Darkness covers every corner of the apartment; pitch black within. Rays of light pierce through the window at the end of the tiny hall. The gang are shown, all sound asleep in the living room area. Melissa is snug in Zach’s arms, resting her head on his chest while across from them, Firework’s body is curled under the blanket. Echo lies against the motionless dragon with eyes closed and screens dimmed. Cotton wraps his tail around while burrowed in the Firework’s back fur. Amina sleeps alone on the couch between the two; her body extending across the cushions with her head sunk into a pillow.
Knocking resonates throughout the apartment, rattling the others to open their eyes start sitting up while in their beds. “Hello?” calls a voice from behind the door next to Zach and Melissa, mostly Emmy’s. “Are you guys ready?”
Melissa calls to her. “Give us a minute!” She swings her legs to the side and stands from the bed. “Man, she was not kidding when she said “sunrise”.”
“Guess we’ve learned she’s a girl of her word,” Zach states. “Let’s hurry up and get ready. Want to be good-looking to make a nice first impression.” Melissa heads to the bathroom and shuts the door. Zach obtains his bandana from underneath the pillow and fixes it around his neck.
“You wear that blue bandana as your only apparel?” asks Amina. Zach tells her that he does. “Why do you wear such a distinctive neckpiece? Does it bring luck?”
“I wish it did,” Zach replies. “I always wore this because I was told it would make me confident in being a hero… That was all a lie…”
“Why wear it if it only induces pain for a troubled past?”
“Because it reminds me of someone from the orphanage. I don’t remember them too well, but they were the only one nice to me. They gave this bandana to me, and it’s all I have left to think of them.”
“Who was it?”
“One of the orphanage staff. It’s all I can remember.” Melissa emerges from the bathroom in her usual attire. Zach turns to her. “Ready?” The rabbit nods.
“The kids and I will start exploring the city,” Amina utters. “If we see anything of interest, we shall notify you.”
“While you’re out there, could you stop at the supermarket and get some food?” asks Melissa. She hands her a stack of dollar bills. “This should be enough to cover our first food supplies.” Amina takes the stack and thanks her.
“All right, let’s go,” Zach says. The others follow him out the door once the beds are made and flipped back into the loveseats. The fox and rabbit gather by Emmy, who is waiting outside, and shut the door behind them, locking it with the key as their friends wander off to the stairs. “Okay, Emmy. We’re ready.”
The first stop is the city’s construction offices. As Melissa and Emmy wait in the lobby, Zach sits in the office across the desk, which is visible through glass windows separating the lobby from the office. Before him is a blue fox with blue eyes and orange paws, mouth, tail fluff, and belly, almost like Zach’s inverted twin, but wearing a white hard hat and vest, indicating he is the foreman. The tag on his desk reveals his name to be Nate. The blue fox stands over Zach, asking questions to him about safety and tool use before getting onto situations in which Zach would encounter on the job. Zach answers him in a calm, relaxed way about how he would go about each situation ideally.
Melissa lets out a big sigh as she watches the foxes engage in their conversation. “Boy, it sure is taking them quite some time.”
“Nate’s just making sure Zach’s conscious of what he has to do,” implies Emmy. “It’s his job to ensure his employees have knowledge of tools and the materials used in sites. Furton was built up with workers of good skill.” The girls take notice of the two foxes leaving the office. Zach approaches them as Nate heads off. “Well, how’d it go? What did Nate say?”
“He likes my personality and my willingness to learn,” Zach tells them. “I start training with him tomorrow.”
“Awesome!” Melissa smiles. “That’s wonderful to hear!”
“Congratulations on getting the job,” says Emmy. “Our next stop now is Pawbucks. It’s not too far from here.”
Outside, the red fox walks down the sidewalk with the dragon and robot. “This place is quite complexed,” she states. “Buildings all around and people cluttered in the streets. I’m not so comfortable now.”
“Firework could fly high to scout position,” Firework utters. “That way friends not lost.”
“No need for that,” Echo replies. “I am built with state-of-the-art global positioning systems. You don’t need to worry about getting lost.”
“I’m not just worried about getting lost,” Amina tells them. “I’m also unsure about the conditions here… I don’t know if I trust them.” She turns her head to the opposite side of the road, staring at the spectators walking by across the river of vehicles. “Those other animals are untrustworthy. The metal machines along the paved paths are very noisy, much noisier than the last city we were in… Aside from you two, Zach, and Melissa, I do not think it is wise to interact any of these clothed beings…” Just as she turns her head forward, she collides into another body, knocking her a few inches away. Amina stops and glances at the figure she had bumped into. To her surprise is another fox who shares her image and style but has bright red fur, golden swirls painted on her arms, and magenta tribal wears. Amina remains frozen in her stance as she scans the other fox. “P-Pauline?!”
The bright red fox gazes back. “Amina?! I-is that truly you?!” She keeps her eyes on the dark red fox. “Oh my gosh! It is you!” Pauline quickly wraps her arms around the other fox to hug her. “I’m so glad to see you again! After all these years!”
Amina keeps her mouth flat in her expression. “Yes… It surely has.”
Pauline leans back out from her hug. “Where have you been?! I never thought I’d see you again!”
“I’ve been struggling to make it on my own,” Amina tells her. “It’s proved difficult, but I’ve managed to overcome great obstacles alone. However, I found nice friends who cherish and care for me. We are here now; here to build new lives.”
“Really?” Pauline utters. “My story is different; I left the village to pursue a new way of living. I grew tired and bored of the ways of the tribe, which sparked my destiny to leave and learn the ways of the more civilized folk. I was found by another fox, who deemed me as pretty. We soon found love and ended up here. Oh! That reminds me, I’m meeting him in a place called “Pawbucks”.”
“Funny you mention that,” Echo spurts. “We were on our way there to see how progress is with Zach and Melissa.” Pauline stares blankly at the robot and tilts her head with curiosity.
“They are friends of mine,” explains Amina. “These are my friends, too. This is Echo, Firework, and Cotton.” The kids wave and say “hello” as Cotton jumps with a squeak.
“How cute,” comments Pauline. “Suppose we should head to Pawbucks together?” The others nod, then follow the bright red fox away. They travel down the road until they approach a big building with a sign of a circle and a pawprint in it that reads “Pawbucks” along the sphere’s edge. “Here’s the place.” Pauline enters the joint with the others through the glass double doors, finding it packed with other animals who sit at the tables or stand on the line. Pauline then turns her attention to the fox at the booth to her side. With a male body build, he is a blue fox with yellow-colored paws on one half of his body as the other half is colored green. His tail has the same colors as his limbs. “Hi Nick!” She goes to him as the blue fox stands and wraps his arms around her.
Firework turns and sees the orange fox and warthog at the table by the counter. “Zach? Emmy?” The dragon wanders off, prompting the robot and red fox to follow. The two only take notice of the dragon when he enters their peripheral vision. “What two animals doing here?”
“Waiting on Melissa,” says Zach. “She’s in the back with the supervisor of Pawbucks, interviewing her. I see you and the others found us.”
“We were following Amina’s friend,” Echo explains. “She has not seen her in the years she was away from her village.”
“Well,” Amina begins. “She was a childhood friend. We didn’t talk much before I was banished.”
Emmy shifts her head and spots the rabbit walking out alongside a rottweiler with a feminine body build and wearing a green apron with a barista cap. “So, how’d it go?” she asks the dog. “Is Melissa a good candidate, Sally?”
“She’s an interesting one,” Sally tells her. “We shall see how well she does after training and time in the shop.”
“How exciting,” Melissa says. “Brewing coffee at my favorite place.”
Pauline comes up to the group with the blue fox beside her. “Oh, are these your other friends, Amina?” Amina confirms it and introduces her to them. Pauline puts her paw behind the blue fox. “Oh, I forgot… This is my boyfriend, Nick. His job is to fix and construct for the Furton Construction Company.”
“Really?” Zach adds. “I just got hired by the Furton Construction Company. Nate likes me.”
“New blood, eh?” asks Nick. “Can’t wait to see you at work, then.” He gives off a smile.