Last Week on the Disapprovers: The team commences the rescue itself. They suffer their first mission casualty when Frankie falls ill and dies while trying to release his first survivor of the lab.
The room had a very simple layout. To the left of our closet was a set of sliding glass doors. Across the room was another set of matching doors. Right in front of us, in the middle of the room, was an island of medical workstations. Critter cages were stacked against the walls to our left and right, running the length of the rectangular room. Some were doubled, one on top of the other, some sat on cabinets with drawers and doors. I saw no critters in the ones sitting on the floor. Every rescue would need a climb.
Fluorescent lights hung from the ceiling; most of them were turned off. Far to our left, on the other side of the door, was a set of tall cabinets, almost reaching to the ceiling. At the far end of the room, similar cabinets were installed on both sides of the doors.
Abby and I went left, Molly and Pancake went right. Abby went down the line of cages and, with her paws next to her mouf, started alerting the critters to our intentions: "Listen up, everybunn! We're here to take you to safety. We need you to help us. If you can, open your cages and help us get you down from there!" Pancake did the same on the other side of the room. Meanwhile, Bruno took a walk along the perimeter of the room and sniffed for anything out of the ordinary.
Some of the critters perked up a bit. I took a deep breath and hopped forward, looking for the two, relatively new ratties that we were hoping would help us and noticed some lively cage rattling to my left. I skipped over fast and when I got near both of them; they opened their cages. They stared at me in incredulity. I telescoped and stretched as high as I could, "We need your help to get the others out, how about that?" I asked, point blank. One of them nodded and quickly got out and came down to the ground. I extended my paws and introduced myself, "I'm Mr. Toes, pleased to meet you, please pardon the glove!" "I'm Quinn," said the rattie as he shook my paw. Quinn turned toward his friend, still up in the cage, and yelled: "Come on, Sammy; it's OK!" Sammy came out of his cage. We shook paws.
At the same time, Molly and Pancake were looking for a couple of new bunnehs for the lab, and we also hoped they would join us. They found them after a while, at the end of the row of cages. Zeus and Lincoln climbed to the top of the cages and opened them. Frankie and Freddie rolled out a couple of our old boards from the artery exploration days and had them ready to be used as gurneys.
I noticed, a couple of cages down, a big and very alert bunn, nervously moving about the cage. There was something odd about its movements, though. It knew something was going on but didn't know where. Somehow, my gut understood what was happening, and I quickly clobbered my noggin with it. The bunn was blind. "Let's get this one first," I said to my new friends. "Frankie, can you get one of the boards here?" I radioed. "On my way!" responded Frankie. I got the harness and carabiner ready, and when Frankie arrived, I asked him to show the ropes to Sammy and Quinn, yeah, pun and all.
Frankie led the way and got to the top of the cage; Quinn and Sammy followed. He showed them how and where to hook up the carabiner, then got into the cage and began getting the harness ready. They were trying to get the harness around the bunn and were struggling because the bunn couldn't quite comprehend what was going on.
I tried to relax as much as I could to keep the anxiety from blinding me. I saw glimpses of Bruno, slowly patrolling the perimeter, the Panzer-Darter snugly secured to his side. On the side opposite of me, Molly got the first bunn out of the cage. I tried to pay attention to my breath, but that made me notice the nauseating smell of this place even more.
Next, I heard Sammy call from above, "Hey, Mister, your friend here, he's not doing so well!" "Yeah, I know, the poor feller is blind, is he still giving you trouble?" "No, I'm not talking about the bunn, the ratty, Frankie, that's his name, right?" said Sammy. As I kept staring up at him, my neck froze. "Zeus, Freddie, can you get here?" I radioed and started to free-climb the cage and got up there in a split second. Frankie was resting on the wire bottom of the cage, snuggled against the side of the white bunn he was trying to rescue. The survivor was licking the top of Frankie's head. Frankie recognized me when I got next to him and smiled. He reached for my paw and grabbed it. His paw felt cold and clammy. I squeezed it hard. "It's OK, Major, it's going to be OK," whispered Frankie. "Zeus, you'd better hurry up!" I yelled into the radio, my voice breaking. Zeus and Freddie were already up the side of the cage and climbed inside the second my transmission ended. Freddie had a look of panic on his mouf; his jaw was clenched. All he could do was snuggle with Frankie. Frankie smiled, the biggest smile I ever saw on him. Frankie closed his eyes and exhaled for the last time.
The white bunn sat up at attention. Everybunn gathered at the bottom of the cage. They were all silent. Bruno slowly got up and scaled the side of the cage. Got up high enough to stick his big, fuzzy head inside. With his mouf, he slowly took a hold of Frankie's vest and picked him up. Zeus and Freddie climbed out and took grips on Bruno. Bruno took his time climbing down. When they were on the ground, they put Frankie on the roll board. Everybunn said their goodbyes to Frankie, at least for the time being. Zeus said in a quiet voice, "We'll be right back." Then, he and Freddie rolled the board with Frankie toward the port.
In the cage, the bunn got up and tried to hold still, visibly shaking, barely able to hold up his own weight. Sammy and Quinn got the harness around him. "What's your name?" I asked the bunn. "Name? I... I don't know; no bunn ever gave me a name." "Would you like one? How about 'Bob', for now, of course. You can have whatever name you like later." I suggested after a pause. "I'm Mr. Toes, Bob. Happy to meet you!" I said to him. He nodded and said, "Nice to meet you too, Mister."
I got out of the cage and got the harness line secured. "Bob" slowly inched forward and out into the air, leaving the false security of the cage's wire bottom. I lowered him and got him on the rolling board. Izzy took over and rolled him to the port and escorted him to the temporary shelter in Singularia.