I scanned Marlene from head to toe. Her once beautiful eyes were still blank, yet her expression was warped with anger. Her paws were in fists, balled to her sides and she was poised for combat. I’ll admit, Marlene’s extremely attractive when she’s angry—hey, don’t judge me, I’m entitled to an opinion!—but the way she was looking at me at that moment, like she wanted to decorate the room with my insides, never have I longed to see her smile más in my life.
Blowhole must’ve sensed my shock, because his laughter once again pulled at the el espacio around me and seemed to strip the oxygen from my lungs.
“Now, Skipper, it is time for tu to make an important decision. Your nutria friend is under my complete control. She will do whatever I say. tu decision is this: your life o hers. And don’t think tu can worm your way out of this, because you can’t. That being said…Kill him.”
On command, Marlene lunged toward me with her claws aiming for my throat, but I paloma to the side just before she could get a hold of me. I stumbled over my feet, but caught myself before I fell just as Marlene turned back toward me on all fours. She clenched her teeth and a low growl crawled out from under her breath as she started for me in a way that a lion might stalk his prey.
“Now, Marlene, I know you’re in there somewhere…Think about what you’re—"
Before I could continue, she was on parte superior, arriba of me, pinning me to the floor. Her claws dug into my shoulders and I cried out. My instincts were screaming at me to fight back, but my heart’s command was much más powerful. How could I fight back? The only thought on Marlene’s mind right now was my murder, and unless I killed her first, that wasn’t going to change.
But the problem was that I couldn’t kill Marlene. Honestly, it wasn’t so much because I’d been in amor with her for years, but she was also one of my closest friends. I couldn’t kill her even though my life depended on it.
I pushed her to the side and cringed upon her claws leaving my flesh. Blood oozed from the puncture wounds in my shoulders. I rolled on parte superior, arriba of her and she thrashed against my grip.
"Marlene!" I was screaming now, desperate to snap her out of it. "I know some part of tu can hear me! Wake up! It's me, Skipper!"
She reacted with a growl that sent me stumbling back in shock. I tripped over my own feet and landed on my back, stars exploding in my vision. Marlene's blurry figure appeared above me and raised her paw. I couldn't quite make out what she was doing, but I still had the common sense to know what she was implementing. Just as she brought her paw down, I moved my head just in time for her to miss my eye and scratch my cheek instead.
I rolled to the side and felt the two claw marks on my face, finding that it was slick with blood. Blowhole was sure playing his cards right this time. There was no way I could take Marlene's life.
“Marlene, please, I know there’s some part of tu in there that can hear me,” I dicho as she moved toward me like a cat preparing to pounce on a mouse. “Don’t forget about the time we had to investigate the sewer because we thought your habitat was haunted. Remember when we overcame Officer X when we were trapped inside the Snackatarium? And tu can’t forget when I thought I was a female and sought your advice.” I couldn’t help but crack a smile at that last one, despite the situation I currently found myself in.
I was surprised to see Marlene studying me as if I was some sort of alien figure. But the serum inside her estola that bit of curiosity as quickly as it appeared and she pounced in my direction, only to find floor once again when I moved to the side.
Something sparked inside me then. Hope. I wasn’t sure where it came from until I thought about that flicker of curiosity in Marlene’s expression. There really was some part of her that could hear me, and as long as I knew that, I had hope that we could leave this room together with our lives.
I didn’t know what else to do. I tried talking to her, feeding memories into her mind, but whenever I thought I was getting close, she'd just lunge for me again in hopes of finally finishing me off. I almost started crying. Never have I longed to see Marlene—the real Marlene—more in my entire life knowing her. Whenever she attacked, all I could do was block her. And when I couldn’t do that, I could only try to push her away…After she’d already made another opening in my skin.
It was becoming difficult with each segundo that passed by. My head started spinning and I had to lean against a muro to steady myself. The floor was gradually turning red with my blood. For what seemed like the millionth time in the who-knows-how-long I’ve been in there, I had Marlene pinned to the floor again.
“Marlene! Please come back to me! I know you’re in there! Please!”
I was pleading now. Tears streamed down my cheeks and I had to fight to draw oxygen into my lungs. I waited for her response, but this time she stared back into my hurt-filled eyes for a moment.
“Marlene?” I croaked with that same flicker of hope coming back to me. It died once again when Marlene snapped out of her trance and with a cry of defiance, pushed me off of her and lashed out, making another set of claw marks across my abdomen.
Each time she made a mover to kill me, a small part of me really did die. I felt as if there was nothing I could do. No matter what I’d tried, the serum always took over her mind.
When the thought crossed my mind, it seemed to echo. The serum always took over her mind. That’s when I saw my only hope. Blowhole was controlling her thoughts, but not her heart.
As she poised herself for another attack, I caught her off guard, moving adelante, hacia adelante and grabbing her around the waist. At first, she stared at me in shock, then tried to push away. I was hesitant, not quite sure what I was doing, but something told me that if this didn’t work, then nothing would. She placed a paw on my chest and pushed with all of her strength, but I was stronger. I pushed her paw away and took her gently por the shoulder, pulling her closer to me. Her face was an inch from mine and I could feel her breath on my face.
"I amor you, Marlene…" I whispered softly, hoping that it wouldn't be the last time I'd have the chance to say it. It was now o never. Finally, I worked up the courage to do the only thing that could bring back my Marlene, if anything.
I kissed her.
At first she struggled, probably wondering what the hell I was doing, but after a moment, she stopped. In fact, she did más than stop.
She kissed back.
It was the most wonderful experience I'd ever had in my life. And coming from a guy who once jumped from a plane. Boy, that was a real ride! Anyway, back on topic. I could feel her muscles relaxing and her arms moved up my flippers and rested on my shoulders, wrapping around my neck. In that moment, I forgot about everything. I forgot about Blowhole, the Serum, the pain, the room, the mirrored wall, everything. Even as Blowhole's annoyed tone reverberated through the tiny room, we were in our own world, nothing but me, Marlene, and the first kiss we'd ever shared.
"No! What the hell is going on?! I said kill him! Not kiss him! Oh…I'm gonna be sick…"
Finally, we parted and she opened her eyes and found mine. We stared at each other in silence for a moment before she finally spoke.
"Skipper?" she asked as if she hadn't seen me in years.
My corazón lifted and a feeling grew inside of me like a room that had been dark for centuries finally being lit. A smile stretched across my face big enough to cause the lacerations in my cheeks to sting like hell and I laughed. It felt as if I had never laughed in my life. I picked her up por the waist and spun her around a few times in my happiness.
"Skipper! What's going on?!" she cried as I set her down and clung to her as if my life depended on it. In a way, it did.
I didn't answer. The only thing I could bring myself to do was cry tears of joy over her shoulder. I'd thought I'd lost her forever, yet here she was…The Marlene I'd come to know and amor with all my heart. I hadn't even realized how much until now. Finally—though with much difficulty—Marlene managed to push me away.
"Skipper, what's going—"
She stopped when she saw the claw marks covering my body, still oozing blood. Her expression was a mixture of confusion, anger, and shock.
"Skipper, what happened to you?" she asked, but from the reminiscence that gleamed in her eye, I knew she already knew the answer. "Did…I do that to you?" she asked instead, resting a paw on the wound on my cheek.
Before I got the chance to answer, the door flew open and I pushed Marlene behind me, getting ready for whatever was coming into the room.
"Well, Skipper, this was most certainly unexpected," Blowhole sneered. A couple langosta minions trailed in behind him. "It's hard to believe that anyone would want to waste a kiss on you," he dicho with his face twisted in disgust.
I couldn't see her face, but I could sense the recollection Marlene was experiencing upon Blowhole's mention of our kiss.
"You can control one's mind, but not their heart," I replied, ignoring his remark.
"Maybe so. But this doesn't mean you're going to win. Lobsters!"
On command, the lobsters advanced. I was weak from fighting with Marlene, but the knowledge that I had brought her back gave me new strength. A reason to fight.
"Get back, Marlene!" I commanded over my shoulder.
Without turning to see if she acknowledged me, I roundhouse-kicked the first langosta that tried to overpower me in the face, sending him sprawling on his backside. Another moved toward me and I sent him to registrarse his friend with a single blow. I turned to pounce on that egomaniac, Blowhole, but he was no longer standing in the doorway. I flinched upon someone grabbing my shoulder, but was relieved to see that it was Marlene.
"Skipper…What happened? Everything is such a blur…All I remember is…When tu kissed me…" she dicho bashfully. She actually looked kinda cute when she was embarrassed. I felt a smile twitching at the corners of my beak but I held it back. There were más important things I had to deal with.
"We need to talk about it later," I dicho finally, "right now, priority one is finding the others and hightailing it out of here."
Marlene nodded in understanding and I moved in front of her, peering out of the doorway into a large clearing, which was empty. I found its lack of minions suspicious, but I ignored it. I took Marlene's paw and lead her behind me. In a few steps we were siguiente to another door identical to the one that was on my room. I assumed that this was where they were keeping another one of my men. I looked at the lock. Passcode.
I thought back to who all was injected with the Serum. I recalled the lemurs, the badgers, and the chimps. My corazón sunk.
I knew exactly who Blowhole would sick those two on. Rico would be able to handle either of the others, knocking them out would be simple. Kowalski might be able to handle the lemurs, but I wasn't too sure how he'd handle the chimps. But Private, he'd be scared out of his mind if he was forced to fight Becky and Stacy. I only had a matter of time to figure out how to get these doors open. I turned and pulled Marlene along to a control panel that I spotted off in the corner.
“Stay close, Marlene,” I whispered over my shoulder. She gripped my flipper in fear and my determination to get her seguro lifted beyond the that it didn’t have. “I won’t let anyone hurt you,” I added. Though, I was unsure if she heard me. I think I was pledging it más to myself than I was to her.
When we reached the control panel, I hoisted myself up on parte superior, arriba and pulled Marlene up behind me. I surveyed the arrangement of colored and flashing buttons and switches and felt panic rising into my throat. I forced myself to choke it back down—partly because I needed to focus, and partly because I didn’t want Marlene to see the anguish in my expression and become even más afraid.
“Do tu know what you’re doing, Skipper?” Marlene asked. She was standing so close to my side that I could feel her breath on my neck. As weird as it sounds, it was actually kind of…Soothing.
“Not exactly,” I admitted, “but I have to figure something out. My team is—”
"Skipper, look out!"
I was about to turn when I was pushed to the side. When I tried to turn to Marlene, she wasn’t there. I heard a thump to my right, and my eyes followed the sound to a railing that blocked a bluff. I threw myself off of the control panel and slid to the edge to see past the railing. There was about an eight foot drop before another landing of floor.
And on it was Marlene, who was laying still on the cold, hard floor below.