Hello everyone. This is proving to be quite popular, much to my pleasure as the author. I love hearing how much y'all enjoy this dalliance of my muse.

Of course, I do not own Zootopia, and can therefore make no claims to Zootopia or its characters. I only make claim to my own OC's included herein as needed. Though I think I could do more with it than Disney is at the moment. So many awesome ideas that they could use, and they're sitting on their asses.

I blame Bear678 for this.

Anyway, on with the show.

Wait…! Is this actually a new chapter?! Yes! Yes, it is! Enjoy! I have one more full chapter on hand and a chunk written, it is just an issue of time. Time to write, time to edit, time to get it posted. But I promise that neither this story, A Friendly Hustle, nor my original work, are being abandoned.


Wilde Cardz - Savage Territory - Chapter 22

Treetop - Three days after Nick found out he's going to be a father.

Nick woke with a smile on his face, a wag to his tail, and a complete lack of the despair that had plagued him for the past several months since he and Judy had been separated. Jumping down to the common area for breakfast, he couldn't manage to get the smile off his face or the wag from his tail.

The others joined him at his table and all regarded him, Fin finally chuckling. "So. What's got you so happy, Red? Haven't seen you this happy since Judy first agreed to date you."

Nick shrugged. "I got a good night's sleep. I guess multiple nights surrounded by her scent has really helped me out. That and, I don't know. I had a dream last night. Something has changed, but I know I'm going to find her soon. Karma willing, I just know it. There is still a long road ahead, but I just know it in my heart. Also, I can feel her again, right at the edge. Not enough to communicate, but she's there again, and that, I think, is what truly did it."

Fin nodded. "I would expect it would. Giving you a more tangible sense of her, even without her being close."

Nick nodded. "Ever since we first became in sync like that. The first time we shared a moment. She has always been there, at least right at the edge. If nothing else, that presence was there. Yet, after everything that happened, when we were separated, that sense of her was gone. But it's back, and with it back. Even without her next to me, she still is, and that has calmed my instincts."

Amy nodded with a grin. "That's great, Nick. Now. A question for you. We've discussed it with the Busston Rodentia and Treetop contingents. David. He is desperate to come along."

Nick pulled his lips into a tight line, ears laying to the side, then sighed as he looked over the mammals. "I know we had that initial freak out when I learned she was pregnant, but I think we can stand by all of our initial decisions. I know once we calmed down and realized we needed to wait a few days to get everything ready, that you decided to put the decision on me as the leader of this little expedition. That said, it's written all over all of your faces.

You want to say yes. It's dangerous out there, and we don't know what we are going to come across. Then again, how is that different then here? A tree could fall and take out part of the settlement. A savage could manage to climb one of the trees. There are no guarantees, especially not in the world that we find ourselves now in."

Looking up, Nick saw Herald with David approaching. Nick's eyes suddenly became slits, causing everyone to startle as a deep, savage growl erupted from his chest. "Fin, fire an energy blast at me now!"

Fin glared at Nick. "Say what?"

"No time! Now! As much as you can give it!" Fin, not knowing what was going on, but trusting Nick implicitly, summoned all the energy he had and fired it at Nick. Nick grabbed it from the air as he did before, fashioning it into an elongated, almost blade like shape as he leapt over the table toward Herald and David. "Herald! David! Drop!"

Seeing Nick charging them, they both fell to the ground in terror. Nick came to a stop just past them, Nick's blade of energy striking something, causing a blinding flash and then something to crash into the tree trunk. Nick still moving drove the energy blade into something, pinning it to the tree. A scream of agony from something unseen accompanying.

Nick's growl was still deep and loud. "Drop the, whatever it is, or I will kill you." Glancing over his shoulder. "Fin, charge up. There are at least three more."

Mike is shocked, jaw hanging open. "I… I can only see something there because of the energy blade. If there are more, I cannot see them."

The rest of the mammals cowering, those with powers bringing them to bare, scanning around in hopes of seeing the invisible enemy. A smaller deer in a strange suit appeared, moaning, as Nick's blade was pierced through their shoulder. "You don't understand. We're not your enemy!"

"Then why go after the boy?"

"He is important. He must be trained before he gains his powers, and he will."

Nick growled deeper. "Then I will be the one to train him. I, and my mate, if he is worthy of being trained. I don't know you, and don't care if you are from Von, or the former government. You came here in secret and tried to abduct my adopted son. Not something I take lightly, nor the rest of the mammals here." Speaking louder. "The rest of you. Reveal yourselves, or he dies and the rest of your lives are forfeit. I already have your scent, and I can, and will, share that with all those with a nose here."

A dozen mammals appeared, all wearing the same strange suit, a goat stepping forward. "There. Now let him down."

Nick looked around, his eyes still slitted, his growl rising. "Fin, Mike, Lizz… Secure them, and strip them of these suits." Pulling the blade from the deer's shoulder, he drives an elbow into the side of his head, knocking him out. Spinning and leaping with a kick off the tree that shattered the bark, he flies past several mammals. The blade changed shape into a club as he swung it, clearing hitting something that then hit the ground, the energy shifting again into a blade he pointed down, his free hand gripping something as he literally stood over David. "All of you will decloak this time, or I will start killing you." Looking at what he had in his paw that seemed to be clutching empty air, as his claws extended. "My claws can rend every material I have yet come across, including titanium armor plate. Do not test me. Sheep. Male. A nik in your right ear and scar across your nose, left to right, matching scar over your left eyebrow. I assume you took a slash from a blade."

A sheep, just as Nick described, appeared, his throat in Nick's grasp. "How… How can you see us? How can you touch us?"

"Don't know, don't care. I can, that is all you need to know." Nick turned his head to face another direction. "Do it now. I can see you, that should be clear by now." More mammals appeared, all prey. Nick then looks up suddenly, glancing at Fin, then up again. "Fin, ready a burst. Global. Five thirty by two. Some sort of aircraft." Looking at the goat. "Your move."

Giving a signal, the craft and several more mammals decloaked. "You should not be able to do that."

Fin chuckled. "As soon as Red ID'd the general direction, I was able to home in on the engine noise. It's quiet, but there."

Mike nodded, his lethal in paw the same as Lizz as she drew a bead on what appeared to be the air. "Yep, and now that I have your scent, and know you are there. I may not be able to see you, but I can still track and hear you." Mike nodding and leveling his weapon in a seemingly random direction, as if tracking something that became yet another mammal decloaking.

After about an hour, thirty mammals, all prey, are located hiding in various locations throughout the community, stripped of their equipment and placed in a holding area guarded by empowered. Most of them threw specisist epitaphs towards the predators and prey that were working with them. The aircraft was landed nearby and those onboard taken off. Once there was confidence that they had gotten all of them, Nick, Mike, and Lizz started doing interrogations. After nearly eight hours of working over various mammals taken captive, Lizz, Mike, and Nick, with the representatives of Busston, and Treetop's council sat down to discuss the situation and what had been learned.

Nick sat down with a sigh. "Ok. We're not getting anything out of them this way. I know at least a dozen of them from the investigations into the anti-interspecies groups. Some were arrests we made, others were members we had mammal hunts ongoing for. The rest were clearly members either at the time or recruited since then. They refuse to believe that the fact that they were unaffected was due to them having mixed blood.

If there is any good, none of them have abilities. The tech was probably something they scored from some government facility, or black ops site. Though those we have talked to do not seem to know where the tech actually came from. My money is on a black site, probably had a few mammals that worked there. That was the biggest issue before everything went south. They had members at all levels, and we were just never able to identify all of them. At least two of them have special combat training. They have been dealt with."

Herald frowned. "So what do we do? David would not have been the first, or likely the last to disappear. I'm sure this is not all of them. We've had other disappearances in the past, as I'm sure Busston has, as well as Otterdam."

Nick nodded. "That much I can assure you of. Haymarket has had a number of unexplained disappearances."

A large rat from Busston spoke up. "Eric Herric of Busston. I can confirm that we have had mammals disappear as well."

Fin nodded. "Yeah. Same with Otterdam."

Lizz shook her head. "As Nick said, Haymarket as well. All predators, as I'm sure with the rest of you." Getting nods. "So what now, Nick?"

Nick frowned. "Simple. I want the leader and one other. I will pick them. Then I will do what I have to, but I will get the information we need out of them."

One of the Treetop council frowned. "And how do you plan to do that?"

Nick looked up at the squirrel who was standing on the back of a large mammal chair. "Simple. I was Helketta. I specialized in information gathering, infiltration, and the like. I can be amongst them, and they will never see me. I can also extract information from any mammal I want. You can have anyone you wish observe, but it will be done in clear view of all of the prisoners. It is not a nice way to do it, and if they are strong, it could damage them. However, I think it is warranted, given the situation. We must know if the ones who have been taken are alive, and what they are doing to and with them. Depending on what we learn, we will make a plan from there."

Mike turned to Nick. "Would this technique happen to cause a mammal to be able to see nothing but you, hear nothing but you, and experience pain for lying to you and withholding information?"

Nick smirked. "It may. Never charged someone with anything I learned using the technique, but when you have a bomb threat and they know where the bombs are, or where a few are and who will know where the rest are… Bogo approved it, if that helps you any."

Lizz's eyes went wide. "Hold up. You were a rutting assassin? The information you got, that got that terrorist off, was using some sort of torture technique?"

Nick shrugged. "I don't really consider it torture. They only experience the pain they inflict upon themselves. Answer the questions truthfully, and they will actually feel fulfilled, even pleasure if they volunteer truthful information. What they cannot do is lie, unless they actually believe it to be the truth. Which is why I need at least two. I can play them off each other. If one says something they believe to be the truth, such as an underling, but the truth is not that and the leader knows this, the leader will experience pain if they do not correct the record."

A deep frown taking over Lizz's face. "What about that terrorist?"

Nick put on his patented smirk. "Simple. I can leave certain suggestions in their minds before releasing them. He went back to school, trade school, and was a very successful carpenter when last I checked on him, which was about a month before this all happened. He was dating a nice coyote and I think he was going to propose."

Lizz looked at Nick with absolute shock on her muzzle, ears back and tail straight out and poofed. "My gods. You can have that level of influence on a mammal?"

With a shrug and slight roll of his eyes. "Yeah. It is not something I do normally. It was a condition of Bogo letting me and carrots interrogate him in this way. He needed assurance that the guy wouldn't ever go back to what he was. All I did was point his mind in a few directions, then let his own mental processes do the rest of the work. It is subtle and doesn't change a mammal, it works on their psychology, planting ideas that they will chew on and either act on or not. But take a mammal away from such influences as that terrorist group, give him some new ideas planted deeper than the indoctrination they had already experienced, and the chance to think them over. You can get some real change."

Mike frowned just as deeply as Lizz. "Or you can make trained killers who don't know it."

Nick nodded. "Living time bombs. Yes, you can. I have no interest in doing such a thing. The closest I ever came was planting some ideas in the mind of a mob boss. Basically, I stoked their sense of morals. After about two months they couldn't stand themselves anymore and turned themself in."

Lizz hissed. "Razor was the most violent, morally bankrupt gangster, ever… You're telling me that you are the one that planted the ideas that made him start seeing other mammals as more than just meat in need of culling?"

Smirking wider. "Actually… Judy is the one that did that, I just set her up to do it. Used him as a training exercise."

Herald, Lizz, and Mike, all yelled at the same time. "YOU TAUGHT THIS TO JUDY!?"

Nick laughed, as did Fin. Fin spoke as Nick was laughing too hard. "Are you kidding. Judy was, or I suppose, is Cheth. They were teaching each other."

Amy looked at Fin and frowned. "Finny. You didn't tell me that part."

Fin shrugged. "Wasn't mine to tell, love. Please don't be mad."

Amy shook her head. "Not at all. It really shouldn't surprise me."

Nick managed to get himself under control, though still chuckling slightly. "Considering what you do know, no it shouldn't. There were no secrets between Judy and I. It was hard for us, and I mean very, very, hard, to keep secrets like presents or surprise dates from each other, and we knew that the other was keeping things from us. We also knew that it was never for a bad reason. So we trusted each other not to press, because there were no other secrets from each other."

Amy nodded. "That is what Judy said. Complained to me a few times that she couldn't keep secrets from you for long."

Nick nodded. "It's the truth, and it worked both ways. I tried so hard to keep the fact that I was going to propose from her. Yet, the day of, she knew the second we woke up. To her credit, she didn't say anything. At least the actual setup was a surprise to her, so her reaction to that was genuine."

The squirrel council member nodded. "That's fascinating, but I have heard much of that from Judy already. Honestly, I have to agree with Nick. We need to know how many they are, what happened to the mammals that they took. We need to know where they are, and what other technology they may have."

A rat, Eric Herric, from the Busston delegation spoke up. "I agree. If Nick is able to draw out the information we need, then we need to use the resource. I do want it overseen, and Mr. WildeHopps. I want your personal assurance that you will stop if you are instructed to, and that you will give explanations of what is happening."

Nick nodded with a sly smile. "Actually, explanations of what is happening, and going to happen, are part of the process. It does no good to apply it to someone if they don't know the rules of the game. So I have no problem with those conditions. Just don't interfere too much. They are going to experience some pain early on. They always test it, think they can withstand it. They can't, but they have to figure that out on their own. I can tell them they can't all you want me to, but they will still try it."

Another council member, a pot bellied pig, spoke up. "How many mammals know this technique?"

Nick shrugged. "Two that I know of."

"I see." Pulling a pistol, he fired it, hitting Nick square between the eyes and causing his head to rock back.

Nick brought his head forward again, reaching up and pulling the bullet that was flattened against his head off. "Seriously? Why do people keep shooting me in the head? I mean, really… What was even the point? If you succeeded, then what? The information would still get pulled from them by either Mike or Lizz."

Everyone looked at Nick in shock, save his own team. The pig was tackled by two other council members. The squirrel standing on his chest. "What the hell, Jacob? What were you thinking?"

"He's a member of the Helketta! He's an assassin! He'll kill us all!"

Lizz laughed. "If he wanted to do that, he would have just done it. If you hadn't noticed, he's bullet proof, amongst other things. If Nick wanted too, just as I expect is true of Judy, they could both quickly and easily establish their own little kingdoms. Placing themselves in power and there is little anyone, even other empowered, could do about it. You really didn't think this through."

Stepping over, Nick lifted the pig off the ground and locked eyes with him. "There is another way to pull the information out of a mammal. A new one I have learned since gaining all these abilities." Nick stared into the pigs eyes, his eyes going slitted again. After a few moments, he set the pig on his hooves, their eyes still locked. "Now, tell us why. Where do your loyalties lie?"

The pig blinked and spoke in a monotone voice. "I had to protect the cause. If you can draw the information out, then you cannot be allowed to do it. I am loyal to the cause."

Nick nodded slightly. "What is the cause?"

"We must continue the work of Dawn. She was the Dawn. She brought our cause into the light. She showed us the truth, that the preds cannot be trusted. If they can be turned so easily into mindless beasts, then they do not deserve to live."

Nick pulled his gaze away and took a slightly stumbling step back. "Ouch…" Sitting down heavily. "Oh mam… That took a lot."

The squirrel looked between Nick and the pig, who was holding his head and moaning. "What did you just do?"

Nick blinked and shook his head as if to clear it. "An extension of what Judy and I have. I dove into his mind and forced him to answer the questions. He really doesn't know much. Just how he makes his reports, which are due in two days. He also knows that the team we have captured have several days of abductions to complete. So they are not expected back, or to report for another four days. They use some sort of burst transmitter to report in text, that way they can't be listened in on. It is clearly covert government tech, ZIA, AIA, or the like.

So we have a little time to figure things out. However, there are other teams in other communities that are expecting them. If they don't show, there will be reports made. So we have a day to figure out what to do about the next community. Thankfully, that community is Otterdam. He doesn't know what is after Otterdam, because he doesn't need to know. He does know that they were moving around the city in one direction. So logically, since they hit the community that is at the exit we are going to need to use on the way out from here, before hitting Treetop. If we follow the direction of travel, that makes the second of the three remaining that they planned to hit, Haymarket. That means that the leader will know what that third one is, and can confirm that Haymarket is the second. they will also know where they are stashing the mammals they have already abducted. This gives us an opportunity. If a narrow one, to act."

The representatives from Busston, as well as the Treetop council all agreed, the pig being marched away to join the other prisoners. The squirrel nodded and stepped forward towards Nick. "Okay. How do we do this? Or rather, how do you do this?"

Nick frowned. "I need a few minutes to recover. Diving into another mammal's mind like that is not easy, or pleasant for either of us. Judy, being an exception, but we were always in sync and in love, so sharing like that was a happy and willing thing. Doing that with someone else, unless they willingly let me in, is… for lack of a better term, violent. It is not something I do lightly, but I could feel some of what he was saying on the surface, which is why I did it."

They nodded, Nick being brought a sandwich with meat and veggies to help him recharge. Once he had eaten and recollected himself, they made their way quickly to where the prisoners were being held. Nick walked right past the guard mammals and grabbed the goat who was the clear leader of the group.

Several tried to grab Nick and were easily batted away. Once they figured out they could not hurt the fox, they backed off. Dropping the goat, Nick poked him about a dozen times, causing the goat to gasp and end up in a kneeling position, leaning forwards on his front hooves. Poking him a few more times as he paced around, Nick smiled.

Speaking loudly, Nick glared at the mammals surrounding him. "Welcome to your final interrogation. You will notice that my voice, and the blood rushing through your ears, are the only things you can hear. That will change in a moment, but we'll get there. First, let me tell you a few things. Since I have not allowed you, you cannot speak. Until I allow you, you will not be able to. Know this. If someone touches you, it will hurt. A lot." Poking the goat in the neck. "I've just released your voice, but be careful what you say. Threats to me will result in pain."

The goat did his best growl. "Release us, pelt! Or you will suffer…." He then bleated in pain. "Ah! What?"

Nick chuckled and stood in front of him. "You should maybe pay a bit more attention to me. I quite literally control your fate at the moment." Turning slowly to address the other mammals watching and pointing at them. "Pay attention. A few more of you are going to get to enjoy this game, so listen to the rules carefully. I will not be repeating them. Make threats, and you will experience pain. If someone touches you, you will experience pain." Placing a finger pad against the goats ear, causing him to yell out. "There is an exception. I can also, being the one that put you in this state, provide you with pleasure." Whispering something in the goats ear and poking him at the base of his skull. Nick then ran his finger down the goats muzzle causing him to moan.

"Oh gods… What was that?"

Nick grinned. That was basically a small orgasm worth of pleasure." Poking the goat in the neck again. "Now, back to the rules. If you lie, you will experience pain. If you try to withhold the truth by not speaking, you will experience a burning across your body, the longer you hold out, the more painful that will become, starting from just a light itching, until it feels as if you are truly on fire. You will only get relief once you speak your truth. But here's the fun part. If I add another person to this little game, if they say something you know to be untrue, even if they believe it to be true. If you know it is not, it will be the same as if you were trying to withhold answering. Only setting the record straight will relieve the pain."

Walking about the goat a few times as he watched the rest of the prisoners, smirk firmly in place. "So… Let's start with a little test. Lie about your name when asked."

The goat bleated in obvious fear. "Why are you doing this?"

Nick grinned and stopped in front of him. "Oh! An honest question. We know this because it didn't hurt. I'll tell you. You mammals are part of the cause. You are trying to finish the work Bellwether started, is that not true?"

The goat laughed. "That's not true. We're trying to help, mammal kind." After a few seconds the goat started to cry, then called out in pain. "Gods! It hurts!"

Nick nodded and kneelled in front of him. "Then speak the truth. Answer the question, truthfully."

Almost screaming it, and then gasping in relief. "Yes! Okay! Yes! We are trying to complete Dawn's work! She brought the truth that predators are not free of their savage ways. It takes a simple drug to drive them back into nothing but mindless beasts!"

Nick nodded. "A drug that has identical effects on prey mammals. Did you know that? Did you know that it affects prey exactly the same, because it causes excruciating pain, while shutting down the higher brain functions?"

The goat laughed. "That's nonsense spread to try and tarnish Dawn's name."

Nick nodded with a smirk. "Well, you seem to believe that as true." The whole time he was watching and listening to the other prisoners. A grin coming across his muzzle as he locked onto a while tailed deer. Using his speed and strength, Nick grabbed the deer before he could move and dragged him back into the middle. "Seems we have our next contestant.

The deer screamed as Nick dragged him to the center. "No! Get your disgusting paws off me you savage."

After a few quick motions, Nick had the deer in the same state and position as the goat. Lifting and setting him so that the deer and goat were facing each other. A few additional pokes and Nick grinned. "There you are. Contestant number two. Welcome to the game." Stepping over to the goat, he poked him several times.

The goat gasped. "Sir? I don't understand."

The deer hissed. "Shut up you moron!"

Nick just grinned as the rest of the mammals shifted uncomfortably. "Now we're getting closer to the leader." Kneeling in front of the goat. "You are contestant number one. Do you understand?"

"I do."

"You understand what is going to happen if you tell a lie, right?"

"I do. I can't move."

"No, you can't, and you will not be able to until I release you." Turning he faced the deer. "Being second, you are contestant number two. Do you understand?"

"Rut you, pelt! I will take pleasure in killing you!" The deer then screamed in pain.

Nick shook his head, poking the deer who then gasped in relief. "What? Why was I in pain? I didn't lie, so you lied about the pain! See! The pelt cannot be trusted!"

Nick poked the deer in the neck, silencing him, then poked him again after a few moments. "I also said that if you threatened me, you would experience pain. So, no. I did not lie, you just failed to listen to the rules." Looking around to the rest of the prisoners. "So, unlike your boss here, as a few of you might still find yourselves in this position. Pay attention to the rules." Returning his attention back to the deer and goat. "Now then. Do you understand that the Nighthowler drug affects prey just the same as predators, contestant number two?"

"No, it doesn't. It doesn't affect prey at all." The deer then started screaming in agony.

Nick chuckled. "Oh, dear. Not only is that a lie, but you know it personally, don't you?"

"Yes! I have been dosed with it! Over a dozen times. It hurts so badly, and you remember all of it, but you have no control. It's like watching a movie from inside your own head."

Nick nodded. "And…"

"Yes! It affects prey the same as predators. It is a drug, and prey and predator brains are similar enough that the effects are the same!" The deer then gasped in relief. "My gods. It may effect prey the same as predators, but you are a demon to torture us like this."

"I did nothing to you. I did not cause your pain, you did, by lying. Again, you should have paid more attention to the rules. Now, contestant number one. Do you know the name of the next community you planned on abducting a mammal from?"

The goat did not initially respond, then started to groan, tears starting to fall. Finally gasping. "Yes! Oh gods, that hurt… It is called Otterdamn."

"Where were you going after that?"

"Some large community called Haymarket and Vole. We have several people in security. With the head of security, some fox, gone, we are planning on taking several of their powered mammals." Gasping in a moment of pleasure the goat blinked. "Why did I suddenly feel pleasure?"

Nick grinned. "Again, part of the rules, if you had paid attention. You volunteered information you knew was relevant to what I was asking. Therefore, you get pleasure as a reward, just like pain if you were to lie about it."

The goat blinked slowly. "So, if I just tell you everything I know, I don't feel pain, but will feel pleasure. Plus, if I say something that isn't actually true, like the Nighthowler drug thing, then, if the boss knows what I'm saying isn't true, he'll feel pain unless he corrects it?"

Nick nodded, poked the goat in the neck again, and then stroked his ear a few times causing the goat to give shuddering gasps. Then poking him again. "That's right. I only caused you pain directly the one time, as a demonstration to you, and the others, so they did not try and rescue you. Seeing that a simple touch causes pain, they, and I'm sure you, can only imagine the agony a bunch of their paws and hooves would cause you. Every other moment of pain you have experienced has been brought on by lies or withholding information."

Nick turned to the deer. "Why were you dosed, and then given the antidote so many times?"

The hissed, then groaned, finally gasping. "Okay! Okay! We were trying to duplicate what happened with that damn fox and traitor rabbit. Somehow they became immune, the government was trying to duplicate what happened to them. It never worked. No matter how many times we were dosed, pred or prey, it never changed. Even when done in the sequence of different versions that they were exposed to."

Nick leaned down with an evil grin, whispering in the deer's ear. "Yeah, there is a reason why you couldn't duplicate what happened with Judy and I. I'm that fox. It's because she and I had already trained with things far nastier than Nighthowler. You'd need to be trained by one of us, and we're a bit more discerning." Standing, Nick turned to the group. "So, who wants to be contestant number three? Or, do you just want to start telling us everything you know? If you want to start talking, let the wolf and tiger know, and they'll take you aside and start asking you the questions."

Turning back to the deer and goat, Nick stepped between them again. "Okay, this question is for contestant number one. "There are thirty three mammals here. How many do you have in Otterdamn, how many in Haymarket, what are their positions, and most importantly, their names if you know them."

Over the next several hours, Nick put another six mammals under his influence. They revealed the location of their base, that there were only another dozen or so mammals, and the suits that they had with them were all they had, along with one other aircraft.

Their base was on the edge of the city, right off the rail line, beneath what looked like an old abandoned rail yard. The predators they had taken were locked up in cells and were using the equipment there to experiment on them and try to figure out why some had abilities, others didn't, and how to get the virus to affect them. They had decided to start taking younger predators like David as they seemed to be naturally immune to the virus. They also had a holding area at the top of the fallen skyscraper where they had approximately twenty mammals that had already been abducted. Because of where it was, there was no way for the mammals placed there to escape, and they were all drugged to ensure they couldn't try.

To say that the residents of all three communities were angry would be an understatement. The other mammals in Treetop that were parts of the group were rounded up. The squirrel, Daryl Redwind, revealed that he did in fact have abilities. He could fly. He was given messages from Nick to deliver to Fru Fru at Busston, and Delgato in Otterdamn. Those two communities taken care of, Nick, Lizz, Mike, and a few select others suited up and took the cloaked aircraft to Haymarket. Landing it on one of the unattended roofs, Lizz and Mike led the others to start taking down the mammals that were part of the group, while Nick located his second in command.

Finding his second in command in his office, Nick smiled. Standing next to the cheetah, who clearly could not see him, though he did look up with a confused look and sniffed the air and spoke to himself. "Weird… I could swear I can smell Nick."

Deactivating the cloak of his confiscated suit, Nick chuckled. "Yes you can."

Jake took a startled step back with a yelp. "Nick?! What? How? When did you get back, and how did you do that?"

"Got back about 15 minutes ago. As to how, just a little piece of tech we took from some mammals who are the ones that have been abducting mammals from communities all over the city, including the disappearances here. Specifically predators. They're a bunch of Bellwether sycophants who got access to some government black site tech. They have plants in most communities. Lizz and Mike, along with some mammals from Treetop, are currently rounding them up. I sought you out so you know what is going on. We're going to need to get some more mammals together. Treetop is the community that Judy set up, much as I did this one."

Shaking his head, Jake laughed. "My gods. You just can't stay away."

Nick grinned. "Well, I didn't find Judy, but I know I'm only a few weeks behind her. She was headed for the burrow to check on her family. So I'm going to follow her. That said, there is another community that these specist scum were going to hit, so we are going to need mammals to help us nab the specist scum that have infiltrated it, and then make contact with them. I'm going to leave that to you, while we, Lizz, Mike, and I, along with a few others, take on their base of operations. You on board?"

Jake frowned. "Only if you finally come clean. How have you, a mated red fox, not curled up and died? For that matter. You are empowered, right?"

Nick chuckled. "Simple. I could never do that and disappoint Judy. Plus, I did not know if she was actually gone or not. I could not give in until I knew for certain. What kind of mate would I be if I gave in and she was still alive? I'd have left her without a mate in this world! If I were to do that, I would be undeserving of calling myself her mate, no?"

Jake nodded. "Okay. That makes sense. Still, I've known a number of foxes, and reds to boot. They've all said that even given your reasons, after being apart for so many months…"

Nick nodded. "Like I said. I could never disappoint Judy. If I were to find her body, or confirmation that she was dead, I can almost guarantee I wouldn't have lasted an hour. Though again, giving up like that would disappoint her, so even then I might hang on for a few days before I succumb. Anyway, Jake. Once we have these mammals rounded up, we're going to need to bring them before the council to determine what is going to happen with them. I've got representatives from Treetop, Busston, and Otterdam that are authorized to vote for their communities on what to do with the mammals in question. Treetop currently has the largest group of them at 45 mammals.

I don't know what the determination is going to be, and I have opted out of being in the vote. There are a lot of options, I know what I would vote to do to them, but it isn't my call."

"What would that be, if I might ask?"

Giving a very evil smirk. "I can craft a version of NightHowler that will make them no different than the savages that now roam the world. The difference being, they won't be affected by the virus, and can therefore be used as safe breeding stock."

Jake looked at Nick and frowned. "I am not sure how I feel about that."

Nick shrugged. "Hard to say. Oh, here comes your secretary. I'm going to vanish for a moment." Activating the suit.

A moment later, Jake's secretary, a black tailed deer doe walked in. "Sir! We have a problem! A whole bunch of mammals are just falling over, tranquilized, or simply disappearing."

Nick appeared behind her. "There is a reason for that, Jennifer. The question I have for you is this. Why? Why would you sell me, Jake, and this community out to a bunch of specist Bellwether fanatics? Before all this, you were dating a wolf, so I don't understand?"

Jumping almost a foot in the air and spinning around. "Nick?!" Seeing the suit he was wearing she collapsed into tears. "They have my Henri. Took him about two months ago. As long as I don't sell them out, they promised not to experiment on him." Looking at Nick with a begging look. "Please tell me you are going to do what you do and free him. Free all of them? They give me weekly videos proving that he is okay. I'll tell you anything, just promise me you will free him."

Nick stepped forward and put a paw on her shoulder, causing her to flinch. "I promise, I will free him and the others. But what convinced you? It had to be more than just taking him."

She nodded. "Right after they took him, I was approached. Henri was beaten badly in the video they showed me. I thought he was just another one of the disappeared. Then the next week, they showed me a second video. He was getting better, but they also showed me video of what they would do to him. They also promised that they would take me and put me in with him, before making him go savage. Then they would cure him, while he was eating me. They showed me that suit and how they can be completely unseen."

Nick looked at Jake. "Jake?"

Jake nodded. "Okay, Jen. You can tell us how you make contact? Who recruited and blackmailed you?"

"Council member Treecuss. He's my contact. He's the one that has the videos. I provide him with the secret security maps and patterns. Radio frequencies, and the inter-community security key."

Nick nodded. "That's what I suspected. Jake, switch to P1E45 key. Delgato in Otterdamn, along with Treetop and Busston will have already switched to that."

Jake nodded with a smirk. "Smart. The only reason I know the P1 keys is because of you, and we wouldn't switch to them unless needed, because only P1 officers know them. After the Meadowland fiasco that you and Judy broke up… Each precinct set up their own secure channels, but only precinct one officers got to know all the others."

Nick nodded. "Exactly. Assuming you haven't shared those keys with Jen?"

Jake laughed. "Absolutely not. I memorized those and then burned the paper. I knew you didn't give those out except for an emergency reason, and didn't feel safe putting them in my safe. Others, like Jen, had access to that. Like you taught me, I also didn't keep the actual schedule there."

Nick grinned. "Good mammal, Jake. Del is the security head in Otterdamn, as you know at this point. He also uses the same techniques."

Jake nodded with another laugh. "Yeah. We've chatted over a private channel. I didn't even know you could do that with ZPD radios. Anyway, what's the plan?"

"Well, Jen is going to have to stay here under your watch. We're going to need to identify a group of mammals, preferably empowered, who we will equip with more of these suits. We will hit the next community on their list, setting up repeaters between here and there. We'll isolate the mammals we know are working for the nutters, and then make contact with their leadership to explain the situation. We will then bring a delegation of them back here to assist in the judgment of these mammals. Then, we will hit their base. They only have a small contingent there, and one other aircraft. Because we managed to capture all of the ones in Treetop, there are only the local contacts in each community. There are four other communities that they hit prior to Treetop that will need to be cleaned out and contacted. We will secure that facility and the aircraft, and it will become a base of operations for our collection of communities. The aircraft will provide extra support, and allow a proper evaluation and mapping of the city.

Once things are closed up with all that. I will take my ever growing delegation and head towards Bunnyburrow and Judy. She is alive, Jake. Alive and pregnant with my kits. The only reason I'm here dealing with this is again, because she would never forgive me for looking the other way on something like this."

Jake nodded. "That I believe. I met her a few times over the years. She was a force to be reckoned with. Always amazed me that you managed to keep up with her to the point of actually making her your mate. Your reasons for hanging on make sense."

Nick nodded. "I know everyone seems surprised, but even if she were dead. I don't know if I could curl up and die as I would want to. I couldn't follow her into death knowing that doing so would disappoint her. Now I know she is carrying my kits! My gods mammal. It is again only that she would be disappointed in me that I have not taken off already."

Jake nodded, then his eyes went wide, as did Jennifer's. "Wait.. What? She's pregnant? With your kits?"

Grinning, Nick nodded. "She is, and it is taking a lot to focus on dealing with these mammals and to not grab the aircraft and fly straight to Bunnyborrow."

Over the next three hours, they located and arrested the mammals that were part of the Bellwether crazies, including three council members. Mammals were selected, outfitted and quickly trained to use the suits. They then flew to the next community. Doing a slow fly over, Nick and the others were all left slightly enraged and quickly returned to Haymarket.

Nick, Lizz, Mike, Fin, Amy, and several others rushed into the council chambers with photos and a report. Nick speaking. "This next community is not what we expected. It is a worse version of what this community was when I came upon it. When we flew over, we caught them completing an execution, by beheading." Gasps went around the chamber. "Most of the mammals are in chains and there are overseers, as you can see in the videos and photos. Whips, and when an elderly wolf fell and couldn't get up, they simply killed them.

It is my contention that we now need to set up a second operation. We cannot allow this to stand. It is clear now that this group is cooperating with the specist nutters. I say that because we were able to confirm that their ruling council is made up of only prey, and every member of the council, and their would be king, are on the list of mammals confirmed as being members of the nutters group. We need to split the current group and bring in mammals from Otterdam, Busston, and Treetop. We will back fill with other mammals, those that are split off will form an operation to take down this group, free their mammals, and help them set up a proper community as members of our group of communities. While the rest of us continue with the plan and take down these evil nutters base of operations."

After a very short debate, Nick's plan was agreed to. A quick flight to Otterdam was made to pick up more mammals for the now two operations. They then used the aircraft to deliver the force that would be going into the newly discovered community to free it inside its walls. Another group was delivered outside the walls they had built to create a distraction of a raider assault. Once those groups were in place, the aircraft then picked up the final group of forces and made its way quickly to the base of operations of the group they now knew called themselves, The Dawn Brigade."