Sorry for the long wait, but here is the chapter! Please enjoy!
Chapter Six: The Fateful Performance
The performance was a flurry of colors and flying animals. Every animal had a few new moves to show off, pulling them off with perfect timing and flare. They had everyone's attention. So no one noticed a few shady figures sneaking in.
"You got it?" the one in the lead whispered to the figure behind him.
The second figure took something out of its hiding spot. It caught a single beam of light. Had anyone else noticed, the beam of light would have shown that it was a pistol.
"I'm not sure about this," whispered a third, smaller figure. "We aren't going to hurt the animals, are we?"
"'Course not," whispered the second figure. "We aren't going to aim at them. Now let's get in position before we're noticed!"
They snuck over to a ladder and began to climb.
"These idiots don't even have security," the first whispered. "This'll be a piece of cake!"
The smaller figure felt a little more confident. He climbed up the ladder, followed by the second larger figure. They got onto a long, thin platform.
"Hey, kid," the second figure said. "Take it already!"
He shoved the gun into the kid's hands.
"Well?" the first said. "Show us why you're called 'Sharp-shooter'! Snap one of the ropes!"
The kid's heart leapt into his throat.
"What?" he asked. "Won't they hear us?"
"It's a circus," the first told him. "Circuses are loud! Just pop one rope and you're done!"
"But don't get one that's just sitting there!" the second added. "Get one that's moving around!"
The kid hesitated. The only ropes he could see that were moving were the ones that had animals on them. But he really wanted to be like his two companions. If he did this, he'd be one of them. So he took aim.
Gia launched off one of the trapeze bars and flipped. Alex caught her again.
"We're looking better than we did in New York!" he told her.
"You can say that again!" Gia said.
"Would if I had time!" Alex shouted as he threw her to another bar.
Gia caught hold of the bar and felt a sickening lurch. She shrieked as the bar went vertical and one of the ropes dropped.
The two taller figures surveyed the scene with wide eyes.
"You're a sharp-shooter for sure!" the first said.
"Is that enough?" the kid asked. "Can we go now?"
"Not yet!" the second told him. "Let's see if you can get one to fall!"
"Get one what?" the kid asked nervously. "One of the animals?!"
"Yeah!" the first said. "Didn't you see the jaguar jump to a different bar? You aren't gonna hurt it or the lion!"
"But we could get caught more easily," the kid said. "If we just leave now, we won't be seen!"
"Are you chicken, kid?" the second threatened. "You need to be brave if you wanna join us!"
The kid gulped and immediately raised the gun to aim again. Just two more bullets...
Vitaly stepped into the arena as soon as he heard Gia's scream. He was looking for why the rope had snapped. They don't just break like that...
"Gia! Are you okay?" Alex called when he was close enough.
"Y-yes!" Gia told him. "We need to get down!"
"No kidding!" he shouted. "Start making your way down! Change bars as often as you can and - NO!"
Gia screamed as another rope snapped and she lost her grip on the bar. Alex dove, caught her, and grabbed another bar.
"Hold on to me!" he told her.
Gia put her arms around him and held tightly.
The other animals watched anxiously from the sidelines. As soon as they saw why Gia had screamed the first time, they retreated backstage to keep from being a target.
"I wish there was something we could do to help!" Gloria said.
"Absolutely no one is going back out there!" Skipper barked. "It's too risky!"
"Found problem," came Vitaly's voice through Skipper's radio. "Troublemakers up and north."
"I see them, too, Skipper," Kowalski said, turning the binoculars to where Vitaly directed. "Three figures. One seems to be holding a gun."
"Copy that, Russki," Skipper said into his radio. "They'll be dealt with in no more than three minutes!"
He turned to his fellow penguins.
"Let's show those punks who's boss!" he barked.
They all disappeared quickly in the direction of the figures.
Vitaly watched as he saw Alex struggle to get himself and Gia to safety. He saw what they were trying to do.
"Too slow," he growled to himself. "Down is not option."
He retreated backstage and began running up flights of stairs.
"If they'd stop moving so fast, I'd get them easier!" the kid complained.
"Listen," the first figure said, "if you don't complete this by the time you get back, we'll beat you down. Got that squirt?"
The boy looked over his shoulder at him and gave a quick frightened nod. He needed to focus.
"Hey, Jimmy," the first began, "got any more clips? Jimmy?"
He turned to see that his other companion was absent. What the devil?
Then he felt like something small was standing on his shoulders. He turned his head to look and felt a flipper hit his neck. He fell flat on his face.
The boy didn't see this happen. He was focusing on his task.
"Alex! Up!" "Go up!"
Alex heard his friends' cries and thought for a moment that they were insane. But then he saw their reasoning. He could climb the ropes faster than he was able to descend. He looked up and saw Vitaly on a higher platform, ready to catch them. He planned quickly and carefully. He jumped to another bar, but still held the previous one. He climbed higher on the second and jumped, trusting that the first would swing high enough to get him to reach Vitaly.
But he forgot to tell Gia his plan. She shrieked as he jumped and she held tighter to him.
"Hang on, Gia!" he told her. "It's almost over!"
Determined to get Gia safe, he tried to think about the pros and cons of his plan. It was then that he realized, if the ropes were snapped at just the right moment and Vitaly didn't catch them, they'd be flying through the roof and who knows how far across Seattle. But that wouldn't happen. Vitaly doesn't miss.
Then he felt sick as one of the ropes fell. He adjusted his grip as the arc began to swing upward. His heart was threatening to pound out of his chest. He was a second or two away from Vitaly. Then he felt the other rope snap. It was just at the right moment.
Alex let go of the bar, since it was useless now. He reached for Vitaly's outstretched paw... and missed by a fraction of an inch.
"NO!" Alex cried as he and Gia were flung away, screaming.
Vitaly watched in horror as the two disappeared through a new hole in the roof of the tent.
"I missed," he whispered in shock.
"Alex!" Gia screamed, holding him tighter.
Alex could hear utter fear in her voice as they continued going up into the air. He had the sudden thought to use his size compared to Gia to her advantage, but he might not be so lucky upon landing.
"Gia!" he hurried to tell her as they began to descend. "Listen to me! We'll be all right! Just keep holding on to me!"
Gia realized what he was doing. Compared to him, she was more fragile. She felt him trying to curl around her to take the brunt of the fall.
She saw the ground approaching fast and shut her eyes tightly.
"I'm not kidding, Dante! Leave me alone!"
An angry lioness stormed away to load some equipment into a few crates. A jaguar followed her.
"Come on, Denise!" he told her. "I'm just saying that, since we were friends as cubs, why not be friends now?"
"We are friends, Dante," the lioness snapped, "but the kind of friendship you're implying is what I don't agree with! So stop talking and get everything packed up like Rafael told us!"
"Stupid lynx," he growled under his breath. "Need some help?"
He started to help Denise lift the crate, but she quickly set it down and glared at him.
"Are you calling me weak?" she hissed. "You've seen me lift heavier things before, Dante!"
"No, I'm not saying you're weak," he corrected. "It's just that you shouldn't be lifting things even that heavy if you're angry. You know what they say."
"No one says that!"
"Well, I said it."
Denise abandoned the crate and started walking quickly in Dante's direction.
"I-have-had it!" she hissed. "You wanna see how well I fight? Do you? You'll be flat as a rug within minutes, Dante! Minutes!"
"Easy, Denise!" Dante tried to tell her. "But, back on the 'friends' issue, you don't expect guys like me to just fall out of the sky, right?"
Denise was about to explain that she'd rather guys like him would actually fall out of the sky so she wouldn't have to deal with him, but they were interrupted by a scream and a large crash behind them. They jumped and turned to see a wreckage of the equipment-filled crates.
"I didn't do it," Dante immediately whispered.
"Come on!" Denise told him, frightened for what she thinks happened.
They climbed through the pile of smashed items and found what looked like a crater.
"Aliens?" Dante asked.
Denise slapped him and continued toward the impact. It seemed all too eerie.
"Hello?" she called. "Is anyone there? And alive?"
It was silent for a few seconds before something shifted. Denise walked toward it, but Dante held back. The closer Denise got, the slower she went and with more caution. She reached out to lift a splintered piece of wood...
A large, gold-colored paw reached out at her!
"AAH!" Denise and Dante shrieked.
Denise realized that, whoever it was, they might not be able to get out and went to help them, Dante coming soon after her. They pulled piece after piece of debris off of whoever was trapped and uncovered a lion.
"Are you okay?" Denise asked, still shaken.
"Uh, I g-" Alex started. "Gia!"
"Who?" Denise and Dante asked.
"Gia! Where is she?"
"There was someone with you?!" Denise asked as Dante looked around and left her side.
Alex got up with difficulty. Denise knew there was something wrong with his left arm because he was clutching it to his side.
"Whoa!" Denise started. "You shouldn't be getting up!"
"I need to find Gia!" Alex persisted.
"Yeah, I understand! But you really need to-!"
"Found her!" Dante called.
The two lions looked over to see him carrying an unconscious jaguar.
"Gia!" Alex cried.
He tried to walk over to her as Dante carefully set her down on a clear piece of land, but he stumbled on more of the debris.
"Careful!" Denise told him.
Everything was silent as Alex got over to Gia and knelt by her. Dante looked up at him.
"She's alive," he told him. "She's breathing and I could feel her pulse. But she's not waking up."
Alex saw a cut above her eye. Because of his worry for Gia, he didn't hear the sirens approaching.
"Dante," Denise started, "Dante, we need to go! Let's go!"
The two uninjured cats ran off, Denise casting one last glance at Alex before disappearing.
"Please wake up, Gia," Alex whispered.
He heard something behind him and looked. An animal control officer was already aiming a dart gun at him and fired. The needle sunk into his chest and he stumbled and fell backward, watching the dark sky get darker until the darkness was all there was.