Nick fidgeted nervously in his seat in the Bullpen; for all he teased Judy about her need to loosen up once in a while, he never expected her to actually come in late. Officer McHorn was also conspicuously absent, but that was Trunkaby's problem, not his. He heard the door swing open and turned, but only saw Francine come through playing that Pokemam Mobile game on her phone that was all the rage five years ago. He was about to pull out his own phone and text Judy when Lieutenant Higgins marched in and called the room to attention.
Chief Bogo came in a moment later to the usual fanfare. "Alright, settle down." The buffalo's eyes tracked to Judy's normal place. Nick saw an odd mix of apprehension and determination in the Chief's gaze, like someone about to do an Open Mic night and just knew someone would heckle them.
"As some of you will have undoubtedly noticed, Officer Hopps is not with us at the moment. This is because she has volunteered to assist in the prototyping of a new piece of kit the city has," Bogo hesitated before bulling through, "mandated we should field, in order to ensure effective partnering between Megafauna officers and the new cadre of small mammals passing through the ZPA. Officer McHorn?"
Nick let out a strangled squeak and could only look on in shock as Officer McHorn strode into the Bullpen... with Officer Hopps perched in a tactical pocket of his Riot Vest. The rhino turned and faced the assembly and stood at parade rest; a stance that Hopps mimicked like some absurd action figurine.
The Chief panned his eyes over the room. "This is the new Small Officer Field Transport Carrier." Bogo's eyes locked onto Nick's, and the buffalo's head tipped down ever so slightly; a clear challenge to Nick.
Thanks in no small part to Officer Hopps, Nick was no longer afraid to take up a challenge.
"Please tell me that name was chosen by a committee and you had no say in it?" Nick noticed Judy's ears flag slightly in confusion while the Chief's shoulders sagged in frustration. Nick glanced at the other officers as they looked at him in various flavors of confusion. "Oh come on! Taking a mammal from a species normally maligned for being inoffensive, then forcing her to ride around in something called a SOFT Carrier?" He noticed as nearly all the other officers' ears flagged, though oddly both Frank and Francine looked...tense.
He refocused on the Chief. "You know the social media circus will have a field day with the ZPD's new 'Pocket Serve-&-Protectors'."
Nick felt himself lifted up by his collar as Francine stood from her chair. "Not 'Pocket Protectors', Nick; 'Pocket Mammals'! Snark-Lax, Go!"
He was promptly deposited on the table. His confusion was mirrored by Judy as Frank grinned maddly and planted her on the table in front of him. "Bun-Cop, I choose you!"
Round one: Fight!
Bun-Cop and Snark-Lax are confused
"Uh, Nick? What the hay is going on?"
Nick's eyes flicked between Frank and Francine. "Apparently our co-workers have gone slightly mad. Probably best if we play along until the Chief shakes off his fugue."
"Um, okay?" Judy's eyes went wide as her ears flopped down.
Bun-Cop uses 'Bunny Eyes'
Nick leveled a deadpan look at his friend and partner and stuck his hands in his pocket.
Snark-Lax blocks with 'Middle-aged Cynicism'; 'Bunny Eyes' is not very effective
"Seriously Hopps? Gonna try to wear me down with those cute little bunny eyes?"
Snark-Lax uses 'The C-Word'
Judy's ears popped up with a crack! "What did you just call me?!"
Bun-Cop becomes enraged
"Uhhh..." Nick's own ears pinned to his skull as he saw all the officers in the room sidle into the shadow of larger officers. "I didn't call you, I mean," He pulled his hands from his pockets and put them up as a feeble ward.
Snark-Lax begins to regret life choices
Judy's teeth chirred as her pupils contracted to pinpoints. "I'll show you cute you little...grrAAHH!"
Bun-Cop uses 'Police Brutality'; it's super effective!
The sight of his two smallest officers scrapping on a table during the morning brief finally snapped Bofo out of the paralysis caused by his two largest officers playing out a children's game in front of him. "Alright, enough!" every officer froze in place.
Boss-Mam used 'Done-with-your-$#!7!'; it's super effective! Boss-Mam wins!
Once everyone was back in their seats-even the two disheveled smalls-he huffed a sigh and took off his glasses. "To answer your earlier question Officer Wilde; no, I was not privy to the committee that came up with this idea or it's name. And until we start getting the social-media backlash you so succinctly predicted, they will continue to rely on their focus groups.
"Until then, we still have work. Hopps and McHorn, Wilde and Trunkaby: you'll be on the Hoof-beat here in City Central for," Bogo grit his teeth, "public visibility."
Francine's ears flapped slightly. "So do I head down to George and get one of these SOFT things or..." She trailed off at the Chief's almost pained look.
"There was an issue with procurement, so Officer McHorn has our only Carrier until Thursday. You'll just need to improvise."
The family of Gemsbok stared slack jawed at Frank McHorn and Francine Trunkaby. He wrote a citation to the husband about a now long forgotten verbal altercation with an equally gobsmacked hyena pack, while Judy lectured them both about public decorum from her SOFT Carrier. The small herd/pack of children were looking back and forth between the two megafauna, with particular attention given to the utterly despondent fox stuffed in between Francine's blouse and her Anti-Goring vest.
He shifted slightly to keep from sinking beneath her lapels. "You have a calf. Couldn't you have broken out the calf-carrier for this?"
Francine gave a rumbling chuckle that made Nick feel like he was driving over Rumble-Strips. "My youngest was twice as tall and three times as heavy as you, Officer. You'd disappear in a calf-carrier, and do you really want that?"
Nick was about to reply when a particularly winsome Hyena girl looked between him and the "Foxy-Loxy" Walla-Beannie in her paw, before stuffing it down her own shirt, looking back with a beaming smile on her muzzle.
"Yes. Absolutely. One-hundred percent."