Chapter 6:

Mission: Do NOT Become Quasimodo


“AHHH my tail! Hot, hot, hot!” Panic Button hops around and pats at the small flame on his tail furiously.

The entire room is engulfed in bright flames, and the bars on her cage have completely melted away. As Lucky’s internal cooling system begins to kick in, she can hear the whirring coming from inside her. It sounds like the propeller on a mini toy plane, quiet but noticeable.

In comparison, the unholy screeching from Panic Button is very, VERY loud.

“If you don’t get me out of here soon, I’m going become a hairless lemur who rings the bells outside of Taco Bell that no one wants to look at. I don't want to be like Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame!”

Ignoring the odd reference, Lucky jumps over the remnants of the melted bars of her cage and onto the gray floor and makes her way underneath Panic Button’s cage. She looks up and notices the steel foundation still intact and makes a decision. “Panic Button, climb as high as you can and as close to the left as possible. I’m gonna shoot my lasers through the bottom.”

“Okay, sure, whatever works for you! I respect your process,” the lemur says as he quickly follows her request. For someone who was so concerned about bursting into flames, he sure seems open to the risk of Lucky blasting him with metal shrapnel directly.

Lucky closes her eyes and tries her best to summon her feelings again, but with more restraint than before. To use this ability, she needs to find a balance, and there’s no better time like the present to try to figure out what that balance is.

This time when see uses her lasers, the beam goes straight through the bottom of the cage, making Panic Button Squeak and leaving a small hole in the ceiling. Otherwise, it’s a complete success. “Alright, I did it! Hurry up and come down from there.”

Panic Button carefully maneuvers himself through newly made hole in the bottom of his cage and drops down on the floor, narrowly avoiding singing any more of his fur on the heated edges of the metal left from the beam.

It’s the first time that Lucky is actually face-to-face with him, and she quickly realizes that he’s actually much bigger than she thought. She doesn’t know much about lemur species, but it seems that he must be fashioned after one of the bigger ones. It feels surreal to be close enough to touch someone who’s been her companion for so long. She places her paw over his furry hand.

He looks up at her, and Lucky can tell that he feels the same when he squeezes her paw back. The moment lasts only a second, but it fills Lucky with a warmth stronger and more resilient than the flames engulfing this death trap.

Lucky turns back to check on Viper and is a little disturbed by how calm he looks despite the flames that now surround him from every side, boxing him in and making him pant. Lucky realizes that he’s doing exactly what she told him to do—he’s not thinking. “Viper! I’ll melt the bars, so use your water cannon to douse the flames!”

Viper groans in relief. “Finally, you said something! I know I’m usually pretty patient, but to keep a man waiting during a fire…you’ve sure got guts.”

“Sorry.” There’s no time to say much of anything else. Viper moves to the side of the cage with the least number of flames and Lucky quickly blasts off another beam that leaves the cage in red and gray melted shambles.

Viper takes that as his cue and uses his “Pee Extinguisher” to create a path through the flames for him to safely exit the cage.

Once he joins them, Lucky feels that same warmth and comradery. She slips her ears around his neck and uses them to sling herself onto his back. Panic Button follows suit without saying a word, and Viper buckles under the weight of both of them. “Um, guys? Do you really think it’s the best idea to slow us down by riding on my back?”

Lucky pats him with one of her ears. “Look, you're a snow leopard. A big cat of the animal kingdom! You’ve got to be faster than us, right?”

“Right?” Panic Button chimes.

Viper huffs and adjusts, his shoulder blades moving underneath his fur as he gets used to his new load. He doesn’t demand that they get off, and Lucky feels a smile come to her face. He really does have a soft spot for them.

“Alright, what now?” Viper asks.

“Now, we avoid Lester and find Bliss!” Lucky really, really hopes that they don’t run into Lester. He has the remote that caused Bliss to freeze, and if he uses that on them too, then it’s all over.

“Which direction should I go?”

“For now, let’s go through the steel door and look for her.”

Viper nods and takes them up to the door. It seems whatever system was keeping it locked is malfunctioning, because all it takes is a single shove of Panic Button’s hands for it to swing open. Viper dashes through the door and Lucky gets her first glimpse of the world beyond their little room.

The corridors are surprisingly luxurious. There are oil paintings on the pristine milky white stone walls. The floor looks like it’s made out of shiny metal sheets, and they look freshly cleaned. It’s hard to believe that a slob like Lester has been working in an environment like this the whole time while they were left out in the heat like hot garbage. Aren’t they supposed to be super expensive, at the very least?

“To think that all this time we were literally feet from luxury. My heart,” Panic Button says, clutching at his chest.

“Lester never struck me as an artsy type. I feel like we just discovered his biggest secret,” Viper says as he admires one of the paintings.

“Not yet,” Lucky says, looking down one of the long corridors, wishing that she could see through them to the other side. “We still don’t know what the slaughterhouse really is.”

Viper grins up at them, his eyes bright. “Then let’s go find out.”