The buzzer sounded.
Penguins of many ages sprinted 前锋, 期待 through the obstacle course. Their adrenaline coursed through their veins and they weaved around each other, most of them belly-sliding. Snow was flung into the air behind each of them as they raced to the end. Freezing cold air whipped past their faces and nipped at their cheeks. Finally, the course opened into a clearing and the penguins went into their designated sections.
Most were out of breath and their heads thumped with each pound of their heart. Subject 61 waited patiently in line for his evaluation. He’d been in this program ever since he was a hatchling. He’d never stepped out of the boundaries of the facility before, and neither have most. Those who have end up shot.
That’s not the only way to ‘go’ in this facility though. Most don’t even get a chance to try to break out and become free. Most die from a different kind of shot. These humans are the kind of 动物 that test drugs on innocent creatures. Why penguins? Because the last place anyone would look for illegal drug testers is in the middle of the cauldron of freezing, blinding snow known as Antarctica.
Subject 61 was next. He stepped 前锋, 期待 and a human with matted, sandy colored hair in heavy clothing and a cigar sticking out of the corner of his mouth picked him up and set him on a table. He went through this process every day: he took his blood pressure, pulse, eye dilation, and his reflexes. He was slightly above normal, which is better than what most penguins end up getting. And when that happens, they send 你 to the 下一个 level.
The drug they use is supposed to enhance your athletic abilities, such as speed, agility, and the like. Subject 61 had made it to Level 2: Agility and Timing. He’d passed, so he’d 移动 on to Level 3: The Fighting Rink. According to if and when each 企鹅 moves up a level, their subject number is recorded. If they pass level 3, then the drug that's been used on them has been perfected and is ready to be distributed to their colleague in Europe. If a 企鹅 dies 或者 fails to complete all three levels, then the drug is then sent back to the lab area to be perfected. Where to the deceased penguins go? Let’s just say that the orcas never go hungry.
Subject 61 was awaiting his turn in the rinks when two penguins approached him. The mid-sized one with brown eyes had the number 98 painted in blue on his chest. The taller of the two had the number 107 painted in green on his chest.
“Hey, 61. Want in on a secret?” 98 asked in a soft, deep voice.
61 shrugged; the drugs had impaired his speech.
“We’re breaking out. And we think 你 may be able to help us. Want in?” 107 asked.
61 looked at him as if he were out of his mind.
“I know what you’re thinking. But we have a plan. After we get through our fights, on the truck back to base, we’re gonna stack up at the back of the truck, and we need 你 to pick the lock. Don’t think we don’t know your secret,” 107 told him with a smirk.
61 looked down at himself, he thought he was the only one who knew about his ability. Well, he did want to get out of this place. It’s not like he had anything to lose. He looked back up and nodded. 107 and 98 smiled.
It was 61’s turn to enter the rink. He’d done this many times before. He’d go in, fight for three minutes, then be tested. As many times as he'd been through these levels, he’d always had the luck of getting an unperfected drug. Though, what the humans fail to realize—or just don’t care to—is that most deaths occur due to overdose rather than the drug not being created properly.
61 entered a ring and watched a 企鹅 about twice his size enter the other side. The fight wasn’t to the death; it’s just the most strenuous of the three levels. Most of the penguins didn’t want to fight, but if 你 didn’t, then 你 weren’t 给 鱼 for the day. And they weren’t 给 much 鱼 to begin with. Though, some penguins did die in the rink; the drug did something to some of them. Especially the ones who have been exposed to it longer. It made them 更多 aggressive.
The larger 企鹅 looked down at him with his deep green eyes. He had the number 7 painted in black on his chest. 61 gulped. This 企鹅 had been in this for years now. The number 7 told him everything he needed to know. He was rough, aggressive, and a survivor. The buzzer sounded, indicating that the three 分钟 had started. 7 lunged at him and 61 dodged out of the way. 7 snarled in frustration.
Along with his other secret ability, 61 had another secret weapon. He was fast. He dodged another attack and belly-slid to the other side. 7 belly-slid after him and skidded to a halt, causing snow to fly into 61’s face. In what seemed to be a mere second, as 61 wiped snow from his eyes, 7 picked him up and threw him across the snow. The three 分钟 started to feel like three years. 61 scrambled to his feet and ended up falling onto his back. He hadn’t gotten into level 3 many times, and the times that he did, he hadn’t gotten a very aggressive opponent but once. The only way he’d survived is because he was too fast for him. But 7 was 更多 quick on his feet.
61 backed up through the snow, creating a trail in front of him. 7 approached him, his feet crunching deeply beneath his feet with every step of his large, webbed feet. His eyes burned with 火, 消防 and it seemed that he intended to kill. 61 got back to his feet and waited for 7 to get close enough to him. Once he began to stoop down to pick him up again, 61 darted in the other direction, catching him off guard. 7 chased 61 around the rink for about thirty 秒 when 7 finally caught him and pinned him to the ground. 61 gasped for air as 7 pressed his fist harder into his abdomen and looked back into his dark, soulless eyes. He thought 7 was going to kill him when he lifted up just before he passed out. Of course he wouldn’t just finish him off. He was going to keep the pain going until the bell. Where was that stupid bell? Surely it’d been three 分钟 由 now…He rolled out of the way just as 7’s fist came down at him, causing it to bury into the snow. 61 looked up at the large clock at the back of the ring. Only a 分钟 and a half had passed? Surely that clock was a little slow…
7 was about to attack again. 61’s 心 raced as he tried to find a way to make it through the 下一个 分钟 and a half alive. He’d never attempted to use his ability in the ring before; partly because he never really needed to, and partly—and mainly—because he didn’t want the humans to do anything 更多 to him than they were already. 7 made another 冲床 for him and 61 acted on impulse. He flipped backwards onto his flippers and landed on his feet a few feet away from 7 just as his fist made another contact with the snow. He stared up at him in confusion, and 61 was just as unsure as 7 was at what had just happened. 61 gulped again. He had no idea what he’d just done 或者 how, but it made 7 really angry. He lunged at him and was now on 最佳, 返回页首 of him, and 61 could smell the putrid aggression on his breath. 61 clamped his eyes shut, expecting him to snap his neck, but the sudden sound of the 钟, 贝尔 was heard and a human separated them. 61 let out a long sigh of relief. He was carried out of the ring and had his vitals checked once again. After they’d been recorded, he was carried outside and put into the back of a van. 61 looked around at the many other numbered penguins in the van. Some were sleeping, some were whispering quietly to each other, and others were just standing there staring into nothingness. His attention was diverted when 107 and 98 were put into the back of the van. They approached him.
“Hey, pipsqueak. That was a fine performance. I caught a glimpse of it in the middle of my fight,” 98 whispered. He leaned in closer and whispered ever-so-softly into 61’s ear-hole. “Alright, in a few minutes, this 面包车, 范 is going to start moving. We’ll stack up at the back and pick that lock.”
61 took notice of the lock hanging in the middle of the door.
“We’ll push the doors open and we’ll be free,” 98 continued.
61 nodded in understanding.
As he was told, the 面包车, 范 started moving. 107 stood under the lock; 98 climbed onto his shoulders and 61 was helped to the top. The other penguins gathered around in curiosity. 61 looked at the lock for a moment, then looked bashfully at the other penguins. He’d never used his ability in front of anyone. He took a deep breath to gather his confidence and started gagging. After a few gags, he spit a paper clip into his flippers and he heard the other penguins gasp in astonishment. 61 remained concentrated on his objective. He bent the paper clip out and shoved the end into the keyhole. After a few twists and turns, it popped open. 61 jumped down and 98 followed. The three of them faced the doors and pushed them open.
Immediately, a gust of freezing cold wind came into the back and the penguins lurched forward. 107, 98, and 61 jumped out of the back and rolled a few feet, then began belly-sliding as fast as they could away from the facility. There were no fences 或者 any other type of boundary, so escaping was a cinch. Once they were far enough away—which took about an 小时 of nonstop belly-sliding—they stopped to catch their breath.
“That was great, 61! Not bad for an eight-year-old,” 98 exclaimed. “You know, we need names,” he pointed out.
“You’re right. Uh…What should we name ourselves?” 107 asked.
“I wanna be…Uh…Johnson. I’ve always liked the name,” 98 said.
“Okay, I like Manfredi. It’s unique and hardly used,” 107 told them. “Now for you.” He looked 61 up and down. “You look like a…Rico. Do 你 like it?”
61 thought for a moment. Then he looked up at them and nodded with a smile.