Note on timeline: This story takes place roughly 500 years after the fall of Earth in the Hc Svnt Dracones setting, about 200 years before games are generally expected to be set. As such there are a few differences in culture and technology.
“...But, as the second generation Vectors emerged from their tanks, it became clear that something had not gone exactly as the humans had planned." The cubs and kits on the stage of the regional MarsCo grade school started taking out their props, a small doll of a mouse Vector, the hindquarters of a plush lion, and a marker. “Some of the new Vectors had morphisms, ranging from taurs," a leopard cub attached the plush hindquarters to the back of his pants so that it looked like he had two pairs of legs, “to atypical patterns" a goat kid started trying ineffectively to scrawl on her coat with the marker, “and micros," the rabbit kit who had been talking most of the time held up the doll.
“Looks like you finally found somebody your own size!" One of the audience, a portly male fox of the same age as the cubs on stage, taunted.
Judy Hopps, the eight-year-old, barely a foot tall, bunny, glowered at the fox. “Just let me finish, Gideon Gray." She straightened back up quickly and continued. “At first, the humans were worried about those 'mutations' and tried to figure out a way to stabilize the Vector genome. But, as time passed, it became clear that just because somebody had four legs, or technicolor fur, or was a little small, did not mean that they were inherently worthless to society."
“So long as they can get you a booster chair!"
“Shut up Gideon!"
Chapter 1"As MarsCo regional director of Longbow Station, I am pleased to announce that my Morphism Inclusion Initiative has resulted in its' first graduate from the Inner Ring Police Force's academy." Director Lionhart waved to the micro rabbit in her dress uniform as she stepped forward to receive her badge and diploma. "Assistant Director Bellwether, her badge?" The lion behind the podium pushed his sheep assistant to pin the badge on the newly graduated Officer Judy Hopps.
The two-foot tall bunny couldn't have been prouder of herself as her new badge was pinned to her chest. She knew that she had only been admitted to the academy thanks to Director Lionhart's charity scholarship, but she had graduated on her own merits and that was all that mattered to her. Let him use this for his own publicity, she had achieved her dream of working for the IRPF, keeping the streets and megastructures of the post-human solar system safe.
"It is my great privilege to assign you to Longbow Precinct 1." Lionhart concluded his speech and promptly left the stage, presumably in a hurry to catch the next shuttle.
His assistant hung back a minute to speak to Judy a little longer. "Congratulations, Officer Hopps."
"I won't let you down, this has been my dream since I was a kid," replied Judy.
"I look forward to seeing you on duty. Could stand to see more of us little guys around." The sheep was short, just barely in the normal height range for an adult Vector and likely would have been classed with the morphismed for much of her life.
"We'll show them." The newly minted bunny cop replied with surety.
The next day, Judy was at the spaceport preparing to leave for orbit. Her parents and, numerous, siblings had gathered at the terminal to say goodbye as she embarked on her new life.
"Now, you're sure about this Jude?" Her father, Stu, was a micro like his daughter, two feet and three inches tall and still wearing his farmer's overalls. "A BlueSky station is a pretty big place, lots of tall people around not looking where they're going."
Judy didn't blame her dad for having such silly prejudices, he was born in Bunnyburrow, a small corptown founded by a co-op mostly consisting of rabbit micros and laterals who had gathered up enough money to lease several acres of land on Venus from MarsCo and set it up for agriculture. His parents had left Mars to escape from the shortage of respected jobs for morphisms in the megastructures and carved out a modest lifestyle for themselves, he was inclined to believe that city life anywhere else was much the same.
"Stu..." his wife, Bonnie, was a lateral rather than a bipedal micro, but she dressed fully and walked on her hind legs as often as possible to "seem civilized". Her family had moved to Bunnyburrow when she was in her teens so she was a little better informed about life in the big city.
"I'll be fine Dad," Judy said, barely managing not to roll her eyes at him. "There's nothing to be afraid of."
"Except for bears, there's bears to be afraid of." Stu replied. "And wolves, and weasels..."
"You play cribbage with a weasel." Bonnie cut in.
"...and he cheats, that's how I know. And don't forget foxes, all canidae are bad but foxes are the worst."
Bonnie started to agree with her more pastorial husband now, "oh yeah, remember Gideon Grey back when you were in grade school?"
"Gideon Grey was just one fox," Judy replied, "I'm sure other foxes won't be like him."
"Just in case, I packed you some things." Stu pulled out a shopping bag that Judy recognized from one of the independent BuySpots around town, known in particular for products that the MegaCorps and their subsidiaries wouldn't bother with. "I've got some fox spray," he pulled out a small spraycan with a stylized picture of a fox's head crossed out, "a fox horn," next was an airhorn that would probably hurt her own reclaimed hearing as badly as a fox's, "and this micro-sized shockstick," the tiny electrical weapon broke as he handled it and sent a shock up his arm.
Judy quickly batted the knockoff shockstick out of her father's paralyzed grasp, and moved to reassure him. "Look, I'm sure the precinct will issue me equipment, in fact they're probably printing out my gear as we speak."
"It does seem a bit excessive, Stu", her mother said in agreement, massaging her husband's arm. "Maybe just the repellent, they probably haven't thought of that."
"Oh all right," Stu picked up the spray can in his arm that still had feeling. "But, really, I just want you to be safe Jude."
"Like I said, I'll be fine." Judy repeated. "I graduated top of my class, remember? That included Close-Quarters-Combat."
"Well, if you're sure..." Stu trailed off as the boarding alert flashed for Judy's shuttle.
"Oop, likes you it's time for you to go."
"Okay, bye!" Judy picked up her bags and started to head for the gate, then stopped and ran back to give her parents one last hug before leaving. "I'm going to miss you guys."
In orbit the shuttle docked with a passenger liner almost a third of a mile long, too large for a terrestrial landing. The voyage from Venus to Jupiter, which Longbow station orbited, would take almost an entire month so Judy found her cabin and settled in for the long haul. She spent most of her free time working out in the gym and brushing up on the few local laws enforced by Longbow's administration. One of the ship's Omnislots had been fitted with a manufacturing complex and the crew included a tailor who was all too happy to take half of Judy's savings to design and fabricate a lightweight armored bodysuit for her, strong enough to stop a few bullets but flexible enough for her to move unmolested.
Towards the end of the trip the ship began to pull up on Longbow and Judy went to the observation blister, as she watched the station grow larger in the window's view she drew out her toggle case and pulled up her music collection, queuing the discography of the famed gazelle celebrity and Longbow resident Gazelle. While she listened to Gazelle's hit single "Try Everything" (sponsored by MarsCo) she stared enraptured at the massive structure. The station had been built by MarsCo to service the terraforming and colonization efforts on Ganymede and Europa, a BlueSky station separated into habitat regions to accommodate employees from all over the solar system. Some of the habitats were sponsored by other MegaCorps, the rainforests were maintained by the medical giant Progenitus, while athletics and entertainment corp Pulse had the desert square, and to get their new employees accustomed to the frigid cold of the moon they owned exclusively, Transcendent Technologies Inc ran a frozen sector known colloquially as “Tundratown". As time passed an entire city had sprouted in the five-mile diameter habitat.
And the Inner Ring Police Force was contracted to protect them all.
As they drew towards the main docking facilities the young rabbit was again impressed by the sheer size of the cavernous space used to house all the traffic that went through this trade nexus. Privately and corporate-owned ships of every shape and size, small personal ships, boxy MarsCo freighters, sleek Pulse cruisers, they even passed by a mile-long IRPF battleship orbiting outside. The city beyond the spaceport was no less impressive.
To maximize the use of space, MarsCo had built megastructure towers that stretched anywhere from halfway to two-thirds of the way up to the habitat's ceiling, which was so high that if viewed from the bottom floor you might see a bit of a bluish tinge to the sky through all the towers. The towers themselves were almost self-contained cities in and of themselves, with some floors having full-width roads and enclosed skywalks for ground cars and other vehicles. As she marveled at the sight she spotted a hologram of Gazelle projected against the nearest megastructure. "Hi, I'm Gazelle, and I'd like to say, welcome to Longbow." Judy beamed, things could not be better today.
"And here is your new home." The landlady opened the door to the smallest and dingiest living space Judy had ever seen. The wallpaper was close to peeling and dust covered half the surfaces. The room was tall enough for the average Vector but the floor space left barely enough room for the bed, desk and microwave. There was no bathroom, sink, or ration bar dispenser, she'd have to use the block's communal facilities. "Complementary de-nymphing once a month. Here's your key," she handed Judy a small toggle with her room number on it and suddenly her expression turned rather stern. "Don't lose it."
While Judy was trying to figure out how to copy the key toggle to her personal toggle the neighbors walked by her open door. Trying to start out on a friendly note she introduced herself. "Hi! I'm Judy, your new neighbor."
One of the antelopes cracked open a can of beer as he walked by "Yeah, well we're loud."
"Don't expect us to apologize or anything." His partner added carrying a bag of groceries.
Judy realized her key was copy-protected for whatever reason and decided it wasn't worth it as she closed the door and reviewed her new choice of domicile. "Greasy walls," she said noting the wallpaper, "no floor space," the neighbors started an argument that make the decorative holograms on that wall flicker, "crazy neighbors... I love it!" She flopped down on the bed, thinking to herself that eventually she'd be able to afford an apartment that cost more than 10 credits* a month.
The next morning, Judy got up promptly at 0500 sharp, donned her newly printed armor, and opened the door to head down to the police station. But before leaving she hesitated, noticing the can of fox spray her dad had given her. The labeling was almost certainly tailored to her father's prejudices mined from his social networks, but some online research found the listed ingredients to be extremely irritating to members of the Canidae family with their heightened sense. Figuring that since Canidae were the numerically largest family she decided she might as well take it with her.
The lobby was filled with Vectors of all shapes and sizes, bipeds, taurs, laterals, even a few of the more exotic morphisms, though she noticed a shortage of micros and micro-sized laterals. She stepped up to a front desk manned by the most obese cheetah she had ever seen in her life. He was happily mounging away at a bowl of cereal when she tried to get his attention. "Uh, excuse me," Judy spoke up, waving from just below the desk's edge.
"Hmm?" The cheetah said, putting down the bowl and leaning over to look down at her.
"O M Goodness, they actually did hire a micro bunny. Aren't you the cutest thing?"
Judy felt more than a bit irked at this but tried not to let it show. "You might not be aware of this, but while it's okay for one micro to call another micro "cute", it's not really okay for another morphism to."
"Oh!" The cheetah went back in shame, "I'm so sorry, most micros around here live in Little Rodentia so we don't see too many of them, I didn't realize." He held out a hand in greeting. "Benjamin Clawhauser, at your service."
"It's alright, you didn't really know." She spotted something under one of Clawhauser's chins and started to point it out. "Uh, you have something under, um..."
"What?" He started to feel around the spot she'd indicated and eventually pulled out a half-eaten donut with Pulse's triple-wing logo drawn in the icing. "Oh there you are. I've been wondering where you went." He scarfed down the pastry in one bite.
"Yeah, I think there was a meeting I was supposed to be at..." Judy started to say, a bit unsure of herself.
"Right, bullpen's over through those doors over there." Clawhauser pointed out the room in question.
"Okay, thanks." Judy said, walking off towards the bullpen.
"Aww," the cheetah said as he watched her go. "That little bunny's gonna get eaten alive.'
Judy worked her way down the aisle in the middle of the "bullpen", in here it was even more obvious that the precinct here tended to hire larger Vectors. They tended towards wolves, big cats, ungulates, bears, there were even a few that seemed macro-enhanced. The micro rabbit couldn't help but feel a little out of place. She took a seat next to a horse with horns, either a morphism or implants of some kind, she wasn't sure. "Hey," she said, trying to be friendly, "ready to make the system a better place?" She held up a fist and the horse shrugged and bumped it with his own much larger fist, pushing her a foot to the left.
Then the crowd of officers in the room began pounding their tables, causing Judy to bounce in her seat, she saw a large bluish-black skinned bull who looked to be in his fifties, maybe seventies if he went with one of Progenitus' aging plans, walking steadily down the aisle to the podium in the front of the room. From the stars on his shoulders she guessed he was Chief Bogo. He took his place behind the podium and the pounding abruptly stopped. "First on today's business," the Chief bellowed, "we have some new officers joining us here today." Judy perked up at his statement. "And frankly, I don't care." Her ears drooped back down before she caught herself, he wasn't going to recognize her after all. "Second, we have fourteen missing Vector cases." The smartglass display behind him lit up with fourteen pics of the missing Vectors and a map pinning their last known locations. "All species from the Canidae, Felidae, Ursidae, and one Mustelidae. No known personal connections." Judy took in the pics eagerly, this was big, she could make her mark with this kind of case from the start. But then as he was assigning the cases to officers he finally reached her name. "Hopps Ro' Ra: parking duty. Dismissed!"
What? Judy couldn't believe it. She'd worked so hard for so long and now she was being assigned to watch parking meters? That couldn't be right. As the other cops filed out of the room she hopped down from her seat and went up to Bogo. "Uh, Chief." The bull paused a second before leaving through the side door. "I'm not sure if you noticed, but I actually graduated top of my class..."
"I did notice, and I don't care." Bogo cut her off.
"Sir, I am more than just some little bunny," she pleaded, "if you were to assign me to one of those missing Vector cases I could solve it in a week."
"Well then," he continued, "issuing a hundred parking tickets a day should be no problem." Chief Bogo left, ending the discussion then and there.
Judy thumped her foot in frustration, an atavistic behavior she'd picked up from her mother, as the door swung shut. "I'm not going to be printing off a hundred parking tickets a day. I'll print two hundred tickets, before noon."
*About 100 modern-day US dollars. The rulebook says to price any small items that would be worth $10 or less at 1 credit.
Judy tried to be enthusiastic about her first assignment, she threw on the reflective jacket and hat the corporation had issued her for the job, then got in the cart she was supposed to drive when carrying out her duties. It was a flimsy thing that looked barely able to move, much less take her around the station, after a few minutes of driving she could have sworn she smelled De-Rez enyme. Figured she would be given a disposable vehicle, she'd be lucky if it lasted the whole three days it was supposed to, and the next one would certainly be coming out of her pay. 20 credits every three days, she might end up not only eating the public ration bars but also camping out in a unoccupied office. But maybe if she proved herself good enough at this demeaning job she could get reassigned to something more suiting her skillset, or at least be issued a more permanent vehicle.
The tickets were essentially short strips of plastic with embedded RFID tags. Placing them on a SmartGlass surface or viewing them through UI lenses would display the violation, fine, and due date for paying the fine. The most common offense by far was letting one of the pre-pay meters run out. While many people preferred the “pay-on-leaving" model of parking, businesses in the Downtown habitat favored pre-pay so as to keep customers moving through. And as it so happened, part of IRPF's contract with the MarsCo administration included penalizing those who went over their paid parking time. About one hundred and ninety of the two hundred tickets Judy wrote before noon were over-run meter violations, six were bad parking jobs that didn't stay within the designated lines or crept onto the curb, and the remaining four were disposable vehicles left in public parking spots at the end of their operational lives instead of returned to the proper recycling area.
She had issued less than ten tickets when she came across the first disposable. Judy jumped up onto a taur-sized van to place a ticket on the windshield but the hood buckled under her minute weight and she just barely avoided falling into the dissolving engine block. When she landed safely on the sidewalk the entire van caved in, she called Clawhauser to report it in. However, after reporting the incident she offered to find the perpetrator as well.
“Yeah..." the cheetah on the other end of the line replied, “the Chief said you had to stay on parking duty. It's no big deal really, we just look up the owner's contact info from the sellers, and send them a bill for the clean-up. It's only if they refuse to pay when we issue an arrest warrant."
“But if a warrant is issued, you'll call me right?" Judy asked hopefully.
“Ehhh..." It sounded like Clawhauser was trying to avoid answering.
Judy groaned and dropped a tracking beacon from her belt into the dissolving vehicle, “I'll get back to writing tickets, okay."
With that, she threw herself even harder into her assignment. She bounced from car to car dropping tickets, reaching the two hundredth one mere minutes before noon. Then, as she was celebrating the completion of her goal, the meter where she'd parked her cart expired. She sighed and issued herself a ticket.
At the sound of a horn beeping Judy's head turned towards an alleyway on the opposite side of the street. The source was a truck driven by an irate ram who was yelling at an unfortunate fox who quickly scampered out of the way. “Move it fox!"
Maybe it was her father's prejudices speaking, but something about that fox seemed suspicious to Judy. She watched as he ducked into an ice cream shop with oversized doors, the reason for which was soon apparent as a ten-foot tall macro-enhanced cow pushed her way past him. Wondering what business someone his size might have in a store meant for macros she decided it wouldn't be too far out of her way to follow him in.
The servers were a pair of large male Blips that seemed based on the Old Earth elephant. They were both easily twelve feet tall and their trunks were fully prehensile. As Judy watched one of them used his elongated proboscis to scoop out a macro-sized serving of strawberry ice cream, then suck up a load of crushed nuts and spew them onto the sundae. But her attention was more focused on the fox who was now at the end of the line and starting to talk to the cashier.
“I don't know what you're trying to pull here," said the elephant-Blip who was taking orders as he leaned over the high counter to stare down at the fox.
“Look," the fox replied, “I just want to buy a frozen treat for my little boy here." It was then that Judy noticed the smaller fox standing next to him. The other vulpine was two feet tall, even shorter than Judy if you discounted his sizable ears, and his fur was tan rather than red as visible beneath his bluish pajamas but he was still mostly recognizable as vulpine. Save for his tail which was as thick around as an otter's.
The bunny officer's interest was instantly piqued, the kit was obviously morphismed somehow, a hybrid maybe? She didn't have anything against interspecies couples personally but she knew that on the rare occasion that the mutt-reduction protocols* failed the resulting offspring were often ostracized, much like micros and laterals actually. Judy slowly moved her hand away from the spraycan at her belt and stepped closer.
“Look," said the clerk, “we sell ice cream for macros here, your kid won't be able to finish one of our jumbo pops. It'll make a mess, he'll get upset, and there's no way I'm going to be held accountable for that."
“Oh, okay." The adult fox bent down to comfort his kid, who was starting to get teary-eyed. “It's just that his birth parents abandoned him when he came out with a morphism and I told him he could get any Surgery he wanted to make up for it when he grew up. And he said he wanted to be a great big Macro. So, I figured that for his birthday I could get him a macro-sized treat to help prepare him for it."
“So take him someplace else that serves normal-sized ice pops." The cashier said more harshly. “It'll be proportionally the same."
At this utter lack of sympathy Judy decided she'd heard enough. She stepped forward and spoke up. “Excuse me, sir?" Both the adult fox and the Blip turned to face her. “Are your customers aware that they're getting snot and mucus in their frozen treats?" She held out her toggle case on which she'd pulled up a diagram of an elephant's nasal passages and the other Blip dropped the scoop he was holding. “Now, I could call in a health inspector to verify your trunk is safe, shutting you down for a day or two if you're lucky and costing you some 200 credits in inspection fees, or you could just put some kind of glove on that trunk and give this nice dad and his son a... what was it?"
“Jumbo pop." The fox dad said, glad to find someone sympathetic.
“Right, a jumbo pop." Judy continued. “So, what is it going to be?"
The cashier resigned himself and took the obvious route. “1.5 credits."
“Good to hear you came around." The fox said, then made of show of patting his shirt and pants. “Oh, dang, it seems I forgot my toggle at home. Sorry little guy."
Fortunately, Judy leaped up and slammed her case on the payment surface, forwarding a full two credits to the register. “Keep the change." The clerk handed over a red popsicle that must have outmassed either Judy or the kid, who shockingly was able to carry it over his shoulder.
As they walked out together the fox thanked Judy for her help. “Always great to meet a civic-minded officer, would Ro'Ra be the right terminology?"
“Oh, I prefer to just be called Judy Hopps, I wasn't born in the Corp and the taxonomic naming convention** always sounded silly to me."
“Okay then, you can call me Wilde, Nic'las Wilde." Nick replied.
“Nice to meet you Nick." Judy bent to look the other fox in the eye. “Hey, I know how hard it can be out there for morphisms, but look at me, I'm a micro bunny working for the IRPF. Even if you change your mind later about that Surgery there could be a job waiting for you. Here," she quickly programmed her ticket-printer to produce a small sticker in the shape of an IRPF officer's badge. “Why don't you try this on, see how it fits you." She stuck it on the front of his pajamas and he looked at it in puzzlement.
“Now Finnick," Nick said, “give the nice officer a smile and let's let her get back to her work."
“I was ready for a lunch break anyways." Judy replied. “See you two around."
An hour later Judy was still writing up tickets when she spotted Finnick again. She was about to say hi to him but then she noticed he was carrying a jar of red fluid over to a rusted van, where he'd just left there was a bunch of other jars collecting more fluid from a weather drainage pipe. Following the pipe up Judy saw Nick holding the remains of the jumbo pop she'd bought them up to a heating vent. When all that was left was the plastic stick it had been frozen around he slid down the pipe and into the passenger door of the van. Finnick was driving.
Finding this very bizarre Judy got into her cart and followed them, having little trouble keeping up with the van in its' poor condition. They went through the access tunnel to Tundratown and parked by an empty field of snow. Finnick got out and carefully left small digitigrade pawprints in the snow while Nick followed pouring the melted popsicle juice into the depressions and left a small stick that seemed to have been whittled off the jumbo pop stick in the heel end. While they were busy Judy, realizing that they'd probably be waiting a while for the popsicles to refreeze and she was still on the clock, attached a micro-transponder to the van and ran back for her post.
After two more hours Judy's case alerted her that the van was moving and she tracked them to a bank on the outskirts of Little Rodentia. Earlier Judy had looked up the enclave after Clawhauser had mentioned it and found that it was primarily populated by micros and laterals of the Rodentia family, but generally of species much smaller than rabbits like rats and mice, and sponsored and administered by IRPF's corporate rival Spyglass so technically she wasn't even allowed to enter it. Nick set up a cooler filled with pawprint-shaped popsicles with a sign that said “Handcrafted Pawpsicles, .2cr" and at 1600 exactly a line of assorted rodents streamed out of the building. One of them noticed the little setup and walked towards him, others following. With practiced ease Nick scanned their toggles with one hand and handed them “pawpsicles" with the other. As the customers finished their purchases they tossed the plastic sticks into a series of recycling bins and once they were all done Finnick popped out and emptied the bins into the van.
There they wrapped the used sticks into bundles and drove them to a mouse construction site, selling them as building materials and explaining the red coloration as a mix-up in the orders. Though apparently they were on a tight enough deadline to accept them anyways.
When they'd offloaded all the merchandise Nick slipped Finnick a credit chip with his share of the day's profits and the smaller fox left, shucking off his pajamas to reveal a jumpsuit laced with cooling lines and getting into the driver's seat of his van. “What, no goodbye kiss for Daddy?" Nick called.
“I still don't understand you Vectors." Finnick said, the first time Judy had actually heard him speak now that she thought of it, in a voice deeper than one would generally expect from a kit. And then he drove off.
As the red fox stood there in the dust and smoke from the beat-up van's passage Judy came up behind him and he turned around to face her glare of disapproval. “You lied to me."
“It's called a hustle, sweetheart. And nothing I did was illegal by IRPF laws." Nick said, turning to leave.
Judy pursued him, “Oh yeah? What about setting up a BuySpot without paying the lease and transporting merchandise across habitat boundaries?"
Nick responded by holding out a virtual document on his toggle case, “temporary vendor's permit, and inter-hab merchant's license." He withdrew the case before she could get a good look. “Can't touch me, Carrots. I've been doing this since I was twelve, I've got all the bases covered."
Judy snarled, “You're gonna want to refrain from calling me Carrots."
“My bad," Nick snarked, “I assumed you were from some podunk town where they still grew food in dirt."
“Bunnyburrow is not just some podunk town, we're a full MarsCo subsidiary."
“But you're not refuting the dirt-farming part." As they continued to walk the fox swiped a handful of blueberries from a street stall, Judy was too focused on their conversation to pay any notice. “Let me know if this sounds familiar. Naive little bunny from the countryside of Venus with dreams of making it big in the big station manages to get a job with the police, only to find out that she was hired as a publicity stunt and the only job the chief will trust her with is meter maid. Her dreams crushed she slips into emotional and literal squalor and ends up living in an abandoned city cube eating ration blocks three meals a day until she has enough and goes back to pulling carrots out of the dirt in, you're from Bunnyburrow you said?" He slipped through an opening in a fence, “Seeya, Carrots!"
Judy leaped over the fence and straight into Nick's path. “I don't have to take this from some lowlife who didn't have the guts to be more than a popsicle hustler."
“Listen," Nick leaned down and looked her directly in the eye. “They say anyone can be anything, but the reality is unless you've got the credit to afford radical Surgery you can only be what you are." He pointed to himself with his stick, “sly fox," he turned it towards the micro officer, “dumb bunny." He turned around to leave and Judy leapt in front of him again.
“I am not just a dumb little bunny." Judy said, indignantly.
“Right," Nick said, “and that's not wet Quikcrete."
Judy looked down and realized all of a sudden that she had stepped in a section of sidewalk that had just been printed by one of the city's maintenance GeoMats. If she didn't act fast the Quikcrete rising around her shoes would harden and trap her. As she yanked herself out Nick made his escape saying “you'll never be a real cop. You might be a passable meter maid though, you could even make Supervisor someday."
After several more hours of writing tickets, Judy returned to her dingy apartment, kicked off her Quikcrete-encrusted shoes, and reluctantly got a ration block from the dispenser. She would have preferred something more palatable, but she'd already spent her food budget for the day on a popsicle. The microwave reduced the cube of recycled protein and spare nutrients to a scorched and withered mess. Disgusted, and disappointed with how her first day had gone, she decided she had no appetite after all and threw it away.
Unsure what else to do, she turned on a random music stream, but as if by some cruel joke every song the algorithm picked was something depressing. Not lifted from her funk in the slightest, Judy picked up her Toggle case and opened it to her family photo album. She'd assured them so confidently that she would be the best bunny cop ever no matter what, and after graduating from the academy it had seemed almost certain. She was wondering what she'd say to them now when the “incoming call" alert popped up on the screen.
Suddenly put on the spot Judy almost dropped her case in panic before hitting “accept". Her parents faces materialized on the tiny screen, a video message all the way from Venus. “Hey Jude, how was your first day as a cop in the big station?" Her dad asked.
“Oh, hi mom and dad," Judy replied sheepishly. “It was great. Busy day out making the system a better place and all that you know."
An hour later her mother sighed in relief. “Well that's good, we were getting so worried about you."
“Wait, what's that you're wearing?" Stu suddenly pointed at the camera and Judy realized that she was still wearing the reflective vest she'd been issued when assigned to parking duty.
“What?" She ineffectually tried to cover up the vest with her arms, forgetting that it wasn't a live feed. “Oh, it's nothing, just a little mixup with uniforms..."
“Are you a meter maid?" Her dad inquired almost rhetorically.
“Oh thank God!" Bonnie exclaimed. “I thought you might actually be in danger out there."
“Safest job on the force." Stu added in. “Meter maid, meter maid!"
“Now now," Bonnie tried to shush her husband. “She's got another big day tomorrow and we're keeping her up late with all the time lag."
“Oh, right, sorry." Stu moved to switch off the camera. “See you tomorrow night."
Judy sighed and set down the case again. “Tomorrow's another day." She tried to reassure herself.
“Yeah," said one of the neighbors from next door. “It could be worse."
* Vectors are designed so that when different species breed their kids are one species or the other instead of hybrids. But sometimes things happen and you get sterile mutants with traits of two different species.
** Many MegaCorps have unique naming conventions. The IRPF lists an employee's rank as the first part of the name, then their personal name, and then the first two letters of their taxonomic family (Canidae, Rodentia, etc) and species (fox, rabbit...)
Judy could not help but slow down as she carried out her duties the next day. The events of the first day leaving her feeling much less enthusiastic. As a result she was often actually around to hear when somebody was around to pick up her tickets.
“I was five seconds late!"
“I just stepped in for a minute!"
“My mommy says she wishes you were dead."
“Yeah, you're a real hero lady!"
When the verbal harassment got to be too much she decided it was time for a break. She got into her little cart and repeatedly banged her head into the steering wheel, repeating to herself “I am a real cop, I am a real cop" as if it would make the feeling lessen. Judy was so preoccupied with self-pity that she didn't even notice the thief running past.
She was briefly roused from her stupor by a panicked civilian running up to her cart and rocking it. “Hey! Do something!" He yelled in her ear.
“Sir," Judy replied, reverting to one of the scripts she'd been given with the assignment. “If you have a complaint about your ticket, please direct it to the home office."
“What are you talking about?" He screamed back. “He's getting away!" The irate Vector pointed at a fleeing lateral weasel carrying a dirty duffel bag on his back. “Are you a real cop or not?!"
Instantly her ears perked up as she regained the previous day's enthusiasm. “Yes! I'm a real cop!"
“Then go already!" With that Judy took off. She leapt out of her cart and dashed off in pursuit, calling dispatch as she ran.
She chased the weasel through the streets, pulling up a profile on her Toggle case as soon as she got a look at his face. Duke Weaselton, a ferret (apparently weasels were smaller than rats) media bootlegger and occasional petty thief. Judy had no idea what he'd stolen this time but she guessed it was something fairly valuable this time based on the owner's distress.
An IRPF cruiser pulled up in the path of the weasel but he slipped underneath and kept running before the officers had even opened the doors. The equine Judy had met earlier jumped out of the driver's door and started giving an update on his radio when the micro rabbit simply vaulted over the car shouting “I got this! Officer Hopps in pursuit!"
Just before Judy was able to catch up with Weaselton he ducked into an access tube that was barely a foot tall, the wall of the megastructure said “Little Rodentia" in ten-foot letters. Judy remembered that there was a Vector-sized service door elsewhere but she didn't want to take the chance of losing her quarry in the building's internal structures so she slid on her back through the micro-door. The bunny cop found herself in a miniature version of the larger habitat, the floor was covered with arcology buildings like the megastructures outside, only smaller, six feet tall at the most. Around her feet mice and other micro rodents scurried in the streets, panicking at the sight of two outsiders who were just small enough to fit through the front door yet big enough to cause serious damage. Judy saw her coworker shouting something at the window above the entrance, but couldn't make it out through the glass. He could have been saying “Hey, wait for the real cops!" or “Hey, we can't go in there!" for all she knew.
Whatever it was, she couldn't afford to hesitate much longer. Already the weasel was climbing up the side of a building and preparing to run across the tops of the structures. A few of the locals were aiming small weapons at him, but they hesitated, wary of causing collateral damage. Judy hopped up onto the roof ahead of him and immediately he scrambled backwards, going the opposite direction. She started to jump after him, but noticed the roof beneath her feet creaking, the impact had already made a visible dent in the top of the building and she was wary of causing more damage. Noticing her hesitation Duke dropped down into the gap between two blocky structures and shoved them apart with his legs. The buildings in Judy's path began to topple over towards her, she heard screaming from the interiors and thought fast. She stopped in the gap between structures like Weaselton had, but this time she tried to counter his force with a push of her own. Fortunately it proved to be enough to stop the domino effect and put the toppling buildings back in roughly the same spots (though the residents would probably notice the difference).
Judy spotted the culprit dropping off into an alleyway by a restaurant with a large donut on its roof. “Hey!" She shouted and raced off after him down the now cleared street.
Weaselton looked freaked out for a minute and turned to run away, clipping the giant donut with his shoulder. He realized then that it was a solid construct rather than the hologram they'd both previously assumed. Glancing down at the rickety supports that attached it to the restaurant he suddenly had an idea. “Have a donut, copper!" He yelled towards her and shoved the novelty device hard enough to break it free of its supports and send it rolling down the street after her.
Judy dodged easily, but then she saw a group of female rodents exiting a shopping center carrying bags of merchandise, not noticing the rolling fiberglass pastry. She shouted at them “look out!" and darted towards them, just barely managing to grab the donut before it squashed a rat with a rather expensive looking haircut.
The rat lady looked up at her unexpected savior, who sheepishly said “Like your hair."
“Why, thank you."
Judy turned back to Weaselton only to see him stagger to the ground and lay there, his mouth foaming. As she approached she noticed a dozen slivers of metal poking out of his back and sides. The reason became apparent as she spotted multiple rodent micros carrying small pneumatic weapons, something about them seemed familiar. “Wait," she pointed out the nearest one's dartgun, “isn't that a shardshot?"
The squirrel carrying the indicated illegal weapon looked up at her oddly. “Check the logo lady." He gestured with his weapon at the wall, where Judy finally noticed the pyramid and all-seeing eye of Spyglass, the one MegaCorp that didn't contract with the IRPF and who not only allowed its' citizens to own poisoned flechette launchers, but manufactured them for sale. “Your laws don't apply here. Just collect your Vector-trash and get out of here."
The bunny IRPF officer decided to take his advise and go, picking up the twitching weasel and his bag of loot before heading out the door.
Later, in Chief Bogo's office, Judy was receiving the chewing-out of her life. “Abandoning your post and entering Spyglass corporate territory. I don't know if I've seen a more reckless officer in my career." The bovine chief tore open the bag, “but at least it wasn't a total loss, we recovered a bag full of moldy onions and what the heck are these things anyways?" He pointed out some rectangular plastic cartridges nestled in with the bulbs.
Judy looked at them just as puzzled, but she recognized the bulbs almost instantly. “I don't know what those things are, but the others aren't onions, they're an experimental Progenitus biopharm crop called Midnicampum holicithias, my parents have a contract to cultivate them."
“I don't care." Bogo slammed a hand down on the bag, causing a loud crunching sound, and shoved it aside. “The culprit's medical bills and the concessions we'll have to make to Spyglass will cost us more than those little plants will recoup."
The intercom chimed and Clawhauser's voice came over the speakers. “Chief, we've got Mrs. Otterton here, asking about her husband."
Bogo hit the button and replied “not now."
“Not, now!" He turned back to Judy, still pissed off at her. “I was hoping you couldn't mess up a simple job, but if you can't even handle parking duty then you'll be spending the rest of your contract behind a desk."
Before Bogo could elaborate on what he had in mind for her, a short otter woman walked in through the office door, followed by a gasping Clawhauser. “Sorry sir," the overweight cheetah panted, “she got away from me. I've really let myself go." He commented as he turned to leave.
“Chief Bogo?" The otter pleaded, “can't you please find my Emmett?" She was clutching a printed photo of herself and a male otter, the same otter seen in the Missing Vectors casefiles Judy realized, and two pups.
Bogo seemed to make an effort to soften his tone as he replied, “I'm sorry, but we have all our officers busy with the other missing Vectors. The moment we get a lead on your husband we'll let you know."
Mrs. Otterton started talking about Emmett, he was a botanist, they had a son and daughter at home waiting for him, and Judy both felt sympathy for her and saw an opportunity. “I'll find him," she volunteered at once.
“Oh thank you, thank you." The otter bent to give the bunny cop a hug. “Bring him back to me and our babies, will you?"
“I'll do my best." Judy replied. But as soon as Mrs. Otterton had left the room the chief rounded on her.
“You're not taking that case." He stated simply, as if that were the end of it.
“What?!" Judy had been sure that Bogo wouldn't have been able to refuse something like that.
The chief moved to open the door again, “if you thought there was any way I would let you..." he trailed off as he spotted Mrs. Otterton talking to the habitat director's assistant.
Bellwether turned to Chief Bogo as his expression turned to shock and terror. “I've just been informed that Officer Hopps has taken the case." The ewe drew out her Toggle case and started typing out a message before Bogo could even react. “I'm going to go tell Director Lionhart right now."
Now, Chief Bogo had no choice but to let Judy search for Emmett. Their client had heard that his little pet project was now involved in the investigation and he didn't dare to contradict him. Instead, he settled for giving Judy an ultimatum. “You have forty-eight hours. If you don't manage to work this thing out by then, you will spend the next thirty years as Clawhauser's assistant." He showed her out the door. “Try not to pick up his eating habits."
While Judy was getting the admittedly sparse case files from Benjamin Clawhauser she asked off-handed how he'd ended up with that job.
“It's a bit of an interesting story really." He started out. “You see, I actually used to be a Pulse athlete a while ago." At the bunny's incredulous look he elaborated. “Got all modded up and everything. Reflexes, speed, night vision, so many muscular enhancements I honestly lost count. Before long I needed ten times the typical caloric intake just to keep from starving. After thirty years of performing dangerous feats on camera, I decided it was time for a change in career, my contract had an option for Body Replacement so I took it and became a cop." The cheetah picked up another donut with the Pulse logo and stared at it for a second. “Thing is, while this new body doesn't have the same energy demands as the old one, my brain is essentially the same. And when you've eaten mostly SuperFood for a decade and a half, the normal stuff just isn't the same." He downed the Calorie-loaded pastry with barely a second thought.
“So, you just couldn't stop yourself from eating them?" Judy was astonished by his story.
“Yeah, I made it through the academy's crash course, skipped the physical part on account of my prior career, but after less than a Mars year* on the streets I could barely keep up with the average crook. So they gave me this job."
“Wow, that's awful." Judy replied.
Clawhauser brushed off the comment and countered with “Nah, I actually like working here at the front desk better than being a beat cop. No real pressure, but I'm still working to make a real difference in the community."
Once the cheetah's story was finished Judy returned her attention to the file he'd given her. It was disappointingly small, with barely more information than the victim's wife had already provided. No witnesses, no leads, and the only surveillance footage available was a 30-second clip of him just walking down the sidewalk, no indication where he was going. Desperate for some point to start from, she played the clip over and over again until something jumped out at her on the fifth playback. Otterton was licking something, Judy paused and pinched the touchscreen to zoom in on his hand. He was eating a red popsicle shaped like a pawprint, recognizing the frozen treat instantly Judy zoomed back out and just barely caught sight of a familiar orange tail right before it swept out of view. “Oh, you have got to be kidding me."
*Mars year = 687 days. Venus year=224.7 days. Vectors use the Earth year for official dating but many civilians use their local year. In Venusian years Judy is 39 and Nick is about 52. In Martian years Nick would be a 17-year old teenager while Judy would barely be out of her tweens. Jupiter's year is 11.86 Earth years and it's colonies are new enough that nobody uses those years.
Sometime later Nic'las P. Wilde was casually walking down the sidewalk pushing a stroller in which Finnick laid “recharging" as he referred to it. Judy pulled up next to him in her cart and addressed him. “Hello, Nick," she said coldly. “I was hoping you could answer a few questions for me."
“Well, well," replied the fox. “If it isn't Officer Carrots. What is it this time? We park in a handicapped zone or something?"
“Ha ha, no." Judy gave a flat laugh at his insult and kept going. “This is actually about one of your customers, Emmett Otterton." She pulled onto the sidewalk and stopped in front of him, jumping out carrying a tablet with a still from the surveillance video. She pointed at Otterton's face with a novelty stylus shaped like a carrot. “I was wondering where you'd seen him last."
Nick continued his disrespectful smirk, “I may have seen him, but I've got better things to do than chat with some little bunny who thinks she's a cop."
“Like what?" Judy asked, visibly annoyed. “Hustling 2 credits worth of popsicles?"
“Hey," Nick replied, indignantly. “I've made 20 credits a day, 687 days a year, since I was 6. Now, I think somewhere a display case is missing a doll so why don't you hop on back home."
At that point Judy had heard enough. “That's it." She whipped out a set of magnetic clamps and bound them around the front wheels of Nick's stroller. As he was staring in astonishment she yelled, “Nic'las Wilde, you are under arrest!"
“For what? Hurting your feewwings?" Nick mocked her.
“Ledger fraud." The con artist abruptly dropped his smug expression. “MarsCo independent vendor permits require not only a small annual fee but also 10% of the profits from sales. Now normally, they deduct this automatically from the Ledger registered with the permit and you say that you make 20 cr/day?" She pulled up a calculator and did some quick math, “let's say, 11 Martian years, that means you've made oh, let's round to 150,000 credits. Now, I happen to have the transaction records for your Ledger right here. Oh, it says that you purchased it 10 years ago, not illegal but a tad bit suspicious don't you think? And what do you know? It lists an income of zero credits the whole time you've owned it, you've just paid the renewal fees from its' automated trades." Judy actually laughed at this point. “Now, I may be just a “dumb bunny" but we are good at multiplying aren't we?"
Nick thought he could see one last opportunity to get out of his sticky situation. “You don't have any proof of this. It's my word against yours."
The micro cop held up her carrot-shaped stylus and depressed a button on the side. “20 credits a day, 687 days a year, since I was 6."
“Actually, it's your word against yours. Never thought this thing's little quick memo feature would prove so useful."
Defeated, Nick let out a sigh of dismay, “What do you want from me bunny?"
“Simple," Judy slid the pen into her vest pocket. “You help me find out what happened to Otterton, and I'll give you the pen. But if not, then the only place you'll be selling secondhand popsicles is the prison cafeteria!"
Finnick jumped out of the stroller, “sorry, can't get tangled up in the police." He clung to the front of Nick's shirt and ripped off the sticker Judy had given him the previous day. “You might want this though." He attached the sticker to Nick's shirt and dropped. “Maybe we'll meet again later, bye." The odd little creature ran off and disappeared behind a corner.
Nick glanced at the fake badge adhered to his chest and then back to Judy, an exasperated expression on his face. “Look, I didn't see where he went, only where he was going."
“Well then, where was he going?"
Another grin crossed the fox's face. “Oh, it's no place for little country bunnies, trust me, you don't want to go there."
“Remind me never to come back here again." Judy shuddered as she recalled the interior of the “Naturist" club. Some Vectors just needed to wear clothes, that's all there was to it.
“Assuming we ever meet again after you give me that pen." Nick said, holding out his hand to take it.
Judy kept the stylus safely in her pocket. “You seem to be pretty useful so far. I might need your help again."
“Lady, I've told you what I know, I got you the skimmer's VIN and any idiot can do a search for those. You can't hold me like this forever."
“Not forever." Judy acceded, taking out her Toggle case to look up the Vehicular Identification Number for the luxury Vertical Take-Off and Landing skimmer that had picked up Otterton. “I've only got about..." she counted quickly on her fingers, “45 hours left to solve this case and then I won't have any reason to keep you on."
Hearing that, the fox got a little idea. While his captor was finagling with the website for the VIN registry he slipped a small vial of liquid out of his pocket and poured a small drop onto the steering column of the bunny cop's cart. De-Rez enzyme spread across the disposable vehicle's composite skin and did what it was designed to. As Judy finished up with the search Nick dropped the vial into a nearby sewer drain and got up on the back of the small cart. “So, where to now, Toots?"
Judy leaped in to her seat and started up the engine. “Rental service in Tundratown, if we go right now we can..." she trailed off as the steering wheel broke off in her hand.
“Huh," Nick observed, acting surprised. “Maybe exceeding the weight limit shortened its' lifespan by a few hours. Kind of thing happens with these disposable vehicles you know."
“Agghhh." Judy banged her head against the disintegrating dashboard. “And I was just filling out tickets for improper disposal just yesterday. Now I'll need to call in a collection truck and find the nearest BuySpot that sells these things, then wait for it to finish printing."
“Well, sounds like you'll be busy for the next few hours then." Nick jumped down from the cart and started walking off. “Since you won't be needing me I guess I'll be going now."
“Not so fast, popsicle hustler." Judy showed off the stylus-recorder briefly before stashing it again. “I've still got this, which means you're sticking with me." She started off in the direction of the nearest BuySpot indicated on her case's map.
Nick shrugged and followed. “Was worth a shot." He muttered as he set off after the little bunny.
By the time Judy had found an appropriate BuySpot, registered her IRPF account, and printed out a replacement cart the overhead lights had dimmed for the station's night cycle. By the time they'd made it to the VTOL rental center it had already closed for the day.
“Well," said Nick, “guess that's it. Can't do anything until they open in the morning."
The bunny cop was fuming. “You had something to do with this, didn't you?" She accused the fox who was trying to look innocent. “That cart had another day left, I checked. You must have done something to deliberately waste my time."
The hustler smirked again. “Well, whatever the case, we're stalled for now and unless you want to keep watching me all night you'd better just gimme that pen now."
Judy shrugged, “okay," and promptly chucked the stylus over the rental center's fence. “Go get it."
Grumbling, Nick set to climbing over the fence. He scaled the old-fashioned chain-link with little difficulty and plopped down in the snow next to where the pen had landed. But after bending over to pick it up he found himself face to face with a certain micro cop again.
“Our contract with the station allows us to cross property lines provided reasonable suspicion of a crime in progress." She explained, grabbing the pen back from the stunned fox. “For instance, if I spot a shifty-looking fox jumping the fence." Judy set off for the skimmers parked next to the main office.
Nick shrugged and followed after her. “You sure you picked the right career? You'd be great on the other side of the law too."
Judy ignored him and started brushing the snow off the VIN plates on the skimmers. Eventually she found the right one and forced open the driver's side door. “Come on," she said to the fox she'd used to get in, “you might as well help me look for evidence."
While Judy swept over the seat looking for loose hairs or fingerprints, Nick opened the glove compartment. Something fell out and landed in his hand and he gasped in shock. Judy snapped her glance over towards him and looked at what he was holding. “The velvety pipes of Jerry Vole!" It was a cartridge with the image of a famous rat singer, “magnetic tape? Really? Who uses that anymore?"
The bunny gave an annoyed sound and jumped up onto the dashboard to look for more oddities. In the process her foot bumped the switch to lower the divider between the driver's cab and the passenger section. Both Vectors turned to look and saw the scene of carnage behind them simultaneously.
“I think that if that otter were here, he was having a very bad day." Nick commented. The clone-leather seats were shredded by what seemed to be bare teeth and there were deep scratches with flecks of dried blood, like someone had tried to tear them open with their fingernails. The speakers were smashed and dangling by loose wires. Judy slipped through the aperture with ease, while Nick just barely forced his way in, half-somersaulting and landing face down in the crevice between the seats and the divider.
The micro cop let herself chuckle a little at the clumsiness of normal-sized Vectors, before realizing that he probably contaminated the evidence. She started looking for fur samples or torn off nails in the rents of the fabric on the other side from where the fox had landed. As she did so, Nick righted himself by grasping a drawer in the door, it popped open revealing a tray of dusty drink glasses. Curious, he picked one up and wiped off the dust.
“Oh, no." He said, noticing a large monogrammed “B" on the glass.
Nick shoved the glass back in quickly and scrambled to try and unlock the door. “I know who this skimmer belongs to, it's owned by a crime boss known as Mr. Big and he does not like me." He found the latch and threw open the door, only to find himself looking up at two very large polar bears. “Oh, Ray, Kev'n. How you guys doing?" The ursines didn't say a word, they merely grabbed the two Vectors by the throats and lifted them out of the skimmer, carrying them both one-handed to another vehicle parked nearby.
They were shoved into the new skimmer and forcibly seated between the two bears, who kept a close watch on them as they drove. Cautiously, Judy whispered a question in Nick's ear. “Whatever did you do to make this guy so mad at you?"
Nick's ear twitched but he didn't dare to give any other sign of having heard her. “I, may have, misunderstood the Spyglass social currency system."
Judy stared at him in confusion. “What does that have to do with..." But she was silenced by a clawed hand the size of her head resting on her shoulder.
Eventually, they stopped and the cop and the hustler were led into an office so cold that snow dripped from the corners. The room was dominated by a massive solid wood desk, before which sat a trap door. As Judy watched in suspense a procession of progressively larger polar bears entered through the door at the other end of the office. The last of whom, an impressive specimen who stood over 12 feet tall, took a seat behind the desk and laid his clasped hands down upon it. Then, to the bunny's amazement, he opened those hands to reveal an aged micro rat seated in a small swivel chair.
“Mr. Big," Nick started, “I can explain..."
But the black-furred rodent cut him off with a small wave of his hand. “Nic'las," he enunciated slowly and carefully, twisting a whisker in thought. “I took you in, taught you everything you know, but you did not understand. Sing, you thought that it was like credit, you could just pay back whatever offenses you'd given and all would be right." Mr. Big stopped twirling his whiskers then and gave the fox a merciless stare. “After your generous gift of a rug woven from the hairs off the butt of a skunk I told you never to show your tail around me or my property again. Yet here I find you, snooping around my business, and with a cop no less." Nick tried to speak again, but one of the bears grabbed him by the throat. “I don't want to hear your excuses Nic'las." He pointed towards Judy, “I want hers."
Judy's temper flared. Who was he to demand an explanation for doing her job? “I am Officer Hopps of the IRPF, and I'm going to find out what you've done with Mr. Otterton if it's the last thing I do!"
Mr. Big sighed heavily. “Were anyone else to say that, they would be in the canal." Another bear wrenched Judy up over the trapdoor and it opened, uncovering a stream of frigid water with floating blocks of ice. Judy froze in fear, she doubted she could survive more than a minute in that even if she didn't drown.
“Daddy!" A shrill voice rang out from the largest bear's shirt pocket and a vaguely familiar female rodent scurried down his sleeve and ran up to Mr. Big's side. “You told me you wouldn't ice her!"
“Baby, Daddy has to show he's not to be messed with." He turned back to the dangling Nick and Judy. “Now, as I was saying. Were you anybody but Judy Hopps Ro'Ra, who saved the life of my only daughter this very morning, you would be in the canal." The bear holding Judy pulled her away from the trapdoor and brought her face-to-face with the crime boss and his offspring. “Given the service you've rendered us I will not only let that insult slide, I will also tell you what you wish to know. As it so happens, Emmett is a good friend of the family. A week ago he sent me a message that he had something that I absolutely needed to know, in person, so I sent my personal skimmer to collect him." Big's face fell in regret as he remembered. “Yet, he never arrived."
“He was attacked?" Judy suggested.
“No," the rodent responded. “He attacked my driver, Mr. Manchas. They were halfway here when all of a sudden he became savage, he shredded the interior of the skimmer and when Manchas landed to check in on him Emmett assaulted him. He then fled, disappearing into the night."
“That doesn't make any sense." Judy thought, confused. “How could somebody like Mr. Otterton just go savage?"
“There is a beast in all of us." Mr. Big mused. “The humans had their beasts as well, and they didn't even have our fangs and claws."
While the cop and the crime boss were talking, the fox was left dangling over freezing death. Eventually, he managed to squeak out “little help, please?" and caught their attention again.
“What is he doing with you anyways?" Big asked.
Judy stammered as she tried to compose an answer. “Well, he's a witness. He saw Mr. Otterton enter the health club where you picked him up."
Nick croaked out something that may have been “blackmail."
Mr. Big actually laughed at that last comment. “Is that so? Well, in that case I suppose I could let you live. This time."
The goon holding him threw Nick flat to the floor next to Judy. The trapdoor closed behind him with a resounding “thud".
Officer Judy Hopps Ro'Ra. Micro Rabbit, Female, age 24
Body: d12 Dexterity 3, Resilience 1, Acuity 2, Strength 2, Presence 1
Mind: d10 Dexterity 2, Resilience 2, Acuity 3, Strength 2, Presence 2
Community: d8 Dexterity 2, Resilience 1, Acuity 2, Strength 2, Presence 1
Economy: d10 Dexterity 2, Resilience 2, Acuity 1, Strength 1, Presence 2
Focus: Balance and Counterbalance
Surgeries: Reclaimed Auditory, Leaping.
Officer Judy Hopps grew up in a MarsCo subsidiary corptown called “Bunnyburrow" in the rural areas of Venus, this corptown was primarily based around old-fashioned agriculture for sale to luxury markets. However she was not satisfied with the prospects of a life growing carrots and blueberries for some distant corporate executive and somehow managed to get into an IRPF academy through Director Lionhart's “Morphism Inclusion Initiative". Despite getting in through a PR move Judy has proven herself determined as any new recruit and seeks to prove herself on the streets of the Quad.
Judy has a couple of reclamation operations as part of her scholarship.
Nick Wilde. Digitigrade Fox, Male, Age 32.
Mind: d10 Dexterity 2, Resilience 1, Acuity 3, Strength 2, Presence 3
Body: d8 Dexterity 2, Resilience 1, Acuity 1, Strength 2, Presence 1
Community: d12 Dexterity 4, Resilience 2, Acuity 3, Strength 3, Presence 2
Economy: d10 Dexterity 2, Resilience 1, Acuity 3, Strength 2, Presence 2
Focus: Friends in Low Places, MacGuffin Muffin
Surgeries: Reclaimed Scent, Genetic Compatibility: Reclaimed Night Vision.
Nic'las Wilde is a Quad native born and bred who spent his childhood in the megastructures of Station 1. After a bad experience with the Junior Explorers he became convinced that if society was going to stereotype him as a deceitful fox he might as well live up to it. He stopped attending the MarsCo public school and started learning the ways of the anarchist street from the Spyglass exec and community judge known as “Mr. Big". At the age of twelve he sold his Ledger and became a full-time hustler, separating the gullible from their credits while still toeing the IRPF line enough to keep operating in their area.
Especially after burning his social credit with his mentor in an incident referred to as “the skunk-butt sale."
Nick has some knockoff genetic reclamations, one of which is technically a felidae reclamation but he heard somewhere that natural foxes (those not based on a general Canis template) had the same reflective eyes as cats so he shelled out extra for the compatibility surgery.
Chapter 2: Part 2
The first time I wrote this the first four chapters were uploaded in one big post.
Nick and Judy had been given an address in the Rainforest district, a multilevel community based around trees transplanted all the way from Mars on which the residents had built apartments and shops. Progenitus owned the district and had designed the ecosystem in order to cultivate some of their genetically engineered plants that grew best in the environment, but some executive had sprung upon the idea of “tree houses” during construction and the place had ended up a mixture of laboratory farms and luxury housing. It was to one of the latter that the bunny cop and the vulpine con artist were now headed, chaffeuring a mob boss and his guests around apparently paid well enough to rent a place embedded in a tree-trunk no less than seven stories off the station floor.
Judy walked up to a door with a sign labeled “Manchas” next to it and rang the doorbell. The door opened a crack and a black-furred jaguar peered through cautiously. “Who? Who is it?” The occupant inquired.
“My name is Officer Judy Hopps, IRPF. I heard you were the last person to see Mr. Otterton?”
Manchas closed the door but continued to speak through it. “Yes, yes I saw him.”
“Okay then,” Judy perked up, oblivious to the signs while Nick rolled his eyes in amusement. “If you could just answer a few questions for us? Like, what exactly happened that night?”
The door opened again and Mr. Manchas shifted to show his other eye, “this! Happened.” Both Nick and Judy suppressed a simultaneous gasp at the sight, a long white scar stretched from his eyebrow down over his cataract-clouded eye and to the side of his face.
Nick, grimacing, asked first “Otterton did that to you?”
“He was savage, a beast!” Manchas shouted. “He started to scream and tear up the upholstery. I had to land to try and control him, but he didn’t give me the chance!”
While they were talking the neighborhood’s public address system started to play an old human-era song at low volume, it sounded ominous but combined with the constant pouring rain it seemed to have a calming effect on the Vectors involved.
The bunny officer brought herself back to the subject at hand and continued. “So, he just attacked you and ran, for no reason?”
“I could not say.” Manchas continued, soberly. “He said something about flowers, and the Master’s Call. He started to ask me about music but I can’t quite recall what he said. I, argh!” The jaguar yelled in sudden pain.
“You okay?” Judy asked in alarm.
“My neck.” Manchas reached and stroked the back of his neck as he spoke. “Wait, what’s…” He trailed off and slunk away from the door without completing his sentence.
“Did he hurt your neck too?” Judy inquired, trying to look at him through the crack in the door. “Mr. Manchas?”
Nick laid a warning hand on the young bunny cop’s shoulder. “I think perhaps Mr. Manchas has been through enough on our behalf tonight. Maybe we should come back in the morning?”
“No,” Judy insisted. “We’ve come this far and I’m not going to waste time now.” She shrugged visibly as the background music died away. “Besides, he might need medical attention. You saw his eye right?”
“I’m sure that if he needed help he would have gotten it by now Carrots, let’s just go.” But he saw that his reasoning was futile, she was already wedging the door open just enough to fit her small frame through. The larger Vector opted to stay outside and keep watch.
Judy wedged her way in between the sliding door and its frame and into the small room. She heard the sound of pouring rain through an open window across from the door. Its’ occupant was bent over on the floor, cowering in a fetal position. “Mr. Manchas?” The crouched figure shuddered as she spoke to it. “Are you feeling okay? Do you need me to call an ambulance?”
Suddenly the curled over leopard reared up, the pupil of his good eye slitted and narrowing. A low rumble issued from his throat as he got on all fours and began to slowly approach the interloping officer.
“Manchas, please. What are you doing?” Judy tried to reason with the suddenly feral Vector as she backed up towards the door, finding herself up against the wall. “We can help you. There’s no need to do anything rash?” Before she could say anything else the jaguar leaped towards her, fangs bared. But Nick reached through the doorway and yanked her out of the way in time, almost dislocating her shoulder in the process. The beast that had moments before responded to “Mr. Manchas” slammed into the half-closed door and reached a grasping arm through but the fox and rabbit were already turning to run away.
“I told you it was time to leave!” Nick shouted as he dashed away across one of the tree limbs that acted as bridges between trees in the district.
“How was I supposed to know that he would go, savage?!” Judy bounded after him, trying to wrench her shoulder back into place as she went. Behind them, the jaguar managed to wrench the door open wide enough to fit through and he raced after them on all fours.
Seeing their pursuer closing in on them, Judy leapt and grabbed onto a vine hanging from the next level up. The beast tried to jump after her, but bereft of her genetic reclamations he fell back without coming close. Frustrated, the leopard turned his attentions to Nick, who was already becoming winded from his exertion. When he saw the creature come after him instead, Nick panicked and ran straight for an airship dock that branched off from the main skywalk, and found himself cornered against a forty-foot drop. He turned to face the beast as it came up and slowed down less than twelve feet away from him. It snarled and growled in warning as it approached but Nick had nowhere left to run. When he didn’t leave it reared back to pounce again, and found its’ leap interrupted by a mag-cuff binding its’ leg to one of the mooring posts on the platform.
Judy, standing next to the post where she’d just secured the second cuff, shouted for Nick to get out of here. “How, there’s nowhere to go?” the fox yelled back. The panther turned around and swiped at its’ lapine captor but she vaulted it and landed next to Nick.
“Cargo net, right below the platform!” She shouted as she shoved the both of them over the side and into the waiting net. Nick fell halfway through one of the gaps in the netting, sized to save cargo containers instead of Vectors, while Judy only barely managed to grab onto a rope to arrest her momentum. Judy wrenched herself up and tried to stabilize herself as she drew out her Toggle case and made a call to the precinct.
At that moment, Officer Clawhauser was a tad preoccupied with this new app he’d just purchased for his case. It spliced the user’s face onto the body of a dancer accompanying Gazelle. The user had a choice of watching a pre-set dance video or playing a rhythm game, but the cheetah was still fiddling with the character selection. “Seriously?” He exclaimed as his face lined up with a disturbingly familiar body. “They could have at least paid me for that.” He was so preoccupied it took him half a minute to notice his terminal chiming with an incoming call. “Oh right,” he punched the accept key, “IRPF precinct station.”
“Clawhauser!” Judy’s voice rang out from the speakers. “I need backup immediately! Jaguar gone savage on Vine and Tujunga in the Rainforest district!”
“It’s Tu-HUN-ga.” Nick commented, but his voice was almost drowned out by the sound of boards snapping.
The crazed panther had managed to loosen himself enough to reach down towards the ropes securing the cargo net. His claws snagged in the cheap rope fibers and tore at them, the net buckled as the rope began to snap.
“Oh that’s not good.” Nick pointed at the fraying cord as more fibers snapped and tore. “Any way out?”
Judy scanned the surrounding area with haste, her eyes eventually settling on something just below Nick’s line-of-sight. “Come on!” Abruptly, with more force than he would have expected from a Vector as small as herself, she leapt and shoved him off the side of the cargo net. They fell for a moment before Judy grabbed hold of a passing vine, arresting their fall until they careened straight into a bundle of crates hanging from another tree. The net holding the crates up wrapped around the two and they found themselves hanging upside down over the street as just as the police arrived.
“This had better be good.” Said Chief Bogo.
Judy led the assembled IRPF officers back up the tree in triumph, telling them all about how the trail of evidence had led her straight to Mangas (omitting any details about the criminal element) and how the leopard had suddenly turned on them and “gone savage” without any warning.
But when they reached the dock where Judy had secured the leopard, he was gone.
“Is this some sort of joke Hopps?” Bogo shouted. Clawhauser, on the other hand, stared at the post as if he noticed something off.
“No, Chief, he was right there, I swear it on my oath.” Judy looked confused, where could he have gone?
The cheetah picked something off the post and held it up to his Toggle case, after a few seconds he tapped his boss on the shoulder and showed it to him. Bogo looked skeptically then turned back on Judy.
“Maybe you forgot to lock the cuffs and that Vector who seemed to have “gone savage” to a timid micro like yourself just opened them.”
“No, I secured them, I’m sure of it.” But the bunny found herself wracked by doubt. Had she actually locked the cuffs? Or had she assumed that Manchas was too far gone to figure out how to open mag-cuffs.
“I’m taking you off this case, and off of field work right now.” The chief shouted. “Now, badge!”
Judy thought of trying to argue further, then glanced at his outstretched palm and resigned herself. She began to unclip the field authority badge from her breast plate.
Unexpectedly, the fox she’d blackmailed a few hours before stepped forward. “Um, I don’t think so.”
Bogo rounded on the civilian. “What was that?”
“Look, you gave her 48 hours, no backup, and a jokemobile to solve a case that has had Longbow’s best stumped for a week. And in just twelve hours she’s managed to find multiple witnesses and locations past that one video you had. I think you need her.”
“He does have a point there Chief.” Clawhauser added.
“Fine,” Bogo grunted. “Our last deal still stands, but the next time you foul up it’s over!” He turned back to the street level and the other cops followed.
Clawhauser hung back a second and handed Judy a small purge wave, the standard less-than-lethal incapacitating weapons most police carried when expecting trouble, “you might need this.” Then he ran off to catch up with the rest. He headed for the passenger side of the chief’s cruiser and as the portly cheetah stepped inside he asked Bogo something. “Why didn’t you tell her about the mag-cuff?” He said, laying one of a pair of deactivated magnetic handcuffs on the dashboard.
“That override is only available to the station Director and his personal security.” The Chief replied. “Lionhart isn’t going to let her find that otter because he set her up to fail. I was trying to limit the damage before she embarrasses herself further.”
“But, why couldn’t you tell her that?”
“Our contract with MarsCo allows the corporation to perform a limited amount of their own judicial actions as necessary to maintain station security. It would take something big to arrest Lionhart without endangering the contract.” Chief Bogo picked up the cuff and pocketed it. “And his office has access to the surveillance cams around here.”
“Why did you stand up for me?” Judy asked, back up at the dock where the police had left her and her vulpine companion.
Nick shrugged, “he wasn’t giving you a chance, it just seemed unfair is all.”
“No,” Judy said, “that wasn’t it. Something else was going on.”
“Oh hey, look!” The fox waved at a tree hanging over a bridge that led up to the dock. “Traffic cameras, maybe they saw what happened?”
Judy looked in the direction Nick was pointing, there was a faint glint of metal beneath one of the branches but it was too dark to tell. She pulled out a flashlight and flicked it on, sure enough, there was a set of traffic cams secured to the trunk. “Wow, good eye Nick. Come on.”
They ran back down to where Judy’s car had been parked and she started the motor. “What, you think Chief hardass will let you take a look at the camera feeds after that whole thing?” Nick said, jumping onto the back.
“No, but I know somebody in station administration.”
The two ran into Bellwether as she was chasing after her boss, trying to get him to sign a tablet with several tabs of forms. When Director Lionhart reached the door he rounded on her, “look, I have some very important appointments to attend to now, just clear my schedule for this afternoon and handle the rest yourself.”
He slammed the door shut, knocking the diminutive ewe to the floor. As she scrambled to pick herself back up and find her tablet Judy approached and handed it to her. “Your boss giving you a hard time too?”
Bellwether took her digital paperwork back and sighed audibly. “Yeah, sometimes I don’t think he appreciates the work I do for him.” At the rabbit’s perked eyebrow she conceded, “okay, all the time.”
“I’m getting to know the feeling myself.” Judy admitted. “Anyways, remember that time you said if I ever needed a friend at Administration?”
“Oh, of course, come on over to my office, we’ll talk there.” Bellwether led them over to her office, if the little nook in the building’s server farm could be called such, and Judy filled her in. “No problem, I can pull that up.”
As she was working at her terminal Judy asked her how she’d come to work for Lionhart. “Oh, you know his affirmative action policies, he hired me right out of school to be his secretary to show how inclusive he was.”
Suddenly, the intercom on Bellwether’s desk erupted with Lionhart’s voice. “Smellwether! I told you to clear my schedule, get down here!”
Frantically, the small sheep hit the button to reply. “Just another minute sir.”
“Now!” The director roared.
“Okay, then.” Bellwether sighed and got up to leave. “The last couple passwords should be on a post-it in the top left drawer.”
Once she was gone Nick found the note in question and handed it to Judy after examining it for a second. While he was writing the passwords on his personal Toggle case before he had the chance to forget them he started chatting with the determined bunny. “Don’t see too many sheep Vectors around these days, goats seem like they’re taking over the wooly ungulate niche somehow. Think she counts herself when she’s trying to go to sleep?”
“Nick, shut up!” Judy grunted as she sped past a video of the two of them running from a crazed leopard, then Judy binding it to the post and their narrow escape off the side. Minutes later a small, unmarked van trundled up to the port and two wolves got out. As they watched one of the wolves blasted the leopard with a purge wave and while it was reeling from the sensory assault the other entangled it in a net and stuck a syringe in its side. The wolves paused to disconnect Judy’s mag-cuff with a thin wand device and then carried the drugged out cat over to the back of the van.
The van’s digital trail led over to the coastline of the station’s artificial lake where there stood a mental hospital listed as “abandoned” on the official nets, though a cursory glance told them that it wasn’t quite unoccupied. While the windows remained blacked out one could spot a small guard station over by the hospital’s sole entrance, staffed by a pair of wolves.
Judy assessed the situation from a hidden position in some nearby bushes. “Okay, I only see two guards there. Maybe we could take them out before they sound an alarm.”
“Just wait a second fluff.” Nick cautioned, wriggling to try and find a comfortable position without breaking a branch in the cramped confines of the bush. “Who says the alarm is manually triggered? They could have proximity sensors and even if we manage to get close to them those coats they’re wearing could easily conceal automatic weapons or hard edges.”
“Okay then,” the bunny replied, annoyed. “You’re the master criminal here, what would you do?”
“Hustler,” Nick corrected, then thought for a minute. “Do you have any protein bars or anything?”
Judy pulled out a small rectangle in a foil packet with the Pulse logo on it. “Just this, hey!” The fox promptly snatched it out of her hands, “that was going to be my dinner.”
Nick examined the label for a second, “SuperFood, wouldn’t be too filling anyways.” He started to peel off the wrapper, “but perfect for this.” He broke the brown bar in half and tossed the pieces ten feet away from the guard post, opposite of their own location.
After listening for an alarm for five seconds Judy started to get up. “Okay, there’s no sensors, let’s go…” she stopped when Nick reached over and held her down.
“Just wait and see.” As he spoke a cleaner nymph flew over towards the discarded food item, followed shortly after by a small swarm of at least half a dozen. Almost immediately an alarm klaxon wailed and the two wolves dashed out to investigate, one drawing a sub-machine gun from under his trenchcoat. “Now!”
Judy bounded towards the door, followed shortly by Nick skulking low to the ground. They made it through just as the other guard, annoyed, blasted the nymph swarm away with a purge wave. Ducking a corner they hid in a janitor’s closet to assess the new situation.
“Okay, what just happened there?” The bunny asked, looking up to the fox trying to press himself against a rack of mops.
Nick made sure nobody was listening before answering. “Smart motion sensors. Inanimate objects like thrown rocks are ignored, things with moving parts like people, vehicles, or wildlife trigger an alarm. And if anything is going to draw in enough nymphs to set it off it’s discarded high-carb snacks.”
“Well, I’m impressed Nick.” Judy replied as she pulled up the facility map downloaded onto her Toggle case. “Your criminal background led to something productive to society.” She re-examined the hospital’s publicly-available floor layout quickly and compared it to what they’d seen outside. “It says most of the patient residences were underwater, some theory about providing a relaxing environment.”
Nick snorted. “Or keeping crazies out of sight of the public. You think that’s where they took Manchas?”
“It would make sense.” Judy replied, listening for footsteps. “All right, let’s go.”
They went down a staircase and almost passed by a medical lab that was still open. Judy paused to look back in and saw a room full of wrecked equipment and torn-up furniture. It reminded her of the back of the skimmer.
A few doors down they passed into a corridor with a curved glass ceiling, an occasional fish swam over the field of view. Nick stopped to look up into the light-distorting waters, “okay, I do admit, it’s a little soothing to watch the fish go by.” But then he was jarred from his reverie by a crashing sound to the side and he reeled away from the sight of a snarling tiger slamming against the window set into his room’s door.
Judy tried to take another look but the big cat had already retreated back out of sight. “I think that was one of the other missing Vectors.” She said, down the corridor she could see other apertures presumably leading to other occupied cells. “Come on, we need to see who else is here.”
They passed by cells holding all sorts of Vectors based on large carnivores, Manchas, still partially sedated but aggressive, was down near the end by a set of open doors. Across from the leopard they saw another familiar face.
“Emmett Otterton?” Judy climbed up to the window and looked inside, a faint squeaking sound came through the door from a snout that poked carefully out from under the sparse bed. “I was sent by your wife, we’ve come to help you!”
Suddenly the otter sprang out at the door, clawing and biting for a few seconds before retreating again. “Sheesh,” Nick commented, “maybe they should consider marriage counseling or something.”
“But, that’s not like him.” Judy thought. But as she was wondering what was going on her long ears picked up the sounds of people talking coming down the hall. Thinking quickly Nick ducked into one of the unoccupied rooms and she went after him, leaving the door open a crack to listen and watch.
“Well, come on, you have to know something!” Judy was shocked to see Director Lionhart walking towards them, accompanied by a badger in a lab coat that had the Progenitus logo hastily covered with marker.
“I wish I did, but I’m finding no connection between the patients that could account for their behavior.” The badger said, exasperated. Still not believing what she was seeing, Judy turned on the video camera of her case and began to record the conversation as best she could.
“Bogo has his best officers out looking for these Vectors, if they find out what’s been happening not even our contract will protect me, he’ll have to arrest me to keep up the public trust in IRPF.” Lionhart shouted, exasperated at the doctor. “Well, except for the otter, for some reason he assigned that stupid little bunny to look for him, we shouldn’t have to worry about her.”
Judy scowled as she continued to record.
“We might have to consider genetics, all of the victims so far seem to be Vectors based on carnivorous species.”
“What, you mean like the station Director, a lion!” Lionhart scowled, “or by extension the entire Felidae family? My career would be ruined, and the movement would collapse. That cannot be the case, you hear me? Wait, didn’t you say earlier that they were all taking that new Progenitus antidepressant, Midnicamphum or something?”
“Nearly a quarter of the station’s population is taking Midnicamphum extract now, there was nothing like this in the clinical trials.”
Suddenly, Judy’s case chimed with another incoming stream from her parents, at the worst possible time. “What’s that?” Lionhart roared, “is somebody watching, security lockdown, get the guards!”
The door Nick and Judy were hiding behind closed and locked itself as the alarm sirens wailed again. A clatter of footsteps in heavy armor came down the hall and Nick groaned. “Well, that’s it, we’re dead.”
Frantically, Judy looked around the room, the top half of the far wall above the bed was a sheet-glass window giving a clear view of the lake outside. She drew out the purge wave Clawhauser had given her and checked the settings. “Maybe not, can you swim?”
“What?” Nick looked at her incredulously. “Yeah, I can swim, what of… oh no.” As soon as he spoke Judy had leapt over to the window, set the purge wave to its’ highest pressure setting and pressed it to the glass. “You cannot be that crazy!”
She pulled the trigger and the glass shattered, expanding outwards for a second before the water outside came flooding in. Judy held her arms up to ward off the incoming shards of glass just in time only to get swept back by the flood. With the entire window gone the water filled the room in seconds, emergency failsafes cutting off the ventilation system.
Nick shoved off the door and propelled himself out the opening into the open water, struggling to reach the surface before his lungs exploded. His head popped up into the cool night air and he looked around, realizing he was alone. “Carrots?” He said in desperation once he remembered leaving her behind. “Judy!”
A second later the micro bunny bobbed up on the surface, gasping for breath. “We need to get this to the Chief, immediately!” She held up her Toggle case and began to kick for the shore.
Chapter 3: Part 3
Judy sent the video over to Chief Bogo and his men were on the scene just as Lionhart was beginning to transport his captives to a new location. He tried to claim that he’d done it for the good of the city but the officers didn’t care and simply arrested him and his co-conspirators. The evidence was forwarded to the Board of Directors for MarsCo’s Jupiter Developments subsidiary and within hours Director Lionhart’s employment was terminated and his position and shares were transferred to his secretary Dawn Bellwether, surprisingly. However, the most shocking part came when they accessed his personal computers.
“Felis Supremis?” Judy stared at the file in confusion, back in Bogo’s office at the precinct once again as she waited to address the press.
“Have you ever heard of them?” Bogo inquired. When Judy shook her head he explained, “they’re essentially what the name would suggest, a group that believes members of the Felidae family are inherently better than everyone else.”
“Which isn’t to say that they’re right.” Clawhauser threw in quickly. “I’ve seen Vectors and Cogs of all species and body types excel in their own ways. You’re living proof of that.”
“Huh,” the micro bunny police officer thought. “So, Lionhart was part of this Felis Supremis group, but what does that have to do with the case? I mean, it would look bad for Felidae to go savage but they only made up about a third of the missing Vectors.”
Bogo sighed, “the Feline Supremicist leadership decided that to prove their taxonomic family’s superiority, they had to ‘put another species in their place.’ And it so happens that they picked your species for that ‘honor’. Over the past five years we’ve seen several feline-owned businesses fire all their rabbit employees, the IRPF here hasn’t gone that far but before you came along the station management always gave some reason to block us from hiring or transferring in lapine cops. When he went so far as to publicly endorse a bunny, and a micro at that, I knew he had to be setting you up for a big fall.”
Judy gasped in realization, “that’s why you kept me on parking duty!”
“Yes,” he confirmed. “I thought it would keep you out of trouble.”
“But I just couldn’t stay out of it, could I?” The small bunny cop tapped the file for emphasis. “I’m not sure what exactly he was planning though.”
Clawhauser stepped forward to speak. “Well, it looks like the first Vector to go savage was a coyote who went crazy in his office, so his personal security was able to capture him pretty easily without our notice. You were about to graduate at the time and the news was infuriating Feline Supremecists throughout the solar system, but he had a rather nasty idea. He’d bring you to the station, and you’d find this savage Vector and be killed by him.”
“What?” Judy was astonished. “How could he be sure that I’d be killed, or even assigned to the missing Vectors case?”
“Ehhh,” the cheetah looked a little uncomfortable, “there were a couple contingency plans to make sure you died, and his secretary- I mean Director Bellwether- has given a signed statement that Lionhart ordered her to make sure you were on the case but she had no idea why.”
“Some “friend in administration” she turned out to be.” Judy commented. “But I suppose she would have been tricked into thinking she was helping and she did lead me straight to Lionhart, where did he slip up?”
“He wasn’t expecting so many Vectors to go insane.” Bogo stated gruffly. “He left for your graduation ceremony shortly after catching the first one and during the month-long round trip to Venus and back his private security caught the rest. He especially wasn’t counting on you to encounter a “wild” Vector and incapacitate it before his people were in position.”
“So that’s it then?” She conceded. “He brings me all this way just to kill me and make my species look bad? And the only reason I’m still alive is he didn’t realize he had a crisis on his hands?”
Clawhauser shrugged, “yeah, I guess that doesn’t really sound too encouraging, does it?”
Over the next four months more Vectors became “savage” and attacked their fellows, all of them predatory species. The IRPF couldn’t discern any other connections between the victims and Progenitus’s doctors were puzzled, no closer to finding a cause than Lionhart’s own staff. None of the initial group were showing any signs of improvement even after multiple applications of Cleanse, Progenitus’s much-lauded universal antidote, and in one case a Body Replacement. It seemed like the disorder was set into the very structure of the brain now, even a bioprinted replica would carry it when there wasn’t even any physical transfer of biomass between the original and clone.
Possibly worse was the public backlash, news reports of organized armed conflict between rabbits and felines streamed in daily, many pundits were already starting to call it a “war”. Seemingly every remaining rabbit-owned corporation had suddenly united and bought up enough guns, armor, and ships to challenge even a MegaCorp. Every one of the Megas had found their subsidiaries factionalizing, one report even claimed that a rabbit-owned Pulse subsidiary and an ASR corp had ganged up on another Pulse branch run by felines. The head offices of the MegaCorps had, as one, claimed neutrality in the issue, but were powerless to stop their distant branches.
And that wasn’t all, while the news of the “savage” predators hadn’t had much impact in the Inner System, a movement had sprung up on Longbow and to a lesser extent the other Jovian satellites. This movement, composed primarily of Ungulatae, Rodentia, and Cogs, argued that Vectors of the same families as the “savages” needed to be contained until someone figured out the reason for their behavior.
All through this, Chief Bogo tried to maintain his precinct as a neutral corporation, struggling to maintain order even while other IRPF precincts took sides in the growing conflict. But it was difficult to put up that pretense while employing the bunny who had revealed Lionhart’s conspiracy. He pretended that it didn’t matter but Judy knew that it weighed on him, her own conscience tormented her enough.
She knew that Lionhart had been in the wrong, but with the news feeds of the ongoing destruction and the weekly riots on Longbow itself she couldn’t help but doubt herself. The day she paid off her contract she handed in her resignation.
Her bovine employer read the letter carefully and looked Judy straight in the eye as she sat across the desk from him. “Are you certain about this Hopps?” Bogo asked, “the war isn’t your fault you know, tensions have been rising for a while and would have reached this tipping point with or without you.”
“Intellectually, I know that.” Judy replied sorrowfully, “but emotionally I feel responsible for the riots, and the bombings. If I hadn’t revealed it all so suddenly, could it have been handled in a way that didn’t set the entire solar system at each other’s throats?” She pulled out her Toggle case and glanced at a photo from the date of the arrest. “To be honest, the anti-pred movement here bothers me more, entire taxonomic families being blamed for the actions of a couple dozen insane individuals. Could Lionhart have discovered a cure before I busted him?”
“Doubtful,” Bogo said. “But I’m not going to press the issue. No matter how much Director Bellwether wants me to keep you on. We’ll miss you.” He took Judy’s proffered badge and weapon, then signed the documents to terminate her employment.
No longer an IRPF officer, Judy Hopps left the building past the desk Benjamin Clawhauser had vacated when corporate had reassigned him to internal records. She returned to her dingy apartment and threw her custom uniform down the recycling chute, after donning her civilian clothes she packed her few possessions, sent a message off to her family, and bought a ticket back to Venus.
The spaceport was crowded with Vectors leaving the station, so far the attacks had only happened on Longbow and many were convinced that something in the habitat environment, if not Jupiter’s orbit itself, was the cause. Spaceport security had sorted the lines into two categories: Felidae, Canidae, Ursidae, Mustelidae, Selachii, and most Reptiliae and Aviae were in one line behind an opaque wall, while the “harmless” reptiles and birds were sorted into another line with Cogs, Rodentia, Ungulatae and Delphinidae (despite dolphins being as carnivorous as sharks). Judy was two-thirds of the way down her line when her case chimed with a message from her dad.
She put in an earbud and opened the video file Stu had sent. Her parents seemed to be in one of the farm’s underground storage cellars, along with what seemed like the entire expansive family, many of them sitting on bags of grain or crates of vegetables. “Hey Jude,” her father started, “just got your message, looking forward to seeing you here again. Even given the circumstances.”
Bonnie sighed as she addressed the camera. “The truth is, things aren’t too good around here either.” She waved a paw at the assorted relatives. “Bunnyburrow was left relatively untouched by the, war I guess is the right term for it now, until this week when there was an air battle over our little Corptown. We’ve been hiding down here to stay safe ever since.”
“Not without reason, mind you.” Stu clarified. “One plane, we don’t know whose, crashed in one of the fields, burned down half a season’s crop of amaranth.”
Judy sighed, she should have known that running from Longbow wouldn’t take her away from the conflict. It was everywhere in the system by now.
“Terry, what are you doing!” Bonnie suddenly shouted at someone off-screen. “Those Midnicampum holicithias represent a quarter of the family’s income.”
“Oh come on.” The camera swung around to her uncle Terry munching on a purple flower. “If anyone needs anti-depressants now it’s going to be us.”
Stu focused the camera back on himself while his wife tried to reason with her brother. “Anyways, we know you wanted to get away from fighting and all that, but we’re forming a bit of a town watch and we’d like you to, show them a thing or two from the police academy if nothing else. Not an obligation or anything, we’d be just as glad to have your help with the farmwork. Once it’s safe to work again…”
While her father was babbling Judy heard her mother suggest something to her uncle. “Look, if you’re feeling stressed out I’ve got that Gazelle tape Judy sent us right here.” There was a click and Gazelle’s voice started to stream gently over the video’s audio track.
“Oh, please.” Terry scoffed. “You don’t actually believe that load of pellets about analogue quality do you? And just because Gazelle’s a Hemi doesn’t mean she’s got the “Master’s Voice” or…” He trailed off all of a sudden.
“Terry?” Bonnie said, concern sounding in her tone. “What are you, AIEEE!”
Stu dropped the camera and there was the sound of several dozen rabbits piling on a snarling beast. When the video came back on Stu was looking a bit disheveled and Judy could see a couple of her sisters hovering over her mother with a Progenitus Emergency Responder Kit. “Hey, Jude,” he said, apologetically. “Oddest thing just happened, your uncle Terry went berserk all of a sudden, took a bite out of your mother’s arm. I guess the situation just got to him. Fortunately Jim had that shotgun with the gel rounds, he’s out cold and tied up until we can get a paramedic down here. Hope to see you soon. Bye.”
Judy stared in shock at the screen. Her own uncle had just, or nearly an hour ago judging from the light-lag, gone as savage as the predatory Vectors she’d seen here on Longbow. But why? What had been going on there that was common to this station? He’d been eating that genetically-engineered pharmaceutical plant at the time, and the badger at the mental hospital had mentioned all but predators were using it, but she’d also claimed a big chunk of the station used it, what else? Terry had been saying something about the “Master’s Voice” before he went berserk, now that she thought of it Manchas had mentioned Otterton talking about that same thing, what was it?
A quick SolNet search led her to an website compiling urban legends, the site alleged that some Vectors believed the humans who founded MarsCo weren’t completely altruistic when they created the first Vectors, and to make sure their creations obeyed they keyed a safeguard into their brains. While pure-blooded humans were now extinct, recordings of their voices still remained, and those who believed claimed that if a Vector listened to those recordings they would become hypnotized. In addition, these same theorists claimed that Hemivectors, descendents of humans who had modified their genomes with the guided mutation technology corporations like Pulse now used to enhance modern Vectors, had a touch of the Master’s Voice, making them seem more charismatic to ordinary Vectors. But the effect only worked with live voices or analogue recordings, never digital. Analogue audio like magnetic tape and vinyl records had become a fad on Longbow, with enthusiasts claiming they provided far superior sound quality to the digital files most everyone was used to. Gazelle in particular had sold thousands of copies of her albums on analogue.
Now that she thought of it, the music on the PA system before Manchas went berserk had felt oddly relaxing to her. To confirm the other half of her developing theory she searched her Toggle for the medical files on the victims, IRPF hadn’t gotten around to revoking all her access yet. Sure enough, half of them, before and after Lionhart’s arrest, had a prescription for Midnicampum extract. The rest, including both Otterton and Manchas, had the drug in their systems, and medical exams by Lionhart’s personnel and Progenitus had discovered shards of metal embedded in those Vectors’ necks. The profile on those shards fit within the specifications for a Spyglass shardshot but the lack of outright poison in the victim’s bloodwork had prompted the medics to dismiss them as mere debris.
That was it. Judy realized. Somebody had discovered an antagonistic link between the Master’s Voice and Midnicampum, something the drug did to Vector brains caused them to go permanently berserk upon hearing the human voice. And whoever had discovered it, was targeting Vectors based on predatory animals. But why and what did they have to gain from it?
Her first impulse was to alert Chief Bogo, but her past experience stayed her hand. What would happen if she forced the conspiracy’s hand? It might set off an even worse backlash than Lionhart’s arrest. No, she would have to solve this herself, and quickly. But how?
Judy was roused from her thoughts by the ticket counter at the register. “Your ticket ma’am?” A tall sheep in the uniform of spaceport personnel asked.
“Sorry,” she apologized quickly. “I just remembered something I forgot.” Judy dropped her bag and leapt back the way she’d come, sailing over the astonished crowd. Somehow the sheep had reminded her of someone who could help her, if only she could convince him.
Chapter 4: Part 4
The ending is a bit different from the movie here
As Judy ran through the city she pulled up her Toggle case and logged into her police account. Luckily, she found that her credentials were still valid, and the tracking beacon she’d placed on Finnick’s van was still operational. She found the van tucked into an alley and walked up to rap on the back door.
The odd cyborg Vector answered the door with a shock baton in hand. “What?” His eyes rested on Judy and his face betrayed a sign of recognition. “Officer Judy Hopps, not in uniform and therefore probably not on duty. What are you doing here?”
“Hi, Finnick? I was wondering if you knew where I could find Nick. He’s not in trouble or anything,” she reassured him. “In fact I could use his help.”
“May I inquire as to the nature of this help?” Finnick asked in response, his eyes scanning her for responses. “The most probable explanation I can imagine involves an insurmountable size difference.”
“What?” Judy asked incredulously. After a moment’s thought it came to her. “Ew, no. I think I’ve figured out the reason why predatory Vectors are going berserk, and I need his help to find the ones responsible.”
“So, it was the result of deliberate action then?” Finnick said quizzically.
The former cop shrugged, “maybe, I have a theory, but it’s unconfirmed. It seems to fit though. A combination of Midnicampum extract and the Master’s Voice.”
Finnick seemed to consider for a moment. “An intriguing hypothesis, not a theory. Your evidence?”
Judy sighed, this endless line of inquiry was getting tedious. “My uncle Terry went nuts while eating one of the flowers and listening to analog Gazelle music. Look, will you just give me Nick’s address if I share the video with you?”
“Nic’las Wilde does not keep a permanent address, but I can certainly provide you with a list of his frequent locations in exchange for the data you offer. If that is what you think you owe.”
“Okay, thanks.” Judy held out her Toggle case with the video up and Finnick grasped it. After a second the words “upload complete” appeared on the screen and he gave it back. When Judy glanced at it again she noticed that there was now a file filled with GPS coordinates and annotations. “Wow, that was fast. Bye!” She turned and ran off.
The Cogsune that referred to itself as “Finnick” reviewed the video file and correlated with the other data it had collected on the “savage preds” phenomenon. Evidence appears to support hypothesis of Officer Judy Hopps , it thought. Master’s Voice requires analog sound. Gazelle’s concert in six days will be broadcast by analog radio. At that time Vectors taking Midnicampum will become berserk. It opened a panel and withdrew a battery from the van, puncturing it and pouring the acid over its equipment. Must destroy traces prior to field upload.
Judy found Nick in the third location she checked, under a bridge in one of the station’s parks. He was laying back in a lawn chair next to a small cooler, drink in hand and his eyes covered by mirrored lenses. “Nick,” she exclaimed, leaping down to his level. “There you are!”
The fox turned to glance at her as she landed. “Go away little bunny.” He said, his voice slurred by the contents of his glass. “Don’t you know not to approach a dangerous pred now?”
“What?” Judy said, confused. “Nick, it’s me, Judy.”
“Oh?” Nick lifted his sunglasses to peer at her, his eyes dilated from intoxication. “Well, if it isn’t Officer Carrots, you here to blackmail me into defaming another species?”
“No, no!” Judy was horrified. “I don’t want to do that, not ever!”
Nick laughed drunkenly, spilling the remnants of his drink. “Didn’t stop you before. You made felines look like they were all flaming bigots.” He pulled at his eyelid, showing off his slitted pupil. “Foxes are closer to feline than other canidae in the first place, what do you think people would think of one who got some cat genes spliced in?”
“Nick, you know I didn’t mean to do that, the media ran away with…”
“And that’s not all.” He continued. “Then it turned out that any Vector descended from predator species might suddenly go savage and nobody can trust us. As if it weren’t hard enough for a fox to be trusted already.”
“I’m sorry.” Judy said, cutting him off. “I got carried away and things weren’t handled as delicately as they could be.”
Surprised, Nick fell out of his chair, he fumbled on the ground for a few minutes before drawing out a stim puff and inserting it into his mouth. He depressed the button, coughed, and started to find his footing again. “Wait,” he said as he sobered up at an accelerated pace, “did you just apologize for that load of drek?”
Judy’s expression shifted to a slow glower up at the formerly drunk fox. “We were played.” She told him flat out. “The savage Vectors were all drugged. Midnicampum does something to their brains to make the Master’s Voice affect them differently.”
“Master’s Voice?” Nick replied incredulously. “You do know that’s an urban leg-ULP!” He started retching mid-sentence and Judy lept out of the way of a small flood of vaguely fruit-scented alcohol. “I forgot why SoberUp went off the market. But seriously, it sounds a little far-fetched.”
Judy showed him the video, “Okay,” he admitted. “That does seem a bit convincing. Now we just need to find someone who’s been buying up a lot of flowers and tapes.”
The bunny ex-cop did a quick search and pulled up an article about a lateral weasel getting caught stealing. “You wouldn’t by any chance know this guy, would you?” She said, pointing to the mugshot in the article.
Nick grinned. “I know everybody.”
Duke Weaselton was easy to find, he was still recovering from the flurry of needles prior to the arrest and couldn’t run far. One small favor from Mr. Big later and he was all too happy to spill his guts. He had been planning to sell his loot to a ram by the name of “Dug”, a none-too-pleasant character from the sounds of things. The ferret also told them where to find Dug.
The con artist and the ex-cop followed the directions to a station of the underground rail that had been inoperative for years, station maintenance not bothering to fix it when the accountants had decided it wouldn’t be cost-effective. The entire area supposedly off-limits, the ram had holed up in the station offices, the lit hallways had been filled with hydroponic shelves growing the genetically-engineered flowers that produced the drug that had been turned to deadly purposes. “Looks like Dug wasn’t taking any chances on the victims having the proper prescriptions.” Nick commented as Judy began to take pictures of the entire setup.
A door at the end of the hall opened, and a large sheep in a hazmat suit walked through. Nick quickly pulled Judy behind a shelf as Dug gathered up some flowers and dumped them into a press. While the two watched from their hiding spot he distilled the fluid from the flowers into a dark purple liquid that he filled a small capsule with. Then he stopped to answer a call on his headset. “Yeah? Who’s the target this time? Cheetah? Ex-Pulse? Reclaimed? Yeah I can hit him.” He opened a drawer and withdrew a glove with an odd device affixed to the outer side. As he slotted the capsule of serum into the glove device Judy recognized the short barrel between the index and middle fingers, a Shardshot! “Please, I was able to sink a dart through the open window of a flying skimmer at 30 meters, I can get some cheetah easily.”
Judy shuddered, from the sound of things Dug had darted Otterton with the drug using a weapon that was supposed to be extremely short-ranged. He’d probably been behind Manchas’ apartment while she and Nick had been talking to him. Waiting for an opportune moment to sic a berserk leopard on them. She had to stop him, and quickly.
Before the ram knew what was happening a flying grey-furred foot slammed into the back of his head and he slammed face-first into the wall. Judy wrenched the shardshot from his stunned hand and tossed it to Nick, who was scrambling to catch up with her. “Are you crazy?!” He shouted after her.
Dug was trying to throw Judy off of him but she held tight to the back of his neck. “He’s responsible for all those Vectors losing their minds. He almost killed us back in the Rainforest district!” As she yelled back the ram took advantage of her momentary distraction to grab her by the throat and hold her out.
“You annoying little pest, I’ll OW!” Dug shouted in pain and Judy glanced in Nick’s direction as he pulled back the Shardshot to fire another shrapnel dart into the large sheep. “That’s not going to work fox!”
Just then, Judy heard a voice from the earpiece in Dug’s ear, she was close enough now to pick it up from its’ location buried deep in the sheep’s ear. “What? Who are you speaking to? What’s happening?” The voice was scrambled but the confusion was apparent.
“Officer, Judy, Hopps, IRPF.” The bunny croaked out as she struggled to kick free of her captor’s grasp. “You’re under arrest.”
The earpiece’s “active” light switched off. A third dart struck Dug and he began to wind back to throw the micro rabbit in his grasp, but then something clicked on the lab bench. A large device with a robotic armature behind a glass case picked out a black plastic disc and placed it on a turnstile. “Oh no.” Dug gasped, his eyes narrowing into barred slits in terror. “No, it’s not that bad yet!”
Angry guitar strumming emanated from the machine, followed by gutteral screaming in what could barely be recognized as Old English. Realizing what was about to happen Judy struggled harder to get free, dropping to the floor when Dug’s grip suddenly slackened. “Run!” She shouted at Nick but he hadn’t waited for her warning. Judy hit the ground running as the ram dropped down to all fours and bellowed a challenge to the interlopers who had trespassed on his territory. The little bunny bounded for the exit with the berserk ram close on her heels.
Nick slipped through the door and began to close it, but paused with half a foot of open space left. “Come on, come on.” He beckoned to Judy even as the sheep closed in on her. At the last second the fox grapped his bunny friend and pulled her the last foot through and slammed the door shut, locking it just in time for Dug to slam head-first into it. The door shuddered, but the deadbolt lock held.
“Okay,” Judy reassured herself as she tried to slow her breathing. “We’ve got the weapon, and now we have the suspect in custody. Just need to get him talking and we’ll find out who’s behind all this.”
“Yeah, about that.” The significantly taller fox said from his position up by the door’s window. “I don’t think he’s going to be talking to anyone, unless there’s some sort of afterlife.” Judy climbed up his back, eliciting a wince from him, and peered through the glass. Dug laid very still on the floor, his neck bent at an odd angle. While he had inherited the curved horns of his beastial ancestors, his spinal column clearly lacked the same reinforcement.
“Maybe they could do a Body Replacement, that can be done to a dead Vector, right?”
“By the time IRPF got down here and moved him to a medical facility capable of performing that kind of Surgery, his brain would probably be a bit decayed. And that’s even before we take into account the head trauma and the drugs. Didn’t they say they tried Body Replacement on some of the other Vectors?”
“Oh, yeah.” Judy remembered, “they did. But maybe after we tell them the cause maybe Progenitus could devise a cure for that?”
Nick looked at her critically. “For all we know, Progenitus could be responsible for all this, they created those flowers after all.” He gestured at the field. “We’ll probably need to get to the bottom of this ourselves.”
Judy sighed and pulled out her case. “At least we have the lab and the weapon,” she glanced at the heavily illegal assassination tool where Nick had dropped it, then went back to flicking through the photos. She paused at a pic of a wall calendar and zoomed in. “What’s this?” The current day was marked with a crudely scrawled “B at radio”.
The fox peered over her shoulder at the pic. “Maybe it could refer to the analog radio tower under construction? They say when it’s done it’ll be able to transmit audio in its’ purest form to the whole system.” Both of them tensed as they realized what it meant. “Perhaps we should go check it out right away.”
Judy shot off an email with all the evidence they’d gathered to Chief Bogo’s office and darted off for the tower construction site. Most of the massive radio transmitter was being built on the exterior of the station but the programming and administration offices were on the interior touching the eastern hull. For the day construction was stopped, the reason becoming apparent as Nick and Judy spotted the station admin skimmer parked outside. The two were halted at the entrance by two security guards in face-concealing MarsCo Hardcase armor. “This is a restricted area, where are your permits?”
“This is urgent!” Judy protested. “We need to speak with whoever’s in charge right away.”
As she tried to debate her point with the guards the front door opened and a familiar-looking ewe stepped out. “Oh, Judy, what a surprise to see you here. Let them in.” The guards hesitated but stepped aside to allow the odd pair into the building.
“Director Bellwether,” Judy said as she went through the door to speak with the station’s highest authority. “The berserk Vectors aren’t random, or natural. They’re being targeted with Midnicampum drugs and the Master’s Voice. We found an assassin with a Shardshot filled with the drugs.” At her prompting Nick held out the glove they’d found.
“You arrested him then?” Bellwether asked, staring at the Shardshot.
“No,” Judy said, regretfully. “He was dosed with the Midnicampum during the fight and whoever he was working for activated the Voice remotely. He broke his neck trying to ram us.”
“Well, with Dug gone I doubt whoever they are will be infecting anyone else for a while. Good work Officer Hopps.” Bellwether held out her hand to take the Shardshot. “You can give that to me now, I’ll make sure the crime lab verifies it.”
Nick started to hand over the glove but Judy stopped him. “When did I tell you his name?” Slowly, the pieces began to come together in her mind. The first savage Vector was in Lionhart’s office, Lionhart had mistreated Dawn Bellwether, she would have had the means and opportunity to insert a Vector taking Midnicampum into the office and trigger the Voice, and a motive.
Bellwether scoffed. “What does it matter. Just give me the glove.”
“No.” Judy pulled at Nick’s arm and led him off into a side corridor.
The two guards from outside followed them in and stopped by their boss for orders. “Get them.”
Nick and Judy ducked a corner, dashing through incomplete corridors and vaulting support beams. Keeping just ahead of the guards. But, on one of her leaps a protruding length of cable caught Judy on the leg and she tumbled to the floor, clutching her ankle.
Her vulpine companion stopped beside her. “Carrots? You okay?”
“I sprained my leg.” She winced from the pain. “Go, I’ll just slow you down. Get the evidence to Chief Bogo.”
“Not without you.” He said. “They’ll kill you if you catch you.”
“Yeah,” Judy admitted. “She’d probably make it look like a mad predator did it like Lionhart was planning. Good thing we have the glove.” Her eyes widened in sudden realization. “Wait, are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
Less than a minute later the guards found Nick slinging Judy over his shoulder. He dropped the Shardshot in surprise and ran off, but weighed down by his burden they caught him easily. Bellwether arrived shortly after.
“Judy, Judy, Judy.” The ewe intoned. “Such a waste.”
‘What are you going to do with us.” The limp bunny sputtered. “Turn me into a mad beast like you did to your last patsy?”
One of the guards picked up the Shardshot and handed it to his boss. She slipped it deftly onto one hand and examined it. “No, no. That was simply the most expedient way to silence Dug. It’s fortunate he broke his neck else we’d have a savage prey Vector running around. Can’t have that now can we?” Without warning she flexed and shot a dart straight into Nick’s back. He yelped in pain and tried to escape. “There was a pit dug for a garage over that way, toss the two of them in there.”
“Why?” Judy asked. “Why does it matter so much that only preds go savage? You’ve got Lionhart’s job now. Why even bother continuing with this ploy?” The guard carrying her and Nick took them to the side of a quikcrete pit with eight-foot-walls, just high enough that neither of them could climb out the smooth walls.
“What? You think that’s all this is? A power ploy?” The guard dropped the two over the side. “I did this to save my species before predators like Lionhart and his Felis Supremis drove us into extinction.”
“What?” Judy exclaimed as she found her feet again. “I thought they were targeting rabbits, not sheep?”
“Oh, they’re not actively targeting us, but their predatory instincts have been driving us under for centuries. How many sheep do you see these days?”
“You’re sounding like a Feline Supremicist now.” Nick accused. “Canidae and Felidae are the two most populous families because we were made first, we had a head start that’s all.”
“Shut up pred.” Bellwether hit a button on a tape cartridge and music began to play. The fox below started to shudder and convulse, Judy began to back away as her friend dropped to all fours and stalked slowly towards her, lips curled back in a snarl. Satisfied, the ewe pulled out her Toggle case and called the IRPF. “Hello, there’s a savage fox here at the radio construction site. Officer Hopps is down.
“You’re crazy!” Judy yelled as she was backed against the wall. “You just want to put yourself in charge of the solar system. Are you just going to keep killing off species until you’re all that’s left?”
“If it comes to that, sure.” The sounds of the police barging down the entrance echoed down the hallways. “That was fast, but I don’t think it’ll be too late for you.”
Nick stalked closer and closer to the helpless rabbit, and then, just as the IRPF came in sight, he stopped. “Know what, I don’t think so.”
“What?” Bellwether looked down, confused. “Why aren’t you eating her?”
“Why should I?” He replied, standing up straight, Judy coming up beside him. “Because you hit me with that Shard shooter of yours? Sure, shrapnel darts hurt but they’re not too dangerous without toxin.”
Bellwether took out the Shardshot again and looked, there was an open slot where the poison cartridge was supposed to go. She was still staring in shock when the police arrived.
‘Director Bellwether, that’s an illegal weapon.” A certain bovine said, looming over her. “Mind explaining why you have that?”
“That Shardshot was used to innoculate hapless Vectors with concentrated Midnicampum serum, triggering an interaction with the Master’s Voice phenomenon that made them go berserk.” Judy shouted up from the pit. “Director Dawn Bellwether, you are under arrest.”
“No,” Bellwether said, “it’s not going to end like this.” She punched the nearest IRPF officer in the groin and ran under his grabbing arms. As soon as she was clear the ewe pulled out her Toggle case and triggered a program. “I think you officers will have bigger problems soon. Bye.”
The loud blast of a shotgun rang out and Bellwether fell to the ground, her case falling from her hand. Everybody turned to see Clawhauser holding out a smoking weapon. “I wasn’t going to risk it.” Was all he offered in the way of explanation.
“I can understand why,” Judy said, calling up to them. “Mind getting us out of here?”
One of the officers lowered a cable into the pit while another cautiously approached the Director’s prone form. The IRPF agent was barely three feet from her when suddenly Bellwether sputtered out, “execute, program!” There was silence for a minute, then otherworldly music piped up from outside, followed by a series of roars and snarls. “Heh, heh.” The ewe seemed to chuckle as she died.
“Officers, prepare to bust our way out!” Bogo ordered, the officers drawing shock sticks or firearms. “Hopps, get out of there!”
The cop lowering the cable turned and ran in a panic, leaving it hanging just out of either trapped Vector’s reach. “Life me up.” Judy suggested, without waiting for an explanation Nick grabbed the little bunny and held her up far enough to take hold of it. She pulled herself up the wall with ease and upon finding her footing began to feed the cable down herself. Even as the growls and snarls of the approaching horde grew ever louder.
The fox leapt and grabbed at the descending rope, just barely snatching the end of it. He pulled at it to get a better hold on it and almost knocked his bunny friend off her feet. “Careful Nick,” she shouted. “You almost threw me back…”
She was interrupted by an orange blur that grabbed the grey bunny and threw her to the nearest wall. Nick gasped in shock and horror before the adrenaline kicked in and he scrambled to scale the sheer cliff with his bare fingers.
Next to the wall a tiger, dressed in a construction engineer’s tattered uniform, couched with his prey dangling from his mouth. Judy Hopps kicked weakly at her captor’s throat even as her own dripped with blood. “Get off of her!” Nick yelled as he charged. His elbow slammed down into the back of the tiger’s neck and its mouth dropped open, releasing the hapless bunny. It turned to face the fox who dared to disturb its meal with unbridled rage showing in its eyes. “Come on,” the fox taunted, “you big dumb cat.”
The tiger snarled and lunged at Nick with its bared fangs. The fox raised an arm to block and the tiger chomped down on it. Nick yelped and tried to throw the cat to the ground and the two tumbled and rolled on the floor, Nick’s arm still lodged in the tiger’s mouth even as they struggled against one another.
Judy, abandoned by the warring predators, lay gasping on the uncured pavement. Her trachea had been punctured but mercifully the major arteries remained largely intact, even as she felt blood leak into her windpipe. In addition to her prior leg injury her left arm hung limply at her side and her breath came shallowly as her ribs screamed in pain, souvenirs of the impact. An eye drifted in the direction of the battle, Nick was fighting ferociously but it was clear he was losing. Judy wished she could do something, anything, but what? Despairing, she turned away from the ghastly sight, not wanting to see her friend die. But then, she saw it, her chance to help Nick live. It would take all her remaining strength, but she was dead anyway at this point.
Nick punched at the side of the tiger’s face in an effort to force it to release his arm, but it held tight. He was just starting to realize that he was going to die when all of a sudden there was a jerk and the cat’s eyes glazed over. Judy stood on the tiger’s back, hands gripping a hammer whose head lay embedded in the base of its neck. The bunny looked at the fox, smiled, and promptly collapsed. Nick pried his arm loose of the dying tiger’s jaws in time to catch her with his good arm. She hung there, limply, her heartbeat fading fast. It was clear she had given her life to save his, no amount of surgery could recover this little body with the time it would take to reach medical attention. The only thing that could save her in this condition was a complete body replacement, and the brain would only last for… How long would it last? Nick wondered, grasping at a faint glimmer of hope. The fox slung the bunny’s body over his shoulder and darted for the exit.
The interior of the unfinished building blurred past as he ran forth on his mission. The fox ducked past protruding girders and grasping paws to reach the IRPF officers holding back a wave of berserk Vectors while their fellows boarded the transports. One of them spotted a bloody fox running towards the transports and reacted logically.
A thousand stinging pellets stung at Nick’s face and shoulder, his vision blurred but even still he kept on coming. Another shotgun blast hit him in the gut like a hammer blow and he doubled over in pain, almost dropping Judy.
“Wait,” he heard a voice cry out in surprise. “Who is that?” Through his blurred vision Nick saw a rotund spotted shape approach, panting heavily.
Nick held out the limp form in his arm to the cheetah, gasping out “save her.” Clawhauser put his shotgun away and gingerly picked her out of his shaking hand. He then began to reach to take Nick with his other hand but the fox withdrew. “Forget me, she’s saved my life three times already. Too many debts already.” And with that last statement, he collapsed.
Clawhauser turned and ran back to the last transport to leave. He looked back at the prone figure with regret before slamming the door behind him.
Within minutes of the IRPF ground forces pulling out an orbiting battleship trained its laser batteries on the radio antenna protruding from Longbow’s hull. Half a dozen emerald beams lanced out and the antenna was vaporized in seconds, along with 20 sq. feet of hull and the body of the station’s last Director. The deadly signal was stopped from spreading to the system beyond but for the station the damage was done. Those who retained their sense of mind fled from their suddenly berserk friends and family and streamed to the spaceport in droves. Every available ship was commandeered to carry refugees, filling with as many bodies as their life support systems could sustain before pulling out.
The IRPF left last of all, maintaining order throughout the evacuation. The last of their ships carrying the petite form of a micro rabbit preserved in Vitae alongside the corporation’s other fallen officers.
Just outside the blast zone on the interior of the station a few bodies remained twitching. While holo-vids continued to portray decompression as a gale-force wind sucking everything not nailed down into space, the reality was that it barely qualified as a breeze. One fox, beaten and bloodied as he was, continued to draw breath from the thinning air around him.
The atmosphere didn’t have a chance to fully leak out, however, as a shuttle docked at the aperture. A suck-suited workcrew disembarked accompanied by a pair of armored guards. While the workers set up the frame for a patch the guards surveyed the wreckage about them and kept watch for signs of danger.
One guard noticed Nick’s body twitch. He leveled his rifle at the fox but did not fire, careful to conserve his ammo. Cautiously, he approached, hearing something from the almost dead body.
“Carrots, please.” The vulpine mumbled between moments of total unconsciousness. “Save her…”
Astonished, the guard lowered his rifle and called for a medic to come help.
Chapter 5: Epilogue
Author’s note: This idea has been sitting in my head for a while, I must say, I’m glad it’s out now.
Zootopia is copyright to Disney (please don’t sue), and the Hc Svnt Dracones setting was written and published by Pearce Frasier.
Judy heard something, voices maybe, it was hard to tell. She could make out blurred figures at the edge of her vision doing, something. She tried to reach out with her arm, but it didn’t respond, she hardly even felt it.
“We’ve… brain… tivity!” One of the figures said something, she could make out some of it but it was like her brain was fading in and out of consciousness multiple times a minute.
“Scan! Now!” Another voice added and the IRPF officer heard a faint humming sound in the background.
Then, all of a sudden her senses returned. She felt a warm, wet sensation across her entire body, her fur being swept along by invisible currents. Judy concentrated on her right arm and sensed it there, she tried to lift it and it slowly lifted towards her face. Her vision was swimming, but she could just barely make out the figures standing over her this time. One of them was dressed in the attire of a Progenitus surgeon, while the other two, a bull and a very large spotted cat, were in IRPF blues.
“Chief? Ben?” She tried to speak their names but her lungs felt like they were filled with gelatin and she couldn’t get a word out. Starting to panic she reached up for Clawhauser but her raised arm hit a glass surface between the two of them.
“Judy?” The cheetah, his voice distorted by the liquid, leaned over the glass and stared straight at her, why did he seem so far away now? “Can you hear me?” The bunny nodded, slowly. Clawhauser turned to the doctor, “can you get her out of there?”
“I’m already on it.” The surgeon tapped some icons on a smart surface and Judy heard a drain “clunk” open behind her. A semi-viscous gel retreated from the tips of her fingers and she felt air pump slowly into the chamber. The air finally reached the tip of her muzzle and she sputtered, expelling gel from her upper respiratory tract and only then did the glass retreat, giving her an unobstructed view of her boss and coworker.
Chief Bogo was the expression of stoicism, but his eyes gave just the barest hint of concern. Whereas Clawhauser almost had to be physically restrained to keep from picking Judy up and crushing her in a bear hug, as it was he settled for draping a towel over what the bunny realized was her entirely naked form. Both officers showed signs of recent battle, the bull had a couple of new scars down the side of his face while the cheetah’s entire right side was covered with a padded bandage.
The disoriented bunny looked around her as soon as she could sit up. She had lain in a metal cylinder with a glass cover similar to the Pulse Pods used for cosmetic surgery and tissue regeneration, but this thing wasn’t like the sleek and stylish apparatuses one saw in the commercials. This device was connected to a massive array of bioreactors and other assorted machinery that she couldn’t even begin to identify, likening it to a Pulse Pod seemed like comparing an industrial manufacturing complex to a BuySpot. Judy tentatively looked back up at the two, the last bits of gel spilling from her lips as she croaked “Chief, Ben? What happened?”
The chubby cheetah suddenly broke out into tears as he wrapped his arms around Judy and held her a little too tightly for her comfort. “Oh Judy!” He cried, “I screwed up!”
Judy, grimacing, looked at Clawhauser in confusion. “What are you talking about? How did you screw up?”
“He blames himself for letting your original body sustain too much damage for recovery.” Bogo answered for the blubbering cat. “You needed a full body replacement, for nearly all intents and purposes you were already dead when we found you.”
“Dead!” Judy was in shock. She had heard that recently deceased corpses sometimes held enough of an intact brain to scan a viable pattern that could be imprinted into a clone, but she’d never known anyone who had actually gone through such a process. Clawhauser had undergone body replacement, she knew, but his old body had been alive at the time. She started to wonder if that meant she wasn’t the same bunny who’d gone in for the surgery when she suddenly remembered someone. “Wait, what happened to Nick?”
Bogo raised an eyebrow quizzically but Clawhauser froze. “He, wasn’t the fox who was carrying you by any chance, was he?”
“Yes, he was actually. Did you see what happened?”
The cheetah hesitated before answering, “he handed you to me and told me to get you out of here. There was a mob of crazed Vectors right behind him and he was passing out from exhaustion. He told us to leave him behind.” Clawhauser’s tearmarks ran wet again, “I’m sorry.”
The chief chimed in once more. “We’re still sorting through the refugees from the incident, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up, there weren’t enough ships for everybody.”
“Refugees?” Judy inquired. “What happened to the station? Did you manage to stop the signal?”
“We were able to destroy the radio transmitter before anyplace else got a clear signal, but most of Longbow heard it.” Chief Bogo admitted. “Full evacuation protocols were initiated, we think there’s still thousands of affected Vectors on board and no corporation is willing to clear them out.”
Judy looked around. “So, where are we?” It was too large a room to fit on a ship, except maybe a dreadnought or something, and she didn’t think there were any Pulse stations near Jupiter.
“Ganymede,” Bogo replied. “A Pulse corptown near the equator, they offered to reconstruct the “heroine of Longbow” for half price and throw in some “upgrades” for free.”
“Upgrades?” Judy didn’t feel any stronger or faster, and she couldn’t discern any changes to her senses or new abilities. But as she was evaluating herself she suddenly realized something she should have recognized before. “Hold on, weren’t you two taller before?”
Nick’s eyes fluttered open, that in and of itself was a bit of a surprise, he wasn’t expecting to open them again after that mauling he’d received. What was more surprising was how grainy his sight seemed, he could almost make out pixels in his field of view. While he was puzzling over these circumstances he heard some heavy footsteps coming from his right, he tried to turn his head to look but his neck seemed to be held by some sort of brace, instead a familiar-looking polar bear swiveled a tray over Nick’s bed.
Kev’n deposited Mr. Big on the table and stood off to the side while his boss spoke. “Nic’las, we meet again.”
“Sorry to disturb you.” The fox’s voice sounded raspy as he spoke. “Where am I?”
“My personal yacht,” Nick remembered that Big owned a Spyglass cruiser which was usually parked in Jupiter’s ring, and which he used as an unregistered casino among other things. “During the evacuation one of my people recognized you and picked you up. After what you did to help my daughter’s savior and your attempt, futile as it may have been, to save Longbow it would have been improper to just leave you there to die.”
“Judy,” he remembered handing her limp body to the armored officer before the mob had overrun him. “What happened to her?”
“According to their press releases, Pulse has offered to provide a new and improved body for her. Now, you’d understand that kind of thing is a bit beyond my powers, even with all the extra bodies I may have in storage.”
“Yes,” Nick said weakly. “It’s a shame Vectors can’t swap bodies like Cogs.” As he was saying that his vision faded partially, a section of his field of view turning to black pixels for a second. He tried to lift his arms, his right arm felt numb and something was holding it down, but his left responded and swung into his field of view.
“There’s a feed in your right arm,” Mr. Big explained nonchalantly when the tray shook slightly with his attempt to move. “We couldn’t risk you accidentally dislodging it.” Looking up towards Nick’s raised arm he changed subjects quickly. “Ah, yes, Cogs. Funny thing, isn’t it? Cut off their power supply and the Core loses all trace of the memory and personality of the person it once was. While Vector brains can be recovered for hours after the heart stops. Yet, while a Vector body rots into uselessness mere days after death, a Cog’s metal and plastic corpse remains usable for years to come.”
Nick shuddered as he gazed at the articulated bronze appendage attached to his shoulder and realized what the rat was insinuating. Carefully, he brought his hand over towards his face and tentatively brought a metallic finger to meet his cheek. He cringed when it met an unfeeling stiff surface, but as his hand splayed out he realized it was just his neck brace. Just above the brace he encountered a thin layer of fuzz and he sighed in relief.
“No, Nic’las, your heart was still beating, if barely.” Mr. Big continued. “The same couldn’t be said for poor Officer Hopps, but fortunately Pulse was able to transfer her brain pattern in time.”
“She’s okay then?” The now slightly less organic fox asked and the Spyglass patriarch nodded to confirm. “That’s something at least.” He gestured with his inorganic arm and thought. “I presume there’s a price for all this?”
Mr. Big just smiled.
Three weeks later Judy was in one of the exercise yards near the hospital, adjusting to her new body. The Pulse biocrafters responsible had retained most of her original genome, but they’d edited out the mutations that resulted in her prior morphism. At 5’ 4” she was still a bit on the short side for a standard Vector, but the difference from her old body was immense and just learning not to collide with door frames had taken several days. The biocrafters had also activated the special traits hidden in her genome that she’d inherited from her distant animal ancestors. In addition to the spring-loaded legs she’d received from her lateral mother they had given her the reclamation surgeries Pulse’s brochures referred to as “Reclaimed Auditory” and “Iron Stomach”. She’d been puzzled by their choice but the nurse she’d spoken to had claimed that her genome had an affinity for those three in particular.
Her parents had been shocked at her new size and she had to explain, quite frantically, that she hadn’t been consulted when her replacement body had been designed and the company had made assumptions. Once she’d explained her new situation her mother explained her new abilities as matching the ones she herself had naturally as a lateral. She expected the legs and hearing but the gastrointestinal alteration had been a mystery until she’d found out what she could eat now, and realized why her mother wouldn’t have wanted to talk about it before. There’d been a time in Bonnie’s life that her family had been too poor to afford decent food and she’d turned to eating grass and houseplants illegally, nowadays she was a bit ashamed of it though after trying some Judy had to admit that grass tasted better than ration blocks.
Judy was vaulting the high jump from a standing position when her boss came onto the yard. Hearing him open the door the newly enhanced bunny landed with as much grace as she could manage and stood at attention.
“At ease, Lieutenant.” Bogo said. “Making progress with your rehabilitation?” He inquired.
The bunny officer momentarily paused at the reminder of her new rank but forced herself to relax. “They say I should be ready for active duty in another week. But personally I think I could handle it now.”
“Just take it easy.” The former chief of IRPF Longbow responded. “The higher ups want you assigned to one of the new towns being set up for the refugees, and it’s only half finished now.”
“Is that why you’re visiting, sir?” She asked. “To discuss my new assignment?”
“You know I don’t waste time with idle chatter.” Bogo affirmed. “I’ll be in charge of the IRPF precinct so I can continue to keep an eye on you, and there’s one more thing I thought you should know before the official briefing.”
“And that would be?”
“You’re getting a partner.” At Judy’s quizzical look he elaborated. “The higher ups don’t want people to get the impression we’re taking sides in the whole Pulse/ASR rivalry, so they want to pair you with a new recruit with a few mechanical parts.”
“Seriously?” Judy asked. “They still see me as a PR gimmick?”
“Everything the Megas do, overtly, is about Public Relations. You should have learned that by now.”
Judy sighed audibly. “I suppose that’s true,” she conceded. “So what else can you tell me about this partner? Is he a Cog or a cyborg?”
“Cyborg. He’s actually a refugee from Longbow who lost an arm and an eye in the chaos. Signed up as soon as he got his prosthetics. You have your Toggle?” Judy nodded and Bogo drew out his own case. “I’ll give you his file now.”
Chief Bogo attached Judy’s Toggle to his Toggle case and copied the personnel file to it. Then he handed the small chip back and turned to leave. Judy found her own case and opened her new partner’s file. Her eyes widened in shock as she recognized the photo on the first page.
A week later Junior Officer Nic’las Wilde stepped into the passenger seat of his partner’s new police cruiser. The heavy-bodied SUV with a milspec engine was a far cry from the disposable cart she’d been driving when they first met. “So, how’s the new ride working out for you?” He asked.
Lieutenant Judy Hopps glanced over at the fox next to her, she caught a glimpse of bronze plating between his left sleeve and glove, he wore mirrored shades over his black prosthetic eye. “Not bad, how’re the new parts working for you?”
“Aside from the occasional desire to drink motor oil, not bad.” Nick joked, as he considered his prosthetic hand. Testing the mechanical joints. “Seriously though, this feels a little stiff and it took some practice to get used to the difference in vision between my two eyes.”
“It’s all new,” Judy admitted, “for the both of us.” She looked out into the Ganymedan landscape before them, they were in the equatorial regions but she still spotted snow on the horizon. To the right was a forest of trees even taller than those on Mars, with leaves as wide across as houses to try and grab some of the sparse sunlight that made it out this far. One of the trees had a scaffold running halfway up the trunk, a geomat converting the soil beneath into a house resembling the apartment blocks back in Longbow’s rainforest district. “New bodies, new world, and new opportunities for all.”
While the bunny was feeling philosophical, a newly printed sports car zoomed past them at speeds far in excess of the recommended limit. Her partner blinked at the lingering afterimage in his artificial retina and tried to remember where he’d seen that license plate before. “Guess some things stay the same, I think I know that guy.”
“Well then, think we should go after him then?”
Nick grinned and flicked the switch for the siren and lights, and his partner hit the accelerator to chase after them.