I do not own the rights to either Zootopia or XCOM 2 nor the characters associated with them. This is my first fanfiction but not my first written work, so hang in there and let’s go for a ride!
“Accessing the feed now.” A chipper female voice reported.
A live feed of a drizzling downtown street fizzled to life on-screen with a faint click. The nocturnal cityscape was submerged in hues of blue and static shadows against a backdrop of twinkling lights and reflective rain puddles.ŕ quickly faded as translucent lines of code scrolled across the camera feed.
“...Though I don’t know for how long.”
The hacker’s frown was audible, though she ŕ stuffed it behind the well practiced mask of a focused professional. The screen switched to another angle i already passed them by.
“Are…. are you seeing this?” She stammered. “This is way too much security, even for Advent.”
“That is no ordinary gene therapy clinic.” A low growl replied. “They were telling the truth.” He added in an astonished tone.
“Or they are leading us into a trap.” The female snarked with a loud roll of her eyes. “A really obvious trap.” The screen split into a plethora of different camera angles giving almost full coverage of the gene therapy clinic detailing just how out of depth they really were.
“We’d need an army to march in there right now.”
“Shen, I think I have a better idea.” The middle aged timberwolf growled around a smirk as he straightened up from staring at the screen before him, his pointed ears flicked to attention. The wolf was tall for his species with a scar running down the right side of his muzzle, his sharp features were flecked with grey and toned muscles spoke of his rigid dedication to fitness even at 55 years of age. The tan combat uniform he wore was neatly tucked in with every detail squared away, the only indication of weariness came from the circles under his eyes and the limp way his gray tail hung behind him. The wolf pushed a button on an earpiece.
“Reaper, this is Central.” The wolf gave the screen one last pensive look as he weighed the burden of what he was about to order.
His hesitation was only for but a moment, hardly long enough for someone to think anything of it, but An-Yi “Skye” Shen, the arctic fox sitting at the controls just in front of Central Officer Wolford, knew the grizzled veteran better than most. She glanced back at Wolford with sadness in her deep blue eyes, she knew that narrowed eyed look, it was the same type of haunted look that drove him to the bottle.
He hated this.
She knew that, but there was nothing to be done. They needed to know what was in there, so someone has to do it, even if the person in question has to do it alone. She watched his chest expand with a long, slow breathe to steel his resolve, then his spoke a single word with the power of a courtroom gavel.
“U-um…” Confusion and concern was evident on Shen’s face as she rapidly tapped through the numerous camera feeds in a vain attempt to find their lone operative. “W-where is he?”
“Reaper, report!” Wolford barked into his earpiece. Again he was met with deafening silence.
A rumbling growl rose from the pit of Central’s chest. He was not in the mood to play games, but he grudgingly realized that when dealing with eccentric types like the lone operative out in that rain-soaked street the only way to get them to cooperate was to…. Well, feed their eccentricism. The exhausted and stressed timberwolf kneaded his temples with his free paw to stave of the migraine he felt growing there.
“A-agent….. Agent Blueberries, This is Central.” His voice squeaked in embarrassment at the operative’s ridiculous codename.
In an almost pleading voice he begged into the earpiece, “Go.”
If Shen hadn’t just so happened to have been staring at the camera angle aimed at the rear of the clinic she would have missed the black blur tumble from the top of a nearby apartment building. She gasped as what she realized was their operative plummet streetward before catching a paw on a pole and spinning off of it in an incredible acrobatic display fit for a squirrel. As soon as the blur slingshot from the pole it vanished into the shadows.
Agent Blueberries clung to the underside of a pavilion overlooking the street below, his mask’s eyepieces giving off an eerie glow, a common feature of all Reaper gear. He watched patiently as a pair of Advent foot soldiers marched around the building below him, their bodies were clad in a bullet resistant body glove accessorized by thick composite armor plates complete with utility pouches and ammunition.
One of the troopers was a wolf judging by his size and body type, along with the wide, fuzzy muzzle thrust out from underneath Advent’s signature red and black helmet that covered everything but the mammal’s muzzle and ears. The second trooper was much smaller, only reaching just above his wolf companion’s waist, a weasel of some kind perhaps judging from the thin snout sticking out from underneath that helmet.
Both mammals carried Advent standard issue magnetic rifles, though the weasel’s was a bit smaller. The rifle looked too tall and blocky for the Reaper’s taste but he knew firsthand the results of standing in front of the business end of those weapons and he was in no hurry to relive that experience.
As the two troopers vanished around the corner the Reaper took quick stock of his surroundings before zeroing in on what he was looking for, an air conditioner grate just a few feet away on the same wall he clung to. He pushed off the wall and caught the grate with his claws. It took about ten seconds but it felt like an eternity before the Reaper freed the grate from the wall allowing the Reaper to slide inside and replace the grate with a soft clatter. The heated clamor of a heated argument guided the Reaper through a short maze of winding ventilation shafts before finding his mark, a glass casket with a green glow backdrop.
Three mammals were in the dark laboratory, a fluffy sheep and a deer clad in lab coats and an armed Advent officer. The sheep was kneeling on the floor frantically fiddling with one of the tubes feeding into the glass casket as the deer argued with the officer a few feet away. The officer was a greater one-horned rhinoceros clad in blood red advent armor with a matching red sash draped down his left shoulder. Despite the impressive difference in height the deer stood up straight and looked the towering rhino officer in the eye, even though his trembling was obvious.
“...Of course we know how critical this is to the Avatar project! But with the accelerated timeline you’ve placed upon us mistakes are bound to happen!” The frizzled white-tailed deer in a lab coat pleaded his case to rhinoceros. The argument was interrupted by another pair of Advent troopers marching into the dark chamber.
“Voz Mortan, Natal!” The rhino officer boomed. He thrust a stubby nail at the cowering deer signaling the closest trooper to latch onto the now panicked deer to drag him from the room.
“No! Please!” The Deer begged as he was forcefully escorted from the lab.
One of the Advent troopers, another wolf, stayed and loomed over the sheep with magnetic rifle in paw as the unfortunate scientist meekly scrambled to finish his work. He half turned to look up at the frowning trooper and spoke up in a trembling voice.
“No need for, for any of this. I will do what you ask of me, I just need additional time-!” A hiss of fabric parting and a wet crunch interrupted the sheep’s bleating.
“D-did you say….. something?” He turned to look up at the trooper in confusion.
The stunned sheep watched as the wolf’s arms sagged before the canine flopped to the floor like a sack of wet noodles. The sheep let out an involuntary bleat of terror as he spotted the smaller creature that rode the slain Advent trooper’s shoulders to the floor. The Reaper’s expression was hidden behind his glowing green mask as he cocked his head to the side much like a curious pup would do before he ripped his blade from the trooper’s spine, the sharpened steel glistened a sickly orange in the dim laboratory light.
“Y-your one of those!” The sheep cowered before the medium sized mammal that stalked ever closer with his bloody blade raised above his head poised to strike. The Sheep stumbled backward with his hooves shielding his face.
“Wait! You, you must understand, I. had. no. choice!” The Reaper’s silence was deafening but his blade spoke the answer as it sang through the air toward the sheep’s neck.
“Agent Blueberries, report!”
The Reaper’s blade stopped cold, the steel tickled against the sheep’s wool. The scientist stared wide-eyed at the blade, as if confused as to why it wasn’t already buried inside his throat. In a sudden jerk the Reaper spun the blade around and smashed the blunt pommel against the sheep’s temple knocking the unlucky mammal out cold.
As the sheep toppled boneless to the floor the Reaper turned his attention to the glass casket before him. He stepped ever closer as if in a trance until he was nearly nose to nose with the cold glass, and the towering mammal suspended inside, trapped in a full body suit that covered everything but two swirling horns that stuck horizontally from the brow of the suit’s mask. The Reaper slid a black furred paw inside his hood and clicked the earpiece nestled there.
“Central, this is Agent Blueberries. I have visual confirmation.” The Reaper’s voice crackled and fizzed like a poorly tuned radio.
“Are you sure?” Wolford growled.
“Reapers are always sure.” Agent Blueberries shot back.
“I’ll take your word for it. Cover your tracks and get the Hell outta there. They can’t know that we were here.” Central felt the corners of his lips peel back in a satisfied snarl. “....Yet.”
“Understood. Agent Blueberries out.” The Reaper released the earpiece and paused to look up at the mammal trapped in that suit, his emotions hidden by the mask clasped around his muzzle.
“Hang in there Chief.” The Reaper said in a quiet whisper.
“This is where the real war begins.”
Chapter 2: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Judy Hopps has been training relentlessly for weeks for the day she had been dreaming of since she was a kit. She had endured weeks of harsh training and even harsher treatment at the paws of her fellow resistance trainees. All that is left is the "Road to Hell", the final combat simulated obstacle course all trainees must complete before they can call themselves part of the resistance. But the morning of the big day finds her nervous and uncertain.
Can Judy find the inner strength to survive the Road to Hell and become the first bunny in the resistance? Or will she fall flat on her ears under the pressure?
-----Chapter 1: Between a Rock and a Hard Place-----
The sweltering heat rose off the scorched earth in distorted droves. Barely a shriveled weed would dare sprout in a place like this. The North American Dust bowl was a massive expanse of dead land that had infected most of the central continent with a hunger rivaling a starved hippo in a desert oasis.
The sun was barely peeking over the horizon and already it was tickling 110 degrees Fahrenheit, a stark contrast to the near freezing temperatures from a couple hours before.
Long fingers of sunlight reached out over the desolate desert to claw at the deep fissures of a massive canyon so deep and wide it was a wonder the ground didn’t simply swallow in upon itself. No one, not even Advent, was dumb enough to settle way out here in this hellscape. Well…. Almost no one.
“There… has gotta…. Be… an easier…. Way…. Up….” An exasperated voice whined between desperate gulps of the dusty air.
A pair of long gray ears with black tips flipped over the lip of a small fissure at the edge of the canyon, the furry appendages swiveled to and fro like radars before the bunny they were attached to popped her head out, her button nose twitching all the while.
The doe’s eyes were a sparkling, innocent amethyst that shone in the early morning sun.
She flinched as the first rays of sunlight bleared harshly over her crack in the earth making her see spots. She shook her head and blinked furiously to clear her eyesight sending her long ears flapping about. When she could finally see the doe scrambled out of the dried earth and leisurely looked towards the sunrise.
The grey bunny’s beautiful eyes widened in quiet awe at the enrapturing expanse that stretched above her. For a moment she thought she had walked into a painting, wide, gentle brushstrokes of pinks and violets dyed the blue canvas over a backdrop of vibrant yellows and strong reds.
When her lungs finally remembered how to do their job the distracted doe sucked in a breath and looked down at her clothes with a devastated groan.
“Noooo! I got dust everywhere! I’m going to be on laundry duty till next harvest!”
In desperation the dow frantically scrubbed her filthy clothes and bare fur, but it was a futile effort, she knew that. But she hated the way the tan particles marred her soft gray fur and the chaffing that came with being covered in the stuff during combat training was just the worse!
The bunny looked down at her filthy clothes in horror. “God, this is never going to come out!” She moaned.
Her dusty uniform looked handmade (mostly because it was, there were no uniforms for mammals her size, so her mother had to make one for her.) with large but neat stitching holding her green cargo pants and tan shirt together with a shoulder harness that carried a sheathed combat knife over her left breast just inside her shoulder.
The doe had wrapped her paws and feet in coarse fabric to gain more traction and keep from cutting herself on the dusty rocks. Bunnies lacked the footpads of more predators so even though they are known for their speed they had next to no traction and this bunny was no different.
“Well… no use crying over spilled carrot juice.” The doe sighed, resigning herself to her fate once she returned home. Laundry duty in a desert settlement like this was no joke.
The doe started her usual stretching routine by wrinkling out the kinks in her legs, back, and aching arms. Just the climb up to the surface was a workout all on its own, however this bunny wasn’t satisfied with just “good enough”. She came out here to run and rutabagas be damned if she wasn’t going to run!
“That should be good enough.”
She pulled her heels back and worked her legs loosely with a satisfied grunt before she took off at an easy jog while being mindful of the deceptive cracks that grew out from the canyon.
The rabbit felt a trill of excitement go through her as the blood roared in her toned muscles. Today was the day she graduated from basic training! She had only been in the program for just a few weeks, but it already felt like an eternity since she had stepped onto that jump ship along with a motley collection of recruits just like her.
The doe smiled softly at the astonished faces of the other recruits as she marched on board the cramped jump ship with a small duffel bag slung across her back. That will teach them to underestimate this bunny!
Then, like a raincloud on a sunny day the memory of why she boarded that jump ship clawed itself to the forefront of her mind. Her legs grew weak and her smile flagged to a frown as she came to an uneasy stop.
She suddenly felt ill just at the thought of what happened. She clasped her paws on her knees as a bout of nausea overtook her. She closed her glassy amethyst eyes.
“Please…. Please stop. Make it stop. Please make it stop.” She begged as if it were a mantra against the bale rose up her throat.
“Come on Judy you’re stronger than this. Come on, you’re stronger than this. You’re not some cute token bunny.”
Finally, the nausea faded away little by little, until all that remained of the panic attack was her ragged breathing and trembling limbs. Time to call it quits for this morning. She couldn’t afford to be an emotional wreck today of all days. Today was the day she showed everyone what she could do!
Today was the day she showed them that she had been worth saving.
“Time to head back I guess….” Judy took a long shuddering breath and turned back towards the canyon, her steps unsteady but her ears standing high.
Two hours and almost fifty loads of filthy laundry later found Judy deep underground at the very belly of the canyon. She and the twenty other recruits were on the impromptu parade field in the center of the settlement where they were attending basic training. The settlement was made primarily of jackrabbits and a small herd of Oryx that had immigrated from Asia before the first Alien war.
The buildings were built into the very rock itself in a very rough and tumble approach to construction. It didn’t have to look pretty, it just had to work (most of the time). The warren of jackrabbits had family members that had died during the war and once it became obvious that earth was losing they had retreated to the most secluded place they knew along with trustworthy members of their community.
Judy stood at a painfully rigid position of attention in the front row of their formation. The other recruits literally towered over her, the closest mammal her size was a bobcat and the tips of her ears barely reached to his chest. Throughout her six weeks of brutal training she had been scorned and belittled by almost everyone here, the ones that had not opted to simply pretend that she didn’t exist.
Most nights the young bunny had curled up in a tight ball and quietly cried herself to sleep as she was feeling isolated and very much alone. She was used to drifting away in a big pile of her family members but now she slept in the cold with no one to acknowledge her much less hold her. Despite the hardships she had never given up, now the fruits of her labor and suffering were just within her grasp.
A lanky dust brown canid emerged from a long green tent at the front of the formation, his back was crooked with age and his limbs looked withered, but his brown eyes were still sharp and his tongue even sharper. The silence was deafening and almost palpable as the elderly coyote ambled towards the formation.
His uniform was from a bygone era, its solid green fabric was worn, and his cap crinkled from long years of use, but none dared breathed in front of this mammal much less point out his outdated uniform, whether that was because of respect or fear was up for debate.
The coyote stopped a few paces short of the formation, every recruit dutifully keeping their eyes straight and their gazes trained on the green tent beyond the coyote.
Judy could hear the tension buzzing in the air. It was an irritating buzz that hang about her ears like a gnat, but she fought the urge to move with every fiber of her being. The consequences of even the smallest break in discipline could potentially be dire, so with her back taut and her ears standing tall she stood as still as a statue patiently waiting for an order.
The coyote was quiet since his appearance from the tent, but his icy gaze spoke volumes. He was waiting for something, but what? He paced back and forth in front of the recruits with a frown etched into his thin muzzle his gaze sweeping over the nervous recruits.
Finally, as if on some silent unseen signal, the elderly mammal began to speak, his voice was a sudden and as vicious as a whip.
“Twenty years!” He barked abruptly and scaring several recruits out of their fur. “Twenty fuckin’ years since Earth lost to the Aliens. No, since WE lost to the Aliens. During those years I had lost all hope of ever being a free mammal again.” The coyote’s voice shivered and cracked with a wave of emotion.
“I have lost far too many friends and family. My parents. My brother and sisters. My sons. My…. My grandkits… They died because I failed. They died because I lost. I lost, and I gave up.” The old coyote sniffed and wiped his tired eyes with a shaking paw to compose himself.
“I was hard on you. Perhaps unreasonably so, but I did so out of love. I do not want any of you to grow into the mammal that stands before you. I love you all as the grandkits that I no longer have…”
The coyote stopped in front of Judy and for the first time since she had arrived to basic training she saw a smile spread across that old canine’s muzzle. He met her wide amethyst gaze with moist eyes and a tender smile.
“You will not fail me.” He said to her before he put his paws to his lower back and wandered away from her to met every recruit’s astonished gaze.
“Even if we lose to the Aliens again, even if we all die, you will not have failed me. You would have fought to the bitter end… If that dark day does come than I will face it gladly knowing that we had tried. I never would have dreamed I would find a family again… yet here you are.”
The coyote turned his back to the formation, his paws clasped together against his back as his shoulders jerked in quiet sobs. The recruits stood in stunned silence as they watched their drill instructor struggle to bring himself under control. Judy’s ears fell against her back as a knot of conflicting emotions that she didn’t quite understand tangled up in her throat, choking the wet sob that squirmed in her chest.
The coyote took a deep breath and squared his shoulders before spinning around in a perfect about-face, the recruits all shuddering at the all too familiar glint of madness dancing in his eyes.
“Alright, enough mushy shit. You didn’t come all the way out to this godforsaken ass crack in the ground to hear an old dog cry. I want every single tick ridden furbag strapped in armor with grubby paws on weapons in front of the Road to Hell in five minutes. MOVE!”
At the instructor’s signal the formation scattered like kits caught muzzle deep in the cookie jar.
Judy yelped as she was shoved and kicked out of the herd of larger mammals madly scrambling to be the first one in front of the exam course. The doe hit the ground hard, pain shot up her hip as she fell badly on her right leg, leaving the limb tingling as if it had fallen asleep.
“Aaah.” She caught her cry of pain and turned it into a grimaced groan as she picked herself up and quickly limped away after the mob of recruits unaware of the elderly coyote watching her.
“Poor thing.” The instructor shook his head sadly. He cocked his muzzle over his shoulder at the tent and spoke again in a loud voice. “Are ya sure that bunny is up for it?”
“Yes.” A low growl replied.
The tent flap parted to reveal Central Officer Wolford clad in his casual uniform with a semiautomatic pistol holstered securely on his right hip. The timber wolf pensively watched the doe’s bobtail scamper away towards the fissure where the obstacle course was built.
“What exactly makes you so sure?” The coyote asked as he and Wolford made their way towards the course at a leisurely pace. Wolford’s teeth flashed in a knowing grin down at his brother in arms.
“Believe it or not Kevin, but out of all the recruits Judy Hopps holds the highest Alien kill count.” The timber wolf laughed at his friend’s stunned expression. The coyote quickly recovered his bearing and his ears swept back in a show of sympathy.
“The poor thing.” He said once again.
Wolford’s smile evaporated as memories of a crying bunny covered in her family’s blood and clutching a smoking assault rifle flashed before his eyes.
“Yes… the poor thing.”
Chapter 3: Road to Hell
The Road to Hell. Just waiting in line proves to be a challenge for Judy as she grapples with her past trauma and her rising nerves. The tension reaches an explosive boiling point when Central Officer Wolford, the mammal that both saved Judy and sponsored her entrance into the resistance, suddenly arrives to watch her attempt the course.
Things can possibly get any worse. Right?
This ain't no place for a cute bunny.
How is Judy going to survive fighting the Aliens if she can't even survive her allies? Lets find out!
“Come on! Come on! Where is it. Where is it?!”
Judy tore through her bags and closet in a panic. She had found her rifle an X-9, a beat up relic from the first invasion, just fine but she was missing something else just as important.
The longhouse where she had the other recruits were housed were lined with large mammal sized bunks with two lockers set at the head of each one against the wall. Judy bit back a hiss as the splintered floorboards bit into her soft hind paws in her race around her grossly oversized bunk to find her mysteriously absent body armor.
“Hey cottontail!” Judy whipped her head around to see Peter Osei, a rather small black bear, crack an maddening grin down at the little bunny, his sharp canines flashed behind thin black lips.
“Tell me, can bunnies fly?” Peter quipped and crooked a claw towards the rafters above where a set of tiny body armor was tacked to one of the beams supporting the roof. The black bear barked in laughter as Judy’s eyes widened and her lips drew back in mute disbelief.
“Two minutes left cottontail. Tick tock!” Peter sang over his burly shoulder on his way out the door with his assault rifle casually slung over his shoulder leaving a hopping mad rabbit staring dumbly up at the ceiling.
“That- Those JERKS!” She snarled. Her ears drew back against her shoulders and her arms quivered in outrage.
Judy stomped her foot as almost predatory growl scratched up her throat. In a burst of anger unlike anything she had felt before Judy sprang onto her bunk and scrambled up one of the posts like a savage beast onto the top mattress until she was about seven feet from the rafters.
She eyed the distance then backed up to the foot of the bed to get a running start. The grey doe shot across the bed and used the wall as a springboard to give herself just enough height to reach the wooden beams holding up the roof. She had misjudged the distance though and her chest smacked painfully with the wooden beams.
“No, no, no, no, no!” She pleaded in a hitched voice as she began to slide off the beam. Her dull claws dug into the weathered wood slowing her short journey off the wood just enough for her to heave herself onto the beam.
“Whew… Oooh when I get my paws on them-!” She growled to herself and pounded the beam with a free paw. She clambered onto her hind paws and tottered precariously towards her body armor.
Judy took a deep, calming breath. “Well, it’s not like it could get any worse.”
Her optimism lasted about three more steps until she was close enough to see the huge nail pounded through chest of her body armor firmly tacking it into the wooden beam behind it.
“OH COME ON!”
“HOPPS! YOU’RE THREE MINUTES LATE!” Kevin roared.
“Sorry sir!” A small cloud of dust kicked up behind the bunny as she slid to a stop her drooping ears flushed in embarrassment. Judy’s mad dash from the barracks left her panting heavily and her limbs trembling.
“I was….. Delayed.” She shot a venomous glare at a smug looking Peter Osei before snapping to a rigid parade rest.
“I don’t want to hear your excuses Hopps just start putting muzzle to dirt. Now.” The lanky coyote snapped.
Without another word Judy fell down into a front leaning rest and began doing push ups at a steady pace, shooting the mammals responsible for her misery another well deserved glare.
The coyote may have been getting on in years but he was by no means new to the antics of recruits. The spry elderly mammal followed Judy’s scowl and whirled around to face the line of smirking recruits fighting hard to hide their grins. “Aaaad all of you! Don’t think for a moment you are getting off the hook! If one of us gets down-?”
A collective moan drifted from the recruits. “-We all get down….” They mumbled as paws hit the hurt and grunts of exertion filled the air.
After a couple very long and painful minutes Kevin waved them back to their feet. “Alright, git up. We are burning what little daylight we have that actually reaches down here so let's hurry the hell up.”
As the recruits groaned from burning arms and weary backs Kevin caught something weird about Judy’s apparel.
“Hopps! What in dust devil's name did you do to your armor? It's got a big ass hole through the middle of it!” As the bunny opened her mouth the coyote groaned and dragged a paw down his face. “Nevermind. Just….. just get in line Hopps and try not to destroy anything else. There's just not enough hours in the day for the smoking you deserve for wrecking your equipment.”
Judy flinched as if she had been slapped in the jaw. The only thing worse than their drill instructor’s anger was earning his disappointment. Her shoulders sagged in guilt and her eyes dragged to her toes. She hated disappointing the people she looks up to even if it wasn’t her fault. Even Peter, the one responsible, realized he had gone too far now he was actively avoiding everyone’s gaze with his stubby ears pulled back.
Kevin however, wasn’t having any of it. “OSEI! GIT YOUR RAGGED TAIL UP TO THE STARTING LINE!”
How that much air could fit inside such a thin coyote was beyond Judy but she failed to care at seeing the bullying black bear squeal like one of her infant siblings. The other recruits sniggered as the stocky black bear shuffled to the barrier that separated them from the course. Kevin marched over to Peter and peered up at the mammal that towered over him.
“Osei, you understand the objective?”
“Yes s-sir!” The black bear cradled his assault rifle to his chest with one paw and slid into a smart parade rest for the coyote as he replied in a sharp bark. “Get to the end of the Road to Hell without getting hit with as many kills as possible in the fastest time possible! Sir!”
“Good.” Kevin cracked a satisfied grin at the rapt answer and waved over his shoulder. “I will have Wolford over here check your weapon then you are good to go.”
The air seemed to have been sucked from the canyon as every recruit paled and with the breath driven from their lungs from the shock. Wolford. THE Central Officer Wolford. HERE?! And he was personally checking each recruit’s weapon and watching them complete the course?! Judy suddenly felt very ill.
Wolford however reveled in the pliable tension he had caused among the recruits simply with his presence. Seeing the terror on these hapless mammals faces never get old. The hardened wolf of war appeared from seemingly out of thin air behind Kevin with a snaggle tooth grin stretch across his muzzle.
Peter was visibly trembling as Wolford stepped up to the black bear. Peter was just a hair taller than the lean timberwolf so they stood eye to eye. Peter looked as if he was about to cry as Wolford took his assault rifle from his paws to work the bolt back to examine the rifle’s cleanliness. He grinned at the terror in Osei’s yellow eyes as he grunted and hummed periodically throughout his examination. Finally when he had his fun Wolford slapped the bolt closed and pushed the rifle to Peter’s chest.
“Good to go rookie.” The Wolford grinned and slapped Peter’s shoulder. “Go get ‘em.”
“Y-yes sir!” With a speed even Judy was jealous of Peter shot off to the barrier and slung his rifle in anticipation for the green light, his claws twitching from nerves and anticipation.
“You ready Winnie the Pooh?” Kevin drolled was he thumbed a steel whistle in his paw.
The whistle’s shrill squeal stabbed at Judy’s sensitive ears like nails on a chalkboard. When she shook the disorienting ringing in her ears Peter had already scampered up the barrier into the Road to Hell.
For several heart pounding moments all was quiet, though Judy’s incredible hearing could pick up Peter’s claws scrambling against wooden obstacles and his adrenaline fueled grunts of exertion. She knew the silence wouldn’t last though but for some reason when the gunfire shattered the silence she still squeaked and jumped back with her paws pulling her ears down around her cheeks.
The gunfire was simulated by speakers and some civilian volunteers armed with loud paintball guns placed throughout the Road to Hell so it was harmless but too many hits from paintballs meant failure. Soon Osei’s rifle clattered back a burst of return fire.
His rifle was loaded with simunition, a non-lethal paint round designed to be fired from a real rifle. Though, judging from the squeal that ripped through the air simunition was far from painless. By the end of the day these poor volunteers will be an anthill of bruises.
“HELP!” A panicked shriek drowned out the hissing of paintball rounds and for a moment Judy thought Peter was in real trouble until she realized it wasn’t his voice. It must have been another of the hare volunteers.
The terror in his voice seemed real. Very real. Judy was already halfway up the barrier before she found a pair of huge claws enveloping her tiny body, and a timberwolf shouting her name.
“Hopps!” Wolford’s intense growl snapped the struggling rabbit from her reckless race to that cry for help. When Wolford saw her glassy amethyst eyes came back into focus he cracked a grin. “Hopps, it’s okay. It’s just part of the simulation. It’s just part of the course, understand?”
The flustered rabbit seemed to deflate as a wave of relief crashed into her system, flushing out the adrenaline from her veins. “I-I’m sorry sir.”
“Don’t worry about it Hopps, just get back in line and calm down.” Wolford set her down gently and smirked. “Though, I do like your instincts. But do try to rein yourself in a bit.”
“Yes sir. Thank you sir.” She mumbled, her eyes on her feet and her drooping ears burning a deep scarlet.
Though it seemed like an eternity Peter actually completed the course in about seven minutes, just inside the benchmark of ten minutes. The black bear stayed at the finish line however so the other recruits couldn’t press him for answers or see how many times he had been hit by paintballs.
Next up was beautiful jaguar with glossy black fur by the name of Ana Ramirez. She completed the course in under five minutes, beating out Peter’s record. The remainder of the recruits followed this pattern though there were a couple who didn’t make the ten minute mark. This was all well and good but every time that Horrifying scream for help split the air Judy had to fight to keep from bolting, sometimes she couldn’t tell whether it was towards the noise or away from the gunfire but she did as she was told and suffered through it.
Until it was finally her turn.
“You ready Hopps?” Wolford towered over the nervous bunny.
“Yes sir!” She declared with all the confidence she could muster. She thrust her rifle over her head for Wolford to inspect and he accepted it gladly. He took the small variant of the X-9 assault rifle with a nostalgic smile hovering about his grayed muzzle.
The X-9 was the standard assault rifle for XCOM during the Alien’s first invasion. It’s archaic design was offset by its ease of use and adaptability. This particular X-9 was modified for small sized mammals, something the current standard assault rifles could not yet do, and was chambered in .17 Hornet, a smaller cousin of the standard 5.56 NATO rounds the current XCOM assault rifle use.
Wolford was just as through in his inspection of Judy’s rifle as he was with every recruits but his usual teasing and grunting was absent, in its place was a tiny frown and a, expression of intense concentration. He was being extremely hard on Judy, he looked in every tiny crevice and crack for evidence of carbon or other filth that littered the relic of a rifle.
To his immense joy he found absolutely nothing. Judy’s weapon was clean as a whistle, the best one out of all the recruits. Not that he was going to tell her that. Nothing good came from inflating a nervous recruit’s ego right before the infamous Road to Hell. He knelt down and handed the rifle back to the nervous bunny.
“Good Job Hopps.” Wolford was too large a mammal to pat her shoulder as his paw alone covered half of her entire body so he settled for a gentle pat between her bouncing ears. “Go get ‘em rookie. Make me proud.”
“I-I will sir!” Judy’s heart soared at his words. She bounced on her feet as a bright smile revealed her large front teeth. “I won’t let you down!”
“I know you won’t Hopps, just keep calm and do your best.” With those last words of encouragement Central Officer Wolford padded off to the observatory deck on the left-paw side of the course leaving her alone with Kevin. The coyote’s head was cocked to the side in a pensive expression of curiosity, though when he realized she noticed his staring he straightened up.
“Ready Hopps?” He asked with whistle in paw.
“Yes sir!” Judy shouted. This time she was ready for the whistle’s shriek as she tuned out the ringing in her ears and bolted for the barrier.
Judy hit the wooden obstacle like a furry cannonball and scrambled up the horizontal logs almost just as fast. Bunnies were not inherently strong climbers but she had been practicing constantly during her daily trek to run on the desert surface. She made it over the barrier and found herself in the middle of a ramshackle suburb street. Buildings of steel and wood were slapped together in a haphazard manner with windows, blind spots, and deadly funnels everywhere with every surface coated in a rainbow’s worth of paint splatters.
“High ground. High ground.” Judy chanted under her breath.
She brought her rifle to her chest and shot off towards the nearest building, a two-story house. Instead of going through the house’s interior the bunny opted to leap to the closest outcropping of sheet metal to use as a springboard. Her padless foot nearly caused her an embarrassing and quick trip back to street level but her climbing tape snagged enough traction to hold her steady.
Judy took a deep breath and sprang to a window sill then to the house’s rooftop. Now that she had the high ground Judy felt much better about her chances at completing the course…. Until she realized she had just wasted almost an entire minute climbing one stupid house.
“Fertilizer!” Adrenaline pumped wildly into her tiny body giving Judy a vicious burst of speed as she sprinted across the rooftop. Without a single stutter of hesitation Judy flung herself from the house’s roof to the neighboring building. She hit the sheet metal roof hard, the impact jarred her legs enough to seize in pain.
A squeak of surprise slipped from the bunny’s lips as Judy curled into a ball around her rifle and rolled across the rooftop to avoid hurting herself further. She gathered her feet under her and gave them a quick shake before bolting off towards the next building.
After crossing the next three buildings without incident Judy was actually feeling optimistic. Though, not if any trigger happy volunteers had anything to say about it.
A paintball whistled just past her skull, jarring the young bunny from her thoughts, suddenly her whole world was a clattering symphony of hissing paintball guns, harsh roars of laughter, and simulated gunfire. Judy froze, her racing heart threatening to burst in her chest.
Then the anguished cry of a terrified mammal clawed at her ears then her training took over.
Judy ducked a flurry of orange paintballs from a tan hare wearing goggles in a second floor window and returned the favor. Her X-9 kicked against her shoulder as a burst .17 Hornet simunition rounds screamed out of the barrel, two of the three blue paint rounds hit their mark dropping the hare like a sack of potatoes.
A rush of excitement unlike anything Judy had ever felt before rushed into the potent cocktail of adrenaline and high-struck stress wildly pounding through her veins. She had never been this excited. She had never felt so alive! A feral grin split across her lips as the crazy bunny shot across the rooftop bobbing and weaving to avoid the hailstorm of incoming paintballs.
Judy was so carried away by the rush of combat she had almost forgotten about the scream for help. She smacked her back against a mock of a chimney and listened for the mammal’s cry for help, her long ears swiveling like radar dishes.
“There!” She heard him again, he was close. He seemed trapped in the building next to her on the second floor. Judy bolted from cover and lowered her ears to duck under a burst of paintball fire in her mad dash to the edge of the roof. She spotted an open window easily within leaping distance and went for it, tucking her limbs in to keep from striking any sharp edges on the way in.
Judy sailed through the window into the second floor and rolled flawlessly to her feet. The interior was naturally darker than the outside but her poor vision made Judy rely solely on her hearing until her eyes could adjust. She spotted a pair of wide hazel eyes under a window on the far side of the building and brought her rifle to her shoulder.
“Hey! Sir! Are you alright?” She walked as slowly as she dared with the maelstrom of speeding paintballs with her name on them sailing in through the windows and spattering onto the walls. The hazel eyes blinked in surprise at the bunny’s question. “Sir! You were screaming for help, do you need help?” Judy asked as calmly as her pounding heart and ragged breathing would allow. Finally the hazel eyes bobbed.
“Yeah! Y-you are actually gonna try to git me outta here?” The owner of those hazel eyes turned out to be another tan furred hare with black tipped ears much like Judy’s.
The bunny recruit laughed at the question. “Oh course! Can you run?”
“Yeah. I’m fine, just stuck.”
“Alright then! Follow me!” Judy ducked under the window and brought dragged the hapless volunteer down the stairs to the first floor.
“Okay! Keep close and whatever happens do NOT stop running. Understand?” Judy shouted over the deafening clatter of simulated gunfire and rapid spitting of paintball guns. The hare bobbed his head and lowered his ears to his back just like Judy had done with an exhilarated grin plastered on his face. Judy flashed a smile matching his excitement and pointed to an open window.
“Ready? Go!” Judy pulled her rifle to the building across the street and plugged the towering oryx wildly spraying her building with paintballs. The desert antelope squealed as a tight pattern of blue paint smacked into his chest eliminating him from the battle to nurse his new collection of bruises. Judy didn’t have time to celebrate as she and her charge leapt out a side window into the street.
Judy didn’t know how much time she had left but she suddenly didn't care. She had finally saved someone from the Aliens! Sure, it was only a volunteer in a training course but it still made her feel better about herself.
“There! I see the finish!” The volunteer shouted, a paw thrust at the end of the street. A rush of adrenaline poured into her flagging stamina reserves, spurring the tired bunny on.
Fifty meters. Only fifty meters left.
A burst of orange paintballs spattering the dust around them jolted Judy from her thoughts.
“Get inside that house!” She pulled the wide eyed hare into the nearest building and flung herself after him just in time to avoid a second burst of paintballs. Judy stumbled and rolled to catch herself, forcing her to scramble on three paws to the wall her companion had pressed himself against, a paw pressed against his thigh.
“You alright?” Judy asked between gulps of air. “You hit?”
“Yeah, I got hit in the leg.” He sighed. “Dammit! And you and I almost made it too!” He moaned in disappointment. Judy scrunched her nose in thought.
“W-wait. Are you out?”
“No, I just can’t walk on this leg anymore. Its against the rules.” He shook his head and shrugged. “You did good though, no one else even tried to get me out. Funny how the smallest mammal here had the biggest heart, huh?”
If Judy wasn’t lost in her own little world her blush would have bleed through even her thick grey fur. Instead she nodded her head and slung her rifle to her hip.
“Okay, get up.”
“Okay- wait. What?” The hare stared at the bunny’s outstretched arm like it had turned purple and sprouted wings.
“Get up so I can put you on my shoulders. I’m carrying you.” The volunteer raised his paws and backed away as Judy got closer to pick him up.
“Wait.. are you serious?” He asked in a incredulous whisper.
“Yes.” came her kurt reply.
“W-well…. Okay, try not to get me hit or drop me please?” He begged.
“No guarantees.” Judy smirked. “That said I’ll try not to.” Once the hare was balance precariously across Judy’s shoulders the bunny steadied herself for the madness that was about to ensue.
“Hey, quick question.” The hare’s breath rustled the fur on Judy’s cheek. “Have you ever done this before?”
“Nope! Heeere we go!”
When Judy appeared from cover she had expected a storm of paintballs to descend on her like bees to honey but the unusual sight of a hare draped across her shoulders left the volunteers a bit dumbfounded at the ridiculous sight. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth Judy took off like a bullet down the street jolting the volunteers from their confusion.
“Get her! Shoot that bunny!”
“But She’s carryin’ James!
“So? Paint’ll wash out won’t it?”
“Noooooo!” The hare clutched to Judy’s back to keep from falling as angry orange paintballs hissed through the air just past their ears.
“Come on! Come on! Almost there!” Judy’s legs were on fire and her back and arms felt like wet noodles as she pounded across the dusty street with James yelling incoherently in her ear all the while.
Then she felt a painful splatter on her right heel.
“Carrot sticks!” Judy sputtered in pain as a second paintball smacked into James's flank making the unfortunate mammal flinch and tumble from her shoulders.
“James!” Throwing caution to the wind Judy threw herself over the hare’s balled up body as a rain of paintballs hissed through the air to find their mark. The angry orange projectiles drilled painfully into Judy’s side as she shielded the hare beneath her as best she could under the never-ending rain of paintballs until a shrill shriek of a whistle cracked through the air.
James tentatively lifted his head from the dirt. “I-is it ov-”
“HOPPS!” A furious growl ripped through the air. Judy stiffened and looked up to see a furious Kevin standing over her with a wicked fire in his eyes.
Two hours had passed since Judy had failed the Road to Hell now she found herself alone in an empty longhouse, the other recruits already had graduated and moved on to their new units. She was the first recruit ever to have failed to even complete the course.
“The first ever!” She moaned and buried her head in her paws as tears stained her white paw fur. “I’m *hic* I’m such an-an idiot! *hic* L-l-like I could actually make the world a B-b-b-better place…..”
The does sobs echoed sadly in the lonely building. She failed. She had failed and it was all her fault.
“What-what *hic* What I-I’m I gonna do? W-w-where am I g-g-g-gonna go? Home?” She snorted. “Y-yeah right. Th-they’ll all just l-l-laugh at me a-and call m-m-me *hic* useless and st-st-stupid again…. I just wanna *hic* wanna die….”
“I don’t.” A low growl shook the sobbing bunny from her helpless moaning.
“Central O-Officer W-Wolford?” Judy squeaked as the timberwolf quietly slipped through the aisles of empty bunks to kneel in front of Judy until they were eye to eye.
“I saw your little stunt out there.” He said in as gentle a growl as he could muster. His well intended words had the opposite effect as the bunny’s crying redoubled, fat teardrops poured from her watery amethyst eyes like a shower.
“I-I-I-I’m So *hic* so sorry! I f-failed y-y-you. *hic* I-I-I-”
“Enough.” Wolford snapped, cutting off Judy’s teary apology. Her wide watery eyes stared pitifully at his soul, her entire tiny being was begging him for his forgiveness. He may be a battle hardened badass but even Wolford was helpless against a woman’s “puppy eyes” regardless of their species. Thats cheating.
“Hopps, I forgive you.” Wolford gently patted the hiccupping doe’s head. “But forgiveness is not why I came here.”
“I-I-It’s not?” Judy stuttered.
“No,” Wolford pointed a claw at a very confused bunny. “I came for you.”
Judy’s body went rigid as she struggled to comprehend what Wolford had just said. Than, very slowly, the meaning of his words dawned on her.
“Y-y-you *hic* f-for me? B-but sir I-I-I-I failed?!” Judy drew her knees to her chest and clutched them for dear life as once again her whole world had just been turned upside down. Wolford chuckled.
“You may have failed to complete the Road to Hell Hopps but it was not due to your incompetence.” He cracked another of his rare smiles. “You failed the course only because you tried to do the right thing, even though you technically did get the civilian and yourself killed in the process.”
Judy stared up at the scarred timberwolf as if she were hypnotized. Her limbs gradually uncurled from her body as he spoke, her eyes wide in disbelief.
“I heard you say you want to make the world a better place?” Judy hiccuped and mutely bobbed her head. “Well then Ms. Hopps, I only have one question left for you.” He leaned in close with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
“How do you feel about living on an airship?”
Chapter 4: Operation Gatecrasher Part 1
Judy arrives to New Providence for her first mission and everything seems to be going according to plan.
Until it doesn't.
This chapter's a bit lengthy so I divided it up into two parts.
Let me know your thoughts and please if you have any questions or comments just post them below or send me a message and I'll be happy to reply!
“The excitement continues to build as city centers across the globe prepare for the 20th anniversary of Unification Day.” The silky feminine voice of a charming whitetail deer rippled from the ancient computer’s fizzling monitor. A video of one of Advent’s military parades marching down a street of adorning fans filled the screen.
The blissful smiles plastered on the muzzles of those ignorant fools made Judy’s stomach buck against her spine.
“ Despite repeated attacks by fringe elements Advent facilities in New Providence thankfully remain unaffected.” The newscaster’s sickening smile faded out as footage of came to the forefront.
“Advent again assures all citizens that today’s celebrations will continue as planned.”
“Perfect.” Central Officer Wolford clicked the computer off, pitching them under a blanket of sudden darkness, the only source of light was what filtered in through the cracks in the boarded up windows.
Rabbits had very poor night vision so Judy was practically blind in the darkness when compared to the rest of her squad. Peter Osei, the black bear and Ana Ramirez, a lithe and rather fiery jaguar along with Judy Hopps herself were hand picked by Central Officer Wolford for this daring (suicidal) mission. This operation was the very definition of insanity. A four mammal fireteam against a literal army just to bust into some gene therapy clinic and grab some poor sap that had been kidnapped years ago.
And if things weren’t crazy enough this was Judy’s first ever mission.
The bunny sighed wistfully as her mind drifted to her bunk back in the dustbowl canyon. Hard to imagine only two days had passed since her little emotional episode after the Road to Hell fiasco. Those were the good ol’ days…. Judy snorted and shook the cobwebs from her mind. No, those days were horrible. She had suffered both emotionally and physically during those agonizing six weeks out in the desert at the paws of her “comrades”. Judy couldn’t see him but she shot a heated glare at Peter Osei’s direction anyway.
No way in greener pastures was she willing to forgive that prick for the shit he pulled.
Ana Ramirez on the other paw, was in the “pretend the carrot farmer doesn’t exist” camp during basic training. Though she never actually gave Judy the cold shoulder the jaguar certainly made it clear that she wanted nothing to do with the dumb bunny bouncing around the canyon wanting to play soldier with the big mammals.
“With allies like these who needs enemies?” Judy thought bitterly.
“Alright people!” Wolford’s barking snapped the doe from further self-deprecating thoughts. “You know what to do. Osei, you and Ramirez with hook up with our contact, he can get you close to the clinic but it’s all on you to mop up the Advent forces securing the therapy clinic. You engage when Hopps and I give the signal.”
“What’s the signal sir?” Ramirez purred.
“You will know it when you hear it. loud noises, gunshots, and mayhem. Trust me, It’ll be hard to miss.” If Judy didn’t know any better she could have sworn the aged and hardened combat veteran giggled.
A trill of thankfulness for being on this wolf’s side mingled with an elated pity for the Aliens unfortunate enough to have earned his ire. A similar revelation skittered through Osei and Ramirez before the predatory pair quipped a curt affirmative and shuffled in the dark to gather their gear with grins of anticipation curled back on their lips.
“Hopps, you and I have the fun job. We get to set off some Advent fireworks.” A quiver of excitement shook Judy’s tiny body.
Wolford’s confidence flushed much of her apprehension towards this crazy mission but if the legendary Central himself was leading the charge into battle she had total faith that they would succeed.
Whether they will live to tell about it though was a completely different matter altogether.
----------------- [2 Hours Later] [20:03:07 Hours][New Providence Square]-----------------
Glittering spires of glass and steel gorged into the nocturnal skyline like jagged teeth ripping into smoggy flesh. The denizens of New Providence, Central America swarmed about the streets in a fervor resembling a beehive dunked in honey. This city that never sleeps seemed to have taken a double shot of espresso as beams of light pierced into the heavens to dance against the cloudy overcast that choked the full moon from view. The festive night breeze had a icy nip to it, though few mammals noticed as the smoggy air pulsed with hypnotic beat as music bands performed all over the vast cityscape of twinkling lights and dancing shadows. The city was a glittering predator dancing in a swirling starfield of smog and void.
And Judy was walking straight down the toothy maw into the belly of the beast.
The frigid sidewalk bit through her hind paw fur making every uncertain step deeper into the heart of the bustling city painfully cold. the painful chill made the doe stiffen and brustle, putting her further on edge. Judy was a country bunny after all, she had never been in a city like this before. She was way out of her depth, like a fish floundering about on desert sand. The pounding beat of a far off concert rippled through her sensitive ears putting the tense rabbit even farther off kilter. Soon every tiny noise became an Advent trooper looming over her shoulder and every shadow hid an Alien just out of sight. It also didn’t help knowing that in a few minutes her stress induced paranoia was about to come a reality.
Judy pulled at her clothes for the hundredth time since she had stepped out onto the crowded street. She was given new clothes just for this mission since her torn jeans and threadbare flannel button downs stuck out like a sore thumb out here in the city. A pair of black slacks hugged her flared hips a bit too tightly for her taste while her dark blue blouse pressed around her like a vice and the low cut V-neck showed just a little too much of her white breast fur for her taste. The only thing she couldn’t really complain about was the thick synthetic leather jacket that adorned her shoulders. The jacket had some weight to it and was quite warm and even though Judy knew it was silly she felt as if the jacket was her armor against the world since no one else was her to stand by her side.
“Geez. A little lonely there Jude?” She chuckled to herself and checked her watch, her tense smile evaporated. “8:10, er- I mean 20:10. Five minutes until it…. Starts.” It certainly didn’t help her nerves knowing the pentagon shaped X-4 charge pressing uncomfortably in her flank had enough destructive power to level a city block.
Judy shook herself from her inner squalor and squared her shoulders, her long gray ears standing tall and her fists clenched. “Let’s get this done.” She closed her eyes and took a breath before pressing her earpiece.
“Crasher 3 approaching position, ETA-” Judy flicked her ears towards the roar of a huge audience cheering in a concert in New Providence Square just a few city blocks away. “-Three minutes.”
[Crasher 3, this is Central. ETA acknowledged T-minus 3 Mikes. Break. All units report in. Over.]
[Crasher 1, Osei. Roger.]
[Central, this is Crasher 2, Ramirez. Last message is a good copy.]
Judy hesitated for a moment as this little exchange felt far too much like kits playing soldier until she realized that this was the real thing. “T-this is Crasher 3, Hopps. Acknowledged.”
[Keep your ears down and your heads on a swivel people. Crasher 1, Crasher 2, wait for our signal to engage. Central out.]
Judy spotted the harsh crimson glow of Advent holographic traffic dividers and street scanners flickering at the end of the street with a constantly growing crowd of mammals of all sizes squeezing and impatiently. The angry red glare gave the doe pause. This wasn’t a game anymore. Mammals were about to die for real and she was going to be the one with more blood on her paws.
[Crasher 3, where are you?] Judy squeaked and her paws shot over her short muzzle as her heart sped into overdrive. She smacked a paw against her hammering chest and swallowed her surprise before pressing a shaking paw against her earpiece.
“T-this is crasher 3. Approaching position now.” Judy chuckled weakly trying to dispel the trembling in her voice. “You were right. Heh, they’ve definitely got their paws full tonight.”
[Stay focused.] Wolford’s voice rumbled.
Judy tottered to the Advent holographic barricade on week knees where she spotted Central’s scarred grey muzzle through the throng of excited mammals waiting in line for the concert. The timberwolf was dressed in a long wool trench coat with plenty of room to hide all sorts of sharp and pointy things that go stab in the night. Wolford’s exhilarated gaze flickered to meet hers for a fraction of a second before returning to studiously stare at the back of the cheetah in front of him. She watched him discreetly lift a paw to his earpiece making it seem as if he was itching a scratch.
[Prep Gatecrasher, 60 seconds.] Wolford pulled his paw away without waiting on a reply.
Judy shivered at the tiny feral grin that lifted the corner of his muzzle as he shuffled to the front of the line were a metal detector and a squad of Advent troopers were screening the concert’s patrons for entry. As soon as he was waved through the metal detector the device squealed in panic and the Advent troopers swarmed around him like angry wasps with rifles honed in on the wolf’s smarmy smirk.
The crowd’s attention was on the tense confrontation at the security gate as was the Advent troopers who were malingering about the checkpoint drawing their eyes away from the nervous bunny that pressed herself against barricade’s projector, her noses twitching madly as she watched the Advent forces swarm her fearless idol. She struggled to keep from bolting prematurely to her objective with her explosive cargo now clutched to her chest with shaking paws.
“Mor Balaten.” The Advent Officer in command of the security checkpoint padded forward until he was nose to unconcerned smirk with Central Officer Wolford.
Wolford silently shifted a paw to his hip and regarded the Officer with mild interest which infuriated the crimson goon. The Advent Officer butt-stocked Wolford in the chest forcing the grayed wolf to his knees. A ripple of fear and shock swept through the onlookers which is why no one bothered to notice the little gray rabbit dart through the holographic barricade and slide under the troop carrier’s undercarriage.
“Come on… Come on… Got it!” Judy hissed through a sweaty smile as she punched in the activation code and X-4 charge blinked a steady green. She spared a glance around the troop carrier’s front tire and saw Wolford wink in her direction and stand up. Yup, it’s time to leave.
Judy scampered from the undercarriage with no regard to stealth as she put as much distance as she could between the explosive and herself as she could with the trigger wrapped in an iron grip, her thumb poised over the button.
[Now.] Judy closed her eyes, pulled down her ears and pressed the trigger.
Then her whole world exploded.
Chapter 5: Operation Gatecrasher Part 2
As the saying goes, if something can go wrong everything will go wrong.
A/N: I am looking for any interested in assisting in writing this project. The last thing I want to happen is for ZCOM to die, either by lack of time, inspiration, or support.
If you are interested in becoming a co-author, an editor/ beta reader or simply want to throw around ideas and brainstorm feel free to message me. I need all the help I can get.
---------------------[New Providence, Central America][20:17:34][Concert Plaza]--------------------
Huh? What was that? Everything is spinning. Can’t… Can’t quite remember which why is up. Weird…. Everything hurts but…. But I kinda don’t really care….where am I again? Something about a concert I think?
“-Opps! L-.... Go!” That scary voice sounds…. Sounds familiar…. Like a wolf….. Wolford? Wait WOLFORD! Judy’s eyes shot open to a wide frown stretched across Central’s scarred muzzle.
“Hopps!” Wolford shook Judy’s shoulders and roared, jolting the bunny back into the land of the living. “Pick your fluffy little tail up, we need to go NOW!”
Judy tried to talk but all that came out was an incoherent sputter as she crawled to her feet and shook her head to clear the ringing in her ears. The street was void of any civilians, Judy wasn’t sure how long she had been incapacitated but surely it couldn’t have been more than a couple minutes. She blinked furiously to get her world back into focus, it was a frustratingly tough process. It seemed when she had been thrown by the explosion she had hit the pavement and gone all crosseyed. She had been so busy trying to make sense of her surroundings she missed Central throw off his trenchcoat revealing where he had strapped a myriad of weaponry to his torso.
“Hopps! Here.” Judy looked up just in time to catch her X-9 assault rifle and a couple magazines of .17 Hornet ammunition. The real thing, not the simunition she had been accustomed to, these rounds were made with the intent to pierce and kill.
“Let’s go Hopps. I hear gunfire coming from the clinic. If we don’t hurry we’ll be late to the party.”
“Roger sir. Right behind you!”
The rattle of gunfire stung Judy’s sensitive hearing like pins through her eardrums. Two distinct explosive bursts of ballistic firearms staggered around each other was a telltale sign that Crasher 1 and Crasher 2 were alive and putting up a good fight somewhere in the plaza up ahead, however the four answering whirring blasts of magnetic Advent weaponry worried Judy. As she and Central pounded pavement towards the gene clinic Wolford ripped his rifle from his chest and slammed a large capacity drum magazine into his weapon and ripped a round into the chamber. His assault rifle was a custom build with aftermarket furniture replacing just about every part of the firearm and just feeling that familiar weight in his paws nearly made his heart melt into a puddle as a wicked bloodthirsty grin stretched across his scarred muzzle.
The apex predator has arrived on the field.
Judy’s muscles burned and her bruises ached but it was little more than superficial next to the blood roaring in her ears and the terror that stretched her eyes wide, but she swallowed that fear and kept her violet eyes trained on Central’s ragged grey and white tipped tail as he sprinted around the corner.
When she rounded the corner Judy had just enough time to register Osei and Ramirez huddled behind a four door sedan parked in front of the gene therapy clinic before she had to duck behind a pillar to avoid stray bullets. The plaza was strewn with slain Advent troopers as if they were street litter. Judy risked a quick peek around her pillar and spotted the surviving troopers taking cover in the plaza’s central garden trading gunfire with the operatives.
“Mors Valaten!” The surviving rhino Advent Officer had rents from ballistic impacts shorn into his crimson armor.
He hefted his massive magnetic rifle to his shoulder and squeezed a clattering burst into the sedan and snorted in satisfaction at the cry of pain from behind the car. In reveling in his short lived victory the armored rhino failed to spot the grinning timber wolf bearing down on him and his troops. Central vaulted over a planter and hip fired his rifle. The 5.56 NATO rounds were small for a rifle round but they were still a high velocity round that tumbled on impact with flesh. The rhino’s damaged armor failed under the ambushed spray of automatic rifle fire. Generous gouts of bright orange blood splattered the grass and impact ridden pavement before the berserk wolf shoulder checked the dying mammal that was easily four times his weight where he squeezed a final burst into its head. The remaining troopers froze in shock at Central’s impossible display, making it easy for the timber wolf to cut them down where they stood. Wolford turned back to his soldiers and slammed a fresh magazine home.
“Lets go people, no time to waste!”
“C-crasher 2 is down!” Dread tore into Central’s joviant attitude as Osei’s grief stricken cry shook the plaza. “S-she’s…. She’s fucking dead!”
Judy’s ragged breathing caught in her throat making her tight chest cry angrily for air. She followed behind Wolford in a daze to the blood splattered sedan. What she saw she knew would follow her into her nightmares.
Ramirez’s glossy black fur was matted were the magnetic rifle rounds had ripped through her like she was wet parchment, her body armor caught a single round dead center judging by the huge dent that caved her chest inward, however that was not the worse of the damage. The young jaguar’s face was, for lack of a better word, mulched where two magnetic rounds had ripped into her. The right side of her jaw was completely missing as well as her left eye, the entire back of her skull had been spaced by the round’s extreme velocity. She never stood a chance.
“Leave her.” Wolford said as he kneeled nest to a crying Peter Osei. The black bear’s jaw hung open in shock, an expression that matched Judy’s. Was Central truly this callus?!
“B-but sir!” Osei cried. Wolford cut him off with a growl.
“I said leave her! There is nothing you can do! She. is. Dead. and we have to move now, otherwise we may end up joining her tonight.”
Wolford snorted in anger at his failure to save Ramirez in time but tucked his emotions behind a mask of professionalism so he could drink them away at a later date. He reached down Ramirez’s bloodstained uniform to retrieve her ID tags.
“Hopps!” He barked. “Get the door. Osei, cover the rear.” He slapped Ramirez’s ID tags into Peter’s chest for safekeeping, and perhaps a tiny bit of closure before viciously kicking the therapy clinic’s doors off their hinges to the steel security door at the rear of the building.
The exchange Judy had just witnessed floored the bunny. It took an immense strength of will to pull her eyes from Ramirez’s mangled corpse to the door beyond the clinic’s threshold. This felt like a dream, no, a very ugly and very lucid nightmare. She felt as if she was walking at the bottom of the ocean, her body refused to cooperate with her brain as she stumbled into the clinic in a daze. The first signs of shell-shock but she was fighting it, though she didn’t know for how much longer.
“Hopps.” Judy slowly turned glassy eyes up to meet Central’s sympathetic gaze. “I need you with me. I can’t do this without you. Are you with me?” His words were like jumper cables on a dead battery, though her stress still held her in an exhausted state.
“Yes sir, I…” She couldn’t stop herself from turning her eyes back to the still warm body of Ramirez laying on the curb. Judy swallow the bile that rose to her tongue and locked eyes with Central with a reignited fire in her violet eyes. “I am with you sir.”
“Good.” Central spared her a tiny smile of appreciation before a neutral expression branded over his face. “Now get this door open.”
“Roger!” Judy slipped a modified smartphone from her pocket and hit an Infiltration Application.
The Application was devised by the Resistance’s best brain trust for special combat units with the purpose of hacking to Advent systems. As long as there is an open link nearby the invasive transmitter grafted into the smartphone could force a way into Advent’s system for a short time. This was perfect for opening locked blast doors and vaults similar to the door before them. Lines of code scrolled across the smartphone’s screen for a few seconds before the phone chirped happily and the door opened with a heavy click.
“Moving to secure the package.” Wolford slung the sliding door open and when in first with his rifle pulled tight to his shoulder as he swept the room for threats. Judy emulated him as best she could to cover his back but it proved unnecessary. The lab was empty, save for the occupant in the glass casket of course. Central approached the towering figure that loomed above him against the sickly green backlighting.
“This is the place.” He whispered into his earpiece, his normally powerful growl turned to an emotion fueled whimper. Judy’s eyes widened in awe.
“My God. He’s… He’s real.” She whispered. “How do we get him out? I can try hacking into the system a-” Not one to stand on ceremony Wolford swung his rifle into the glass casket shattering the coffin into glittering sharp bits. Central threw his rifle and caught the enormous figure before he could strike the floor. Two swirling horns protruded horizontally from the top of the full body suit, indicating the mammal inside as some kind of bovine.
Wolford was strong but even he could only manage to throw the bovine’s upper body onto his shoulders with the suit wrapped legs still dragging the floor. He stooped to grab his weapon and cracked a grin at Hopps. “Let’s head ho-”
The street outside erupted with the whirring blister of magnetic weapons fire accompanied by the rumble of an Advent jumpship’s anti-gravity engines.
“We go company!” Osei screamed and returned fire.
“Firebrand we need immediate emergency evac!” Wolford roared into his earpiece.
[Acknowledged Central, the plaza’s too hot for an extraction but I can swing around to the back of the clinic and pick you up there.]
“There’s no back door!” Judy cried as a burst of magnetic rounds ripped through the lab’s walls like a knife through butter. She screamed and hit the floor before scrambling for cover beside the only door to the lab.
“Shen! We need options yesterday!” Wolford dragged his cargo behind a stack of computers as a stray round screamed across the room and slammed into the far wall. Judy didn’t know who this Shen was but she hoped to God he (she?) had something in mind.
[I-I’m sorry Central. The front’s the only way in or out, otherwise we would have gone in the back, you know that!] A female’s distressed cry crackled over the channel.
“SHIT!” Wolford cursed. “SHIT, Alright. Alright, come on THINK. There’s gotta be another way out!” Wolford desperately racked his brain for options. Judy paled at the sight of her fearless idol panicking. Was she going to actually die here?
[PerHaPs I cAn Be oF AssiStAncE?] A crackling voice popped and fizzed over the commlink jerking the doe from her despair. Wolford instead snarled in fury.
“Who are you?! Where did you get this frequency?” Static laughter filled the commlink’s channel.
[WhaT iS It wiTh WolvEs And tHe HowLiNg? Do yOu WaNt mY HeLp or nOt?]
“You….” a lightbulb sparked to life in Wolford’s memory. “You’re that Reaper that found this place!”
[BrAvo CeNtrAl. You WouLd HaVe mAdE a GreAt DeTectIve BefOre tHe iNvaSion.] The crackling voice’s words seemed like a compliment, but his tone was scathing and impatient. [I caN hElp yOu geT oUt…. For A prIce oF couRsE.]
Judy was floored. Here she was in the middle of a gunfight and this.. This.. animal was twisting their arm for a little cash! Something in the little bunny snapped and she mashed her earpiece.
“Listen here you filthy low-life we are out here DYING while you are pinching your pennies and grabbing for ours! Tell us what we need to know or there won’t be anyone left for you to extort!”
“HOPPS!” Judy flinched at Wolford’s furious shout. Her eyes snapped to his rage fueled snarl. He pressed his earpiece with an expression of grim acceptance in his eyes.
“Alright “Agent Blueberries” or whatever the hell you like to call yourself. What do you want?”
[I thOughT yOu’D nEveR aSk.] The Reaper’s laughter grated Judy’s ears like razors on a chalkboard. [thReE fAvoRs, redEemAble at AnY tImE. WhaTeVer I waNt, wHerEver I wAnt, whEneVer I WanT it. tHis iS my pRicE. TheRe iS no rOom For nEgoTiAtioN. cHoOse qUicKly John. ThIngS arE looKiNg uGly frOm wHerE I’m stAndiNg.]
“Sir!” Judy cried in desperation as a burst of magnetic round splintered through the wall and clipping the door frame she was cowering behind. Wolford hesitated and saw at the tears in the doe’s wide terrified eyes. He grit his fangs and set his jaw. The price was heavy. Too heavy, but Judy spoke the truth. If they didn’t get the Reaper’s help there would be no one left to pay his price. The price was high, but it was better than ending up dead.
“Fine.” Wolford snarled. “I accept your deal you damned devil, now what’s your plan?”
“Wha-?” Judy sputtered in confusion and was instantly punished for her hesitation when the entire back wall of the lab exploded in a maelstrom of heat and flying fragments of twisted metal. The bunny fell on her tail and gaped at the new backdoor blown in the side of the building, with freedom and safety hanging just outside like an enticing morsel strong on the end of a fishing pole. The Reaper’s smug chuckle fizzled over the commlink.
[I’d Run iF I wEre yoU.]
“Let’s move! Hopps! Osei! Go Go Go!” Wolford roared over the stuttering crack of gunfire.
“Just go!” Peter screamed over the deafening cacophony of magnetic weapons fire. “I’ll hold them off just go!”
“Osei don’t be a damned hero!” Judy pleaded. She couldn’t be sure but it sounded as if the black bear laughed.
“Ya know, I never did apologize, did I little rabbit?” Judy peeked around the corner and gasped as the ragged crimson holes in Peter’s chest as he pressed his back against the sedan’s engine block. The black bear met her gaze with a cough and cracked a bloody grin.
“I’m sorry Judy Hopps. Remember me and Ana will you?”
Judy could only let out a tiny squeak of agony as her heart was torn to shreds. Peter closed his eyes with a smile and bunched his legs with his smoking rifle at the ready.
“Good bye.” He gurgled before unleashing a primal warcry as he leapt over the sedan’s hood and shredding an Advent trooper with a barrage of rifle fire.
“Hopps! We have to go! Osei’s made his choice. Don’t let his death be in vain.” Wolford hauled the package to the breach in the back wall and called to her over his shoulder. He looked skyward and pressed his earpiece. “Firebrand, where the hell is our pickup?!”
[Almost there Central. Twenty seconds.]
The roar of twin turbine engines filled the lab’s confined space as two spike platforms attached to ropes hurtled earthward into the pavement.
“You don’t have to tell me twice. Hopps, let’s go.”
“Y-yes sir.” Judy bounded over to the platform as her body tingled with relief at finally reaching safety. Until a burst from an Advent Officer’s magnetic rifle drilled into Central’s back.
“GAAH! FUCK!” Wolford howled in pain and whipped around with his rifle in one paw and the trigger held down splattering the walls with a line of wild bullet holes. The Advent Officer was a timber wolf just like Central with a grin on its muzzle as it hopped behind the doorway to avoid Wolford’s salvo. Judy froze in panic with one foot on the platform and her rifle hanging loose in her paws.
Was this really happening?
“Firebrand! Lift me up and get a gurney for both of us! Hopps Get your tail on that platform NOW!” Judy snapped out of her panic and stepped on the platform as Wolford’s bloodied form zipped to the Skyranger hovering overhead. Judy pressed a paw to her earpiece.
“I’m on, send me up.” Judy held onto the cable as she sped skyward.
As if she could really get away that easily.
Her breath caught as she found herself face to face with a flying Advent Officer as he leapt from the roof of the therapy clinic and crashed into her midair. Judy screamed as the platform went onto an uncontrollable swinging spin. The city’s glittering lights blurred like a psychodelic hallucination as she held onto the cable for dear life with a snarling Advent Officer’s fangs and claws dug into the platform and clawed for purchase into its bunny prey.
An incoherent scream of terror unlike anything Judy had ever hear much less thought she could produce herself ripped from her throat as she hauled her rifl to bear and pressed the trigger. The old X-9 bucked in her grip as it dumped an entire magazine’s worth of .17 Hornet ammunition into the predator bearing down on her with wicked delight in its eyes. In just a few short seconds her rifle clicked over an empty chamber and her world became quiet as she found herself with an spent assault rifle and a grinning wolf with a paw wrapped around her assault rifle’s barrel where he had steered it skyward. Not a single round had struck him.
“As Morotel.” He chuckled as he wrapped his talons around her throat, slicing through her skin and crushing her airway. “Die.”
The echo of a mighty thunderclap bellowed across New Providence. Judy felt the claws around her throat stiffen before relaxing its hold. The doe tasted a strange coppery sweet tang that trickled onto her tongue. She looked up and saw the confounded frown on the Officer’s muzzle as he stared at the huge hole in his chest. A gout of bright orange blood gushed from his chest as a gurgle bubbled from his lips and he tumbled from the platform into empty oblivion.
Judy didn’t remember the rest of the ride up, the next thing she knew she felt paws grab her shoulders and gently guided her safely into a seat inside the Skyranger as a stag pressed stinging medicines to her lacerations and bandages around her wounds. When she become coherent enough to string two thoughts together she found two hours had already passed…. And that she was soaked from black ear tips to white toes in the Advent Officer’s orange blood.
She didn’t remember when the tears started to fall but she never stopped crying until one of the medics became fed up with her bawling and rammed sleeping pills down her throat and her nightmares finally claimed her.
------[New Providence, Central America][20:35:13][Rooftop Across Gene Therapy Clinic]-------
“Was that…. A bunny soldier?” The Reaper chuckled and shook his masked head. “Nah, I gotta be seeing things again.”
A black tipped russet tail flicked happily under his trench coat as the Reaper picked up his M700 sniper rifle and quickly disassembled it into a briefcase he had set aside. With his weapon safe in the battered metal container the Reaper clicked the radio strapped across his chest.
“Hey Finn. It worked. I got the leverage we needed.” The Reaper let the radio go and waited for the reply. He wasn’t kept waiting for long, a few seconds later a deep baritone growl rumbled over the radio’s speaker.
“Ya actually pulled it off? AH! You hustled John Wolford? Damn, I didn’t think you were serious.” Finn’s deep voice held a modicum of awe and respect. The Reaper chuckled, his mask sputtered and popped madly in its attempt to scramble the quiet laugh.
“You know me Finn. I may seem like I’m playing but I’m always serious.” His static laughter died instantly, his joviant attitude replaced by a deathly serious growl.
“I held up my part of the deal Finn, now it’s time for you to honor yours.” Finn’s deep baritone grumble almost shook the radio from its strap.
“Gaaaaaah. Fine. Fine. I’ll….. Agree to talk with Wolford about this truce he’s been proposin’ with those Advent Puntos…”
“Skirmishers Finn. they’re called Skirmishers.”
“I know what they’re called!” Finn’s snarl failed to even get a twitch from the Reaper, though the wag in his tail did quicken. He seemed to enjoy getting on this guy’s nerves.
“Set up that meeting Finn.”
“I can talk to Wolford over the phone but ya know I can’t be jumpin’ continents with the Reapers keepin’ me saddled here at Home Base.”
“That’s not a problem. I’ll do it.” The Reaper waved a paw dismissively.
“Are ya sure that’s a good idea, Ni-?”
“I said I’ll do it.” The Reaper snapped, silencing his compatriot. “Just…. Just set up the meeting and call me when it’s time to move. Please buddy?”
“........Fine. I’ll take care of it. Stay safe out there, I just got ya back, I don’t wanna lose you for another twenty years.”
“I’ll be careful Finn. Outrider out.” The Reaper clicked the radio off and scooped up his briefcase before vanishing into the night.
Chapter 6: Nightmare of Fields and Ash
Judy learns the hard way never mix drugs with the aftermath of combat stress.
The results could prove.... Fatal.
Nightmares are a nasty thing. even in your dreams you are never safe from fear and pain.
In place of awkward flashbacks interrupting the main story I decided to write out the backstories of certain characters as separate side series in the form of "Nightmare Chapters".
No matter how far you run, nor how fast your feet can carry you, no one can outrun their past.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Nightmare of Fields and Ash
She had missed this. She had missed this so bad it hurt.
The earthy musk of turned earth and manure. The sweet tang of cut crops. The hauntingly beautiful whistle of a chilly breeze sweeping through freshly harvested fields on a warm, sunny day. The hypnotizing rustle of leaves and needles from the ocean of pine trees surrounding her all overwhelmed her homesick heart.
A chilly breeze tickled through her gray fur, sending a trill of contentment from her toes straight to her black ear tips. She did not dare open her eyes in fear of losing this moment. She could feel familiar soil stir and crunch under her feet and hear familiar sounds of the wilderness surrounding her family’s farm. A tiny smile full of relief and joy spread across her muzzle.
She was finally home.
Judy opened her shining lavender eyes and was left breathless at the vibrant blue yonder that stretched across the horizon. A wash of strong greens battled and mixed with rich, dark soil and deep brown bark from the pines and the occasional old oak that stood eternal vigil on the outskirts of the Hopps homestead.
Her warren was in the center flanked on all sides by a myriad of well worn foot paths snaking through different plots of farmland. The warren was born into a gentle hill rise that stood proudly in the flat plains surrounding it with a number of barns and ramshackle sheds scattered about the massive property. This is her kithood home, the place Judy and her 275 brothers and sisters grew up. Words could not describe the emotional maelstrom battling in her heart, though the smile on her lips pretty much summed up how happy and overwhelmed Judy was.
However, despite the powerful wave of nostalgia and contentment there was a tiny little voice tucked in the darkest visage of her mind that set her on edge. It’s nasty little whispers tugged at her erect ears, its words were too faint to understand but its seething gurgle made its message clear.
This was too perfect. Something is wrong.
Before Judy could pick apart why this snake of unease was slithering into her mind a familiar and jubilant cry interrupted anymore thoughts of doubt.
“Judy!” Her father’s energetic yowl carried across the breeze, drawing her small, content smile into a wide grin. “Jude the Dude!”
Her grin faltered as that hated nickname from her kithood. Now at barely twenty years of age that nickname heated her ears to a warm pink. If anyone else were to utter those three words Judy would have plowed a foot straight into their muzzle…. But this was her father Stu Hopps, he was a very emotional and sentimental rabbit without a single malicious bone in his body. He was a clueless goof, but he was her clueless goof.
“Hey Dad!” Judy bounded over and was nearly bowled over by the older buck that snagged her into a fluffy bunny-sized bear hug.
“Oh Jude, its so good to see ya! You were almost late for supper!”
“Dad… you’re…. crushing…. me…”
“Oh! Sorry!” Stu released his daughter, allowing her creaking ribcage to spring back to its natural shape. Judy pat down her pink flannel shirt to make sure everything was back in its original place. Stu shot her a sheepish grin.
“Come on Jude. Your mom’s waiting inside, and you know what she’s like when your late for supper.” He shuddered darkly. Judy’s ears sprang up as she giggled at her father’s antics.
“Yeah, ‘The wooden spoon of death’. I remember. I’m right behind you Dad.”
As Judy followed her father to the house that little voice piped up again, souring her happy grin with a creeping sense of Déjà vu.
Why do I get the feeling that I’ve seen this all before?
She was so focused on the convoluted emotions that swirled in the pit of her stomach the distracted doe had somehow made it through the warren’s foyer and had found a seat at the outrageously long dining table without even noticing.
Judy was quick to rein in on her surprise though, she wiped the dumbfounded stare off of her face and squared her shoulders with a smile…. Only the dining room was empty. Her smile vanished, and her brows furrowed as the tiny voice of misgivings began to scream and roil about its dark corner.
“Dad?” Judy called. Her ears draped down her back as sweat poured down them. Her heart rate picked up. The voice was right, something was off about this. “Dad? Mama?”
When the ghosts of her echoing voice died Judy was already halfway out of her seat with her only thoughts of bolting for the door.
“Hey bun, where are you going?” Judy froze with her legs swung out of her chair and a paw on the backrest. Her ears flopped around her back and her nose twitched as she spun around towards the sweet ring of her mother’s voice.
Bonnie Hopps was standing in the doorway to the kitchen with a steaming tray in her mitten wrapped paws and a concerned frown on her face.
“Mama?” Judy glanced around the empty dining room. “Where is everyone? Where’s the kits?” She turned her widened eyes back to Bonnie, pleading for a rational explanation. “What’s going on Mom?”
“hey now bun, calm down.” Her mother sidled over to her distraught daughter and placed the tray in front of the disoriented bunny. A steaming blueberry pie proudly sat atop the tray, its enticing aroma made the panicked doe’s head swim. Her mother gently guided her back to her seat. Judy took a deep breath, letting the scent of her mother’s fresh baked pie
“No one else is here because they’re all at the carrot festival with your father, remember? And didn’t that nice James Leaps boy ask you out on a date there?” Judy shot her mother an incredulous stare.
“The carrot festival? Mama, I followed Dad in here just now! And James he…..” Judy furrowed her brow. She was forgetting something. Something important and it was staring her straight in the face. “he……”
“Oh, now that can’t be right….” Bonnie scratched her plump chin.
The faint electronic chime of a doorbell caught the two does attention. Bonnie’s face split into a smile.
“Oh, that must be them!”
“Who? Who are you talking about Mama?” Judy looked back and caught a glimpse of Bonnie shuffling towards the front door. Judy slid from the chair and hurried to catch up, she was unwilling to stay in a creepy dining room void of its usual hustle and bustle. To her surprise when she crossed into the foyer it suddenly got dark and Judy lost sight of her mother.
Did the power go out?
“Mama! Mama, where are you! I think someone tripped the breaker again!”
Alarm bells crashed and clanged in the does head as the blood drained from her face. The distance between the dining room and the front of the warren was a couple dozen yards at most, so why hasn’t she bumped into anything yet?
WHATS GOING ON?!
“Jude, you okay?” A savory voice chirped. Just the sound of his warm, husky rumble sent excited chills down the doe’s spine.
And filled her with a sickening dread and sorrow like nothing else could.
No…. Anyone but him… Please God, anyone but-
She remembers now, why this was all wrong, this creeping sense of Déjà vu. This all happened before. She was reliving that day. The day everything fell apart
Judy opened her eyes to dusty brown fur, shining hazel eyes and a broad crème colored chest.
James Leaps was tall for a rabbit (almost hare sized) and was nearly a head taller than Judy, so he had to tilt his chin almost to his chest to look into his horrified girlfriend’s vibrant amethyst eyes. James flashed his charming warm smile and Judy fought desperately to keep her tears from spilling onto the dusty road beneath their feet.
The day was winding down into dusk as the sky filled with streaks of pink and soft orange tinted clouds. The happy clamor of the carrot festival danced in the evening breeze as the couple stood on the old country road just outside the Leaps family farm where the festivities were held.
James felt Judy stop. He turned to her and lost himself in her beautiful eyes.
“What’s wrong babe?”
“J-James?” She squeaked around the strangling knot of despair. James titled his head in another one of is disarming expressions Judy had come to adore. Though now that curious expression of concern had the opposite effect.
“What’s wrong?” He asked around a chuckle. “Fox got your tongue?”
Judy hadn’t realized they had been walking paw in paw. She immediately shoved him away and clutched her arms to her aching heart.
“This…. This isn’t real. This can’t be real…” In a mammoth sized effort, she looked up at her boyfriend and her heart shattered to pieces all over again at the hurt expression on his face.
“W-what’s not real Jude?” He asked in a pleading voice. “Babe, you’re scaring me. What’s wrong-?”
James jumped back in shock as the doe before him clenched her fists and held her eyes closed as she yelled. The grey fur around her eyes were stained dark as tears finally managed to force themselves free. Her body quivered and trembled and her breathing was ragged and shallow.
She took one long shuddering breath and thrust her paw out like a spear, as if she meant to pierce through the illusion around her.
“You’re dead!” Judy clawed at her watery eyes and thrust her finger at the carrot festival. “They’re all dead! Advent KILLED you! They k-k-killed you right here! Right in front of me on THIS ROAD And-and-and you told me-”
Judy tried to take a breath but all that came out was a sob. She looked through her tears at the distorted face of her boyfriend and she found the strength to pull air into her lungs.
“You told me to run and s-save myself.” She hung her head in shame and cried.
Strong, familiar paws wound their way around her back and shoulders. James’s almond like scent filled her burning lungs and She collapsed into his chest and wailed, no longer caring that this was all a dream.
She missed this so much it hurt.
“Shhhhhhh…” Judy felt his chest rumble against her cheek. He felt so warm. So real.
“You know…” Judy hiccupped and rolled her head up to look into his handsome face.
“This is all your fault.”
Judy’s eyes widened in horror.
James’s tender smile twisted impossibly wide grin. Razor sharp rows of shark teeth filled his maw as his warm hazel eyes pulled into thin snake slits. Judy felt viciously sharp talons dig into her back as the nightmare that was her deceased boyfriend pulled his prey closer.
Judy tried to scream but the air she breathed in burned her throat and tasted like hot ash.
“You did this to me Judy. You KILLED me.” The nightmare titled his head skyward and laughed. “Everyone’s dead because of you!”
Judy thrashed against the claws that ripped at her back. The worst was not the teeth or the feral grin that pulled across that terrible maw, it was James’s familiar almond scent. This monster had the scent that had comforted her, the scent of the buck she loved belonged to this….. thing.
James ripped the struggling doe off her feet until they where muzzle to muzzle. Those reptilian eyes drilled into her terrified violet gaze. The monster’s smile broadened. Unhooked one set of talons from the doe and thrust the bloody appendage down the country road.
“I wonder how your mother feels, knowing that his little girl is to blame for all of this?” He growled, his voice sounded like razors in a rusty blender. “How can you and her LIVE with yourselves knowing that you survived when all of the others at the carrot festival DIED saving you?”
Without warning James sank his talons into Judy’s cheek and forced the screaming doe to look. Judy’s scream caught in her throat.
They were in front of the Hopps warren, her home.
Bodies, gore and blood painted every square inch of the hill as rolls of smoke and flame bellowed from the windows and doors. The barns were little more than blackened skeletons and angry embers as the once pristine fields burned and died under a relentless shower of ash and hot, choking air.
[Something is wrong. Pronk, what did you do to her?]
James yanked the doe’s head around and caressed her cheek with a talon stained bright red in her own blood.
[I-I don’t know what you mean sir. Nuthin’ should be wrong I-]
“You did this.” James whispered, his teeth grazed along one of her velvet soft ears making the doe jerk and buck in panic at knowing what was coming next.
[She’s having a GODDAMN SEIZURE Pronk! What in the fiery Alps did you force down her throat?!]
“Oh, now babe, don’t fight it.” James chided her like a naughty kit as he drew one of her ears into his maw. “You used to LOVE when I nibbled on your ear. Remember?”
Judy bucked and fought harder to escape the nightmare reflection of the one she loved.
[I-I gave her some sleeping aids sir! That’s all! I SWEAR!]
“NO! PLEASE! JAMES DON’T DO THIS!” Judy begged and cried as his teeth clamped down on her ear harder and deeper. “PLEASE!”
[Those sleeping aids are for wolf-sized mammals Pronk! She’s barely the size of my paw! You just force fed her a lethal dose! Bucky, get your hide over here. We need to pump her stomach and get her system flushed now!]
The pain was unbearable as the rows of shark teeth shredded her ear and pulled the thin fleshy appendage free followed by a spray of ruby red blood that coursed down her back and into her pink flannel shirt.
[Hold her down! We don’t wanna hurt her more than she already is. Strap her down into the gurney. Hurry!]
“Don’t cry Judy,” James cooed as he greedily slurped down her shredded ear like jerky. “You’ll soon join me, your father, and most of your siblings in the afterlife. Then you’ll make everything right.”
[We’re losing her! Get the paddles! Get them NOW. Hold her straight. 3. 2. 1. CLEAR!]
Everything was growing dark. It all felt…. So far away. The pain. The terror. The heartache…. She felt a tiny smile break out on her muzzle. A sweet, sad smile.
[Don’t you die on me Hopps, stay with me. 3. 2. 1. CLEAR!]
She was almost home.
Its so warm here….. the darkness felt like a soft blanket caressing her tired body as she felt everything slip away-
I am still open for those looking to assist on this project, even if its just an email or message throwing around an idea or cool thought.
I'm open to your creative ideas and unique opinions. Don't hold back!
Chapter 7: Chapter 7: Operation Gatecrasher Aftermath
The bloodied remnants of Gatecrasher finally arrive to the Avenger, an alien supply ship retrofitted by XCOM as a mobile command center. Judy Hopps is unconscious from one of the Paramedics force feeding her wolf-sized surgical sedatives, a mistake that nearly proved fatal. Central Officer Wolford speaks with Skye Shen, the chief engineer about the state of the Avenger and reminiscing about Skye's kithood.
A/N: Hey Y’all! Untraveled here.
For those reading this on Fanfiction.net this is may be the first time you are actually hearing from me. If so thank you for your time and attention, now on to business!
Kazooman (AO3): Thank you for your constructive feedback. I forget that many readers may never have even heard of the XCOM games much less know anything about them. I will do my best to better explain the world better, and I’m glad you like my story! People like you make writing stories worth it.
pt1oef (FF): Thanks for hanging in there literally since I first posted this story over a month ago on FanFiction.net. I apologize for the cliffhanger in the last chapter, but the last chapter was titled a “Nightmare” for a reason! I also want to thank you for suggestions of titles for this fanfic. I probably would have been too lazy to actually give this story a proper title if not for you. You rock.
Zeaza (FF) (chapter 5): Thanks for giving me and this story a chance, I’m glad you are enjoying it! As for earth’s mammals reacting to the reptilian Alien forces…. Well how would you react id you can face to face with an angry 7 foot tall snake lady with a plasma rifle? Lol.
P.S. If you are interested in throwing your two cents in with the story or simply want to ask a question to put it in the comment section.
Comments are always welcome, and I will do my best to give you a proper reply!
Chapter 7: Operation Gatecrasher Aftermath
[Avenger, this is Firebrand. We are touching down now. Three casualties on board, two in stretchers and one ambulatory. Over.] The Skyranger’s pilot reported over the radio.
[Firebrand, this is the Avenger. Good copy, additional paramedics are already on deck to receive the wounded. Doctor Tygan is on standby getting Med-Bay spun up for the Commander’s arrival. Over and out.]
Firebrand, the cougar queen pilot, swung the nimble jumpship in a smooth, tight circle before easing off the throttle. The Skyranger fell from the sky to hover less than twenty feet from the ground as it skirted along the desert floor. The craft’s twin thrusters kicked up a scorching hot cloud of dust as Firebrand artfully glided her jumpship sideways across the landscape towards a deep crack in the earth several hundred yards across.
When the Skyranger slid off the desert sand into empty air Firebrand tilted her jumpship’s blunt bow skyward as she flicked a switch, releasing the Skyranger’s three landing skids.
As she was swallowed into the crevice’s shadow Firebrand caught a brief glimpse at what appeared to be an enormous warehouse with four monstrous sized inverted hover-thrusters and a wide landing pad at its stern.
The gargantuan aircraft seemed considerably alien with its otherworldly four thruster propulsion system and sleek, graceful hull that looked like it was constructed of liquid metal flowing over a cast of a Skyranger magnified to a hundred times its original size. The bow of the craft was blunt with a cylindrical power core glowing a soft blue hue that scattered across the cragged crevice walls. The ship’s main twin inverted turbine thrusters, each the size of a football field, protruded from the flowing hull of the ship with two smaller engines at its stern.
Though it cut an intimidating figure the gargantuan engines lay dead, leaving the ship grounded in the deep crack in the earth’s crust. This disconcerting detail did not escape the Skyranger’s pilot as she pulled her jumpship to a low hover over the larger vessel’s landing pad.
Inside the Skyranger’s hull the overhead lights blinked from green to red, the color change was accompanied by a deep-toned beep that signaled to the mammals inside that they were landing.
“When we land get the Commander off the Skyranger fast! We don’t want lose him when we are so close!” John Wolford barked.
“Yes Sir!” A bulky caribou paramedic answered seconds before the Skyranger touched down with a shuddering roar of twin turbine engines and landing gear scrapping against tar-mac.
The Skyranger’s ramp lowered and the jumpship was instantly swarmed by a hive of medical personnel of all shapes and species. Organized chaos was the order of the day as the hot desert crevice shook with a disorienting cacophony of shouts and pounding of paws on tar-mac.
Central let out a weary but satisfied sigh as the huge cape buffalo in the stasis suit was wheeled away in a gurney by no less than seven mammals milling around him. He gasped in suppressed pain and clasped a paw to his side.
His shirt had been cut away leaving the aged timber wolf bare-chested with a firmly bound mat of bandages pressing against a couple of ragged bullet holes stuffed with combat gauze, wounds courtesy of that Advent officer. The magnetically accelerated rounds had thankfully missed anything vital but still left a trail of traumatized flesh in its wake leaving the graying timber wolf in a considerable amount of pain.
The rest of the medical team had already vacated the Skyranger and were currently mulling over the Commander’s gurney as the stasis suit clad bovine is rapidly wheeled into the ship’s belly towards the prepped Med-Bay, leaving Wolford hunched over in his seat with an unconscious Judy Hopps strapped in the last remaining gurney.
Wolford cocked an eyebrow and glanced around at the now abandoned landing pad with an annoyed frown stretched across his scarred muzzle.
Did those bubble-heads seriously just leave me with an over drugged bunny? Seems some remedial training and corrective counseling is in order.
Wolford’s pain-addled mind wandered to all the creative punishments he could cook up for those unfortunate medics that left two severely wounded soldiers stranded on the landing pad. Images of crying mammals running laps around the crevice with logs on their shoulders pulled a tiny grin onto his lips as the Skyranger’s overhead lights flickered out and the whining turbine engines died.
The hiss of the jumpship’s cockpit door sliding open jerked Wolford from his wistful plans of revenge. Firebrand had a gold furred paw on the door frame and a confused turn in her head. The cougar was still wearing her black pilot helmet along with a matching flight suit of matte with tin red accents that clashed with her glossy gold fur.
“Are you waiting on something sir?” She asked, her voice muffled by the helmet.
“You forgot your helmet again, Carla.” Wolford smirked.
“Wha? Oh! Shit, I fly so often I always forget to take the damned thing off.” The cougar hastily snatched the pilot helmet off and tucked it up under her arm. She shook her head and did her best to play off her embarrassment, though the deep shade of red inside her round ears did little to hide it.
Wolford’s weak chuckle was quickly cut by a pained groan.
“Sir, where is the medical team? You’re looking kinda green… and so is that rabbit you have on that stretcher.”
“That gaggle of chuckle-heads you call a medical team took off with the Commander.” Wolford leaned back in his seat with his eyes closed and head tilted upward. He did his best to keep his breathing even and shallow to avoid moving too much and aggravating his wounds.
“Turns out trying to suck up to the new mammal in charge is more important than some tired old war-dog and a rabbit OD’ed on force-fed sedatives.”
“Is she still alive?” Carla asked.
She frowned and leaned over the gurney to sniff curiously at the unconscious bunny occupying it.
Wolford grunted an affirmative and cracked an eye open to look at the cougar pilot.
“She should be…. Fine. One of the paramedics, Pronks, shoved some wolf-sized sedatives down the poor girl’s throat. No one noticed his error until the seizures started. she started foaming at the mouth and thrashing around in her seat, scratching at her bandaged wounds while screaming and crying like she was being eaten alive. It took three of us to get her into my gurney and tied down. It took even more to induce vomiting, pump her stomach, and get an IV in her arm to flush her system.”
The timber wolf dragged a paw down his face. He was absolutely drained; this ordeal had taken a lot out of him. Losing half of his team, both of them fresh-face rookies at that, was a considerable loss both to personnel and morale. Hopefully Hopps could make a full recovery fast. He needed new people, the only soldiers he had left were either recovering from injuries or already on various missions throughout the north and central American continent, he simply can’t afford to lose anymore mammals.
Carla checked the IV bag handing above the sleeping bunny and found it empty.
“Should… we wait ‘til someone comes to get you two?” She asked. Wolford sighed and shook his head.
“No, Hopps needs immediate medical attention. Have Tygan take a look at her after he’s done with the Commander, though I don’t know how long that will take him, truth be told.”
“What about you?”
“I’ll manage.” He flashed the pilot a tired but still charming smirk. Carla was about to say something else when she had cut off by another female’s shout.
“Oh, I don’t think so!”
An arctic fox in overalls and covered in smudges of soot and machine oil stormed across the landing pad and up the Skyranger’s ramp with an angry snarl on her slender muzzle. Burning blue eyes bore into Wolford’s hazel gaze, firmly pinning the bigger canine in his seat. The arctic fox marched past a stunned Carla and right up to Central where she put her paws on her hips and fixed him with a glare.
“John, what are you still doing up here? Have you been shot?! Why in karma’s name aren’t you sitting in Med-Bay?”
Wolford found his voice rather quickly and met the vixen’s glare with a tired smile.
“It’s good to see you too, Skye. As for why I’m up here instead of down in Med-Bay is that all the medics decided to go drag the Commander down to Tygan. They just left me and Hopps here high and dry.” He watched the fiery arctic vixen’s hackles lower as she grasped the situation. Skye Shen, XCOM’s chief engineer, was well known for her driven work ethic and emotional personality, qualities that have endeared her to many of the crew.
“Those numb-skulls!” She fumed. “I hope you have a good punishment lined up for them John or else I’ll end up using their useless hides as target practice for my weapon prototypes.”
Wolford turned his head in a thoughtful expression, one of his ears perked up while the other lay flat.
“Huh, that’s actually not a bad idea.” He hummed. “I’m sure at the very least they’ll get plenty of cardio.”
The wounded canine hauled himself to his feet and very nearly fell muzzle first with the first step. Skye Shen may be half the timber wolf’s size but she’s stronger than she looks. She managed to catch him with her paws over her head.
“Sweet Maid Marian, why are you so heavy?” Skye groaned.
“It appears my pride is weighing me down a bit more than usual tonight.” Wolford righted himself but put a paw on the concerned vixen’s shoulder to keep his balance. The pained wolf shot her an appreciative smile and turned to Carla.
“Thanks Shen. Carla, mind wheeling Hopps down to Med-Bay? I’ll be right behind you, it may just take a while.”
“No problem sir. I’ll get the carrot farmer down there safe and sound, just don’t be testing gravity on your way down the steps. We just got the Commander back, but that don’t meet jack unless we got you to keep us afloat.”
The cougar’s snarky comment drew a chuckle from Skye and a frown from Wolford.
“I appreciate the vote of confidence, now get your tail in gear before I have you join the rest of the medical team in target practice tomorrow.”
“Yes Sir! Moving Sir!” The cougar shot him a faux two fingered salute and quickly made herself scarce with the gurney and its unconscious bunny doe occupant in front. When her skinny feline tail whipped around a bend and vanished Wolford began his slow journey into the belly of the ship while leaning heavily on Skye for support.
“How’s the Avenger?” He asked, breaking the suddenly uncomfortable silence between them. Sky shrugged, her blue eyes wandering just as her thoughts were.
“This ship is still grounded until I can get an Elerium power converter. But the rest of the retrofitting has more or less been complete, at least complete enough to get the Avenger off the ground.” She sighed.
Her normally sharp, clear blue eyes became clouded in a sad sort of reminiscence. Just as Shen knew him well enough to read his emotional tics he knew hers as well. He literally knew her all her life. Her entire kithood was spent in his presence, before the alien invasion at least.
“Your father would be proud.” He said, his voice barely above a whisper.
He felt the young vixen flinch under his paw at the mention of her parent, the fur around her neck bristled before relaxing. Her scent soured in a flash of anger before dampening to the salty musk of sorrow.
The old timber wolf gently squeezed her shoulder.
“I’m sure Nick would be too.”
Skye snorted wetly around a sudden flood of tears. She wiped a paw across her snout and sniffed.
“You really think so?” She asked around a teary smile.
“I do. He may not have shown it, but he cared about you. You had a special place in that snarky con-mammal’s heart.” A sad smile stretched across Wolford’s muzzle as memories of days long past filled his mind.
Has it really been twenty years already?
“It’s Uncle Nick’s birthday in a week.” Skye mumbled. “Uncle Nick and Dad’s birthdays are only a few days apart.”
“Do you want to do something special this year?” He asked.
Skye snorted, and wiped her running nose in vain, her tears dried the fur around her eyes into crusty discolored rings of white.
“Uncle Nick did always love those… He never did tell me why though.” She sniffed.
“I know.” Wolford said soothingly.
“…He died on that mission before I could ask.”
“Maybe we can make the pawpsicles out of strawberries and spirits?”
“I think Nick would approve.” Wolford chuckled. “Your father would too for that matter.”
“I miss them John.” Skye whimpered.
“Me too Skye.” He said in a tiny voice. “Me too.”
Chapter 8: Eeh, What's up Doc?
Commander Bogo is rushed down to Med-Bay where Doctor Jack Tygan and Central Officer Wolford discover some unsettling details and are reminded that with the Aliens, not everything is ever as it seems.
A/N: Hey Y’all!
So, this chapter is rather short because I chopped it off a bigger chapter since it did quite flow right. I will be posting the remaining parts soon.
Now, let’s get straight down to business.
Those of you that are familiar with the XCOM franchise know that customizing your soldiers is half the game. I was brainstorming for character ideas and struggling to do so when it hit me, why should I be the only one to create characters when I have you guys for reinforcements!
So here is the deal. To create a character for ZCOM I need these few things:
- Name, Age, Gender, Species
- Brief history (i.e. lived in the woods since the invasion until found by XCOM scouts)
- Basic personality traits (i.e. Optimistic, Clumsy, Womanizer)
- At least two positive traits (i.e. Good with a rifle, funny, fearless)
- At least two flaws (i.e. Hates foxes, fear of fire, alcoholic)
You can either post your character in the comment section. I look forward to what you come up with!
For those of you who have never heard of the XCOM franchise, don’t sweat it, if you have a character that you thought of but don’t have the writing skills to put them into a story I will find a way to make them fit. I love a challenge!
Chapter 8: Eeh, What’s up Doc?
“Wheel the Commander in quickly! There is no telling the sort of damages twenty years of muscle atrophy has caused.”
A dark gray hare adorned in doctor’s whites and a pair of sleek bifocals balanced on his muzzle stood atop one of the desks that populated the Avenger’s Med-Bay directing the surge of personnel rushing into his domain.
The hare looked to be in his early thirties with three black stripes on each cheek and matching black ear tips. The dour frown the large lapine worn was magnified by the authoritative air that hung about him like a cloak. Though his manner of speaking was quieter and nearly bordering on regal his confidence in his actions and the rapt crack in to his voice demanded obedience much like Central Officer Wolford.
The lapine doctor threw his finger at a tall observation table surrounded by a disorienting collection of machines and tubes.
“Set him down here, quickly!”
Within seconds the large cape buffalo wrapped in the orange stasis suit was lifted from the gurney and set on a steel observation table with as little jostling as possible. The hare leapt halfway across the room in a display of agility well known for his kind and landed on the observation table without even a slight stumble, giving the impression that hopping from countertop to countertop was a typical practice for the lapine doctor.
The hare leaned over his patient’s concealing helmet as to look for a way to loose the damnable suit that restricted his ability to treat his patient. He felt about the seam where the suit’s face plate met the thick plastic and pulled. To his surprise the face plate came loose with a sucking slurp followed by a surge of noxious clear liquid that burst from the suit like pus from a festering wound.
The room filled with moans and wet gagging as the clear viscous liquid poured out, releasing a revolting stench of moist shit, piss and countless other bodily fluids filled the Med-Bay’s modest space. It appears that forcefully removing the Commander from the capsule has played havoc on the stasis suit’s life support functions resulting in the unpleasant odors the doctor and the medical team had just discovered.
The hare seemed unfazed by the stench, even though he was the one closest to the source, instead he chose to hurry the stasis suit’s deflation by finding the zipper running down the center and ripping it open. The orange suit peeled like a banana as the remainder of the thick, disgusting liquid flooded over the table and rushed into the drains set into the table and floor.
The doctor looked up at the gaggle of mammals that had collected at the Med-Bay’s door as they coughed and gagged from the stench. The doctor’s short muzzle pulled into a small scowl of distain.
“If you can’t handle a little ripeness than please find your way out of my Med-Bay.”
When none of the medics moved nor even acknowledged the hare’s command his scowl deepened with a shadow of irritation taking over his bespectacled eyes.
“You are distracting me, so leave.”
That seemed to have gotten some of his audience’s attention as several of the medics held their breath and shot the doctor distrustful sneers. A muscular red kangaroo hopped forward, his long muzzle twisted in a snarl.
“Just because you left Advent and got vouched for by Central don’t mean we trust you, Tygan. Not enough to leave ya alone with the Commander.” He crossed his arms across his chest and stomped his powerful hind paw for emphasis. “We ain’t going anywhere and there ain’t nuthin’ that can make us.”
“Is that right?” A canid growl dripping with anger sent the large marsupial rocketing up in the air in fright.
The kangaroo and his posse of medics spun around and found themselves nose to nose with a very unhappy Central Officer Wolford leaning on an equally angry Skye Shen. The pair and apparently caught up to Carla as she had to take the long way around with Judy Hopps still out cold in the gurney. Wolford’s barely restrained snarling sent a shower of cold sweat poured down the kangaroo medic’s nape.
The Kangaroo’s scoop like ears flopped back as he backed away from his superior with his paws waving him away defensively.
“Sir! I meant no disrespect-!”
“Meep!” The gaggle of medical personnel squawked and bolted from the door in a whirlwind of fur, tails, and hooves. In seconds the cries of the fleeing miscreants died, leaving the five mammals in a blessed quiet, except for one unfortunate soul.
Central clamped a paw onto a trembling Oryx who had been valiantly attempting to avoid eye contact with the grizzled combat veteran.
“Not you Pronk,” Wolford leaned in close and growled into the terrified medic’s ear. “You are going to take care of Hopps and you are not to leave her side until she wakes up. And if she doesn’t- “
Pronk stifled a gasp of pain as thick canid claws dug into his skin.
“-well, lets pray it never comes to that.”
The Oryx looked fit to collapse into a blubbering mess when Central mercifully released him, leaving his shoulder angrily stinging from the claw marks he left behind. Central felt a trill of vicious satisfaction at Pronk’s blank expression of horror at the implications of his words. The wolf cracked a grin and looked at Carla, who was mirroring a similar smirk on her own muzzle.
“Carla, you can hand over the gurney to our gracious volunteer here, so you and Skye can get some rest.”
The cougar queen bobbed her head obediently and relented Hopps over to the near catatonic medic. Skye however was less cooperative.
“I’m staying.” She grabbed his paw that was leaning on her shoulder and pulled. Wolford shook his tired head.
“No, you are not. There is little you can do here and don’t think I haven’t heard about your poor sleeping habits.”
“My sleep schedule isn’t any of your business.” Skye retorted.
“Shen, I’m afraid it is my business.” Wolford snapped. “You haven’t left your workshop in over 72 hours! Don’t make me order you.”
The softer tone at the end of Wolford’s plea pulled at the stubborn arctic vixen’s conscience. Her rebelliously rigid ears wilted, and she cast her eyes to her feet.
Wolford hated pushing around the younger mammal, after all she was practically the daughter he never had, but she was still part of his responsibility as interim commander of XCOM. Though the dejected droop in her ears and tail did pull at his heart strings a bit too tight, tight enough at least for him to offer an olive branch of sorts.
“How about this, when anything with Commander Bogo changes than I will call you down immediately. Does that sound good?”
“I suppose….” She may have tried to sound defeated but the slow wag in her bushy tail and the tiny upward curl in her lips gave away her true feelings.
Ugh, why do females have to be so complicated? Wolford had to fight the urge to roll his eyes but settled for scuffing up the fur between Skye’s ears, fully aware of how much she hates when he does that.
He first caught a whiff of the stench coming from the clear liquid even from down the hall and the foul odor only grew worse. Predator species tended to have extremely sensitive noses so the stench that permeated the Med-Bay was nearly enough to send even him scampering away in search of a toilet to hand his head over.
Skye, in her hesitation, caught a whiff of the stench wasn’t faring nearly as well as the timber wolf and clenched her arms around her stomach and gagged, her tongue arching from her mouth as she heaved. Carla however had actually slipped on her pilot helmet to block out most of the smell and led the suffering arctic vixen from the room before she had a chance to add her dinner to the toxic airborne cocktail.
Central fought down the nausea somehow managed to swallow the knot of bile that squirmed up his throat.
“I apologize for my peoples’ blatant disrespect, Doctor Tygan.” Wolford apologized thickly. He was keeping his breathing slow and shallow to avoid choking on the pungent air.
“Apology accepted.” The doctor replied curtly. Wolford felt a flash of jealousy towards Tygan’s duller sense of smell, the hare seemed fairly immune, while just a tiny sniff was enough to send the room swimming around the wounded wolf.
Wolford prayed that this exam would go by quickly.
“How is the Commander looking?”
“I was about to find out myself. If you could, help me rid the Commander of this suit.”
With Wolford’s help the nude Cape Buffalo was freed from his fabric prison, allowing Doctor Tygan to begin examining his patient. The hare turned away from Wolford and scurried over to his collection of machines to pull out his audio recorder and his “Doctor’s tool bag” of monitoring devices.
Tygan slung the bag across his front and knelt down to the buffalo’s head. The bovine’s muzzle was nearly as large as the hare’s entire body, making the unconscious mammal easily dozens of times larger than the lapine doctor. Small size does have its advantages however, thus allowing the hare to get closer observations than mammals larger than he.
Doctor Tygan clicked a tiny recording device peeking out of his coat’s breast pocket and began to speak as he examined his patient.
# Doctor Tygan, Patient Log Number 107 #
Name- Adrian Bogo
Date of birth- April 26th, 1970
Date Declared MIA: March 5th, 2015
Age at Date of Disappearance: 45 Years Old
Date of Recovery: July 23rd, 2035
Age at Date of Recovery: 65 Years Old
Personnel records from before the Alien’s invasion confirm the patient to be Adrian Bogo, former Commander of XCOM.
Commander Bogo was brought in wearing a stasis suit of some sort filled with an unidentified liquid that smells of refuse and any other manner of bodily fluids.
First impressions of patient health are rather miraculous. No real signs of muscle atrophy or decay and besides a slow heart rate (no doubt a result of drugs) there appears to be nothing outstanding about Commander Bogo’s health.
The one thing that does stand out to me is that despite Commander Bogo’s advanced age. Should this prove to be a delayed result of residing in that stasis suit for two decades remains to be seen.
Evidence of cranial surgery is present at the base of the skull, just above the nape of the neck. It appears to be a chip of some kind, an implant similar to the one I had during my tenure at Advent’s research facility. The purpose of such a device on a comatose prisoner are currently unknown.
Attempting immediate removal of the implant may prove fatal, though the alternative of leaving the implant in is foolish and just as risky.
# End Log #
Doctor Tygan clicked the recorder off jerked back in surprise at the slack jawed expression of shock on Wolford’s face.
“What’s wrong John?” Tygan asked. The hare’s question caused the wolf to catch his jaw and close his mouth, though his round eyes only grew larger in disbelief. He swallowed to wet his suddenly dry mouth.
“He looks like he hasn’t aged a day since he was captured.”
Wolford’s bizarre observation pulled at the nagging thought that had been biting at Doctor Tygan’s own mind.
He was right, by all accounts Commander Bogo should be a little over 65 years old. The mammal on the aluminum table before them looked mid to late 40’s tops. The exact age range of the Commander Bogo that had led XCOM over twenty years prior.
Somehow the Commander hasn’t aged in twenty years.
The implications of what this means was unsettling at best. If the Aliens had found a way to slow the aging process than there is no telling how many others are trapped just like the Commander had been. At worst, the Aliens may have even found a way to cheat death.
Doctor Tygan swallowed dryly and did his best to push that spiraling train of thought to the back of his mind.
“We can deal with the details later John. We need to remove the implant. Can you keep his head turned?”
“I don’t like this Jack, this is too risky.”
"There is no other option!” The hare shot back. He thrust a finger at the stubborn timber wolf. “We have no idea what that device is capable of. It must be removed and quickly! Hold him still and I will do it myself.”
Wolford reluctantly took hold of the buffalo’s curled horns and turned his head to allow Tygan access to the small chip of metal and plastic protruding from the Commander’s skull.
Wolford quirked an eyebrow at the bizarre surgical tool the doctor had produced from his tool bag.
“I take it this is considerably easier than when you had your chip removed?” The wolf asked.
Despite the deadly serious situation Doctor Jack Tygan snorted in laughter.
“Yes, it is. Not having to reach behind my head while trying to look at what I am doing the reflection of a couple of old bathroom mirrors is a relief. That and I actually have proper tools here instead of a dull kitchen knife and a pair of rusty tweezers.”
As he spoke the hare unconsciously ran a paw across a nasty patch of crisscrossing scars at the back of his head.
Wolford noticed this and politely coughed to draw the doctor from his musings. Tygan blinked at the wolf and shook himself from his thoughts to the task at paw.
“Hold him still John and let us pray all goes well.”
Chapter 9: Ghost Transmissions Part 1
Judy wakes to find herself safe on board the Avenger. After being examined for any lasting damage Shen and Tygan butt heads before being abruptly summoned to the Avenger's Bridge by Wolford. Judy tags along in hopes of meeting the Commander, whom she had been a part of rescuing during Operation Gatecrasher.
When Judy arrives on the bridge she witnesses Wolford arguing with a tiny fennec fox with a bad attitude and a voice many octaves too deep. Appearances prove to be deceiving as this pint-sized vulpine proves to be the leader of a faction known as the "Reapers". Now, where as she heard that name before?
A/N: Hey Y’all! So, to start things off there is a lot of world building and explanations in this one, so the chapter is longer than usual, I hope you are not too overwhelmed.
Also, I want to thank the 7 readers who had submitted their own characters to ZCOM’s dossier. Thank you so much! When a reader’s character makes an appearance in ZCOM your name will be credited here in the Author’s Note.
Since we are on the subject I would love to hear more from you guys (and Gals)!
To submit your very own character into the ZCOM dossier I need these few things:
- Name, Age, Gender, Species
- Brief history (i.e. lived in the woods since the invasion until found by XCOM scouts)
- Basic personality traits (i.e. Optimistic, Clumsy, Womanizer)
- At least two positive traits (i.e. Good with a rifle, funny, fearless)
- At least two flaws (i.e. Hates foxes, fear of fire, alcoholic)
Post your character into the comment section below!
If making a soldier or fighter isn’t to your taste than you don’t have to! Your character can be some shifty hustler, or a merchant, or maybe a mad scientist type, or just a regular mother on some fringe settlement living with her children.
I can’t wait to see what you all come up with!
Once again, thank you for your time and attention, now onward!
Chapter 9: Ghost Transmissions Part 1
Waking up in a hospital bed is nothing like in the movies. The odds of waking up surrounded by loved ones is slim to none and the journey from dreamland is rarely gentle or cute.
The first thing the brain processes is often smell, it is the sense most closely tied to memories, the sharp tang of medical tools and strong alcohol-based sanitizers overloaded the nose. Next comes taste, though the tongue only tasted of dryness and sour stomach acid. Touch closely followed, a hard pillow sized for a far larger mammal enveloped the head and long ears as crisply pressed bed sheets crumpled and slipped under paw. As soon as the body had processed the fact it was laying an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar place a symphony of hums, steady beeps, and the snores of a nearby large mammal flooded the ears, despite being buried in the uncomfortable pillow. Finally, the brain grasped that waking up was an inevitability and the sense of sight returned, registering closed eyelids-
-and pain, a nearly overwhelming amount of pain.
Judy whimpered, her natural instinct to move away to try and escape from the source of her pain caused her to roll back and forth in her bed and push away the covers while refusing to open her aching eyes. When the burning in her throat and behind her eyes failed to abate and her mind caught up with her body Judy realized that rolling around and moaning in agony was getting her nowhere, so she took a deep breath and tried calling for help.
But try as she might all that came out was a strangled cough, her words catching somewhere between her neck and her mouth like a sluicegate closing against a flood of water. She tried again and again but still no words could escape her lips. Panic built up in her chest like a growing worm squirming to find a way out.
Breathing suddenly became more laborious as her lungs rebelled against her and constricted themselves, forcing her to take faster, shallower breaths.
Judy thought she was dying, she begged that it was over soon.
Thankfully her thrashing and gasps for help woke up whoever was napping in the room. The voice sounded drowned out and distant, but she heard him nonetheless.
“D-Doctor Tygan! She’s awake!” An obnoxiously loud shout rang in her ears.
“Alright, I’m coming. Pronk, you are done here, go see Central Officer Wolford.” A smaller, more refined voice replied.
“W-what?” Pronk squeaked in disbelief. “Why?! I’ve been up with this dumb bunny for hours! So why do I have to- “
“Not my problem. Go report to Central.”
“Do not make me repeat myself again.”
“…. Y-yes Doctor….”
Before Pronk’s hoof steps had vanished from the room a pair of firm but gentle rabbit sized paws guided the suffering doe back to her uncomfortable pillow.
“You are safe, Miss Hopps.” The quiet and refined voice of the doctor said. “You are safe and sound. I know it hurts so just focus on the sound of my voice and take slower, deeper breaths,”
“And please, restrain yourself from crushing my paws into uselessness, I AM a doctor.” He chided with a pained edge to his voice.
Listening to Doctor Tygan’s voice did help Judy center her attention from her pain idled thoughts, at least enough to realize she had a white-knuckled grip around his fingers. With a considerable effort she released him and opted to dig her blunt claws into the hard mattress as she rode out the throes of agony that lanced across her compact body.
It could have been a few seconds, or an eternity she didn’t know, but when Judy did win the fight against her rebellious lungs to get her breathing under control the pain did recede, if only by a couple margins. She unhooked her death grip on the mattress and placed a paw on her chest and took a shuddering breath, she took solace in the feeling of her paw rising with her inhale and slow exhale.
She was going to be okay, she was going to be just fine.
“Miss Hopps?” Judy jerked against her pillow. She had completely forgotten she wasn’t alone.
“Have you calmed down?” Doctor Tygan asked.
Judy nodded, she didn’t want to risk aggravating her burning throat and angry lungs.
“Can you manage opening your eyes Miss Hopps? I turned down the lights, so you should not feel too much discomfort.”
Judy felt the crusty rings of sleep that had hardened around her eyelids as she pried them open. The first thing that caught her attention was how official everything looked.
The walls, floor and ceiling looked were steel and gray composite material that looked neither cold to the touch or uncomfortable to walk across, even with the tiny ridges pressed into the floors to give them traction. Everything in the room surrounding her rhino-sized recovery bed looked new and well maintained. Each machine was placed with a purpose in mind, Including the patient monitoring device that, until she had accidentally ripped out the electrodes and blood pressure clamp in her desperate thrashing, was keeping tabs on her condition.
Than she set her wide amethyst eyes on the mammal that had calmed her down, her surprise elicited a tiny gasp.
Doctor Tygan is a hare?! I thought I was the only rabbit to join XCOM!
Judy’s shocked expression didn’t escape the Doctor, but he didn’t realize that he was the cause. He assumed she was feeling overwhelmed with waking up in such a nice, albeit unfamiliar, environment. The only place you could normally see such a nice medical facility was in Advent’s hospitals.
Since she was supposedly from a fringe settlement there is a very good possibility that Miss Hopps had never actually been inside a structure that wasn’t riddled with rust and on the verge of collapse. Fringe settlements are often many miles from the closest thing that would even be considered “Civilized”.
It would not be a stretch to call where she lived little more than wilderness, a fact that the Advent propaganda machine was more than happy to point out on their television and radio broadcasts.
Doctor Tygan shook those irrelevant thoughts from his head with a tiny sigh. He pulled his tool bag over his hip and knelt on the mattress next to the wide-eyed doe.
“Can you speak?”
Judy unstuck her tongue from the dry roof of her mouth and swallowed with a pained grimace.
“A little, I think.” She croaked.
“Good,” Tygan flashed her a professional smile before tucking it away from his muzzle. He held a paw up and dug out a tiny flash light. “Blink a few times for me then keep your eyes open please.”
Judy did as she was told and Tygan began a swift examination to check for any sort of ill effects. Her responses were normal and besides a few lacerations around her neck that had been bandaged appropriately, (At least some of the medics weren’t a complete waste of space) so it seems the only real wounds left untreated were psychological, and Tygan was no therapist.
She seemed alright, but he was not going to take any chances, so he put his bag to away in favor of a clipboard with her personal information on it.
“I am going to ask you a few questions to make sure that you haven’t sustained any sort of traumas missed during your rather hasty treatments. Is that fine?” He looked at her over his glasses. Judy bobbed her head mutely and he turned his eyes back to the clipboard.
“Can you tell me your name please?”
“Judy Hopps.” She murmured.
“Full name please.”
A tiny flare of annoyance was quickly extinguished by a breathless sigh.
“Judith Laverne Hopps.” She croaked. Tygan glanced up at her painfully hoarse voice, his expression softened for a moment before slipping back into his professional mask.
“20 years old.”
“do you remember why you are here?”
“I… I got hurt.” Judy narrowed her eyes and looked off into space as she pieced together what happened. “I… um, the last thing I remember was taking a few pills from one of the medics, I think? It’s all fuzzy…”
Even though he had heard what happened Tygan couldn’t help the flash of anger and outrage that crossed his face, though he swiftly wiped them away.
“Yes, that was Pronk Oryx-Antlerson. He had given you a potentially lethal dose of drugs to put you to sleep. It very nearly killed you had Central Officer Wolford not intervened while you were enroute on the Skyranger.”
“Oh….” Judy didn’t quite know how to respond to that. Though, now that she thought about it those drugs may explain why her nightmare had been so…. real.
Doctor Tygan may not have been able to read minds but he knew enough about dealing with traumatized patients to know when to leave well enough alone and move on.
“Do you know where you are?” He asked tenderly.
“…. No?” Judy tilted her head, causing her ears that draped down her back to fall around her arm in an expression that could only be described as adorable. Thankfully Tygan didn’t look up from his clipboard or else he would have been hit with a full dose of cute, a dangerous thing when dealing with emotional bunny does.
“You are on the Avenger.” He replied. “More specifically, you are in the Avenger’s Med-Bay.”
“I’m on the Avenger?!” Judy squeaked. Her ears springing to attention and her fuzzy paws curled over her delighted grin.
This time Tygan did look up and she actually got him to chuckle at her elation.
“Yes, I suppose it would be appropriate to say welcome to your new home, such as it is….”
Delight and excitement erupted in her core at his words. He called it her home!
“Thank you.” She whispered with a brilliant smile on her face, her buck teeth slipped from her lips and in full view, it was an innocent smile that took years off her drained and beat up visage. She looked like a kit again.
The hare felt his own lips tilt into a smile in reply.
Once the warm moment passed Judy’s smile faded.
“May I ask your name?” She asked.
“But of course,” The hare drew himself to his full height with his ears standing proud with a paw to his chest and glasses pressed smug to his face.
“I am Doctor Jack- “
“Jack Savage!” An irate bark shook the walls.
Both lapines flinched from the angry feminine shout, though in the doctor’s case he narrowly avoided taking a tumble off the bedside.
Once he untangled himself from his lab coat and bag the normally calm and collected doctor shot a rather heated glare towards the doorway.
“It is Jack Tygan. Doctor Jack Tygan.” The hare snapped impishly as he picked himself up off the mattress with as much dignity as he could salvage.
“In the future please refrain from using that infernal nickname, it is quite distasteful.” Tygan huffed as he straightened his clothes with a sharp tug. “Now, care to explain why you were sprinting all the way here bellowing at the top of your lungs?”
Judy’s nose twitched as her startled heart struggled to descend from its racing pace. She craned her neck to catch a glimpse at the owner of that loud feminine voice.
Then she saw a pair of sharp pointed ears above a narrow snow-white muzzle and her heart stopped dead in her chest.
“Well Doc, I wouldn’t have to yell if you hadn’t scampered off all of a sudden in the middle of briefing Commander Bogo.” Skye retorted with a roll of her blue eyes, the motion ended when her gaze landed on the bunny astride the hospital bed.
“Oh! She’s awake!”
Skye’s fluffy tail swished back and forth in an excited fashion as she bounded up to the bedside. The arctic vixen was just tall enough to set her muzzle on the mattress standing up, and she did exactly that to get a better look at the frozen doe gawking back at her.
The vixen’s greeting was just a couple decibels shy of sticking an ear inside a punk rock band’s stereo system and with a rabbit’s already sensitive hearing it was scathing, like claws on a chalkboard. Both the doctor and poor Judy slapped their ears to their backs and screwed their eyes shut with hisses of pain.
Whether Skye realized she was the cause of their distress or not was up for debate, and if she did she clearly didn’t care, she simply stared at Judy with shining blue eyes while her muzzle rested on the bed and her feathery soft plume danced about behind her.
Judy clutched her already pounding head with a groan as she shook off the ringing in her ears. She slowly pried her eyes open and glared back at the culprit through half lidded eyes.
“You’re a fox!!” Judy yelped.
For a split-second Judy thought she saw hurt and surprise cross those curious blue eyes. snarky, heavy lidded expression dressed the vixen’s face. If Judy didn’t know any better, she would have said it was the face of a street hustler.
“Why yes I am. I suppose you have never met a fox before?” The arctic vixen asked, blessedly toning her volume down to more tolerable levels. Judy shook her head.
“I didn’t know foxes were still -er...” The doe stuttered to a stop, her brain finally catching up to her mouth. “...um, still around.”
The vixen’s snarky mask never even flickered, not even so much as a twitchy whisker. Instead the pure white fox wrapped her arms on the mattress and nestled her cheek on top.
“We may be hunted by Advent just for being born but it’ll take a lot more than that to get rid of us foxes.” The vulpine’s blue eyes sparkled in a deviously innocent manner. “After all, we aren’t called “Shifty” or “Sly” without a good reason.”
Judy’s ears burned pink in shame and her gaze stared listlessly in her lap. I hadn’t meant to say it like that!
“How are you feeling?”
“My throat is kinda sore, my neck feels like its stuffed in hot metal bands, and I hurt all over, but I think I’m okay.” Judy felt a tiny bit of relief in being able to answer an easy question. “C-can I ask your name?”
The bubbly vixen’s ears flicked up as a calm and controlled smile spread across her narrow muzzle.
“My name is An-Yi Shen.” When Judy realized she had tilted her head at the odd name and quickly tried to play off her confusion the vixen simply giggled. “But my friends call be Skye.”
“Judy Hopps, it is a pleasure to meet you.” The doe hesitated for a short moment before thrusting her paw to the smirking vixen.
“I’m sure it is.” Skye’s pure white paws were smudged in a sticky coating of grease and metallic particles, something Judy realized too late as Skye found Judy’s paws too small to grab and instead opted to wrap her filthy digits around her entire arm and shook with enough energy to bounce Judy up and down in her bed.
Though she was momentarily distracted by the vixen’s “arm-shake” Judy noticed that Skye’s tone was guarded and loaded with a subtle sarcasm that left Judy unsure of where she stood with the energetic fox. She didn’t need too long to dwell on the vixen’s mood, she got the feeling pointing out her species’ systematic extinction just maaaay have something to do with it.
Judy’s guilt must have bled through onto her face because Skye mercifully relaxed her passive aggressive smirk and flicked her gaze to Doctor Tygan.
“Commander Bogo is still waiting on you at the command deck with Wolford.”
“Alright, I’ll go, it seems as though Miss Hopps is stable enough for the moment. I want you to rest.” His last words directed to Judy. He slipped from the mattress in a display of agility befitting his species and made for the door. He was halfway there when a tiny plea stopped him and caused his ears to swivel around to the suddenly small looking doe.
“Don’t leave me alone….” Judy squeaked flushed a deep red from her toes straight to the inside of her shaking ears. The doctor arched an eyebrow in mild disappointment.
Was this doe serious? I thought she was a soldier, according to Central she is already a killer! Now she’s acting like a scared kit?
“You will be fine on your own, you need to rest.” Tygan said firmly.
“Actually…” to both lapines’ surprise Skye cut in on Judy’s behalf. The arctic vixen flashed Tygan a winning smile full of teeth.
“I think she should come with us. Ya know, give her the tour of the place and get her some real food. She HAS been out for over 24 hours and IV’s only go so far with nutrition and hydration.”
Tygan’s neutral expression soured at the vixen looming over him with that condescending grin on her muzzle. He opened his mouth to retort and he was cut off again.
“Don’t you think so too, Doc?” Skye asked in a sickly-sweet voice as she closed the distance between them.
The hare averted his gaze and snorted. Thinking back, perhaps he was just feeling petty with Skye and her abrasively energetic personality, Judy was just collateral damage for his frustrations.
“Fine.” He sighed. “You can be the one to show Miss Hopps around the Avenger though, since I have a grumpy Buffalo no doubt impatient to get back to resting his head.”
“Sure, I don’t mind. Now just take that fuzzy-wuzzy little tail of yours and hop along now! It’s girl time. Shoo, shoo!” Skye shooed the fuming Doctor away like a naughty kit past his bedtime.
Tygan suppressed a growl and leveled a venomous glare at the grinning vixen.
“I am not your pet Miss Shen. I have had just about enough of your malicious and demeaning behavior.” His voice rose with every syllable.
“Yeah? Well bite me you Advent reject.” Skye snapped, her blue eyes instantly sharpening to an icy glare.
To the hare’s credit only his nose twitched a couple times when face to face with his natural enemy.
“Reject? I escaped from Advent and at considerable risk of my own life took a great deal of Advent’s research with me!” He shouted with a stomp of his foot.
There was no way to tell how long their bickering would have worn on but thankfully no one had to find out as a ravenous bunny stomach growled is indignation at being neglected for so long causing both mammals to snap towards Judy as her ears burned with embarrassment.
The thunderous gurgling was like a bucket of ice water for the two heated mammals as if finally dawned on them that they were not completely alone in their fight. Skye recovered first, she schooled her near snarl into an icy smirk as she brushed a greasy paw down the back of her neck to try and smooth down her raised hackles.
“Ahem, I better get our carrot farmer something to eat.” Skye coughed and turned away from a shamefaced Tygan.
“Yes, that would be best.” He looked at Judy. “I apologize for that unseemly display Miss Hopps, due to my past occupation it seems I still have a ways to go to garner everyone’s trust. I hope our disagreement does not give you the wrong impression. You will find that despite our differences and opinions every single mammal here is dedicated to combatting the Aliens and freeing Earth from Advent’s occupation.”
The hare bent into a small bow and swept swiftly from the room towards the command deck. Skye scrubbed a paw against a cheek, ruffling the fur there and sighed.
“He is right, I may not trust him or really like him, but we are on the same side.” The vixen held a paw large enough to envelope most of Judy’s back to help the doe from the mattress. Skye kept her paw close when Judy’s feet hit the floor in case the doe stumbled.
“Tygan and I are comrades, just like you and I now are.” The fox smiled, and a paw and Judy stuck her arm in for another arm-shake.
“Thank you.” The doe murmured around a bashful grin.
[Chief Engineer Shen to the command deck, Chief Engineer Shen to the command deck.]
Skye’s smile vanished with a concerned frown in its place.
“Come on, food will have to wait. John wouldn’t ask me to the bridge without a good reason.”
“Oh… Oh, okay. Right behind you!”
Normally Skye would have sprinted down the maze-like halls and up the three flights of stairs, but she settled for a hasty jog as she had an unsteady rabbit in tow. Judy was thankful for Skye’s consideration; her poor head was spinning as they dodged and dipped down hallways and stair cases seemingly random. If she had been by herself, she would have been lost within the first two minutes. It boggled her mind that this was actually a small portion of a massive airship’s guts.
Finally, Skye bounced up one final set of stairs and dodged around a couple coyote technicians deep in conversation into the Avenger’s bridge. Judy was panting, and her limbs shook but she was right on the energetic vixen’s heels. She realized that they must have made it to their destination and wiped a paw across her brow and tugged at her bandages constricting her neck.
When she caught her breath, she looked up around her and found it taken away all over again. Judy was struck speechless and in awe at what she saw. The Avenger’s bridge was a cavernous atrium centered around a reverently placed tactical holo-projector with a 3D image of Earth flickering in place at the apex of the room.
The holographic Earth was the beating heart of the Avenger and her crew’s efforts. It seemed to serve as both a reminder of what XCOM is fighting for, just as much as it served as a tactical map for the resistance’s efforts.
The bridge was a hive of bustling activity with every surface adorned with computers, monitors, meters, servers, weapon racks, tactical data, radios and a plethora of unfamiliar pieces of equipment Judy couldn’t even begin to fathom the purpose for. The doe looked up and found a second story to the bridge’s interior with two sweeping steel framed staircases at the stern of the room. The second floor was a platform that wrapped around the room with the Avenger’s viewports allowing in a dim trickle of sunlight into the otherwise artificially lit interior.
Judy was pulled from her slack jawed daze by a paw wrapping around her arm and tugging her towards the back of the room on the bridge’s bottom floor were a group of mammals were huddled around a very large computer screen.
Right of the bat Judy recognized Wolford’s back as the wounded timber wolf leand on the computer’s keyboard with a large swath of bandages that bulged the right side of his usual tan combat shirt. Standing off the side with his arms crossed and a frown etched into his features was Doctor Tygan, he looked to have been excluded from whatever discussion was taking place.
The final mammal as someone Judy didn’t recognize. He towered over Wolford, the tall canine barely came past his belt line, and nearly every other mammal in the room by a far margin with two swooping horns that sprouted from a layer of sterile white bandages around his head. The stranger’s chest was almost as wide as he was tall with rippling muscles and huge forearms that must each weight as much as Wolford.
When they were just a few feet away Skye leaned over and whispered softly into her ear.
“That’s Commander Bogo.”
A jolt of nerves and irrational fear punched through Judy’s chest. She grabbed one of her drooping ears and fiddled with the end.
That’s THE Commander Bogo! Cheese and crackers, what am I supposed to say? what am I supposed to do?! I- I don’t feel so good…
An almost primal panic fought for control of her body that screamed for her to turn right around and squeeze herself in a corner as far away as possible from the massive cape buffalo. It didn’t make any sense why she would feel this way about a bovine when she is walking right next to her historical arch-enemy, but no matter how much she tried to rationalize her feelings about it she only felt deathly nervous about being in the same room as the Commander, and she hadn’t even look him in the face yet, let alone actually talked to him!
I am so dead.
Skye pulled a trembling Judy with her and respectively stepped off to the side of the mammal huddle with Doctor Tygan to wait. Judy’s nose twitched as if someone had hooked her up to a motor and hit the accelerator. Regardless of her near tunnel vision and empty stomach full of nausea inducing butterflies Judy tried to listen in on the heated argument taking place mainly between Central and the mammal on screen.
“You are too trusting John.” A very deep baritone growl shook the computer’s speakers. “The Skirmishers are Advent. Advent is the enemy, and the enemy is food.”
Unease slithered up Judy’s spine. She didn’t like that voice. Not one bit. But her curiosity got the better of her, so she turned her head towards the obviously private conversation and took a peak as discreetly as possible. What she saw confused her more than anything else.
A desert tan fennec fox sat on the other end of the video conference with a wall mounted with the heads of unsettling and otherworldly creatures, none of which she could identify. The tiny fox had an elbow propped on the table with a huge cigar nearly as large as the fox’s arm that trailed a thin line of smoke in the air as he waved his paw around.
Judy was confused as to who that ridiculously deep voice belonged to because there is no way that pint sized predator could possibly be the one that voice belonged to.
Wolford rolled his eyes and glanced up at the ceiling hoping to find the patience to deal with this infuriating argument. He seemed to have found it because for the umpteenth time during this conference call he managed to school his frustration into a mildly annoyed grimace.
“Try not to bring that up when we meet with them. Volk.” He reprimanded the scowling fox as he crossed his arms.
The fennec Todd’s eyebrows rose in astonishment. When his voice rumbled over the speakers Judy’s eyebrows followed suit.
“You? Take their side!” The fox snarled. He shot a paw to the wall of mounted heads behind him. “After all we’ve seen these years?!”
His last words thundered across the bridge’s atrium causing every single mammal in the room to go silent and turn their heads toward the video conference.
Wolford felt the eyes of every single mammal bore into his neck. He fought to keep his fur from bristling in anger. He couldn’t let his emotions get the best of him here. Not when for the first time ever Volk had actually answered his calls and agreeing to discuss an alliance. This was too important, and everyone knew it.
Wolford let his anger out with a snort and swept his arms open in a complacent manner.
“Look, I’m not exactly having drinks with ‘em.” He admitted before putting his paws on his hips and fixed the pint sized vulpine with a glare. “BUT, the Skirmishers did hold up their end of the bargain. Without the intel they provided your operative never would have been able to find Commander Bogo in that gene therapy clinic.”
“What about you?” He thrust a claw at the glowering fox suddenly unable to meet Central’s eyes.
Volk went silent. The air seemed to thicken from the tension as the fennec looked off to the side and propped his muzzle on his arm and took a long drag from his cigar. Electric anticipation crackled in the air as every mammal in the room dared not to even breath.
It seemed as if the fox moved in slow motion as he breathed out a pluming cloud of tobacco and ground his spent cigar into a nearby ash tray. A deep, heavy rumbling sigh shook his frame and met Wolford’s gaze. Volk suddenly looked exhausted, worn, and just so tired of it all, but his eyes hardened and when he spoke Judy could practically taste the threat each word carried.
“I will send my best mammal to act as the Reaper’s representative for this meet with you and the Skirmishers.”
Wolford fought to keep his piercing scowl as a relieved smile threatened to break out, but Volk’s voice cut off any further celebration.
“But know this. If my representative is so much as scratched during this little exchange, or if I don’t like what he has to tell me- “
The fox leaned in close to the camera and pulled his lips back into a snarl full of razor sharp teeth.
“I’ll bite yo’ face off.”
Before Central could open his mouth to reply Volk slammed a fist down onto his console, severing the connection.
The room was still baring down on Central as he took a deep breath and raked a paw down his muzzle. At first Judy thought he looked upset but the huge grin that bloomed on his face said otherwise.
“I think they might actually show up.” He murmured.
He glanced around and like magic the room erupted into excited chattering and movement as if someone had finally hit the play button again, though now there was an optimistic air that mingled with the serious aura.
“Who was that?” For the first time the cape buffalo beside Wolford spoke. Judy was not surprised that the massive bovine sounded much like the tiny fennec fox did, with a voice that carried a natural air of authority that made her fight the instinct to snap to attention like she had so many times in basic combat training.
“Commander, that was Finnick Volikov. “Volk” to his friends.” Wolford explained to the towering cape buffalo. “He is the leader of a resistance faction known as the “Reapers”. He and his people are a big part of the reason why you are standing here today.”
He turned back to the computer and began pulling up what appeared to be three separate profiles on screen.
“Volk leads one of three major factions operating independent from us that we consider a legitimate threat to Advent. The “Reapers, the “Skirmishers”, and the “Templars." Together they would make one helluva fighting force.”
“Too bad they all hate each other.” He sighed.
A photograph of Finnick scowling from beneath a dark hood briefly crossed the screen before being replaced by another photo of what appeared to by a Lynx Advent Trooper with a strange twin bladed gauntlet submerged in the chest of an Advent Officer.
“The Skirmishers are the other faction I am hoping to form an alliance with. They are Advent Defectors. No one’s been big on working with these guys, knowing where they came from, but we would have never managed to find where they were keeping you without their intel.”
The timber wolf stepped away from the console and gestured to the photos.
“Both the Reapers and the Skirmishers have agreed to suspend hostilities between each other provided XCOM acts as a go-between.”
He led Commander Bogo over to the hologram of Earth and typed a few commands into the display, showing the general locations of Reaper and Skirmisher territory on the North American continent.
“Since the Reapers are only sending a single operative we have agreed to allowing this lone representative to choose the meeting place. Volk told me that this Reaper will signal where the meet will happen in a few days’ time.” He said.
“How will this Reaper signal us?” The Commander asked.
“Volk was not clear on that.” Central shrugged. “All he said was that “You will know it when you see it.”, Whatever that means….”
Chapter 10: Ghost Transmissions Part 2
Judy attends her fallen comrade's remembrance ceremony and meets with part of the Avenger's motley crew, meanwhile Central Officer Wolford discovers a mysterious signal originating from a location he had hoped never to step foot in again...
A/N: Hey Y’all! Untraveled here!
So, it took me a couple weeks longer than I would have liked to finish this chapter, but I was hit with a serious case of writer’s block, but after several attempts and a couple complete rewrites I have finally finished it!
As always if you have a character you wish to see featured in ZCOM than please put them in the comment section below! I love to see what you, my dear readers, have to offer.
To submit your very own character into the ZCOM dossier I need these few things:
- Name, Age, Gender, Species
- Brief history (i.e. lived in the woods since the invasion until found by XCOM scouts)
- Basic personality traits (i.e. Optimistic, Clumsy, Womanizer)
- At least two positive traits (i.e. Good with a rifle, funny, fearless)
- At least two flaws (i.e. Hates foxes, fear of fire, alcoholic)
Post your character into the comment section below!
As a side note every character does not have to be a soldier, there is an equal, if not greater, need for other characters. Your character can be some shifty hustler, or a merchant, or maybe a mad scientist type, or just a regular mother on some fringe settlement living with her children. Every character you give me is important and I can’t wait to see who comes up next!
Now, enough with the stalling, let’s get to the real reason why you here, Ghost Transmissions, Part 2!
Chapter 10: Ghost Transmissions Part 2
“Commander, this is the mammal I was telling you about, our first rabbit soldier, Judy Hopps.”
When the drama from Volk’s conversation died down Central decided it was as good a time as any to introduce Judy to Commander Bogo, as she may not get the chance to later on. Judy’s awe and bewilderment at how fast her life had changed had her head spiraling and her emotions in disarray.
To think this day started off with her dying and strapped in a gurney.
Her trepidation only worsened as Commander Bogo turned his fierce, calculating gaze onto her. Judy could feel him assessing her worth, her usefulness. She was painfully aware that if he didn’t find anything he liked she could very well find her cottontail dusting the ground by the Avenger’s landing gear with nowhere to go.
Bogo glared down his wide, scarred muzzle at the young bunny that was clearly fighting with herself to meet his gaze. Were he a lesser mammal he would have thought she was terrified of his size, however he had learned the hard way that is not always true with smaller mammals.
Wilde certainly proved that much all those years ago…
“You were part of the mission that is responsible for my rescue?” Bogo asked, his voice was still raspy and wet from 20 years of disuse, even if he couldn’t remember anything from that time gap. He tried to speak in a soft tone but all that he accomplished something akin to a humming growl. The doe’s trembling ears smacked down over her shoulders, possibly because he sounded angry.
Judy shrank back from the bull towering over her, her head dipped below her shoulders. It took every shred of determination and stubbornness she possessed in her tiny body to keep herself straight and her arms stuck firmly to her side.
“Y-yes sir! But…” The words stuck in Judy’s throat as her ears wilted and her eyes dulled. “…I didn’t exactly do much. That was-…”
Remember Me and Ana, will you?
“-Was Os-Osei and R-Ramirez.” She croaked in a broken whisper.
The normally stoic cape buffalo’s steely glare softened into a pitying frown of grudging understanding. Commander Bogo did not even know the mammals who had given their lives for his, and he will never get the chance. Judy was suffering from survivor’s regret, a vile, unrelenting parasite that, given the chance, will eat her soul from in the inside out. However, Bogo was at a loss as to how he should handle this, thankfully Wolford already had something in mind.
“It is a bit soon,” The timber wolf interjected, causing the distraught bunny to sniffle and look at him and drawing the Commander’s own curious gaze. “But I suppose it is a good time as any for the Memorial Ceremony.”
“M-Memorial Ceremony?” Judy hiccupped.
Skye’s slightly greasy padded paw gently circled around the doe’s shoulders and pulled her towards the hallway.
“Yeah, to honor and remember the… fallen.” The vixen explained. Her ears flicked as a stab of sorrow wretched into her heart. “We etch their names into the “Wall” down in the Avenger’s bar and hang up whatever mementos they left behind. Come on, I’ll show you.”
“I’ll put the word out that the Memorial Ceremony’s in 20 minutes.” Wolford called as Skye and Judy disappeared into the maze-like hallway.
Two flights of stairs and a couple left turns later found Judy in a room considerably smaller than the massive atrium that was the center of the Avenger. The Avenger’s bar seemed have been a cargo hold during its days as an Alien cargo vessel, now 30 foot by 120 foot room was converted into a watering hole for the Avenger’s freedom fighters and crew.
A bar stretched about half that distance and a motley collection of mismatched tables and chairs mostly for larger mammals were scattered haphazardly about the bar’s floor. A wall scarred with the names of dozens of mammals and ragged polaroids of happier times ran the length of the room opposite the bar top.
The bar itself was of a peculiar design with accommodation of a wide range of mammal sizes in mind. The counter was made of metal with a textured rubber around its edges with stools that could be raised up to allow mammals of wildly different builds to share in food, drink, and companionship.
The wall behind the bar was decorated with rows and rows of alcohol secured in cleverly designed cubbies that kept the bottles from shifting when the Avenger was in flight with a professionally outfitted stainless steel kitchen encroached in the far corner that was flanked by a large freezer and refrigerator.
The bar was currently sparse in its patrons, despite its size in the belly of the converted Alien airship. Only a thin scattering of eight or so mammals nursing a drink here or there gave Judy the impression that it must be sometime before lunch as most the Avenger’s crew must be working.
The lack of staring mammals set Judy’s high strung nerves to a dull buzz as she allowed Skye to lead her over with a light paw to the bar’s counter where the pleasant purr of a humming Jaguar dressed in a loose white tank top, jean shorts, and a stained white apron messaged Judy’s inner ears in a cathartic manner.
Judy found her barstool sunk into the floor at a height she found convenient to plop down on and for a moment glanced around for any indication on how to get the curious furnishing to rise up to the countertop that loomed overhead. She found her answer as she caught a glimpse of Skye stepping on a lever at the stool’s base to bring the stool to her height to seat herself and holding a button on the side of the stool to rocket herself upward.
With a few seconds of blind groping Judy found an identical button on her own stool and squeaked as she lost her balance and clamped onto the soft felt less the upward momentum topple her from her perch.
When she arrived at counter level Judy was met with Skye’s blue eyes twinkling with a knowing light, but she had the good grace to keep her teasing for a later date. She knew Judy was in a delicate place and as much fun it would be to poke fun at the starry-eyed honey bun, the poor thing needed a few moments of peace to find herself and recollect her violently shaken composure.
Judy’s miniscule squeak of fright did not go unnoticed it seemed, as the pleasant humming abruptly stopped and the spotted Jaguar slaving over the stove in the corner wiped his sweaty brow with a handkerchief and slapped a towel over his shoulder with a plate of eggs and a peculiar veggie hash in one jet black paw.
“Alistair! Eggs ‘n nibbles up!” The jaguar chimed in a throaty tenor heavily laden under an accent Judy failed to identify.
“Appreciate it Oncason!” A copper and black furred arm reached between the doe’s ears and rudely brushed them aside to accept the plate of food.
Judy pulled her ears down her back and turned in her seat with a frown on her face. What appeared to be a cross between a wolf and coyote hybrid dressed like something straight out of a 90’s punk band slipped into the stool right next to her and tucked in, his coarse copper colored tail flicking back and forth.
“Excuse me.” Judy piped up, drawing the mammal from his meal and pulling Skye’s attention at the same time.
The wolf/coyote’s ear flicked to the sound of an unfamiliar voice. He swallowed a bite and spun to face the rabbit. Judy had just enough time before he open his narrow muzzle to note that one of his eyes were gray and the other was green and his face was crisscrossed with old pale scars. These little details quickly became insignificant once the canine started speaking however.
“Well hello! I’m afraid I didn’t see you there. Now how did such a cute little bunny like you manage to sneak aboard, hmm?”
Judy’s nerves were already stretched taut from her ordeal as it stood, having some rock band wannabe throwing around the C-word certainly did not help.
Skye cringed at the accidental insult and sucked her teeth. This was not going to end well.
“First of all, don’t call me cute.” Judy jumped to her feet and pointed at the amused canid resting his head on his paw. “Second, I did not sneak aboard. I just came back from a mission. Third, I do not need some garage band reject that can’t seem to make up his mind whither he’s a coyote or a wolf to get all pawsy with me and INVADE MY PERSONAL SPACE!”
As the last vestiges of the little doe’s irate monologue died Judy was left standing astride her stool breathing like a winded racehorse with her fists clenched and her neck lacerations torn open and staining her bandages a light crimson.
The wolf/coyote was struck dumb by the sudden outburst. He was in his stool leaning away as far away from the crazy rabbit as possible. His tail sprang straight as a rod and bristled like a feather duster with his ears folded against the back of his head and at a complete loss at what to do.
Thankfully the Jaguar behind the counter did. Sorta.
“Bahaha!” The spotted jungle cat smacked a black paw on the counter. The feline wheezed in laughter with his huge vice of sharp teeth on full display. “You had it comin’ Ali’! You had it comin’ and she sure as hell let ya have it! Ahahaha!”
He smacked the counter once more and reined in his mirth and tucked his teeth behind his lips, though one snaggletooth still found its way into the big cat’s smirk.
He offered a paw to the baffled doe staring at him. One of her ears stood at attention while the other stuck out as if it was unsure of what to do with itself.
“Nathan Oncason. The Avenger’s best Bartender and the self-proclaimed resident therapist.”
Despite being a tenth of his size Judy felt an instant companionship with the jungle cat that she had only felt before with other bunnies. Somehow, she felt on equal footing in every respect with the suave bartender. No wonder he was considered the onboard therapist, self-proclaimed or not.
“Judy Hopps. It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. Oncason.” Judy managed to wrap her paw halfway around the Oncason’s pointer finger and shook it warmly.
Then she looked down at the paw in her grasp and a tiny gasp slipped involuntarily from her lips. Oncason’s ear flicked and a sympathetic and somber smile. Judy’s paws shot to her muzzle and her ears drooped behind her.
“Oh! I’m- I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to stare.”
The spotted feline chuckled and waggled both paws above the counter to show the remorseful bun.
Several of the bartender’s fingers were either missing or cut off at a joint with pink scar tissue topping the shortened digits.
“Do not fret Rookie. It’s normal, I get stares all the time.” Oncason spread his mutilated paws wide to better show the damage.
“This is a gentle reminder of asking too many questions, curtesy of your friendly neighborhood Advent Peacekeepers.” He snarked with a wiggle of his paws.
For some odd reason they reminded Judy of a piano missing several keys. The only fingers that were left alone were his thumbs and a pointer finger on his left paw, the rest were randomly diced down to the fuzzy nubs the doe saw today.
“I… I don’t know what to say.” Judy admitted. Her bleeding neck throbbed an angry reminder at being momentarily forgotten.
“You do not have to say anything, everyone here has their scars and crosses to bear. I think you’ll fit in just fine Hopps.” Nathan slipped Judy a wink and sidled over to leaned on the counter in front of a smirking Skye.
“So, what do I owe the pleasure of your presence here so early in the day, An-Yi?” He purred with a mischievous smirk of his own.
“Please Nathan, just call me Skye. Only my father and Uncle Nick would call me by my first name.”
“As you wish Skye. So… Sex on the Beach?”
“Oh God yes.” The vixen moaned in relieved anticipation and rested her head on the chilly aluminum counter, her blue eyes closed and a relaxed smile on her face.
The Jaguar swept a thin Highball glass from under the counter and wiped it down with a moist dishrag. Judy’s long rabbit ears sprang to attention and heated to a deep burning crimson, her mouth open in confusion. Her eyes bounced between the Jaguar and the Smiling vixen in silent astonishment.
Are these two really talking about m-m-mating here?! And a Jaguar and a Fox no less!
“I, um… We are close to the Ocean?” Judy’s hesitation drew the pair in question’s eyes causing the shamefully curious doe to flush and fight the urge to bolt from the bar and swan dive off the Avenger’s landing pad.
“No, I can’t say we are really close to the water here.” Oncason was a bit slow on the uptake but Skye immediately caught on to what was going through the blushing bunny’s naughty little head.
Without lifting her head from the counter Skye turned to rest her cheek on the surface instead to lock eyes with the jaguar bartender with a playful spark in her eye.
“Hey Nathan, can you make it rougher than normal? I’m feeling rather restless and I got an itch for something… harder.”
“Sure...?” The jaguar knew that he was missing something, but he decided to let it go for now and turn back to mixing the frosty cocktail with a more potent vodka than he would normally use.
Meanwhile, poor Judy looked red enough to pop. The rabbit was valiantly attempting to hide her burning face behind her ears as he pulled them down and groaned from embarrassment. Worse off, Skye wasn’t quite done with the bunny soldier yet.
“Hey Nathan, mind doing it right here? I’m sure Ms. Hopps would like to see exactly what those magic paws of yours can do.” She purred.
An involuntary squeak escaped the doe. Alistair was doubled over in barely contained mirth on the other side of the blushing bunny.
Still clueless as to what was going on Oncason shrugged and complied, setting the tall glass in his paw filled with crushed ice on the counter and expertly poured and stirred the remaining ingredients into the fox-sized highball with a swiftness born of many busy nights and countless hours in tiny bars strewn all over north and south America.
“One Sex on the Beach, with a little extra kick.” Oncason slid the frosty peach colored cocktail in front of a widely grinning vixen. Skye clapped twice in giddy glee and took an appreciative sip and melted into her seat with a long sigh.
“Oh Nathan, you magnificent mammal! What did I ever do to deserve you?” Skye cooed before diving back into the sweet alcoholic concoction.
“Alright Skye, I think the rookie is at her limit. she looks red enough to pop outta those bandages.” Alistair chuckled.
Judy felt lightheaded for sure and braved a peak by pulling an ear to the side and shooting Skye a look of bewildered betrayal. The fox didn’t seem to care in the slightest, but the sudden horrified face of dawning realization finally descended upon Nathan’s spotted muzzle.
“Ahaha! I get it now, you thought that I was offering to bend our dear chief engineer over the bar when we were discussing her drink!”
“Good Foxy Jesus Nathan, you are usually on the ball!” Skye swallow and snorted in a fit of laughter. “What happened to you?”
The jaguar wiped his brow with his handkerchief and rolled his eyes. “Well excuse me for being polite to the newbie. She looks like she’s been through a lot.”
Nathan leaned on her elbows over the counter to face the scowling bunny. Judy was pissed for being embarrassed for her inexperience in bars and being taken advantage of by the sly Vixen currently moaning into her frosty beverage.
“I apologize Hopps, I’m afraid our dear Skye takes after her beloved Uncle Nick rather than her father when it comes to dealing with mammals.”
“Uncle?” Judy glanced sideways at the vixen. “I don’t remember seeing any other foxes here besides that bat eared one in the video conference.”
“You wouldn’t see any other foxes onboard,” Skye’s voice was quiet and calm, but there was a venom that dwelt behind every softly spoken word.
“Because they are all dead.”
Judy’s chest seized, and her breath caught in her throat. What could she say after that? Sorry? Wow, I had no idea! Or how about, that sucks but at least you aren’t dead yet! No, she just had to ask. Stupid, Blind Dumb Bunny!
She could have easily figured it out on her own just by looking around. The walls in the bar were plastered with frozen moments in time with the smiling faces of mammals no longer walking this Earth.
While the mute bunny struggled to salvage the conversation, Skye slid from the stool and pulled an ancient, filthy photo that was pinned to the wall and clambered back to the bar.
“This is my family.” She said, spinning the photo around to show Judy.
The photograph was old, very old. The gloss finish was long gone, and the edges were frayed, and fold marks crisscrossed the smiling faces in the picture. There were three foxes in the photograph posing on a park bench in front of a weathered red brick ice cream shop. Judy guessed the little arctic vixen kit with happy blue eyes that sparkled even through the faded ravages of time. The little kit was perched grinning giddily on the knee of an elderly arctic fox with auburn eyes and a red fox lounging over the armrest with a half-lidded smirk on his thin muzzle.
“That’s me.” Skye tapped a claw on the kit bouncing on the older tod’s knee. “That’s my father, Raymond Shen. And the snarky devil over there is Nick Wilde.” A nostalgic smile pulled at the vixen’s lips.
“He is not really my uncle, but he had his wife Mary used to take care of me when Dad was busy with work. Doctor Raymond Shen was the chief engineer for the original XCOM project during the first invasion 20 years ago so he was rarely home.”
“And the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Doctor Shen couldn’t be prouder.” Nathan added. Skye beamed and swelled at the Jaguar’s praise.
“Why do you call that red fox your Uncle?” Judy asked tentatively.
“Well Uncle Nick practically raised me along with his daughter when me and dad moved to Zootopia before the invasion.” Skye lovingly ran a thumb over the crimson furred vulpine smirking back at her. Now that smiling face was nothing more than a ghost from a happier time.
“He was a soldier in the XCOM project with the highest confirmed Kill Count in XCOM.” Skye’s blue eyes shown with a sad sort of pride.
“Wolford says that the mammal that beats Uncle Nick’s record gets his callsign, in the 20 years since he died on his last mission no mammal has managed to beat him yet.”
“What was it? The callsign I mean…” Judy leaned closer to get a better look at those fiery emerald eyes with a fascinated turn in her head and her little pink nose twitching.
“Outrider.” Nathan Oncason answered, drawing her gaze from the photo.
The Jaguar had his back turned to the counter as the clicking of bowls and silverware tickled the bunny’s hearing. When he resurfaced from the front of the fridge tucked against the stove with a large salad with ranch dressing in paw. Just the sight of the fresh green leaves and carrot shreddings sent a wave of saliva washing up Judy’s mouth.
Oncason noticed her desperate stare nearly burning the glistening leafy greens in his paw and he chuckled.
“You looked hungry and since Doc Savage has a no alcohol rule for recovering patients I’m afraid water or juice is all I have to sate your thirst.”
Judy swallowed thickly and flicked her tiny tongue across her lips before digging in with gusto, but even as through the heavenly tastes and crush of her salad her curiosity got the better of her once again.
“Who’s Doc Savage?”
“It’s Doctor Jack Tygan.”
“How did a hare like him get a name like that? I thought he was a scientist.” Judy asked.
Skye giggled and forgoing the straw stuck her muzzle into her drink, savoring both the frosty taste and lighter topic of conversation. When the vixen resurfaced she had a sly smile on her face and a happy twitch to her tail.
Her smile stretched wider as the mammal in question padded up from behind with a scowl on his face.
“Why don’t you ask him yourself?”
The dirty look the hare shot the grinning vixen only served to send her tail spinning behind her. Judy could have sworn that if Skye’s fluffy appendage wagged much faster she would be airborne.
“Yeah Doc, why do you have that nickname?” Alistair chimed in, his heterogeneous eyes dancing with mirth.
“I would rather not...” Tygan grumped, crossing his arms and turning his striped face away.
“It’s because of all those Advent Bug-burger wrappers John, -er- I mean Wolford, found under his desk.” Skye snickered.
“Oh.” Judy’s stare went blank for a few seconds as her brain took a moment to process what the vixen said before it clicked.
“Wait, you eat meat?!” She sputtered.
Tygan’s ears burned a painful cherry red before falling across his back, his head still turned away in an adamant inability to meet the rabbit’s shocked eyes.
“Those Advent bug-burgers were for scientific purposes of course…”
“That’s not what John said when he caught you in the latrine with half a burger shoved in your mouth.” Skye sang, her playful voice like a hammer squashing the hapless hare’s tattered dignity flat once more.
“alright, alright, leave the Doc alone,” Oncason chuckled. “don’t want him going savage on anyone in my bar. Hey doc, if you feel the need to maul a mammal take ‘em out by the cargo hold first will ya?”
“I am never going to live this down, am I?” Tygan sighed.
“Never.” Skye snarked. “Now come on up grumpy buns, I see Wolford and some of the others are here for the remembrance ceremony.” Her gaze softened as she turned to a nervous Judy. “You ready?”
“No.” The doe squeaked. She pushed her half-finished salad away and took a long shuddering breath. “But I really don’t have much of a choice, do I?”
Judy nearly jumped out of her fur when a gentle and slightly greasy paw squeezed her shoulder.
“If it makes you feel any better, this never gets any easier.” Skye said, her voice barely above a whisper.
“Thank you.” Judy mumbled.
Wolford limped over with as much dignity as a wounded timber wolf could muster and presented a couple of dog tags, the engraved tin tinkled and chimed as the names Peter Osei and Ana Ramirez swayed and bumped against each other.
“As neither of Osei’s or Ramirez’s families are present it falls to the one closest to them to add their names to the Wall and embroider their memories and sacrifice into our hearts, so we may never forget why they died and what we fight for.”
The wolf’s voice carried a sovereign power Judy could only compare to a priest before his congregation. The importance that every mammal present showed, even the ones not involved, calmed her nerves and gave her the confidence she needed to press on just a step further.
Ya know, I never did apologize, did I little rabbit?
Judy took Peter and Ana’s dog tags and lowered her chair to the floor. For the first time since she had woken the doe’s legs felt firm and her steps with purpose.
I’m sorry Judy Hopps.
Judy walked through the throng of XCOM soldiers, every mammal parted the way for the doe and none dared utter a word as this silence was hers, hers and the fallen soldiers she would soon put to rest.
She stood before the Wall and looked up and saw rows upon rows of dog tags, some bloody and bent, some shiny and pristine, hung from their hooks bearing the weight of a mammal’s entire existence on their chains. She found two empty hooks low to the ground enough for her to reach.
Remember me and Ana, will you?
With her vision blurry with tears and her chest heaving from bare contained sobs Judy hung Peter’s name next to Ana’s, they would be side by side here on the Wall just as they were side by side in death.
With no more reason to keep her composure the bunny collapsed to her knees and wailed shamelessly at the loss of mammals that had barely tolerated her but paid the ultimate price for her life.
“I’ll remember you.” She swore to herself. “I will never forget as long as I live.”
“Sir, you may want to take a look at this.”
Back on the Avenger’s bridge Wolford was recuperating from the emotional Remembrance Ceremony.
You would think after hundreds of similar ceremonies I would be used to it by now, but it never gets any easier. Uuugh, I need a drink. He thought to himself before turning his attention to the Ocelot technician addressing him.
“What is it?”
“I think I found something sir, some kinda encrypted signal, but I don’t really know how to operate these old receivers.” The tiny feline admitted sheepishly.
“Alright, show me.” Wolford leaned over the ancient pre-invasion computer the Ocelot had been working on as far as his gunshot would allow.
The timber wolf may be getting on in years, but he always had a good head when it comes to memorization, even if he hadn’t touched 20 year old “legacy” equipment like this since he headed the first XCOM project.
After a couple of minutes refamiliarizing himself with the equipment Wolford’s paws danced across the keyboard, bringing up the scans the Ocelot had been attempting to decipher.
“There! See it?” The technician bounced in his seat and pointed to a faint blip on the outer ranger of the Avenger’s sensors. “It just… showed up about an hour ago, I thought perhaps it was just a glitch until the computer started trying to de-code the signal. Someone’s transmitting something, I’m sure of it.”
“Good job Felix.” Wolford flashed the technician one of his rare smiles and pulled the strange signal up on the main display. “I’m going to use the Avenger’s main computer to speed up the decryption process.”
“Central, you found something interesting?” The floor shook as the tell-tale hoof steps of Commander Adrian Bogo announced his presence. The timber wolf nodded in a brief sign of respect to the cape buffalo and pointed to the screen.
“Does that code look familiar to you?” Wolford asked.
“Yes, it appears to be an XCOM emergency beacon, what of it?” Commander Bogo asked as he crossed his massive arms over his bulky chest.
Wolford shook his head and snorted.
“Yes, its an XCOM emergency beacon, but don’t you see what is wrong with that?” He asked and gave the Commander a look as if it should have been obvious. When Bogo failed to answer Wolford sighed and pointed a finger at the faint signal pulsing a steady beat on the scanner.
“It is an XCOM emergency beacon from 20 years ago.” He explained. “It’s on a channel we used during the first invasion, and Felix here said it just came online an hour ago.”
Bogo’s eyes widened in realization of the bizarre situation, but before he could say any more the computer beeped, and a row of code scrolled across the screen.
“What does it say?” Wolford asked Felix, the Ocelot could barely contain his excitement at being apart of something so cool with both Wolford and the legendary Commander Bogo asking for his help.
He leaned in to his own smaller computer screen until his nose nearly touched the monitor.
“I can’t really read most of it sir. The emergency beacon seems to have been corrupted or damaged before whatever mammal turned it on, but I can make out two things, but…”
“Is there a problem Felix?” Wolford asked with a tense edge to his voice. The Ocelot jumped and gulped.
“N-no sir! No problem here! But... I mean... well…”
“Just spit it out Felix.”
“A name sir!” The Ocelot nearly shouted. “The only thing I can read it just one name.” He swallowed and took a deep breath.
“It says Outrider.”
The silence just uttering that callsign inspired swept through the entire mammal filled room was like a vacuum. You could have heard a pin drop. When Wolford found his breath again he leaned against the main computer for support as he barely found the strength to speak again.
“And… And the other thing Felix?” He whispered.
“The signal sir,” The Ocelot answered in a tiny, scared voice.
“This Signal is coming from Zootopia.”
A/N: I hope you all enjoyed this chapter as much as I did writing it! So, whenever I use a character created by a reader I will put that featured Character’s Dossier here with the creator’s name. Give these guys a round of (virtual) applause, they are awesome!
ZCOM Character Dossier
Creator: SmugBeverage (AO3)
Name: Nathan Oncason
Brief history: Worked as a bartender for several years, passing along and disseminating information before being recruited by Resistance forces
Basic personality traits: Laid back, attentive, affable
Positive traits: Highly social, excellent teamwork, active interest in maintaining morale, mixes a mean drink
Negative traits: Poor leadership skills, struggles in hot environments, lacks initiative
Creator: dethwulf_Zero (AO3)
Name: Alistair Stålvarg
Age: 25 Years Old
Species: Red Wolf
Appearance: Tall for his species, Scars across face and back, Heterochromatic eyes (Steel gray/Deep green), Likes dressing like his father’s favorite grunge bands (ripped jeans, Tee shirts, and flannels)
History: Before recruited by XCOM Alistair lived in relative peace out in a fringe settlement with his family. As the eldest of three brothers Alistair often treats mammals smaller than himself as younger than himself, regardless of their actual age. A big family guy with a stubborn view on life that has caused problems when dealing with mammals from other walks of life and points of view. A heavy drinker off duty, though he curbs his habit when on mission, though he has been known to suffer from withdrawal when on longer scouting missions.
Basic Personality Traits: Outgoing, Athletic, Self-conscious and insecure
Positive Traits: Tough, Fearless, Kindhearted
Negative Traits: Chronic Alcoholic, Overbearing at times
Chapter 11: Chapter 11: Ghost Transmissions Part 3
Wolford leads a crew out into the Fringe to the Black Market, an elusive underground network of merchants and mercenaries that buy and sell anything and everything in rebellion of the Advent Administration. Judy learns a little more about the mammals she is serving with in XCOM and she is not sure she likes what she sees.
A/N: Hey Y’all, Untraveled here!
So, this chapter is actually shorter than I would have liked but I feel it necessary to split it up, just because I can. I plan on burning through the next chapter and following up quickly so keep your grubby little claws crossed!
Be warned this chapter is more geared towards a little world building and introducing more characters, many made by your fellow readers! I had to rewrite most of this chapter a couple times to get everything to flow and fit so feel free to let me know what Y’all think. Comments are love!
As always if you have a character you wish to see featured in ZCOM than please put them in the comment section below! Just a reminder that not every character has to be a soldier, every story needs its roguish hustlers, shady merchants, and regular mammals just trying to survive! I love to see what you, my dear readers, have to offer.
To submit your very own character into the ZCOM dossier I need these few things:
- Name, Age, Gender, Species
- Brief history (i.e. lived in the woods since the invasion until found by XCOM scouts)
- Basic personality traits (i.e. Optimistic, Clumsy, Womanizer)
- At least two positive traits (i.e. Good with a rifle, funny, fearless)
- At least two flaws (i.e. Hates foxes, fear of fire, alcoholic)
Post your character into the comment section below!
Chapter 11: Ghost Transmissions Part 3
“Are you sure this is the only way to get what we need? I mean I can think of half a dozen fringe settlements who has a Semi-truck we could borrow.” A black furred coyote huffed.
Wolford fought to keep his rolling eyes from pulling a muscle.
“For the fifth time Adriana, we don’t have the luxury of a cross country road trip on the off chance one of these fringe settlements might have a Semi big enough for us to use. Tell me, do any of these fringe settlements of yours also just so happen to have an Elerium power converter laying around?”
“Well damn! Sorry I said anything.” The coyote shuffled uncomfortably in the passenger seat and turned her golden brown eyes out the window with another huff.
Adriana Whifur knew John Wolford was right but that didn’t mean that she had to like it. Too many strangers for her taste. Just the thought of exposing her back out in the open with so many mammals made her shin crawl. The black furred coyote pulled her green recon cowl tighter around her head and shoulders and triple checked the Glock on her hip and the hold-out .38 revolver strapped to her ankle.
I never hurt to be over-prepared.
The XCOM veteran’s fidgeting pulled Wolford’s attention from the road for a moment. His grayed muzzle pulled into a small frown. He let one paw guide the wheel and the other rest on Adriana’s trembling paws.
“How are you recovering? Those shock burns healing right?”
The coyote spared the timber wolf a brief glance before gently shedding his paw from hers.
“Yeah, I’m doing just fine. That Shock Lancer only grazed me, really. The damaged skin is still pulling weird and my leg keeps fucking twitching, but Doc says I’ll be right as rain in time for the mission.”
“Good.” Wolford let her push him away.
She just needs some space. He was still feeling guilty for pulling her early from recovery for the upcoming mission but her knowledge of Zootopia’s layout will be invaluable for navigating the super-city’s decaying infrastructure. Not many mammals with intimate knowledge of Zootopia were still alive after the city was lost 20 years ago and no one was crazy enough to go live there since.
Zootopia is firmly in the center for the largest “Lost Zone” in the western hemisphere. During the initial invasion the Aliens bombarded the entire landscape with mysterious “Fog Pods” that corrupted and drained the life from everything around it.
Wolford had little interest in finding out what exactly the purpose of these fog pods served but about 18 years ago the resistance started receiving reports of bizarre creatures rising from Lost Zones all over the globe, and Zootopia was the worst of them all. Wolford was hesitant in taking these reports seriously, though one situation in particular stands out in his mind and at least gave these sighting some authenticity.
It was a report from about 18 years ago from a splinter cell led by Marcus Cross, a veteran from the original XCOM project. When he and his crew infiltrated the lands around Zootopia He reported encountering what he could only describe as Zombies.
Wolford was friendly with Cross before the first XCOM fell, but the stresses of battle always brought in a myriad of “sightings” like this, so officially XCOM disregarded Cross’s report on the grounds of lack of evidence. Unofficially Wolford would be a fool to throw away potential intel. Zootopia and the rest of the Lost Zone was a huge Unknown, last thing he wanted to do was go into the very heart of unfamiliar territory blind and floundering.
He swung the beat up old pick up around a bend and gripped the wheel tighter when the weathered old truck hit a decrepit dirt road. Gravel spewed from beneath the tires and tossed them against the undercarriage along with a pluming cloud of dust. Adriana flinched from the crackling noise from the rocks smacking the truck, but she soon relaxed back in her seat.
Getting blown up one too many times in convoys will do that to a mammal.
“I hate these damned backwater podunks. I mean how hard is it to set up in some city center or small town with actual roads?” Adriana muttered over the truck’s rattling journey.
“You know just as well as I do why the Black Market can’t just set up shop next to places like that. It draws too much attention.”
“Hmph, if we would have gone to one of my contacts in the Fringe we wouldn’t have to be bouncing down roads like the energizer bunny.”
“One more complaint and I’m throwing you out the window and making you walk.” Wolford deadpanned.
“Boooo.” The coyote snorted.
With a sudden jerk the truck hit the edge of a broken blacktop and the rattle of rocks against the undercarriage ceased. The only sounds now was the crunch of crumbling road underneath the tires and the creaking of the suspension leveling out the otherwise bumpy ride over potholes and cracks.
Adriana kept her gold flaked brown eyes to the forest blurring past. Long pauses and comfortable silences were many and spontaneous in a soldier’s line of work, however shit can start flying in an instant. Contrary to how it is portrayed in movies combat is vicious, ugly and often over in a matter of minutes, or even seconds. There are rarely any heroics in combat, only a mad scramble for cover, the burning of fear induced adrenaline, and the primal rush to survive by any means necessary.
Adriana Whifur has seen too many friends and subordinates die to truly relax in a situation like this. All it took was a mammal with intent and a gun to snatch her life from the passenger seat of the pickup, and she could do nothing about it.
She checked her pistols for a fourth time, just in case.
A tiny mumble and the creak of a straining seat belt behind her seat pulled the twitchy coyote’s attention.
Three mammals were strapped in the back seat of Central Officer Wolford’s truck, Gregor Grizzoli, a cranky grizzly bear that Adriana had worked with on quite a few occasions, Felix Haddison, an Ocelot technician from the Avenger, and that insufferable rabbit recruit Wolford has been parading around. All three of the mammals were in various states of exhaustion as everyone but the bunny had been trading places driving, she had been too small to see over the dashboard, even with Wolford’s tallest booster seat, so she had slept almost the entire journey.
Adriana’s lip curled in contempt at the fresh meat curled in a half sort of fetal position around her oversized seat belt. The rabbit doe was mumbling in her sleep and her feet and ears flopped and kicked sporadically with whatever carrot-filled dream she was in. Whifur had nothing against prey specifically, but there was no place for a bunny in XCOM’s ranks, Judy Hopps simply did not belong.
“She’s going to get eaten alive.” The coyote internally snorted before forcing a more neutral expression over her anger and tuning away from the three slumbering mammals.
“We are here.” Wolford announced.
He pulled the truck off the highway into a decrepit, vine infested suburb. Rusting vehicles, long abandoned years ago, lay scattered across the roads and weeds, some even found their resting places buried in the cookie cutter double-wides lining the winding streets. Wolford turned into one such house with an attached garage, the former resident’s minivan crumpled into what was once the living room.
Judy snorted herself back into the real world and woozily bobbed her head around until she regained her bearings and slipped from her seatbelt with her X-9 rifle held against her chest.
The XCOM troops popped open the doors and slipped from the truck, their feet kicking up a decade’s worth of dust and mold. Forgotten tools and random bits lay strewn across the garage, everything backlit a filthy green by a window crowded by creeper vines in the back of the building.
“Where’s the black market supposed to be now?” Grizzoli asked in his scratchy baritone voice.
Judy wondered how a mammal could so easily wear all that ballistic armor and equipment underneath that huge jacket and not keel over from heat stroke. That and the way he gripped his rotary cannon and casually swung the triple barrels around put Judy on edge, a trill of anxiety that stabbed her right behind the base of her ears.
“A half mile north, maybe less.” Wolford replied as he straightened his own equipment and weapons, his custom assault rifle and a wicked single bladed sword strapped to his back. “The black market holed themselves up at the docks by the river. Pier 8 if I remember right.”
“Why not just drive up to the docks rather then stopping half-a-fuckin’-mile away?” The grizzly growled in irritation.
Wolford ignored him for a moment to stick his muzzle out and check for any strange movement out in the abandoned suburb. When he deemed the coast was clear he held his rifle in one loose paw and waved everyone to follow in a loose V-shape formation.
Felix jumped in and answered the grizzly in Wolford’s place.
“Too much activity in one area is a great way to get yourself found, and the black market is all about staying under the radar. It’s common practice to park well away and approach on foot.” The ocelot explained.
The little jungle cat was clearly not comfortable in field work, it was painfully obvious even to a rookie like Judy. The way he wore his ballistic plate carrier underneath a bland gray hoodie was almost painful to watch in a way the doe couldn’t explain. It just looked wrong. She was nervous just watching the engineer awkwardly cradling his shotgun in his fumbling paws.
“bet’cha a raisin cookie and half a ration the cat shoots himself in the foot.” Judy heard Adriana whisper to her grizzly bear companion.
“Your on.” Grizzoli chuckled quietly.
“Lock up the chatter.” Wolford ordered.
“Remember, we are here to negotiate for a Semi-truck and a trailer large enough to transport the Skyranger and if we are lucky enough Felix can find us an Elerium Power Converter to get the Avenger up and flying. Everyone understand?” Once he saw every head bob an affirmative Wolford cracked a small grin and turned away at the tip of the V formation, but not before giving one last warning.
“Keep your eyes out and heads on a swivel. It’s not just the Aliens we got to watch out for.”
At that last comment Judy tensed and held her rifle in clenched fists, her tail quivering from nerves.
“Except for you squirt, just your ears will do.” Grizzoli chortled, pulling a snicker from Adriana.
“Shut it Grizzoli.” Wolford growled.
The grizzly’s jaws closed with a loud snap and Whifur’s chuckles died in her throat, out in the field no one talked back to Central.
Judy did take Grizzoli’s words to heart though, after a few moments of silence as they traversed the dead suburban ruins the tension did loosen from her shoulders somewhat and her ears swiveled back and forth, straining to catch anything out of the ordinary.
Thankfully her vigilance proved unnecessary as the only thing she could hear was the shuffling of clothing and the rattle of weapons against hooks and buckles. The eerie neighborhoods and decaying building proved harmless for the moment. Only a couple times Wolford had raised a paw to halt the formation because he thought he had seen something, the other time the formation scattered in a heart-pattering rush as a bowing roof and suddenly caved in on itself, the rotten wood and drywall splintered and smashed with a thundering crack.
The suburbs may had been empty and harmless, but no words could describe the relief Judy felt at leaving those decaying houses to rot in peace.
About ten minutes later the gentle lap and swish of rushing water joined the lonely silence, announcing their approach to the docks.
Contrary to what the doe had read in books and heard in stories the docks were made of the same concrete foundation as the rest of the pier. She had been expecting wooden planks that stretched out over the water but given that 20 years had past she thought it fortunate that she had been wrong, last thing she needed to do was embarrass herself by stepping on a rotten plank and taking an unwilling drink from the river below.
The docks were lined with similar warehoused on both sides of the river, the buildings dark and overgrown by creeper vines and cracked by resilient plant life intent on crushing and reclaiming the land. It was sad in a way, the empty buildings and abandoned piers that were once a bustling center of commerce were now nothing more than husks of broken dreams.
Judy could hear snippets of hushed voices and muffled conversations from her right, the rest of the rotting buildings stood silent and empty.
“Sir, I think its over there.” Judy called up in a little voice, a finger pointed at a huge crumbling concrete warehouse with a faded “8” painted on the side.
Wolford sniffed the air, for what exactly Judy wasn’t sure, but he must have found it as he rolled his shoulders and relaxed his posture. He waved his squad over and padded over to the building’s guard house. A weasel and a ram were lounging inside the 5 foot by 5 foot shack with their battered and filthy weapons leaning up against the door out of their reach.
The weasel was halfway into dreamland with his head hovering just over the desk, his yellow eyes blurry and drooped. It took him several seconds to notice the group of heavily armed mammals loitering just outside his window and several more to realize that they weren’t hallucinations. Wolford proved too impatient to wait for this slacking fuzzball to return into wakefulness, so he pounded the window with a fist, sending the panicked weasel and ram clattering to the floor.
“The fuck?!” The weasel cursed. He rubbed his smarting head and hopped back into his seat. “The hell was that for?”
“To wake you the fuck up.” Wolford replied coolly. “We need to get in and you two are supposed to be in charge of the gate, yeah?”
The weasel opened his mouth to retort but stopped himself. A sly little grin spread across his thin little muzzle.
“Yeah, sorry. Can’t let’cha in. you don’t look like Big’s mammals and I don’t suppose you got an invitation?” He asked sweetly.
“Invitation?” Wolford glanced at Grizzoli who shrugged his massive shoulders and shook his head. Wolford turned back to the grinning weasel. “What invitation?”
“Well, ya see recently we’ve had to be more… selective on who our customers are. If ya ain’t got an invitation than you need ta leave. Unless…” The weasel cast an appraising glance at a glowering Adriana, his hungry gaze sent a slimy shiver of revulsion down the black coyote’s spine. “Unless of course you can pay the toll.”
“Toll, eh?” Wolford’s voice shrunk to a whisper. The weasel took this as a sign he was winning this exchange.
“Yeah! I can let’cha all in, I would just need to inspect that suspicious looking coyote standin’ next to ya in the closet for about ten minutes or so.”
“Is that so?”
“Yup, just ten minutes. Ain’t that a cheap bargain for lettin’ y’all pass? So, what do ya say?”
His answer was a timber wolf’s fist smashing through the window.
Wolford’s claws clamped around the weasel’s throat and dragged the gurgling mammal through the shattered glass. The ram froze, struck dumb by the wolf’s sudden and savage attack.
In the few seconds he wasted staring at the furious timber wolf proved vital. By the time the stunned ram snapped out of his terror induced stupor and dove for the shotgun leaning against the back door the black coyote his friend had his eyes on had flown through the smashed window and planted a flying double kick in the center of his back, sending the burly sheep sailing through the doorway. The ram’s face dragged a bloody trough through the dirt, leaving the sheep stunned and gasping for air.
“Grizzoli,” Wolford’s cold eyes never left the struggling weasel wheezing and choking against his clenched claws. “Open that fucking gate.”
“With pleasure.” A toothy grin split Grizzoli’s lips. He slung his rotary cannon and gripped the chain-linked gate in his huge paws. With a single grunt and a powerful jerk, the grizzly wrenched the entire gate from its electrically operated mount and tossed the twisted metal frame in the dirt next to the groaning ram.
“Ya know I could have just pushed the button to open it right?” Adriana snarked from the guard house.
“mhmm. Nah, tearing it off felt better.” Grizzoli sniffed.
Suddenly the back door to the warehouse burst open and a flood of tattered mammals swarmed the court yard with a huge variety of weaponry all pointed at the huge grinning grizzly with the downsized minigun held casually in his paws.
“Get on the fucking ground!” A Dingo with dust brown fur and clad in a myriad of loose cloth and camouflaged wrappings barked.
The Australian wild dog rushed forward fearlessly with a battered and well-loved X-9 assault rifle tucked to his shoulder. He stopped just out of Grizzoli’s reach and kept his rifle trained on the bear’s chest.
“I said get on the ground, or me and my boys’ll cut you down.” He snarled.
Grizzoli’s head tilted as he stared at the snarling dingo, a considering expression on his muzzle.
The dingo jumped, and his snarl slacked into a confused frown. Wolford popped up from behind Grizzoli with the Weasel still gasping him his vice-like grip. A broad smile split the wolf’s scarred muzzle.
“J-John?” The Dingo stammered, his rifle turned to the dirt. “Is that you?”
“Ravenshoe!” Wolford tossed the weasel next to the ram and laughed. “Holy shit, I thought you were dead!”
“I thought you were dead!” Roman blubbered. “I never thought I’d ever see you again after XCOM.”
“Who said XCOM stayed dead?” The wolf chuckled.
“Fair enough.” The dingo cast a curious glace at the mess around him. “So, what are you doing here Wolford? Because having my front door ripped off its hinges was the last place I would have thought to meet you after all these years.”
“Well, I was here for business but…” Wolford sent a murderous glare in the weasel’s direction. “After one of your mammals tried to extort one of my mammals for sex, now I’m not too sure.”
“WHAT?” The dingo snarled. The other security mammals behind Roman eyed the weasel with varying degrees of contempt and disgust.
“H-h-he’s lyin’ boss!” The weasel whimpered. “I ain’t done nuthin’ like that!”
“Yeah, he didn’t say “Nuthin’” like that, did you?” Adriana appeared from the guard house with a sway in her hips and a swing in her black and ash white tail. The coyote stood over the terrified weasel with a paw on her hip.
She flashed Roman a coy grin. “He only wanted to inspect little ol’ me in that supply closet over there for ten minutes or so.” She smiled down at the wide eyed weasel. “Ain’t that right honey?”
The weasel knew he was fucked, no matter what he said, so all he could do was gulp down his choking terror.
“Weaselton, is that true?” Roman asked, his quiet voice heavy with barely suppressed rage.
“C-come on boss, you ain’t gonna believe some random bitch over one of your own, right?”
The Dingo quivered and shook with a fury so hot that it skipped from blind rage straight to cold clearness.
“Raymond, Kevin.” Two polar bears in matching sweat pants, tank tops, and huge automatic shotguns snapped to attention. “Scrape this slime out of the dirt and throw ‘em in one of the shipping containers for Mr. Big to sort out later.”
“What?” Weaselton squeaked. “No, no, nononono! Come on Roman, you can’t do this to me!” He scrambled away on his tail from the approaching polar bear twins. “Come on mammal, I’m one of you!”
“Anyone that thinks it’s okay to pressure others into mating with your filthy hide ain’t one of us… But it isn’t my call.” The Dingo grinned. “That’s Mr. Big’s.”
The weasel whimpered as huge polar bear paws dragged him away into the warehouse along with his terrified ram accomplice.
Judy was standing off to the side next to poor Felix, her jaw clenched and her rifle trembling terribly against her chest.
John Wolford, the scary, grumpy, but otherwise gentle mammal that had pulled her from the smoldering ruins of her home had moved with such rage and violence that she now struggled to recognize the laughing timber wolf in front of her. It was like he had flipped a switch somewhere and became a completely different mammal.
She had seen him tackle a rhino and mow down an entire squad of Advent troopers back in New Providence but for some reason that hadn’t felt real. Not nearly as real as dragging a helpless weasel, a fellow mammal, through a shattered window and then strangle him without a shred of remorse.
If he can do that to another mammal, someone who isn’t even our enemy, is XCOM really better than Advent? Judy found that she didn’t have an answer.
She passed a paw across her throat, her fingers tracing the lacerations from another wolf just like the one she was following.
Are we really the good guys?
“Hopps!” Wolford calling her name snapped Judy from her soul searching. The timber wolf was looking at her from over his shoulder with a concerned light in his eyes. Her drooping ears perked, and her shaking knees steadied.
No, he may be rough around the edges, but Wolford is not evil. He wouldn’t burn down a farm and slaughter a defenseless family. He saved me. I can put my trust in him. I owe him that much.
“Coming Sir!” The doe bounced after the chuckling timber wolf with renewed energy and a lighter heart-
-And a quiet little prayer that everything would be alright.
A/N: Shout out to all the awesome readers that allowed me to use their characters in ZCOM. I am humbled to be able to take something that someone else has created and bring them to life. Y’all are awesome!
ZCOM Character Dossier
Creator: Carbonrap45 (AO3)
Name: Adriana Whifur
Appearance: Black fur and deep golden-brown eyes with a lean muscular physique. Dresses light in favor of mobility and stealth, often seen with a recon hood and half mask with a shemagh around her shoulders.
Brief History: Grew up on the streets of Zootopia before the invasion. After capture by an Advent raid early in their occupation of earth Adriana escaped from custody and has been on the run ever since with extensive experience in paw to paw combat.
Personality: Paranoid, determined, lets slip little about herself while willing to talk to others
Positive traits: Empathic to those that suffered under Advent, has knowledge of combatting most Advent trooper types.
Flaws: Has little faith in new recruits and often refers to them as “fresh meat”, paranoia tends to flare up at the worst of times.
Creator: prof.ganki.gaming (FF.net)
Name: Roman Ravenshoe
Age: 38 Years old
Brief History: Roman was born to a very poor family in Russia. When it became apparent that the Alien’s arrival was imminent Roman jumped at the chance to join XCOM as soon as he turned 18. He volunteered for the Cybernetic Enhancement program headed by Chief Engineer Raymond Shen, Skye’s father. Roman became one of the pawful of survivors of the program when Earth surrendered to the Aliens. Roman fled to the wilderness to avoid capture and lived with a tiny fringe settlement until an old acquaintance recruited him into the resistance to work in the Black Market.
Basic Personality Traits: Calm, Optimistic, Bit Flirty
Positive traits: Cybernetic enhancements, Intimidating Presence, confident in leadership role
Negative traits: Severe PTSD episodes, Stubborn and resistant to change, Unable to maintain his Cybernetics making them prone to failures
Name Gregor 'Brick' Grizzoli
Species: Grizzly Bear
History: Gregor was a fresh face heavy weapons specialist when the XCOM Headquarters was assaulted by the Invaders. He and his comrades/squad buddies that also were freshly promoted to some specialist was tasked defending a maintenance tunnel. They bravely held it till the dreaded sound of skittering from above. He was the lone survivor of a squad of six that escaped with the other survivors of the base. He continued to dutifully serve what was left of XCOM, but as the years go by and the more comrades he lost he became slowly numb to the loss of the life that he regards any new rookie as just another number to the wall. He was denied the rank of Sergeant based upon the mixed review of his leadership, leading successful operations but at the cost of an injured/dead rookie.
Basic Personality Traits: Serious, Reserved
Positive Traits: Heavy Weapons Specialist, Strong, Prior War experience
Negative Traits: Chronic Alcoholic, Hates Robots of any form, PTSD with Chrysalids.