Chapter 02

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Every step felt heavier for Grey than the one that preceded. Pace by pace, he shifted with regret and disdain. How could he take the child to such a place?

Hasn't he heard the rumors? The stories? The tales of horror? The medical ward was no joke. He remembered times when he would listen to the screams that burst from the gate's seams as he passed by. He never cared before " because the enemy rodents deserved it," he told himself. Didn't they? However, he was taking Pat to that place. The child that he took under his wings and promised he would keep safe. But he had to follow orders. In the end, he was nothing but a nameless, faceless pigeon within the infinite army, wasn't he?

Scraping itself open with a deadly shriek, the medical ward welcomed the two, but especially Pat, as they entered an achingly bright room. The sort of bright that hurt more than staring directly at a scorching sun.

Pristine and unblemished, the room seemed too intentionally clean. Grey sought any possible form of greeting sentience as Pat retreated to his side, too overwhelmed by the otherworldly place.

Grey felt an ominous aura about where they stood that raised his feathers sharper than a territorial rooster. It was like a war ground in silence. He had not realized that he was pulling Pat closer to his chest like a father penguin's chick.

Shattering the rooms docility with entropy, a crackled voice coughed through their ears in a questionably benign tone:

"Welcome, my little nestling!"

Doctor Aeg walked into their view from a hidden corner. The decrepit vulture fluttered his feathers that withered off his wings like leaves of a plagued tree.

"General Daft told me all about you! As much as he could, that is! You are in good hands now, oh yes, yes!" The doctor waved amiably. But, Pat felt like he hovered over like rotten prey under the rickety bird's eyes.

Grey was glad Aeg hadn't noticed his scrutinizing eyes. The doctor's stares were fixed on at little Pat with drooling peckers that were shoved within a wrinkly face. Scratching his scabbed scalp that scraped open his old turmeric skull, he seemed to examine the boy subconsciously. His stench was worse than the abandon of the massacre. He could not blame vultures for their "unique" diet of decay and death, but this doctor oozed decomposition.

"Thank you for delivering him to me, Private!" Aeg interrupted Grey's scornful train of thought.

"I will take the young rod-b-bat from here."

"I was responsible for bringing in the boy-"

"And THAT is more than enough dedication to our greater cause! Follow your orders and fly away as you should, soldier."

Like talons scratching a metal file, the door opened behind them as two towering Eagle Elites stomped in.

"Told you we would drag him out, Lon" said one of the guards.

Grey held on to Pat's hand as Pat did his. But he knew he could not defy orders. Never deviate from the pigeons kit. It was more than a rule. It was the law.

"I will come back, son" Grey emptily assured Pat.

"You promised. Uncle Grey... family..." Pat desperately begged. He would plea for so much. But holding down his tears took most of the strength in him. Grey stared at the lonely child. What was he thinking? He never even imagined in his life to go through such circumstance, for once life flared in the center of his dim soul and it was a life he cherished. Grey gave Pat a long embrace. To him, a skill he never learned. "Son. I will not leave you but in person. Do you understand?"

The boy gave him a blank look. Pat did not want to answer. He didn't want him to leave. Like snapping twigs the two separated and Grey damned himself for turning his back, shoving an eagle aside when one of them tried to engage him physically.

"I will be back." Grey turned to Pat one last time, but the scraping gate muffled any message from reaching Pat's heart. All he saw was the child's betrayed eyes. That would haunt him more than the calling pleas of fallen comrades for many more nights.

The gate's locked shut.

"Come on you fetus kind" scolded a voice behind Pat. He told himself it did not sound very familiar, but indeed, Aeg had shown his true greying colors. Pressing on a pressure point in Pat's ear, Aeg dragged him to a hidden narrow corner.

"Hah! You rodents all squirm the same!"

So with a shove, he sent Pat tumbling into the darkness. Trying to regain his footing to his whereabouts, he finally witnessed the hidden madhouse that was masked behind the facade of peace on the other side.

Skinned blankets of fur with different shapes and patterns hung in rows beyond the horizon. Squeeks and shrieks echoed through the ear and wriggled to the other. Familiar voices of a race he was told he belonged to, half-eaten tails and hollowed skulls lathered on a pile of maggot and meat. Operating tables were scattered with crimson scalpels and tarnished blades. Pat tried to retreat from wherever he was. Anywhere. Grey! Uncle Grey! Big brother! Please!

The doctor gave out his dusty wheezing laugh as he hissed with malice, calling for his assistants from the obsidian above.

Caws reverberated as the murder of crows drooped like a waterfall of shadows and circled Pat in a ceremony of horror.

"Up! Up!" lashed Aeg. " Time to meet your fellow fuzzballs!"

Plucking poor Pat's scrawny stature, the crows dragged him to a cage that hovered in the very center of a complex of surrounding coops. Locking him in and shaking the hanging immure like a rusty pendulum.

"I will leave you to get acquainted with your fellow rodent scum. Don't fly away!" Don't fly away!" Doctor Aeg hissed as he locked the grand door with a hundred clicks and revolving keys.

The laughs and caws suddenly went mute and replaced themselves with faint squeaks and squeals. Fighting through the sea of tears, Pat witnessed his abandoned kind. The rodents. Betrayed, forgotten and ridden. This is what he saw, and it was what he felt. They were huddled together for the luxury of warmth, and Pat had never felt so isolated and cold.

 They were huddled together for the luxury of warmth, and Pat had never felt so isolated and cold

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