"Ok... its official. Sara is the biggest threat we face," Skipper affirmed in a stern tone, his brow narrowed in a way that creased his small forehead with lines from excessive frowning and glaring. "She can control anyone but, thankfully, only one at a time." He began pacing in front of his two remaining men, failing to keep a cool head as he practically talked to himself. "This is not how I wanted the zombie apocalypse to go down…"
Kowalski, on the other flipper, was rather calm, especially compared to Private and Skipper. He spoke in an official tone, one that was serious but cautious. "With a firm grip on Rico's mind, she will have access to his strength, his gut contents and whatever other abilities he possesses. This is bad."
Private let out a shaky sigh as the pressures of the fiasco pressed against him yet again. "You can make an antidote, right Kowalski?" The terrified cadet suddenly inhaled sharply and added with anxiety, "What if the humans are attacked?"
"Precisely, Private," Kowalski said with a curt nod. "That is why I should start working on it before the Zoo opens up to the public."
The commanding officer suddenly paused in his pacing but didn't bother looking up from the floor. "What's the time?" Skipper inquired, stiffening, the feathers at the back of his neck rising.
Kowalski reported, "0500 hours." His brow furrowed as he questioned, "Why?"
The flat headed penguin visibly relaxed. "Then they will be in hiding soon."
"What makes you think that?"
Skipper eyed him as he stepped carefully in front of the scientist. "Since when do monsters attack in the day?" he asked rhetorically in his usual suave tone. "Out of all the horror movies I've seen, they have always attacked at night."
Even Private was aware of this fact and made it quite clear. "That's true...Flora can't go out into the light, even if she wanted to."
"Maybe Sara's influence will waver in the morning as well," Kowalski added, pretending to ignore Private's comment. He didn't want to think about what would happen to Flora, like if she was to suddenly disintegrate into ashes at the smallest speck of sunlight. She was the last one Kowalski wanted to see dead, not that he wanted anyone to be deceased. Madison had already passed on but hopefully that would be the only death in this crisis. True, Julien has presumably died but he had indeed came back...as a werelemur. It seemed unlikely it'd happen to her too.
Skipper stalked away and grabbed the T.V remote, flicking it on as the early morning five o'clock news began. "Might as well see if they got out of the Zoo or not," he explained at the questioning stares Kowalski and Private gave him.
Chuck Charles was on the static screen, not having that good of a connection, with a popup view in the corner showing part of downtown New York. From there was a panic filled chaos. There were fires, upturned cars, fallen light poles and broken fire hydrants. All of the classic havoc responses that was complete with screaming citizens as they ran up and down the streets and sidewalks in a fearful frenzy.
"Hey, look, pretty pictures."
"This is Chuck Charles, downtown live at the scene. It appears that some new hybrid species of wolf is terrorizing all of Manhattan. This is unlike anything we've ever seen before, even worse than the missing and elusive Littlefoot."
Skipper and Private glared at Kowalski for a moment, who shrugged nervously, and said sheepishly, "It passed," before they looked back at the television screen.
"-authorities are attempting to contain this creature as soon as possible. Everyone is ordered to stay inside till this hybrid wolf is safely restrained. Here's a picture of this terrifying beast..."
The screenshot was blurry, one that showed the creature slobbering as it glared into the distance at the camera, but the guys knew who it was without needing closer inspection. The resemblance was uncanny; it was, unquestionably, Rico.
Skipper held a blank expression but sighed, closing his eyes as he took a much needed breath. "Well, that was quick."
"She gets around fast doesn't she?" Private mumbled.
"Ok, ok, this isn't a problem. We can fix this. Err, Kowalski, options."
Kowalski, however, wasn't paying attention and was staring with disturbing focus at the television screen, tuning out Chuck Charles. In the corner of the popup, where it showed the city, barely noticeable, was a silhouette resting on one of the only light poles that hadn't fallen over. He recognized the shape. It was Flora with her new bat wings folded in front of her, concealing her perfectly if it weren't for the partially dead daisy flower on her head. He had a deep frown set on his beak, as he longed deeply for his girlfriend. At the moment, he felt like he would do anything to be with her again.
A sudden slap knocked him out of his daze.
"Kowalski, snap out of it!" Skipper hollered.
"Right, sorry..." he mumbled, rubbing his sore cheek.
Skipper sighed and shook his head in disproval and impatience. "Just give me some options."
"Yes, yes, of course..." Kowalski said quickly but ended up trailing off. "On...what sir?"
"To fix this entire operation! Pay attention man!"
Kowalski rubbed the back of his head thoughtfully, avoiding eye contact by staring at the ceiling. "I suppose we need to move all the animals into a safer location first. That's all we can really do till I get a cure for this strange phenomenon. I advise caution; they are as unpredictable as Julien, maybe even more."
"Great," the commanding officer drawled out sarcastically as he turned off the television with the remote. "And he's one of them too...hey, bright side! No more late night parities!" He got glares in return. "Hey, I was just kidding! ... Maybe. Ok men...minus one...we are going to actively chase down Rico and our 'lady friends' and bring them back to the HQ, secure them and find a cure. Then bam, problemo solved!" He sounded confident but, inside, he was quite the opposite.
"You make it sound so simple," Private said with a timid half-smile, though it looked a bit forced.
"It's supposed to be simple, young Private," Skipper admitted with a shrug of his shoulders. "Blunt and brute force is the way to go in my book!"
Kowalski eyed his leader warily, a raised eye ridge in a questioning and skeptical manner. Obviously, he didn't completely approve of his methods. "What about logic, rational prediction and complicated attack and defense plans that will befuddle your enemies beyond reason? The elaborate traps and plans are always the brilliant method of winning in warfare, obviously."
"Well, I say, use a fist," Skipper insisted, "You don't need logic with those babies."
"Of course you don't," the strategist mumbled sarcastically, refusing to give eye contact with that remark. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes but forced himself to keep his gaze trained respectively to his commanding officer. "Skipper, with all due respect, I doubt that a fist is really the answer to this problem."
Skipper didn't appear at all offended. He smirked confidently, that usual air of arrogance and musk of danger and action circling around him in an intoxicating cloud. "Quite the contrary, Mr. Kowalski. Can that noggin of yours attack and subdue your enemies?" He didn't give his second in command a chance to answer. "Nope, didn't think so."
This irritated the scientist but he made no comment.
Skipper started to pace somewhat calmly in front of his men, prompting them to line up and straighten their spines, snapping off a salute. "Men, I'm not going to lie...this may be our toughest mission yet. There will be obstacles...and we might not make it out alive." The statement unnerved his remaining teammates, evident by their uncomfortable shifts of their muscles. "But I refuse to go down without a fight!" Skipper hollered, taking an abrupt halt in front of his men, outrage lining his actions. "As if I'm being taken down by some freakish mutants!"
Private's brow furrowed and he wrung his flippers tightly together. "Skippah, those 'freakish mutants' are our friends…"
The commanding officer sighed and gripped Private's shoulder, staring intensely into Private's eyes. "Private, they're not our friends anymore."
"…What do you mean?" the young penguin inquired hesitantly, though he had a good idea on the answer. He was going to learn that some questions didn't have good answers.
"Do you really believe that any cure Kowalski will make will fix this entire mess?"
Kowalski scowled at his leader, having been at a low tolerant rate already with him and everything in general. "Are you doubting my ability to find a cure?"
"A cure just won't fix this like magic. It's nothing personal," Skipper said, returning the scowl. He didn't get to form another sentence before Kowalski started talking, a tone that sounded offended and angered.
"Well, I do happen to believe it is personal," Kowalski said aloud, a tone in his voice that provoked Skipper's anger the slightest bit. It sounded…obnoxious. "I got a thought I wish to share and it's that 'I can invent anything.' Simple as that! It'll fix everything!"
Skipper crossed his flippers over his chest, giving Kowalski the speak-and-I'll-kill-you look. "Egotistical much, huh, egghead?" The insult hardly affected Kowalski and he simply crossed his flippers over his chest critically as well. "None of your wacky doodle mad science is going to fix this problem. Only a fist, some kicks and a whole lot of duck-tape."
"You don't think I can make anything successful do you?" He waved a flipper in front of his commanding officer's face when he tried to make an objection or remark. This only further angered Skipper and he clenched his flippers into ball shaped fists. "Actually, I correct myself. You don't think I can invent anything that won't eventually backfire or destroy the eastern seaboard and beyond."
"You can't even make a toaster," Skipper quipped and leaned in threateningly towards Kowalski, jabbing his chest with his flipper. "What kind of an inventor are you?"
Kowalski glared fiercely at his superior, fully aware of the building tension between the two of them. "So you do doubt my abilities," he snapped. "Well, I got news for you Skipper; I'm the only hope for them to revert back to their normal state, so I'd appreciate some confidence and respect."
"You're the only hope?" Skipper growled, saying it with such a distain that it only further provoked the scientist.
"Yes, I am! Face it; you wouldn't even have a chance without my superior intellect!" he retorted with a smirk. "Could you come up with a cure, I don't think so baby!" Kowalski smirked with arrogance, too smug and mockingly for Skipper's temper.
Private, who had been watching on silently, was backing away into the shadows of the arguing silhouettes of his two friends, unsure of what to do. His confidence and elated attitude has drastically decreased in the last couple of hours, leaving him a fearful ball of feathers. What he was witnessing were his two best friends, his role models, arguing with each other, years of tension building up to only the first stage of their anger. Why now of all times? Why at all?
The flat headed bird had one of the most intimidating glares Private had ever seen but Kowalski didn't seem one bit fazed by the look. "You know what? I bet my left flipper that this whole thing is your fault!"
"My fault?" Kowalski scoffed bitterly. "How could this possibly be my fault?" he shouted.
Skipper shoved his face near Kowalski's, giving him a penetrating glare as he hissed, "Nearly everything that goes wrong is your fault and, when it's not, it's usually Ringtail but I can't hold him accountable because of this wacked out conspiracy that you're involved in and responsible for!"
"We're all involved," Kowalski said lowly, giving off a dark look.
"And that's because it's your fault!"
"It is not! Have faith in what I-"
"In what?" Skipper cut off with a look that made Kowalski go silent. "What should I have faith in? Have faith in the soldier that has long passed the insubordination line! Have faith in my soldier that constantly blows up our HQ and threatens the exposure of our operations?" The angered penguin glared at Kowalski, who made the mistake of provoking Skipper beyond his tolerant limit. "I'm beginning to think I should suspend you from the lab forever!"
Kowalski gasped before glaring back. "How could you think such a thing? My lab is my baby!"
"Well put that baby up for adoption cause you might as well consider it gone!" Skipper growled.
"Skippah!" Private suddenly interjected, with such a high distress in his British accent that it made his superiors go silent, and he looked angered as he scowled. "Our friends, who need that cure, are out there and need our help! Will you two just stop arguing and get to helping them? I can't imagine them wanting this!"
The sudden outburst from the cadet dimmed Skipper's anger the slightest bit and he relaxed. His senses came back; at least enough to see that this cure was necessary and only Kowalski could concoct such a thing. He sighed and brought his eyes back to his subordinate, who didn't seem as calm as Skipper was. "Alright Kowalski, I'm giving you access to your lab to finish that mad science of yours that'll fix this mishap, comprende?"
Kowalski's non-existent brow narrowed. "So you're saying that after this I'm banned from my lab?" He received no response besides the look Skipper gave him. He turned his head to the side and glared at the floor, refusing to argue again in front of Private's eyes. He was still angry, yes, but he had enough sense to keep his beak shut this time. "I'll take that as a yes then."
Private hesitated and then piped out, "I think we should check on Becky and Stacy…maybe the other animals too." He hated this, how it was suddenly so awkward and how you could still feel the tension radiating off his two superiors with enough thickness that someone could cut it with a plastic knife. What those two needed was some fresh air to cool down. "What do you think, Skippah? ... K'walski?"
"Fine," Kowalski mumbled as if giving in to the request was one of the most bothersome things he had to do.
"Uh, good thinking Private," Skipper praised awkwardly, as if embarrassed that he had forgotten all about the other animals, and smiled slightly as he petted the young cadet's head. "I have taught you well." The remark boosted Private's confidence and he stood up straight, smiling in pride. It was nothing to be proud of but he was always thrilled when he received genuine praise from his leader. "We're placing this HQ on lockdown. Kowalski, you stay here and do…whatever you nerdlets do while Private and I round up the animals to a safer location. Got it men?"
"Yes sir," Kowalski and Private said simultaneously and saluted, though Kowalski didn't seem to be into it. He did, however, looked relieved that he would have some alone time in his prized lab.
Skipper pushed Private towards the ladder, giving him a brief order to go up. He then turned towards Kowalski, giving him a stern expression as he said, "Remember to put the HQ on lock down. And try not to blow anything up." He went up the ladder before Kowalski even had a chance to make a comment, much less process the full extent of his silent words said through his eyes. This was not the end of their argument; the look just said it all.
The fishbowl slid back over the hole, which Kowalski took as his cue as to lock down the HQ. Throughout his next actions, in an obnoxious tone, he mocked Skipper by imitating him.
"Remember to lock down the HQ Kowalski. Oh Kowalski, don't blow anything up! Don't forget to empty the toxic waste bin Kowalski, or we'll blow up and you know what happened to Manfredi and Johnson! Kowalski, quite trying to dissect Rico! What are you doing Kowalski, peanut butter doesn't go on whole wheat, it's unnatural! Kowalski, stop testing on Private, I think you broke him! Yeah, I'd like to break something…hint, it's Skipper!"
Kowalski trailed off, finding nothing useful or productive from his rant, and decided to actually lock the HQ. He did so by rapidly pressing the buttons on the security panel without falter, successfully covering the portholes and locking the First Prize entrance and fishbowl. He then proceeded to his lab and, once he opened the door, was greeted with the foul smell of death.
Kowalski instantly gagged when the smell wafted close enough for his brain to process the rank odor. "Oh sweet mercy!" he shouted in pure disgust. "That is diabolical!" He ran out of there as fast as penguinly possible, returning seconds later with an air freshener. He literally sprayed it everywhere and inhaled deeply, only to dry heave yet again. "Ok, that just made it worse! Curse you Febreeze!" He tossed the can away, not caring where it landed. "That is false advertisement!"
He composed himself with a cough, as if someone was watching him, and tried not to inhale that much of the pungent air as he approached Madison's corpse. As he walked over, he placed a gas mask on, which he was thankful for having. Kowalski stopped right before the table her body was laid at and pushed the various machines away. He timidly placed a flipper on her stomach, unable to get right to the task at hand. He was glad Private wasn't here to see him do this. He slipped his flipper to where the bullet-hole was, which was bigger than expected, and slowly started to part it open. He reached his other flipper to where a scalpel was and managed to grab it. Kowalski grimaced when he pressed it against what, upon closer inspection, was fur, and made an incision from the point of the bullet-hole and down, stopping to the lowest part of her abdomen.
Kowalski tried desperately not to lose his lunch as he parted the body open even further. The skin was hanging at the sides by the time he had done all the necessary incisions and pulls, which felt like he was trying to tear leather. He was now staring at her inner organs. Kowalski was speechless.
Her heart was STILL beating.
Her lungs were still expanding and deflating.
Her green blood was still flowing.
Her body was still ALIVE.
"Good golly," he whispered, staring at the still functioning body with awe next to morbid repulsion. But if it was still functioning then why was she supposedly dead? Kowalski was curious. He had only intended to inspect her body parts to see what this green slop had done to affect it but now…he had a new mystery.
As much as he hated to violate this scientific mystery, he had to know what was making her like this. He looked for where the bullet had penetrated but couldn't find the missing piece of silver. Surely it was still lodged in her skin, right?
"I've got a lot of work to do," Kowalski mumbled and loomed over the dead body, inspecting it to the best of his abilities once he got penguin fitted gloves on. He shifted through the organs, staining his recently sanitized and covered flippers green, and grimaced when he had to turn and remove some of the organs and parts to try and locate where the bullet was.
Kowalski suddenly shivered, feeling a strange cold chill in the room, which was odd. At first, he thought nothing of it, but then he wondered; why was there a draft? Hadn't he locked the HQ and, even so, how would a breeze reach his lab, much less the HQ itself? This thought processed right when he sensed another presence. He froze and stiffened when he felt a warm breath blow against the back of his neck.
I deeply apologize for my lack of updating. My excuse? School. That and I can be lazy. Ugh, I'm sick as I'm posting...I hope it looks alright. I'm use to having my pal beta read it for improvement but I got impatient so...here. (I've had this done for a while too -_-) Please review, encourage me to update again! XP