Chapter 1: Echo: The Fire
-Echo: The Fire-
The Grandidier was considered to be one of the largest undertakings when it came to construction in the Savanna district of Zootopia.
It was planned to rival the Palm Hotel in Sahara Square, which had already made quite a name for itself. The hotel was shaped like a giant palm tree. The design was both elegant and functional. The large "palms" themselves serving as both rooms, restaurants, and various amenities for those staying at the 5-star resort.
The Grandidier was different. It was not planned to be a resort but instead a kind of central hub for the Savanna district. It would house offices, restaurants, shopping centers, a park on the roof right next to the highest waterpark in the city. There were even apartments for those rich enough to afford such a lavish lifestyle. With so much to do one could feasibly stay in the building for days on end.
The structure itself was designed after the tree is was named after; The Grandidier baobab.
The tree was a kind of icon to those who spent their lives in the savanna. The tall cylindrical trunk would rise high into the heaves. A series of thick branches sat atop the tree instead of jutting out at its sides. Some thought the tree looked odd. While others believed it had its own unique beauty that nature had trouble repeating.
The structure of the Grandidier was different than the Palm Hotel not just in general appearance but design as well. Instead of being a giant glass monolith like the Palm the Grandidier had large bay windows spread out at various spots up the building's sides.
While some had thought this to be an odd choice it saved money on the construction. It had also been noted that unlike the Palm not every room would need a window or some kind of view. The large windows however provided enough light for those visiting the vast interior atriums to feel like they were still outside in the warm Savanna sun.
While at night The Palm lit up like some kind of spectacular colored glass light, the Grandidier had its own unique beauty during the day.
A local artist had been hired to paint symbols of the old tribes running up and down the Grandidier. The different vibrant colors told a story of Zootopia's founding. It was a celebration of all the different cultures that made Zootopia great.
It was a monument to what the mammals of Zootopia could do when they put their minds to something.
It was a wonderful place to raise one's family….
It was going to be the new standard for artistic superstructures….
...An inferno like no one had ever seen.
Thanks to the size of the Grandidier mammals from all over the city could see the smoke as it billowed into the sky. Like some kind of nightmare come to life.
Mammals of all shapes and sizes came pouring out of the structure as heroes adorned in ZFD gear rushed in.
The first teams on the scene knew exactly what they were dealing with and knew they would be overwhelmed and quickly if they didn't get more support.
Fortunately for them, they didn't answer the call alone.
ZFD fire trucks of all shapes and sizes dashed through the streets. Their sirens blaring as their strobes flickered. Klaxons deafening anyone dumb enough to get in their way.
The ZPD and ZEMS were quick to respond as well and soon an army of first responders fell upon the scene.
Not all of the first responders ran into the smoke though. No, everyone knew where they were needed most. As much as they would have all liked to rush in and do their part it was important that a perimeter was set up, the injured be tended to, and the area cleared so the ZFD could do their job.
Even with all the chaos around her Echo had a kind of cool demeanor about her. The painted dog hopped out of the rescue truck's rear door and began to adjust her bunker gear as she looked up at the burning bahobab structure before her.
The air smelled of ash and other nasty things that the painted dog pushed from her mind.
"Echo! Palmer! On me!" Came a gruff shout from a camel with a white helmet.
The painted dog and a timber wolf both nodded at one another before hurrying over to their chief.
"I need you two on evac assist. Door to Door. You are hooking up with a team from Savanna 72 that's already on the 3rd-floor atrium. They will be standing by for you there."
Normally they would have had a longer briefing, maybe some kind of quick talk or idea of where things went wrong, but today was different. There was no time to just sit around and get updates.
The fire had already been raging for nearly half an hour which meant that any mammals seeking shelter from the flames inside were in perilous need of rescuing before they ran out of air.
Echo and Palmer had not even stopped in their tracks, they walked past their chief who gave them both quick knocks on their helmets for luck. The pair put their breathing masks over their muzzles and adjusted the face shield so they could see properly as they trotted through the crowd.
"Rescue 72, leads name is Hatch, come back safe that's an order!"
As Echo and Palmer weaved through the crowd another painted dog, this one inf ZPD blues, passed by. Echo nearly missed him but managed to catch his attention. She quickly removed her self contained breathing apparatus, or SCBA, and gave her brother a toothy grin.
"What trouble have you been starting Delta?" She asked as she looked at the painted dog, his uniform covered in a series of black marks and ash. She felt a little bad, her brother always worked so hard on making sure his patrol blues were crisp and clean.
"Well, I was just on patrol when I thought, 'Ya know what, Echo could use something to do besides sitting on a lazy dog recliner all day," The officer said as he gave his sister a wink. One of the jokes between the ZPD and ZFD was how most police teams would be patrolling the city while the firefighters stood by in their stations waiting for calls, most of the time stretched out on a comfy recliner of some sort.
"First on the scene?" Echo asked as Delta walked alongside her.
While the siblings would have loved to catch up and joke around they both understood the urgency of the situation. Delta kept pace with his sister who, thanks to her bunker gear, looked nearly a foot taller than her litter mate.
"Yeah," Delta mumbled, his mood changing as he looked up at the billowing smoke coming from the structure before them. "I just can't believe it spread so quickly."
"Fire tends to do that," Echo said as she followed her brothers gaze. "Well rest easy donut muncher, the real heroes will take it from here."
"Can't help but notice you all arrive after the ZPD, so are you still considered first responders or should we start going with second responders?" Delta asked giving his sister a nudge.
Echo responded by putting a gloved paw on the other painted dog's shoulder and giving it a gentle shove.
"Come out safe, ok sis," Delta said just loud enough for her to hear. Had her tail not been covered by her bunker jacket it would have been wagging at her brother's concern.
"Plan on it! Got lots more jokes at your expense I need to tell you."
With that Echo put her SCBA back on and made sure it was secure. Delta gave her a pat on the helmet and hurried off to see what assistance he could provide elsewhere.
Walking into the Grandidier was like stepping into another world. While the movies portrayed events like this as an action-packed madness with a thrilling soundtrack it was actually somewhat calm and quiet.
Sure there was the occasional muffled shouts and sirens from outside would sometimes leak in when a door opened. For the most part, though the main atrium had this eerie serenity hovering over it. This was normal during most high rise building fires. There was no ambient music, no mammals hurrying to a meeting or friends catching up as they enjoyed coffee from a cafe. No, most mammals were gone now, the few civilians inside the lobby were the stragglers from high up in the building.
Echo looked up and took a moment to appreciate the artistic value of the structure. The main entrance atrium had a kind of open space design about it. The ceiling was easily 10 stories above them which allowed for a model of the Grandidier to sit in the center, surrounded by a reception area.
There were several groups of mammals spread throughout the massive entrance area which was designed normally to receive hundreds of mammals. Civilians covered in soot were being escorted by the ZFD while the occasional medic hurried past to provide aid to someone who had to be treated before they could be moved.
Everyone carried with them a kind of silent urgency.
It was moments like this Echo's steps carried a little extra weight to them. This was the kind of stuff she trained for. The reason for all those early morning runs, late night study sessions, and missed social occasions.
She had wanted to be a firefighter since she was a young pup. It was in her blood. Most of her family always found ways of entering a kind of career helping others. Her father was a police officer back in their home city of Manta Bay. Her mother had been a medic before settling down and having her pups.
Her brother Delta had followed in their father's footsteps while she and her other brother Bravo went into the fire service.
Remember to keep breathing, stay sharp, no unnecessary risks.
The words of wisdom from her father echoed in her mind, only for the painted rescuer to be snapped back into reality.
"Remember Elevators are out, stairs only!" Shouted a rhino in a fire leads uniform.
These were very basic concepts but it was still important to remind those heading into the building to follow the main rules of fighting fires and rescuing civilians.
"Please continue in an orderly fashion out the main doors, medical teams are standing by to assist," The rhino continued as mammals trudged by him.
Echo watched the various animals pass her by. Most of them looked like they had been through quite the ordeal already. It made sense, at this point in the operation most of the easier to get to areas had been evacuated. Now it was down to getting to those hard to reach mammals.
"I just don't understand," Echo heard one of the mammals say as they limped by, "What happened to the fire suppression system? There were no sprinklers…the fire doors wouldn't budge...I just don't-"
"You saw how fast this place was built," Another mammal whispered. "You really think something of this size was built without cutting corners."
"I knocked into one of those sprinklers once," An elephant explained, "It just popped off the ceiling….I don't think it was even attached-"
While the gossip Echo heard was something she wanted to pursue she knew she had to keep moving, there was a job to do.
Besides, that's just what it was, gossip.
These mammals had been through hell and they were now just trying to figure out why. Their imaginations probably got the best of them.
As Echo and Palmer made their way up a set of stairs to the third-floor meeting area she kept getting a nagging feeling.
It's just gossip. Fires are always bad and seem intense. These folks just haven't been through that stuff before.
Even with her cautious nature, Echo was about to be shown just how wrong she was.
When it comes to fighting fires it's not as simple as just tossing wet stuff on the hot stuff and heading home. Fire's can eat up gallons and gallons of water before even showing signs of relenting.
It's not just about dragging hoses through hallways either. It's about understanding where the water is needed the most. What will happen when you soak a room? Does it stay out forever? Or will it simply be re-engulfed when the rooms around it remain ablaze?
Echo recognized the first signs of trouble early on.
When they met at the rally point and were told about their tasks it seemed normal. The job was to get up to the higher floors and assist with door knocks. The idea being that they were to make sure no one was still huddled in certain areas. There was no doubt about it, this was going to be a long fire. So they needed to make sure everyone was out so they could focus on fire control and suppression in a more aggressive manner.
They wouldn't just be blindly bumping around in smoke-filled hallways though. Some of the team would be utilizing the fire hoses already installed in the building to try and suppress the fire the best they could in order to buy the others time to get mammals out and to safety.
When they arrived on their assigned floor some red flags started waving. Two of the four fire hose cabinets hadn't even been installed properly. One of them didn't even have access to a waterline yet. The two that had been installed were low pressure. Meaning they hadn't been installed to a suppression line. If anything Echo had to guess they just jury-rigged it to the main water line which wasn't designed for the high-pressure needs of a fire hose.
"Are you freaking kidding me?!" Came a muffled shout from a mare in bunker gear as she aimed the hose down a hallway and tested the system. It barely cleared the 3rd set of doors. Normally where she was standing she should have been able to douse the end of the hallway with water.
"Freaking budget crunchers," Growled the fire lieutenant in charge of their team, the lion looking at the hose and then down the hall where thick billows of black smoke started to invade the hall. "Alright focus on keeping the area wet then, we can't afford to lose our exit."
That had just been the first of many hurdles.
Between a poor fire suppression system and virtually no firewalls in place, the fire moved quickly. Echo almost let out a laugh at how pathetic the fire code was in such a new and modern building. The fact there were no firewalls was almost insulting. Had they been installed the walls would have slowed the spread of the fire, mainly because they were designed of slow burning material. It wouldn't have stopped the fire but it would have taken it a lot longer to spread.
By the time they were clearing out their third assigned area, the flames had nearly engulfed the whole floor.
Echo was busy carrying out a koala in a burnt dress at this point, her breathing becoming labored. She knew her tank must be running low. She cursed herself for not trying to control her breathing a little better but didn't feel so bad when the rest of the team reported similar situations.
"Still….still inside," The koala in Echo's arms mumbled.
Echo felt the fur all over her body stand on end as she looked down at the weak mammal in her arms.
"Steph….she….got scared...went to hide….corner office."
"Frick, ok," Echo said before looking up and shouting for assistance, "Medic!"
A mammal in a white helmet hurried over and opened his arms, the wolf gingerly took the koala and placing a damp cloth over her mouth.
"Possible civilian trapped in a corner office," Echo said quickly to the wolf. One of the key things now was communication. The urge to dart off on her own was quickly squashed by her training.
You aren't alone, so never go off alone.
"Tank check!" The lieutenant shouted.
Echo groaned, she knew why their leader was asking for such a thing, but time was a factor.
The painted dog adjusted a small device on her wrist and checked the gauge. Her eyes widened suddenly when she saw the reading. The small needle inside her pressure gauge was barely fluttering over the red line. She would be tapping into her reserve oxygen soon which she had always been taught was a big no.
"Low!" Came a voice.
"Same," responded another.
Most of the mammals in the small squad were reporting the same low levels, which did not bode well.
"Alright we are out of here, make for the main exit stairs and get hustling-" The lion who had been leading them began.
"Sir possible civilian trapped in a corner office," Echo nearly shouted over the clambering noises of the bunker geared mammals moving.
"Tanks are low-"
"Civilian is trapped!" Echo cut their leader off.
The lion looked at the rest of the group and then back at Echo.
"We can go with her and be in and out in no time boss," Came a confident voice from behind Echo.
The painted dog glanced over her shoulder and saw a dhole standing just behind her. Their masks covered their faces all Echo could do was give a grateful nod to her fellow canine who had spoken up.
"Thompson," The lieutenant began as he looked over at a gazelle who stepped forward. "Go with those two to the corner office."
The gazelle nodded and quickly hurried over.
"You three," The lieutenant began as he pointed at several other mammals, their bunker gear covered in ash and burn marks. "Make a quick run around this section and make sure-"
Echo didn't hear the rest as she turned and hurried off with the rest of her small team. Time was a factor and the orders being given right now weren't for her so why should she stay and listen to them?
Get into the office, get out, go home. Simple.
As it turned out the first part had been simple. They managed to weave through the various office spaces with ease. When they came to a closed door they had a feeling they had found what they were looking for.
Echo tried the handle which moved easily. When it came to pushing the door open however she found that there was some difficulty. She managed to move the door open just enough to peek inside.
The room was filled with smoke and looked empty. When Echo looked to the floor she realized why the door wasn't opening.
A young looking koala in a burnt business suit laid unconscious right against the door.
Must have tried to find refuge then passed out….please just be passed out.
It took some maneuvering but they managed to move the door open just enough for Echo to get a gloved paw in. She managed to push the koala aside which allowed them to get in.
"Got breaths," The dhole in the fire gear said excitedly as she leaned down and examined the koala. "Shallow but they are there."
"We gotta get going, she ain't the only one having a hard time breathing right now," Thompson explained in a somewhat hurried manner.
He was right, Echo noticed how her own breathing was becoming somewhat labored.
We have been here too long, got to get out now.
The dhole hefted the unconscious koala over her shoulder and turned to the others. They quickly exited the office and hurried down the hall.
Had they just been a few seconds faster they probably would have avoided the disaster that came from above.
Little did they know that two stories above them an indoor theater had been burning. Much of the auditorium was covered in a special soundproofing cloth material that made it so music from the shows wouldn't echo all over the building. The only problem was the material was highly flammable. Add that to the fact that many of the seats had been designed to fit even the largest of patrons and you had a ticking time bomb of a floor collapse.
The seats to the theater fell through the floor one at a time but soon it was like a drain had been unplugged and the seats cascaded down on the floor below, weakening the ceiling directly above the rescue team.
It all happened in a flash. Echo heard the ceiling above her begin to give the telltale signs of failing. As she looked up she watched in horror as the wood and plaster of the ceiling suddenly opened up above her and a large cement and steel beam came through, like a knife cutting through butter.
There were screams, shouts, and what sounded like a freight train barreling down on the poor painted dog. Echo tried to dive down the hall but felt suddenly dragged to the floor. Her body pressed against the carpet as her helmet cracked.
The pain was like nothing she had ever felt before which caused her to scream out in agony.
She wasn't stuck on her face for long. She felt a pair of small hooves suddenly grab her by the wrist. She knew who it was and did the same, grabbing Thompson as he tried to pull her free.
"We got you pup," Thompson said through gritted teeth.
Echo's body didn't even budge, but that didn't stop the small gazelle from trying to free his teammate.
In the end, it was Echo's cursing that got him to stop.
"I'm sorry Echo," Thompson said as he put a hoove on her shoulder and looked over, inspecting the damage. "Shoot….you are stuck pretty bad."
"Lt. can you hear me?" Echo heard the dhole speak frantically into a small walkie talkie on her shoulder. Only static returned. "Lt. We got a serious problem, we had a collapsed ceiling and now Echo is stuck! Come in!"
"The transmission is being blocked by all the crap they put into the walls," Thompson growled. "Go to the stairwell and grab the others."
The dhole hesitated and looked to her trapped compatriot. It took Thompson to snap her back to reality.
"We need help getting her free! Go get the others! I'll stay with her!"
The canine carrying the koala simply nodded and hurried away into the smoke.
Echo let out a cough as she tried to lift herself up. The pain in her leg caused her to go limp and fall forward.
"Echo stay down," Thompson ordered, "We are getting help now."
Echo sucked in some air and let out a cough as a burning sensation filled her lungs. The very air she breathed tasted like ash. She looked down at her wrist and noticed the needle in the gauge was now completely limp. A simple flick would cause it to go to one side and then the other.
She realized her facemask had been cracked. Judging from the damage around her the tank on her back had probably been breached.
She was out of air, pinned to the floor, and out of time.
She managed to move just enough so she could look around and take in her surroundings.
Flames began to invade their floor and dance across the painted dog's vision.
"Hey, we got you, ok?" Thompson said firmly. "We aren't leaving till you are free."
He is nice, he is lying but he is still nice.
Echo couldn't get over the comradery of the ZFD. Here she was with a mammal she had only just met not even an hour before. They were surrounded by flames with no chance of escape and he was comforting her as he refused to leave her behind.
Most mammals would have already hurried away, knowing full well there was no chance to save the poor painted dog.
This stranger though put a firm hoove on Echo's shoulder and gave her words of comfort as the flames licked at his bunker gear.
Two shouldn't have to die….
"Go…." Echo managed to get out, the taste of copper filling her mouth.
"Shut up," Thompson said firmly, knowing full where what Echo was about to say.
"Go…," Echo repeated as she coughed. "I can't move my leg, its pinned, and at best it's broken. I could be bleeding internally. Even if we get free I-"
"Will be carried out of here even if I have to strip down both our tanks and carry you naked," Thompson said before letting out a cough.
His tank is empty too…
Even if they got her free right then it would be almost impossible for the lone gazelle to drag her to safety. Her size alone would have been an undertaking but add all the gear she was currently wrapped up in and it made the task almost impossible.
"Thompson," Echo began as the world around her grew dark, the shadows invading the edges of her vision. "Please just go…."
"Shut up Echo," Thompson said again.
"You don't have to die with me," Echo said as tears rolled down her cheeks.
She was going to die. No doubt about it. This was the end of this firefighter.
It was in these final moments that her thoughts went to her family.
She wished she had given Delta a hug before she went into the building. She wished she had had a chance to hold him close and tell him how much he meant to her. She wished she had seen her brother Bravo. To give him one last kiss on the cheek and tell him thanks for all the late night study session and early morning runs when they were preparing for the fire academy.
Her mother and father would probably never forgive themselves. They had always pushed this kind of service over self lifestyle on their pups. Always reminding them it was better to help others and be kind to one another. Echo, however, was glad she had gone into this line of work. She would never fault her parents for the drive they had given her to become a first responder.
In the end, Echo only had a few regrets, all of them revolving around her family and how she wished she could have said goodbye one last time.
Echo was in a dazed state at this point. The lack of oxygen getting to her brain was affecting her senses. She felt a sharp pain in her leg once more. Then there was a firm pressure on her shoulder followed by a tug.
Thompson must have been trying one last time, he had somehow grown stronger. His hooves had somehow been replaced by massive paws.
Is this really the end?
Echo looked up and realized it had to be. Towering above her was a shrouded figure.
So there is such a thing as Death. Thought he would be skinnier…
The last thing Echo saw before the world went black was Death raising his mighty ax.
Thought he carried a scythe…
No, she was sure of this, it was an ax. Just like the ones used by the ZFD.
-Echo: All right-
The waves slowly slid across a beautiful rain-soaked beach. While that wouldn't sound like the best place to be to some, to Echo it was so peaceful.
The steady raindrops landed gently on the pebble covered shore as the sea lightly crashed across the smoothed rocks. The waves were only a few inches high by the time they reached the shore making it such a serene place to be.
Echo couldn't think of a better place to be right now. It was like heaven. She had always loved beaches like this. It reminded her of her home of Manta Bay. The seaside city was normally blanketed by a series of gray clouds that would send small raindrops all over the city.
Having grown up surrounded by such an environment Echo was able to appreciate the beauty of it all.
She normally enjoyed standing with her paws at the edge of the water, letting the gentle waves wash over her ankles.
She currently found herself laying on one of the smooth rocks near the water's edge. Echo couldn't remember exactly how she had gotten there but she didn't really care. When she tried to get up from the large rock though she felt an odd sensation. She couldn't move.
Why can't I get up?
She tried to move once more and when she was unable to she became annoyed.
The steady rhythmic sounds of the waves were still filling her circular ears as she tried to stand.
She was not the type to give up though.
If she gave it another try then maybe.
Her ears flicked as she realized the sounds of the waves were changing. It was a steady rhythm that seemed oddly familiar.
She wasn't at the beach.
"Hey there sweetie," Came her mother's voice. Echo felt her body becoming sore. Everything ached as the waves continued to crash.
"Echo sweetie it's ok," her mother cooed as the beach faded away.
"Here she comes," came an unfamiliar voice. "Remember she is going to be disoriented."
"If I had been out for almost two weeks I would be too," came her brother's voice.
She tried to say something to Delta but her mouth felt like it was full of cotton balls. All she could do was mumble.
"Easy does it, darling," came her father.
What's dad doing here? What is mom….oh my gosh are we still in the fire?!
Echo began to panic as she started to remember everything. The fire, the smoke, and now her family was stuck in it too somehow? She had to get them out. She had to get up so she could try to save them.
Beep beep beep beep beep
"Easy does it," Came the unfamiliar voice once more.
"Is she alright?" Her mother asked, her voice trembling.
"This happens sometimes," the voice said firmly. Echo detected movement nearby and felt a presence approach her.
"Echo can you hear me?"
Mom we have to get you out of here!
She began to remember something though. Her parents weren't in Zootopia. They still lived in Manta Bay. So they couldn't be in the fire which meant.. .neither could Echo.
"Who…?" Echo managed to mumble.
"Oh sweetie," Echo heard her mother gasp.
"She is ok," her father interjected in a comforting tone.
Yeah, I'm ok mom.
"Fire...not...safe," Echo mumbled, still not 100% sure if they were still in that burning inferno or not.
"It's ok Echo," The unfamiliar voice said. "I am Dr. Bitter, you are safe and sound."
"Most of her at least," her brother Bravo interjected.
Echo heard a muffled thump followed by a yelp.
"Dude really?" Delta growled.
"You're just jealous I beat you to it," Bravo grumbled.
"Both of you!" Echo's father barked.
"Wh….what?" Echo managed to get out as she began to open her eyes, her vision filling with a blinding light.
"Easy there," Dr. Bitter said calmly. "It's going to be disorienting at first."
"Wh..what happened?" Echo groaned as her vision began to fill with blurry figures.
As her vision cleared Echo finally realized she was no longer surrounded by the burning building she had run into. She wasn't in her bunker gear either.
It didn't take her long to figure out she was in a hospital room. Which meant she was alive.
I am alive?! But! No! How?!
A heart monitor nearby continued to beep and showed the painted dog's vitals to everyone.
"Easy now," Dr. Bitter said was again as she put a large paw on Echo's shoulder.
Echo blinked a few times and looked at the large lioness standing beside her. The predator was wearing a stereotypical lab coat over some scrubs. A blinding light filled Echo's vision and she blinked a few times.
"Just checking your response," The lioness said softly. The light bounced on either side of Echo's vision as the painted dog squinted. "Looking good. Slight delay but to be expected from the meds. You are going to be a little disoriented for a bit."
Echo took in a deep breath as her vision sharpened. She looked around and was pleased with the sight that was waiting for her.
Her mother and father were standing on the other side of her bed. Both of them looked tired like they hadn't slept for days. At the edge of her bed stood two more familiar faces.
Her brother Delta was smiling lovingly at his sister. Another painted dog stood beside Delta, this one had a bit of an odd orange tint to his lighter fur. Her brother Bravo gave his sister a toothy grin followed by a wink.
"Hey there sleeping beauty," Bravo began. "How you doing?"
Echo took in a deep breath as she smiled at her siblings. Her brilliantly teal eyes blinked once before slowly going down.
Echo heard her mother shudder as she took in a deep breath.
"Sweetie," her father began as he stepped forward. "It will be ok."
The reason for her parent's reactions was perfectly clear. At the edge of her bed, Echo saw her leg. Her singular leg. Her left leg was absent though and it didn't take Echo long to process it all.
She wanted to cry, to scream, to ask what happened. However just as quickly as those thoughts entered her mind the memory of the fire filled her thoughts.
She had been surrounded by flames. There had been no escape. She was supposed to be doomed to an early grave. All she had wanted to do was see her family one last time. It would appear someone up high had heard her, but nothing in life was free.
If the loss of her leg was the price… it was well worth it.
Echo looked up at her family, tears rolling down her cheeks. She then looked over at her brothers and slowly raised a paw. She curled her digits till she was pointing at her remaining leg.
"I am all right," she managed to croak a mix of sorrow but amusement in her voice.
Bravo was the first to get it. His amber eyes widening as he looked down at his sister's remaining leg. He tried to keep a straight face but let out a snort. Delta never stood a chance, he had always been the type to start laughing when others did.
Soon the three siblings were laughing as Echo opened her arms. The brothers hurrying over to their sister and wrapping her up in a hug as Dr. Bitter tried to remind them to be gentle.
I am alright. I am alive and I am all right!
Though she was alright Echo was not exactly out of the woods yet. After the initial shock of not only losing her leg but being alive wore off the painted dog was brought up to speed about her recovery process.
She had been told it was a miracle that she was alive at all. The loss of her leg would have eventually killed most mammals but thanks to some quick thinking on her rescuers part she didn't die from the loss of blood.
Her friends from the firehouse visited her as soon as word had gotten out she was awake. Needless to say, there were many tears. Most of joy, but a few of sorrow.
Even though firefighters knew the risks of their job, it was still a shock when one of their own was injured.
When her best friend from the firehouse arrived the panther stood in the doorway for almost a whole minute, a look of overwhelming joy on her face before she burst into tears and rushed over to her friend.
There was not only a great deal of happiness at Echo's survival but also a great deal of guilt.
Many of her fellow firefighters would say they wished they had been there to help Echo or even trade places with the young painted mammal
Echo, however, was quick to brush such comments aside. Reminding them all she knew the risks and that no one was to blame.
Some of them, however, would counter to the last comment. Stating that there was one mammal to blame, this was normally said as eyes fell on Echo's leg.
This eventually began to trouble Echo and it didn't take long for her to start and pry about who had rescued her. She had only been awake for a few days but it was really starting to get to her.
Most of her visitors had said they were under strict orders not to speak about it. Apparently both Dr. Bitter and some of Echo's superiors felt it was best to not reveal that detail just yet.
"They just aren't sure what to do about it all," Casi explained, the panther made it a point to visit Echo every day which Echo was grateful for. Sure there were a lot of visitors but she would get rather lonely in-between visits.
"What do you mean?" Echo asked as she adjusted herself in bed, looking over at her best friend in curiosity.
"Well I mean he did save you," Casi began before her eyes went down to Echo's leg. "But...the cost...ya know?"
Echo couldn't believe what she was hearing. She had little information to go on when it came to what happened but now that she had something she was shocked at what was being suggested.
"Casi!" Echo barked which brought the panther's attention back to the painted dog's face. "He saved my life."
"I know. That's what we have all been saying but there are others who-"
Even in her current wounded state Echo gave off such a powerful essence that even her best friend became hesitant to continue.
"He cut off your-"
"He saved my life!" Echo said as she sat up in bed. "That's the only thing I want to hear about him."
Echo paused for a moment and realized that if she was hearing all this then the mammal that had saved her was hearing it too. To her, that wasn't right.
Sure she had been somewhat angry about all this at one point or another. Life for her was going to be hard, very hard actually. But at least it was a life she had.
No one else had been there when things went dark. No one else had sat there as the flames drew closer, wishing they could say goodbye to their loved ones. No one else had accepted that they were about to die. She reminded herself of that constantly whenever she felt herself falter and hold some kind of resentment towards the mammal that had saved her.
She had lost her leg because of the fire but had gotten a second chance because of this mystery mammal.
A mystery mammal who was most likely suffering because of what others felt he shouldn't have done.
When it came to size it was rather amusing the difference between Casi and Echo. What was even more entertaining however was whenever Echo wanted something, Casi would get it done out of fear to what the determined canine could do. The panther could easily push the canine around but that's not how it worked. No far from it actually. Echo had always been the driven one between the two.
"Casi," Echo said as she looked right into her friends' eyes. "I want to meet him, now."
It took a lot to get this task done. Casi had been quick to inform Dr. Bitter about the request, this just opened the floodgates.
Soon Echo was surrounded by her family and doctor who all tried to talk Echo out of it. Well everyone except her brother Delta. The painted dog remaining silent as all the others tossed in their opinions on the matter.
When the others fell silent Echo looked over at her brother, a somewhat annoyed look on her face. After all, she had been through she had hoped for a little more support in this request.
"What about you Delta?" Echo asked as she took in a deep breath.
Delta remained quiet for another second or two before standing up straight and walking over to his sister's bedside. He reached down and put a paw on her shoulder, giving her a squeeze.
"I think no matter what I say it's a waste of time," Delta began as his lips curled slightly. "You are far too stubborn to listen to anyone when it comes to this stuff. So how about I save us all the time in arguing and go get him?"
"Get him?" Echo asked as she tilted her head.
Delta nodded and looked around at the other's confused faces.
"He has been parked out in the corner of the parking lot ever since word got out Echo was awake."
"Think he is trying to finish the job?" Bravo teased before getting a swat on the back of his head by his mother.
"No," Delta said with a smirk. "Think he has been waiting for Echo."
Outside of the Savanna Regional Hospital was a series of parking lots. Being one of the larger hospitals in the district meant it had to cater to a lot of different mammal's vehicles of all shapes and sizes.
Today however the parking lots weren't as crowded. That didn't stop a certain car from sitting in the farthest corner of one of the lot. Away from everyone else. The driver felt he deserved as much.
Lt. Bernard Loines was a shell of his former self. The once strong lion was looking rather worse for the wear. He had not eaten right for days. He could barely sleep. He would occasionally return home to clean up and grab some food, not that he could keep it down. If he did manage to get some sleep it wasn't for long and it wasn't pleasant.
It was always the same nightmare playing over and over in his head.
A painted dog in bunker gear crawling away from him. Looking up at him with beautiful teal eyes, full of pain and horror. She would occasionally plead for mercy, but he ignored her as he brought the ax down, butchering her poor leg.
The screams would normally cause him to wake up in a cold sweat.
Even though he had to remind himself that isn't how it happened it did little to stop the nightmare from repeating over and over again.
The other unfortunate thing about all this was Bernard had little to do to distract himself. A few days after the Grandidier fire he had been brought to sit in front of a panel of various high ranking fire officials. It was at that point he had been told he would be on administrative leave until further notice. He didn't question why. He knew exactly what was going on.
While he tried to play off some kind of indifference he couldn't help but overhear the comments said behind his back.
While some of his fellow firefighters were understanding the rumor mill began to churn out all sorts of terrible stories and soon the nickname came.
Bernie the butcher.
He had been somewhat grateful when Thompson had stood up for him. The small mammal could actually be a real terror when he wanted to be.
The occasional fight would break out as the gazelle would come to the lion's defense. Telling anyone who would listen how if it wasn't for Bernard then that poor painted dog would be a black and white picture on a memorial somewhere.
He would tell them all how he and Echo had been surrounded by flames. His small frame being unable to get Echo free from all the rubble. How he had tugged and pulled till his arms gave out. How he had said a silent prayer as his fight or flight kicked in. He said he had felt like a coward as the flames moved in all around them. How he still hadn't decided if he was to run or sit and accept his fate with Echo.
Thompson would then tell them all how Lt. Liones burst through the thick black smoke and saved them both. If it hadn't been for his quick thinking then there may have been two pictures on a memorial somewhere.
Most of his fellow fire mammals were understanding to it all. They would try and cheer Bernard up but everyone could tell that this was eating away at him.
It had been like this for what felt like ages to the lion.
When Bernard had heard that Echo was awake and had recovered he had gotten into his car and driven straight to the hospital.
Which is where he had sat for several days now.
He wasn't sure what he was doing. He was at a total loss at this point.
There was so much he wanted to say to the poor painted dog he had maimed.
He wanted to beg for her forgiveness. To plead for some kind of relief. Maybe even offer up his own leg for her to mangle in exchange.
The distraught lion had been sitting with these thoughts for days. Unsure of what he could possibly do to make things right.
The hot savanna sun was beating down on the parking lot as Bernard stared up at the hospital before him. Some movement just ahead of his vehicle caught his eye though.
A painted dog in a ZPD uniform was marching right towards him.
I was wondering when they would finally kick me out…
Bernard began to try and think of an excuse as to why he was there. He had a feeling if he told the truth he would probably be cuffed and brought in on suspicions of stalking Echo.
The lion stepped out of his car and slowly raised his paws up, showing he was unarmed. He winced when he realized how he probably looked. He hadn't taken care of his fur in days, his clothing was disheveled, and he knew the painted dog could probably smell him from across the parking lot.
The painted officer stopped just a few feet away and eyed the larger predator.
Bernard was surprised to see that the canine didn't look angry if anything he looked concerned.
"Bernard Liones?" The painted mammal asked as he crossed his arms. "Put your arms down, I ain't here to arrest ya."
"Yessir," Bernard answered back as he lowered his paws.
"My name is Delta," The officer said firmly. "Echo's littermate."
Oh gods! Her brother is ZPD?!
Bernard looks down at the service weapon on the painted dog's hip and then back into the officer's eyes.
If this is how I go I deserve it...maybe one day she will forg-
"She is resting right now. Which gives you time to go home and clean up. I will not have a mammal who looks and smells like you visit my sister. She still has some burns on her and is at risk of infection."
The words confused Bernard at first and he tilted his head slightly as Delta continued.
"Clean your fur, put on something presentable, then come back here. She wants to see you and I know the only reason you are loitering in this parking lot is because you want to see her too."
Bernard couldn't believe what he was hearing and blinked a few times before nodding.
"Officer...I am so sorry for what I did-"
"Save it for her," Delta said as he raised a paw and eyed Bernard's outfit. "Like I said, something nice."
A short while later Bernard was walking through the air-conditioned halls of the Savanna Regional Hospital.
The lion hadn't looked this well-groomed or nervous in ages. He had taken Delta's advice and hurried home, doing his best to clean up and look presentable. He had even taken his time to put on his ZFD dress uniform. The navy blue button up top and dress slacks were still finely pressed.
When he had put on his uniform he realized he had gone down a few notches on his belt. The lack of eating right had started taking an effect on his physical form.
Delta led Bernard through the winding halls of the building, remaining silent for the most part.
Bernard wanted to say something but he understood why the painted mammal didn't speak. Why would he want to say anything to the lion? Afterall Bernard was responsible for all of Echo's pain.
Every step they took brought Bernard closer and closer to seeing Echo. Which was probably why each one carried more and more weight with it.
Bernard began to worry that he was going to be sick. The once brave lion he was seemed to have vanished at the thought of meeting Echo once more.
When they finally reached the door to Echo's room Delta stopped and turned causing Bernard to stop.
"Behind this door is my sister," Delta began as he looked up into Bernard's eyes. The painted dog didn't seem to show any hesitation or worry even though the lion was easily several feet taller than him. "She has been through a lot and is still recovering so she can't get too excited or it may hurt her recovery. That being said you will listen to what she says, you will agree with what she tells you, and if you in any way try to get a rise out of her I will tranq you and let you drool on the floor while she and I eat jello and watch TV."
Bernard wanted to chuckle at the last part but he was just too nervous. His lip did curl however and he gave the painted officer before him a firm nod before looking at the doorway in front of them.
Delta turned to the door as well and took a step forward. He raised a paw and gave it a firm knock.
A muffled voice told them they could enter.
Delta pushed the large wooden door open and led Bernard inside.
The lion took a moment to survey his surroundings. There were three mammals already in the room. Another painted dog with tinted fur in a ZFD t-shirt and cargo pants. A lovely looking panther in a similar outfit, only she had gone for a pair of shorts. The jet black feline was standing next to the bed, a paw on Echo's shoulder.
Finally, there was Echo who looked far better than Bernard had thought. He had only met the painted dog once before and after that meeting, he had worried she would look like some kind of poor and beaten creature.
Instead, she almost had a lovely grace about her. There were a few white bandages on her fur here and there, most likely from burns and scratches. For the most part, though Bernard had to admit she was rather lovely.
"Bernard," Echo said softly as she raised a paw out towards the lion that had just entered the room.
The large predator was in a bit of a daze as he looked at Echo. His bright yellow eyes taking her all in. He glanced at the other mammals as if asking for permission to approach the wounded canine.
Most mammals knew that painted dogs were some of the fiercest pack animals in the whole city. They were very protective of their own.
No one in the room, however, seemed to really show any signs of aggression or distaste towards the large predator.
Bravo simply smirked and nodded, Delta sat back in a chair in the corner, and the panther took a step aside so Bernard could approach.
The last few steps towards Echo were some of the worst Bernard had ever taken. He felt like he was about to step right up on the gallows for execution.
These feelings however vanished as soon as Echo could reach Bernard's paw. She gently grabbed the larger mammals paw and pulled him closer to her bedside.
"Lt. thank you so much for saving me," Echo said as her eyes began to water.
"I...I.." Bernard began as he looked around the room. His gaze went back to Echo and he felt his lips begin to quiver. He had come here for some kind of forgiveness and instead was being thanked. "I don't deserve your thanks…"
The distraught lion began to look down at the floor, unable to bring himself to look at the painted mammal in the bed before him.
Echo gave Bernard's arm a tug and tilted her head so she could look into the lion's cast down gaze.
"Why?" The painted dog asked simply.
"Because...I...I had to.."
"That's right," Echo said softly. "You had to save me."
Bernard looked up and glanced down at Echo's leg. The other one was mis-
"Hey!" Echo snapped which brought the lions gaze back to her beautiful teal eyes. "Never think for a second that you took anything from me ok?
"If I hadn't done what I did then you would have-" Bernard was about to protest.
"A closed casket funeral," The painted dog in the ZFD shirt said from beside Echo's bed.
Bernard looked up, a shocked expression on his face.
"Bravo is right," Echo said with a smirk.
"Echo because of me you lost your leg," Bernard said. "For which I am so very sorry-"
"He just ain't getting is he?" Delta asked from his seat.
Echo rolled her eyes and gave Bernard's paw one last tug, pulling him close. His eyes went wide as the painted female grabbed the lion by the wrist and forced his large paw to her chest. He wanted to pull away out of respect but Echo was stronger than she looked.
"Feel that?" Echo asked softly as she looked up at the surprised lion. "You didn't take my leg Lt. You saved my life. You gave me another chance to be with my family and friends."
Bernard closed his eyes as tears began to trickle down his cheeks. He felt Echo's heart beating under his paw. Every gentle thump a reminder as to what he had done.
For the first time since the fire though he wasn't reminded of Echo losing her leg. He was reminded of how he carried her through what felt like the pits of hell. How he and Thompson had stumbled down the smoke-choked staircases. How he had never let Echo fall from his grasp until she was safely on a stretcher and being rushed away by the paramedics.
"I have heard what lies others are saying. Bernard, I am so sorry you have been through that," Echo said sadly. "You deserve nothing but praise. You saved me. The fire is the reason my leg is now gone. You are the reason the rest of me is still here."
"Yeah because of you she is all right," Bravo said with a chuckle.
"Oh my gosh, Bravo!" The panther snapped as she gawked at the smug-looking painted mammal. "That is not right."
"I got it from her," Bravo snorted as he nodded at Echo.
"Still though doesn't mean you can say it," the panther said, trying not to laugh.
"He was never the smartest of our pack," Delta mumbled from his seat. "I mean look, he went ZFD, should tell you he isn't-"
"Excuse me?" The panther said as she crossed her arms.
"Sorry Casi but let's face it-" Delta began but was cut off.
"You keep talking and you will have to face something that's for sure," Casi snapped at the painted officer.
"Says the mammals who spends most of her days rescuing her own kind out of trees."
"Someone has to do something while the cops sit at the local donut shop."
"How does it feel to have a job a garden hose can do?"
As Delta and Casi playfully bickered and sent jabs at one another's profession Bernard simply smiled and looked down at Echo, placing his paw on her shoulder.
"Thank you Echo," The lion whispered.
"No," Echo said with a smile. "Thank you Lt. I owe you my life-"
"Hose dragger!" Delta shouted.
"Donut Muncher!" Casi snapped back.
"-My noisey crazy life," Echo finished with a chuckle.
"Delta! Casi!" Bravo shouted at the two, getting everyone's attention. "You two should just kiss already. I mean it's so obvious to everyone else what's going on here."
Both Delta and Casi's eyes went wide at the suggestion, they glanced at one another before looking away in opposite directions.
"There, that shut them up," Bravo said as he looked over at Bernard and Echo, giving them a smug wink. "Gonna do a jello run, anyone wants one?"
Hope you are enjoying this emotional rollercoaster. Echo has some healing still to do but don't worry, our girl is tough and doesn't give up easily like.
Thank you all for your patience in between chapters for my works. You know how life tends to get in the way sometimes. :P
Also, thank you so much for the support on this story. I know sometimes reading a Zootopia story without the cast is a bit odd but I have gotten so many messages from folks who seem excited to see where the 10-7 bar came from.
Till next time,
-Echo: The Painted Phoenix-
A sweat covered Echo hit the large blue mat, and hit it hard.
The painted dog let out a low growl as she laid on her face for a few seconds before putting her arms down onto the mat and pushing herself upwards.
"You act like that wasn't suppose to happen," a painted female said as she hurried over and tossed a clipboard to the side. The canine reached down and looped her shoulder under Echo's arm and began to help her up.
"It shouldn't," Echo growled as she reached up and grabbed the wooden beam she had been using for support when she first started walking down the mats.
"You were actually always a bit clumsy," Came a shout from a seat nearby.
Echo looked over at her brother, her teal eyes on fire which made even the confident Bravo shrink back in his chair.
"Echo remember what I said," The painted female began as she helped Echo stand up once more, handing Echo a small gym towel so she could wipe the sweat from her face at least. "You will fall, you will fall a lot. You cannot get upset about it."
"I know…"Echo let out with a sigh as she caught her breath and leaned against the balancing beam. "I just want to stop being a burden as soon as possible."
"Oh please there is only one burden in our family," Delta said as he walked onto the mats and handed his sister a bottle of water. "And he is currently sitting in the corner."
"I heard that!" Bravo shouted as he looked up from his phone.
"Shush Burden, the adults are talking," Delta said without even looking at his brother who started to look for something to throw at Delta.
"You are already ahead of our preliminary schedule," The female painted dog said as she reached down and scooped up her clipboard. She placed a pair of black-rimmed glasses down on her nose and inspected the reports.
Echo noticed how Delta glanced out of the corner of his eye at the painted female who had been helping them. She couldn't blame her brother but still, the urge to smack him was overwhelming. The way their family friend looked in a tight green shirt and capris would have had most canine's howling for a little attention.
"Thanks, River," Echo began as she took a swig of water. "But still, we need to hurry and get me back in tip-top shape."
"Why?" Delta asked, his circular ears going up. "You got a date or something?"
Echo snorted and nearly spat out her water before swallowing what she had in her mouth.
"No," She said with a laugh. "I just don't want all of you to miss your own things."
"What things?" Delta responded quickly.
"Oh come on," Echo said with a sigh. "You mean to tell me you all have nothing better to do than sit around and watch me fall flat on my face all day."
"I mean I would pay good money to keep watching this," Bravo chuckled from his chair.
"I have nothing going on right now," River said as she brought the clipboard against her chest and smiled at Echo.
"So your free Friday night?" Delta asked the now surprised looking painted female next to him.
Echo looked at River and gave her a sweet smile, "River could you excuse me for a second while I fall on my brother and beat the paint out of him."
River gave a nervous giggle and stepped back as Echo hobbled after Delta who tried to escape. Echo however simply leaped at the retreating canine and clumsily landed on top of Delta.
"Fight fight fight," Bravo began to chant as he hurried over.
These were Echo's days now.
A few weeks ago they would have been filled with work. Waking up at the station, responding to calls, running drills, or just sitting around a large table with her fellow firefighters as they enjoyed a moment of peace from their otherwise busy schedule.
Now though it was the same thing day in and day out.
She would wake early and pester one of the nurses, pleading with them to let her hit the gym early. They would always turn her down and she would be forced to wait for her family to arrive.
Delta and Bravo would sometimes take turns but always made a point of seeing their sister on a daily basis.
River, while not a blood relation, had been a family friend for ages. The younger painted dog had gone into physical therapy and when she had heard about Echo she had dropped everything and moved to Zootopia to be Echo's personal physical therapist until the wounded canine was back on her feet….foot.
While Echo was grateful for all the support she had felt like she was burdening her family. Every time she fell she felt like it was a step backward from recovery. She felt like every slip was another day she would be holding them up from their lives.
They would always tell her that it wasn't true but she wouldn't believe them. How much fun could it really be just sitting around watching her hobble about?
"You are improving a lot Echo," River said when the little scuffle was over between Echo and her brother.
Echo rolled her eyes as she was slowly helped down onto a bench by River who had helped her across the room. It was a little awkward at first to rely on someone like this but Echo decided if it helped her recover quicker then she wouldn't mind.
"You however just got your butt kicked," Bravo said as he stood over a dazed-looking Delta who was still laying on the bright blue mats in the middle of the room.
Echo let out a soft groan as her muscles ached.
River quickly reached over and without even hesitating grabbed Echo's right leg and began to gently run her paws up the other female's muscles. Her grip was strong but felt amazing as it helped ease some of the soreness Echo was experiencing.
This was something else she had had to get used to. River being a physical therapist didn't really hesitate for some kind of physical contact. If Echo had a muscle problem you better believe River was putting her paws somewhere on Echo to help with the problem.
At first, Echo had been a little hesitant but thanks to River's magic paws it didn't take Echo long to not only get used to it but even ask for help on occasion.
"So we ready to try this with two legs?" River asked softly as she looked up at Echo, her amber eyes filled with an encouraging warmth.
Echo let out a sigh as she glanced over at a case that had been placed nearby. Inside of it was a temporary prosthetic that had been provided by the hospital.
She hated it. It was simple in design and would help her learn how to walk again but whenever she was on it she felt so weird. Like she knew it didn't belong to her.
Apparently this was common with most mammals who had to deal with this kind of thing. It took time but she was told most folks would make the new limbs their own eventually. Whether by redesigning it or putting stickers of some kind.
"Not sure…"Echo mumbled, not taking her eyes off the case.
"Well I am," River said firmly.
River's job wasn't only to watch Echo fall on mats and help her up again. It was to ensure her mental health was also intact. She would sometimes try to push Echo a little harder both physically and mentally. She understood how important it was to make sure Echo was prepared for not just the physical trials ahead but the emotional ones.
"Do...do they have to watch?" Echo asked in a hushed whisper.
Two sets of circular ears over on the mat twitched and both Echo's littermates looked over.
"Sooner or later they will," River said as she stood up slowly and brushed off her capris before heading over to the boys. "But today I think we can send them on a jello run."
Echo felt a little embarrassed and even regretted suggesting this but she just wasn't sure if she was ready to be seen by anyone with her new leg.
To her, it was one thing to have lost her left leg. To have something that was gone was like a battle scar. She felt like a wounded yet brave warrior who had survived some terrible battle. The thought of being on a prosthetic, however, took away thoughts and replaced them with a mindset that she was just some wounded pup that would need someones help every day for the rest of her life.
"Red or Green?" Delta asked as he made his way over to his sister and put a paw on her shoulder.
"Jello flavor? Red or Green?" Delta asked with a friendly smile as he gave Echo's shoulder a squeeze.
"Green please," Echo said with some hesitation.
"Green flavored it is," Delta said with a smile. Before he left however he leaned down and placed his forehead against Echo's. "You got this sis. Text us when you are ready for jello."
Echo closed her own eyes and felt a tear roll down her cheek as she nodded. She felt a great deal better knowing that her brothers held no resentment about being shooed out of the room for now.
"Maybe we can sweet talk the nurses and get you two jellos," Bravo suggested as he gave Echo a pat on the back.
Echo let out a soft chuckle and nodded.
With that, the two brothers excused themselves from the training area and made their way towards the cafeteria.
"So what do you think?" Bravo asked as the two painted dogs made their way casually through the halls.
"She is getting better," Delta mumbled as they passed a nursing station where several mammals in scrubs busied themselves with paperwork and forms for their patients. "But the next part is hard."
"Well, I was talking to River-"
"Bet you were," Bravo said with a chuckle.
"-She told me on occasion some mammals start getting depressed at this phase of the rehab."
"She lost her damn leg," Bravo pointed out. "She has every right to be depressed for a bit."
"She does," Delta agreed. "I know I would probably be a wreck but we both know how stubborn Echo can be."
The two turned a corner and made their way through a set of large double doors that led into the public section of the hospital.
"Apparently in some cases though the actual emotional stuff doesn't appear until therapy begins. The realization that certain aspects of her life are now different is going to all come at once."
Bravo let out a sigh.
"Guessing you are going to have to be one part of that realization," Delta said as he looked over at his brother who had a serious look on his muzzle.
"Spoke to some friends and then the chiefs," Bravo began as they made their way into the cafeteria. "They just aren't sure about her return to work."
"It is a physically demanding job," Delta pointed out.
"It's not just that," Bravo muttered as they arrived at the jello display. "They are worried about her. What if one day her leg gets in the way and someone gets hurt? You know what that would do to her?"
Delta remained silent, his ears lowering as he looked at the various bright-colored deserts before them.
"Delta she is tough. There is no doubt in anyone's mind about that. We all make mistakes though. It happens. No one is perfect," Bravo continued as he reached out and grabbed two green jello cups. "The first minor mistake though...what do you think she will say? Where will her mind go?"
"I see…" Delta said with a sigh as he grabbed his own jello.
The two paid for their snacks and made their way into the dining area. Several tables were spread around the room. A few TV monitors hung from the ceiling with different news networks on the screens.
"Well she may not even have to worry about returning to work," Delta said with a smirk as he nodded towards one of the monitors.
Bravo looked over his shoulder and watched a news story play out. An image of the once magnificent Grandidier was on the screen. Quickly replaced by a video of the inferno it had become.
"-The trial is set for later this month. Officials have deemed that after an investigation that the construction company and architect group who had designed the megastructure had taken several shortcuts during its construction leaving them liable for the many suits that they are now facing-"
It was old news to the painted canines currently sitting in the cafeteria.
"How much you think she is going to get?" Bravo asked as he looked back at his brother.
"Not enough to replace what she has lost.."
"Because my birthday is coming up and I was thinking of asking her for a car," Bravo continued as he opened his jello and began to enjoy some of his sweet treats.
Delta let out a laugh and shook his head.
The fire had cost a small fortune to fight and took days to finally put out. Half of Zootopia could see the warm glow from the embers at night while the other half could see the smoke trail rising up from the Savanna district.
When the flames had settled though and the smoke finally cleared everyone was able to see the true damage that had been caused. The building was completely destroyed.
That's when the lawyers showed up. Investigations began, inquiries were made, and that's when a rather interesting picture started to come into the light.
As it turned out the disaster could have been avoided and when that was finally realized all sorts of problems began to come out of the woodwork.
Building inspectors had been paid off, construction crews had been told to cut corners, and the owners of the building had taken out some serious insurance. What surprised everyone was how dumb the mammals involved had all been. The paper trails had been easy to follow, the mammals that had been bribed hadn't been given a proper alibi, and finally, there were the whistleblowers who showed up with folders filled with information.
For the most part, Echo hadn't paid much attention to the happenings outside the hospital. She had been so engrossed with getting better that she was shocked when one of the lawyers had come and visited her in the hospital. Apparently this zebra had been hired by the fire department to represent the first responders that had been injured or lost in the fire.
Echo had to hold back tears when she heard some of the names of the mammals no longer with them. A few of them she had known in life and to hear that they were gone made the canine's heartache for the families.
The attorney had advised Echo that she was to be taken care of in this case. That she would not have to worry about legal fees or court appearances to which Echo was grateful.
It was because of all this that Echo had not really paid much attention to the legal proceedings. She got daily updates from her attorney and whenever one of her friends from the firehouse visited but for the most part, Echo had just one thing on her mind.
Echo let out a sigh as she helped herself up. River stood by and watched as the painted female struggled a bit.
"It's not a race Echo," River said as she watched the female on the mat struggle. "Remember elbows first, balance, then rise."
Echo let out a pained sigh as she closed her eyes. She had fallen so much lately. Ever since they had tried the new leg. She had thought it would have gotten easier but instead, it was so much harder.
"Hey…" Came a whisper just in front of Echo.
The painted female opened her eyes and looked at a pair of bright yellows in front of her.
Casi was laying on the floor in front of Echo. The panther's tail swishing behind her as she gave her friend an encouraging smile.
"Remember, elbows first," Casi said in a hushed tone as she got up on her elbows.
Echo let out a sigh and mimicked her friend.
Slowly and steadily Casi repeated the steps for Echo to get back up and before long they were both standing on the mat. Echo swayed slightly as she tried to maintain her balance, the beam she had been using before had been pushed against the far side of the room for now.
"Looking good beautiful," Casi said as she opened her arms and wrapped her sweaty friend up in a hug.
Echo closed her eyes and let out a sigh as she rested her head against her friend, "Thanks Cas."
It had been a few days since they started using the prosthetic and while Echo was making progress she had been having trouble.
"You are resisting your own leg," River pointed out as she strode over.
"My prosthetic…" Echo corrected which made River roll her eyes.
"You keep calling it that and that is all its ever going to be Echo."
"That's all it is," Echo grumbled as she began to hobble towards a bench nearby, refusing to put any pressure on her left side.
"That's all it ever will be if you keep fighting it," River said as she followed the annoyed canine who finally reached the bench and sat down.
Echo opened a bottle of water and drained half its contents in a few gulps, she was drenched in sweat from the days training and needed a rest.
"Hey now, why so angry at the gear?" Casi asked as she sat next to Echo.
"It's not gear," Echo grumbled as she looked down at her prosthetic.
"It is," Casi snapped back. "It's like all the equipment we use at the firehouse."
"You use, I ain't ZFD anymore remember?" Echo corrected which caused both Casi and River to glance at one another.
The news had come in yesterday. While Echo would be allowed to return to the ZFD it would be in an administrative role. Which she had turned down.
"You are ZFD," Casi said, holding back a tear. "Don't you dare think otherwise."
"Really?" Echo asked as she raised her voice. "Because this right here does not look like ZFD!"
Echo waved her paw over her missing leg and growled. She then reached down and began to pull the prosthetic off.
"Echo!" River shouted as she hurried over but the fire in Echo's eyes told River that this was not a fight she would win.
In her rage, the painted female struggled to get the prosthetic off. Eventually, she tried tearing it only to fail at that as well. After another moment or two Echo stopped. She sat still for a moment before she burst into tears.
Casi was on Echo in a flash. The panther wrapped her friend up in her arms and held her close as the painted dog wept. The canine grabbed Casi's shirt and buried her head into the fabric as the tears flowed.
"I don't know what I am going to do Cas!" Echo said through the tears. "What am I going to do?"
"You are going to let all this out," Casi said as she rested her head between Echo's ears. "You are going to let all this out and then we are going to get up and try again ok?"
Echo began to shake as she continued to let it all pour out. All the emotions she had bottled up over the past weeks came tumbling out of the poor pup.
"We are ZFD and we don't leave our own behind," Casi whispered as she squeezed Echo close before pressing her lips to Echo's head. "You are ZFD, and you are not going to be left behind."
Echo continued to sob as Casi rocked her back and forth.
To River, the scene was truly eye-opening. She had been working with Echo for a while now. The painted dog had proven to be stubborn, brave, and tough. However, even mammals who tried to act like they were tough as nails had their moments when they needed to break down.
River did not look down on Echo at this moment. If anything she saw something. She saw how truly tough this painted female was. How she had held onto these emotions for so long. How she had continued to push forward with this baggage buried deep down inside. How she didn't push Casi away when she was weak but instead embraced her, knowing she needed someone else's help.
As Echo continued to let her emotions out River looked down at the prosthetic currently attached to Echo. A thought suddenly crossing her mind.
Echo had been in the hospital for almost 3 weeks now. Her burns had all healed though some of her fur was permanently burned away and she had a scar or two around her waist. For the most part, though she had been lucky enough to avoid infection and Dr. Bitter was very pleased with Echo's progress.
So much so that she was comfortable giving Echo a release date. For the longest time, Echo had wondered if she would just end up living in the hospital. She would constantly pester her physician and some of the nurses about being released.
She had been somewhat worried that River might hold up the operation though. Echo had still been having trouble walking on her own. It wasn't until Dr. Bitter had told her that physical therapy was not required for her release that Echo breathed a sigh of relieve.
It wasn't that she didn't appreciate River and all she had done. It was just the fact she missed having a life outside of the hospital and the sooner she was released the better….not that she had a job.
What she did have though was a rather pleased lawyer who had advised Echo that thanks to a settlement out of court the painted female would be set for a very long time if not the rest of her life.
To Echo though it felt like a hollow victory.
Sure she had some money set aside now, but her life had been tossed upside down.
Her parents had offered Echo to move back to Manta Bay so they could look after her. She, however, didn't want to burden them. Both her parents had lost it at the suggestion that she would be a burden. They playfully shouted and argued with her how she would never be a problem to them….her brothers, however, were a different story.
Echo had made some progress on her physical therapy though. She could hobble far enough to get whatever she needed and had even started to depend on her fake leg. Though she still didn't like it she understood she would need it if she intended to live on her own.
The day before Echo was to be discharged she continued with her normal routine. She woke up and had some breakfast with her family who were all planning to stay close by and see her out when it was time for her to leave the hospital.
Once breakfast was done Delta wheeled his sister down the halls towards the gym where they would meet River every day for Echo's sessions.
While Echo hated being wheeled around it was suggested for her to take it easy before each session so River could help her warm-up.
Today though something was different.
When Echo, Bravo, Delta, and their parents arrived in the large workout space several mammals were waiting for them.
River had a smug smile on her face as she stood with her paws behind her back. Casi was grinning ear to ear.
Two other mammals were waiting.
Lt. Bernard Liones stood at attention, a look of hesitation on his large muzzle. Next to him stood a koala in a set of mechanic overalls with a ZFD patch on the chest, a large steel case in his arms. Echo recognized him as one of the mechanics that worked at her old firehouse.
"Lt." Echo said softly as the lion approached. She held out a paw that Bernard took gently.
"Echo," The lion said as he mustered up a smile.
Everyone could tell that the lion was still in some pain over what he had had to do to rescue Echo. He had however been in contact with her and Echo was happy to hear he was in therapy now and was to return to work very soon.
"Lt. Liones," Echo's mother said as her lips quivered.
The painted dog hurried over, her arms opened as tears began to well up in her eyes.
"Have we thanked you enough for saving our daughter?" Echo's mother asked.
Lt. Liones was speechless but gave the teary-eyed female a pat on the back. His paw was taken up by their father next who gave him a firm pawshake.
Casi made her way over with a box of tissues and passed them out to those who needed them. She then stood next to Echo's chair, a large smile on her muzzle.
"What's with the tissues?" Bravo asked Delta in a whisper.
"Guess she knew mom was coming and we all know how she gets," Delta suggested.
"Actually it's for what's next," Casi let slip which caused the painted dogs to all look at the smug feline.
"So I am not sure if you remember when we first started but I told you how your prosthetic was just a temporary one till we could get a custom one ordered for you," River said proudly.
At this point, the koala took a few steps forward and set the steel case in front of Echo.
"Gabe here has taken it upon himself to help out in this regard," River said as she nodded at the koala who grinned up at Echo.
"Wish I could take all the credit but Jeff over from 72 and then Mallory from 50 helped out with machining some of the parts."
Echo's ears flicked as she looked at the koala in some confusion.
"Now before you see it," Gabe said as he undid the latches on the case. "I know you. You are going to cry and say we didn't have to and feel bad that we spent all our free time on it."
A few of the mammals chuckled.
"We chose to do this. When River reached out to us we jumped at the chance to help one of our own. So just remember that ok?"
The anticipation was killing Echo who nodded quickly before looking down at the case.
Gabe slowly opened the lid and a collective gasp came from the painted dogs who looked down at the contents.
Inside was a new prosthetic leg. This one, however, was like nothing any of them had ever seen before.
Gabe cleared his throat as he reached down and picked up the leg, holding it in both his paws. He then began to explain what he had created for Echo.
"We got a mold of the leg from River who volunteered to be the model for it. Seeing how you two are almost the same size it worked out pretty well. We got the measurements from your files at the ZFD."
Echo tried her best to hold the tears back, a black paw slowly moved toward her, the case of kleenex still in Casi's grasp. Echo quickly took one of the tissues and dabbed her eyes.
"So from the get-go it is designed to be for a canine," Gabe said as he pointed at the bottom. "We even made a paw for you. We utilized the materials we had at the stations. So the base is a carbon fiber mix that they are using on the new rigs. We managed to get some spares and melted them down and molded them where we needed. The bolts are from one of the trucks we retired a few weeks ago. Bernard had to go dumpster diving for it but he eventually found it at one of the laydown yards in Tundra Town."
Echo looked at Lt. Liones, tears flowing down her cheeks. She mouthed the words "Thank you" to which he gave a polite nod.
"So its light and durable which is what you want of course. We followed all of River's designs of previous prosthetics and added our own firehouse charm."
Gabe then showed Echo the side where a series of numbers had been jotted, "Also we gave you a truck number because the way we see it you have enough firetruck in this thing that it can count as a rig. So we put together your birthday, hire date, and cert date and made ya a little number to remember us by."
"Gabe its…. it's so beautiful," Echo croaked as she held out her arms and took the leg.
"We did want to go with a firehouse red on it but River said it was a bit flashy. So we went with the natural carbon fiber black and a nice medic white on the back parts," Gabe then leaned close to Echo. "Just give us a call though and we can get that made for you in dress uniform blue and even fire truck red."
"Firetruck red," Delta grumbled before gagging.
"So how are you liking the new gear?" Casi asked as she leaned close to her friend who was trying and failing to hold back tears of joy.
"I love it!" Echo let out as she held the leg in one arm and then opened her other, looking right at Gabe.
"I ain't much of a hugger," Gabe said hesitantly.
He didn't have much of a choice as he was quickly picked up by Bernard who plopped him on Echo's lap.
"Alright alright!" Gabe said as he wriggled in Echo's grasp. While he tried to put up a fight everyone could see the smile on the koala's face and knew he was enjoying the gratitude from Echo.
After a few more minutes of paw shakes and teary-eyed thank yous River and Gabe took Echo to the side to attach her new gear and make sure everything fit just right.
It took a few adjustments at first but they soon found a set up that was comfortable to Echo. As it turned out it wasn't as simple as just attaching the darn thing. River had to do a few checks and Gabe constantly had a tool in paw to make minor adjustments here or there.
"Remember just call me or Mallory if ya need adjustments. Or just swing by the firehouse and we can fix it up," Gabe said as he stood up and inspected his work.
Maybe it was because this leg had been made just for her, or maybe it was because it felt so much better. Whatever the reason Echo managed to adjust rather quickly to her new leg.
She stood up just fine on her own and after a few awkward steps she was walking on her own. There was a slight limp at first which was perfectly natural but for the most part it was night and day compared to what Echo had been doing before.
She wouldn't be entering any marathons anytime soon but to perform a task that others took for granted like walking meant the world to her and her loved ones.
There was a stumble here and there and even a fall but Echo got right back up without missing a beat.
She walked side by side with her brothers, waddled to her mother for a hug, even did a slight jump with Casi, much to River's annoyance.
Eventually, however, Echo's father cut in and said there was something he wanted to do with his daughter.
The older painted canine nodded at Casi who pulled out a mini blue tooth speaker from her bag. She flipped on her phone and soon a song began to play through the training area.
Echo beamed as her father put a paw on her waist and took her by the paw. While she had spent most of her life acting like a tough tompup she would occasionally be reminded that she was still daddy's little pup.
The two shared a dance, Echo resting her head on her father's chest as they swayed together to the music coming from Casi's phone.
Delta and Bravo meanwhile were talking to Bernard who had taken a seat on a bench nearby.
"So how is therapy going?" Bravo asked bluntly.
"Its going ok," Bernard admitted hesitantly. "Made some real progress, my doctor suggested I be here today...you know...to see her walk again."
Delta put a paw on the lion's shoulder and smiled, "We are glad you made it bud. Think she is really glad too."
"Anyone else giving you trouble?" Bravo asked as he glanced at his sister and father sharing a father-daughter dance.
"A few are but nothing I can't handle now."
"Just give us a call and we can boot their vehicle," Delta suggested.
"Or we can just go beta them up for ya," Bravo added.
Over on another bench, River and Echo's mother sat watching the lovely moment between Echo and her father.
"Thank you so much River," Echo's mother said softly as she leaned against the other canine. "You have no idea how grateful we are."
"Of course Auntie Anne," River said happily.
"Your parents should be proud of you, you have truly followed the mantra of Service over Self," Anne said as she smiled at River.
"I didn't do it because of that," River said without looking away from Echo. Their eyes met for a moment and Echo beamed at River. "I did it because she is family, and family means no one is left behind."
The next day felt like Christmas to Echo. She was excited to finally be released from Savanna regional so she could head home and sleep in her own bed.
She had made quite the impression on much of the staff, many of them coming by to say their goodbyes and wish her luck. Many of them reminded her that if she needed anything she just needed to call their cellphones and they would come to help.
Delta asked a few of the ladies what would happen if he needed help, most of their responses were to just limp to the hospital. One or two however quickly pulled out a pen and wrote their cellphone numbers on a slip of paper.
"5 bucks says he doesn't call a single one," Bravo teased.
"Ladies love a dog in blue," Delta said as he waved the numbers in Bravo's face.
"Must be out of pity," Echo joined in.
Dr. Bitter, unfortunately, was swamped with patients and had to be attending a meeting when Echo left. She did make sure to leave a message for Echo at one of the nurse's stations. Echo read it and suddenly blushed before folding up the note.
"What it say?" Delta asked, noticing how flustered Echo had gotten.
"Nothing!" Echo said with a smile that fooled no one.
The three made their way towards the front of the hospital. Echo sitting in a wheelchair, which was a policy for patients leaving the hospital, that was being pushed by Bravo while Delta carried her things.
Echo noticed how they were heading towards the back entrance to the hospital, "Arent we parked out front?"
"Had to move the car," Delta said simply as he texted something out on his phone.
"Yeah darn cops keep booting vehicles," Bravo teased.
Echo didn't buy into it, she could tell when her littermates were scheming.
She didn't have to wait long though to figure out what they were up to.
When they finally reached the sliding glass doors Echo's eyes went wide before instantly closing as she tried to fight back the sudden tears welling up. Bravo didn't stop though and continued to wheel Echo outside where quite the reception was waiting for her.
Several fire trucks from different departments from around the city sat lined up near the exit. Their lights flashing in the midday sun. Two ladder trucks sat on either side of the gathering. Their ladders raised up high into the sky. The ZFD flag had been hung from one ladder to the other.
"Present Arms!" Came a shout.
Echo opened her eyes and watched as all her friends from the firehouse suddenly stood at attention and gave her a curt salute.
She spotted Casi in the crowd. The panther looking lovely in her firehouse shirt and BDU blue pants.
She recognized several other mammals from different departments.
Thompson was standing next to Bernard, both of them beaming at Echo who tried to wave but put her paw to her eyes once more to try and hide the tears of joy.
Her fire chief, a panda, strode forward and held his paws out towards Echo who reached out with her own. Though he was larger and stronger than Echo the chief had a kind of gentle touch about him. He took a knee in front of Echo and held out a small silver badge. Echo looked down at the polished object and then at her brother Bravo who simply smiled and nodded.
"I refuse to accept your resignation," The chief said overall the engines of the firetrucks that surrounded them. "You are ZFD, no escaping that just because you stubbed your paw."
Echo let out a laugh, her chief always did have a sense of humor about him.
"When you are ready you call me," The chief continued. "You are always going to be apart of this family you got it?"
"Yessir," Echo said proudly.
"Even if your brother is with the ZPD," the chief added, glancing at Delta who simply rolled his eyes.
"Don't you have a recliner to sleep in somewhere?" Delta shot at the chief who let out a laugh.
The panda then stood up and gave Echo a salute.
Not to be outdone though Echo surprised them all by standing up from her wheelchair and returning the salute.
The crowd of firemammals broke out in cheers and several of the trucks sirens blared in celebration as everyone hurried over to Echo.
The painted dog was swarmed with well wishes, pats on the shoulder, and hugs. All of which she thoroughly enjoyed.
Thompson hurried over and extended a hoof which was quickly brushed aside by Echo who reached down and lifted the surprised gazelle off his feet and held him close.
When Bernard approached the firefighters made a path for him. He too received a hug from Echo. The sight of the painted dog embracing the lion must have made a few of them realize what they had been doing to the lion. When Echo and Bernard parted the Lt. was shocked to see paws extended his way, many of the mammals present taking a moment to thank the lion for rescuing their friend.
It took almost an hour for the last of Echo's old friends to finally depart. They were all on call afte rall and had to hurry back to protecting the city.
Just before Echo and her brothers had left though she managed to have a word with her fire chief.
"I know you aren't one for the admin side of things but it could just be temporary until we figure something out," The panda said as the two strolled around one of the ladder trucks. "I mean you are already back on your feet which I have to say is rather impressive."
"Thanks, chief," Echo said with a sigh as she ran a paw over the polished red truck. "To be honest though while I was upset with the decision I have to agree with you all. Think my days of running into burning buildings is done."
"That choice is completely your's Echo," the panda said firmly. "You are a good firefighter and a good friend. There is been an obvious void since you left."
"One that you may have to fill," Echo said simply as she turned and gave the panda a smirk. "I am not saying I don't plan to return. For now, though I just need to figure things out."
"Take all the time you need Echo," the panda said before a smile appeared on his lips. "Just remember though you are still expected at all team building functions. Chief Rollo still thinks his crew can make a better chili."
"Oh hell no!" Echo exclaimed as she waved a paw about. "At best they have a 2 alarm chili."
"That's what I told him but he keeps saying he has a secret weapon."
"Unless he plans to just use our chili as his own then it will always be a 2 alarm."
The panda let out a chuckle before reaching over and giving Echo a pat on the shoulder, "Then you best show up with your best recipe. I wanna see smoke coming out of mammal's ears."
Once the three painted dogs had finally loaded up in Bravo's truck the decision was made that it was time for a drink. Echo had been through so much in the past few weeks and her brothers were proud of her, so much so they insisted she buy them a drink with all the money she was apparently getting from the lawsuit.
"Oh gee thanks," Echo grumbled from the backseat as she took a moment to adjust her leg. "Well you two pick and I will drink whatever."
"Tundra Pub?" Delta suggested.
"Last week. Polite Hannahs?"
"They ain't so polite to mammals who wear blue," Delta pointed out.
"Your kidding," Bravo said in slight annoyance.
"Nope, my trainer Wolfard got kicked out the other night because they realized he was ZPD."
"Well, where is there to drink then?"
As the argument about where they could sit and enjoy a drink played out in the front Echo looked out the window. They passed a few storefronts here and there. One or two of them had rental signs in the window, hoping to attract new business.
"I tell ya its hard to find a place to drink these days that ain't a chain restaurant," Bravo grumbled as he pulled up to a traffic light.
"Yeah and all the regular bars just get packed with drunks who try and start fights or grab your tail."
Echo's ears flicked as she became lost in thought.
"Too bad we can't just drink at the firehouse," Bravo teased. "Few drinks in Casi and I am sure she wouldn't mind you grabbing her tail."
"Oh yeah, that would be great. Flirting with a ZFD cutie in a firehouse surrounded by hose draggers."
"Hose draggers make the best drinking buddies," Bravo insisted.
Echo blinked a few times and looked at the front seat and just like that, she knew what she wanted to do with her money.
A few days and a few for rent signs later an exhausted-looking armadillo fumbled with the realtor lockbox that had been installed on a large wooden door that had been painted black. She felt this place was a longshot but she refused to give up this commission. Especially since it had just been dropped in her lap by her boss, apparently he just couldn't find the right place for this rather picky client.
She groaned as the box refused to open. She gave it a quick tap against the chipped door and suddenly realized the door had been left unlocked.
Of course, it is…
"Right this way Echo," the armadillo said as she tried to muster some level of excitement.
The two trotted inside and the armadillo reached for a light switch. A few fluorescent bulbs flicked to life, most of them had burned out long ago though.
"So this space was originally supposed to act as a kind of office storage place," The armadillo said as she opened a folder she had been carrying. "Since it was supposed to be a business the door is rated for max mammal size. There is also a smaller one at the bottom corner in case you get any smaller clients."
Echo slowly walked through the wide-open space, a broad smile on her muzzle.
"It has restrooms and more storage through that doorway there," the armadillo explained a she looked up and nodded towards a large door on the sidewall. "While it appears to be a two-story building on the outside as you can see from the raised ceiling it is just one floor. Suppose they put lots of high shelves up there to-"
The armadillo almost dropped her paperwork when she heard Echo's outburst, "It...it is?"
First try?! No way! Suck it, Trebek!
"Yes, it's just what I need," Echo said as she took a few steps back and looked at one of the walls. She held her paws up to make a square and began to take mental notes of what she wanted to do.
"Well, that's great!" The armadillo exclaimed. She looked around the old empty room and suddenly realized something, she had no idea what the painted dog was even going to do with the space. "So what's the plan? A new storage space? Maybe a workshop. Think it would be a great place maybe for a computer repair center."
"A bar," Echo said with a pleased sigh.
Echo turned and grinned confidently at the armadillo, "I am going to open up a bar."
I am currently enrolling to return to school for my masters so I am sure you can guess how busy I have been.
What an emotional rollercoaster this one turned out to be. I had so much fun at the end when I got to write about how our girl Echo managed to get on her own two feet again.
So now that we have the space for the bar it's time to get it set up. The next chapter is gonna be a fun one because we get to meet the first bartender: Em.
Till next time.
Chapter 4: Em: The First Bartender
With the 10-7 bar finally established its time to get some mammals behind the bar. Which is where the lovely otter named Em comes in.
-Em: The First Bartender-
The midday sun hung over the central part of Zootopia, shining down some warm rays to the many citizens who were out and about. It was the middle of the week so the streets weren't exactly busy. Most of the mammals currently roaming the metropolis were either finishing up lunch meetings and hurrying back to the office, or maybe a few shoppers that had the day off and decided to treat themselves.
On the edge of the central district, a small mammal was currently contemplating her next move as she waited in front of a large black door that had been left open, some muffled classic rock coming from somewhere past the entry.
The otter stood on the sidewalk as her Zuber hurried off to its next fair. She made a sideways glance back at the vehicle that sped off, wondering if she should actually try to wave it back down and get her out of here.
The thought however dissipated as she stared back at the rustic-looking storefront.
Her lips curled to one side as she took in a breath and glanced down at a folded piece of paper in one of her paws.
Looking back at the large open door with her brilliantly emerald eyes she decided to just take a chance.
No one says I have to take this gig.
She took a moment to adjust her outfit, ensuring that her button-up black blouse and matching black leggings made her look at least a little presentable. She had learned long ago in this business that no one expected or wanted a suit and tie to show up for an interview.
Most managers became somewhat intimidated when dealing with someone who was a little too sharply dressed, mainly because they were worried the individual didn't know how to handle themselves behind a bar.
It was one thing to look nice and know what kind of drinks were liked. It was another thing entirely to look good and properly serve everything on a bar's menu.
The lovely looking otter adjusted her shoulder bag and with one last deep inhale sauntered through the doorway.
It took a moment or two for her eyes to adjust to the low lighting inside the building. Several lights in the ceiling were burned out. This was not a good sign at first until the otter noticed a timber wolf in the far corner climbing up a ladder with a box of fresh light bulbs in his paw.
She took a moment to watch the larger predator work, studying what the handy mammal was up to.
The wolf hadn't noticed the otter enter and seemed to be in his own little world as he mumbled along to the songs currently pumping out of a blu-tooth speaker nearby.
With a practiced paw, the wolf began to unscrew a burnt-out light bulb before replacing it with a brand new one. He then climbed down the ladder and repeated the steps, replacing a whole row with ease.
It is a bit of a fixer-upper that's for sure...
The otter glanced around the large open space and noticed that while there was a lot of work to be done, whoever the owner was they obviously were pulling out all the stops.
The new arrival looked over and noticed several shipping palates had been left in the center of the room. All of them wrapped up with a clear shipping plastic.
Several chairs still wrapped in a kind of protective paper were stacked neatly nearby.
Sitting on a few were more boxes.
That's when she spotted it.
The otter's eyes went wide as she slowly strolled over to a stack of boxes that had been left by one of the new chairs. She reached out and placed a paw on the cardboard box and held back a whistle.
According to the labels, the box held….
"Pens," The otter whispered softly to herself as a tear welled up in one of her eyes.
I wouldn't have to bring my own! No more fumbling or begging to borrow one for closing a tab! There must be hundreds of them.
Some movement followed by a muffled curse from behind the newly installed bartop caught the otter's attention as she looked in the direction of the cursing.
She hadn't been noticed yet so if she wanted to leave now she could and no one would be the wiser.
Looking around though the small mammal saw something she hadn't seen in a while at her current bar.
It took a lot to run a bar, it also took a lot to get a dive like this up to par for it to even be called a bar.
However from the looks of the many boxes and tools laying around whoever owned the place clearly had a plan in mind and was throwing a ton of money into the place to get it up and running.
What could it hurt?
Em cleared her throat as she approached the bar.
When there was no acknowledgment she looked over at one of the chairs closest to the bar top and hurried over.
After years of working the many bars in Zootopia, she had learned that it was best to use her environment to get what she needed. Sure most mammals would just sit back and wait or some would not even think of stooping so low as to use a chair as a ladder.
The otter, however, was a different breed. She was the type to get her paws dirty if it got the drinks made and the tips brought in.
Once she had managed to climb on the bar she had a better view of the mammal currently working away behind the counter.
She noticed two legs currently jutting out from underneath the counter. While both of the legs were obviously canine they didn't exactly match.
The right one was covered in fur that was made up of black, brown, tan, and white splotches with no real discernible pattern.
The other appeared to be made of metal, while it was shaped to look like a canine's leg it was obviously a prosthetic of some kind. Em noticed an odd-looking fire department emblem had been drawn on the canine's fake ankle.
"Just go into the stupid hole you ass…come on!" A muffled shout came from underneath the bar.
From the looks of it, the canine in question was currently trying to plug in a bar fridge.
The otter couldn't tell what kind of model it was from her vantage point but she immediately fell in love with whoever this canine was when they succeded in getting the appliance plugged in. Mainly because a cool white light suddenly clicked on and brightened up the floor behind the bar. This told the otter that it was a clear door fridge, a bartender's dream come true.
No more opening a door to see where the bottles are, no more fumbling with a handle to check stock, it's Eco-friendly...oh my gosh I want one.
"Ok...one down...like 5 more to go," Came a grumbling from beneath the bar as a painted dog crawled back from her little hiding spot.
The canine was on all fours and looking down at the floor as she moved. She froze as her ears twitched and her nose gave off a slight wiggle. A pair of bright teal eyes slowly looked up and met a pair of emerald ones.
"How long have you been there?" The painted canine asked nervously as she remained on all fours.
"You got the ass into the stupid hole I see," The otter said with a smug smirk.
The painted dog let out a defeated sigh before standing up and brushing some dirt from her khaki capris.
"Sorry, probably not very professional of me," The painted canine admitted.
"If I had a nickel for every stupid fridge cable that came undone I would probably not be job hunting," The otter said with a smile. "Plus at least you are big, no one is gonna be shoving you down there to plug the stupid thing back in if something happens."
At the last bit, the painted dog's eyes went wide as she put a paw to her mouth, "They didn't…"
"Oh yeah, one of the reasons you see most bars hire small bartenders," The otter said as she adjusted her shoulder bag.
"Well I promise not to shove you into in small spaces," the painted dog chuckled. "I have littermates I can guilt trip for that."
The otter beamed before setting down her purse and unfolding the piece of paper she had brought with her. She laid it out on the bar and Echo recognized it as a print out to the job posting she had made online.
"So I am guessing this is the 107 bar?"
The painted dog grinned and nodded her head quickly before extending a paw which the otter happily took.
"The name is Echo, I am the owner and guess only staff member so far," The canine admitted.
"What about him?" The otter asked as she nodded over at the wolf who continued his pattern of going up and down the ladder to reach the many light bulbs in the ceiling.
"Friend from the firehouse who volunteered to help," Echo said with a smile. "Have a few of them coming and going, getting the place ready for opening night."
"Any of them single?" Em asked with a smirk as she looked back at Echo who chuckled.
"Yes, but they are no good fire mammals," The pained dog teased.
"Always did love a mammal in uniform," Em said with a flirty smile as her eyelids drooped.
"Well, we will have a lot of those here at the 10-7."
"Wait so it isn't 107?" Em asked as she tilted her head.
"Nope," Echo said with a smile as she reached over and grabbed a washcloth nearby and used it to wipe some of the dust off her paws. "It is 10-7 which is 10 code for out of service. Little play on words."
"I like it," Em said as she glanced around the vacant room before glancing back at Echo. "Is there going to be a theme alongside the name?"
"Oh you better believe it," Echo laughed. "Already have some pictures pulled from archives, got patches, challenge coins, old signs, the works."
Em looked a little confused and tilted her head.
"It is going to be a first responder bar," Echo explained as she put an arm on the bartop and looked around. "My family is all first responders and I wanted to make a place for them to just sit, relax, and enjoy a drink."
"That's actually really sweet," Em said as she glanced around the room with Echo before looking back at the painted dog. "And to be honest a great idea. I haven't really heard of a bar like that yet in the city and trust me I would know."
"Guessing you have worked at a lot of bars before?" Echo asked, bringing her attention back to the lovely otter sitting at the bar.
Em simply nodded as she pulled a resume from her bag and placed it neatly in front of Echo. The painted dog scooped up the paper and her eyes went wide.
"Wow, you have been a bartender for a while I see," Echo muttered as she looked down the otter's work history. Something, however, was a little concerning. "Also notice you don't stay at a bar for very long…"
"Longest has been a year," Em admitted cooly.
While this would make some candidates for a job nervous Em seemed calm and collective in her response which made Echo look up and right into the otter's eyes.
Em knew exactly what Echo was thinking and took a breath before explaining.
"I just haven't found that perfect fit, to be honest. The Tropical Bay was nice but was really just a seasonal gig so during those slow months we were expected to perform housekeeping at the resort while still just making our bartending wages which meant I was underpaid with no tips."
"That even legal?" Echo asked with a chuckle.
Em let out a sigh and rolled her eyes, "Then there was the Fang club was a bit odd. Had to dress up in a tight outfit. Mostly high-end business mammals there to ogle at the ladies and brag about big business deals while giving terrible tips."
"Well, I wouldn't last long there that's for sure."
"One particular brave buck said his company had been my tip for the night since it was rare for someone so important to visit."
"Oh ok, so that would have been my last night."
"Was mine too," Em said with a smirk.
Echo's lips curled into a mischievous smile, "I like you."
"My favorite was the Ink and Paint club," Em said as she continued to list her experience.
"Haven't heard of that place," Echo admitted.
"It is in the Saharah district over by the movie studious. A lot of important entertainment mammals would visit but they were more there for the shows that the bar put on. Think old fashioned speakeasy with a stage up front. Nightly jazz, drinks, quiet atmosphere."
"Why did you leave?"
Em glanced at the front door to the 10-7 before looking back at Echo, "Did you hear about what happened with the Maroon Studios founder?"
Echo had to search her memory but she snapped her digits together when she remembered reading an article.
"The one who was murdered?"
"Yeah well, one of the prime suspects was a friend of mine, this singer we had at the bar," Em explained. "She was innocent and so was her husband who had also been accused. The club just wasn't the same after the investigation though. Management changed paws and I could tell things wouldn't be the same. I still keep in touch with Jessica though."
"Well glad your friend wasn't the one who did it," Echo chuckled. A pensive look came over her muzzle as she racked her brain over that particular case. "Didn't it turn out to be a politician?"
"A judge," Em said with a sigh.
"Wow," Echo let out before looking down at Em's resume. "Says here you are currently working just a few blocks over at Tails."
Em simply nodded.
"Why do you want to leave them? I mean aren't they really popular?"
"Yeah but its who they are popular with," Em replied and watched as Echo put down the otter's resume and crossed her arms. Em noticed how patches of fur on Echo's arms were shorter than others, the canine's skin still visible where some obvious burns could be seen.
Oh, you poor sweet thing.
"I will be honest with you Echo," Em said, deciding to just go all in. Afterall if worst came to worst she still had a job back at Tails. "Every night it's the same thing. A bunch of boozed-up college mammals all shout at me different drink orders thinking they are being slick when really they have no taste. I get looks, tail grabs, and even been slapped on the rear a few times. All so these kids can get wasted, throw up, and leave without giving me a proper tip."
Em adjusted herself in her seat and looked right in Echo's eyes.
"I enjoy bartending. I miss the Ink and Paint because I would have regulars and even if I had a table of new mammals I would get to chat with them, learn what they liked, make suggestions, and just have a nice night. Bartending to me isn't just about pouring a drink into a glass. We are the last of an old line of counselors, teachers, or just a pair of ears mammals may need in a tough time."
Echo's eyes widened and her ears flicked at the last part.
Em began to wonder if she had struck a nerve so she remained silent for a moment.
"That right there," Echo said with a smirk. "Is exactly why you need to work for me."
Em's eyes brightened as she looked up at the painted dog.
Wait are we really going to do this? It's a new bar! It may not last a week!
"You see Em I wanted this place to be a refuge for my brothers and sisters still fighting the good fight and protecting the city," Echo began as she leaned on the counter and looked at the otter sitting across from her. "I may not be able to keep fighting alongside them but the least I can do is offer them a chance to relax and enjoy a drink or two."
The two sat in silence for a moment, "May I ask?" Em began but her eyes gave her away as they looked down at the bar in the direction of Echo's leg.
Echo smiled and took in a deep breath. She then told Em about the Grandidier fire. The otter sat in stunned silence as the painted dog played the role of storyteller. When Echo finished with when she woke up in the hospital she watched as Em reached into her purse and produced a tissue.
"Oh geez Em I am sorry," Echo said quickly. "I didn't mean to-"
She stopped as Em hopped up on the bartop and waddled over towards Echo, opening her arms. Echo smirked as she leaned forward and accepted a hug from the small otter.
"I had friends in that building," Em said as she stepped back and dabbed her eyes. "Sorry, sometimes my emotions get the best of me."
"No don't be sorry," Echo said as she watched the otter return to her seat and clean herself up. "I probably should have found an easier way to tell my story."
"So that's what this bar is about?" Em asked. "Stories like that?"
Echo simply nodded, "There are a lot of mammals still out there every day facing what I did or worse. I won't lie Em if you take this job there will be times you may be the one who has to pull someone from the edge of losing it."
Em took in a deep breath but remained silent.
"Some of my friends were surprised when I told them what I planned to pay you all while you get to keep tips. Its because I will ask of you more than any bar ever will."
"It's not just about serving drinks," Em began
I don't care if this job is a risk…
"It's about serving them," Em continued.
I won't let it fail Echo…
"It's about serving heros," The otter continued as Echo nodded.
I promise Echo...your bar will succeed.
"Heros like you," Em added.
Echo snorted but the otter noticed a glazed look in the painted dog's eyes as Echo's emotions got the best of her.
"So when can you start?"
Em smirked as she stood up on her stool and glanced around the vacant bar.
"I already have," Em said as she hopped from her stool and headed towards one of the palates of bar supplies and scooped up a clipboard that had been left on one of the boxes. "When do your friends from the firehouse arrive because I will need some heavy lifting done if you expect me to organize the stock room."
Echo chuckled and shook her head in disbelief. She then reached for her cellphone which she had left just on the counter behind the bare.
"I could probably have a few volunteers swing by."
"They work at the firehouse?" Em asked with a smirk as her emerald eyes glanced over the clipboard in her paws.
"What do you call those special pants you all wear?"
"Bunker gear?" Echo asked as she tilted her head.
"Yeah, tell them to show up in just those and suspenders will you?" Em said casually as she strolled past Echo and headed towards the backroom.
Echo let out a roar of laughter, "Em I am so glad you are my first bartender."
Well, that turned into a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, didn't it?
I am kind of excited to write more about Em and her past because let's not forget she has one of the most important jobs in the city. Keeping a certain blue-eyed terror in check. :P
I hope you enjoyed the reference to one of my other favorite Disney movies! It just kind of hit me like a ton of bricks! ;)
Till next time,
-Em: The secret grand opening-
All the lightbulbs had been replaced, the floors had been swept, and the once dusty warehouse store had transformed into a modern bar.
Now, all it needed was some patrons…
This was concerning because it was the grand opening and Echo was currently standing behind the counter, a look of concern on her muzzle as she looked out at her deserted bar.
She would occasionally glance over at the large black door, her teal eyes almost pleading for some kind of business.
"We should have put up fliers," Came a gruff grunt from a ram who trotted behind Echo as he busied himself with organizing the bottles of spirits behind the bar for what must have been the 3rd time.
Em, who was sitting on the edge of the bartop, glanced over her shoulder and gave Echo a sad smile.
She had a feeling something like this was going to happen. Afterall most bars had trouble on their first nights, even the ones who advertised. Echo, however, had not wanted the general public to know about this place. She had made it perfectly clear that this was a bar for first responders only. In a sense, it was to remain a secret.
With such a focused clientele though there were obviously going to be some problems. Especially if none of them knew about the bar.
Echo felt Em's gaze and turned to give the otter a hesitant look.
"You know it's not too late to start making calls," Em said as she reached over to her phone and began to unlock the device. "I have some friends who could swing by and start spreading the word. We could probably get some patrons here tonight even."
"No," Echo said firmly. She realized how she may have come across and took a second to collect herself before smiling at Em. "Thanks though Em. We will be fine, they are just running late."
Em returned the smile and nodded before placing her phone back on the counter and glancing back at the door.
"I'll tell ya what we should do," The gruff-looking ram goat grumbled.
"Oh this is going to be good," Em began as she stood up on the bar and turned, folding her arms before looking at her fellow bartender. "What ya got Mac?"
Mark "Mac" "McRam had been hired right after Em. The older goat had been a bartender for longer than Em had even been alive, something both Em and Echo loved reminding the old-timer of often. He, however, had a certain charm to him, even if he came across as a bit of a grumpy old ram sometimes. While he may not know how to make all the fanciest drinks he was a good bartender.
"Well, you have seen how at some of those new fancy bars they got dancers out front?" Mac began as he looked at Echo and then to Em.
The otter raised a brow.
"I am not going out-" Em began before Mac continued.
"Well not to brag or nothing but I have been known to strut my stuff on occasion," Mac said as he grabbed his suspenders and held them out slightly before allowing them to slap back on his white button-up shirt.
Both the girls burst out laughing at the thought of the old barkeep out front shaking his rear at passersby.
Em shook her head before she put a paw to her forehead peaking at her friends through her open paw. She had to admit that though tonight was looking like a bust she had never been happier at work.
After being hired Em had gotten right to work, organizing the bar and using her experience to help Echo shape the bar. What impressed Em the most was how Echo not only listened but eagerly sought out the otter's advice.
Some managers would have been a little intimidated. Echo, however, seemed to truly appreciate what Em brought to the table. So much so that she had Em sit with her during the other interviews. After all the bar couldn't just run with two mammals.
Mac had shown up the day after Em was hired, having seen the same online posting that had brought Em to the 10-7. As it turned out the otter and ram shared a lot in common. Mac having been a barkeep for longer than he could remember. He, however, felt that his time in this field was coming to a close. Too many mammals wanting fancy drinks to get drunk. Instead of back in the day when mammals came to a bar to clear their mind, sip at a pint, and chat with a friendly bartender.
There had been several new hires over the course of a week. A gazelle who needed work to save up for college, a panther who had been trouble finding the right kind of bar to work at, and even another painted dog who had recently been released from a private security firm who was down on his luck and looking for a career change.
Em was impressed with the mismatched and rag-tagged team Echo had put together. Mainly because for all their differences they all seemed to embrace Echo's mission for the 10-7. Each of them bringing with them a story that would help shape the atmosphere of the bar.
"You know what Mac," Em began as she returned to the conversation the three were just having. "I think I would pay good money to see that."
Mac grinned and began to dance in place. The ram showing off his skills with an old-timey jig that Em and Echo had only seen in classic movies.
"That will be bringing them in for sure," Echo laughed as she grabbed a stitch in her side.
Mac, however, was undeterred and even threw in a little spin before striking a pose.
Just then the door to the 10-7 opened and the very first patron entered.
Delta came strolling in and much to the joy of the barkeeps he wasn't alone.
"It worked," Mac said with a grin which caused Em to give the ram a disbelieving look.
"Delta," Echo exclaimed as she hurried around the bar, opening her arms so she could wrap her littermate up in a hug. "I was getting worried."
"Worried? Why?" Delta asked as he gave his sister a pat on the back before taking a seat at the bar. He glanced over at Mac and gave him a salute before his eyes went to Em who gave the painted dog a smirk. "Em, looking good."
The otter gave the canine a playful eye wiggle as she turned to her side slightly, showing off her figure in a bright red shirt. The bar's logo hastily painted on. She had taken the time to cut the lower part of the shirt so she showed off her mid-drift. A pair of khaki short shorts clung to her body and showed off her supple figure in a way she knew would get her a few extra tips.
"Well because no one had shown up," Echo said with a sigh.
"Well, its shift change so what do you expect? We had to wait for the other squads to go active before we could call 10-7."
Echo put a paw to her head and let out a chuckle, "I totally spaced on that."
"You hose draggers are so forgetful sometimes," Delta said with a smirk before glancing around at the other members of the ZPD who had tagged along. "Brought who I could. Got some friends from Tundra Town on the way and a few from Savanna saying they will try to get over here once they are finished with paperwork. Also gave a call to the dispatch center so we may even get some of the comm mammals over."
"Thanks," Echo said, sounding relieved. She then took a moment to look at the new arrivals who were all getting settled in some seats around the bar. Her teal eyes went to her brother and a broad smile graced her lips. "So Delta, what can the first drink the 10-7 serves be?"
"I know how to mix just about anything," Em said, the energy in the room hitting her as she excitedly started to list drink suggestions to the painted dog. "Old fashions, cable cars, gin'n'tonics, maybe a martini…"
A pensive look came over Delta before he smiled and said, "Think I'll just have a pint of Mountain Abbey."
Both Echo and Em's eyelids drooped at the rather simple order.
"One pint coming up," Mac said excitedly as he hurried over to the taps and grabbed a fresh glass.
"Really?" Echo asked in an annoyed manner. "The first drink we served is a beer?"
"Its an import isn't it?" Delta asked with a chuckle.
"I can make you anything," Em grumbled as she crossed her arms. "And you order a tap drink."
Delta seemed unphased by the glares he was getting from the girls. He didn't even break eye contact with his sister as Mac slid a full pint down the bar. His painted paw reached out and caught the glass with ease. He then raised the drink to his muzzle and took a long swig before letting out a satisfied breath.
"Hate you," Echo muttered but her lips curled none the less.
"Gonna go see if anyone else has more sophisticated taste," Em said playfully as she reached the edge of the bar.
Delta reached out to the otter who looked at the canine before taking his paw, allowing him to help her down.
"Thanks, handsome," Em said with a sweet smile before she waddled out to the other tables to greet the other patrons.
Mac strolled from around the bar and headed over towards a table where a bear and elephant were currently chatting. He greeted the pair and began to take their orders.
Echo watched from behind the counter as her barkeeps went to work, a sense of pride swelling up in her chest.
Her bar was open and now serving those who protected and served the mammals of Zootopia.
"Well sis," Delta said as he raised a glass towards his sister who looked over, tears welling up in her eyes. "Proud of you."
"Thanks, Delta," Echo said with a happy sigh. She froze though as she watched her brother take several long chugs, draining his drink. Delta then placed the glass down and took a breath as his tail swished back and forth. "Seriously?"
"Think I could get another?" Delta asked with a playful smile.
Echo rolled her eyes and let out a laugh as she took his glass and headed towards the beer taps.
"Oh, and I know the owner so put it on the house tab will you?"
"Oh no, ya don't," Echo teased as she filled her brother's glass once more. "If anything I am charging you double."
The night went on and much to Echo and her barkeep's happiness the bar began to fill up as members of the ZPD arrived from all over the city to show their support.
"Lots of blue here tonight," Em said as she began to mix another drink behind the bar.
"Yeah, so glad they came," Echo said excitedly as she rang in a few orders to the register.
"Haven't seen any of those handsome firehouse mammals yet," Em pointed out which made Echo stop what she was doing before she looked around the bar and noticed how Em was right.
All the patrons were either from the ZPD or dispatch. One or two medics had managed to get in but for the most part, the ZFD was absent from the bar.
"Maybe they are just running late," Em suggested. She became a little worried about how her boss may take this information and began kicking herself for even bringing it up. Afterall Echo was former ZFD. They had been like a family to her. For them not to show up would truly hurt the poor painted dog.
Em finished mixing the drinks she had been working on and hurried over to a table where several ladies in ZPD blue line shirts waited eagerly.
"Here you are ladies," Em said as she placed the drink on the table and slid them to each of the officers.
"Oh thanks so much, ma'am," A cheetah said as she raised a glass to her lips.
"No need to be so formal," Em said with a smile. "Call me Em."
"Tammy," The cheetah said happily as she gave the otter a wink. "That's Ash and Samantha, our newest recruit."
A lovely she-wolf raised her glass at Em and gave her a nod.
"How many days?" Em asked as she put her drink tray under one of her arms.
"First day out of field training," Samantha admitted before taking a sip of her bright green drink.
"Well, it's our first day too Samantha," Em said with a sweet smile. "Looks like we have a tradition in the works."
"Oh, I like this idea!" Tammy exclaimed in a way that made the other ladies nearly jump. "Every year we have to come back and celebrate the new girl."
"Every year?" Samantha asked as she set her drink down. "You kitting me if Em is making my drinks I am coming back every night."
"Looking forward to it Sam," Em said with a smirk followed by a wink.
The otter excused herself and made her way through the bar. The way the otter managed to weave through the crowd and all the different sized tables and chairs made it look like some kind of well-practiced dance.
Echo would occasionally catch herself watching Em and how she moved with such confidence even when surrounded by such large mammals. Most of them carrying with them some kind of authority. The otter, however, treated everyone with the same kind of warmth and friendliness as if they were old friends.
Em arrived back at the main bar. The otter climbing up a barstool and then onto the bartop next to Delta. Echo had told Em early on that the otter was allowed to climb wherever she needed if it meant getting the job done. Something that the otter had started doing since she started at the bar.
"Well hey there," Delta said with a chuckle.
"How ya doing handsome?" Em asked as she strolled down the bartop, glancing at the canine's half-empty glass.
"Oh Echo has been very attentive," Delta said with a smirk.
"Well don't hesitate to call for me if ya need," Em began. "I can be very attentive as well."
The otter put a little sway in her step as she strolled away from the canine who almost had to pick his jaw off the bartop.
"Oh I like Em," Delta said as he glanced back at Echo who gave her brother a knowing look. "What?"
Echo reached over and gave Delta a quick flick of the nose which caused him to nearly fall off his seat.
"Ack! Echo what the heck."
"Look but don't touch," Echo said firmly. "I really like that girl and I don't need you chasing her for a little game of painted playtime."
Delta held up his paws innocently, "I have no idea what you are talking about."
"Alright, she was just really sweet and only looking-"
"Oh, you had to bring her up."
Delta froze and his eyes went wide as he looked at his sister, "She told you?"
"What?! No, she didn't! You just did!" Echo shouted as she reached over and grabbed her brother by the arm so she could bring him close as she began to pelt him on the top of the head. "You and Casi?! Oh my gosh! Really?! I can't believe you! She is my best friend!"
"Ack Echo! Stop!" Delta barked as he tried to cover his head. "Officer needs assistance!"
A few officers in the bar looked up at the scene but most could tell Delta probably deserved it so they simply went back to their drinks while the painted dog was smacked around by his sister.
"She came onto me though," Delta tried to explain.
Echo however covered her ears and began to shake her head, "Nope. Not listening. Lalalalala."
What saved Delta from further punishment from his sister was a rather rowdy arrival of new mammals over at the entrance to the bar.
The door to the 10-7 seemed to burst open and all eyes went to a group of rather annoyed looking firefighters. A russet-tinted painted dog at the front with fire in his eyes.
"Alright donut munchers!" The painted dog began as he scanned the room. "Where is he?"
Several officers began to chuckle as the fire mammals spread throughout the bar. Some of them joining a few of the tables while others greeted a few friends at the bar. Being first responders meant many of them had met one way or another while on the job.
"You looking for something hose dragger?" Came a laugh from somewhere in the bar.
"Hey Engine 72, the scene is safe!" Came a shout before many of the patrons burst into laughter. The joke being that on several occasions the ZFD would not respond until the ZPD had declared that the scene was secure and safe for them to work.
A smug smirk was on Delta's lips as he turned in his seat and raised a glass towards the other painted dog, "Bravo! Was getting worried you weren't going to make it."
Bravo's amber eyes went right to Delta and dilated as he began to stomp over to his brother at the bar.
"Me," Delta said as he took a swig from his glass.
"Ya, you!" Came an annoyed female voice as a lovely panther made her way through the crowd and arrived at the bar, crossing her arms as she stood next to Bravo and glared at the happy painted mammal in front of them.
"You!" Echo joined in as she pointed at Casi before she pointed at Delta. Casi, however, was too focused on Delta.
"My truck had a parking boot on it," Bravo said aloud.
Delta tried to look innocent as he put on a fake surprised expression that fooled no one, "Really? Well sounds like you should take that up with the parking authority."
"I know it was you," Bravo growled as he grabbed Delta's shirt and brought him close.
"Yeah," Casi said as she leaned in.
Delta looked over at Casi, his breath reeking of beer, "Oh by the way Echo knows."
Casi's eyes went wide, "Knows what?"
"That you have low standards," Echo shouted as she waved her paws about. "I mean Casi really?"
"Wait hold up!" Bravo said as he looked at Casi, a broad smile now on his muzzle. "Oh, no way."
"Shut up!" Casi growled, her tail flicking slightly behind her.
"Well it's about time some mammals with class showed up," Em said as the otter arrived at the bar, an empty drink tray under her arm.
"Oh yeah, we got a ton of class," Bravo scoffed, still holding onto his brother's shirt as Delta took another swig from his glass. "How ya been Em?"
"Pretty good cutie," Em said sweetly as she hopped up on the bar. She then glanced over at Casi and gave the feline a warm smile. "How is my sweet Casi doing tonight?"
"Oh think she is spoken for," Echo snorted which caused Casi to look away, the predator obviously a little flustered.
"Oh that obviously has a story behind it," Em said happily. "Maybe a drink to loosen those lovely lips?"
"As long as it's on his tab," Bravo grumbled as he released his brother and took a seat next to his fellow painted dog who leaned against him.
"Oh yeah, put it on my tab," Delta said as he winked over at Echo.
"You are not going to drink free forever you painted pain in the butt," Echo grumbled.
"Oh he isn't," Em said as she grinned over at Delta. "He has to at least tip me."
Delta nodded and raised his glass before he drained the contents and set it down.
"So one more for my handsome boy in blue," Em began which got a smirk from Delta. "What about my favorites from the firehouse?"
"I'll have whatever the meter maid is having," Bravo chuckled which got a gentle shove from, his brother.
"Same," Casi managed to get out as she sat next to Delta.
"Aww," Echo began as she leaned on the bar top just in front of her best friend. "You two have the same drink preferences too?"
Casi closed her eyes and slowly looked over at Delta who did not dare look back at the panther who was easily a head taller than him.
"We are going to have words about your loose lips later," Casi growled.
"You weren't complaining about my lips the other-" Delta began before a large black paw covered his muzzle.
Both Echo and Bravo let out a laugh, the female painted dog having to excuse herself as a series of snorts came from her nose.
As the scene played out Em watched from the beer taps. Filling several glasses with a local special. She glanced from her task and couldn't help but let a smile grace her lovely lips. She slowly scanned the large bar with her brilliantly green eyes and took everything in.
It was amazing how much things had changed. At the start of the evening, the bar was empty and she had been worried that Echo's little experiment had failed. Now they had a bar full of thirsty patrons.
There were mammals in different half uniforms from all over the city. This being a bar meant that most of them couldn't drink in full gear. Most of them had removed their uniform tops and replaced them with different department shirts.
Em began to play a little game in her mind as she checked off all the different departments, firehouses, detachments, and specialty unit shirts she saw.
At first, the 10-7 had just been filled with mammals from the ZPD. Now though there were folks from ZFD, ZEMS, dispatch centers, and even a few nurses. Em had a feeling that if tonight was any hint as to what was going to be ahead for the 10-7 then she would see many more different mammals of all shapes and sizes from all over the city.
She then looked back at Echo. The painted dog standing behind the bar, her eyes closed as she continued to laugh at her brother's hijinks.
Em glanced down and looked at the metal leg that had brought them all here. If it hadn't been for what Echo had been through then none of this would have happened.
Even the darkest of events could bring forth something so bright and wonderful.
Em finished filling up the drinks for the three thirsty mammals in front of Echo and sauntered over. Passing out the glasses to the grateful first responders.
The small otter then did something a little odd. She turned around and beamed at Echo who smiled back at the small mammal in front of her.
Em opened up her arms and leaned forward, wrapping her small arms around Echo who seemed surprised at first but was more than happy to return the affection she was receiving.
"Congrats boss," Em whispered as a tear rolled down her cheek.
"Thanks, Em," Echo said softly as she closed her eyes and placed a paw on the back of Em's head, holding the otter close. "For...well...everything."
"Well ain't that cute," Came a gruff voice from behind Echo as Mac slid by. "No no, don't mind me. You two just keep cuddling and I'll run the whole damn pub myself."
Em and Echo both chuckled as they parted, the girls needing a moment to compose themselves.
"Alright, "Echo said as she took in a deep breath and put her paws together. "We better get back to work. Looks like we are getting a little full."
"Correction," Em said as she stood up straight and looked out at the sea of mammals. "We are full boss...Your bar is full."
The Bar is open!
I had so much fun working on this one. I know its a bit focused on our lovely painted owner but Em preferred it that way so she could focus on her patrons. The next chapter will have a lot of focus on our sweet bar otter. While we are stuck inside I am trying my best to keep the chapters coming. In the meantime, you all stay safe out there.
-Em: The problem with secrets-
Sometimes after a grand opening of a bar, the business can slow down. It is one thing to have a full grand opening, its another to keep your patrons returning.
Many of the bars in Zootopia saw a huge celebration when it finally opened its doors, only to see a quick decline in visitors a week or so afterward.
The gods of luck, however, must have been smiling down on Echo and the 10-7. Mainly because they continued to keep a steady pace of customers.
Sure it was hard to beat the grand opening but for the most part, the 10-7 stayed rather active.
One of the main reasons was the fact that there were so many responders in Zootopia and they all had different shifts and days off.
While many mammals enjoyed those sweet 9-5 with weekends and holidays off, the brave heroes of the city weren't so lucky. Many of them would work on the weekends and have various weekdays or shifts off.
Echo hadn't realized it but she had met a huge demand by setting up the bar. While most bars and restaurants catered to the office crowd and their schedules, Echo operated on different hours.
Drinking laws the way they were Echo wasn't allowed to serve after 0330 hours. Or 3:30 A.M. as she had to explain to a few of her bartenders. However, she was allowed to open at 10 A.M if she so chose to. Which she did by either opening the bar herself or offering a premium to anyone wanting to work what was considered a slower shift.
That quickly changed though because many first responders would finish the graveyard shifts around that time and didn't hesitate to swing by for a beer or two before heading home and crashing for the day.
Em was surprised at how the world of first responders worked at first but quickly picked up on the hours and even volunteered to work openings when she realized she had a chance of making some serious tips.
Even when it was slow there was always something to do or someone to chat with.
The otter barmaid learned rather quickly how to pick up certain tells from her patrons. On occasion, there were some flags waving that told Em that someone needed a shoulder to cry on or maybe just an ear to listen to a sad tale.
It reminded her of her days at the Ink and Paint Club. There was no loud techno music or dance floor to try and listen through.
Sure Echo had set up a great sound system and had different radio stations playing in the background. It was never too loud though which made it that much easier for Em to plop down on a table, cross her legs, and gently rest a paw on a mammal who looked like they had been through the wringer.
This was part of the job Echo had mentioned to everyone she hired. How they would not just be serving drinks but offering a lifeline to those who may be teetering on the edge.
Em had now seen on several occasions just how close many of these brave mammals were to completely falling apart.
She felt a little guilty about her own past on occasion. How some days she felt like nothing was going right. Maybe the key to her apartment didn't work right, or her computer froze up. Even her work problems were small in comparison.
While she may accidentally drop a glass and it shattered on the floor, it was nothing compared to the poor medic who spent what felt like forever trying to save an unresponsive child only to watch them drift away as their parents wept over his shoulder.
Or the firefighter who trudged in, still wearing a singed uniform as they fell back in a seat and asked for anything cold as they looked blankly ahead. The images of a raging inferno surrounding them or their friends.
Em had really been put to the test though when one of her new regular officers from the ZPD walked in and asked for two glasses of whiskey. She knew something was up because the officer was still in full uniform which was somewhat against ZPD policy. The way he spoke though told Em that something was wrong and he needed this.
When she placed the glasses on the counter she sweetly asked when the jaguar's rookie would be arriving. The two had visited the bar several times before and had always been so kind to the otter.
The feline looked over at Em, his bright yellow eyes welling up with tears. He then raised his glass and gently clinked it with the other sitting on the counter before gulping down his own drink and then asking for another.
Em looked at the other glass in slight confusion and then back at the officer.
"It's for the kid," The officer said, his voice sounding hoarse.
Moments later several other officers from the ZPD hurried through the door, scanning the bar.
When they spotted the jaguar they quickly trotted over.
A tigress whose eyes looked red and irritated from crying placed a large but gentle paw on the jaguar's shoulder.
"Come on Jeff," The larger feline whispered. "Let's get you home to Sara."
"Can't," The jaguar said as he looked at the other whiskey glass. "I promised the kid we would get a drink at the end of shift."
"I know you did buddy," The tigress said, tears in her eyes. "I know, but right now we should get you home."
It took some prompting but eventually, Jeff stood up from his seat.
Another member of the ZPD, a jet black wolf, stepped up to the bar and pulled out his wallet.
"Let me pay for his drinks," The officer said as Em stared in disbelief at what she was seeing.
She finally looked back at the canine and shook her head, "No charge."
Em just nodded as her lower lip quivered slightly, looking down at the still full whiskey glass.
"Where is he?" Em asked slowly as she glanced up at the officer who took in a deep breath.
"He's gone," The canine managed to croak out.
With that, the officers began to escort their distraught brother in arms out.
Someone cleared their throat nearby and everyone looked over at a polar bear in a firehouse shirt. The large creature stood up and saluted. The rest of his table followed suit.
Several medics stood up and gave the officers similar salutes as a pair of nurses both stood up and bowed their heads.
The jaguar looked around the room as tears freely poured from his eyes. He gave his fellow first responders a nod before he was finally ushered out of the bar.
Em quickly wiped down the bar but left the whiskey glass where it was. She looked around the bar, scanning everyone's drinks. When she was satisfied that no one would go thirsty for a few minutes she left the bar and headed into the backrooms.
When she finally reached the stockroom she closed the door quickly. When she knew she was alone she burst into tears as she fell to her knees. Crying for her fallen friend and his grieving partner.
After letting her emotions pour out she left the stockroom and headed to the restroom where she cleaned herself up before returning to her duties behind the bar.
The old Em might have asked to go home or been distraught the whole day. Now though things were different.
She knew she had to remain strong because right now there maybe someone else in her bar dealing with similar demons. She didn't need to just be strong for herself, but strong for them too.
Word traveled about what happened that day and Echo quickly reached out to Em. Offering to come in and relieve the otter who politely declined. The painted dog however still showed up at the bar on her day off and sat down at the counter, chatting with Em about silly little things to keep Em's mind clear.
Em realized what the painted dog was up to rather quickly but was still grateful. Echo explaining that sometimes the thing we need is just someone to chat with.
"Hence the 10-7," Em said with a smirk as she poured her boss a drink.
The 10-7 however was not just a place to grieve or try to push back one's demons. It was also a place of celebration which Em thoroughly enjoyed.
She had to admit that while it could get a little rowdy, she enjoyed the atmosphere when a large party showed up.
One day it could be a team from the ZEMS unit who had just passed a series of drills. Announcing they planned to pay for the next round for everyone.
Later in the week, a group of EMTs might show up to celebrate their new position as a full paramedic. Making a few jabs at the other EMTs about now being chauffeurs. Of course, the EMTs were quick with their own comebacks.
The fire crews were always a riot when it was time to certify for highrise fire suppression. Mainly because Echo started a fun competition between the crews.
"Congrats on the highrise cert team," Echo declared as she stood on a barstool, looking around at the excited group of fire mammals. "Now let's see who can reach the top the fastest."
Echo had a large dry erase board at the bar that kept track of each team's drinks. Em had taken the time to draw two large tower looking shapes on the board. As a team got a drink she would color in more of the building. The first team to fill up their building would win.
It actually turned into a lot of fun towards the end as everyone in the bar was cheering on the different teams. It didn't matter if they were nurses, ZPD, dispatch, medics, or some other responder. All eyes were on the two teams as everyone cheered and chanted.
This wasn't to say the ZPD didn't have their own odd rituals.
Em was constantly amazed at how odd her first responder clientele could be, not that she minded. In fact, she found herself really enjoin working for Echo at the 10-7.
She could tell the feeling was mutual. Echo was the type of leader that was always willing to listen. How the bar was set up on opening day was not how it was a week later. As time went by Em made suggestions on how to improve the bar which Echo eagerly ate up and implemented.
While the 10-7 was Echo's bar, Em really stepped up and took ownership in her work. Molding the once empty warehouse store into a gem of a hidden watering hole.
The problem with secrets though, eventually the secrets get out. Especially when it came to a bar like the 10-7.
Em spotted the trouble makers as soon as they entered the bar.
A group of 6 came in, one of them blaring some unintelligible song from their cellphone. Acting like some kind of mobile DJ which none of the other patrons seemed to appreciate. Especially when the lyrics in the song started getting a little graphic.
The new arrivals acted like they owned the place. At one point their leader, a painted dog with the tips of his ears frosted, even put his paws on the back of a medic and pushed the surprised gazelle so they were out of the way of the rest of the rowdy bunch.
"Oh, this is going to be fun," An okapi next to Em said as she popped a few bottles open for one of her tables.
Em stared at the newcomers and folded her arms as she contemplated how to handle the situation.
"Want me to play bad cop?" The okapi asked with a chuckle.
Em snorted and stared up at her friend who was currently rocking a long-sleeve blue t-shirt with the bars logo on the chest on the back was a ZPD flag.
"I got this Ari," Em said with a sigh. "Watch my tables will ya?"
"I'll keep an eye on your patrons," The lovely mammal said as she loaded the open bottles on a tray and proceed around the bar. "While keeping the other on you."
Every bartender knew how important it could be to keep an eye out for one another. Even though the 10-7 was a responder bar didn't mean it was any different when it came to "incidents."
Paws could wander sometimes, no matter what the mammal did for a living.
Em took a moment to adjust her firehouse red t-shirt, puffing out her chest slightly in a confident manner as she strolled over towards the trouble makers who had taken a seat at one of the open tables in the center of the bar. The table itself only had 4 chairs but that didn't stop the newcomers from stealing chairs from nearby tables. One of them even removing a backpack and tossing it on a table where two very shocked dispatchers sat.
When the otter arrived at the table she stood between the painted dog with the frosted tips and a gazelle who was scrolling through her phone before raising it up and taking a selfie, making sure to show off some cleavage to get those extra likes.
Em cleared her throat at first, trying to maintain a level of professionalism. However, she was drowned out by the music blaring from one of the gang's phones.
"Hey!" Em finally blurted out which made the table suddenly jump.
"Oh good," The painted dog said as he grinned down at the otter, his eyes going right to her chest.
I hate my boobs right now…
"Eyes up here big guy," Em growled as she pointed at her bright green eyes.
"Oh sorry babe," The painted dog slurred. "Just ya know...the outfit looks great on you."
"Do you sell those shirts?" A vixen across the table asked as she eyed Em. "I would love that outfit."
"Whats 10-7 mean anyway?"
"It means Out of Service in ten cod-"
"What's that?" Someone interrupted which made Em's eyebrow twitch slightly.
"It means we are a first responder-"
"Whats a first responder?" Someone else asked.
Oh my gosh, its like dealing with misbehaving pups….
Em knew these types of mammals. They were the type that used their parent's money for a night on the town. Drinking cheap drinks in large quantities and acting as if it gave them an excuse to act like the children they secretly were.
They were also the type Em had hoped to avoid when she took a job at the 10-7.
"Hey, babe what specials you got?" The painted dog asked as he looked at one of the bar's menus.
"Depends on what?"
"Ok first off," Em said in a calm but firm manner. "Stop interrupting me, I am not your babysitter here to answer every question that pops into your heads."
Em had learned a long time ago that sometimes you needed to lay down the law. Some drunks responded to it, while others would challenge it. Em however wasn't too worried. Especially when she caught the eyes of a tigress in a firehouse uniform who seemed to be eavesdropping on the table's conversation. She made eye contact with Em and raised a brow in a questioning manner.
The otter shook her head but gave a mental sigh of relief knowing at least someone was watching her tail.
"Second," Em continued, the table falling only slightly silent, a certain cellphone still blaring music. "I need to know what department you all are from."
"Department? Like store? I don't work at a department store," The gazelle said in confusion.
"Oh no she means like a police department," The vixen chuckled. "Well, what if we say we are cops? Do we get a discount?"
"Are you actually cops?"
"No but there will be a nice tip in it for ya if we can get their discount," The painted dog suggested.
"Listen if you all aren't first responders then you need to head out," Em said simply as she took a step back from the table and pointed at the door. She had had enough of the group and wasn't in the mood of entertaining them any longer.
"We haven't done anything though," One of the group whined.
"Listen can you just get us some shots," The painted dog suggested as he pulled out his wallet and flashed some bills. "Maybe something with lime and then two pitchers of whatever tastes the best."
"No," Em said simply. "I already told you that you have to leave."
"Are you discriminating against us?" The vixen asked as she raised her voice. "Can't stand to see a fox in your bar?"
"Don't even try and pull that card," Em growled. "We have simple rules and you will all most likely break them anyways. Plus I am not being held responsible for over-serving."
"We haven't even had our first round yet," The gazelle scoffed.
"No, but I can smell the pregame drinks on your breaths," Em pointed out.
"Oh snap she got you, Zack," Someone let out before bursting into laughter before pointing at the painted dog.
"Listen," The painted dog said as he began to flip through some bills in his wallet. Em waved her paws and shook her head as the canine retrieved a couple of bills. What happened next shocked the otter. In all her time as a bartender, she had actually never had this happen.
Zack produced a few bills and folded them up neatly before reaching over and sliding them down Em's shirt. The otter's eyes went wide as she tried to grab the painted dog's wrist but he was just too strong for her to stop. She felt the bills slide down her fur and between her breasts. However, that wasn't the only thing she felt brushing against her chest. Zack then pulled his paw out from Em's shirt and grinned.
"There is more where that came, Keep the drinks coming and I will make sure to take care of you," The painted dog chuckled before returning to his drunken group who all laughed at what they had just seen.
Em had a stunned look on her face as she slowly turned around and walked away from the table.
As the otter passed the bar she thought she heard Ari call out her name but she was still processing what had just happened to her.
She made her way into the back hall that led to the stock room, restrooms, and Echo's office. The same stunned look on her face as a tear rolled down her cheek.
"Think you might have overdone it, Zack," The vixen at the table said as she looked up from her phone.
"Would you stop me shoving cash down your shirt?"
The vixen thought for a moment and smirked, "Depends on how much."
"Well let's just say I gave that sweet little otter enough for us to drink all night so I don't think we will have any trouble."
A minute or two passed by as the group chatted and shouted at one another. Several patrons at other tables gave the gang some dirty looks. One group even got up and moved to a different table on the other side of the bar.
"Where the hell is that ott-"
A low growl from behind Zack caught the painted dog's attention. He slowly turned and was shocked to see one of his own standing behind him.
The female painted dog was in a black shirt with the bars logo on the right breast. A pair of khaki capris showed off her legs. One of which looked like it was made of metal.
He had to admit she was actually a rather lovely sight but the fire in her bright teal eyes and the fire ax she currently had hefted over her shoulder made Zack cower slightly.
"So," Echo growled as she adjusted her grip on the ax, staring down at the table of intruders. She bared her teeth as she spoke. "Which one of you idiots touched my otter?"
If the neighbors on either side of the 10-7 didn't know the bar was there before, they sure did now.
Several squad cars sat parked on the street in front of the bar. The lights on the roofs of the vehicles all flashed red and blue as a few officers from the ZPD milled about on the sidewalk in front of the 10-7.
"You can't do this to me," Zack shouted as he was forced into the back of a squad car. He tried to resist but the rhino currently holding his arm managed to shove him into the car with ease. "My dad's a lawyer!"
"Can't wait to meet him down at the station," A female cheetah in a ZPD uniform said as she looked over the rhino's shoulder at the angry painted canine.
As the officers out front handled the trouble makers several were inside gathering statements from a few of the bar's patrons. While ZFD and ZPD had a fun little rivalry they would always act professionally when the time called for it. A few fire mammals had witnessed some of the exchange and were more than happy to provide what info they could.
Em had given a statement of the event and was sitting at a table by the bar, staring at the floor. Echo was standing next to her bartender, a gentle paw on the poor creature's shoulder.
Another painted dog approached and Em looked up, her expression brightening slightly when she recognized Delta.
"Hey there handsome," Em said softly as her lip curled.
Delta smirked as he took a knee so he was eye level with the otter.
"When I heard it was the 10-7 I came right over," The canine's expression softened as he looked right at Em. "You ok darlin'?"
Em let out a sigh and nodded, "I just feel bad about causing all this trouble."
"Oh no, don't you think that for a second," Delta said as he reached out and scooped up one of Em's tiny paws with his own.
Echo let out a sigh and was relieved that Delta was there. Since the bar's opening, her brothers had made a point to visit as often as they could. They bonded rather quickly with all the barkeeps. Em and Delta though seemed to have really hit it off. The two having become good friends.
"You didn't do anything wrong Em. The jerk being loaded into a squad car is the one to blame," Delta continued.
"I know its just, look at all the officers they sent," Em pointed out.
"You kitting me? They all heard it was the 10-7 and came running. We didn't have to send this many officers, we all just showed up to make sure our friends were ok," Delta said simply.
Em let out a sigh but nodded gratefully, "If you say so."
Delta smirked before continuing, "Do you have a safe way to get home tonight Em? If you want I can give you a ride."
"Trying to get me to your place?" Em asked as she raised a brow.
Delta let out a laugh and shook his head, "There is no fooling you is there?"
Echo rolled her eyes at her brother and bartender's antics.
"If you want I can drive you home," Echo offered. "Or you can come crash at my place for the night."
Em looked up at her painted employer, her eyes watering slightly at the kindness she was receiving.
"Would you mind?"
"Not at all," Echo said with a smile. "We can swing by your place if you want to pick up some stuff and then have a sleepover at my place."
"That would be nice," Em said with a sigh.
"And later we can discuss hiring some security," Echo suggested.
Em's expression actually seemed to brighten at the idea. While some bosses would try to brush an incident like this under the rug it appeared Echo planned to attack the problem head-on and look for a solution.
"So Delta," Em began as she looked back at the painted police officer. "Looking for work?"
Delta and Echo let out a laugh at the otter's idea.
"Well the ZPD does do overtime work. If you contact the department you can post for officers who might be able to pick up on their days off, but we wouldn't be able to provide security all the time and are kind of limited in the scope of duties. Plus it normally goes by seniority so I might not be able to pick it up just yet."
"Can you blame a girl for trying?" Em asked with a wink.
"You just wanted to see this handsome mug more often," Delta chuckled.
"Meh," Em said with a slight shrug that made Echo snort.
"So cold, so cold," Delta mumbled as he stood up but smiled down at the otter none the less.
After making sure Em was truly alright Delta excused himself to assist his fellow officers.
Ari hurried over and apologized for what must have been the 10th time. Saying how she had promised to help Em but felt like she failed. Em however was quick to remind Ari that the okapi had been busy helping patrons on the other side of the bar and probably hadn't witnessed what happened.
"I will keep both eyes on you from now on I promise Em," The okapi said in a sad tone.
Em stood up on her seat and opened her arms, giving her fellow bartender a hug and doing her best to assure the larger mammal that she wasn't to blame for all this.
It didn't take long for the bar to return to normal. After collecting the information they needed the ZPD headed out. Not before Delta managed to come over and give Em a hug though. The otter leaning into the painted canine and closing her eyes.
Eventually, the atmosphere went back to its casual quiet self. Em even managed to return to her routine and helped serve a few of the last patrons before they prepared to close up for the night.
After closing up shop Echo and Em made there way towards Echo's car which was parked out front. Em couldn't help but notice a lone ZPD squad car sitting a few spots away.
The girls both waved at the vehicle which flashed its blue and red lights for a second before going dark once more.
Em had to admit she was actually grateful to whoever was sitting in that car. Though she didn't feel like she was in danger it was reassuring to know someone out there was watching out for her.
They swung by Em's place where the otter threw a few overnight things into a backpack before hurrying back down to Echo who was waiting in her car.
Even for how late it was the girls still managed to stay up a bit longer. Both of them having changed into their pj's and were now sitting on Echo's couch as an old black and white movie played out on Echo's tv.
When the movie finally ended Em let out a sigh which caused Echo's circular ears to twitch before she glanced over at her friend.
Em looked up at Echo and smiled softly, "I guess its time we talk about the 10-7 getting its own bouncer."
Echo nodded and adjusted herself on the couch so she was looking right at Em.
"Sadly no, but I am sure there is someone perfect for our bar out there."
So looks like Em is all settled at the 10-7. Sad to see some of the stuff she has had to go through but she is one tough otter and plans to keep helping Echo make the 10-7 the best bar it can be.
Now it looks like its time for Petey to pop into the mix. I am actually kind of excited about this one. Petey has had a background outlined for ages but I haven't been able to put it any of my stories until now.
Till next time, stay safe out there.