The idea from the fight at the beginning I got from the last episode of the Anime show "Wolf's Rain" – with the difference that nobody dies here. XD

(For all who might not know: M.I.A. is military and stands for 'Missing In Action'…)

M.I.A.

„Skipper!" Private shouted warning and the leader turned around in the very last second to avoid the razor sharp claws that dashed through the air. He rolled over the ground and when he came up again, some snow covered his back. They continued the fight and Private started running towards them.

They had appeared in the zoo one hour ago, kidnapping the lemurs and Marlene for – Private still couldn't believe it – food.

The big black dog span around and Skipper fell on his back. At once, the dog was above him and pressed the penguin down, with its paw on its chest, so that Skipper couldn't move and hardly could breath. The dog opened his jaws widely and his fangs were just about to drill into Skipper's throat. In that moment, a black and white flash appeared from the left, hitting the dog with such a strong force into its side that it stumbled away whining and fell to the ground, so that Skipper could get up.

"Are you alright, Skipper?" Private asked but at that moment the dog jumped at him and Private could only avoid him for millimeters. Skipper ran to him, but a kick slang him away. Private jumped on the dog's back and clung on to the fur while the animal jumped around angrily and tried to get rid of him. Private lost hold and fell of the dog's back, but jumping instantly up on his feet again.

The dog bashed past him and Private staggered. But the dog just ran further up the hill – there they had tied up their prey from the zoo. But they couldn't allow those dogs to eat their friends!

Private made an determined footstep forward. Suddenly, he felt a painful sting on his side and glanced quickly down. First, he wanted to go on, but then he looked down again and his eyes widened. His right side was torn open und bleeding. And now he also felt it. Private's feet got numb and he broke down.

Skipper was just running after the dog, when his heart sent him a message to look back.

"Private!" Immediately, the leader penguin was at the youngest one's side and turned him slightly.

"What is it, Private? Come on, stand up!"

He couldn't see the wound – Private laid on the injured side. He breathed heavily.

"Quick… Skipper" he panted, "if you… if you don't help them… they will…" he screwed up painfully.

"No, I won't leave you back" Skipper said. "Come on. I'll help you up."

He took Private's left flipper and wanted to pull him up.

"No!" Private shouted and wrested his flipper back. Skipper looked at him, puzzled.

"Go!" Private said and his voice became angry when Skipper didn't react. "They need your help now. Go!"

"But Private…"

"Didn't you listen?" Private said loudly "They will die! Now leave me! I'll be fine. Quick, go!"

Skipper hesitated, then he turned around and ran up the hill.

Private slowly laid his head back into the snow. His breathing came down. Slowly, the pain became bearable.

Till he heard quick steps in the snow behind him and then someone falling down at the knees at his rear.

"Private!" Kowalski shouted terrified. When he saw, Private wasn't dead, he breathed relieved. Then he rolled him on his back which made Private moan in pain. Kowalski's face had an worried expression when he inspected the deep scratch in Private's side. But he laid Private's wing around his own neck and pulled him up.

"Don't worry, Private. We'll search Rico. He's got the medical supplies for sure."

But Private tried to pull his arm back. "No, Kowalski. You have to go ahead and help Skipper."

"He'll get along" Kowalski answered, walking the way back he came through the snow. "I guess, Rico's still fighting with that other wolf, the grey one."

"Wolf?" Private asked.

"Naa… I mean dog… But this kind of dog race looks quite similar to a wolf, don't you think?"

"Have you ever seen a real wolf?" Private asked while Kowalski dragged him through the snow there he could hardly walk.

"Of course I have."

He looked around. This place had once been a wasteland, but it had been filled up. Now there was earth below the snow that covered everything in white. But here and there all over, big parts of metal were seen, belonging to rusty old cars and other crashed machines.

Kowalski suddenly stopped. From behind a summit just ahead of them, they heard snarling and battle noises.

"That must be them" Kowalski said and his steps became quicker when a loud whimper was heard, followed by more snarling, a short silence and then a loud scream. Rico's.

Kowalski let Private down and rushed to the summit. Rico lay down on the ground, pressed to the bottom by the grey dog which had drilled its fangs deep into his side. Rico's scream died out when he ran out of oxygen and he just let his head fall down and breathed exerted, waiting that it got to an end. But the grey dog let go of him, when he felt the bird's body getting weak. It turned around and jumped on the roof of a dead car and ran then further up the hill where its comrade had disappeared before in the darkness. But it limped.

Kowalski looked at the motionless body the dog had left behind and he grabbed Private and slid down the hill with him.

The snow soaked red from Rico's blood. Kowalski laid Private in front of Rico and bent down to the weapon's expert. Rico's chest rose and fell heavily and he held his eyes closed, lying on his right side. Kowalski looked at the wound. It was deep.

"Okay, Rico" he began "I will care for you and Private and then-"

"No" Private said and grabbed Kowalski's flipper. He looked at him. "You have to help Skipper. You can't waste any time!"

"But, Private. You and-"

But now Rico also growled and nodded with his head up the hill.

Kowalski sighed. "Okay, don't worry. I'll be right back" he said, stood up and ran up the hill from where already the loud barking of two dogs was heard.

Once Kowalski had vanished, Private laid his head in the snow and closed his eyes. He couldn't say if the cold wind, which was mixed with snow flakes, on his burning wound was a good or a bad feeling. He looked at Rico, whose eyes were closed.

"Hey… Rico" Private whispered. He suddenly had no strength any more to make his voice sound loud. The other one didn't react.

"Rico" Private said louder. But the penguin didn't move. Private gave it up. He closed his eyes again and listened to the sounds that came from the hills top. Barking, shouting… screaming. Private lifted his head. There: again! A loud scream of a familiar voice. Then something flew through the air down the hill.

"Rico!" Private yelled and Rico looked up. The thing hit the ground just up the wall of scrap and earth that went up about five meters in front of them. It fell over the edge of the short cliff, crashed on a jut from which it glided by the snow to another one, and eventually it thudded down to the ground at the foot of the wall. It was a terrible sound, although the snow dampened it.

"Kowalski!" Private shouted. With all efforts, he braced himself up on his feet and stumbled towards the black pile. Rico got up too and schlepped over.

Kowalski laid crouched together in the snow, his eyes closed, his beak bent to his chest. Private stumbled and fell. He crawled the last meters to him and breathed deeply before laying a flipper on Kowalski's shoulder and shaking him slightly.

"Hey, Kowalski" he said "wake up."

When Rico reached them and fell down into the white flakes, moaning from pain, Kowalski opened his eyes. He looked up at Private and seemed to be confused for a moment. Then he gasped and bent his head to his chest, shutting his eyes, as a strong pain waved through his body. Kowalski pressed his flippers on his abdomen. Private recognized a claw's deep scratch on his stomach, which fiercely emitted blood. Kowalski had scratches all over his body and a thin tray of blood poured out of his beak.

"Kowalski, what happened?" Private asked. "What is with Skipper?"

"Well" Kowalski said pressed, his beak nearly closed, "this black dog caught me and flung me all the way down here. That's what happened. And as for Skipper: when I 'left' him, he was still on his feet. I guess he continues fighting."

"Do you think he will win?" Private asked frightened.

"I don't know" Kowalski said in a breath, and stretched his neck as the pain became stronger.

Private looked helplessly at him, who's whole body was strained in pain and from the way he breathed, Private expected some broken rips.

After a while, Kowalski calmed down. His body sank to the ground and he breathed deeply.

Private looked at the blood that poured down from his wound and he reached his flipper for it. But Kowalski grabbed it.

"Please, Private" he said "Just don't… don't touch, okay?"

Private nodded and pulled his flipper back with an uncomfortable feeling in his stomach. He had just wanted to help…

Private robbed back and laid his back against a stone. It was a miracle that Kowalski hadn't hit it when he had dropped here. Now, Private had his both friends in his field of vision, just in front of him.

Rico seemed to be unconscious, but after a while he moved. He went closer to Kowalski. At his belly, Rico stopped and did something, Private had never expected: Rico began to lick the blood from Kowalski's feathers. Kowalski opened an eye and looked down at him, but he let him do. He moaned and laid his head flat in the snow, while Rico kept cleaning his wound.

"Rico, since when are you a dog too?" Private asked, staring at him. "Doesn't that hurt, Kowalski?" he asked worried.

"No…" Kowalski said silently without moving or opening his eyes "It's good..."

For some time, Private could only hear the blowing of the wind and the sound of Rico's tongue. He was first shocked by Rico's doing, but he noticed that it helped. Somehow, the stream of blood was becoming smaller. And besides that, this was the only thing they could do anyway for the wound – in their condition. Private himself felt powerless, not able to do more than to holding himself upright, his rear propped against the stone and his flipper pressed on his own wound. But there was no barking any more. Or shouts. Private wondered if Skipper had defended the dogs…

After several minutes, Rico stopped and laid his head tiredly over Kowalski's side. Private looked at them with surprise. He had never seen them behaving so … Their tolerance towards each other… it was just how good friends could behave. Friends who had learned respect at each other by going through a lot together. And then, something came to his mind.

"Kowalski?" Private asked. Kowalski hummed in sign that he listened. "Can I ask you something?"

"Sure" Kowalski answered without opening his eyes.

"How long did you and Rico know each other before you met Skipper?"

Kowalski opened his eyes. This was a question he hadn't expected.

"Some time" he answered. "We were friends long before we met Skipper in New York."

"How long?"

Kowalski looked at Rico, who glanced back.

"You really think this is the time to tell a story?" Kowalski asked. Private felt the question was addressed to him.

"Story? … Well, in fact, there's nothing else we could do now anyway, isn't it so?"

"That's true" Kowalski said, still looking at Rico. The two friends understood each other just by the look. Should we tell him? There was a moment of silence. Then, Rico moved slightly: a mixture of shrugging and nodding and he laid his neck back at Kowalski's side, his eyes closed, ready to listen…

"Okay" Kowalski said thoughtfully. "Where shall I start?"

"At the start?" Private suggested.

Kowalski looked at him.

"Fine. From the start."