After Red Shore (part 5
Rosita was good to her word and with that following morning, she brought donuts and items Buster could use to make himself lunch. That night she even stayed late to make him a fresh supper.
The two days passed quickly, each filled with rehearsal after rehearsal and perfecting the equipment. The crew took turns looking in on Buster, though the koala managed to keep himself busy with many distractions involving the show.
When the big day rolled around, the trailer was loaded and by 8am, the group was loaded into their personal bus to begin their 4 hour drive to Zootopia.
Rosita sat behind the wheel, listening to her CD's and rehearsing her lines as she navigated through traffic.
Johnny, Meena and Nooshy sat in the back, rehearsing their choreography. Marcus and his brothers Barry and Jonas were going over a blue print of the theater to better their roles as security.
Miss Crawley was busy contacting Darius and setting up hotel reservations for their two day stay.
Porsha was next Gunter, watching a movie on his phone, a comedy one at that and discussing the latest trends.
Clay was in a seat by himself, resting his eyes for the big show.
Ash and Buster were a seat behind Rosita.
Ash was tuning her guitar when she turned to Buster. An hour into their drive and the usually optimistic koala hadn't said much. He was staring out the window, a worried expression on his face.
Playfully, she punched his arm, getting his attention. "You okay, Moon? Looking a little 'spaced' out." She laughed at her little joke and Buster even glared at her for it.
"Save the cheesy stuff for the professionals." He said, with a dramatic wave of his paw.
"What, like you?"
"Exactly." He replied, before resuming his gaze out the window.
Ash frowned. "What's wrong, Moon?" She asked.
Buster sighed. "Nothing." He said, rolling his eyes.
"I will stick you with my quill if you don't tell me." To make her point, Ash pulled a lose quill and jabbed his side.
Buster yelped before raising a paw in defeat. "Relax, Ash, just excitement." He said.
Ash could tell he was lying but before she could press, Buster's phone rang and he quickly answered. "Good morning, Mr. Mayor!" He said, enthusiastically.
While Buster secured things with the Mayor of Zootopia, Ash slid off her seat and made her way to the front of the bus and tapped Rosita on her shoulder.
"Hey, Ash? Need me to find a rest stop?" She asked, quiety so as to not embarrass her.
Ash smiled at the gesture. "No, I wanted to know if Buster had opened up at all in the past two days."
Rosita hummed a bit. "No, not since the conversation we had. He's eating though, but I can tell he's still having trouble sleeping." Rosita smiled as she noticed the concern on the younger woman's face. "You're worried about him."
"Of course I am!" She said, trying to keep her voice down. "This isn't just something that goes away over night!"
"I know and you're right. But we made a break through. Right now, it's probably best we take baby steps, what happened in Red Shore was a very traumatizing moment. We don't want to rush into things. So it's our job to make sure he remembers where he is and who's his with. Two days ago, he hardly slept, hardly ate, we're making progress. Small progress, but it's better then it was."
"And what about Porsha? Or Marcus?"
"What about them?" Rosita asked, though she had a fair idea what Ash was getting at, the change in his behavior around bigger animals was not going unnoticed.
"His whole body language changes when he's around taller animals, especially Porsha. I saw the way he looked at her the night you found him. And from his angle, he probably saw Crystal at first. And before that, Marcus went to give him a hug and when he picked him up, Buster went full panic. Marcus looked like he was able to calm him down, though."
"When did that happen?" Rosita asked in concern.
"Two days ago, me and Clay were practicing and I saw it outside the room."
"He didn't tell me that."
"It's only with taller animals. He's comfortable around Johnny and Meena-"
"But others send him into a panic." Rosita frowned and sighed. "The best thing we can is be there with him, especially tonight. We can't cure him over night, but we can help him through it. I'll let Marcus know to keep an eye on him whilst we're preforming. As a large gorilla, he should make Buster feel safe until the panic subsides."
Ash nodded, though not fully satisfied. "How long do you think this will last?"
Rosita glanced at the rear view mirror at Buster who still on the phone, this time with Darius. The mother pig could tell he was agitated as he pinched the bridge of his nose. "As long as it takes." She said, taking the young rock star's paw and squeezing it, reassuringly.
The rest of the ride was smooth sailing and in no time at all, they were pulling into the Zootopian Ivory Theater. There, they began unloading. Darius arrived shortly after the last of the props were hauled in.
"So, when do we get to meet the Mayor!" Darius asked as he and Buster walked.
Buster frowned as his grip tightened on his clip board. Darius had asked this question three times in the last thirty minutes. He didn't have time to answer as he was busy giving out orders and speaking with the Ivory Theater's stage-hands.
"He'll be here at 5:30. The show starts at 6 and given the time now, can I suggest you join Meena in one of the practice rooms so you can rehearse?" He hadn't meant for it sound as harsh as he did, but Darius didn't seem to notice, he was busy posing for an antelope adjusting the lights. She rolled her eyes and walked off to deal with another fixture.
Buster turned as Johnny raced up.
"Yes, what's wrong?"
"I can't find my staff, Mr. Moon!" Johnny cried, panic written on his face.
Buster raised his paws to calm the young gorilla. "Okay, okay, calm down, did you personally pack it?"
Johnny shook his head. "No, I put it with the rest of the props to be put in the trailer." He said.
"Johnny!" Nooshy cried, joining them. With her was Johnny's staff. "Found it! It was still in the trailer."
Johnny breathed a sigh of relief as Buster smiled. "There! All's well! You okay, Johnny, you ready?"
Johnny smiled as he fist bumped Buster and tspped his staff on the ground. "Ready!"
"Great! Then show them what you're made of, Johnny!"
The young performer smiled excitedly as he and Nooshy high fived before darting off.
Buster smiled as he continued his rounds before he accidentally bumped his nose into one of the stage-hands. He looked up to apologize, but as he did, the farther he looked up, the more this animal resembled Jimmy. He then recognized the fur. The wolf turned and snarled down at Buster before reaching out a paw to grab him. Buster lifted his clip board, hoping to shield himself before he felt a hand on his shoulder.
He turned and saw Rosita, already in costume, who gave him a reassuring smile. "You're not there anymore." She whispered.
Buster took a deep breath and allowed Rosita to guide him away to a quiet corner. "Are you okay?" She asked.
Buster turned and glanced to the animal he had a panic attack for, a polar bear carrying props. The polar bear waved. "Sorry, buddy! Guess my size can be scary to smaller animals."
Buster gave him a small wave in return before sighing in frustration. "I just need to get a grip."
"Did you eat today?"
Buster smirked. "Always such a mama-bear." He said.
"I'll take that as a no." She responded as she took her purse and grabbed a granola bar and thermos. "I packed these just in case. Eucalyptus tea with honey and Granola bar. You'll need your energy tonight."
Buster smiled, gratefully before she hugged him. "We're all right here when you need us." She assured him as she adjusted his bow tie. Then she stood and with one last affectionate squeeze of his paw, raced to find Gunter.
Buster pocketed the granola bar but took a sip of his tea. The aroma and taste quickly steadied his nerves as he continued his rounds. As he was finishing up last touches, he noticed Porsha sitting alone, nervously twiddling her fingers.
"Hey, kid, you okay?" Buster asked as he approached.
Porsha snapped from her thoughts and smiled awkwardly. "Oh, hiya, Mr. Moon! Sure, just stage jitters, ya know?"
Buster nodded in agreement, but he found it hard to believe. Porsha, from the moment he had met her was outgoing and loved to be center of attention. Of course she had mellowed out considerably in the few weeks Buster had known her and humbled herself. She played the part of the alien extremely well. Her acting needed help, but Buster could see a bright future in show business for the young wolf. Encouragingly, Buster touched her paw. "What's wrong, Porsha?" He asked.
The young wold sighed as tears suddenly formed in her eyes. She looked away and sniffed, avoiding Buster's concerned gaze.
"How can you even allow me to be in your group?" She asked.
Buster's ears shot up in confusion. "Wh- what do you mean?"
Porsha turned to the Showman, tears streaming freely now down her face. "My dad tried to kill you! You should all hate me and my family! I shouldn't even BE here! I've seen the way you look at me!"
Buster froze. "Porsha-"
"I remind you too much of Dad. I know. I see it when you come around the corner and stop. I see how scared you look. And I can't blame you. What my dad did was pure evil. And I hate him for it. And you shouldn't have to relive it everytime you see me. This was a bad idea for me to join this show. So after this... I'm quitting."
Buster stiffled a yelp. "What!? Porsha, no one blames you for what your father did! You are NOTHING like him! You're a strong, independent young woman with her own dreams! Your father-" Buster's heart rate quicken before he took a deep breath. Porsha was too upset to notice.
Buster regained his composure and continued. "Porsha, listen. Crystal may your father, but that doesn't mean you need to follow in his foot steps. You have your own life ahead of you. We invited you to come because you're like us! Someone who has guts and the courage to chase their dreams! Look at my family. We're nothing alike, all different species, but we're still a family! Each and every one of us were the black sheep or odd one out! I didn't want perfect, I didn't want just any other singer or dancer. I wanted THEM. I chose each and every one of those members specifically! Just how I chose you."
Porsha wiped her cheek. "You didn't choose me. Daddy and I made you put me in the show."
Buster shook his head. "In the beginning perhaps, but remember it was me who chose to bring you back."
Porsha turned and stared at him.
"I wanted you to join our show. Maybe not as the star, but as a part. There are no such things as small parts. Each act carries significance to each scene. And you carry your scene beautifully."
The young wolf smiled as Buster patted her paw. "What do you say, kid? You gonna stick with us?"
Porsha didn't reply, instead she hugged the older animal, tightly.
Buster froze, before patting her back, affectionately. She wasn't Crystal, but her fur certainly reminded Buster of him. Buster pushed that thought from his mind. Porsha was nothing like Crystal. She was kind and supportive in her ways. She cared about this group. She cared enough to consider Buster's feelings and attempt to leave the show. Buster tightened his grip. Looks like he adopted a new kid into his family.
Porsha then pulled away and slipped on the rest of her costume. "I'm ready, Mr. Moon."
5 o'clock came quickly and the stage was set as guests were already beginning to arrive. Buster and his group were in the lobby, waiting for their guests and a meet with the Mayor.
Norman arrived first, having found a babysitter early enough to give him time to drive. Rosita and he shared a kiss before she led him up to the box seats Miss Crawley had reserved for their friends. Nana Noodleman arrived soon after. "A lovely little theater." She commented.
Clay held out his arm. "May I escort you to your seat, ma'am."
Nana smiled at the gesture and allowed him.
"I must say, I don't much care for rock, but you sing it beautifully. I believe I even had a few of your albums."
Clay blushed. "That's an honor. Me? I never was one for theater myself, but my late wife was. I remember seeing your show, though. Magnificent."
Nana stopped. "You've seen Epiphany?"
"Yes, ma'am. It's where I met my Ruby. She was a back up dancer."
Nana gasped. "I remember her! Oh, she was the sweetest lion." Nana frowned. "I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my husband about the time you lost Ruby."
Clay gave her a sad smile. "Too bad we hadn't known each other. Could've grieved together."
"I'm sure Ruby is very proud of you."
"Thank you, ma'am."
Nana smiled. "I would love to hear more about you and Ruby. Perhaps you will join me for tea next week?"
Clay chuckled. "I'd love too, ma'am."
"Fabulous. It's a date. I'll have my chauffeur send you the address."
Marcus and his team met up with the group, having been securing the back stage doors.
"All set, Mr. Moon." Marcus said.
The group turned to see a large, brown bear approaching them, sporting a blue suit with two animals following close behind, a fox and rabbit.
"Mr. Moon?" He asked, again, looking around at the group.
Buster raised his paw. "That's me! You must be Mayor-"
"Call me Baloo!" The bear said, enthusiastically as she shook the smaller animal's paw. "The Mayor title is just something I use in meetings and parties." He let out a hearty laugh before introducing his team. "These are my guests, officers Judy Hopps and Nicholas Wilde, two of the best on the police force. The Chief of Police will also be joining us, shortly. He was tied up with a bit of paperwork."
Buster shook each of their paws. "Wonderful! This is the New Moon cast," and one by one, he introduced his group who smiled and shook hands.
"Well, I must say it's an absolute pleasure to meet you all. Absolute stunning work, I've heard. Tickets are sold out! You guys are the real deal, best show, they're saying, in years! You all must be very proud."
"Couldn't have done it without our Mr. Moon." Johnny said.
"Of course, good cast needs a good producer! Well! If you excuse us, we're going to find our seats. Great meeting you all, I look forward to your performance! Good luck out there!" With that, the Mayor and the two officers waved before disappearing into the growing crowd.
Buster clapped his paws together. "Alright, team! We ready?"
The group smiled, excitedly.
"You're going to do amazing, now come on, paws in!"
The group put paw over paw as they recited their motto. "There's only one way left to go and that's UP!" They all cried in unison. Buster and his team then separated for the evening as they went to change and prepare.
Buster smiled as they disappeared into the door marked back-stage while he made his way up the stairs to join Nana and the others. He was half way up the stairs when he noticed a familiar elephant enter the theater lobby. At first Buster didn't recognize him, but it was Alfonso sure enough, only now he was wearing a sharp black suit and tie, instead of his usual attire of striped shirt and jeans.
Buster caught his attention and waved him to the stairs. "I thought you weren't able to make it!" Buster said.
Alfonso blushed. "I-I took the night off to surprise Meena."
"Well, that's great! I'm sure she's going to be thrilled!"
"Yeah, but I better get to my seat-"
Buster quickly stopped him. "No! Take my seat in the box!" He cried.
Alfonso frowned. "But-"
"I insist. I need to go back stage anyway and make sure Rosita and Meena are okay. You take my seat. Go on, Miss Crawley, Nana and Norman are already there. We'll meet you here when the show's over."
Alfonso stuttered a bit before smiling. "Thank you, Mr. Moon."
"Don't mention it, kid! Enjoy the show!" Buster said as he waved the young elephant off.
The Showman smiled as he straightened his bow tie and descended down the stairs once more. He was nearly to the door when a large animal suddenly knocked him to the ground. Because of his size, Buster was more then used to being looked over and missed and was prepared to think nothing of it, but by chance, he happened to look up and when he did, the lobby's hustle and bustle seemed to drain away, the noise of excited chatter was replaced by the beating of his heart.
Standing before him, in a navy blue suit, was a wolf with a coat as white as the snow. Green eyes peered down at him. Panic clouded Buster's mind as he sat on the floor, mouth open and eyes wide. As wolf reached down, Buster raised an arm to protect himself before he was suddenly grabbed and yanked from his spot on the floor.
Marcus turned Buster's head, gently so that all the koala's focus was on him. Rosita had spoken to Marcus earlier on for signs to watch for. Buster's blue eyes found Marcus' hazel and Marcus encouraged him to slow his breathing and think about something else, an action he'd used several times for Johnny during a heist in Johnny's earlier days. "Rosita needs some encouragement. Her old stage fright is gettin' the better of her. She needs you. Meena too." He said, attempting to distract him.
It worked. Buster recovered and his mind was now focused on the need to help his friends. Nodding, he patted Marcus' hand in thanks. He risked a glance at the wolf once more and remembered Mr. Crystal had piercing blue eyes and was a good foot taller then this one. This wolf had green and had broader arms. But despite the small differences, Buster couldn't help but feel a sense of dread. Marcus gave Buster a small nudge, encouraging him to leave.
The older gorilla kept his eye on the koala as he disappeared behind the door marked "Backstage". He then turned his attention to the wolf and was surprised to see his attention was also on the door, a sinister look upon his face. Marcus crossed his arms and flexed them a bit before allowing a gruff ahem to escape his throat.
The wolf turned back and Marcus took notice as his eyes slightly widened at his appearance. His toned arms were considerably bigger then his son's, results from years of boxing habits and a criminal past in handling gold.
"Are we going to have a problem, mate?" Marcus asked, quietly.
"Oh, no. What makes you ask you that?" The wolf asked. Something about his voice made a few hairs stand on Marcus' arm.
The retired thief leaned in closer. "I'm security around here. If I see you near that koala or any other member of my group, I'm throwing you out into the pavement, got it?"
The wolf straightened his tie, but Marcus could tell he had ruffled his feathers.
"Yes, sir. Have a good night." And with that, he left to find his seat.
Marcus relaxed, but only slightly. He remembered when he had Jimmy Crystal within his grip, shortly after his attempt to kill Moon. He would have liked nothing more then for he and his gang to have "escorted" Jimmy up the lift and thrown HIM off.
Barry and Stan joined him. "Something wrong, lad?" Barry asked.
Marcus narrowed his eyes as the wolf headed upstairs. "Keep an eye on that bloke. I don't like the looks of him." He said.
"Righto." Stan said.
Once the wolf was sure he was out of eye sight, he took his phone and looked over the message sent to him shortly after his arrival to the theater.
Crystal wants Moon dead.
The wolf smiled. As he slipped the phone back into his pocket and waited for Marcus and his group to walk away so that he may have a clear shot to the door Moon walked into. He and Jerry and been communicating the past week on the discussion of Moon's fate. The wolf had even managed to meet with Crystal in jail to confirm. The koala had ruined his former boss's image and possibly put him in jail for a long time. This angered the canine. He allowed a small growl to escape his throat before he noticed Marcus and his gang steer from the door. Smiling, he made his way down.
Buster took a deep breath as he was lowered to the stage, riding atop a cresent moon. Beside him was an astronaut helmet with his name engraved, similar to Rosita's. The lights found their way to him and he spoke into the microphone he held tightly in his paws, addressing the audience.
"Welcome, creatures great and small! Thank you for joining us in the gorgeous Zootopian Ivory Theater and welcome... TO OUTER SPACE!"
The stage screens lit up and stars surrounded the audience.
"I am here to present to you a show that is Out of this World. But before my amazing cast can perform, I am going to dedicate this show to an amazing woman. A woman who inspired many, but one in particular. A star you know and greatly love, someone who has come out of retirement to help us deliver you a spectacular show. She is a woman who remained strong, and became an icon to many. A woman who didn't stand in the shadows, but stood side by side with the lion she loved. A woman... who is sadly no longer with is. But with music, her spirit lives on and travels far. Ladies and gentlemen, I dedicate this show to the amazing, the lovely and greatly missed RUBY CALLOWAY!!!"
Buster spun and the stars began to dance and move across the theater, before taking shape into a lioness' silhouette. The stars shifted, making her bow. Her eyes twinkled as she raised her paws to greet the audience.
Calloway was below, backstage, watching in awe and in tears as the silhouette shaped into his beloved wife, Ruby and blew him a kiss.
The old lion released a shuddering breath as his cheeks became almost immediately moist with tears.
He could practically feel her presence, her soft paw on his cheek, wiping his forming tears.
The star silhouette Ruby raised her paws and suddenly the stars exploded into many and the audience cheered as the curtians closed and reopened and Rosita's voice came over the microphone.
The show was about to begin.
Buster dived under the curtain, smiling at the audience. Not 5 minutes into the show and there were already several crying guests.
Buster took a moment to admire the stage. Just as amazing as their showing with Crystal Towers and The Majestic. He breathed a happy sigh as the stars burned brightly and Rosita landed her ship on the first planet.
At 6 years old, he wanted to be the first koala in space. Those were dashed when his father introduced him to the theater when he took him to see Epiphany. But now it seemed his dreams were connecting into one. He had, in theory, been the first koala to space. He was wiping a tear of joy before he was swooped from the ground. Panic set in and his body frozed before he felt leather against his fur and large paws holding him close. He managed to turn his head to see Clay Calloway clutching him tightly, softly crying. "Thank you..." Clay's voice was barely a whisper, Buster's sharp ears picked it up clear as day. Buster patted his shoulder, smiling. The lion held him close for a few seconds more before placing him down.
"Ruby would have loved to meet you." Clay said, his voice still cracking, slighty. "Heck, after that number, she would have welcomed you to the family with open arms..." Clay wiped his face. "But since she's not here to do that... I will." The former recluse held out his paw for a welcoming handshake, but Buster ignored it and jumped to hug him, catching Clay slightly by surprise.
"How about I welcome you into MY family?" Buster asked.
Clay smiled and embraced the koala back. Buster took that as a yes.
Not far away, the unwelcomed visitor gripped a railing from his small perch in the shadows. His sights on Buster, his teeth bared and an unholy smile shaped on his muzzle. Tonight he finishes what Crystal started. Tonight, he will kill Buster Moon.