbing his chin. Then he nodded. "Understandable…you…you don't wanna be submissive. I get that. Because I'm in such a great mood today, I'll give you a second option!"
Gobor kept staring at the bull terrier, watching as the dog turned around, showing off his chiseled back and his plump white buttocks. The dog suddenly squatted down as he placed his paws on his knees, grunting. Then Gobor heard a few tiny farts and listened to Larry grunting.
You gotta be fucking kidding me, Gobor thought.
Gobor looked away. He didn't need to ask what Larry was doing; he did the exact same thing to Cale Tomlik weeks ago. Gobor scrunched up his face after Larry finished defecating on the floor. The bull terrier exhaled as he stood back up and turned around, gesturing towards his pile of waste.
"One of two things is going in your mouth. Either my cock or my shit. You choose."
There was no way around any of this. If he tried to fight any of them, they'd overpower him. He noticed one of the dogs carrying a shiv with him; all he had to do was jam it into his neck and he'd be done for. His body was already bruised from the beating Larry's dogs gave him earlier; he didn't have enough strength to fight back. So Gobor looked down at the excrement on the floor and swallowed hard. Then he got on all fours, bent down, and started eating it. Larry smiled widely as he stared at the pit bull, listening to him retching and smacking as he tried to consume it all.
"There…you see? Not so bad once you get used to the taste."
Gobor didn't say anything. He just kept eating, telling himself to suck it up. He'd deal with Larry and his cronies later. He'd deal with Cale Tomlik and Stollar later. He'd reclaim Knochen City later. He just had to suck it up for now. As Gobor finished, he looked up and realized Larry wasn't in front of him anymore. And it wasn't until he felt Larry's penis getting shoved into his rectum that he realized he made a horrible mistake. He screamed. He cried. He begged for Larry to stop, but he didn't. He told Larry that he did what he wanted him to do. But he didn't care. And then he thought back to what he did to Cale Tomlik, and cursed himself for what fate was doing to him. When Larry finished, Gobor collapsed onto the floor, shivering and sobbing near the wall, hot tears coming out of his eyes and semen dribbling from his anus. Larry crouched down beside Gobor's head and nodded.
"So that-that phrase them humans invented: don't drop the soap? Hmph. Clearly you ain't heard of that. Otherwise you wouldn't have been stupid enough to expose your ass around someone like me. No wonder some kitty-cat blew your dick off."
"I'm—" Gobor sniffled and sobbed. "I'm-I'm gonna fuckin' kill you. I'm gonna fuckin' kill all—"
"Nooooooo, no, no. Nah. See, I know the difference between a dog and a bitch. Bitches act like they're dogs, but when you put your dick in their mouths, they start suckin'. Now, a dog? Dogs bite down. Dogs bite it off. Dogs also mark what's theirs. Guess which one you are?"
Gobor didn't answer. He just lied on the floor and continued to whimper, fully knowing what Larry was about to do next. The bull terrier aimed his penis at the pit bull and started peeing on him. Gobor shut his eyes and gritted his teeth, fully remembering what he did to Cale Tomlik, and cursing himself yet again. Part of Gobor wished he had treated Cale more kindly—maybe he wouldn't be stuck in the same prison as Larry Wentworth. At the same time, Gobor couldn't deny that he enjoyed what he did to Cale—even if fate was throwing it all back in his face. Once Larry finished, the bull terrier sighed and wagged his tail.
"I'll be seeing you again, Grizzer. And the next time, I won't be giving you an option."
Gobor still remained silent. He listened to Larry and his cronies walking out of the shower, while he lied still on the floor, still sniffling. This wasn't fair. So what if he raped a few dozen anthros? So what if he blew up a few—several buildings? So what if he abused his power as the Chief of Police? He didn't deserve this—he didn't deserve any of it. That's what Gobor kept telling himself.
Anyone else would tell Gobor Grizzer that he deserved far worse.
"Jolson. Shredded beef. Monday. Five p.m."
The oversized moose standing on the other side of the metal table nodded. "Gotcha!"
Kolson Arcornoc grunted as he slowly shifted over to his left, now wearing a pair of dark orange trousers and showing off his sweaty chest. The rest of the anthros inside of the kitchen were wearing similar clothing; some wore orange shirts, while others were merely shirtless or wearing a sweaty tank-top.
"Edgar. Fried eggs. Tuesday. Eleven a.m. And actually cook the damn things all the way through. Unless you want all of us catching salmonella."
The lithe cougar wagged his tail and scratched his scalp. "I dunno what that means."
"Course ya don't."
Kolson shifted over to the third anthro. "Colin. Same time as Edgar. Brownies. Minus the laxatives. Or I will stab you with a pencil."
The chubby brown rat stammered and grinned sheepishly. "It wasn't me! Blame Edgar; he was the one who didn't cook the eggs enough last Tuesday!"
"The guards found a note saying you wanted to pull a foul and messy prank on the humans. Diarrhea splattering on the floor isn't messy and foul?"
"Not where I come from."
Kolson narrowed his eyes.
"Okaaaaaaaaaay, fine. I won't put any laxatives in the brownies. This week."
Kolson moved to the fourth anthro. "Nogo. Tacos. Friday. Five p.m. Easy on the spices this time, please."
The hefty, shirtless lizard wagged his tail and folded his arms as he grinned. "It burn yer arse on the way out, Kolson?"
The brown goat grumbled to himself as he glared at Nogo's smirk, and then he shifted over to the fifth anthro.
"Guren. Dishwasher. All week."
"WHAT!" protested the shirtless white hare with blotches of black fur. "THAT ISN'T FAIR! Why do I gotta do all the fuckin' scrubbin' and cleanin'?!"
"Because in the past two minutes, I've seen you scratch your ass crack three times. I'll be damned if I have you cooking our food."
"It's itchy! What the fuck am I supposed to do: stick a dildo up there and hope the itch goes away?!"
"Ya could shower, fer starters," Nogo mentioned.
Every anthro in the kitchen chuckled after hearing Nogo's comment, while Guren groaned as he kicked at the floor, pouting and murmuring to himself. Kolson smirked as he shifted over to the final anthro and huffed.
"Todd. Getting out next week. Can't bust your balls no more. Shame."
The brawny bull chuckled and wagged his tail. "Hey. I deserve it mate. Twenty years, four stabbings, five missing teeth—think I earned it."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, sure. Anyway, hamburgers—"
Kolson grinned. "Deal with it. Everyone loves your beef, Todd."
The other inmates standing in the kitchen chuckled after hearing Kolson's comment, while Todd pouted and folded his arms.
"I'm gon' spit in all y'alls food."
"You keep telling yourself that. All right, that's everything. You can head back to your cells now."
The six inmates nodded and all walked out of the kitchen chattering with each other. Kolson exhaled as he leaned against the wall and rubbed his face, while two prison guards clad in black uniforms approached the goat.
"I'm all right, guys. I'm all right."
"No, ya ain't," said one guard. "Heard some chatter goin' around that you barely sleep more than two hours a day. I know inmates get out early 'cause of good behavior, but damn."
Kolson smirked as he looked at the guards. "I'm assigning inmates to cook food, iron clothes, and clean the prison. I got put in here for assigning couriers to smuggle weapons and drugs across the entire universe. Trust me, I am not tired."
Sighing, Kolson moved away from the wall and walked out of the kitchen. Putting his hands in his pockets, the goat wiggled his nose as he headed back to his cell.
The arctic fox blinked as he kept staring at the clock in front of him. He looked around his tiny cell that had nothing inside of it except for a sink, a toilet, and the bed he was sitting on. Olly was happy that he was in solitary confinement, away from all of the other prisoners who were looking to kill him. At the same time, he despised how quiet it was. No one was talking or groaning in any of the other cells. No water was dripping from the sink, no guards were sparking a conversation about recent events; Olly couldn't even hear one of the prisoners urinating or flushing their toilet. The fox took a few deep breaths and looked at the old clock in front of him.
It was nearly broken. An entire hour had gone by, but the clock only ticked twice. The fox slowly wiped some sweat from his forehead before adjusting his tank-top and orange pants. He bit the tip of his right thumb, still debating if there was a way out his current situation. Afterwards, the fox heard a few footsteps, and one of the guards smacked his nightstick against Olly's cell door.
"Got a visitor," the guard said, before unlocking the door.
Olly stood up and raised an eyebrow. "Visitor? I don't have any relatives, and I didn't beckon anyone."
"Like I said, got a visitor."
The cell door clanked as it was slid open. Olly looked out into the corridor and grimaced when the rank odor of fish filled his nostrils. He saw a tall, menacing beast standing in front of the open cell, a beast so tall that he had to crouch just to walk into Olly's cell. Once inside, the guard shut the cell door, and the beast grunted after banging his head against the ceiling.
"OW! Fuckin' tiny-ass cells," the beast snarled as he rubbed his head.
Olly stared at the beast and immediately backed away. The creature inside of the cell was a tall brownish-gray tiger shark, one over seven feet in height. He was wearing the same clothes as Olly, just a pair of orange trousers and a white tank-top. The fox stared at the gills on the sides of the shark's neck, watching as they moved gently whenever he breathed. The shark walked up to Olly and exhaled heavily; the fox grimaced as the stench of hot garbage and carrion flowed from the shark's mouth.
"How ya doin', Olly?"
Olly's heart almost stopped. "Doug…Douglas Kevro. Douglas fucking Kevro."
"Did you miss me?" he asked, with a shit-eating grin on his face.
"How the fuck did you get in here?"
Douglas stared at the fox. He turned around and looked at the cell door. And then he looked down at Olly again. "Did you not see me walk in?"
Olly rolled his eyes. "Forgot you do that…listen, my operations; they have nothing to do with you, understand? I kept your name out of everything. It doesn't matter anyway; I-I burned it all down. Everyone connected to me is dead or in jail. They won't find anything on you."
Douglas nodded. "Mm-hmm."
Olly flicked his eyes at the clock again. It still wasn't ticking. "We could become allies now. We're both incarcerated; we could help each other out. We're both low on power, but combined, we could muster enough strength to refuel ourselves, rebuild our structure."
"My incarceration's only temporary. I'm just here to take care of business, as usual. Should be out in a month or so."
Doug looked around Olly's cell and blinked. "Judging by this cell, I'm assuming you're gonna be here for the rest of your life."
Olly huffed and looked at the clock again. It still wasn't ticking. "I've got arrangements as well," he lied. "Should be out in a year, maybe less if I'm on good behavior. Lawyers—"
Douglas dug into his right pocket and took out a switchblade knife. He pressed down on a small button, and the blade clicked noisily as it popped out of the mechanism. Olly looked at the clock again. Still no ticking.
"I won't say anything about you, Kevro," Olly reassured.
Doug shrugged and took a step forward. "I know."
Olly's eyes watered. "You don't…I won't be a liability to you, Kevro."
Doug shrugged and stepped forward again. "I know."
"Then put the piece away."
Douglas leaned down and softly patted Olly's head before running his beefy hand between his ears. "Olly, Olly, Olly…s'always the same with you youngsters. You just don't have the experience…just don't have the skills. I appreciate you trying, Olly. Really, I do. And I've made so much money working with you, with your associates. But everything has fallen. You're of no use to me now."
Olly swallowed and found himself pinned against the wall. He looked at the clock. It wasn't ticking.
"That's not…that's not true. You know it's not."
Douglas huffed as he twirled the knife around a few times. "I thought it wasn't. But now that you're in here, hmph. It's a fact."
"Shut up. See, Olly, you are not a predator. You're a whale. You saw yourself as prey so…so you changed your appearance. You gave yourself a dorsal fin similar to mine. You painted your body to look like mine. You smothered yourself in fish, so you smell like me. You even forced yourself to eat carrion so your breath would stink of it—something a lot of people have bluntly commented about with me. Everytime you walk, you talk, people would assume you were a shark. And because of how big and fat you are, no one would fuck with you. Your size intimidated everyone. And no one wanted to go against you; they wanted to be your friend, be on the 'winning side,' sorta speak. Even sharks like me wouldn't dare come near you."
Douglas grinned as he tapped his knife against Olly's moist nose. "But us sharks—us real sharks? We smell that blubber and whale funk beneath your façade. And then one day…one day, your disguise comes off. Everyone sees who you really are: a harmless, helpless, floundering sack of fat and flesh that is just waiting to be picked clean by the real predators. It is far, far too late for you to put your disguise back on, Olly. …Don't act so surprised. If I was in your position, you'd be in mine. Sure, we had some 'good times' and all, but once you saw my fat ass, you'd swim up behind me and take a chunk out the second you could."
Olly closed his eyes slowly and exhaled. He didn't bother looking at the clock again. When he opened his eyes back up, Olly smirked and shook his head as a few tears ran down his face.
"You're absolutely right. Suppose you beat me to the punch."
"This was gonna happen sooner or later. To you, not to me. I wouldn't have been foolish enough to make your mistakes."
The fox chuckled as he stared at the shark and wiped his tears away. "There's nothing I can say to stop you."
"Not a damn thing."
Olly didn't bother fighting the shark. Physically, he couldn't; Doug would overpower him immediately. So the fox took a deep breath as he shrugged and sniffled.
"Do what you have to," Olly coolly stated.
Douglas stuck his blade into Olly's throat. The fox immediately coughed up blood, moments before Doug slowly turned the knife and slid it across the vulpine's neck. He removed the blade with a wet squelch, and warm blood started to flow down Olly's neck, staining his tank-top. As Olly gagged and coughed, Doug nonchalantly wiped the blood off on the fox's tank-top before smirking, turning around, and opening the cell door. The guard immediately closed and locked the cell door once Doug was outside, smirking as he gazed at Olly's body. The fox sat on the floor, now silent as more blood descended from his throat. Olly looked up at the clock one more time, hoping to hear it tick once more. But it remained silent.
The fox blinked slowly and smirked to himself before he lowered his head and relaxed his body.
Waves crashed into the sandy beach. Warm wind blew in everyone's faces, carrying the fresh scent of the sea. Children and adults alike were laughing and playing in the sand or in the waves, not caring about how wet they got or how much sand they got into their shorts. The sun shined brightly, warming everyone's fur, skin, and scales. And somewhere in the midst of it all, a shirtless lion and alopid were sitting on the beach wearing only a pair of swimming trunks with a floral pattern on them. Cale smiled as he curled his toes and gazed at the ocean, while Stollar fidgeted with his black shorts with green flowers on them.
"MMF! This shit is tightening all around my balls—why are we at the beach again? I mean it's nice, but…you know. Was expecting some kinda exotic desert city or something. Y'know, the ones that have those clubs with the belly dancers?"
"Keevonu and I had our last date here," Cale said.
Stollar immediately frowned, his ears lowering. "Oh."
"Relax, it's…I've accepted it now. We both have."
"Still, I'm sure this must bring back memories…"
"Certainly. We used to joke that we could ejaculate all across the beach and no one would ever notice."
The alien slowly lifted his hands out the sand and looked at them, checking to see if something sticky was on his fingers. Cale looked at the alopid and chuckled, while Stollar glared at him.
"That's not funny. I ain't trying to have someone's spooge all over my hands, 'specially after that bullshit we went through with Gobor and his gang!"
"And yet you still put mayonnaise on your sandwiches."
Stollar shut his eyes and rubbed the sides of his head. "Please don't put that image in my head."
"Okay, fine, fine. I'll just get you a lion dong."
"Don't you mean a hot—" Stollar opened his eyes. Cale was grinning cheekily as he lowered his trunks far enough to pull out his penis and flop it around a bit.
"I hate you."
"I know," Cale said, stuffing his penis back in his trousers.
The two partners went back to staring out at the ocean ahead of them, with Stollar still adjusting his tight trunks while Cale continued to take in the wonderful sights around him.
"Forgot how relaxing this was," Cale said.
"Being at the beach?"
"Being away from work."
Stollar chuckled. "You gotta take more vacations. Try to enjoy yourself a bit more, like you did in Wormill Central. Maybe you wouldn't be so damn grouchy all the time."
"Eh…maybe. I've still contemplated it. Not sure I can though."
"Bullshit you can't! You ain't on a time limit, Cale. We're self-employed; we can do whatever the hell we want. We can quit right now if we honestly wanted to."
"No, we can't. We've done this for too long now; it's engrained in our programming."
Stollar flared his nostrils and curled his toes. "Not a huge fan of you talking about us as if we're machines. Starting to sound like Olly now."
Huffing, Cale shuffled his footpaws around, still feeling his bones aching after the events of the past few weeks. "He's right, y'know. To some extent at least. When you look around this beach, what do you see, Stollar?"
"Umbrellas. Sand. Water. A hot dog vendor. Lots of sexy males and females in bikinis and swimming trunks. Lots of not-so-sexy males and females in bikinis and swimming trunks. Someone's grandmother who should not be wearing that in public," Stollar said, ending his sentence with a grimace.
Cale chuckled after seeing the same elderly anthro. "Fair enough. But to be honest, what I see around me are lines of code. Commands, prompts, different variations of keys…they're all here, walking around this beach."
"That's that cynicism talkin' again."
"No, no, it's not. You know how programming works. What happens if you forget to place a single comma in hundreds of lines worth of code?"
"Everything fucks up and cra…oh."
Cale nodded. "Exactly. All those digits, all those letters…and a single miniscule entity that most find irrelevant can cause the entire program to fail. Look around you, Stollar. Does that cub trying to suck on his toes matter? Do those young teenage wolves look like they'll do anything of importance? Does that filthy porcupine who is shamelessly scratching his groin and using the same paw to eat his hot dog look like he's important? Of course they all are. It's like the Baron said: he's just a tiny speck. And there are millions of people like him out there. …He just failed to acknowledge that there are millions of people like these out here too."
After explaining his point, Cale rubbed his face before exhaling. "By this time next year, I'll be dead."
"Will you stop talkin' about that?" Stollar snapped. "They're gonna find a cure or some proper vaccine—"
"It's too late. The pathogen's already ruined most of my organs. The last several times I took a dump, there was blood in my stool. That's never happened before, even when I was off my medication. Before we went to take down the Baron, my legs gave out in my bedroom, and I cracked my head against the corner of my nightstand."
Stollar turned and glared at Cale. "You told me you got that injury chasing down Kolson."
Cale shook his head. "Even if they found a cure tomorrow…they can't reverse what's happened. And my body's too old to survive having over half my organs replaced, let alone a bone marrow transplant."
"…So that's why you wanted to come here."
"No. …Well, yes, but…it's like…I guess I wanted to remind myself of what I've done. When I was chasing down Georgie, I killed some innocent drug addict. Didn't care. Still don't, to be honest. I just saw him as an obstacle in my way. And I destroyed it. I was in those labs in Demyl Swamp, and I came across a group of scientists. None of them seemed hostile…but I killed them anyway. I almost lost you Stollar, back in Knochen City; I screwed up and tried to threaten Gobor in the middle of a busy street…and Gobor decided to kill thousands just to spite me. And when we assaulted Kolson's warehouse…I killed most of his employees. They all had names. They were all like me, just coding trying to make a program run. But I didn't care. Let's not even get started on what I did when I was with the Cephalopodan Strikers."
"You think you deserve this, what's happening to you."
Cale paused for a moment and looked down. He played with some of the sand in-between his legs before taking a deep breath and looking back up. When Stollar looked at his face, he could see that a couple tears were running down his cheek.
"I do deserve this, Stollar…even with…even when I was dating Keevonu…I fucked that up too. He should be here with me right now…and he's not. Because I ruined it."
"You can't blame—"
"Yes, I can. Because it's the truth. We both know that."
Stollar looked away from Cale and felt his eyes watering too. He nodded softly to himself before he sucked on his teeth and took a shuddering breath.
"You wanna know what I admire about people like you?" Stollar asked, his voice breaking.
Cale chuckled wryly before wiping away his tears. "Admire?"
"Look again, Cale. You keep talking about coding and programming, all that shit. This 'coding' you see around this beach? All these tiny fragments you say are so important, despite being seemingly insignificant? They're all still 'functioning' because of people like you. …Haven't you figured that out yet? You'll be dead in another year, maybe two. You can't sleep right. You can't eat right. Your bones are starting to give now, and half the damn time you have to wear a diaper out in public. Your best friend is an ex-con who raped someone, you're fucking a mercenary whose boss is a sociopath, and your boyfriend dumped you. And yet you still choose to risk your life every day to save all these 'insignificant' pieces of 'coding,' Cale!"
Stollar sniffled as he felt tears running down his face. "Why can't you see that?" he asked, almost sobbing. "Most people going through the shit you're going through? They would've killed themselves. They-they would've spent the last few years of their lives being an old, bitter, craggy waste of filth who does nothing but try to make everyone as miserable as they are. Or-or better yet, they would've said 'fuck everything. I'm gonna spend the rest of my days doing meaningless bullshit because I'm gonna die soon anyway.' And that's selfish. That's absolutely selfish. But you don't do that. This is the first time in, what, six months, since you decided you needed a break from it all? Six months, Cale…six months straight, and all you've done was try to help people, save people. I mean…sure. You ain't some fuckin' saint—that's for damn sure. But I've seen pure fuckin' evil, Cale. You're nothing like Gobor Grizzer or Olly Kurrmor. You can't…you can't sit there and tell me you still think you're a horrible person when this is what you're spending the last years of your life doing."
Cale looked at Stollar again, unaware that tears were running down his face again. Both creatures looked at each other as they struggled not to break down sobbing out in public. Stollar looked away from the lion and sniffled a few times as he wiped his face off, while Cale smiled gently and exhaled.
"…Do you ever wish life was simpler?" Cale suddenly asked. "Just…you wish everything was just black or white, right or wrong, yes or no?"
Both creatures remained seated as they continued to listen to the waves crashing and the various anthros laughing and playing all around them. Eventually, Stollar chuckled and wiped his eyes again.
"Look at us. S'posed to be relaxing and we're sitting here discussing all this existential nonsense and crying like little bitches."
"Heh. It happens."
The alopid grunted as he got to his feet and wiped some sand off his trunks. "I'm gonna get a drink. Want one?"
After Stollar nodded, he turned and headed over to one of the vendors that sold an assortment of beverages, leaving Cale alone to contemplate his future. He stared ahead out into the ocean again.
And grunted when Keevonu jabbed him in his right shoulder before sitting down beside him. Cale looked at the shirtless snow leopard who was only wearing a pair of light blue swimming trunks and showing off his white teeth. He started thumping his tail on the ground.
"See? Told you you'd enjoy this place."
Cale kept staring forward, watching as the sun continued to set and the sky suddenly changed from being blue to a dull orange, with no clouds in sight. The lion reached down and grabbed some of the sand around him, letting the coarse material grind against his fingers.
"It's nice. Just…just been a while."
"Since you've been at the beach?"
"Since I've relaxed. Even when I'm on vacation, I'm always catching up on menial tasks or chores, all that crap. I just haven't really—"
"Shut off your brain and enjoyed the serenity of everything around you?"
The felines scooted a little closer to each other, with Keevonu slowly moving his right paw through the sand and grabbing Cale's left one. The lion looked down at his paw and saw Keevonu grasping it, before he looked up at the snow leopard's tender smile as he wagged his tail around the sand. Cale purred softly while Keevonu sighed and looked out at the sunset.
"What do you want in life, Cale?"
"What is it you want with your life?"
"Lots of stuff. Beer that doesn't go flat. A taco with every kind of meat inside. Quite frankly, I wouldn't mind fuckin' you right now."
Keevonu chuckled. "This ain't a nude beach, and we're not alone."
Cale grinned lustfully. "Like I give a damn."
The snow leopard punched Cale in the arm roughly before shaking his head and exhaling. "Figured you would say that."
"Okay, well, what do you want?"
"Easy. I want you to be happy, Cale."
Cale thumped his tail in the sand. "I'm happy right now, hon. I'm always happy when I'm with you, as sappy as that shit sounds."
"I mean always. Even when I'm not with you."
"Why wouldn't you be with me?"
"You know why."
Cale looked away from Keevonu for a brief moment, although he still held his paw. "We've been in danger lots of times, hon. Nothing's happened before; nothing's going to happen now."
"I-I know. It's just…we can't live forever, Cale. Everything is ephemeral. And I don't want you to give up on life just because something happened to me, or to us. So many buddies I knew in my unit…they're either dead or miserable. Hell, two of 'em committed suicide. I'm just tired of seeing people I used to know just…give up, y'know? Life is precious, and yet most of my friends just pissed it all away because a few bad things happened to them."
"I can't walk around with a permanent grin on my face as I sashay down the sidewalk. You know that's not who I am."
"I know. But just…I want you to see life for what it truly is. All I'm asking is that no matter how bad things may end up for you, you never forget what life has to offer you. Okay?"
Cale looked at the snow leopard's concerned face. He stared into his sparkling eyes and looked at his bare chest before gripping the leopard's paw a bit tighter. Then he smiled as he leaned over and pressed his lips against Keevonu's mouth, kissing him for a brief moment. As he took his lips away, the lion nodded and said, "Okay." Both felines continued to gaze at each other, feeling the warm wind blowing against their bodies and carrying the scent of the ocean on it. Keevonu leaned forward and started kissing Cale himself, brushing his whiskers against Cale's muzzle as he wrapped his arms around the lion's burly body. Cale did the same, shutting his eyes and smacking as he kissed Keevonu, moaning softly as he felt the snow leopard's warmth engulfing him.
"Got it! You said you fine with pineapple, right?" Stollar asked.
"Hmm? Oh, oh, yeah," Cale said, breaking from his trance. "Thanks."
Stollar sat down beside Cale again before lifting his bottle of carbonated blueberry-flavored soda and drinking a large portion of it. Cale looked at his cold bottle filled with bubbly yellowish fluids before he twisted the bottle around in his right paw and blinked.
"Hey…you okay, buddy?"
Cale stared at Stollar for a bit before he looked down at his bottle and smiled. "I'm okay, Stollar."
Stollar smiled too, while Cale lifted his bottle of soda and consumed a sizeable portion of it before taking the bottle from his lips and exhaling.
Stollar nodded slowly before consuming more of his beverage and belching. The two partners gazed up ahead at the ocean as they relaxed and continued to listen to the cheerful noises around them.