Night Wolf's A/N: It's funny. I never once thought I would be writing stories about a fictional world in which animals walked and talked. Nor did I think I'd be turning that family-friendly setting into something that is far less family-friendly and far more sinister. Funny how life exceeds your expectations. XD

I am still trying to figure out what exactly pulled me into not only Zootopia, but also, it's an amazing community of writers, artists, and readers. I am so glad I took the chance with it. The creations this community has made really helped me out in a time of need. They are as amazing as they are uplifting.

After reading countless stories, I found myself wanting to create my own. I wanted to play a larger role in the community (and I wanted to create my own version of Nick and Judy's romance… no judging… plz.. XD). While I was embarrassed about my first story - which I do plan on remedying in a remake in the near or far future - I kept thinking about what other stories I could create for this community. This story, Mammals of Freedom, is the result of that.

Perhaps it's my most ambitious project yet - that's including other things I have done in my past that are not even related to Zootopia.

But it is not right to call it 'my' project. This story would not be what it is today if it was not for the talent of JKnight97. His input has been invaluable to me in my previous story, so much so that I wanted him to be my co-author.

And boy, has he taken the role seriously! His ideas and additions have morphed this story into something that is far more refined than my original idea (which is a timeline sitting somewhere in my Google Drive). While the core is the same, his ideas have made this story into something that I believe is truly great!

And he's done more than just that. A large portion of this chapter was written by him. I will not say which unless he wants me to - perhaps it'd be fun for you all to guess which portions are written by who - but a good amount of it was mainly written by him.

I cannot say how grateful I am to have his help.

And he's not the only one who has taken this story and helped it along. DancingLunarWolves and Stubat007 have lent us their editing skills and squashed some errors that both JKnight and I have missed even after reading the story drafts several times over! I greatly appreciate their help. These two individuals edited this story without even asking anything in return - that is a quality of good people. So, thanks you two! I cannot say thank you enough!

Well, that about covers everything I wanted to say. I hope you're ready for a Wilde ride! This story will be a long one, I can tell you that!

And before I forget… There may be a hint of romance between two very famous characters in Zootopia. Just thought I'd let ya know. ;)

JKnight97's A/N: So, this was a first for me and a blast to do! It's taken us several months but we finally pulled it off. I owe it all to my young partner and collaborator, NightWolf0179, for it was his vision that he shared with me and he kindly asked me to help him write this story. It has taken almost three months (and still counting) to finally be satisfied with this chapter. And we're not done yet! ;)

Many thanks also to our two editors, DancingLunarWolves and Stubat007 for their invaluable input and editing skills.

This story will also be posted in our respective individual accounts in AO3, and DA. Thanks for reading and don't forget to leave us comments! We live for those. XD

Disclaimer: All characters are owned by ©Disney. Any resemblance to actual persons or mammals, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


Prologue

In the Zootopian Council Room, the Vice-Mayor, Dennis Lambert, stood before the all-prey council and declared, "We, as the nation of Zootopia, have accomplished so much in so little time. No other nation can say that they have a poverty level of under one percent. No other nation can say that they are nearing technology that is borderline sci-fi. No other nation can say that their citizens are all happy and content with their lives.

"We owe it all to Dawn Bellwether, our glorious leader, for this amazing time of total prosperity. She was the only mammal strong enough to step up to the plate, and thus, we owe her everything, even our very lives. She has given us so much to make us happy.

"So let's give back to her. We have come to rely on our predator workers for everything from construction to production. But we no longer need them. We no longer need those mangy pelts to do our work for us.

"Let her take your predators, let her use them as her war machine, and let the entire planet prosper as a result!"


"Have you talked to everyone?"

"Hmm?" A slender, wiry body underneath a thin, beige sheet answered. "Oh! Yeah… I, uh, I did." His voice was youthful and quick.

A small silence hung in the air with faint scribbling as the only noise. "No one changed their minds?"

"Nope," the young voice replied, emphasizing the 'p' sound. "They don't want to jeopardize anything."

"Stubborn fools," the other muttered with a low, deep voice that contrasted his tiny size. His voice did not sound like it belonged to what he was: a tiny fennec fox. "I don't get it."

"Fin… What would you do if you were them?" The body sat up; the sheet sliding off him. The action revealed golden-red fur and intelligent, emerald eyes belonging to a red fox. "Imagine how difficult it would be to lay low with so many others. Seventy heads to feed, seventy voices chatting away, seventy pairs of pawprints… Just moving from place to place without being seen would be nearly impossible. Now, if they were ninety-nine pups and it's the dead of winter, that would be a different story…but it's not and they aren't."

Finnick grasped his pencil tightly and continued scribbling, nearly breaking the lead. "Difficult, but possible, Nick. It's been done before. Remember the otters that escaped from the Jack family? They did it, and there were over fifty of 'em. It's possible."

The fox in bed rolled onto his side and stretched, causing his shirt to lift up. Doing so made his fur ripple, subtlety hinting at strong muscles hidden beneath. "Try convincing them of that. Besides, that's an urban legend and we don't have any proof it really happened."

The fennec growled angrily. "It was your job to convince them. A simple one," he snapped.

"You know why they refuse to go with us," Nick countered. "They've made it painfully clear to us last week."

"Then you shoulda knocked some sense into them!"

"They're not dumb. They know exactly what they're giving up."

"Yeah, their only chance at having an actual life!"

"What am I supposed to do? Drag them by their tails?"

"Dammit, Nick, they shouldn't have to live like this! We shouldn't be the only ones leaving!" Fin's voice made his best friend's ears fold back. "Do they wanna live the rest of their lives here?" Finnick flicked his eyes away from his journal and stared into the other fox's eyes. "Nick… did you even try to convince them?" A sigh was the only answer he got. "I swear, Nick, I'm going to bite your face off!" yelled the tiny vulpine.

"Do you think I want to leave them behind!" The taller fox of the two stood up. "They're the only family I have left. Them… and you. Trust me, I tried. But they wouldn't budge."

The fennec fox turned back to his journal. Grinding his teeth, he muttered an apology under his breath. "Sorry. Shouldn't have snapped at you."

Nick walked up to his best friend and put his paw on his shoulder. "Yeah…" A moment passed by before he spoke again. "Whatcha writing?" It wasn't worth a fight.

A sigh escaped from both of them. "Just…plans." He grabbed his eraser and started rubbing away at a sentence. "For after tomorrow. Ever wanted to find your mother? If we-"

"No, Fin. We both know she's gone and we won't have the time to search, anyway." Nick removed his paw from his friend's shoulder. "You still haven't told me anything about your parents."

The fennec grunted. "Like I said before, not much to tell."

"Then why not? Should be a quick conversation."

Finnick began writing again. After a few seconds, he growled, "I thought a kit's annoying curiosity went away by their teens."

Despite his friend's obvious annoyance, Nick chuckled. "I may be twenty-one, but I still like to think of myself as a kit." He sat down on the bed again and succumbed to his thoughts for several seconds. "It's not like any of us have seen anything other than this plantation and a few factories. Never get to see or hear anything new. Curiosity doesn't go away if you've never actually seen anything to satisfy it."

"…Yeah," Finnick replied, shutting his journal.

Nick's voice became quiet and soft. "Look… I won't ask again. I'm sorry. I know it's personal… I just want to help. You've always been there for me…but you never let me do the same for you." The air became still as Nick waited for Finnick to answer. After a minute, Nick decided to change the subject. Now was not the time for these things. "I'm still surprised you kept that journal hidden for the entire time you've had it."

"What, you think I'd let them take away one of my only possessions?" He stood up and walked over to his own bed next to Nick's.

"How did you even get away with stealing it?"

"Well…" Finnick stopped to jump up into his bed. For all the years they had been incarcerated, his masters never considered that he might need a shorter bed; he always had to climb into it. "Luck."

Nick snorted. "Ha! Luck, you say? I was left with a bleeding nose. Why am I always the distraction?"

Finnick laughed. "You know why. Go to bed. If you mess up tomorrow, I am gonna bite your face off."

"Heh… Okay, bud." Nick laid back down. "Though...you'll have to do that in the afterlife. If we're caught, you know what'll happen."

Once Finnick got comfy - well, as comfy as one could get whilst lying on a bed that was only marginally better than the cold, hard ground - he turned to face Nick. "Don't care, I'm still going to kill you."

Nick laughed again. "Sure you will."

A grunt from his friend told Nick that the conversation was over. Soon after, Finnick's trademark snore began to rumble its way through the room.

Sleep always came easily for the fennec fox. It was a trait that Nick envied. Every night, within mere minutes, the snoring would come and Nick would still be up. It was as reliable as the sun's promise to rise in the morning.

It wasn't like Nick could help his sleeping problems, it was just a part of him. His thoughts were impossible to control, always running rampant and awaking forgotten concerns that would inevitably tug at his eyelids until sleep was blinked away from them. Tonight was no exception.

This time, he thought about the life he was leaving behind. The fox was not necessarily going to miss it. Slavery was not a life he, or anyone, wanted to live. But he was definitely going to miss his family. While he was not actually related to any of the foxes there, they had been through enough for him to consider them as family. Finnick was one such example. Nick shared no blood with him whatsoever, but the bond they had could not be considered anything else other than brotherly.

It wasn't like he had any real family left, anyway.

Despite his telling the rest of the pack that they truly were all Nick had left, they had still refused. They wanted Nick's and Finnick's happiness over their own. After all, everyone else was at least in their fifties and the two younger foxes were still in their twenties. They still had many years ahead of them. Plus, there would be fewer slavers looking for two foxes rather than seventy of them. What's two lost slaves? Sure, they were the most capable, but the family they were enslaved under, the Robinsons, happened to be a bunch of filthy rich rabbits. They already had another thirty teenage foxes coming in next week. It cost them eighty-thousand dollars, but that was a drop in the bucket to the rich snobs.

They even had ten kits coming. Little kits mercilessly ripped from their crying, pleading mothers and dragged into an auction house where they were sold to the highest bidder as nothing more than mere objects to be used and discarded. Nick had also heard that the majority of the new foxes were female. His hackles rose just thinking why that might be the case.

So no, the rabbits wouldn't miss two troublesome foxes. They already had a workforce that would last them for years.

Still…Nick knew he had to come back one day. He had made a silent promise to each and every fox under the Robinsons, including the newcomers, that he would break them out from their prison and give them a life worth living.

It was a purpose. One of the few things that kept Nick alive. He'd help others. He'd make their lives happier. If the fox had to, he'd die trying.

All Nick wanted to see was the end of everyone's suffering.


The year of 1797 will forever be remembered as the year in which one of the most important steps towards predator and prey harmony occurred: the settlement of the island that eventually became known as Zootopia. Unfortunately, the years that led to its creation are not remembered nearly as fondly. That span of decades held some of the darkest times in mammal history - specifically the Predator-Prey War. No one, not even modern historians, spoke easily on the subject.

It was a time of brutal, savage murder. Predators by then had stopped eating mammal flesh. They had grown intellectually and found protein alternatives in abundance. Their heightened intelligence had also given them morals and they wished to stop their hunts. But prey never forgave them. The history books were brimming with tales of predator fangs sinking deeply into the necks of past prey and their instincts still had an iron grip on their minds and bodies. The mere glance of a fang or claw would send an entire town into a frenzy. The soldiers of the town would immediately rush out with weapons drawn, ready to swiftly eliminate the predator, no questions asked and no mercy given.

Predators were not completely innocent, however. Some still hunted for sport. While most refused to do so, the few that did made sure to kill any prey they ever came across. Some even hung the heads of their kills as trophies.

It was a recipe for war between the two societies. When conflict finally broke out, it was horrific. All sense of morality was chucked into a river and forgotten. Only the need to kill and protect persisted in their minds anytime they confronted their enemy. Blood painted the ground and water supplies ran red while body parts were torn off and thrown into the mud. Deaths were often slow and agonizing, some even wishing to die only for them to suffer longer.

The Predator-Prey War was justified near-savageness in the eyes of both sides. For years, they had suffered immeasurable losses to the paws of their counterparts. Loved ones, acres of land, stockpiles of food…you name it, they lost it. A mammal could only take that kind of suffering for so long before something broke within them. This merciless war was meant to be the end of that suffering, whether it be the total annihilation of themselves or their adversaries. The phrase 'kill or be killed' hung heavily on their shoulders.

Thus, both sides were ruthless.

Only some females and kits remained in the cities, left behind and broken, awaiting the inevitable end of the war. What that end would bring was up in the air. Would it be the precursor of their demise? Or instead, would it lift the pain they've been carrying for years? And how many would have to die to achieve either outcome?

Most did not have high hopes for the future. But some did. Some held a strong faith in their armies, believing that it was impossible for them to lose. How could they? After all, the only alternative was complete and total genocide, and that 'just would never happen to them'. They believed every piece of propaganda their species' generals fed them, almost like how a young kit would believe the words, "Everything will be alright," softly whispered out of their parents' muzzles.

Ignorance truly is bliss.

In actuality, the war was going terribly on both sides of the conflict. Casualties numbered higher than all previous wars, leaving so many with broken families and broken dreams.

The prey relied on their overwhelming numbers to win their battles for them. There were significantly fewer predator forces to deal with. Every time the two enemies met on a battlefield, the prey would always have at least three soldiers for each single predator soldier.

While that painted very poor odds for the predator side of the conflict, their generals were able to find ways to work around that particular weakness. With their enemy being in possession of such an enormous army, the prey's supplies quickly became an issue, and the predators exploited it whenever the chance came to pass. The generals, mostly consisting of lions and bears, would never go into a battle without first cutting off supply lines belonging to the prey army they wished to defeat. Then a month of waiting would follow while the predator forces feasted on the captured supplies and the prey forces starved.

This gave their armies a significant advantage. While the prey were forced to ration out their little food and water, the predators had no such concerns and ate as if they were wealthy.

The predator armies were also much more skilled than that of their prey counterparts. With fewer soldiers, the generals were able to train in a fashion that was more individualistic and fine-tuned while the prey had to rely on more group-based instruction that only provided mere basic training. This allowed the predators to closely observe their force's abilities and weaknesses. With that knowledge, they would then focus on areas that needed improvement. They were incessantly refining their strategy to suit their needs. This also made exceptional talent stand out much more among the rest. It was like finding diamonds within a small container as opposed to a larger one that the prey had to sort through.

Still, with their numbers so tiny in comparison, even with their advantages, battles were rarely one-sided. Each conflict often ended in bloodshed that crippled both sides. It was an evenly-matched war.

The prey had their own advantages as well. Their armies were more broken up into individual parts that operated like well-oiled machines. With so many to command, the armies were instead commanded by many individuals rather than few. One prey could be in charge of ten mammals and could easily react in response to what was occurring in the battlefield.

Predators had less of that. They still had a similar system, but with fewer resources they had to be more conservative and precise to avoid costly risks. As a result, they were more predictable. A bit more cohesive, but predictable nonetheless. Their machine was less dynamic.

But constant bloodshed on such a large scale was impossible. It had to end one day, either in total annihilation or in some sort of peace. Some concluded that life was too precious to ignorantly snuff out in a war that had already claimed millions.

This is what led a coyote and a sheep to meet up on an island that was untouched by the conflict. Blood had yet to stain its soil, only vegetation calling it home.

There, they spoke. They argued. They cried and they understood. A wish to end the suffering of everyone became deeply embedded into their very souls. It was then decided that they would spend at least a week on the island, testing the waters to see if it truly was possible for a predator and a prey to live together peacefully.

Perhaps it was a stupid idea. Meeting with the enemy could not only get one of them killed - it is far too easy to mask foul, murderous goals with good intentions - it could also exile them from their respective societies. 'Traitor' would forever stain both their names. But the cruelty of the war had to end somewhere. Not all wished for the complete eradication of their enemies, and this appeared to be the only way to stop the mindless bloodshed. The risk was worth it.

As the days progressed, it was almost painfully concluded that predators and prey were more similar than anyone ever thought was possible. They could live together. A coyote and a sheep could live together, even enjoy the other's presence. Once their time on the island reached seven days, they brought in their own families and settled alongside one another, slowly opening up their hearts to those that once were members of the army that had murdered countless friends and family. With understanding and empathy, the tears of widows and orphans who had lost their loved ones in battle, slid down the fur of both prey and predator, as they shared hardships and began building a bond that previously never existed.

Slowly, word spread throughout the world about the place where conflict between predator and prey was a thing of the past. At first, most ignored the set of rumors altogether. But as the news continued to spread for several weeks, it became apparent to some that the 'rumors' may actually hold some truth to them, and actual discussion of the topic finally began. A lot of mammals expressed a belief that such a thing was impossible, thinking that it was in their very nature to fight against their counterparts. With a history that consisted only of bloodshed and cruelty whenever the two sides crossed paths, it really did seem like this was the case.

Though, not all thought like that. Some were open to the idea. Quite a few families even embraced the idea with a hopeful spirit and made the journey to the curious place. Many, upon seeing that the island was real and did indeed hold predators and prey together in a peaceful community, decided to stay and make a real home of the island. After so much fighting, they were ready to forget the past and start anew on the island-sanctuary away from the fighting.

As the weeks and months ran by, more families visited and decided to stay, hoping to make a home on the vast island. What once was merely two families grew into a town of both predator and prey. It would eventually be known as Zootopia, the city where one can be anything and everything regardless of species. Equality was a promise here.

As the island's peaceful population grew, hostilities elsewhere started to fade, until an official end to the war was declared. The infamous and horrific Predator-Prey War, which started out with a single gunshot, silently died because two brave mammals believed in an idea.

That did not mean it was a city of utter joy and happiness. Conflict did break out every now and then, but it was mostly kept within species. It was rare for two different species, especially a predator and a prey, to argue with one another. After everything they had done to each other, no one wanted to harm the other ever again. It was a sort of apology for the suffering they all had experienced at the paws of others.

Thus, peace reigned those few hundred years. That is until the shadow fell.


Unfortunately, things change over the course of hundreds of years. As business crept its way into the island, into Zootopia, the city grew until it became the largest and most advanced settlement in that part of the world, eventually becoming its own country. But with population growth came those that held deep-rooted hate that still existed despite predators and prey having lived harmoniously for years. These individuals - mostly prey since there were still many, many more of them - found their ways into positions of power. Not instantly, but gradually. Slowly. It was a process of deceit and cut-throat business practices.

These individuals gained enormous pools of wealth and used that to gain political positions. In the year 1976, these speciesist prey had complete control of the government. Free to do whatever they wished with their positions as business owners and political leaders, they turned their efforts towards ridding the country of what they believe to be undesirables, otherwise known as predators.

No one noticed it at first. It was discrete and subtle. Maybe a predator family would be denied certain health coverage over pre-existing medical conditions while a prey family in a similar state of being was approved. Or maybe a single individual predator had his wages cut ever-so-slightly and without notification.

It was easy for those politicians to do this, too. With the power they had, it became easy for them to hide their actions in the dark. With no predators holding high enough positions to gain access to any files or to even be present during discussions, it would've required a true slip-up for something to be let out to the public.

This extremely slow stripping of rights continued on for about a year before a new law was passed that allowed businesses to refuse service to certain species because of their beliefs. A month before, predators were finally beginning to take notice of what was happening, but no one wanted to believe it and ignored it. They trusted the government. But when that law was passed, it became terrifyingly apparent that their government was truly against them. The city they all had come to call home was slowly becoming a monster.

Not a single predator understood why this was happening, but they were ready to stop it. Louis King, a tiny otter, was able to rally up a group of predators and prey in peaceful protest of the gradual loss of their equality. They gathered around City Hall, chanting several different phrases that said, "Equality for All" in some form or another.

When the protest became large enough for the streets to be flooded with mammals and for their voices to visibly vibrate the windows of City Hall, Louis was finally invited within the building. Several minutes passed and thousands of hopeful smiles remained trained to the doors of City Hall, all wishfully waiting for the door to open to reveal an otter with a victorious grin on his muzzle.

Amongst all the commotion, no one noticed the hooded figure darting through alleyways towards the back of the protest.

As they waited for what felt like hours, the protest continued to grow in number. As such, the chanting became louder, stronger, every new voice adding to it. The protest eventually became so large that no vehicular travel was possible if anyone wished to travel on any of the streets that led up to the building the army of mammals gathered around.

With a glint in her eye, the hooded mammal relaxed her muscles, stopping her breathing so that her aim with her rifle was as still as possible. After only a few seconds and with unrivaled speed and skill, she found a target and trained the barrel of her rifle at him. The shot was perfect, a blue orb shooting silently out of the barrel of the gun, striking a wolf directly on the black of his neck. He began convulsing on the ground, violently twitching until he rose up to stand on all four of his paws.

No one noticed for the first few seconds. The mammals of the protest were so distracted by their goal that they never once turned around for that quick moment.

With amazing speed, several more shots were fired, an equal number of predators collapsing to the ground. It only took seconds for them all to stand back up in the way that felt the most natural to them, all four paws planted firmly on the ground. Their vision became clearer and their hearing became enhanced.

The chanting kept the heartbeats of the protestors high, pumping their bodies with adrenaline. Their eyes continued to remain on the immobile doors, all waiting, all wishing, all hoping.

Seconds later, screams rang out. Blood spilled onto the burning concrete. Mammals crumpled to the ground with gashes and bites all over their bodies.

It was then that the chanting stopped. Louis stepped out the door only to have his heart drop as he watched his best friend leap towards him with his jaws wide open and stained with someone else's blood.

It was not until a few days later that the Mayor made the announcement containing an explanation for what had happened. "Predators are reverting back to their old ways," Mayor Woodson began. "Our scientists have concluded that they are different from prey, far more than what any of us thought. Deep inside them resides a savage beast, a creature called instinct, always ready to break free from its shackles and take control of its host. We must protect ourselves and them as well. While they cannot control their genetics, we can control the creature that is inside them."

Things were never the same from that day on. Predators lost more and more of their rights, becoming shunned and hated for being what they are. Tame Collars were tightened around their necks, curfews shortened their days, and any hope at having a say in government was crushed with a new law forbidding it.

It was not too long until they became slaves to prey. Their lives were reduced to indefinite servitude to those that they once lived in harmony with, to those that they once called friends and family.


Nick awoke after having slept only a few hours. The raucous sound of the loud morning tone poured through the predators' barracks, calling everyone out to line up for the roll call. Everyone hurried out quickly. Any predator that failed to heed the call and fall into line would be severely punished.

Nick remembered the day when an old fox couldn't get out of his bed to line up. Nick had only been in the camp for a month then, brought in when he was in his teens. He had observed the guards dragging the old helpless fox out into the yard where he had been lashed for insubordination then stuffed inside The Box the whole day without food or water.

The Box was a cruel device of torture. It was what its name implied: a metal structure measuring three feet wide by three feet long with a height of four feet. An offender was forced to fit inside the cramped space and left to suffer the elements. The time a prisoner spent inside depended on the severity of the offense...or on the mood of the head jailer.

The old fox had not managed to survive the scorching heat of the day and had been left inside despite his desperate cries for mercy. At the end of the day, his heart had given out due to the scorching heat of the sun. The body had been dragged out and left for the other foxes to take so they could bury the corpse according to fox tradition. After that demonstration, no one ever missed roll call again.

Nick looked over the prison that had been his 'home' the last ten years. The architects of the plantation had taken many pains to make sure the predators only way to leave their place of captivity was through a wooden pine box. They had built the predator barracks in the centre of the camp, far away from the fences, surrounded by a eight-foot high chain link fence with concrete flooring in order to prevent the prisoners from digging their way out. The main perimeter fences around the plantation were also made of a similar material but were at least ten feet high and topped with sharp barbed wire that could slice open any paw that attempted to climb over it. At each corner of the camp stood a sentry tower, each one equipped with several high intensity spotlights that could easily cut through the blackness of night. And, as a coup de grâce , there was a minefield surrounding the camp, which extended out at least fifty feet beyond the fence perimeter.

As Nick lined up, he reflected that this could be his very last roll call. Tonight, he and Finnick were going to attempt to escape. If they were not able to get away, he swore they would not take him back alive as he could not imagine what the Camp Boss would do to him in order to make him an example to the others. He had not told the others when they were going to make the attempt as he did not want them punished if they were found out. Plausible deniability was the only protection he could give them if ever he succeeded with Finnick.

After the roll call, most of the able-bodied predators were then chained together by the ankles and led to the several trucks that were parked just by the main gate. They were to be loaded in them to start their backbreaking work for the day. The rabbit leading the chain-gang would then signal the sentry who then flipped the switch turning off the remote detonators in their collars as the trucks holding the predators trundled out of the compound.

Nick recalled the first brutal day when he had arrived at the camp. He and the other predators had been given a harsh demonstration of what the detonators in the shock collars could actually do. The Camp Boss had them lined up and had deliberately chosen a young cheetah for that purpose.

"You!" The rabbit called out as he waved the whip in his paw, indicating the young feline to step forward. "I'll make you a deal. These shock collars have a range of one mile. I'll give you a minute's head start through the main gates and then I'll turn the power back on. If you manage to be out of range by that time, you can keep going and I won't come after you. How's that sound to you?" He declared, sneering at the cat.

The young naive feline begrudgingly accepted the offer. It wasn't as if he could turn it down anyway. He meekly nodded and took up his position just before the main gate. The rabbit guards jeered at him as he nervously waited for the signal to be turned off and the gate to be opened. As soon as it did, he took off like a shot down the stretch of road leading to the camp.

All the predator prisoners held their collective breaths as they watched him speed down the lonely dirt road. They were rooting for him to escape the clutches of their overseer, hoping to vicariously enjoy freedom through him.

Nick initially watched the male cheetah, marveling at the sheer beauty and poetry of his fluid motions, his legs pistoning beneath him like well-oiled machinery. However, he observed the Camp Boss turn his back on the racing figure and face the gallery of predators. Nick ominously thought it odd that he did. Then, halfway through the allotted time, the rabbit sneered at the captive audience and raised his paw holding the whip.

"That's strange. It's as if he wants to see our faces reacting to-" Nick wondered but this train of thought was suddenly interrupted the sound of a loud explosion and the gasps and screams from the mammals around him. He quickly looked back to where the cheetah was supposed to be but all he could see were body parts littered about the road. He clenched his paws in futile rage, aware that the dastardly lagomorph had lied to the feline merely to use him as an example to the others.

"That's what happens to prisoners who try to escape," intoned the sadistic voice of the buck, as he basked in the shock and fear of his prisoners. "Don't try anything foolish and you'll live longer than that useless pelt did," he informed as he spat into the ground.

That had been over ten years ago but the memory had been burned forever in his mind. He vowed if he ever managed to escape he would find justice for the many cruelties suffered by the predators at the paws of the brutal bunny.

Just as Finnick and Nick were about to get into their assigned truck, the small fennec suddenly turned on Nick and pushed him roughly back.

"Watch where you steppin', idjit!" snarled the small fox. "That's the third time today you almost crushed my tail!"

"Well, if you picked it up instead of letting it drag behind you like some lost little pup, I wouldn't have to step on it," Nick growled back. "And who you calling an idiot? Jerk!" as Nick hit Finnick squarely in the chest with his closed paw causing the smaller fox to get tangled up in the chains, twisting his hind paw as he fell.

Finnick screamed in pain as he lay writhing on the ground, clutching his ankle. "Damn you, Wilde! I'm gonna bite your fucking head off!"

Nick suddenly felt like a million hornets were stinging him as his shock collar was activated by remote control by one of the rabbit bosses. Unable to even cry out as his jaw locked up, he fell to his knees as the electric charge seared throughout his body.

"Alright you pelts! What the hell's going on here? You! Small fry! Stand up!"

Finnick attempted to do so but groaned in agony as soon as his injured hind paw touched the ground. "Sorry, Boss! I twisted it when I fell. I'll need a crutch to move around for a while."

"Shit!" muttered the rabbit as he bent down to unlock the fennec from the chain gang. "You're useless to me. You!" he indicated to an older fox who was not chained to the rest, "Get this maggot-infested pelt to the clinic then give him a bag to help you pick up the trash around the camp. And you!" pointing his index digit to Nick, "You're going to complete your buddy's quota as well as yours today," he sneered. "I'm not going to miss my monthly bonus because of a stupid pred like you. Now, move out!" he yelled.

Muscles aching from the electric shock, Nick slowly picked himself up and made his way onto the truck. He inwardly chuckled at the performance Finnick had given but rued as to why he was always the one getting hurt in order to pull off their cons.

As soon as the camp nurse, a vixen who used to work in one of Zootopia's hospitals, wrapped up Finnick's ankle and cleared him, he accepted the trash bag and litter stick from the older fox and hobbled his way around the camp. What the others didn't know was that as he made his way into the motor pool and maintenance offices, he slowly and inconspicuously picked up various spare parts that he had hidden in plain sight which he then tucked into the garbage bag slung across his body. By the time the chain-gang had returned, Finnick had completed his task and surreptitiously hidden them in the small alcove where he kept his journal along with some of the other items Nick had acquired over the months from the outdoor gym and gardening shed.

Nick staggered in, body aching from having to haul twice the number of baskets filled with rocks from the quarry where they had been working. The chain-gang was mainly used as prison labor to do work that was either dangerous to prey or that the government officials felt were beneath prey dignity. Prisoners, composed mostly of predators, were used for backbreaking work like stone quarrying, clearing the brush along the major highways (where sometimes one of the prisoners would get hit by a speeding drunk driver), road and train track repairs, and on rare occasions, helping farmers harvest their produce.

Prison labor was accepted by the general prey populace as a means to 'reform the savage beasts' to the point that they were no longer seen as an oddity. The majority of prey took them for granted as they faded into the background, no longer giving them a second look.

As Nick collapsed on the cot, Finnick stealthily signaled they were on schedule for tonight. The small fox waited until 'Lights Out' was called and then began the process of assembling the item that would make or break their ability to escape later on. Nick quietly acknowledged the fennec's signal and closed his eyes to get some rest. Once they put their plans into motion, they would be on the run and sleep would be the least of their worries.


The rabbit on sentry duty was bored. He was literally falling asleep on his paws, trying to maintain a semblance of doing his job. The security surrounding the camp had so many fail-safes, it was almost a joke to be a sentry.

He tried to stay awake thinking about what he could do with one of the female foxes he had his eye on. She was a pretty young vixen who had recently been transferred to the camp. He was aware that several of the other bucks had their eye on her as well and he made plans to speak with them to see what kind of entertainment they could cook up with her, whether she was a willing participant or not.

He looked down from his post and noted that one of the delivery sloths had lazily parked the gasoline truck next to the fence near the sentry tower. He frowned at this possible breach in protocol. Although it was a remote possibility that a prisoner could use it to climb over the fence, they would not survive the deadly minefield outside of the camp. And even if they did, their collars would automatically explode if ever they strayed outside the safety radius of one hundred feet. He inwardly smiled at the thought. He had heard about the young cheetah who had been used as an example many years ago. The older rabbits had even mentioned the body had continued to run after the head had been blown off completely until it eventually collapsed. He chuckled as he would have given his hind paw to see that.

He put it out of his mind as quickly as the idea came to him. As long as the tower with its signal antenna was standing, the prisoners would not be able to escape. It would take a pretty big explosion to take down the sentry post and he was certain the explosives in the weapons room could only be accessed by a few trusted prey.

Suddenly the night sky was lit up by a single explosion from the minefield which then led to several more explosions until a whole chain reaction started. Unfortunately for the sentry rabbit, several went off near the parked gasoline truck which then exploded into a huge fireball destroying the tower and him in the process. It would take several weeks for the overseers to finally pick up all his remnants from the surrounding area.

Nick and Finnick stood hidden in the shadows of a nearby building, stupefied but pleasantly surprised at their handiwork. Finnick had managed to cobble together a vehicle that looked like a flatbed truck run by remote control. Finnick had snuck up to the perimeter fence where he used a stolen wire cutter to cut a hole in it and pointed the vehicle towards the buried mines. He then fled back to the cover of darkness before any of the sentries noticed him. Once he had joined Nick, he powered up the small vehicle and sent it into the direction of the mines. Once the power was turned on, the vehicle continued to move forward and Finnick simply steered it towards where he intended it to go. It was a very crude construct but it was built for the sole purpose of carrying some of the smaller weights on its bed that Nick had managed to acquire from the outdoor gym. Finnick directed the remote-controlled vehicle into the minefield where he deliberately set off a mine. The free weights that Nick had stolen ricocheted onto neighboring mines to set them off in order to simulate escapees who had tried to leave. They planned to sneak under one of the patrol trucks after overpowering one of the guards that had a collar key once their overseers sent out a patrol to investigate.

Nick and Finnick did not expect that a good two-thirds of the minefield would go up along with the tower and a large chunk of the fence. It appeared that some of the shrapnel along with the superheated metal from the exploded weights had managed to penetrate the gasoline truck causing it to explode.

They later realized that they had been blessed by extraordinary luck and by the sloppiness of the workers who had built the camp. The Robinsons had been very paranoid and had purchased more than the number of mines needed. The construction crew had ended up burying all of the mines very closely together as the plantation owners preferred to use the space for food rather than incendiaries. Plus, it would have been dangerous to store them above ground in case they accidentally went off.

As the general alarm sounded, chaos ruled the camp as the many rabbit overseers attempted to put out the fires caused by the explosions. The predator barracks were in no danger because the architects had placed these in the center of the camp to better monitor their charges.

From their hiding place, Nick and Finnick watched the panicked lagomorphs running about, furiously trying to control the situation.

In the corner of Nick's eye, he spotted a lone rabbit yelling directly into her phone with a key-shaped bulge - a bulge that looked suspiciously like a master key to their collars - in her tight jeans. With Finnick following behind, he quietly made his way over to her. With one of his arms, he grabbed her mid-waist, pinning the doe's arms to her side while he wrapped the other around the girl's neck, squeezing until she collapsed onto the ground. He was careful not to exert too much pressure to crush her throat; only enough to cut off her air supply.

Once they liberated the key from her pocket, they bound her using the zip ties she had on her and tore part of her shirt off in order to gag her. They quickly hid her in one of the unused sheds nearby and used the key to remove their collars. They quickly made their way to the burning motor pool building where the other rabbits were rushing to get the other trucks out before the whole place burnt to the ground.

In the mass confusion, Nick and Finnick managed to commandeer one of the trucks and drove off quietly into the night. It would be well into mid-morning before they and the truck were missed.