Duke Weaselton felt a kind of Zen calm.
“Zoo Adam 54 to Base, we are westbound on Haresburg Road crossing Pack St., requesting backup!”
The day had started out so well. He had managed a few hours of sales before Nick and Judy came along to pick him up for his monthly CI brief, masquerading as a ‘shakedown’.
“Base to Zoo Adam 54, no units available to support; make your way to TUSK fallback point at Chippendale Crossing!”
After six months, he had nearly $1,000 in the College Trust-Fund for his Princess, and he had a little left over for splurging when he had visitation this Saturday.
“Left on Freemont, Carrots!”
“Punch it, Judy!”
Then the sky opened up and four Crazy mammals out of a Pandanese fighting game or something started tearing up Haymarket.
“This is a one-way street, Nick, and we’re going the wrong way!”
“I don’t think Smoochy the Atomic Rhino cares much Judy; plus, there’s construction on the Plaza and I doubt the city work crews will have stuck around to move the pavers out of the way!”
What was it the alien said on that one show? ‘I’ve had a tragic life, will probably have a tragic death; but at least, there’s symmetry.’
“Hopps! Objects in mirror really are closer than they appear!”
Fuck Zen symmetry! I wanna live! “Ahhhhh! Get me outta here, get me outta here! I don’t wanna (-thwip-) ah, thank Wilde, you’re a pahhhlll -snore-”
Judy spared a glance in the rear-view mirror to see a green tuft sticking out of the weasel.
“Nick, did you just use our last tranq-dart on Weaselton?!”
Nick was about to respond when he saw the intersection coming up.
“Right turn now!”
“Yes Hopps; it was him or me, cause they sure as hell don’t work on these creatures! There’s the barricade! Step on it!”
It was supposed to be a simple day: routine morning patrol, lunch, then pick up the Duke for his monthly debrief and pay-day. Once the paperwork was done, he was going to take Judy to an old-fashioned Grind-House in Happytown to see a Pred-sploitation double feature: ‘Cleopatra Schmidt’, and ‘Dhole-a-mite’! Instead, a bunch of extras from ‘Ye Olde Tyme Dinner Theater’ appeared on the streets of Haymarket and started going all ‘Mortal Wombat’ on each other!
As more and more units were called in to support, it quickly became clear to Nick that they were way out of their league. The four animals almost didn’t seem to notice that there were other mammals around them, almost. One of the Pandas did some Ju-dodo throw on Pennington; whether it was to get her out of the way, or to try and use her to smash the wolf, he couldn’t say. He did know that after he and Judy had nearly exhausted their Taser and Tranq rounds to no effect, then watched as an entire TUSK squad was flattened by a STAMPEDE OF GIANT BUGS, that it was time to get out of there. Judy agreed with him when she saw the pink stegosaurus/rhino thing spitting lightning bolts at mammals; he was relieved that she had seen it too, as it meant he wasn’t going to be section 8’d. Unfortunately, that meant there really was a pink stegosaurus/rhino thing spitting lightning bolts at mammals. That led to now.
Nick swiftly threw the cruiser into neutral. “Let her coast Hopps, we’re almost there!”
A line of megafauna TUSK officers rushed out and intercepted the bizarre pink nightmare that had chased them for the last 10 blocks. Nick and Judy were climbing out of their stricken vehicle, when there was a sound like lightning striking a church bell. The megas were just starting to surround Moochy the walking acid trip, when the beast screamed in rage and charged back the way it had come.
Everyone was huffing and puffing in the post adrenaline crash, when there was a sudden noise that made everyone jump. Judy fished her phone out of her pocket and groaned while sagging against one of the TUSK vehicles.
-beep- “Hey, it’s my parents! Now’s really not a good time can I call you back thanks bye!” -beep-
Nick slid down to the ground beside her. “What, not going to tell the Rents about the day you’re having?”
Judy groaned again. “It’s that or tell them about the evening we had planned.” She flopped against her friend and partner. “Is it bad that I don’t know which idea is likely to freak them out more: that we’re battling invaders from Dimension X, or that I’m going out to the movies with a fox?”
Nick draped an arm over his friend. “Just tell them one, then wait for their reaction and tell them the other: it’ll soften the blow!”
Judy sagged into him. “You’re right Nick. Movies with a fox first; to them everything is small fries after that.”
Nick playfully growled and nipped her ear in protest.
Luxraina, Sunseeker Paladin of the Blackhoof Tribe of Tauren was faced with quite the predicament; she needed to kill Cheney Laury, a Gilnean Hunter. At first blush, this shouldn’t be a problem; she was Tauren and he was Worgen, she was a loyal daughter of the Hoard, and he was oath-sworn to the service of the House of Wrynn. In her youth she had dreamed of such battles, of tales sung in her name from Thunder Bluff to Silver Moon. Then she had ventured out into the world in the name of the Light and the Hoard and found the whole of Azeroth and more imperiled by forces beyond comprehension: the Litch King Arthas, Deathwing, the Sha, the Burning Legion. She also found that those of the Alliance were as adamant and determined to preserve the world as she. Among those, was a young Worgen named Cheney.
There had been some whispers about his involvement in the Hoard’s near route from Andorhall, and she saw him in passing at the Argent Dawn fortress of Hearthglen, but her first encounter with him had been at Light’s Hope Chapel. Though they both held prejudices against one another, she soon found him to be a worthy, if somewhat puckish ally.
They met again as allies in the Dragon Wastes of Northrend, where united under the banner of the Argent Crusade, they sought to put an end to the Litch King’s reign of terror. They met once more in Pandaria, where he introduced her to Choy Lee; an exceptional Pandaren Monk allied to the Alliance, who was eventually accepted into the Shado Pan. In turn, Luxraina introduced Cheney to Yang Bao, a Pandaren Mage of great accomplishment, in service to the Hoard. It turned out that Yang and Choy were cousins, estranged by the politics of greater Azeroth, but reunited in the discovery of their ancient ancestral homeland.
They had all been reunited on the deck of the Vindicaar for the final great battle against the Legion. They had agreed to meet up at Half-Hill in three months’ time during Brew-Fest to properly reconnect, and to see how much progress Chen Stormstout had made in reforming his family’s brewery, when they were approached by the Bronze Dragon ambassador to the Wyrmrest Accords. Chronormu needed them to travel to Pandaria’s past to help purge the Sha of Violence from the Shado Pan Monastery. There, after days of combat on the summit of Kun Lai, Cheney had concocted a plan that Choy Lee described as, ‘unworthy of a drink addled hozen!’ It was also the only one they had.
“We Worgen are born of rage and violence. I think I can dupe that towering mass of emotional sludge into possessing me. While it’s trying to do that, you three give it a good taste of its own medicine; barring that, it’ll be contained for a time inside me, and that’s got to be easier then all this!”
The four of them had all seen how disoriented the Sha became when ejected from a host upon their death, giving a window of opportunity to strike the menace down. That then was the plan, and it was working. They were about to strike the final blow, when a random firework fired by a young monk eager to help triggered one of the various gnomish contraptions Cheney always had on him; that, combined with the twisted temporal energies swirling around them rent the very fabric of reality and they were hurled into another realm. Luxraina recovered first, only to find the Sha had finished possessing her compatriot, who was now laying waste to the strange local cityscape.
All that remained for the trio was to kill Cheney, destroy the Sha, then repair his broken flesh and sundered spirit and go home, if he would just, “Stand Still and Die already!” Had they been dealing with any other Sha, the plan might have been perfect, but as Cheney had said, Worgen were creatures of Violence. Now, that violence, tempered by malign cunning was directed at Luxraina, her allies, and every other creature in the city. Any time they started to get the upper hand in the fight, Cheney would harpoon himself into the midst of the ever-growing crowd of blue clad beings who seemed intent on getting in the way. Choy Lee almost succeeded in using one of the Elekk-type people to pin him down, only for him to summon a stampede. He seemed to take special exception to a pair of Goblin-sized creatures who had repeatedly shot him with, something. There were several green tufts sticking out of him at various points, and his actions were becoming less and less calculating. Based on his consuming potions himself, she thought they might be poison-darts.
“This is not working!” Yang Bao wheezed after downing his second mana potion. “We need a new plan!” Yang hastily threw up a shield, as yet another Murder of Crows descended upon him.
“Yes, it is!” Luxraina cast a wave of healing light over her compatriots. “He is becoming sloppy, he has not attacked the crowd in several minutes.”
Choy Lee threw a Chi ball to distract the Sha possessed hunter. “It is the poisons these people have used; Cheney is asleep, and for all it is violence incarnate, the Sha does not know how to fight as well as Master Laury!”
Luxraina knew they now had a chance. They would defeat Cheney, drive out and destroy the Sha, resurrect their friend, and Beat Him Senseless for putting them through all this! The towering Tauren bellowed. “Yang! Frozen Light! Choy, strike the Gates!”
Luxraina dropped a Hammer of Justice onto the raging Worgen, disorienting him long enough for Yang to cast a Frost Nova, immobilizing him. Choy shot forward like a torpedo of Chi and lashed out with two extended fingers: The Touch of Death.
Within moments, the icy shell around Cheney shattered as the Sha of Violence fled the now frozen corpse. Choy was preparing to strike the monster down when she felt a prick in the back of her neck. Turning to face her compatriots, she saw them both slumped to the ground with multiple green tufts coming from their backs. She could almost hear the Sha laughing as it slipped away in the darkness, just before she joined her allies in the Emerald Dream.
Chief Bogo watched from the observation room of Interview #1, as Grizzoli tried in vain to interrogate one of the mammals who had arrived in Haymarket earlier that day. Two of the creatures looked similar to giant pandas, but that was just it; they looked similar, but not the same. The way they stood was wrong, the way they moved was wrong, even their teeth were wrong! It was even worse with the faux cow in Interview #2; She had fangs, for heaven’s sake! At first, they had been convinced it was a group of drugged up LARPers who had gotten way out of hand, but the University linguistics department assured him that all four of the distinct language samples he had sent them contained clear syntax and grammar that remained consistent throughout. He had three individuals who were speaking five languages no one had ever heard before.
Grizzoli had struck on an idea related to a case he had worked with a traumatized bear cub; he brought in a ream of printer paper and crayons. Everyone had seen how dangerous these mammals were and weren’t willing to risk one of them getting ahold of something dangerous, like a sharpened #2 pencil. Grizzoli began by drawing a crude rendition of the days events, then put the drawing supplies in front of the now giddy male. That was ten minutes ago, and the strange multi-colored geometric pattern taking shape on the paper, while impressive in complexity, was as un-intelligible as his earlier speech had been. Bogo was about to turn and leave for Interview #3 when the faux panda picked up the sheet and slapped it between his paws. There was a flash of light and a gyroscopic blue sphere appeared where the paper had been before. The strange panda then began speaking.
“This spell won’t last long due to the crude supplies you gave me. My name is Yang Bao, and I need proper parchment and inks; they’re in one of my bags. You can have more bruisers in the room if you like when I get them out, but I really zheng qi show tua…” He stopped when Grizzoli’s expression twisted in confusion. Yang then pantomimed leaving and getting a bag, then sat back with his arms crossed.
Bogo stood stock still for a moment, then keyed in the desk phone on speaker. “Clawhauser, have McHorn and Trunkaby go into evidence and get the bags for the male Panda we picked up in Haymarket and bring them to interview #1, then have his information updated: name, Yang Bao.”
He didn’t bother to wait for an acknowledgement before heading over to the observation room in Interview #3. All was deathly silent, as the female panda floated cross-legged inside a glowing green bubble. The patterns flowing on the surface of the bubble were mesmerizing. He looked to Wolford for some explanation.
The spooked timber wolf shrugged his shoulders. “She didn’t even try talking, just did that as soon as she woke up. That was 15 minutes ago. Nobody wants to disturb her, but the shackles snapped as soon as the bubble formed, sir.”
Bogo nodded and huffed in frustration, then left to observe Interview #2. The actual interview room was crowded with three TUSK officers in full riot armor; it made sense, as the cow was STILL ARMED! He turned to Officer Anderson, who was sitting at the AV recording station. “There had better be one hell of an explanation as to why that mammal is still in their armor, and still armed!”
The polar bear turned to his chief with a tired look. “We can’t get any of it away from her, sir. The Fangmeyers are both in the clinic being treated for mild concussions and second degree burns for trying to get her armor off, and that was while she was unconscious.” He then gestured to a pile of broken equipment in the corner of the interview room. “As for that glowing sledge-hammer, it’s connected to her armor by a chain of a metal we, can’t, cut. We tried bolt cutters, carbide cutting wheels, a Sawzall; hell, we had Ladder Company #3 bring in the Jaws-of-life! The hydraulic pump they brought seized up under the strain, and I don’t think we even disturbed the rust on those things. As soon as she started waking up, I called off trying to remove the stuff and had TUSK send a…”
There was a sudden commotion as Yang Bao walked into Interview #2, just as a frantic call came from Interview #1. “Chief, the panda’s on the loose, he teleported across the room then turned me into a sheep! I’m going to…”
“He didn’t go far, Snarlov; he’s in Interview #2 right now. Head down to the clinic and check on the Fangmeyers.” The chief remained impassive in the face of this, absurdity; he had to, his officers were looking to him for leadership and guidance. He could have a good-old-fashioned nervous breakdown at home, with Uhuru there to make tea, but not here.
The panda and the cow had a short conversation, then Yang held up a parchment with a much more precise pattern on it. There was another flash of light, only this time it was the bovid who spoke.
“I am Luxraina, Sunseeker Paladin of the Blackhoof Clan. I am to assume you are what passes for the City Watch?” There was neither condescension nor accusation in her voice, only the calm assurity of one accustomed to command.
Bogo considered the tableau in front of him, then thought of one of Officer Wilde’s sayings: ‘If you’re falling into madness, make it a swan dive and go for points in style.’ He squared his shoulders, headed for the Interview room, and hoped this wouldn’t become a High-dive belly flop.
He hammered twice on the door, then strode in when Sgt. Tuskers opened it. “Clear the room except for Sgt. Tuskers.” He settled into the now vacant seat, and once the four mammals were alone he turned a steely gaze to the two strange creatures in front of him. “I am Idris Bogo, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Force for the city of Zootopia, and at this moment I am less concerned with who you are, as I am with how and why you arrived within my jurisdiction.”
Yang perked up. “Well, I theorize that an excitation of one of the Gnomish Wormhole Generators that Cheney was carrying, combined with the abnormal temporal energies caused by…” The young panda was stilled by a hoof laid gently on his shoulder.
Luxraina took a calming breath. “Chieftain Bogo, what do your people know of magic, and other realms?”
Bogo huffed. “We know, or at least we knew, of such matters as flights of fancy and fictions told to entertain. As evidenced today however, that belief seems to have been thrown out the window. So, the ‘how’ of your arrival is, Magic. Explain to me the ‘why’.”
The explanation, not including the 5-minute interlude when a new translation spell had to be drawn, took an hour. Bogo spent the entire time quietly reminding himself of a Sammule Clemens quote: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.” The idea of mono-species nations was easy to get his horns around, but time bending winged reptiles? A nation of the undead? If he had not seen some of what had transpired in Haymarket first hand, he might have dismissed the whole tale as hallucinations. Unfortunately for his nerves he was forced to concede the basic premise: that magic was real, that it was the means by which Luxraina and her compatriots had arrived, and with it the reason for their arrival.
“So, these, Sha?” Bogo glanced at the ‘Tauren’ for confirmation. “Sha then, are physical manifestations of negative emotions.”
Yang glanced up from the translation scroll he was preparing for later. “Specific emotions. The one that rode in with us is the Sha of Violence; hence the destruction. We’d had a plan to deal with it, but…”
Luxraina interrupted her compatriot with a sideways glance. “A plan that didn’t consider the possibility of being drawn into a different realm. Now, it is loose in your city, and I fear that without adequate arcane infrastructure you are woefully unprepared to deal with it. We need…”
Everyone turned when the door was thrown open and the second ‘Pandaren’ entered. She swiftly lashed out with a paw and struck Tuskerson in the chest causing him to freeze mid grab. She began talking as she laid him across the threshold of the door as a barricade.
“I have just finished communing with Master Haight and Zidormi at the Temple of Black Ox in Kun Lai. Our situation is known, and they will try to… oh, hello.” She trailed off, looking somewhat abashed when she noticed Chief Bogo glaring at her and his now fallen officer.
Luxraina cleared her throat. “That is good Choi Lee; it means we may yet receive support.”
Bogo almost choked. “What, more of you?!”
Yang shook his head. “Not likely; the event that sent us here was so abnormal it could take years to try and reproduce it and even then, there’s no telling where or when someone would arrive.”
Choi lee looked almost stricken. “Certainly, the Bronze Dragonflight could send someone?”
Luxraina simply shook her head. “Only if we didn’t concern ourselves with the fate of this city; the least of any of the Dragonflights who could make the trip would be as likely to accidentally level this place. No, We must do this.” She turned her attention back to Chief Bogo. “We need to find the Sha first, and to do that we need our friend Cheney.”
Bogo leaned back. “This would be your wolf friend, the ‘Worgen’ was it? The one you killed? He’s down in the morgue and has been for the last three hours.”
“Good.” Choi Lee smiled confidently. “If he hasn’t woken up yet, we should have time to get there and bring him back.”
Luxraina noted the incredulous look on the Chief’s muzzle. “Better it be us than random happenstance that revives Cheney. We do not want him wandering about looking for us; Hunt Master Laury is many things, but subtle is not one of them.”
Cheney took a sharp shuddering gasp. Everything hurt; not quite Brutebane Brew and Zombie Juice Boilermakers hangover hurt, or getting stomped on by a Fel Reaver hurt, or faceplanting after that Gun-Pack fiasco on Highmountain Peak hurt, or … now that he thought about it, Cheney didn’t really feel that bad, just drained. An oddly familiar smell caused him to loll his head to the side; yep, that was his liver sitting in a pan. From the looks of it, he thought he should maybe cut back on the Dwarven Stout, though it did explain why he felt slightly empty.
Rolling his head back, he closed his eyes and drew in an exhilarating breath. His connection to the wild flooded his whole being, and he felt himself begin to mend and fill out. Along with the rush of natural energies, his breath carried a myriad of scents, several animal smells he was familiar with, as well as the stringent sting of antiseptic and caustic soaps. Being a licensed Physician within the Alliance, he knew there was little need to remove the liver of a healthy individual, so he was probably in a mortuary, which begged the question of where Choi, Lux and Yang were, as well as how he was revived.
He levered himself up off the table he was laying on and assessed his surroundings; aside from the strange lights, and a few tools that seemed more appropriate for a Forsaken torture chamber or a Goblin workshop, the plain brick and metal room would not have seemed out of place in Stormwind or Dalaran. His affects were neatly stacked in one corner next to a very crude looking cross between a Gnomecorder and a Titan control interface. The gaunt, miniature Tauren-like creature in a white smock clutching something to the side of her head and whispering while brandishing a scalpel was less unusual than the menagerie of other similarly dressed animals hiding behind the cow’s flank. Among them was what appeared to be an upright badger with his Ultimate Gnomish Army Knife (UGAK)™ in hand, still sparking. Well that at least answered how he was revived.
Cheney drew another empowering breath and gave a sharp whistle. The mnemonic spell summoned one of his menagerie into the world from the Twisting Nether where they resided when not by his side. A nearby shadowed corner disgorged Mr. Cuddles, a ravager he had tamed almost from its egg during his first foray to Outland. A snap of his fingers and a simple gesture sent the void-spawned chitinous nightmare towards the gathered creatures to introduce itself, and hopefully earn a treat. The assembly reacted as he had expected and soon were all huddled atop one of the glass fronted metal cases, while Mr. Cuddles danced on the ground in front of them; tag and chase had always been its favorite games.
Once Cheney had retrieved his UGAK™ from where it had been dropped, he headed over to his belongings and began getting dressed. The miniature Tauren, that Cheney thought resembled a Talbuk more than any Tauren he had ever met, was still chattering while holding a hoof to her head; either she had recently been injured, was having the mother of all nervous breakdowns, or she had something akin to a very small Gnomecorder and was updating someone. Despite her clear agitation at being cornered by a ravager with no real weapons, she seemed to be keeping it together. She also didn’t exhibit any of the motor function impairment a head injury usually caused, so he felt confident that she was talking to someone. He really needed to get out of here before whoever that was came-a-knocking.
Once fully dressed, Cheney wolfed down one of the ghastly Drogbar style Salmons he had been carrying since his time in Highmountain, then threw another to Mr. Cuddles. He went over to the rooms only door, and found it was quite well locked. He heard one of the people on the cabinet yell something at him in a derisive tone. This caused Mr. Cuddles to excitedly chitter and dance, as obviously they wanted to play. Cheney thought over his options: he still had a variety of different skeleton keys given him by Lux but didn’t think he had time to pick the lock; a Stampede would certainly make short work of the door, and the wall across from it, and the room beyond that; a Seaforium Charge would be ideal, if he wasn’t in the room with it. He then remembered something else he had in his toolbox, two somethings in fact; they had just the right force to take down the door without killing everyone in the room.
He walked over to the table the quasi-Titan workstation was sitting on and gave it a test nudge. It wasn’t bolted down, so he flipped it on its side and dragged it over so that it was between the door and everyone in the room. Rummaging in his bag, he pulled out one of his last two Exploding Sheep™ and set it off towards the door. He then drew the great spear Talonclaw; if there was fighting to be done here it would be in close quarters where either Thas'dorah or Titanstrike would be more a hindrance than a help. The attuning of the mighty weapon severed his connection to the wild and sent Mr. Cuddles back to the Nether. The ungulate explosive was halfway to the door when he whistled up Floof, a Redridge vixen he had tamed years ago during his first encounter with the Blackrock Orcs and John J. Keeshan! The vulpine was now grown to nearly the size of a wolf and seemed to particularly upset the animals on the cabinet. He waved at them, and when he had their attention he gave two thumbs up and an open-mouthed grin. At their confused expressions, he shrank to his human birth-form, pinched his eyes closed, jammed his thumbs in his ears and waited.
Officers Hopps and Wilde were escorting Duke Weaselton through the hallway out of the debrief section of Precinct one. The frazzled mustelid clutched a nondescript manila envelope to his chest.
“Youse two are sure those crazy mammals ain’t gonna like, escape and tear dis place up? Cause I ain’t missin visitation wit my Princess on account uh da PD let them nutjobs slip loose and smoosh me!”
Nick laid a paw on Duke’s shoulder as they came into the atrium. “Faith, my twitchy friend. One of those mammals will be hurting no one ever again, and the other three are in secure interrogation with the biggest and toughest mammals on the force.”
Judy was nodding in agreement when Bogo came striding out of the interview area clutching a cellphone to his ear.
“Make sense, doctor! What do you mean, ‘he turned into another mammal’? He did what? Where’d the sheep come from?” Coming up behind the Chief were several animals, including ‘those crazy mammals’. Duke squawked and bolted for the door.
Just as the door closed behind him, the building was shaken by a loud ‘BOOM’. Everyone looked towards the stairs leading to the morgue, as a cloud of grey smoke rose out of the basement. A rhythmic sound, like a hammer striking an I-beam was accompanied by a guttural chattering and the clink of chains. Every officer in the atrium either had a weapon drawn or was taking cover as a shape rose out of the smoke: a snarling wolf head cast in a greyish metal atop a red silk and chain wrapped haft. Soon, the wielder came into view, as well as into range of Yang’s translation spell.
“Yes, yes, daddy is a dumb daddy, Floof. I wasn’t nearly as good an engineer when I made those, so of course they’re going to be smoky.” A strange hairless mammal in chainmail was talking to an abnormally large red fox
The golden armored bovine thumped the head of her titanic warhammer against the atrium floor. “Subtlety, thy name is not Cheney.”
As the strange mammal turned to the speaker with a look of elation, the massive fox next to him sniffed the air and ambled over to Nick and Judy. Judy was alarmed at first, though that alarm soon morphed into righteous indignation as several facts became apparent. First, the fox was in fact, a vixen. Second, she had shouldered Judy aside and was currently purring and circling Nick. When her fellow officer went cross-eyed and began wheezing after a flick of the vixen’s tail, Judy decided it was time to establish who was who!
She took a few steps back, then charged in for one of her signature Hop-Kido kicks with a war cry. “Back off you Hussy!”
As the enormous vixen rolled away with a yelp, there was a moment of silence in the atrium, before a high-pitched squealing sound built, like a tea kettle coming to boil. Several canids, including Nick winced as the sound passed out of normal hearing until Clawhauser gasped for air and started ‘squeeing’ anew. The hairless mammal whistled sharply, and the vixen slunk over to him, whimpering at Nick and gekkering at Judy. He looked over at his three friends with a quirked eyebrow and nodded to the two smallest officers. “Do you think that’s where Virmen come from?”
Judy was all but apoplectic and readying another Hop-Kido take down when the female panda creature spoke up. “It’s Virming, Cheney, and no; nothing so vile and irksome as the Virming could come from something as inoffensive and cuddly as those two.” Nick had to physically restrain Judy in a full body hug to prevent her from murdering the monk.
Cheney knelt next to the vixen and laid a hand on her back. “Floof would disagree with you on the ‘inoffensive’ bit, and she certainly sounds like a Broodmother right now.” From out of the purring mass of fox fluff that was Nick and Judy, could be heard an endless repetition of, “Kill! Maim! Destroy! Kill! Maim! Destroy!” Cheney whispered to the fox in a language that not even magic could parse, and Floof seemed to recover from her recent ordeal. Cheney threw her a small gobbet of pungently spiced meat, which she snatched out of the air, then wandered towards a small pack of wolves.
Cheney turned his attention towards his compatriots, seemingly uncaring of the alarmed sounds coming from the wolves at the amorous advances by the giant vixen. “So, we’re all here and I’m certified Sha free; Yay Us!” He thrust his hands in the air in a celebratory pose and gave a manic grin. His mein faded as the mammals didn’t join his jollity. “No ‘Yay Us?” The female panda shook her head solemnly. “I freaking died to make this plan work!” He slammed the butt of his spear into the atrium floor causing a spiderweb of cracks to form, as he suddenly grew into an atavistic lupine nightmare that was easily eye level to Chief Bogo. “Why, No, Yay, Us?!”
The entire atrium was back on the defensive, except for the strangers.
Choi Lee stepped in and rested a paw on the agitated hunter’s chest. “We could not have anticipated being hurled into another realm. We were unprepared for the native population to be unfamiliar or hostile to our cause.”
Cheney deflated into his human form with a sigh and leaned on Talonclaw. “So, we’re back at square one.” He closed his eyes and took a centering breath. “Whelp, my time as Violence’s sock-puppet taught me something about the damned thing, so I may have an Idea on how to weaken it when we encounter it again.”
Chief Bogo walked up to the group. “When will that be, exactly?”
“Not for some days, I should think.” Yang stood with his arms crossed, looking at the floor in contemplation. “It was severely weakened, so it will need time to gather its strength, and that will be hard to find in this place.”
“How, do you -oof- move your foot Nick! How do you figure that?” Judy asked while trying to untangle herself from her partner; they had apparently tied themselves in a knot trying to protect one-another.
Luxraina smiled and gently assisted the two. “Both ourselves and the Sha come from a world riven by war and bloodshed. From what we have seen, this land has not seen such violence in some time, so the Sha is not likely to find any ample sources of violent intent to feed upon.”
Once extricated from his partner, and offering her a paw up, Nick looked at the assembled mammals. “We may not have wars or rampant bloodshed in the street, but don’t think we don’t have people who thrive on pain and violence.”
Bellwether lay in her bunk, staring at the dark ceiling. Not months or years could temper her hatred of predators, though there was now a special place in her black heart for foxes, as well as for Judy Hopps, The Betrayer. “Ooh, the things I’ll do to you when I get out you little long-eared rodent! But not until I make you watch what I do to your disgusting little fox toy!”
There was a clang from the cell door. “Prisoner 1021 lights out means shut up!”
“Sorry, Boss.” She lulled into morose silence. She could almost see her revenge playing out in the deepening shadows above her head. All of her enemies laid low at her hooves: Lionfart, Hopps, Bogo, that fox, Rick Rolled or whatever, and especially that dirty little snitch Doug Ramses! That turncoat turned state’s evidence and got a Dime in a medium security pen, while she’s living it up All Day and All Night in San Quillton Supermax!
“If only I could get out!” She hissed.
‘What if you could?’ An almost sibilant whisper sounded from around her.
“I’d burn that rotten city to ground! I’d build a real Zootopia, one free of those dirty, stinking preds!” She was flush with anger and excitement; she almost wanted to wake her cellmate up and remind her who the Top Bunk was, ‘lights out’ and Boss be damned.
‘What would you give for the chance?’
Bellwether’s eyes flashed with malice. “Everything!”
The shadows coalesced into a horrifying visage of hatred and promised violence. Bellwether reached out as if to embrace a lover, and was amply rewarded.
Bogo nursed what Lux called, Goldthorn Tea. ‘It seemed like such a good idea at the time’ he thought to himself. Earlier that week, he had agreed to let the visitors from Azeroth try and prepare the precinct to fight the Sha. That led to an incident involving Cheney, Yang, a set of sheep shears the Fangmeyers had confiscated from a doomsday prepping badger, and the mammal occupants of the drunk tank. Cheney’s assertion that he, “…needed a buttload of wool cloth…”, didn’t impress the chief. The fact that the pseudo-wolf had also raided every loose piece of copper, tin, and bronze only added to Bogo’s frustration.
Luxraina was sitting down with Bogo over a pot of tea in the precinct breakroom. “Not everyone where we come from has magic.” She did her best to keep him focused, while Choi lectured the two males about their methods, if not their intent. “It takes skill and dedication to learn to harness the power of magic. It matters not whether it is the Light of the Naru as I use it, or the chaotic forces of the Twisting Nether that Yang Bao wields. For those who have not the skill, temperament, or the time to master the arcane, we supplement with talismans; they can be clothing, armor, weapons, personal jewelry,” she gestured to the translation pendant she wore; Yang had fashioned one for each of the Azerothians, “…just about anything. The four of us each know different methods; it’s just, Yang and Cheney are both very impulsive. They do mean well.”
Bogo snorted, then took a sip of his herbal tea. “So do the costumed vigilantes trying to, ‘Clean up the streets.’ Now I have several mammals, including the aforementioned vigilante’s, who are traumatized after being sheeped, shorn and left naked in a communal cell; and for what?! Harvesting magical gris-gris off unwilling mammals is the stuff of cautionary tales for children.”
Clawhauser walked in with a microwave burrito in paw as Lux nodded at the implicit censure. “Our need does not excuse our methods. Our need is real though. You have asked us to prepare your warriors, Chieftain; and we do need supplies. Help us find a better way, and we shall gladly use it.”
Clawhauser finished getting his lunch ready to cook, then turned to the two mammals. “What all do you need? Material wise?” Both Bogo and Luxraina looked at the portly cheetah in confusion. “What? We have a discretionary account with the City Assessor’s office for, ‘special purposes’. We never use it, and the account is managed by Lemming Brothers, so it’s just been collecting interest since Chief Hamby stepped down.”
Lux put a manual hoof to her chin and looked to the ceiling. “Well, obviously Master Laury believes he needs wool cloth, as well as bronze from what else he has scavenged. I could certainly use bronze, a weak general flux, leather of medium weight, or leather scraps in bulk. I’m certain both he and Yang, as I, have the basic tools needed for what we desire to make. What we need are the materials themselves. If we are to arm your warriors, Chieftain Bogo,” the Cape Buffalo flinched at the title as Clawhauser giggled, “… then we will need substantial bulk of said materials.”
Clawhauser gave an almost giddy laugh. “I can get all of that at Hobby Lobby™, if you don’t mind working with prefabricated metal. There was a Science Channel show on blacksmithing that talked about using Borax or Boric Acid, and I’ve seen both in the Pottery section. Just get me a list of what you guys need, and I’ll be your mammal!” Ben struck a heroic pose, until the timer on the microwave went off causing him to spin with a squeal and snatch his lunch and scamper to a corner table.
When Lux stepped out to secure the list, Bogo walked over to his receptionist. “Ben; when you go, I want you to take Officer Wilde and one of the Pandaren with you.” Clawhauser made a curious noise around his lunch. “Because Cheney terrifies people just by standing, and Lux is too conspicuous. Let’s go with Yang; splitting him and the Worgen up should minimize the chaos.”
The Chief frowned at the unbelieving look on Ben’s full muzzle. “Just, let me believe in this one small miracle, okay? Anyway, if they are telling the truth, you’ll need one of them with you to verify the materials will work; I don’t want to have to constantly head back and forth on this.” The bull snorted at an interrogative noise from the cheetah. “Wilde is going with you to ensure these mammals are on the up-and-up: he’s a snarky little pest, but his mammal intuition is second to none. Besides, with him along we might shave a few bucks off the final bill.”
Bogo made a placating gesture when Clawhauser gave an incensed mewl through his burrito. “I know you go there all the time for your costume-play-outfit-convention stuff, but Wilde is a haggler by nature. Say what you will about Happytowners; they know how to stretch a buck.”
So, armed with an expense card, and bringing Yang along, Clawhauser headed off to the Hobby Lobby ™. It turned out, Nick was quite familiar with the hobby outlet.
“My mom and dad ran a tailor shop in Happytown called ‘Suitopia’, for a bunch of years. Learned the trade from them.” Nick perused the isles without making eye contact with his companions.
“Really?!” Clawhauser was ecstatic about learning something of the secretive fox’s history. “What happened, why didn’t you go into the family business?”
Nick stopped in his tracks for a moment. “I don’t know; what could have possibly happened to a pair of modestly successful foxes in the early nineties, living in Happytown?” His posture was tight with anger.
Clawhauser gasped. “The Los Animals Riots! Oh, I’m so sorry Nick.”
Nick deflated some when Benjamin rested a paw on his shoulder. “Nothing for you to be sorry for, Big Guy. You’re not much older than Judy, so you’d have barely have been old enough to walk, much less be responsible for burning my old neighborhood down.”
Yang looked back and forth between to two. “What were these, ‘Riots’ you speak of?”
Clawhauser turned while keeping a paw on Wilde’s shoulder. “Inner city species riots in 92’; a lot of property destroyed, a lot of lives lost, mostly predator property and lives. In many ways, Zootopia is still trying to recover from that.”
Nick huffed lightly, then straightened up. “Well, if we want to see the city move past that kind of thing, we need to make sure it’s still standing. So, let’s get to shopping Yang. What do you guys need?”
The Pandaren looked at the note in his hand. “Well, we all need leather. A lot of leather really, probably around a 20 stone to be sure. I’ll need bolts of linen, wool and silk cloth, as well as simple wood like dowel rods and such, a variety of threads, and blue dye. Cheney and Lux both need several stone of bronze, and Lux asked for five stone of Iron, and a mild flux.” He looked up, expecting the two animals with him to be surprised. Instead, the chubby cheetah grinned, while the fox simply looked impassively.
“How many yards do you usually have in a bolt?”
“Two to three. Why?”
Clawhauser just grinned.
“It was like a Trade Princes warehouse! Hundreds of bolts of every cloth imaginable, all of them 15 yards or more; tons of bronze and wrought iron sculptures, tons!” Yang all but vibrated in excitement as he told his friends of his trip to the fantastical land of the outlet mall.
Chief Bogo was somewhat less than amused as he glared at Nick and Ben. “I see many more digits on this bill than I was hoping to. Why did you buy a pair of Singer treadle sewing machines?”
Ben looked slightly nervous when he spoke. “Well Chief, we got to talking with Yang, and he’s going to need to make a rather large amount of stuff. Now he said he would be able to do it himself, but he was going to be sewing by paw, and we figured,” he gestured between himself and Nick, “…that it would speed up the whole process if we taught him to sew on a machine.”
Nick held up a paw when Bogo was about to speak. “Before you pass judgement, we did a short test run with some linen cast-offs and several sewing machines. Yang figured it out pretty quickly, but he kind of, melted a modern electric one. The treadle Singer on the other paw, worked out fine; Yang even says the innate magic carried over, so he can crank out more. He’s also agreed to teach me and Clawhauser, so we could have the entire thirty mammal ‘Arcane Response Force’ kitted out in a couple of days, rather than in a week.”
The water buffalo almost believed Nick’s altruistic reasoning, but his instincts said there was more to it. After a moment of consideration, he realized what it was: both Nick and Ben were excited. They were doing a good job of hiding it, but there was a tension in their bodies. This was an opportunity to learn real Magic, even if only a tiny bit, and while he shuddered at the thought of the mischief Wilde regularly got into on just mundane cunning, the potential benefits to the Precinct, not to mention the city, were limitless.
He drew a deep breath. “Alright, you two will understudy and monitor the production process on a rotating shift basis. Clawhauser will handle the day shift, Wilde will takeover in the evening.” There was a tug at his heart at the way his two subordinates’ eyes lit up at his declaration. “I will expect daily reports on what you learn, and if our guests get up to any mischief on either of your watches, the deal is off. Understand?” Both mammals snapped to attention and gave parade ground quality salutes before darting over to join their new teacher.
Jesse’s head rang as he started to come to. Prison life wasn’t a stroll through the meadow by any stretch, but the COs usually reigned in open violence; this was San Quillton, not some pred pen like Abbot State! As he looked around, he noticed Woolter groggily levering himself up to his knees. Despite the circumstances, it was good to see his old partner. He looked to have decent mobility, so the surgery and physical therapy seemed to be working out. Damn that rabbit for kicking him off a moving train!
Jesse’s attention was brought back to the here-and-now when something clattered to the ground between him and Woolter; it was a shiv made from a deer antler. As he looked around, he realized he was in one of the prisons underground cisterns. The rim was lined with mammals, both in prisoner orange and Corrections Officer uniforms. They weren’t moving or making a sound except a kind of sibilant drone as the mob rocked to-and-fro. Their shadows spilled over the edge and seemed to writhe on their own, with an unnatural intensity. On a platform that extended out from the edge was the last mammal Jesse expected to ever see again: Dawn Bellwether.
“Oh good, you’re awake!” She leaned over slightly and smiled at the two rams in the cistern. “I wasn’t sure how much longer I could stand waiting here. So much to do, so little time.” She smiled beatifically, though Jesse could swear the deep shadow in the room’s roof was, moving.
Jesse stood hesitantly. “Wh…what’s going on, uh, boss? I mean ma’am!”
“Well isn’t it obvious?” She tittered. “You and Woolter failed me, so now you’re standing trial, by combat.” Her smile momentarily turned malignant. “One of you will be forgiven, while the other atones for your betrayal.”
“Betrayal?!” Woolter bleated out.
“YES!” Dawn hissed out the word, and it seemed to come from every direction. “How else could two strong, healthy rams be bested by a dumb, country bunny and her pet gutter-fox?” She seemed to collect herself. “So, you two will pay in blood for your transgressions, though preferably with the others blood of course. I still need mammals at my side after all.” She returned to a relaxed sitting posture. Jesse thought the droning was starting to sound like a word, though he couldn’t quite make it out.
Woolter glared at her through his good eye. “And if we don’t?”
Dawn shrugged. “Then I have the cistern flooded and wash you two worthless turds out of my wool for good. So, chop-chop!” She cheerily chirped and clapped her hooves together. “No, really.” The smile disappeared from her muzzle as she pointed to the shiv. “Chop, Chop.”
Jesse looked aghast at the ewe sitting court over him, only to be blindsided when Woolter slammed horn-first into him. Jesse struggled to his hooves when he felt a sudden blinding pain in his lower back, and all the air seemed to rush out of him. He was forcibly rolled onto his back to see Woolter standing over him, bloody shiv in his hoof. Jesse could only look on helplessly as his once friend and partner raised the implement high, a shadow that wasn’t a shadow thrashing behind him. Woolter’s lips were repeating a word over and over as Dawn chuckled and looked on. “Heh heh, bye-bye Jesse.”
Jesse could just make the word out. ‘Bellwe…’
Nick looked out with pride at the assembled mammals. 80 officers were in the briefing auditorium in Precinct One, and every single one was kitted out in Azure silk, from their ears to their paws. There was even a cape, which still gave him a chuckle at the ostentatiousness of it. He, Clawhauser and Yang Bao had made all of it in less than a week, with the other Azerothians providing rugged leather reinforcement and Bronze Maces for batons; there was even a strange pistol like contraption. That one was courtesy of Yang and Cheney, though the others had some doubts; apparently, no one had ever tried to make a wand that fired like a gun that anyone could use. Nick supposed it made sense, as there were so many mammals where they came from who could use magic, it seemed unnecessary. Still, the Newly formed Arcane Response Force (ARF) did strike quite the elegant and imposing force.
There was a hush and a rushing to feet as Chief Bogo strode purposefully to the podium. The caped cape buffalo seemed much more comfortable in the new armor, especially when carrying a riot shield with the ZPD shield emblazoned in bronze.
“Officers, at ease.” The cadre sat down, transfixed on their chief. “As you all know, a week ago several mammals arrived in our fair city. They were in pursuit of an, entity, called a Sha. This thing is a spiritual parasite that feeds on malicious violence. It is responsible for hundreds of deaths where they come from, and now it is loose in my city and I, Will, Not, Have it!” Everyone sat up straighter as Bogo hammered his hoof on the podium. “You are the best of the best throughout the city. You are here to form the first Arcane Response Force. I will now allow one of our guests to brief you on the threat.”
Bogo stepped back, and Choy Lee took to the podium. “Thank you, Chieftain Bogo.” Nick noted a slight tick in the buffalo’s eye at the title. “You have all seen what myself and my colleagues are capable of in training. I restate this because the Sha we face was capable of crippling my homeland, even after battling with dozens of warriors and monks easily my equal and winning.” There was a general murmur and uncomfortable shifting in seats. “Part of the reason for this is the nature of the beast: armies must use violence to accomplish their goals, and this only feeds the Sha.”
Nick had to hold in a chuckle as Wolford raised his paw like a grade-schooler. “How are we supposed to beat this thing then, have a Love-in?” There was a soft round of chuckling which became full laughter when Floof snuck up behind Wolford and began grooming him.
Snarlov patted him on the back. “Looks like you already have your partner for the event, Danny!”
“Shut up, Wade! I am so conflicted right now!”
Choi smiled gently. “I do not know this word, ‘Love-in’, but I suspect it is closer to what will be needed than you think. Cheney?”
Choi stepped aside as the atavistic wolf-beast took the podium. “As your Chieftain said, the Sha are malicious violence in physical form. A storm can be violent, a collision can be violent, even some creative acts involve some violence. It is the desire to do harm with one’s actions that feeds a Sha. When we eventually head out to deal with this monster, it must be with the clear purpose to protect, not defeat. If your actions are not driven by malice, the Sha cannot draw strength. As for defeating the Prime Sha of Violence itself, that is not your task. We,” Cheney gestured to himself and his compatriots, “…are charged with this task. We will not make others fight in our stead. You,” he again gestured, this time into the auditorium, “…are to contain the beast and whatever force it has marshalled in the interim.”
Whatever else he was going to say was cut off when Nick’s cell phone rang with Weird Al Yakovic’s ‘Weasel Stomping Day’. “Hi Duke! Really not a good time to…wait slow down. There’s a what? What are they chanting? Well, how many?” At the chief’s glare he looked over in concern. “A CI of mine and Hopps says he’s spotted a massive mob in prison uniforms marching towards the city from San Quillton.”
Duke Weaselton strutted down the boulevard. His afternoon with Princess was one of the best he’d had in a long while: lunch at Chez Cheese, Back-to-School shopping at Targoat with a little splurge in the toy section, then they saw ‘Rameo and Juliet’ in the park. When Duchess came to pick their daughter up, she almost looked proud of him. He certainly felt proud of himself.
His train of thought was derailed when he heard a strange droning. He rounded a corner to find a wall of mammals in prison attire filling the streets and sidewalks. They moved with an odd swaying gait, and every two steps were accompanied by the word, “Bellwether!” The lead animals took notice of Duke and immediately started towards him with their paws outstretched, a manic gleam in their eyes. Out of sheer desperation, Duke spun in place, took up the odd rocking gate and began chanting, “Bellwether! Bellwether!” In no time the mob slowed back down and continued its advance towards downtown.
Duke stuck with the mob until he came parallel to an alleyway, then darted off towards a fire escape, and headed straight to the building’s roof. Once he looked down, he saw the mob stretched a full block in both directions. In the middle, on an improvised palanquin carried by four lions in CO uniforms, was Dawn Bellwether. Even from a distance, she exuded a sense of malice. Duke quickly took out his phone and dialed Nick.
“Pickupickupickupickup! Nick! There’s a Bellwether mob of guards and prisoners heading downtown!... You heard me; they’re all chanting and heading north on Willy Way… They just keep saying ‘Bellwether’… I don’t know, I didn’t stop to count! Just get everyone down here; today’s been the best day of the year, I ain’t got no plans fer it to be my last!... No shit I’m stayin put!” Once his due diligence was concluded, Duke hunkered down to wait out this latest insanity.
Bellwether’s Army rounded a turn onto Broadway when they were met by a wall of blue. She hissed at her followers and as one they stopped, only swaying back and forth. She was prepared to taunt the police, when the power within her began to writhe: there at the front of the wall of strangely uniformed officers was HER! She was standing next to that despicable gutter-fox, talking through a bullhorn, some moralistic crap about the law and second chances. There was a strange, arcane haze over everything; like a damp blanket smothering strong emotions.
“Enough!” Bellwether channeled the power through her voice. “You had your chance to talk when I gave you my offer in the museum. Now, it’s time to DIE!”
At her shriek, the mob surged forward in a frenzy. They were met by a wave of iridescent power from the police line. The arcane backlash rippled through the crowd and into Dawn who howled in pain and rage. With every flash of light, her force grew smaller, but still closer. As the meat fell, the Shalings erupted from them and continued to advance. She sneered for a second as she saw dozens of Shalings surging around and through the mob, until she realized she was at her powers limit: she couldn’t make more Shalings. Turning in her palanquin, she saw SWAT and TUSK teams had surrounded her mob and were pumping dart after tranq dart into the rear and flanks of her minions.
She shrieked again, and the mob changed directions, only to be met with a wall of Holy Light that obliterated any Shaling it touched, while Arcane force and Mystic Spirit energy slammed into her flanks. What perplexed and enraged her further, was that there was no malice from the police to feed on! For a moment, when one officer was mauled by a Shaling, there was a surge of anger; then she saw one of the fat Pandas cast something and the malice was suppressed. Those damned adventurers had prepared these mammals! Predator and Prey alike stood shoulder to shoulder and calmly suppressed her force. There was another shock through the magical link as the arcane police line slammed into the new rear of her army. Everywhere she turned, she saw minions subdued and Shalings destroyed.
There was the sound of a horn, and suddenly a wall of preposterous animals charged through the center of her mob. The Stampede toppled her palanquin and hurled her to the ground, while the continued shock of losing so many Shalings at once left her reeling. Once she had her hooves under her again, she found herself surrounded. She sneered at Judy and her fox. “Oh well, looks like I’m caught. What are you going to do officers, arrest me? Let’s see how well that works out a second time!” She glared at the encircling force. “You could always have one of your savages KILL me! That’s what you want, isn’t it?! That’s all you monsters are good for!” She stood and tore open the front of her prison jumpsuit. “Go on! Feast away! The taint will just spread and then everyone will know you for what you really are! Hahahahahahahahahaha!”
“We know.” The feral form of Cheney stepped out of the crowd and walked towards Bellwether.
The Sha within her recoiled in fear; this was its previous host! It knew the Sha’s true weakness. She looked around for an escape, only to see Hopps had hopped onto the Chief’s shoulder. “So Chief, ready to sing a little song and magically make our dreams come true?”
“Certainly, Officer Hopps. Officer Wilde?” Bogo looked at the fox in the flowing blue silk cape.
Nick's smug was almost suffocating. “Absolutely Chief. Alright everybody, hold paws, hooves or trotters; and a one and a two and a…” From every animal in the circle came a single tune. “Kumbaya, my lord. Kumbaya.”
As Dawn looked on in shock and revulsion she found herself scooped up in a hug by the Worgen hunter. “No! Let me go! Fear me! I am Dawn Bellwether! I am Violence itself, dammit!” She thrashed and railed as he cooed softly and patted her head while the crowd kept singing. Soon, another set of paws joined in in cuddling the raging ewe as slowly, surely, the Sha of violence was smothered with kindness. Finally, in desperation, the Sha escaped the way it came in as Dawn vomited a writhing black mass. It hissed and shrieked in defiance, right up until Chief Bogo stepped on it. The Sha of violence was no more.
There were a few moments of silence. “Nick?”
“The Sha’s dead now. You can stop fondling Bellwethers wool.”
Nick almost pouted. “Do I have to?”
Judy smirked at her friend. “No, but if Mandy finds out you were fondling another mammal, the ass-whoopin she gives you might just bring the Sha back.”
He sighed theatrically and disentangled himself from Dawn and Cheney. “Fine, but I want a Gideon Grey Blueberry Pie! I’m supposed to have dinner with Mandy’s parents next Friday, and I need a housewarming gift.”
All the officers from the First looked at the two oddly, when Nadine Fangmeyer spoke up. “Who’s Mandy.”
Nick rejoined the police line as Bellwethers slack form was handed off to a police medic. “Mandy Walsh, she’s with financial forensics down at the Third.”
Judy clarified at the confused looks on her peers’ muzzles. “Nick’s girlfriend.”
Everyone nodded for a second, then paused as one while looking between the two. “His girlfriend?!”
The ARF had moved back to the First Precinct, to debrief and to decide where to go from there. The four Azerothians had greatly aided the police and city, but they were not Police Officers, nor even Zootopian citizens. In addition, a mammal from the City Assessor's Office had come by with an estimated bill for damages and ancillary expenses resulting from the last weeks chaos; This included damage to San Quillton Prison, the Hobby Lobby shopping spree, and municipal damage from their arrival in Haymarket. All told, the four travelers were looking at a $10,000,000 bill from the city.
Cheney was quietly discussing something with Nick, as Judy glared at the bespectacled marmot in front of her. “They just literally helped save the city, and you want to saddle them with a 10 million dollar bill?! Isn’t this what the OEM budget is for?”
Whatever the city rodent was going to say was cut off as a swirling pane of golden light formed in the Precincts atrium. The ARF swiftly formed a defensive semi-circle around the event, while the four Azerothians readied themselves in front of the portal. A flash of light signaled the closing of the portal. What was left in its wake, was a diminutive furless mammal in white and gold. She swiftly noted the four mammals in front of her. “Then you are!”
“Chromie!” The four visitors rushed forward while laughing and scooped the tiny creature up. Cheney managed to disengage himself first and stood up. “You came for us! This means we can come home, right?” The other three looked hopeful.
“What? Oh, no; I’m just here to verify your temporal coordinates. Your arrival in the local timeline was, disruptive. If I tried to extract you four, the temporal backlash could destroy this continent, or rewrite global history so that only one species evolved sapience.” There was a look of abject horror in the muzzles of the Zootopians, while the four visitors looked downcast but resigned. “Oh, don’t worry too much; it shouldn’t take more than a decade for the local temporal topography to stabilize, two if you get any more involved in local events. Once that happens, I’ll be back to pick you lot up! Oh, and good job destroying the Sha. I’ll let everyone back home you’re doing well and to expect you in a week or so. Toodles!”
She disappeared with a ‘Bloop’, leaving the four staring forlornly at the spot she had been standing. There was the sound of someone clearing their throat from behind them. When they turned, the city marmot stood imperiously, brandishing his bill.