Alyssa, and Gabe had been striding across one of the rusted metal walkways with the deteriorating Jack in tow and Nick had been standing beside the exit waiting for Finnick when the wall near him exploded.
Nick hollered and threw himself away from the blast, hitting the floor and throwing his arms over his head as shattered brick rained down on his back and dust enveloped his body. Dimly he heard Alyssa and Gabe shouting his name from up above, harsh clanging sounds like a hammer striking a metal barrel, and a familiar voice screaming in terror.
Nick lifted his head, blinking in the dust as it settled on the cold floor of the almost empty Arctic House. He turned his head and found himself face to face with Koslov's contorted license plate.
Somehow Koslov's limo had tracked him down and decided to try and do him in by ramming him through a brick wall. The limo had hit the wall at a diagonal angle, the crushed hood and the two right hand doors making it inside before the long white vehicle got lodged in the makeshift archway. The interior of the cracked windshield was soaked in so much blood he couldn't see who or what was inside.
"What the fuck?" Nick turned to see Finnick standing right behind him.
Nick heard the clanging sound again. It was coming from outside. He heard more screaming from inside the car, and his blood ran cold.
"Benji?!" Finnick muttered in shock.
Nick ran to the limo and grabbed at the door handle, but the force of the crash had practically welded the door shut. He grabbed the bottom of the window and pulled himself up.
Benjamin and Koslov were the only mammals inside, and they were hunched up on the floor beneath the windows. To his absolute horror, Nick saw at least three bullets lodged in the opposite windows overlooking the street outside.
"Ben!" Nick yelled.
Benjamin looked up from beneath his arms. His eyes would have widened if they weren't already as big as dinner plates. "Nick?!"
"You!" Koslov snarled. He started to get up, but another bullet striking the armored door make him duck his head back down. Benjamin shrieked in terror and curled into a shaking ball. Nick could feel the limo shake with each impact. Judging by the force, they were the large fifty caliber bullets of a sniper rifle.
He felt Finnick grab his tail and drag him back down. "Careful, Nick!"
"What the hell is going on?" Alyssa yelled from up above.
"Sniper!" Nick yelled back as he and Finnick both pulled at the door handle. "Get down here and help me! Benji's in there!"
Gabe holstered his handgun. "Stay with him, Alyssa." He vaulted over the railing, broke his fall on one of the ancient machines that dotted the wide concrete floor and raced over to the limo just as more bullets hit the side of the car still sitting in the street, making Benjamin scream again.
In his panic-stricken mind, Benjamin's only confused thought was that he was somehow not dead. He could feel the bullets striking the door he was pressing his back against, like an intruder pounding at the door to break into his home. Even as he clamped his paws over his ears he screamed each time a bullet hit, having quickly realized that most if not all of those bullets were meant for him. The ZPD had told him that he was the only witness to Assistant Mayor Woolton's death. They'd warned him that he might be in danger. Now Woolton's killers had come back to silence him.
"Stay down!" Someone who wasn't Nick yelled outside. "The limousine is armored! Those bullets can punch through the windows but they can't get through the doors!" Benjamin clung to the inside of the door, half-believing him. Koslov was lying flat on his stomach, bleeding from his nose as he rummaged for his phone.
"We've got to get him out of there." That same voice said. Benjamin heard a rattling sound coming from the opposite door.
"It's no good! The door's stuck tight!" Finnick growled. Finnick? He was here too?
He heard an angry voice in the limo. Koslov was calling for help on his cell phone. Benjamin didn't know what good his men could do.
Someone rapped on the door. "Benji, can you hear me? It's Nick!" In his panic, Benjamin nodded instead of answering. "Did you hear what Gabe said? The bullets can't get through the armor plating! You're going to okay!"
Benjamin felt and heard his breathing begin to go under control as he listened to the fox outside. Nick had lied to him before, but he would never lie about this. He heard the rattling sound again and saw the dark tips of the fox's ears as he yanked at the door.
"Shit, shit shit!" He cursed and gave up. "We'd need Supermouse to get him out!"
Benjamin felt tears spring to his eyes. This was looking more hopeless by the second.
"Then for now we'll take out the sniper!" Alyssa could see nick was startled when he heard the vixen speak directly into his ear. He must have forgotten about the com-link he was still wearing. "There're windows up here where I can spot the sniper so long as he keeps focused on the limo! Someone will need to get up here and keep an eye on Jack! Is the package in that limo?"
Nick turned back to the ruined vehicle. "Benji! Did someone call and ask you to bring a package here!" There was another bang, and Alyssa could faintly hear the feline yell again inside the limo. "Okay, we've really got to get in there!" Nick growled. "Fin, go keep an eye on the rabbit."
"Fucking hell, fine!" Finnick took off for the nearby staircase. Alyssa lay Jack down on the walkway, whispered to him to hold on and ran across to one of the smudged rectangular windows. She reached the window, pulled out her stubby high tech telescope and started searching. Through the device's night vision mode all the buildings were a dozen shades of green against a dim greenish black background. She scanned the eerie skyline, searching for a dark figure and the telltale muzzle flash of a sniper rifle. She was beginning to suspect a setup. The shooter had no way of knowing that Koslov would be coming this way, but if they had caught wind of the task Cheryl had asked Benjamin to do… Alyssa gritted her teeth. For all she knew, Cheryl could be behind the whole thing. Hell, she might even be the one shooting. As Alyssa searched for the shooter with growing trepidation, she heard Nick speak through the com-link.
" You're absolutely certain the bullets can't get through the armored metal?"
"Absolutely." Gabe said. Alyssa heard a strange creaking sound but didn't lower the telescope. "Try the driver's door while I try and pry this open."
" Damn it! This one's stuck, too!"
Alyssa hearing the banging sound of another series of large bullets striking the limo, almost the same time she saw the muzzle flash she'd been waiting for. Bingo! "Guys, I've located the shooter! He's situated on the rooftop of Corona Offices two blocks from here! The one with all the scaffolding on one side! Try and keep him distracted while I maneuver around and catch that bastard!"
"You got it." Gabe said.
"Hold up, there's some more cars coming…" Alyssa had spotted the six cars when she lowered the telescope while still looking out the window. Her heart sank when the cars opened and spilled out polar bears with guns. "Shit, it's Koslov's guys! They're here!"
Down below, Gabe cursed and pulled out his shotgun. "Nick, go hide up top with Finnick! I'll take care of them!"
There was a loud thumping sound coming from their side of the limo. Koslov was trying to kick open the warped door to no avail while keeping himself beneath the windows.
Suddenly the air came alive with gunfire. Alyssa cursed and flung herself away from the window as it shattered, the ceiling above becoming peppered with bullet holes. There was a bang as one of Koslov's goons kicked the door open, and Gabe grabbed the back of Nick's collar.
"Stay down!" He flung Nick several feet at the same time he opened fire. The fox slid to a stop behind one of the old machines. Alyssa pulled out her own weapon as she regained her senses and looked down upon the battle that ensued.
Gabe had told him about his profession, but Nick had never imagined that the feline was that… good. Gabe had killed two bears with two blasts on his way to cover behind the protruding hood of the limo. They hit the ground in bloody heaps. Six more bears barged into the building, two of them spotting the mammals on the walkway and unloading on them with machine guns. Alyssa fired back, making them retreat to the cover of another old machine. Then she grabbed the motionless Jack and raced to the cover of the big stone box that was the manager's office, followed closely by Finnick.
"Do you think Mr. Big's making his big move?" Alyssa asked through the com-link.
"How the fricking hell should I know?!" Gabe shouted back as he and the bears continued to fiercely exchange bullets. He received a slight graze in his arm just after dropping three more bears. A couple more bears entered and started trying to open the limo as their boss roared at them to get him out and kill the sniper.
As Nick cowered behind his own machine, he spotted the stairs.
But how to get there without getting pumped full of lead?
"Guys?" Nick asked, having no idea how to operate his com-link.
"What, Nick? We're a bit busy right now!" Alyssa asked tersely. Nick could barely see her through the gaps in the walkway, returning fire through the office door.
"Do you think you guys can cover me while I get up the stairs?"
" No promises! When I say run, you run!"
"Okay!" Nick poised himself to run, and waited. Dimly, he heard the distant sound of car engines and wondered how many more goons they would have to deal with. Thank God Alyssa had disabled the shocker in his TAME collar otherwise he'd probably be in cardiac arrest right now. Five of the seven bears firing guns stopped to reload.
Nick took off like a shot, reaching the stairs in two seconds flat. His heart pounded with each step, especially when he heard the thundering footfalls of a polar bear spotting the fox and taking off after him.
"Get back here, fox!" The bear was bellowing. "You set this up, didn't you?!"
"Hell no!" Nick shouted back, but he may as well have been talking to an out of control semi. He reached the top of the stairs just as he felt the bear's claws tighten around his body like a vice.
The fox could barely breathe as the bear lifted him up to eye level. "You'll pay for this, fox!"
"Will that be before or after I pay the last of my loan?" Nick immediately cursed his silver tongue, and so did the bear as he began to squeeze.
Blood spurted from the bear's arm, and Nick didn't have time to figure out if it was the bullet of a friend or a foe before the bear roared in pain and flung the fox straight at a window.
By some miracle the window was unlatched, so instead of smashing through and getting cut to shreds the force of Nick's body hitting the panel caused it to swing open. Nick's flailing fingers caught the edge of the panel, saving him from a two storey drop to the frozen ground beneath.
"Nick! No!" Alyssa screamed through the com-link.
"I'm okay!" Nick yelled. "More or less!"
"Shit, there's too many of them!" He heard Gabe yell. "I'm calling the cavalry!"
" Whatever you're doing, do it fast! Agent Savage is getting worse!"
Nick couldn't reach the window frame so he could pull himself back inside, but there was a convenient draining pipe right next to the window. On the other paw, he would have to swing to reach it. Nick tried to ignore the lactic acid building up in his shoulders as swung his legs back and forth. The worst he'd probably get at this height was a broken leg, he'd tried to tell himself. His arms were screaming by the time he gained the courage to let go.
He grabbed the drainpipe in the split-second his body hit the cold metal, his fingers getting a painful purchase on the pipe clips. His feet dangled for a moment before he pressed them against the white brick. He'd made it!
He looked down to see the street below clear; all the action must be happening in the street around the corner. His turned his gaze upward to the sun insignia of Corona Offices in the near distance.
"Gabe, how's Benji doing?"
" He's still under fire. That sniper's persistent, I'll give him that."
"You're certain the bullets can't get through?"
"Dead certain. Hang on, I just got a reply from Mr. Big. Huh. Turns out they already got wind of a lot of heat coming from the Arctic House and they're already on their way." He suddenly cursed, and Alyssa heard another blast from his shotgun.
"You called Mr. Fucking Big?!" Finnick hollered.
" If you have a better idea, say it without shouting! If you can!"
The com-link fell silent.
Nick slid down the drainpipe, nearly slipping twice before reaching solid ground. He spotted a thin steel pipe resting beside an old dumpster and picked it up.
"How soon can Big's boys get here?" Nick asked.
"ETA two minutes." Gabe said. "They know not to shoot at any of you, so don't shoot them and you should be okay. I'll do what I can to protect Ben."
Nick gripped the pipe and ducked into an alley. "Do it. I'm going after that sniper."
Alyssa didn't like the idea of calling Mr. Big any more than the big-eared fox with a napoleon complex did, and she really didn't like what Nick had just said.
"You're going after the sniper?! Are you nuts?!"
"I made outside and no-one saw me. I can do this." Nick said.
"Nick, you don't know who you're up against!"
" And you do?"
"No! That why I'm saying this is bad idea!"
" In case you haven't noticed, I'm full of bad ideas!"
"Nick! Nick?!" When Nick didn't answer, Alyssa swore and started for the single window of the manager's office.
She stopped dead when a terrible gasping sound filled her ears. She spun round to see Jack convulsing on the floor as a scared Finnick tried to keep his head from hitting anything hard.
"Oh no." She whispered, turned tail and raced back to Jack's side. She knew enough about seizures to know that restraining him was a bad idea. Instead she turned to the com-link while keeping her gun trained on the office door. So far no other bears had gotten up here since she'd put down the bear crushing Nick. "Gabe, Savage is getting worse! Please tell me you've got your mitts on the antidote!"
" Negative. Ben! Does the package have a syringe, a vial anything like that? He said yes!"
Alyssa relaxed slightly, only for a nasty thought to hit her. "How're we going to get it out if we can't get in?"
" Worry more about Mr. Big's boys! They're here!"
Suddenly there was more shouting, more gunfire, more holes peppering the walls and ceiling. Alyssa ducked low over Jack's trembling body, certain that HQ would have her hide for this. She was supposed to be capturing Slothfeld, not starting a fucking gang war.
For that was what was happening right now. The orange flash of an explosion outside drew her to the window. She looked out and saw what looked like a free-for-all with bullets and blood. Several black cars had pulled into the street where the limo had crashed, forming a barrier that Mr. Big's cavalry were currently using to lay down hellfire on their mortal enemies as they ran for cover behind their own cars and the building. Alyssa heard a poof, a whistle, and then an almighty kaboom as one of Koslov's empty white cars exploded in a fireball.
"THEY'RE SHITTING GRENADES?!" Alyssa shrieked. "WHY DIDN'T YOU MENTION THEY'D BE SHITTING GRENADES?!"
"HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW?" Gabe roared.
Behind the black barrier, a wolf raised a bulky grenade launcher just as one of Koslov's men got him with a bullet. He pulled the trigger as he fell, the grenade going wide and hitting the side of the building. "HOLY SHIT!" Alyssa screamed as the explosion knocked her off her feet and enveloped her in smoke and rubble. Her ears were ringing, but she could still hear everything happening inside and out. When the dust cleared, she saw a massive hole had taken out the wall of the big room outside and part of the office walls. She checked on her companions. Finnick was shaken, and Jack was unharmed but still convulsing. She dragged them both away from the hole.
Through the com-link she heard Honey's voice. "Alyssa Patricia Skyefall, what the everlasting flying fuck is going on?! The police scanner just reported a massive gunfight in your area!"
"Long story!" Alyssa yelled. "Wait, the police know about this?"
" Yes, and they're sending the wrath of god your way! You've got four minutes to get out of there!"
Alyssa could hear Jack's unconscious struggle for life behind the lingering ringing. "Not without the antidote! Jack won't make it without it!"
" Fucking stubborn-ass foxes! Where is the antidote!"
"It's in Koslov's limo, but he's got the entire thing reinforced! The doors are locked, we can't get in! Honey, can you help us?"
" Is there a way to break the windows from the inside?"
" Gabe showed me the receipts he stole. Koslov had his limo fitted with one-way bullet resistant glass. The outside layer is brittle glass and the inside layer is polycarbonate. If you can shoot the inside layer first, you might be able to make a hole big enough to retrieve the antidote."
Alyssa had no doubt that Koslov carried a gun at all times. "That's brilliant, Honey, thank you!"
" Thank me when you get back here!"
Alyssa took a peek out the window overlooking the rest of the Arctic House and saw that Gabe had discarded his now empty shotgun. He was now going all out against the polar bears with his kurkris and pistol, taking them out one by one while two of Mr. Big's men covered him their own machine guns. Just as he'd promised Nick he was staying close to the limo, making sure neither Koslov's nor Big's guys got near Benjamin. She waited until he landed back on the floor amongst two fresh bodies before speaking. "Gabe, did you get all that?"
" Yeah. Does Ben have a gun?"
"Unlikely, but Koslov will. See if you can convince him to break the window for us, and I'll cover you from up here. Finnick can keep an eye on Savage."
"Great. By the way, that bastard's still sniping at the car. Not even Starlight was this obstinate. Hold up!" Gabe spun round and flung a kukri at the skull of a bear who had tried to charge him from the left. When no other threats immediately attacked, Gabe took a moment to shove another mag into his pistol. "Okay, I'll see what I can do before the heat picks back up. Koslov isn't going anywhere, boys! Get out and finish off the rest of those bastards!" Alyssa realized he'd been talking to the mammal who had been covering him. They took off out the other door they came in from, leaving Gabe alone with the limo.
Alyssa ran back to Jack's side. He was still convulsing, but also still breathing. "Hang in there, Jack." She urged him.
Suddenly two shots rang out. She ran back to the window. There was a fist-sized hole in the car window Gabe was crouched beneath. "Gabe? What happened?"
" I goaded him into shooting at me, but I think he's decided to save the rest of his bullets. Ben, give me the box! Hurry!"
Alyssa saw Benjamin crawl to the window, flinching as more bullets struck the side of the limo still outside. It wasn't just sniper fire anymore. Alyssa dreaded the moment a grenade hit the limo; she had no idea how much more the armor plating could take. With bravery she had never expected of the feline, he got up on his knees and shoved what looked like a metal syringe through one of the holes. Gabe took the syringe and ducked back beneath the window before Koslov decided to fire at him again. "Good kid! Stay down and we'll get you out soon!"
Alyssa felt a rush of hope. "Finnick, stay with him. Gabe, I'm coming down. Don't try to throw the needle, it's too risky!"
She was almost out the office when Honey called her again. "Time's up! Here they come!"
Through the crumbling hole in the building, Alyssa heard the piercing sound of police sirens.
When Bogo had radioed Hopps to chew her ass for leaving the newly discovered crime scene on Founder's Mountain, he'd been forced to cut it short when dispatch reported that the tracker in Benjamin Clawhauser's collar had been activated, meaning either something had damaged the collar or Benjamin had removed it and tried to run.
Bogo, McHorn and Higgins followed the tracking signal in Benjamin's collar into the industrial part of Tundratown, brought their squad car to a screeching halt and stared in horror at the orange glow emanating from the next block.
The street ahead of them had become a warzone. On the end of the street closest to them a variety of predators were firing off rapid-fire bullets and sizzling grenades. On the other, unseen end of the street, Koslov's men were firing back with everything they had. The two officers backed the car down the previous street, unwilling to get within a hundred feet of the carnage without at least five armored trucks backing them up.
This was a nightmare come true. The gang war they'd been dreading for years had begun. Even worse, according to the tracking signal, Benjamin was somewhere in all that chaos.
A smoking fireball raised up beyond the black car barrier as another grenade detonated. "My God." McHorn said softly. Then he spoke a small prayer when they heard the sirens of approaching backup. He didn't know how long it would take for T.U.S.K. to reassemble and get here, but until then it would be up to the regular officers to secure the area. Bogo couldn't remember the last time he'd been happy to have T.U.S.K. here, but then again this was their forte. All the three officers could do for now was report on exactly what was going on so both backup and T.U.S.K. could be prepared.
It occurred to Bogo that Hopps may not know better. He'd better call her radio and find out where the hell she was. "Officer Hopps, this is Captain Bogo! Where are you?"
" Heading down Tundratown, Frozone Street, sir! I heard what's happening!"
That was a mere two blocks from here. "Hopps, stay away! That's an order!"
" That's not where I'm going, sir! I have a positive ID on Nicholas Wilde and I'm currently in pursuit! I'm on foot, I don't think he knows I'm following him!"
Bogo couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Where is he now?"
"He's breaking into Corona Offices right now. I'll call back once I've apprehended him."
"You do that, Hopps! Good luck!"
Bogo dropped the radio and felt a rush as he watched the armored vans and squad cars race past him.
Nick had been forced to smash the glass of the entrance doors to Corona Offices to get inside, and hoped the sniper was high enough not to hear it.
"Alyssa, can you still see the sniper? Is he still shooting?" He asked through the com-link as he carefully stepped past the broken glass into the building. The rooms were grey and completely bare, giving no indication of their intended purpose.
" I'm a bit busy right now, Nick! You'd better hope he's still occupied!"
"What's happening back there?"
" Mr. Big's boys and the ZPD's shown up and now all hell has broken loose! The gangsters are starting to retreat back into the Artic House! Nick, it's fucking chaos here!"
Nick could hear all kinds of gunfire through the com-link, and it absolutely terrified him. "Is Benji okay?"
" For now! I don't know how much more that car can take!"
"I'm entering the building now! I'm gonna try to ambush him from behind. You're certain he's on the roof?"
"That's where I saw him. I'll patch Honey through. She might be able to find you the best route. Holy shit!" He heard her firing her pistol.
Then he heard Honey's voice. "Nick, I've found the plans for Corona Offices. The power's out, so you'll have to take the stairs. They're right across the hall. After that go right up to the floor beneath the roof."
Nick took the steps two at a time until he reached the third floor, upon which he got winded enough to reduce it to one. By the time he reached the top of the stairwell at the eighth floor, he was panting. "Honey, I'm at the top."
" Okay. Keep your voice down. There's another stairwell down the hall that'll take you to the roof. I'd say you're out of your little red mind if this guy wasn't trying to kill Benji."
" I'm serious, Nick. Be careful."
Nick was stopped from answering when he caught the scent of rabbit.
"End of the road, Wilde." Judy Hopps spoke. Nick was sure his stomach was going to drop out. Jesus Christ, not now! "Drop the pipe and put your paws in the air. Slowly."
Nick turned around to see Judy standing behind him at the top of the steps, dart gun aimed at his chest. There was anger and triumph in her bright purple eyes.
"Carrots. Hopps. You don't understand."
"You're right. I don't understand. What're you up to, Wilde?" Judy asked coldly, her arms unwavering.
"There's a sniper on the roof, and he's trying to kill my friend. You have to let me stop him!"
Judy's eyebrows arched further as she doubted him. "A sniper?"
"He's the one who made Koslov's limo crash. Hopps, I'm begging you to believe me. He's going to kill Ben if I don't stop him."
Judy's eyes widened slightly when he mentioned Benjamin. She twitched the barrel of the gun to the rail beside the stairs. "Put your paws on the rail." Nick obeyed and felt cold steel close around his wrists as the rabbit cuffed him in place. He glared at Hopps as she stepped back. "If there is a sniper up there, I'm going to stop him. You can just sit tight and stop causing trouble." She picked up her radio. "Sir, I've apprehended Wilde. He insists that there is a sniper on the roof targeting Clawhauser. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and check it out." She listened to her superior's response. "Understood. I'm going into radio silence, sir. Good luck over there."
She raised her dart gun once more before disappearing through the door.
Nick supposed he should be thankful that she was at least taking no chances that he was lying this time. He just hoped that she was up to the task of stopping the sniper as he pulled out a hairclip and starting picking at the lock.
"Nick, it's Gabe." Came the familiar, exhausted voice from the com-link. "The sniper fire's stopped. I think he's given up. He might be heading your way, so you've got to be careful."
Judy could see very little of the dark hallway she stepped into. She switched on her flashlight as she crept forward, checking each door as she went. There were only two doors to check, and two empty rooms before the hall opened into a bigger square room. As she swept the room, she noticed three things; the ominous fiery glow of the riot two blocks away, the distant sound of gunfire and explosions reaching her ears, and the long open black case at the foot of the stairwell. Judy shone her flashlight on the case as she approached, and saw the tell-tale depressions shaped like weapon parts.
Specifically the weapon parts of a sniper rifle.
She heard footsteps from above. Someone was coming down the stairwell. She backed away and turned her flashlight off, but it was too late. The footsteps stopped as the mammal above sensed her presence. She aimed her dart gun up, waiting for him to either attack or try to run.
Instead something small and blue came tumbling down the steps.
The world turned white in an instant at the same time a massive bang hit her ears. She was disorientated for a few seconds before she sensed someone rushing at her. She literally dodged a bullet and fired back with her dart, but the shot went wide as the figure came closer. On instinct she swung her flashlight, which hit something fleshy and caused a handgun to fall to the floor. She caught a glimpse of a gloved black hoof before the assailant plowed into her. The dart gun fell from her paw as they fell. They landed hard on the floor, and Judy saw his face for the first time; it was a ram with a striking resemblance to the late Woolton, except for the nose that looked like it had been broken at least once in his lifetime. The ram raised the butt of his sniper rifle to bash her brains in, only to be sent flying back with a kick. A radio fell from his jacket pocket and skidded across the floor. Judy scrambled to her feet and pulled out her baton. She ran up to the ram and swung down with all her might. The ram raised up the rifle at the last second, blocking the blow before sweeping her legs out from under her. She hit the floor and got the wind knocked out of her lungs. The ram appeared above her and aimed the rifle at her face. Judy rolled aside and heard a dull phoof as the silenced rifle fired, the caliber tearing a crater in the floor where her head had been. There was a dry click, then a curse from the ram. That must have been his last round. The ram tossed the rifle aside and came after her. Judy reached for her baton, only to feel a hoof grab her ankle and drag her out of arm's reach of the weapon. She spun on her back as the ram dropped down and straddled her.
He pulled out a knife and raised it high. Judy caught his wrists as he thrust down. They struggled, Judy's muscles aching from the exertion. There was nothing but cold-blooded, murderous intent in the ram's rectangular pupils. The tip of the gleaming knife inched closer to Judy's throat.
Then Nick showed up out of nowhere and started pulling at the ram's shoulders.
With most of the pressure eased Judy managed to inch his left wrist within biting distance and chomped down with her buckteeth. The ram roared and dropped the knife, which landed sideways on Judy's chest. She seized the opportunity to grab the knife and lash out, driving the ram off of her body. Nick ended up beneath the ram as they fell on the floor. Judy stood up, and then heard a strange, distorted voice. It took a moment for her to realize it was coming from the radio the ram had dropped.
" Mark II, what's happening? Is he dead yet? Answer me, Mark II!"
"Not now, Boss!" The ram shouted as he punched Nick over and over.
Judy retrieved her baton, charged at the ram and kicked him off. Then she pressed the baton to his chest, pinning him to the floor.
"Now tell me! What was that all about, huh?" She shouted. "Tell me, 'Mark II'!"
Mark II got an arm free and punched her. Judy saw flashing lights as she tumbled off, and the ram leapt up with her baton in his grasp. Nick ran at him, only to be knocked off his feet when Mark II threw the baton at his legs. With both mammals stunned, he grabbed the sniper rifle, picked up the case and ran.
Back at the Arctic House, it was pandemonium. With the unexpected arrival of the ZPD, several of Mr. Big's boys had been taken out before they could react, rapidly evening the score between them and Koslov's boys. The gangsters had recovered quickly, and were now using everything they had to hold back the police and each other. With the introduction of T.U.S.K.'s gargantuan gattling dart guns Alyssa could barely hear herself think. Her ears had started ringing at some point. She lay low beside Finnick and Jack, only maintaining her composure because her mind was working on making sense of the chaos, and Jack had stopped shaking. It was apparent what the intentions were on all sides. Koslov's men were trying to get to the limo so they could evacuate their boss, only to be held at bay by Mr. Big's boys. Mr. Big's boys were trying to get to the limo so they could finish off their boss's main rival, only to be held at bay by Koslov's men. The ZPD and T.U.S.K. were trying to pick off both sides, but were being held at bay by sheer firepower. The outcome of the fight would depend entirely on whoever ran out of bullets first.
When mammals from the first two factions took the fight back inside the Arctic House, Alyssa had lost sight of Gabe. When she called through the com-link, he didn't answer. Worse, Jack was having another seizure. She was beginning to think the worst when Gabe came barging in through the manager's office door, syringe in paw.
"What took you so long?!" She shouted.
Gabe looked beat up. He was covered in blood and dirt and was clearly exhausted, but he wasted no time dropping to his knees beside Jack and holding out the syringe. "I'll hold him. You give the shot."
"Isn't restraining him a bad idea?" Finnick asked. Alyssa was a little impressed that he hadn't become a quivering wreck yet in light of everything that was going on around him. Darts shot through the hole at that moment and sank into the ceiling above.
"We don't have a choice!" Alyssa snapped as she accepted the syringe. "Hold his head!"
Finnick held Jack's head while Gabe used his superior size to restrain the rest of the rabbit's body. Alyssa decided his thigh would be the best place. She removed the cap, decided after a second's hesitation to place her trust in Cheryl, and stuck the syringe into Jack's flesh. She pressed the plunger all the way down.
She removed the syringe, and Finnick and Gabe released the rabbit. For a time, nobody moved. Gunfire rattled all around them. Outside, another car exploded.
"Did it work?" Gabe asked.
"We'll find out in a minute or two." Alyssa said. "In the meantime, we need to get out of here. D'you think our van's still in one piece?"
"I doubt it. It's right in the middle of the street, which by the way, is officially on fire." Gabe said. "And it's not just escaping we need to worry about. Your buddy and that package are still in the limo."
"Guys, the rabbit's stopped shaking." Finnick said.
Alyssa heard Nick's voice at that moment. "Guys? Guys, are you there?"
"We're here, Nick. Did you find the sniper?"
" Yeah, but I ran into Hopps again and the bastard got away. I managed to get away while she was stunned, though. I locked the door on my way out. That should slow her down for a few minutes."
Alyssa rubbed her chin. "Where are you now?"
" I've just left Corona Offices and I'm lying low in an alley about a block from here. Is Benji okay?"
"I think so. I had to leave him to get the antidote to Savage." Gabe said.
"Guys, I think his breathing's getting better." Finnick said louder.
"Shit! There's gotta be something we can do!" Nick shouted.
"Hold on, I'm going to scout the area." Alyssa crawled to the hole and looked through her telescope. The street truly had gone to hell. There must have been a gas leak that had caught fire or the thugs had been using Molotov cocktails, for the cars of both barriers were completely aflame. Alyssa suspected the gangsters had intentionally started the inferno to keep T.U.S.K. from closing in. She could see the part of the limo still outside, the doors completely riddled with large bullet holes. There were gangsters still on the road in between both flaming barriers, wreaking havoc on each other while hiding behind whatever cover they could find. Just as she'd suspected, they were keeping each other from reaching the limo. T.U.S.K. was cut off from both ends, shooting through the flames in an attempt to pick off more enemies.
"Guys!" Finnick shouted.
"What?!" Alyssa snapped.
Finnick pointed at Jack. "I think he's coming round."
Jack felt weak and hot all over when he opened his eyes and found himself staring up at a cracked ceiling with three faces staring down at him. It was the snow-white face with the slender muzzle that he focused on as his vision cleared.
Alyssa Skyefall beamed, her wide blue eyes moistening as she patted his shoulder. "Welcome back, Agent Savage."
Jack's throat felt like a nun's crotch that had been stung by a bee and subsequently swollen. His voice sounded strange when he spoke. "Skyefall? What… happened?" He remembered getting that cut in the forest, collapsing in the mud as a van came speeding right at him, and a strange dream about a white vixen being chopped to pieces with a machete.
"Long story." Alyssa gently eased him back down when he tried to get up. "I'll explain when we get out of here."
Jack's arm hurt, and there was a faint sting in his thigh as if he'd been injected with something. "What's… going… on?"
Finnick chuckled nervously. "We may have kind of started a gang war."
"May have… kind of?"
"Enough." Alyssa said. "You're in no condition to fight, so just stay down while we work on a plan." She crawled out of Jack's peripheral vision. The rabbit turned his throbbing head to see her looking out a hole in the wall and floor with a high tech telescope, her wide buttocks rising high above her head. On the floor beside where she'd been kneeling was a syringe. Jack's weary mind started working as he stared at it and her. He'd been poisoned, he knew that much. Had that empty syringe contained the antidote? Who had injected him? Was it Skyefall? If it was, then he owed her one heck of an apology.
"Wait a second…" Alyssa said as she stared through the hole. "Nick, where is Officer Hopps' car right now?"
Benjamin hadn't felt any bullets hitting the limo for some time. He steeled himself and took a peek.
He stared in horror at what had become of the street outside. It was blocked on both sides by walls of fire and twisted blackened metal, and in between predators with guns were screaming curses and trying to kill each other. The fire from the right hand barrier was spreading to the bottom floor of the factory across the tarmac.
On the other side of the limo Koslov was muttering in a language Benjamin didn't know. He seemed to be coping much better than his captive was. In between them sat the package, which fortunately hadn't been damaged in the crash. The feline dropped back down and propped his back against the door. He was shaking all over, especially his arms. His bandaged arm was hurting again, but it didn't look like the stitches had ripped this time.
"Mr. Polarnock?" He asked meekly.
"Polarnova. What?" Koslov growled.
"Can I have my phone back?"
The large polar bear glared at him, then growled through his teeth. "Screw it." He slid the phone across to the feline, who gratefully picked it up.
Benjamin dialed a number and held it to his ear.
"I'm a bit busy right now, so this had better be good!" Growled the voice on the other end.
"Honey?" Benjamin asked.
There was a pause. "Benji?"
"Yeah, it's me." Benjamin gripped his knee with his other arm. "I've kinda got myself in some real trouble, and I'm pretty sure I'm gonna die."
"You are not going to die!" Honey snarled. "I'm listening to the police scanners, Ben, so I know what's going on! Listen to me. You're going to be okay."
"I-" Benjamin sniffled. "I don't think so."
" Nick stopped the sniper. All we have to do now is get you out of there."
Benjamin's heart seemed to stop mid-beat. "Nick stopped…"
" He still cares about you, Ben. He always has. You have no idea how sorry he is for getting you into this."
Benjamin stared into space, unsure how to feel.
" Ben, I need you to do something for me. I know the doors into the Arctic House are jammed, but I need you to find out if you can still open the doors on the other side."
"Okay. I'll try." Benjamin's heart hammered as he turned his body and slowly pulled the handle. Koslov demanded to know what the hell he was doing. There was a click, and he felt the door come free of the lock. He quickly shut it before any bullets could get in. "Yeah, I can open it."
" Great. That's great. I'm watching the jam cams and I can see what's going on in the street right now. I think I know a way we can get you out. There's a gap in one of the barriers where a grenade took out one of the cars that's nothing but burning gasoline. A car can drive right through that."
Benjamin felt hope and fear. "Do you guys have a car?"
" Not yet, but Nick might be able to get a hold of one that's bulletproof. We can plow right in and get you out in half a minute."
"With a dozen mammals firing in all directions?!" Benjamin yelled into the phone. On cue a nearby explosion rocked the car and caused more rubble from the hole to rain down past the windows.
" Don't worry about it. We've got two friends right above you who'll pick off as many as they can before Nick moves in. You just need to move your butt the second that door opens. And don't forget that package!"
Benjamin glanced at the polar bear beside him. "What about Mr. Polarnova?"
" Let his men worry about saving him. You just get ready to move. Stay down and stay on the line, okay, sweetie?"
"Yes, Honey." Benjamin's voice sounded different. Stronger. He'd thought his friends had abandoned him. He'd thought wrong.
The screaming taunts and curses turned to shouts of confusion as a sinister hissing sound filled the air on both sides of the limo. "What in God's name?" Koslov whispered as he stared outside.
Benjamin looked out the windows into the street and saw a billowing cloud of white smoke rapidly growing in size. In mere seconds the bewildered gangsters were enshrouded. When the smoke reached the limo, Benjamin's view was completely blocked. Had the ZPD made it past the fire? He turned his head to see that smoke was filling the Arctic House, too. Before he knew it the world outside had completely disappeared.
Then the screaming changed from confusion to pain and terror.
"Ben? What's happening?" Honey asked.
"I don't know." Benjamin thought he could see figures moving in the cloud. He made his way to the partially broken window he'd used to pass the syringe to that mammal in the blue hoodie and tried to see past the smoke.
The sudden loud splat of blood splashing the window made him leap back in fright.
His back hit the opposite door, and he instinctively raised his paw up to touch his face where he'd felt something wet splash upon it. Blood. Some of it must have gotten through the holes in the window.
"Ben!" Honey yelled through the phone.
Benjamin didn't answer. He could hear screams coming from outside too. Then the street fell deathly silent.
Benjamin was about to turn his head and look out into the clouded street when a massive shape appeared before the bloodied window, obscured by the smoke. Then there was a horrendous metallic screeching sound. Koslov backed away from the door and aimed his gun. He fired until the gun ran empty, but the figure had ducked before he could hit it. Benjamin watched in amazement as the door, so warped that it would have taken the jaws of life to remove it, peeled away from the frame like a raw cookie shape. The large being flung the door to one side and ducked its head into the opening.
Benjamin felt the blood drain from his face.
He recognized the long black coat. The flat black hat. The undead bird mask.
… Woolton's head was barely connected to the shoulders by a glistening mess of pale skin, frayed muscle, and fragments of vertebrae, everything that made up the back of the neck…
Benjamin lost it. He screamed bloody murder and grabbed at the door handle beside him as Woolton's killer reached into the limo. Koslov looked on in shock, his empty gun still aimed at the monster. Benjamin shoved open the door behind him and tried to climb out backwards. The monster grabbed his ankle and began to pull him across the floor of the limo.
Then something thick and warm wrapped tightly around Benjamin's chest and started pulling him back. "NO, NO, NO!" The feline screamed in pure terror as he kicked at the monster's large fist. The mammal pulling him the other way gave an almighty yank, making the monster lose both his balance and his grip. Benjamin struggled desperately as the other large mammal pulled him out the vehicle and into the street, pounding on the arm holding him off the ground.
"Clawhauser! Ben! It's me!"
Benjamin stopped all of a sudden and looked up.
"… Captain Bogo?"
Bogo held tightly onto Benjamin as he pulled him away from the masked beast, trying not to imagine what could have, wouldhave happened if he, McHorn and Higgins hadn't found a gap in the infernal barricade where they could drive their car through. They'd made the drastic decision after some whackjob threw half a dozen smoke grenades at the street and the ZPD vehicles stuck behind both burning barricades. The three of them had been in the car, listening through the radio Hopps' angry report on the sniper and the fox that escaped yet again when they heard shouting and gunfire all around them. Bullets had struck their car but failed to penetrate the reinforced glass and plating. By the time they'd realized the ZPD were under attack and leapt out of the car, most of T.U.S.K. were either dead or disorientated. They'd immediately realized that more thugs had snuck up and ambushed the officers, Higgins thought he'd seen a hooded black figure in a gas mask spring from one of the armored trucks and smash through a window into the Arctic House. On the other end of the street, Cunninghorn was shouting through the radio, demanding to know what the hell was happening over there. Bogo merely told him that the squad on his side was down, and he and his men were going in to put an end to this shitstorm.
So they got back into their cars, plowed through the fiery gap in the barricade, and came out guns blazing to put an end to the dozen gangsters still left in the street.
Bogo put down three predators before he heard Benjamin screaming and ran for the limo. The door flew open before he reached it, and he grabbed Benjamin in the nick of time before the masked monster on the other side could drag him to certain death.
"… Captain Bogo?" Benjamin stared up in awe when he finally recognized the mammal who had saved him.
"Mac! Higgs!" Bogo shouted into the steadily clearing smoke. "Don't keep me in suspense!"
"I think that's all of them, sir!" McHorn shouted from somewhere in the smoke. "It's just the bastards in the Arctic House now!"
Speaking of which, the masked monster was now making his way through the limo in pursuit of them, glancing at the stunned Koslov as he passed him. Bogo swore and set Benjamin down. "Run! We'll take care of him!"
"Run where?" Benjamin cried, pointing out that they were still trapped on both sides by burning cars.
Bogo pointed to the slightly charred squad car that had shielded them from the fire. "Get in that car! Go!" Benjamin didn't need telling twice, barely noticing the bodies that lay among blood and thawed snow. Bogo shouted to his coworkers. "Who's closest to the car?"
"Me!" Higgins shouted.
"Get to the car and get Clawhauser out of here!" Bogo turned back to the massive masked mammal as he emerged from the limo. His eyes narrowed and his heart quickened.
Black clothes. Incredible size. A plague doctor mask that Benjamin had mistaken for an undead bird. A perfect match for the description of Assistant Mayor Woolton's killer.
"Freeze!" He shouted and aimed his dart gun. The killer grabbed the open limo door, ripped it off with seemingly not effort, held the makeshift weapon in his paw and advanced. "I said freeze!"
Glowing orange in the firelight, the killer kept coming. The tip of the mask's 'beak' was pointed not at Bogo, but at the fleeing feline behind him. The buffalo fired, the dart striking the monster's chest. The monster kept going. Bogo fired again. The dart hit the hostile killer's chest near the first dart but did nothing. Bogo kept firing until the monster got close enough to swing the door.
Bogo dodged backward, barely escaping disembowelment. Six darts! Six fucking darts didn't do a damned thing! This psychopath must be wearing some kind of protection under that coat!
Thank god for the weapons the scumbags had so thoughtfully left all over the street. Bogo dodged another swing from the limo door, rolling across the wet ground and grabbing an AK-47 as he stood up. He yelled for McHorn to get his ass over here as he opened fire.
Except the monster had taken off the armored door for a reason. He held the door in front of his body like a shield, deflecting the bullets Bogo sent his way. He had fast reflexes too, as the buffalo learned to his dismay when he tried to aim for different parts of the body. Bogo risked a glance at Benjamin, who had stopped by the police car to watch the battle unfold. Higgins was almost to the car himself.
The machine gun ran empty. Bogo threw it at the giant bear to distract him while he retreated, grabbing a shotgun in its place as he ran across the street in search for McHorn. The big rhino was beside the factory, cuffing a sedated polar bear. "Bogo, what's going on?"
"Woolton's killer!" Bogo panted. "Forget that punk and help me take down this fucker!"
He spun round to see the masked bear making his way towards the police car. By now Higgins had reached the police car, but had stopped to fire on the approaching monster. The monster shielded himself with the limo door, prompting Higgins to shove Benjamin into the car before getting in himself, starting the engine before he'd even shut the doors. The car started to turn to make the return journey through the gap in the barricade as the monster broke into a run. Just as Higgins was about to complete the turn, the monster moved in front, grabbed the bumper and lifted.
Bogo's jaw dropped as the front of the car lifted clear off the ground. The rear tires screeched and smoked on the tarmac. The buffalo and rhino began to move to a position where they could shoot the monster without hitting the car. The monster held the car with one paw while lifting the hood with the other. Then he reached into the hot running engine and ripped out something that killed the car completely.
"Holy fuck." McHorn breathed.
The monster dropped the bumper and the piece of engine. Then he started making his way to Benjamin's side of the car.
Judy managed to kick the door open after the seventh attempt, but by the time she made it outside Corona Offices both Wilde and 'Mark II' were gone. She may not have lost her temper to the extent she did if her car hadn't been gone too.
"Sweet and sour chicken!" She kicked a mound of dirty snow to smithereens and stood there seething for a good while before she heard her radio crackle.
" Hopps! Where are you?!"
"Sir! I'm sorry, I lost Wilde again!" She looked down at the spot where her car had been. There were clear tire tracks in the snow. If she hurried, she could pick up Wilde's trail, or the sniper if it had been him who had swiped the car.
" Forget Wilde! We've got bigger problems! Woolton's killer showed up and he's after Clawhauser! We need backup and we need it right now!"
Judy stared at the ruined snow mound as she took in the information. Gang wars. Cold snipers. Now a meat-eating monster joining the fray to kill the only mammal who could identify him. Maybe her parents had been on to something.
Judy kept looking at the tracks her car thief had left behind. "Hopps, we need you!" Bogo shouted.
Judy clenched but teeth. "On my way, sir."
As she took off towards the orange glow on foot, the cool air of Tundratown cooled her temper. As her anger faded, her more rational side reminded her that before locking her in that room, Wilde had saved her from an unnecessary tracheotomy. When she was one block away from the burning street she began to ponder over why Wilde would do such a thing.
Jack's ears swiveled toward the door as he lay there in the manager's office. "What's going on out there?"
He watched Alyssa and Gabe look up and see what he saw; white smoke was rising up through the gaps in the walkway outside.
"Is that a smoke bomb?" Jack asked, his voice stronger than it was two minutes ago.
"Finnick, stay with him." Alyssa ordered as she and Gabriel Mossberg stood up.
"Yeah, for once I don't mind being benched." Finnick muttered. Alyssa and Gabe crept to the doorframe and took a peek. Jack could hear frightened shouting along with the near-relentless gunfire. "What is it, the fuzz?"
"I don't think so." Alyssa said. "Maybe one of the gangsters… wait, what is that?"
Jack heard a high-pitched scream.
Gabe shifted himself back behind cover. "There's someone else down there."
Alyssa tapped her com-link. "Nick, where are you?" She paused. "What do you mean someone wiped out the T.U.S.K. squad on your end? Never mind that, just sit tight and wait for my signal!" She turned to the others. "We can't take Jack through that shitstorm out there."
"What about the hole?" Finnick asked. "The street's been quiet for a while. Maybe it's safe."
The sound of rending metal struck their ears. Alyssa ran to the hole and looked out into the street. "Who the hell is that?!"
Jack's arms and legs felt like jelly as he struggled up to Alyssa's side. He stared at the hulking black figure in the plague doctor mask that was currently breaking into a singed police car. Sergeant Higgins came out firing, buying Benjamin time to escape out the other side of the car. Jack felt a jolt in his chest when the large mammal struck the hippo with what looked like a bullet riddled car door, sending him rolling into the factory wall. Higgins didn't get back up, even when Lieutenant McHorn rush to his side.
The plague doctor turned its attention back to Benjamin.
"Shit. I think he might be a problem." Gabe muttered. "We can't be sure the ZPD will be able to handle him. We've got to get down there and take him out."
Alyssa checked her weapon. "Gabe, I'll take care of him. You need to secure the package."
"Got it." Gabe flicked the blood off his kukris and together they leapt out the hole.
Jack would have followed them if he hadn't just survived being poisoned. That didn't mean he couldn't be useful.
"Yeah?" The fennec fox said gruffly.
"Get my crossbow. I might need your help pulling the string back."
Judy could hear Cunninghorn shouting at everyone and anyone through the radio, demanding in between curses to know why the fire truck was taking so long to get to the site. She soon saw why a fire truck had been called when she saw the barrier of cars burning like a furnace, the heat hitting her like the massive vents of the Sahara Square Climate Wall. Even worse, over a dozen T.U.S.K. officers lying on the tarmac, either dead of incapacitated. There were empty armored trucks and squad cars all over the place, including one that looked like hers. She couldn't imagine why Nick would come back to this awful place. She'd never imagined it was this bad.
As she stared at the blazing obstacle, her phone rang. Despite herself she answered. "Now now, dad!" She hung up before her dad could respond. When the phone rang again she switched it off and started running along the side of the Arctic House in search of another way in.
She found a small door that had been forced open so violently it was bent into a crescent shape. With her dart gun in paw she carefully approached the doorway, which was seeping smoke that was too white be caused by a fire. She peeked into the doorway and saw something far worse than every crime scene photo she'd ever seen.
Beneath the clearing smoke were the bodies of God knows how many predators, several of which looked like they had been cut apart rather than shot. Judy saw what looked like their killer slicing the throat of a panicking wolf before charging at a trio of tigers. It was a tall mammal dressed in a gothic form-fitting black coat with a hood and a gas mask. Judy suspected a big cat as she stepped into the clouded room and aimed her dart gun.
The figure shot all three tigers dead with a silenced pistol before it stopped and turned. Judy saw the assassin's arm slash at the air between them and caught a glint of metal flying at her face. The rabbit shrieked and ducked to avoid the knife, then fired a dart straight at her attacker.
The assassin's arm shot up in a black flash, their fist stopping right in front of their left shoulder. Judy saw the green feather of her tranq dart poking out of their gloved paw.
Never had she ever heard of a suspect having reflexes fast enough to catch a dart in flight.
There was a roar. A polar bear rose up from the floor with a shotgun in paw. The figure turned their head and flicked the dart at the bear, bringing him down before he could get a shot.
Gunfire coming from the burning street outside caught the assassin's attention. Judy fired another dart as the assassin started running in the direction of the fighting, but the assassin deflected it with a long thin blade. The assassin stopped before the wrecked limo and reached inside. They seemed to be examining a metal box that was sitting on the floor of the vehicle. When Koslov tried to attack, the assassin stabbed him with a tranq dart with red feather and rendered him unconscious in seconds. Judy raced after her, firing another dart that missed and hit the side of the limo.
The assassin retaliated with a pistol shot that grazed Judy's hip. She lost her balance, and her momentum propelled her head into the hard barrel of a fallen shotgun. She felt an instant of sharp pain before everything went fuzzy. Her vision doubled and swirled as she watched the assassin walk away from the limo, leaving the metal box behind. They ignored the dazed rabbit as they walked past her and out of sight. Seconds later two polar bears came charging across the room to pull Koslov from the limo.
Jack and Finnick worked together to draw the string back far enough to load the bolt, and then the rabbit inched his way up to the edge of the hole overlooking the street.
He immediately found himself admiring the plague doctor's creativity; the behemoth now not only had Koslov's limo door for a shield, but a Mag-7M1 shotgun which he had just used to blast McHorn off his feet. In the back of his mind the rabbit remembered a Baz Furmann movie in which some trigger happy rich guy speaking Shakespearean had a gun just like this. He believed the gun in the movie had been called 'Longsword.'
McHorn groaned on the ground, clutching his bloodless chest; he'd been lucky he had a bulletproof vest, but also was clearly in too much pain to continue the fight. The big masked bear seemed satisfied that the rhino was out of the battle, for he turned his attention back to Benjamin once more. The feline was currently taking cover behind the remains of a van, too afraid of his pursuer's shotgun to run for it.
Jack took a moment to examine what the other mammals in the street were doing; Alyssa was firing her weapon from behind another car, her pistol seemingly doing nothing against whatever protection the bear was wearing beneath his coat. Whatever it was, it was clear on a different level from the ZPD-issued bulletproof vests. Gabe was halfway inside the limo, taking out the metal box as carefully as possible. Captain Bogo was charging after the massive bear, firing an AK-47 with such relentlessness that the bear had to turn to hold the shield in front of him, unable to find an opening to fire back with his 'sword.'
Jack raised the crossbow and looked through the scope, taking aim. His arms were still too weak to hold the crossbow steady. "Finnick, help me out here."
Finnick crawled in front of him and held the crossbow steady, his ears going flat to avoid the string. Jack's aim quickly fell upon the bear's head. That flat hat was snazzy but it was no helmet. One aluminium bolt ought to do it, but first he needed to get a clear shot.
Bogo's gun ran out of bullets and he had to throw himself behind cover to avoid a painful blast, ending up behind a car close to the limo. The buffalo and Gabe locked eyes, the hybrid stiffened with his arms locked around the metal box. Jack wondered what the officer would do.
"I assume you are not with him?" Jack's keen ears heard Bogo say.
Gabe shook his head. "Hell, no."
"And you're not likely to get very far with that box?"
"Not far at all."
Bogo nodded. "Good."
There was a clicking sound. The shotgun had run empty. Bogo took that cue to move. The bear tossed the 'longsword' aside and continued on towards Benjamin. He reached the van and turned the corner…
And recoiled as a loud bang came from behind the van. There was another bang, and the bear staggered back. He blocked the third bullet with his shield but Benjamin was already running for his life, holding a gargantuan .500 magnum he must have picked up off the ground. The bear made a sound for the first time, growling behind his mask as he began to pursue.
"GET AWAY FROM HIM!" Bogo flung himself upon the bear's back and wrapped a thick arm around his neck, trying to choke him out. Using his superior size the bear threw him off and into the side of the van. Alyssa backed up the buffalo by leaping high and aiming a kick to the back of the bear's head, but the bear didn't even flinch. Alyssa dropped down and rolled away to avoid a blow to the head as the bear swung at her with the limo door. Gabe set the metal box down on the wet pavement beneath the limo and charged with both kukris. Alyssa saw him coming and threw a pawful of slush at the bear to distract him. Gabe leapt up at the bear's back and plunged both kukris into his back.
Through the scope, Jack could see that both blades had only sunk two inches. What on earth was the bear wearing beneath that coat?
The bear growled, his head moving out of Jack's sight yet again as he reached for Gabe. The blue-hooded spy dropped to the ground to avoid the bear's grasp and swung a kukri at his leg. The bear roared in pain and Jack saw blood splatter across the melted snow. It was barely more than a few drops, but it was far better than no damage at all. Jack's scope scaled up the bear's body, and he saw a small red stain coming from one of the bulletholes inflicted by the magnum.
Suddenly the bear fell on one knee and Jack thought that blood loss was catching up to him.
Then the bear plucked a grenade launcher from the cold grip of a dead wolf.
"FUCK!" Alyssa ran for her life as the bear fired at her first, destroying an already wrecked car she had been standing in front of a split-second earlier.
Gabe ran for it also, returning to the metal box and picking it up. The bear glanced at him, but curiously didn't aim for him. Instead he aimed for McHorn and Higgins.
"NO!" Came a cry from near the limo, then a bang as Benjamin fired another shot from the magnum. The bullet hit the limo door instead of the bear, but it was enough to draw his attention away from the two injured officers.
Suddenly gunfire filled the air once again, and everyone tall enough to get hit ducked as bullets flew through the flaming barrier blocking the T.U.S.K. forces. From his high vantage point Jack could see at least Commander Cunninghorn and six razorbacks firing machine guns through the fire. The rabbit hadn't seen Higgins come round, but now the hippo was crouching behind a garbage can as he shouted into his radio, presumably to make the razorbacks stand down. He was either unheard or ignored.
The bear blocked the gunfire with his makeshift shield as he stood up and stepped onto the hood of the only car that hadn't been completely totaled, aimed the thick barrel of the grenade laucher past the edge of the shield, and fired every last grenade in the loader.
Cunninghorn, who with his height advatange was able to see better past the flames, saw the grenades fly and ran for it. The razorbacks heard his warning far too late.
Jack gaped in horror at the carnage as four grenades exploded in the immediate vicinity of the razorbacks right behind the burning barrier: twelve razorbacks dead or maimed… at least. As for Cunninghorn, he'd been sent flying by the blast, and was now rolling in agony on the tarmac.
The bear turned away, dropped the launcher, and dropped down from the car. Once again he turned his unseen gaze upon Benjamin.
Jack forced himself to look away from the destruction and back through the scope. He had to take this bastard down.
"Nick! Get your arse in here and run him down!" Alyssa shouted.
Jack realized the bear was positioned in front of the fiery gap in the black car barricade in the instant before the squad car Nick had stolen came blasting through. The bear moved with a speed that shocked the striped rabbit, just fast enough that the car clipped his side instead of hitting him dead on. The bear staggered, dropping the limo door as the car kept going, coming to a stop beside the limo itself. Jack grimaced as he tried to get a bead on him again.
Gabe reached the squad car first, flinging open the passenger door and climbing inside with the box. Alyssa grabbed Benjamin's paw and started pulling him toward the car. "Trust me!" Jack heard her say.
Nearby the bear roared, and Jack knew he was ticked. The bear charged toward the feline.
Crouched beside the van, Bogo opened fire with his dart gun. The darts didn't penetrate, but the sudden onslaught made the bear stop. Jack saw other darts strike the bear's side and glanced down to see a bleeding Officer Hopps standing in front of the limo, firing at the bear alongside her superior. With darts coming from two different directions, the bear hesitated and stood still.
Finally. Jack pulled the trigger, and the bolt soared.
He didn't hear the thunk, but he saw the bolt pierce the hat and lodge itself in the bear's head. The bear froze, swayed on the spot, and toppled forward like a tree trunk. Jack heard him hit the ground and smiled.
Judy lowered her dart gun and ran to Bogo's side. He appeared to have injured his leg when he'd been thrown into the van.
"Okay, let's get out of here!" Finnick shouted while both officers were distracted. "Someone get us down from here!"
Alyssa shouted for Benjamin to get to the car, then ran up beneath the hole and held her paws out. Finnick jumped first, the vixen catching him easily and placing him on the ground. Jack dropped the crossbow down to her first before jumping into her arms. She carried him into the back seat alongside Finnick.
"Come on, Benji! Get in the car!" Nick shouted from the driver's seat.
Benjamin hesitated a few feet from the car, the magnum still in his paw. There was an even louder hissing sound; the fire truck had arrived at last and was now working to put out the burning barricade Cunninghorn's people were currently stuck behind. The cheetah turned his head to stare at the buffalo and rabbit, and then back at Nick. "You should go."
"No! Not without you!" Nick snapped.
"I can't!" Benjamin shouted back. "Running will make me look guilty! I don't want be a fugitive, Nick! I can't live like that!"
"We can't just leave you here!"
"I will not live the rest of my life on Zootopia's Most Wanted!" Benjamin fired back through gritted teeth, shutting up the fox. "Please… you've got to go before T.U.S.K. breaks through."
Nick started to leave the car. "I can't just leave you with these sons of-"
Quick as a flash, Benjamin raised the magnum. "Will you just go?!"
Nick stared at the barrel. He looked more sad than afraid as he sat back down and shut the door.
"I'm going to set things right, Ben, I promise." He swore. "I promise!"
Benjamin stepped back as Nick reversed the car before Alyssa could shut her door, the door shearing off as it hit one of the blackened vehicles that filled the street. Then he sped forward, ferrying the weary mammals through the firey wall and into the T.U.S.K. reinforcements that had arrived at that very moment.
"Shit!" Nick jerked the wheel in a panic, sending the car into a violent spin that had the razorbacks scattering before they could fire. Alyssa began to fly out the car through the space where the door had been, her wide eyes locking with Jack's. He reached out helplessly, and to his great relief Gabe reached above the weakened rabbit and grabbed the vixen's tail in the nick of time. The rabbit saw a Gazelle CD fly out of her damaged belt pouch and vanish into the turbulent whirlwind of color outside just as Nick miraculously regained control of the car and raced on to freedom.
They had been too quick to escape.
Bogo's leg was throbbing too much for him to stand up, which was why he felt complete horror when he saw Woolton's killer, who was currently lying on the thawing ground twenty feet away with an arrow in his head, begin to push himself up.
"Oh shit." Judy gasped. She began to raise her gun, and then she froze.
Another masked mammal had just dropped down from a window above and aimed a silenced pistol at the three mammals huddled in front of the wrecked van. Bogo's tired eyes took in a medieval themed hooded coat and a gas mask as the mammal strode over to the colossal plague doctor as he continued to get up.
Lady Gas Mask glanced at the barricade farther down. The fires were being doused and the ZPD could break in at any moment. Bogo realized his gun was empty and willed T.U.S.K. to move faster.
Lady Gas Mask grabbed the back of the bear's neck as he pulled the arrow from his skull.
"Hurry." Her voice sounded distorted through the gas mask as they both rushed to the shattered windows of the factory, leaving a thin trail of blood behind them. Bogo grabbed the magnum from Benjamin and aimed at their backs, but the gun clicked empty. Judy had frozen stiff, eyes wide with shock. The next thing he knew they had disappeared into the darkness of the empty building.
T.U.S.K. burst through the partially drenched barricade on the other end of the street seconds later. By then Benjamin had slumped down beside the buffalo and rabbit, closing his eyes to shut out the sight of the blood and the bodies. Bogo's arm curled around the feline's shoulders and held him close, its owner content in knowing that they'd at least gotten one thing right. There was no doubt, however, that this was not a win. Koslov had gotten away, Woolton's killer had escaped with his mysterious partner, and almost every gangster that had joined this horrendous battle was dead, paving a way for a bloody gang war. The sniper had escaped too, and Hopps had reason to believe that he'd been paid by someone to kill the cheetah. Bogo was too tired to wonder why.
Those of T.U.S.K. who hadn't been injured or killed in the onslaught of projectile explosives used their armored trucks to shove the barricade apart, and before Bogo knew it Cunninghorn was storming towards their location. The police captain checked one more time to make sure his ankle wasn't sprained before getting up. "Hopps, stay with Clawhauser." He said quietly. Hopps didn't protest. She didn't say anything at all for that matter.
While the firemammals hurried aross the street to deal with the other barricade, Bogo met Cunninghorn in the middle of the street, stopping to pick up the arrow Woolton's killer had left behind. There was a small trace of blood on the tip.
"What took you so long?" Bogo asked quietly.
Cunninghorn balled his fists. There were two holes in his vest from the brief battle between T.U.S.K. and the gangsters and his clothes were singed. He was holding his torso as if his ribs were injured. "You saw what happened, you stupid prick. Those scumbags set the car barricade on fire to keep us back. We had to wait for the fire department to douse the fire before we could shift the cars. Then half of us got blown up by that Halloween psycho! What the hell happened to our men on the other side?"
"Someone released smoke bombs and took most of them down in the confusion. Higgins, McHorn and myself were unharmed because we were inside our car at the time." Bogo watched as a pained McHorn followed the paramedics leading a concussed Higgins to a waiting ambulance. There were plenty more ambulances being stuffed with wounded cops and gangtsters, including the polar bears that had been tranqued with darts bearing red feathers. Bogo couldn't have imagined a more awful outcome to this mess. At least the street didn't look like hell on earth anymore, and the welcome snow of Tundratown was drifting gently on the wounded tarmac and mutilated cars. Bogo breathed the cold night air with a profound sense of relief before addressing Cunninghorn again. "Did you catch Woolton's killer and his partner?"
Cunninghorn snorted a cloud of mist. "No. Thanks to you, they got away."
"It's because of you they entered the fray undetected!" Bogo fired back. "You had the entire T.U.S.K. department stationed on both ends of the street. How could you have missed two blatantly suspicious mammals, one of which matched Clawhauser's description of Woolton's killer?"
Cunninghorn took a threatening step forward. "Don't turn this on me. You failed to apprehend him."
"Look at this!" Bogo held up the arrow. "This bastard took an aluminium arrow to the head and got back up like it was nothing! Do you really think someone like that could be easily taken down with a goddamned dart gun?"
"That's enough!" Chief Trunchbull stomped up to them, putting a swift end to the argument. "We all bear responsibility for this outcome! All we can do now is investigate the crime scene and salvage what we can from this mess."
Cunninghorn subtly cowed. "Yes, sir."
"Cunninghorn, we've got two dozen reporters from all over the city trying to cross the yellow tape. Do what you can to hold them back until the investigators arrive." Cunninghorn stormed off without a word, leaving Trunchbull alone with Bogo. "What happened with Woolton's killer, Captain?"
Bogo took another soothing breath of cold air and told Trunchbull everything. The elephant's troubled expression became more pronounced with each fact the buffalo gave him.
"So what now, sir?" Bogo asked when he was finished.
Trunchbull wiped his forehead with his trunk. "From what you've told me, it appears more likely that Polarnova was the sniper's target."
"You think Mr. Big ordered the hit?" Bogo asked.
"Yes, though it doesn't explain how they knew Polarnova would be coming down that particular street. Do you have Clawhauser's statement yet?"
"Not yet, sir."
"If you're unhurt, take him back to the station and question him as soon as possible. We need all the facts we can get."
Bogo shook his head. "Sir, after what happened here I'd highly recommend taking him to a safe house instead."
Trunchbull paused to think on this, and then nodded. "Very well." He wandered off, muttering under his breath. Bogo turned his heel and made his way back to Benjamin and Hopps. The rabbit stood up, the blood trickling down her head now dry and sticking to her fur.
"I'm sorry, sir. I should have gone after them, I don't know what came over me."
"It's called fear, Hopps. No-one's immune." Bogo didn't have the energy to say much more to her. "Find a paramedic and get that head seen to. I'll get Clawhauser out of here."
"Yes, sir." Hopps walked off, doing her best to avoiding stepping on the physical evidence.
Benjamin was curled into a trembling ball in the murky slush. Bogo crouched over him and held out a hoof, making the feline look up with wide, tear-stained eyes, and Bogo fully saw the state he was in. There was blood smeared across his forehead and cheek, and he had a cut lip. His clothes were stained with blood, soot and dirty melted snow. "Let's get you out of here." Bogo told him, thinking of the possibility of sending an officer to retrieve a clean set of clothes.
Benjamin accepted the offered hoof without a word, letting the buffalo pull him up. Bogo grew worried by the cheetah's silence, and hoped he wasn't about to go catatonic again.
His lips were forming Benjamin's name when the feline suddenly wrapped his arms tight around the buffalo's waist, surprising him. Bogo awkwardly patted the kid's shoulder and back even as an unfamiliar sensation of warmth built up in his heart. He was accustomed to the hardened muscle and coarse hair of his coworkers, especially when sparring in the gym. The feline's soft flesh and even softer fur were even more comforting than the cool Tundratown air.
"Thank you." Benjamin spoke into Bogo's abdomen.
They stood there for a good while, for the most part ignored by the other officers as they worked back and forth through the warzone that had once been an ordinary Tundratown street, before Bogo slowly escorted Benjamin to a waiting unmarked car. The feline rested his head against the window as they left the scene and returned to normality, the car almost silent as it took them through the quiet lamplit streets of the frozen district. Snowflakes fell upon the windshield as Bogo drove across a short bridge; the artificial dispensers were at it again. Instead of bloody slush melted by hellfire, the car drove through thick, pillowly snow.
Bogo looked through the rear view mirror at the feline in the back seat. He looked almost serene as he gazed through the window, taking in the tranquil view of the Tundratown lights.
Bogo drove on through the gentle snowfall, knowingly hoping in vain that this peaceful time would last.