[AN/

Hey guys! New addition to the story! Looks like Nick's patience is about to be put to the test.

Don't hesitate to comment, both on what I'm doing right and wrong, constructive criticisms are always helpful and thus appreciated!

Disclaimer: I own nothing and don't pretend to. This story is purely fan work, all content linked to Zootopia belongs to Disney and all content linked to Warhammer belongs to Games Workshop.

/AN]


Chapter fifteen : Inquisition versus opposition


.

"It's been two weeks, fox. Your little plan failed obviously. What now?"

The growling had no effect on said fox, who simply stared at his interlocutor with the perfect poker face. Nick was an inquisitor, a member of the most prestigious and powerful organization of the Imperium, trained to face and triumph over the vilest horrors of the galaxy. A short-tempered mortal was merely a sonorous nuisance, even if the lion was at least twice its height.

"Who said it failed?" he asked, keeping his eyes locked on chief Bushwill who was already snarling in anger. If it was because the plan had failed or due to the fox's calm and emotionless state, Nick couldn't tell and didn't care in the slightest.

"BECAUSE WE SAW IT!" the lion roared. "We watched every one of your little devices, and have managed to get an accurate count on your team by now. Nothing happened and no one went missing. It was all for naught and you know it." Nick didn't react, though he cringed internally at the slip-up.

He was no fool. Those guys were not complete morons. He had watched them operate, and for a primitive planet's force, they were good. Organized, courageous, swift to act. The buffalo had proven to be a wise and strong chief, highly competent and respected by all his mammals, the most important trait for a leader. They were just not prepared to face the truth of the imperium yet. He couldn't blame them.

Hearing that they had kept an eye on him and his mammals wasn't a surprised. He had relied on their curiosity and professionalism, as it made easier for him to keep them under surveillance. The admission that they had managed to keep a headcount on his team wasn't exactly a good news though. It meant that if he was to send some teams on secret missions, they would notice it. And if one of them was compromised…

"Two weeks is nothing for a criminal" he said casually, keeping his irritation in check. "Don't tell me you've never faced robbers taking their sweet time between two heists to lay low and wait for you to lower your guard."

The flash of anger in the lion's eyes was all he needed to know his words had hit their mark, not that he doubted it. After so many years in the service of the immortal Emperor, he had developed an impressive set of skills. His mentor had insisted on the importance of small talk and historical background, something the stubborn younger fox he was had difficulties understanding. But after witnessing first paw how powerful a tool it could be, he had changed his mind. And now it was proving effective once again.

His team, and mostly the brainless automated servitors, had hacked into the ZPD's archives and found the biggest and toughest cases they had cracked through their history. After meeting with the four chiefs atop the Grand Palm Hotel, they had focused their search on them and found interesting cases. For the impatient lion, it was a string of robberies that had nearly cost him his badge.

The three weasels used to wait between six months and up to two years between each heist, so that shop owners and cops would slowly resume their normal lives. For more than twenty years the triplets made fools of every officer working on the case, hitting without warning and leaving no trace behind. Taking the case was some kind of initiation for new recruits, their chiefs using it to teach them to thoroughly analyze a crime scene, interrogate witnesses, and most importantly, to be patient. A trait of character not known by a young fiery lion.

A year and a half after he was assigned the case, and for the first time, the ZPD knew where the weasels would hit, and indeed they caught them red pawed. Only several years later would they learn that the lion had threatened and even beaten some petty thieves and low-life criminals into keeping their ears open for any clue. The victims had been too scared to file a complaint of course, and the lion had been spared the humiliation of being fired as they had no solid proof. It became part of his personal legend as a ruthless law upholder.

.

Choosing this particular example was a good way for the inquisitor to use logic as an argument, as well as hinting at what he knew about them. And of course, chief Bushwill saw through it immediately, only adding to his anger. But before he could reply, he was interrupted by the sweet voice of his colleague.

"You said that it was supposed to scare him out of hiding, but it didn't. Does that mean that he's not afraid of you or your high-tech radars?" Nick focused his attention on the white ermine, who had asked a very interesting question, as it had echoed inside his own mind nearly every day since they had begun their setup. The snake's disinterest to his teams and the fake devices was unnerving, though he had to hide for the time being.

"It's a possibility, but very unlikely" he said, keeping his voice steady. "No sane mammal would feel secure knowing that their every move can be detected. I believe he feels safer hiding despite the new threat."

"Which is logic, as you can't tell who is who on a radar, no matter how sophisticated." The slightly snarky comment came from the golden wolf. True to his reputation, chief Leucoris was sitting on a large chair brought by the hotel's staff, several feet away from his colleagues, watching them interact from afar instead of staying in the middle. He was eyeing the fox with a pleased grin, trying to rile him up, which failed of course.

"Mammals have habits" the fox replied easily. "It is easy to find patterns in their trips, much more now that they keep themselves locked inside their home as much as possible. We may not know who we are watching, but it will be easy to find suspicious behaviors. I've already explained that when we first met." The wolf simply shrugged and looked away, removing himself from the conversation for the time being.

Nick watched him feign losing interest in the topic, but saw the flick of his ears, a tell that he was still as focused as the others. Nick was losing patience. He was used to meeting opposition on planets unaware of the Imperium, but usually those trying were either navel-gazing aristocrats or glory seekers, all too stupid to really interfere with his missions. These mammals however, were proving much wiser than expected.

"And it will take time to find those patterns" Mustela pressed on, her voice still soft and curious. "I thought you were done waiting?"

The accusation behind the words was not lost on the inquisitor, who was regretting letting them in on his plans. And when Bogo spoke, he made his decision.

"And with the crisis the city is facing, unusual behavior is to be expected, as mammals can't go on with their routine. Is that really all you have to offer?"

Nick watched them one by one. The smug and pleased smile on the lion's face, the harsh look of the buffalo, the piercing eyes of the ermine, and the fake laziness of the wolf, all leagued against him, all testing his defenses, their oral assault relentless. He had only two choices now. The first was to reveal everything, something he clearly wanted to avoid at all cost. That being said…

A look to the side had a couple soldiers leave the roof and make sure no one would be nearby, aware of what was about to happen. After nearly a minute of total silence, Nick closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Opening his mind to the Warp, he let the power flow within him. The change was felt by all four officers who took defensive stances, their eyes opening wide as saucers.

"Listen to me, the four of you." The voice floated in the air, reverberating on invisible walls that kept it from reaching too far. Four pair of ears turned towards the fox, while eyes turned from colored to balls of pure white. Drool started dripping on the corner of their mouth, but none took notice of this. "The plan is sound, flawless, and you will stick to it. No more questioning. No more doubts. You will obey and do your part as promised."

Just as quickly, the power bled from the vulpine and dissipated. Their irises back to their usual color, the four chiefs exchanged glances, nodding at each other.

"Okay" Bogo said, his throat a bit drier than he remembered, "we'll wait a bit more. But if this doesn't work, we're done. Understood?" Nick frowned, feigning getting angry at the buffalo's tone, but nodded nonetheless. Huffing, the buffalo turned and walked away, followed by his colleagues. As soon as they were out of earshot, Nick gave his orders.

"Keep a close eye on them, the spell won't last long. Report as soon as they start questioning me again. And make sure the rabbit is ready. I've wasted enough time."

.

"He's not wrong you know." Bogo didn't answer the inquiry, his focus on the road ahead of him. The small ermine on the seat behind him kept quiet too, lost in her thoughts. The only sound that acknowledged the golden wolf's words was the snort coming from the nervous lion.

"Bullshit" he said, though his tone was not as assured as it could, or should, have been.

"Why? Two weeks is not much if you think about it. Do you often crack cases that rapidly?" Leucoris didn't wait for an answer, as he already had it. "This case is by far the worst we've all been working on. It would be hypocritical to criticize him after two weeks while we didn't fare any better. Do I need to remind you that we still don't have any clue as to what's really happening? That we've found nothing to work on on the crime scenes, and-"

"We get it, Remus." Chief Mustela was looking at him with a scolding look, not really proud of their lack of progress. Hearing it thrown to her face like this wasn't something she enjoyed, though there was no reproach in her colleague's voice. He was simply stating facts, which was far from making her feel better.

"Just saying" he replied in a shrug. An uneasy silence followed, one that wasn't meant to last long.

"So, does this meeting change something?" Remus pressed on. "You know we'll have to talk about it, so why not now?"

"Nothing changed. Nothing changes." Bogo wasn't a mammal prone to anger outburst, but he had a grave voice, mostly due to his species, and everything he said could be seen as a disapproving grunt. So when he was indeed pissed, his voice turned even colder and harsher, which was exactly the case. Chief Mustela leaned forward between the front seats to catch his attention.

"What do you mean Adrian?"

"Exactly what I said. Did something change on the case between now and two weeks ago? New clues? Leads?" Three heads shook 'no's. "New reasons to be wary of the fox and his crew?" Another series of negative answers. "Then we're in the very same setting we were two weeks ago, in the same car, after a meeting with the same mammal on the same hotel roof. There's no reason for us to change anything, so we're sticking to the plan, and we don't let them out of our field of vision."

The rest of the trip was spent in silence in the front seats, while in the back the ermine and the golden wolf were exchanging opinions and theories on the so-called radars. None of them believed that the devices were that simple, but they knew nothing of the technology and could only surmise that they had another hidden use, one that the inquisitor had kept secret.

After dropping the two to their respective precincts, Bogo was alone with Jerry Bushwill, the lion shifting in his seat regularly.

"Something wrong, Jerry?" The lion shrugged.

"I don't know Adrian. Something feels… off. I can't say what, but I've been feeling strange since we left the hotel."

"You still don't trust him?"

"Of course not, but it's not that. He acted exactly like we expected. He gave us nothing, except that the devices had been setup properly and now covered the whole city, though we already knew that, and I'm sure he knew we knew. It's not what he said or how he said it. It's more like there should have been more. More said, or done, I don't know, but the whole meeting was just..." He paused for a while, trying to find the right words. "Too easy."

Bogo raised a brow, and tried to understand what his colleague was trying to convey. He mentally went through the meeting. They had been checked for weapons, led to the roof, been told about the devices being ready, about finding abnormal patterns in the behavior of the city inhabitants, agreed, and left. Sure it had been quick, but there wasn't much more to say. Like his colleagues had confirmed, there had been little progress the past two weeks. And it was obvious the fox wasn't the kind of mammals to talk simply for the sake of talking.

"Sorry, Jerry, I don't see your point there." The lion shook his head.

"It's okay. Probably just tired is all. Can you drive me home? I know I shouldn't, but I need a quick nap." Bogo said nothing. This was clearly out of place for the always angry feline to lay down and rest, but it could be a good thing if he started to recognize the need to sometimes relax to be ready when needed. Two uneventful drives later, the buffalo was back in his office, reading through his officer's reports.

.

It had taken him a tremendous effort of will to keep his composure inside the car. But as soon as Bushwill entered his house, he fell on all four, panting. His head was throbbing, the blood hammering in his veins in his temples. His vision was blurry and his breathing labored. Images kept flashing behind his still opened eyes, creating a blurred mix between his living room and the hotel rooftop. The fox was standing in front of him, and was replaced by his couch when he blinked. Voices filled his ears, the fox's, then his colleague's, then his own. They were arguing with each other, the words mingling and losing any kind of significance.

Forcing his body to obey, he crawled to the kitchen and hauled himself up to the sink. Reaching for the tap, he poured a large amount of water in his cupped paw and splashed his face. The cold shocked him out of his trance, replacing his hallucinations by dark spots in the corner of his vision. A second and a third splash finally managed to make him calmer. His heart slowed to a regular rhythm, his ears stopped ringing and his vision was back to what it was used to.

Still, his guts kept twitching inside his stomach, the feeling of something missing refusing to leave him. He opened a cabinet and took a glass, which he filled to the brim with cold water, and gulped it down. It helped, but only so much. After a second glass, he made his way to the couch and fell gracelessly on it, his head in the pillows.

After twenty minutes of wriggling in discomfort, he gave us and sat, hiding his face in his paws, his elbows resting on his knees. He was lucky to have sent his wife out of town to protect her, because if she had seen him in this state, he was sure she would have dragged him with her.

Feeling something pull on his mane, he turned his head and observed his living room. Nothing had changed since he left it this morning. He was alone, the silence unbroken except for his slightly heavy breathing. Still, his mane was pulled again, a ghostly touch that was both terrifying and inviting. Losing the battle with his will, he rose and made his way to the basement. Behind the closet and the secret wall the stone circle was waiting, calling him.

As always, he removed his shirt and laid on his back, letting the cold cement wash him of his pent-up stress. Only this time he didn't work. The feel of his guts being twisted only got worse, and the visions were back. The fox appeared behind his closed eyelids, smiling sweetly but with a hint of madness in his emeralds. Suddenly, he fell on the ground, laughing as his body started to change.

His fur fell, leaving his red skin exposed. Strange symbols carved themselves on it and drew blood, as the laughs changed to maniacal cackles. The vulpine then stared directly at him, his green eyes replaced by two burning charcoals. "Obey!" he shouted. "Obey! Obey!" Again and again, the devil fox screamed his order.

Bushwill could only tremble as the sound reached directly into is soul, his strength sapped from the inside by the indomitable will of the demented furless mammal. And just as he was about to kneel inside his own mind, he felt someone catch him by the arm. There was nothing around him, nor inside the basement nor deep in his psyche, but he could feel a paw around his biceps, forcing him to stay up. "Never kneel…" The whisper entered his ear and made its way throughout his body, rekindling his inner flame. Another whispered reached his ear, though this time he recognized his own voice.

"No…" it said. The fox appeared out of nowhere, still laughing, pointing a clawed digit at him. "You can't resist. Obey!"

"No." this time he felt more conviction in his voice, a reborn and all too familiar anger building inside. "Goooooood" the air carried to him, the presence still unknown and unfelt, but here nonetheless.

"Yes, dog! YOU WILL OBEY!"

"NO!" With a mighty roar, he stood up, facing the now fearful furless creature. "I won't obey you, pelt! I am the chief! I give orders!"

"Kill him" the voice asked softly, like a lover murmuring sweet words. A new wave of power coursed through his body and the lion stood taller than ever. So tall that the fox was reduced to the size of an insect. Raising his foot high, he brought it down on the tiny form and crushed it to a pulp. The feeling of flesh and bones under his pad was exhilarating and he repeated the action again and again, eager to feel more.

"Embrace your anger and set it free." The voice was now all around and inside him, and Bushwill bathed in it. "Let me help you. I can give you more. So much more. Just say the word and a whole new world would open its doors to you."

A predatory smile on his lips, revealing fangs of the purest white, the lion spoke the one word.

"Yes."

Chief Bushwill opened his eyes as relief flooded his body, before being replaced by searing pain. His jaw opened on a silent scream, as he started to wriggle on the floor under the violent assault. His head twitched violently, like something was trying to make its way out from the inside. Reality wasn't so far as the lion felt his neck being pierced and something emerge from his body. The pain was blinding him now, his vision replaced by a white veil, but didn't stop as another spike sprouted, and another, and another.

He couldn't see them, but he could feel them. Eight metal spikes soared from all around his neck, followed by a thick plaque of brass that left him with the impression of being beheaded. Blood was spurting by liters from the wounds, the life force leaving him at a higher rate that should be possible for any leaving mammal.

In a flash, the pain faded. Taking long and deep breaths, Bushwill opened his eyes and stared at the bland concrete ceiling above his head. A deep sense of achievement flooded his body, and he smiled. Slowly, still groggy by whatever vision he had, the images too fuzzy for his brain to process them, he rose to his feet. The ground was as immaculate as it had been. Raising his paw, he brushed his mane and was about to reach his neck, when he decided against it.

That was when he heard it. "You will obey." The command was crystal clear now. The fox had spoken it, and the four of them had indeed obeyed. But how was that possible? In the car, none of them had mentioned anything about this order. Did that pelt really managed to force his will upon them all? Some kind of hypnosis maybe?

Growling, he exited his secret lair and after carefully hiding it, made his way towards his living room. About to grab his car key, he remembered having left it at the precinct, and Bogo dropping him. With a shrug, he opened the door and stepped outside. The air felt good on his face, he could walk to work. The exercise would be beneficial after all.

And when he reaches his precinct, he would start thinking of a way to take down that red pelt. Painfully.

.

OoOoOoOoO

.

"I don't want to waste another day." The grey bunny was sighing in frustration, doing her best to hide what she really feeling. It was the tenth day she was about to spend sitting and waiting for the inquisitor to do whatever he was doing with her aura. He seemed to have found a way to remain closer than her that on their first meeting. During their first session in the abandoned subway station, he had tried his best to conjure his powers and get through the invisible barrier surrounding her. The next session had shown no difference, both in his methods and in his results.

At the sixth session, he had started trying something else. What, she didn't know, as all her questions had been answered by loud silence, but he had found himself able to get closer and closer to her without suffering nose bleed or huge pain. He even forced himself to make small talk with her and hide his discomfort. Yesterday he had managed to touch her for the first time. It had been very quick, barely a poke on her shoulder with one finger, but enough to send a thrill down her spine.

He was a dangerous mammal. Rather ill-tempered, ruthless, and a powerful psycher. She hadn't realized it until the previous day, but he scared her. Something inside her had kept that fact hidden. Maybe it was her anger and previous misconceptions of his hatred towards her. Maybe she unconsciously felt safe because she knew he couldn't get close due to her being a blank. But when this barrier fell and he put his finger on her, the fear came back in full force, and it took a huge effort not to turn on her heels and sprint away as far as she could.

The fact that they had forced her to rely on her instincts, especially her hunted prey instincts, during her training sessions did not help. Fully conscious that she was letting a predator, the very same predator that had hunted, killed and fed on her ancestors millennia ago, get in killing reach, the session had taken a whole new meaning to her.

She didn't know if he was conscious of it or not. It could actually be the goal of all of this, making her instincts reach new levels. Maybe he knew she wasn't afraid of him, and had decided to change that. To remind her of who he was, what she had agreed to, and what could happen if she tried to change her mind. She still remembered how harshly he had reacted when she had called Bogo her boss by reflex during the uprising of the savage mammals.

Or he could be trying to accomplish something completely unrelated to her, some kind of control on himself and his powers. Since they had started, it had been the most logical explanation she had come up with. Maybe he was trying to get stronger by overpowering her condition, which could help him later if they stumbled upon a rogue blank with murderous intentions. Or it was just a personal challenge to overcome any obstacle in his way, and she was just one of many.

No matter the reason behind his behavior, the way she saw him had greatly changed in the past two weeks. And now, as she was about to start a new session, she couldn't stop the fear that clutched at her guts at the idea of being touched again. Maybe for a longer time. Maybe a whole paw on her shoulder. Long enough for him to unsheathe his claws and kill her. It was stupid, she knew it. He had told her himself, and Liz had confirmed it, that he had spent too much time training her to simply get rid of her now. But logic didn't always win over feelings.

"Stop shaking and get over here." Judy locked eyes with the piercing emeralds and barely repressed a shudder. He knows, she thought. She looked at the crumbled building to force her eyes away, afraid that he might see too much in them. The fire had destroyed nearly everything of the already derelict building. The crates, the windows, the giant double door, everything had been melted or reduced to ashes. The roof had crumbled for the most part too, taking down two walls with it.

They hadn't come back to their first hideout since they had burnt it to the ground, and she wondered if there was a reason behind the choice. When Nick reached the police cordon surrounding the ruins, forbidding access to the public, he used one of the traffic cones holding the cordon to jump over it fluidly and turned to face her, frowning.

"Lost your hearing? I said get in there." Dreading their time alone, the bunny obeyed and made her way towards the building, opting to crouch under the cordon. She found the fox turning his back to her, his head raised towards the sky, paws crossed behind his back.

"Find someplace to sit. We're already late." Grumbling, Judy did as ordered, trying to find a flat chunk of concrete. She found one that looked fine enough, close to a huge rock that she could lay against. She began clearing it of ashes and glass splinters when a paw landed on her shoulder, making her jump and scream in surprise. Her ankle hit the concrete and she yelped again, this time in pain.

Turning quickly, she readied her fist and was ready to put her training to good use, but the fox had already taken several steps back. His face was emotionless as usual, not a trace of amusement or guilt at her reaction. Judy sit and started slowly massaging her ankle, staring daggers at him, though he didn't seem to care.

As he walked closer again, she tensed and readied himself.

"Don't come closer or I swear I'll kick your butt, boss!" She had all but spit the last word, using the respectful word with which Wolfard referred to him as an insult.

"You'll do no such thing. Just stay still." Used to being obeyed blindly, the inquisitor came within reach, and could do nothing to prevent his nose from meeting a grey-furred fist. His head snapped to the side, his teeth clacking. Nick needed several seconds to reboot his brain. Not because he was seeing stars or anything. The punch lacked strength, as it hadn't been thrown with the intention of hurting, but because someone in his team had dared hit him. Something that had never happened before.

This couldn't go unpunished.

.

Faster that she thought he would, his arm shot forward, catching her by the throat and lifting her until her feet dangled above the ground.

"NEVER. DARE. TOUCH. ME. AGAIN." Each word was spoken through gritted teeth. After two seconds that felt like an eternity, he gently lowered her to the ground and quickly walked away, leaving her sphere of influence. Both mammals felt the weakness in their knees and fell on their rump.

Judy was staring at the fox's back, his shoulders raising and falling rapidly as he did his best to catch his breath. If she wasn't sure of what to feel about him, she now knew that her newfound fear had been legitimate. Her heart was hammering inside her chest to the point it hurt, and she found herself totally opened to her surroundings. The slight breeze in the air, the sounds of his breathing, even the distance between them, all seemed clearer than ever.

"Never hit me again." The voice was hoarse. Clearly it had taken a toll on him to do what he had done. A part of her felt great at knowing he was hurting, because he clearly deserved it.

"Never touch me again" she said, mirroring his sentence. She heard him snort.

"I'm your boss. If I want to slap you, you turn the other cheek. If I want to scratch you behind your ears, you raise them. And if I want to bury my claws inside your throat, you close your eyes and show me your neck. Is that clear?" Judy shivered at the last sentence, as he had been so close to doing just that moments ago.

"And if I refuse?" She knew it was the wrong thing to say when she saw him tense. He took a deep breath, rose, and walked until he was standing above her.

"You pledged, rabbit. You can't refuse. And I'm getting sick of having to remind it to you. You belong to the Emperor, you are one of my tools, may you like it or not. Understood?" Judy was no fool. She knew she couldn't argue. But as she was about to nod, she saw something inside his eyes. A flicker of doubt, of fear maybe, something she didn't expect to see, and it gave her curiosity something to feed upon.

"What if I don't?" The words were out before she could stop her mouth from articulating them. And there it was again, the spark in his emeralds. Though it was quickly replaced by anger, as his lips curved to reveal fangs.

"There is only one punishment for treason." Another shiver found its way down her spine, and Judy found herself crawling back until she felt cold concrete behind her, preventing her from escaping. She raised both her paws in front of her to protect herself, and assured him that she would obey. He seemed satisfied with her answer.

"Get up. We're leaving. This was too much in too little time." And he was gone, leaving a trembling bunny behind him. She was quick to obey though, clearly not wanting another outburst. She met him outside, just as the first shuttle to pick him up, the second not far away, ready to carry her. She waited for it to land and climbed into it, still shaken from the recent events.

.

The shuttles carried them both to the top of the climate wall, where the main transport ship was waiting. What made her pause was the fox waiting atop the open ramp. He motioned for her to come, so she did unwillingly. He led her to her room and had her sit, closing the door behind him. She thought he was about to test her and put his threat to execution, so she closed her eyes and waited.

After a dozen seconds of stillness and no sound, she dared open her eyes and saw him stare at her. His eyes were a bit less cold than usual, and his shoulders a bit more slumped.

"You need to understand something, Judy." This got her to full attention, ears springing over her head. It was the first time he had used her first name, and it both thrilled and scared her. She nodded slowly, never breaking eye contact.

"Do you know the name Francis Esteban?" he asked her. She shook her head. "Lionel Fangsuit?" Another shake. "Philip Fryton?" A third shake. He sighed and turned his head, looking in front of him but his gaze unfocused. "You know my team hacked into the ZPD, right?" From the corner of his eyes he saw her nod. "They were guardsmammals. Officers, I mean. Good officers, with promising careers. They all died within their first year on the field. Do you know what they had in common?"

This time he didn't need to look at her. If she didn't know the names, then she couldn't know their story. He only paused to let her think.

"One went alone inside a building to catch a perp, and never got out. One didn't clear the room before lowering his guard, and had both his partner and himself shot in the back. The last one participated in a raid he wasn't supposed to be part of, and got caught in the firefight. Do you see what they had in common now?" He looked at her and saw the shame and regret written all over her face. Her ears had dropped behind her back, and she was hugging her knees close to her chest.

"They ignored the basic guidelines of the ZPD and went against what they had been taught and told" she said in a low voice. "They disobeyed." The fox nodded and spoke in a similarly low voice.

"Now imagine what could happen if they worked for me instead, with the stakes you know of." She didn't reply, tears gathering in her eyes as the horrible images that had plagued her after the riots came flashing back.

"Orders keep mammals alive. And if they don't, then the blame is on the leader. This is what I'm living with every day. It's not an easy job, and definitely not a pleasant one, but someone has to do it, and I chose to. I just need to know if you can understand it. I don't need a repeat of-" He cut himself, and she looked at him curiously. He shook his head and opened the door, nearly shouting over his shoulder.

"Never mind. Just obey, rabbit." His voice was back to being harsh and cold, though Judy feel it was forced. He had been about to reveal something. Something personal, or important for him. As she made herself the promise to stop arguing him, she also decided that she would learn the truth behind his words. And she knew exactly who to go to to get her answers.

.


.

[AN/

Looks like Nick isn't a complete douchebag after all, and might have his reasons for behaving like this. Anyone doubted it? And will I reveal them? Hummm…

Quick little note: Next time, we'll see what Eophis has been up to back in BunnyBurrow the past three weeks, and how he is preparing his comeback. You know what this means, right?

When 2021 starts, things will get ugly!

/AN]