It was approaching five in the morning when the three crimefighters began to stir. Judy, ever the early riser, got up first. It took her a moment to remember that she had spent the night here in the warehouse rather than her apartment. It also took a moment to realize her current uniform was falling apart, the sides of her shirt and vest finally torn open while she slept. As everyone else was still fast asleep, she quietly crept out of bed, picked up some needle and thread, and went to the bathroom to sew up her clothes so they wouldn't "malfunction" until she could get over to her place to change. Her pocket contents were left on a counter in the workshop, right next to a little coffee machine.
About a few minutes later, Rocket also woke up, though with much less pep in his step. The raccoon was never a morning person, and yesterday didn't help things one bit. Slowly and carefully, yet still bleary-eyed from tiredness, he came down from his bunk, and went over to the "kitchen" part of his workshop. It was very basic - hot iron, microwave, mini-fridge and freezer, and a new deluxe coffee maker to help jumpstart the day. More out of muscle-memory than conscious thought, he pressed a button to brew a fresh cup, and started rummaging through his supplies for a quick breakfast. It annoyed him to no end that meat products were so hard to come by in Zootopia - the Prey Folk were so timid and skittish about Predators engaging in their old, dangerous ways that only certain specialty stores carried genuine meat, and even then it was the not as good meats like fish, reptile, or if you had money, bird.
He was grumbling absentmindedly about the lack of red meat and the throbbing pain in his side when he heard a phone ring right next to him. Not even looking, he picked it up, accepted the call, and in a voice even more scratchy and husky from sleep, growled out a "Y'ello'."
"Uhhh, who're you?" The caller asked, surprised and with a slight accent. "Where's Judy?"
Rocket looked down at the phone, and was immediately wide awake. In his stupor, he had answered Hopps' phone by mistake, which was also set to MuzzleTime. He was on a live videofeed with a pair of middle-aged rabbits, dressed in farmer attire in a brightly lit living room. Several smaller rabbits could be seen in the background, though they didn't seem to be paying attention. It was in that brief moment that Rocket - half naked, fur messy and scraggly, answering a call from a policeman's parents, on a phone which he didn't own, in crappy-looking warehouse, and a raccoon - realized that this looked pretty bad.
Quickly, he adjusted the phone's position so it only showed his front, and put on his best friendly face as he said, "Ohh, hey, you must be Mr. and Mrs. Hopps."
"Uh, yeah - I mean yes, we are! How do you know our daughter?" The father demanded, trying to sound tough and yet failing horribly.
"Verne, hold it. We don't have to be so confrontational." The mother hissed, tapping his shoulder to stop.
"Me?" He said, he began walking out of the kitchen, looking around to find the bunny in question, "I'm her..."
Partner-neighbor-drug dealer-work associate-pimp-
"...Roommate." He internally cringed as his mouth went with the weakest excuse he could think of.
"Roommate?" Verne sounded skeptical, as he should. "She didn't mention anything about a roommate last time we spoke."
"It was a recent arrangement," Rocket continued lying, "Her place-"
Collapsed-burned down-was robbed-infested with fleas and ticks-
"-Had a major sewage backup in her bathroom. Completely covered the place in feces. I lived a couple doors down, and I'm letting her crash while the cleaners, well, clean it."
He must've been channeling Nick's hustle, as both of them were taken aback by the "news". Rocket glanced up at the living room, and saw that both Nick and Groot were sitting on the couch, snacking on cereal while some children's cartoon was playing (what else was good to watch at 5:30?). He angled the phone away from them, and continued, "Yeah, let me find her real quick. She's prob' busy getting ready for work n' stuff. Hey Judes, where you at?"
"I'm in here, hold on a minute!" The bunny called out from the bathroom. He went right over, and quickly opened the lockless door. "It's your parents." He explained, quickly tossed the phone at her, and closed the door behind him. It was only as he started walking away did he realize that he had caught a glimpse of her... topless.
Huh. So that's what bunny boobs look like. Nice.
Several minutes after that, Judy emerged from the bathroom, her uniform sewn up but red in the face. She glared at the fox and the tree, who looked at her curiously. "Where did he go?" She growled.
"Roomie went that way." Nick pointed down the hall. Hopps groaned in angry embarrassment, and went to the workshop.
"Sewage backup?!" She shouted, "That's what you told my parents!? That we're roomies?!"
"What, and telling them that you spent the night at an outer space bounty hunter's bachelor pad sounds better? It's the best thing I could think of at the time." He turned to face her, and she stopped in her tracks. He was in an old-fashioned suit, with short pants stopping at his shins, a belt, red gloves, and a dark blue jacket with red highlights and buttons. He noticed that she was staring at the outfit, and shrugged. "It's my only other outfit, don't judge."
"I-I'm not," She said quickly, "That just, it looks really good on you."
"Thank you. Nick just keeps saying it makes me look like a pirate. He's jus' jelly that I've got more swag than him."
Hopps rolled her eyes. The two of them went back to the living room, and she asked, "So, what's the plan now? How are we gonna find hundreds of bloodthirsty mammals?"
"We could check the jam-cams," Nick suggested between bites, "There are cameras along every road and every major intersection. We could start at Tahunga and work our way out to see where they went."
"Yeah, But," Judy pointed out, "With all the mammals missing, Chief Bogo will be going through all the footage. And after last night's escapades, we'll be the last ones he allows to see them."
"You're forgettin', though," Rocket countered in between sips of coffee, "You an' I have a certain wooly lady-friend on the inside. If we can meet up wit' 'er-"
"She could get us private access to the vid-feeds!" Nick finished.
"Exactly, my dudes. All we need is a ride over to the capital building."
"I know a bus route that passes by here to Savannah Square." Judy volunteered. "Should pass by within the hour."
"Then let's get to it! We've got work to do!"
As they left, it was only then that Groot happened to look at his phone, and only then remembered the video he took last night. Oh well, he'd just have to show them when they come back...
Following that little incident, Rocket, Nick and Judy fetched a taxi, and made their way to Town Hall. If there were CC Cameras all across the city, there was bound to be some that recorded last night's events. Rocket just hoped they'd get there before Chief Butthole and his gunslingers* did.
Even at 8 in the morning, the place was abuzz with activity. Every phone was ringing, as mammals desperately searched for answers about missing friends and relatives. Judy visibly winced when she heard the stark news - the missing mammals number had jumped from 16 to 474 overnight. It wasn't just predators now, either - the vics ranged from elephants and gazelles all the way down to meerkats. The apartment complex had been quarantined after blood and "tissue" was found, and all of Tahunga Street had been placed on lockdown. The media was in a frenzy, as reporters and cameramammals were pestering anyone they could catch. The trio were lucky enough to enter through a backdoor, as they searched for a certain sheep.
It didn't take too long to find Dawn, though it wasn't exactly a good time to show up. Bellweather was gathering up a large stack of folders which had fallen on the ground, while she and Mayor Lionheart were having a rather heated discussion.
"Sir, I know you're busy," She insisted, "But you need to sign off on these contracts. They're essential to-"
"I don't care, Smellweather!" The lion growled exasperatedly. "We're in the middle of a crisis here! I don't have time to fill out business deals with trigger-happy vigilantes!"
"Hey, Mister Mayor!" Rocket called out as they approached. Like someone flipping a switch, Lionheart's entire demeanor changed.
"Ah, Mr. Raccoon!" He turned to face them, all smiles, "How wonderful it is to see you. I-"
"Oh, the pleasure's all mine." Rocket said in a smarmy, verging on explicitly sarcastic tone. Nick smiled and nodded approvingly as he went on, "I couldn't help but overhear that you're about to sign on those contracts. Say, you given any thought to funding that Arc-Powered Titanium Plant I suggested?"
Lionheart just stared blankly at him, not having the slightest clue on what he said. "You didn't read that part? Bah, it was way in the back. What about the Stasis Nets for the drones?" Still nothing. "Ok, what about the Holographic Displays for traffic and advertisements? The Antigrav engines for mass transit? The Full Body Scans for clinics and hospitals? Surely you must've read some of all that paperwork Ms. Bellweather's been giving you, right?"
The lion looked at him quizzically. He was about to respond, but then Rocket snapped his fingers, and continued, "You know what? I bet it just slipped your mind. No hard feelings, I get it. I mean, all that campaigning and press conferences and talking with special interests must really eat up all your time and energy." He placed a paw on Dawn's shoulder, who was looking bewildered by this entire display. "I tell yuh, you're really lucky having this lil' ewe working for you. Well organized, great negotiator, sharp as a tack. I can't imagine how difficult it would be running this place without someone as capable as her backing you up, you know?"
The Mayor glanced over at the sheep, who was in turn glancing back and forth between the two of them. "Yes," Lionheart admitted, begrudgingly, "I suppose it would be very difficult without S-... Ms. Bellweather."
"Oh, that reminds me," Rocket stated, wrapping up the hustle, "I believe the paperwork needs to be signed today. We would also like Dawn's assistance for a teensy-weensy bit - kinda workin' against the clock on a case connected to all this confusion here." He gestured to all the panicking bureaucrats running about the office. "We'd wait, but surely you can handle signing a bunch of papers on your own, amirite? We'll do our thing real quick, you do yours, my people talk with your people, and uh, who knows? Maybe Rocket Enterprises will be making a sizable donation to your next campaign."
Lionheart looked at them, and then at all the files on the ground. "Fine," He growled, miffed at this inconvenience, "Five minutes. Go do whatever it is you need. Make it quick."
"Thanks Lionshart-heart! Lionheart!" Rocky said, turning and nodding to the others. "Let's go, guys."
The four of them started heading to Bellweather's office - a good distance away from a grumpy lion signing way too many forms than necessary - when the ewe pulled them off to the side. She gazed at Rocket, like it was the first time she was really seeing him him, and her eyes glistened. "No one has ever stood up against Lionheart like that," She murmured, "Especially for me."
"Hey, us little guys gotta stick together." He said causally, "You've got my back, and I've got yours, right?"
His answer came as she reached out and embraced him in a bearhug, her poofy hair brushing against his chin. Rocket tentatively returned the hug, caught off guard by the sudden display of emotion. "Thank you." She whispered, sniffling, "You don't know how nice it is to get recognition for anything that you do. To be noticed by someone, you know?"
"Don't worry about it, Bells." He said, patting her back, "Who cares what your boss thinks? He's just a figurehead. We all know who has the real power around here."
Dawn blushed, and shyly looked away. "Oh, you're just saying that."
"Don't sell yourself short." He broke off the hug, and placed his arms on both Dawn and Judy's shoulders as they went down the hall. "You've already got us started on making huge changes for this city. We're all going to be heroes once we're done."
"I dunno about lil' ole' me," The sheep chuckled, "But you and Hopps? When I think about the future, you know what I see? I see you, Rocket Raccoon, wealthiest philanthropist and businessmammal in Zootopia. I see you, Judy Hopps, as the first police chief of ZPD to make this us a crime-free city."
"And I see Mayor Dawn Bellweather, rising star in politics who made it all happen." He insisted, smiling internally as her eyes lit up like fireworks. Looks like someone has a dream.
"Ahem, forgetting someone?" Nick interrupted, mock-indignant. "What about me?"
"You can do whatever you want. I don't leave friends out to dry. Lil' bit of advice, though - somethin' I've learned over te years, there's no bettah revenge than success. Nothin' will feel bettah than drivin' by where those punks live in a big shiny hovercar, courtesy of yours truly."
"Careful now, I may just hold you to that."
They came to and entered Dawn's office, which in truth was little more than a refurbished broom closet. There was a large boiler, multiple servers, cleaning equipment, boxes of files, one five-watt lightbulb dangling from the ceiling, and way in the back was a tiny desk with a decent-looking computer. "This is where you work?" Nick observed sympathetically. "The Assistant Mayor of Zootopia does business in a supply room? I'm surprised they even shilled out the money for a sticky note on your door."
"Ugh, don't get me started." Dawn groaned as she sat at her desk, opening the programs. "Sometimes I think the Pred' only hired me to get the sheep vote. Now, which cameras do you need?"
Judy tells them the location, and the sheep begins typing and scrolling through the footage. As she did so, Nick glanced between her, Rocket and Judy, and slowly and carefully raised a paw to Dawn's poofy hairdo. The cop and cyborg looked at him like he was high, and Rocky mouthed, "Dude, what're you doing?"
"It's so fluffy," Nick whispered, "I've wanted to do this for ages, but they never let me get this close. Here, you feel." He nodded to Rocket. Judy looked at them like they were crazy, but the raccoon shrugged, and started feeling the wool as well. Damn, it is really soft. He thought, biting back a chuckle.
"Who's touching my wool?!" Dawn demanded, glaring angrily at the fox. Nick quickly pointed to Rocket, who's hand was still outstretched. Bellweather's blush came back, and she looked away bashfully. "Oh," She said, "Do you... do you like it?"
"Uhhh... yeeeeaah," Rocket improvised quickly, "It's uh, soft like silk, and fluffy like, like freshly picked cotton?" He hadn't meant for it to come off sounding like a question, but he still hadn't really mastered this "flattery" deal.
"Thank you. I've been using a new conditioner. Ah, here's the camera feed." Onscreen, there was the feed from the camera above the gondola.
"Hold on," Rocket asked, "Can you switch to the one by the water tower at the top of the building? That's where the asshole that kicked me in the nuts and poisoned the water." The ewe glanced up at him, but did as she was asked, and switched it to an overhead view of the water storage platform. They looked at the footage of Rocket and a tall, thin wolf fighting, talking, Rocky getting a nutshot, and a big blue explosion in the water. "Zoom in." The sheep zoomed in on the wolf, and they all looked in to get a good look at the guy. Alas, the lighting was too low, and he was looking away.
"Damn, can't get a good look at the guy." He grunted. "Can we follow where he went?" Dawn glanced at him, and scanned through several nearby cameras along the nearby road. They could see the wolf cross the road, scamper into the underbrush, and disappear from sight.
"The cameras only cover the streets." She apologized. "I can't find him."
"Might've gone into the subways." Nick suggested. "They cross all over the city, and there're no cameras down in the tunnels."
"What about all those savages?" Judy reminded them, "We need to know where they went." Dawn typed away, and soon it switched to the bottom roads as the hordes rampaged everything in sight. They had passed by three cameras when several vans pulled up and stopped several hundred yards in front of them. Dozens of mammals in security gear jumped out, holding advanced weaponry that looked awfully familiar.
"Those're my guns." Rocket grunted.
The wolves began firing into the crowd, bolts of energy stunning the berserk mammals, falling onto the ground and each other. The guns fired rapidly, and soon piles of bodies began to collect in front of them. The wolves continued firing, never having to reload for the entire two minutes that the horde charged against them. Eventually, they ran out of bodies to shoot before they needed to cool down their guns. Several of the wolves began tying up the savages and tossing them into their vans, while others went up the road, picking up various scraps of clothes and items, removing any potential evidence of their disappearance. Rocket's eyebrows raised as the camera feed went briefly back to the platform they were on, and one white-furred wolf picked up a tiny pair of-
"Those're my shoes!" He declared, "Those bastards took my flying boots!"
"Oh, now that's a step too far!" Nick quipped. "Won't someone think of the shoes!"
"Quick, switch camera angles." Judy ordered. "Let's see where those vans drove off to." Dawn switched the camera angles, following the vans down the twisting roads of the Rainforest District. They followed the vans up until they entered a tunnel, where they failed to exit the other side after a minute of waiting. "Where'd they go?"
Both Dawn and Nick spoke up, glancing at each other as they realized they were thinking the same thing. "There's a secret side tunnel there," The ewe explained, switching to a different feed that showed the vans going down a lonely road. "They lead to the Cliffside Falls Sanitorium, which has been abandoned for several years. It'd have enough room to store... however many Savages are out there."
"Then that's where we need to go next." Judy concluded, "If that's where they went, that's where they're keeping Otterton as well. We don't have a moment to lose." The three of them got up and were heading out the closet door. Before Rocket could leave, though, Dawn placed a hoof on his shoulder.
"R-Rocky - Y-you don't mind if I call you that, right?" Dawn stammered, looking nervous all of a sudden.
"Uhh, yeah, sure." He said quickly. Hmm, this is odd.
"Yeah, so," She continued (Is she blushing AGAIN?), "I was thinking. Maybe, after this case is done and you have a little free-time, we could go out for a cup of coffee?"
That sounds like she's... Naw, that can't be it. "Oh sure," He replied quickly, "We can do that. What other things do you want to discuss?"
"Ummm..." She shuffled her feet a bit, and she was looking away from him rather nervously. "I actually meant more like just the two of us, hanging out and stuff."
"What, like a date?"
She steeled herself. "Yes, like a date."
And there it was. The offer, hanging in the air between them like a spray of musky perfume. Rocket stared at her as his mind went through all the options and possibilities. Part of him wanted to say no: She was shorter and fluffier than he usually went for; She was a politician, and by that alone it should've disqualified her from any romantic interest; she was technically a customer and an employer, so adding a more-than-friendly subtext would just complicate their relationship even more. But then he considered the pros: She was in a position of power, and should be exploited if the opportunity presents itself; doing this could cement the relationship between them, giving him a bigger advantage in business and negotiation; it's been months since he's got some and (to be perfectly honest with himself) she was rather cute.
Eh, why not?
"You know what? That sounds great." He answered, bringing out his winning smile. "I would be more than happy to, uh, share a few drinks."
"Great!" She agreed, "Uh, great. I guess I'll see you later, yeah?" They exchanged their awkward goodbyes, and Rocket quickly left to catch up with his partners.
"Well aren't you a charmin' lil' devil?" Nick jeered as he came back to them.
"Don't be jealous 'cause I'm a striped Casanova," Rocket replied with a cocky smirk. "We know I drive dem ewes crazy."
"Well, I think you two would make a cute couple," Judy observed, silencing them both. "You were really supportive back there. I bet if you were in her corner, she really could become the first sheep Mayor of Zootopia. And maybe she'd help bring out that sensitive side you've got deep inside."
"Me?! Sensitive?! Do you even know me, Fluffybutt?" He chuckled, as they walked out of the Hall. Meanwhile, Dawn had remained within her "office", pulling out her phone and rapidly typed away.
Doug, there's footage of you in costume. Rocket and Hopps are getting close. Lay low for awhile.
We could settle this whole thing right now if you let us do our work.
You know perfectly well how things can go south fast if word gets out of our operation. That bunny and raccoon can cause just enough trouble to get us both in jail. Let me go to the asylum. Take out the loose ends.
Fine. Go to Cliffside. Killed the Infected. Be discrete. Hopps and Rocket remain UNHARMED. Everyone else is irrelevant. Screw this up and I give Woolter's internet history to CPS.
"So," Woolter asked, sipping from his coffee, "What's the plan?"
Doug put the phone on the table, and turned to face the opposite wall. Hanging from a pair of hooks were an airsoft gun, and a rubber wolf mask used for Halloween parties.
"Get prepped," He grunted, grabbing both, "We're going hunting today."
* Reference to Idris Elba as Roland Deschain in the upcoming Dark Tower film.