AN: Just a forenote. I tend to be a sub watcher rather than a dub watcher, which may influence how I interpret and present some of the characters. I’d be interested to see if any Dub watchers can feel the differences where present.
With a jolt and a shudder, a packed ZTN bus pulled up outside Trip Street Station, the mammals who were rammed inside getting pushed up against each other like a set of trapped dominoes almost ready to fall. The door opened, feet moved, and smaller mammals tried to exit from their under-seat seating areas and navigate the larger footfalls, dodging and sideswiping and running, all to get out before the bus moved on to its next stop.
Coming out of her tightly packed seating area, which was too small for her anyway but the only option regardless, a young and tired red panda joined the fray. Her name was Retsuko and as she exited, making sure her tail wasn’t trodden on as she went, she grumbled to herself. She was having an even worse day than usual. A few feet knocked into her, and her simmering anger simmered more and more, bitter at every single little petty frustration that her morning commute had decided to throw at her.
Finally, though, she managed to leap out of the bus, find a semi-open area near the stop and take a breather.
A little, innocent, totally not trying to hold in the pure rage boiling inside of her breather…
That would do. Off she went, on a little journey through the rising towers of downtown, hoping desperately that she wouldn’t be late. All the while, she kept her mind at ease by indulging in her old stress relief technique. When the going got tough, and she wasn’t in a place where no-one could hear her, she merely screamed death metal lyrics into her mind.
“ STUPID TRANSIT SYSTEM IS ALL DOWN! WITH CRAZY PRICES IS A SCAM!!!!!!
WHY DO I PAY FOR SHITTY TRAINS! WHERE IS THE NORTH-SOUTH LINE!
WHY WASN’T IT IN YOUR DESIGN. HERE I AM, USING CRAPPY TRAMS!
THAT BREAK DOOOOOWWWWNNNN!!!! THAT BREAK DOOOOOWWWWNNNNN!!!!!”
It was cathartic, but not quite as much as it could have been. She so desperately wanted to scream them out at the top of her lungs; just uncork that pressure valve entirely and let it go.
She’d have to wait for just a little bit longer before she could. Same on the way back home. For a week at least! The problem was simple. The Zootopian transit system was made up of loop lines that circled around the climate districts, the shared downtown, and in some cases the entire city. The trouble with that was that the big commercial centres of Savannah Central, where many mammals worked, happened to either be in the downtown area or around watering hole plaza, clustering around the Peak Street or Savannah Central transit hubs respectively. Which would be okay, except for the fact that the designers of the Metro had the inner downtown loop completely separate from the other lines on its western side.
Coming in from Tundratown or Sahara square, the inner loop was well connected. However, if coming in from the Rainforest or Savannah Central, the latter being her home, you’d have to divert to the other side of the city to transfer.
Work had recently started on the missing piece, the north-south line, which would go up from Savannah Central/Watering Hole (taking over the two halves of the Animalia Line below it), through the old natural history museum station and then up to Troop street where it would split; one half going straight to Peak Street, joining up and taking over the small Snowcastle Line into Tundratown, while the other would pass through Hill Street, up to Marshland hub in the Rainforest District and then take over the Rainforest Loop at Vine street. Simple, simple, simple, and all a decade at least from completion. Which was more than a decade from when she needed it.
Which would be okay, given that a very busy tram line travelled from Grass Street (on the outer loop) to Flock Street (on the inner), where it then split to go to the two big business centres.
It usually was okay, if a little crowded…
But an elephant had driven into the bridge that carried the trams into and out of the depot, trapping them in there and meaning that she, and everyone else who made this trip, had to use a stupid shaky overcrowded bus instead.
And that made her angry, as if her day wasn’t dull enough already. To add insult to injury, she’d been planning something nice for later on. This was supposed to be a happy day!
She sighed, rubbing her temples.
Maybe today wasn’t the day to try that thing?
After all, it wasn’t like she had a good track record with relationships, was it?
First, she’d fallen for a fellow red panda at work, but it turned out that she’d looked at him through rose-colored glasses and hadn’t seen the real him. He wasn’t mean or cruel or anything, but it was hard to call him anything at all. He was blank, emotionless, and didn’t give her anything back. No sense of love, or protection, or care, or passion. It had bummed her out hard when she’d realised the truth, and it would have taken her a long time to recover.
And then her mother began trying to be a matchmaker for her. By all means, the polar bear she was set up with could have been fantastic, but that time she wasn’t ready. She let him go, but by the time she changed her mind it was too late.
Then came the third strike. It was like a prince charming story. She became friends with an airhead, who then turned out to be a rich genius. She’d loved him, he’d loved her, she could leave her job and be free and almost did, but for one cruel twist. He didn’t believe in marriage. They could be partners, but not husband and wife. She’d almost gone with him and quit her job anyway, but in one of his rare moments of wisdom, her overbearing boss had asked her if she was just doing what he wanted her to do, and what he’d do for her in return. A confrontation followed. It was tense and emotional, but they had both been firmly rooted in their position on the marriage issue.
She’d left, single again.
But, this time, she didn’t feel bummed out. She felt sad for what could have been, certainly, but she looked back on their brief time as a fun one. It rejuvenated her. It also made her think about what she actually wanted. She wanted someone who’d be happy to follow her dreams, if she’d do likewise for him. Someone who’d show affection for her, who understood her issues and emotions well. Someone who cared for her, deeply. It had hit her hard, but she knew who that mammal was. After her first relationship had ended, a question had been asked in a hospital room, a question she’d respectfully said no to. Nothing personal, she just needed time to recover. But she felt recovered now, and, last night, she’d decided it was time to say yes to that question.
She perked up. She’d been having a bad day today, but he’d been in a sorrier state when he’d asked, hadn’t he? At least it would brighten things up if it all went well.
If it didn’t?
Well, in that case, it would be all on her.
Whatever the day would bring, in its frustrated and boring ways, she’d endure it. Looking up, she saw her office building, the eternally dull Yakatomi Plaza, and stepped inside. Waiting for a lift. Finding one, but having to crowd in. Tight, frustrated, she glanced at her watch, sighing with relief as she realised she’d just about make it.
“Come on,” she whispered, getting more hopeful as they rose. “No more delays… I can make it.”
Finally, she was almost alone with just those who worked on her floor! Just Kabae, the big gossip filled hippo; Mashashiro, the armadillo; Anai, the Japanese-badger graduate; and Bob, the camel.
Retsuko didn’t really know Bob that well. In any case, he was getting off at one of the floors below hers, and then it would be the home straight! She watched hopefully as he crossed the threshold, turning and…
“Hey, Bob!” Kabae suddenly said, stepping forwards so that she blocked the door from closing. “You’ll never know what I heard!”
“Listen,” he said, “I need to…”
“But it’ll only take a moment!” she teased.
Oh no no no no!
“Fine. We’ll talk and walk then.”
“Oh no, I can’t,” she said, as the doors tried to close but aborted again. “I need this lift to get up, you see. But it’ll only take a moment.”
“What is it?”
“Well you’ve heard this joke that no birds and reptiles are sentient, even though I know a Komodo dragon and a secretary bird…”
“Who said that? Next they’ll be saying apes like Gori went extinct. They sound even madder than those jokers who say that all the thylacines are gone.”
“I know right… You see, I heard it from a friend at my daughters daycare, she works as a professional light shade fitter, and she heard it from….”
TAKE YOUR GOSSIP OUT ON THE FLOOR!!!!
STOP BLOCKING THE LIFT DOORS!!!!
WASTE OF SPAAAACCCCEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!
WASTE OF SPAAAAAAAACCCCCCCCCEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!
Finally. FIVE MINUTES after she could have been there, she arrived at her floor with Kabae and Anai. Maybe, just maybe, it couldn’t be so…
“WHAT TIME DO YOU CALL THIS YOU LITTLE SQUIRT!”
Director Ton looked down at her, the hulking pig fuming. She could see a fully pulsating vein on his forehead, and she couldn’t help but shrink in his presence. Still, at least just this once, she had an excuse.
“Kabae held up the lift to spread pointless gossip,” she said, pointing at the hippo. Snitches may get stitches but, on this one occasion, everything was on her.
“Oh, it wasn’t pointless,” she cooed, going up to the impatient pig. “You see…”
“You’ll tell me it later!” he scolded. “If it’s good enough, maybe I’ll let you off this time!”
“Oh, it is,” she replied, before walking off. “See you soon.”
Ton grumbled a bit, before looking down at Anai.
“I deeply apologise for my delay, sir!” the young graduate chirped, giving the pig a salute.
“Accepted. You can go,” Ton said, before sighing with relief and glancing back to Retsuko. “Think he’s not going to be set off?” he asked, a hint of worry, if not fear, in his voice.
She, knowing exactly what he was talking about, nodded. “I don’t think so.”
The director sighed with relief. “Thank God.”
Retsuko relaxed alongside him, seeing his improving mood, hopeful that…
“You’re still late!”
“You should have factored in the fact that women like you always like to spout pointless gossip! You should have seen it coming and planned accordingly!”
“There was the tram problem too…”
“You should have left home earlier!”
“And there was more traffic, and…”
“LEFT! EARLIER!” he almost shouted, Retuko’s ears drooping back sadly as he carried on his rant. “Too much time spent at home, putting on pointless things like fur highlights, and polishing up your claws, and all those stupid things women do to themselves to just make them look prettier than they really are.” He looked at her and huffed. “I won’t write you up…”
Retsuko blinked, before letting out a sigh of relief. “Thank you, sir, I…”
“IF!” he carried on, a malicious grin growing on his face. “You come in one hour early and polish up all my golf equipment,” he said, before letting out a sickening laugh. “Not one minute late. And polish them up good.” He carried on laughing as he walked off, leaving Retsuko to feel waves of sadness crashing into her.
It just wasn’t fair…
So, with her tail dragging behind her, she dumped herself onto her chair, got her laptop up and going, opened her spreadsheet and, against a backwash of oncoming dreariness and upcoming boredom, began work. New clients, old clients, new investments, old investments, all to start sifting through.
Today was going to be a long day.
“I heard Ton chewing you out.”
“Huh?” she hummed, before looking over to her co-worker, Fenneko. The fennec vixen was quickly typing her way through the morning’s work, though her ears were peeled to the side, ready to hear the response.
“Yeah,” Retusko sighed, turning back to her work. “What’s worse is that it’s Kabae’s fault! Ton even knew it, and will probably just let her go lightly.” She looked down and sniffed. “Meanwhile I get punished. Again! As if things aren’t already bad enough.”
“That’s because you don’t stick up for yourself,” Anai noted, as he worked away on her other side. “People in power will try and push you around, you shouldn’t give them an inch, or they’ll take a mile.”
In some ways, she agreed with the younger grad. However, she didn’t feel strong enough to stand up like that, and nowhere near crazy enough to take it to the lengths he could. But still… She hated it sometimes. The bullying. The frustration. She could have quit, and been free and rich if she’d left with that tech guru Tadano, yet… Well, they wanted different things, didn’t they? It wouldn’t have worked. Ton had pressed her on that, getting her to check that it would lead to what she wanted, before she handed in her resignation. Something that a man had wanted her to do without understanding her…
But in the end, she’d just followed the instructions of another man, one who was far meaner to her, hadn’t she? The thing was, she liked following instructions, she liked having things to do and being kept occupied, but it didn’t have to suck, did it? Sometimes she felt that she should move on, though then again that would mean leaving her friends. Haida and Fenneko, Gori and Washimi… She wasn’t sure what she wanted, bar a happy marriage in the future and respect, but whatever it was it involved her friends.
“My new inspirational quote for the day has come in,” Fenneko said. “Paul McCatney: Take a sad song and make it better. I’m pretty sure that’s relevant to your situation.”
“Uh-hu,” she said, nodding her head. Maybe she would. She slipped herself off her chair and began making her way to the break room. A nice recharging green tea would do her good. She strolled in there alone, getting the tea bag out and boiling the kettle and, as she waited, she heard someone enter.
“Oh. Excuse me Retsuko. Mind if I pick up a spoon?”
“Sure Ookami,” she said, picking out one from the drawer and handing it up to her senior co-worker. She looked up at the maned wolf, who just seemed to be standing there, and rolled her eyes.
He was going to do his regular thing, wasn’t he?
She knew what he was going to ask her, so she might as well get it over with. “How much…?”
“How much do you need me to lend you?” she asked, her voice tired. She turned back to her tea, pouring the now boiled kettle into her mug. As she did so though, she realised that Ookami was chuckling lightly.
“I don’t need to borrow anything, thank you. I’ve actually found a fun way to earn money on the side now.”
“Huh? That sounds nice…”
“It’s actually for the ZPD,” he noted, sounding a bit proud for himself. “I just provide cover to drop off that fox cop from the Night Howler case. Let’s him infiltrate and take down some nasty mammals!”
“How does that work?” she asked, pausing as she looked up to him. Either Ookami was passing as a very large fox, or said fox cop… Rick Wild wasn’t it? -played a young maned wolf. The latter seemed more likely, and the whole thing sounded rather interesting.
“Well, he poses as a mute maned wolf cub, about two or three years old, and I act as his father. We simply drop him off at places where cub abuse is suspected. He spends the day posing there, gathering evidence and, by the end, clears them or sets them free”
“Wow!” she exclaimed, genuinely impressed.
Ookami held a definite smug aura about him, and chuckled a few times. “They pay me for my part, and it does feel good to be making the world a better place.”
“Right,” she agreed. Stirring her tea around, she pulled out the bag and tossed it into a waiting bin. “What’s he like, by the way?”
“Oh, Nick Wilde? Very nice mammal. They all are. Seemed to love their job as much as I like mine… Speaking of which, I better get back to it.”
Retsuko nodded, expecting him to leave right there and then, only to pause as he came forwards.
“Oh. For all the help you gave me every time I did need a small loan,” he said, handing her a twenty-buck bill. “Treat yourself.” Then, with a quick wave, he was off. Retsuko watched him go before she grabbed her mug, went to one of the break areas, and settled down. Taking the odd sips of her green tea, she felt calmer. Happier. While Ookami wasn’t a close friend, she did like him, and was happy that he both enjoyed his current job and his little adventures.
“Little adventures,” she pondered quietly. Maybe she should try and get into that? Maybe she’d enjoy it too, far more than here. Making the world a better place?
That sounded good.
Putting down her mug as she emptied it, she shook her head. If anything, it would be like that offer of starting an import store with her friend Puko. Lots of promises, but then a cold hard reality that hit her where it hurt and trapped her, as always, in her current position. With a sad sigh, she returned the mug to the dishwasher. Making the world a better place seemed nice. But, for now and likely ever, she’d be stuck checking other mammals accounts and taxes.
She walked back into her office, ready to put her tail to the bellows again, only to notice that something was a bit wrong. There was an odd feeling in the air, like a funeral wake had just had an existential crisis…
She sat back down between Fenneko and Anai, pausing as she heard nothing coming from the little fox. “Did I miss anything?”
The vixen turned to look at her, a blank look on her face. “Check the news.”
“Ummm, okay,” she said, a bit nervous as she opened up her browser and went onto zoogle news, wondering what the headlines would…
“Excuse me a second,” she said, grabbing her hand bag and slipping of her chair. “Just need some time… In the back.”
“That sounds fair.”
Off Retsuko went, leaving the others to just contemplate the sudden and dark news that they’d all heard. Night Howlers could be returning. Savage mammals could be returning.
Standing up, at the front of the office, Ton looked at all of them. “I’d like to think of myself as a tough but fair leader, of all of you,” he said firmly. “So… -I think you’ve had long enough to process this! Get back to work. It’ll keep your mind off of it!”
Fenneko grumbled a little, before loading up her spreadsheets again, forcing herself to type away. She didn’t like Ton, and he was a pig and she a fennec. This news meant entirely different things to both of them, and she guessed that it would too unreasonable to expect him to get a predator’s view point. Then again, say what you like about his sexism, at least he never said as much as a peep against preds during the first incident. Almost annoyingly, his stop moping strategy even seemed to be working. It was an irritating trait with him, being incredibly right at the odd important juncture of an underling’s life. Of course, under no situation, what so ever, would she or anyone ever tell him tha…
“Wow!” Tsunoda, the eternal toady-in-gazelle's-clothing, gawped out. “It’s working! I’m feeling far better already!”
Using his advice once again, albeit to ignore his self-flattery and boasting, Fenneko dug herself deep into her work. On she typed, her sensitive ears perking slightly as she heard some screaming in the background. It rang on for a bit, before ending, and she smiled. “Five… Four… Three… Two… One…”
“Sorry about that,” Retsuko greeted, as she returned back. Sitting down, she rubbed her temples, before starting work once again. “What do you think of all this, by the way?”
“I’ll be requesting immediate training and help for our psychological states,” Anai said, trembling slightly at his desk. “We… We…” he began, before slumping down on his keyboard, sniffing slightly. “I’m scared.”
“I’m… I’m…” he sobbed, and Retsuko couldn’t help but see him tremble. Reaching out a paw to comfort him, she patted him a few times before feeling his paw reach around hers, holding it tightly for comfort. She placed her other paw on top, and looked into his eyes, a sad shared solidarity between them. Truth be told, she was a little scared herself.
“Naturally nervous,” Fenneko admitted, joining in. “But I have a strong confidence that the bad guys and most of the howlers will be mostly caught up in a week or two.”
“Huh? That soon?”
“Once the cops know what they’re looking for, they’ll be able to find it.”
“You… -You think?” Anai asked, looking up, the fennec nodding back.
Retsuko nodded too, as she let go of the younger badger. “Glad you have faith,” she said, only to sigh. On she typed, tapping and tapping away, all until it was time for an early lunch.
“-I mean, I hope other mammals won’t be as mean to me as last time…”
Retsuko nodded, a hint of concern in the back of her mind, as she listened on to a certain, very, very important co-worker of hers. Haida, a spotted hyena with three big snaggleteeth; currently dressed in black trousers, a white shirt and a red tie, all smart and neat. They’d been friends for a long time and he’d even asked her out after he’d recovered from a bad case of pneumonia before Christmas. Hot off the tail of a failed relationship, and worried about rebounding, she’d declined then, but despite that he’d still been kind and stilled stood up for her with her other friends. It had been a while since then, though. Time to think. Time to recover. Time to reconsider.
“I think I can agree with you there,” Fenneko said.
“It’s a bit different for you though, isn’t it?” he queried. “You’re still small and cute, and I’m… I’m not… aren’t I?”
“Hey, Haida,” Retsuko said, noticing him flinch ever so slightly as she said his name. “I didn’t really have anything thrown at me back then, so I can’t be help there. But I’ll be there to help you through this.”
He stared at her for a second or two, twitching a bit as his tail gave a few odd wags. “Oh, uh…” he stuttered, before relaxing into a warm smile. “Thanks, Retsuko.”
“Yeah,” she said, as they reached their chairs and tables. Home-cooked food, purchased from Anai, was already waiting for them. She breathed in, a bit worried. Was now the right time? Was…
“You know,” he said. “I met this Canidean kid on the bus this morning. Silver fox kit, moved over here recently.”
“Sounds interesting,” Fenneko replied, as she brought out her phone and began tapping away.
“Anyway,” the hyena carried on. “He seemed really happy to talk about where he came from. It seemed like me asking him made his day!”
“ Aaaawww ,” Retsuko cooed. “That sounds nice.”
“Yeah,” he chuckled, before his happy look faded. “Then I sorta blew it.”
“I mentioned how I wouldn’t like the cold, since I’d just recovered from my pneumonia…”
“That was last year,” Fenneko deadpanned, not looking up as she carried on typing on her phone.
“Well… Relatively just,” he replied, looking up into the corner of the room. “But it really worried him. Turns out the whole reason he moved here was because his father got it, but far worse. He moved to be with family, then his father moved.” He sighed, sadly. “Probably messed him up for a bit, today. And then this news…”
“You likely triggered him, maybe even causing a minor panic attack,” Fenneko deadpanned. “That, combined with various factors such as seasonal dissociative disorder from such a large move, ongoing cultural stress, academic stress from modern school life, increased pressure from social media, topped off by the news of night howlers being back in play, could result in a variety of mental health complications. From panic attacks to developing paranoia and schizophrenia, culminating in possible self-harm or even suicide.” The fennec put down her phone and looked up at the gawking hyena. “Good job, hero.”
“I…” he gasped, before shaking his head. “Fenneko! You know morbid stuff like that isn’t funny!”
“I can only disagree,” she said, returning to her phone. “In any case, it seems that Kristofferson Silverfox is actually quite happily integrated into Zootopia, so no worries, as of yet.”
“Phew…” he said, before shaking his head. “That’s such a relief, I didn’t even find it creepy that you tracked down his name. Also, you tracked down his name!?”
She showed him a picture of the furbook page of one Remmy Packson, a captioned picture inset. It showed the eponymous wolf, his brother, and a familiar looking silver fox.
“You tracked down his name…” he noted.
“You gave me more than enough information,” she replied, busily tapping on her phone.
Haida couldn’t help but look at it and sigh, before turning to Retsuko and shrugging. “Heh… Anyway, I guess that’s the last time I try and befriend a stranger.”
“I don’t think so,” Retsuko said softly. “I think it was a nice thing to do. You just got unlucky.”
“Hmmm…” he nodded. “Maybe. Maybe. Maybe I just need more time to think things over, and get ready again. We’ll see.”
A deep breath in, her nerves calming, Retsuko spoke out. “About that…”
“Needing more time to think things over, and get ready again.”
“Hmmm? What about it?”
Retsuko opened her mouth to speak, only to be cut off by a teasing Fenneko, her eyes laser set on the red panda. “Damn. No-one to set up a betting pool with.”
“A betting pool about what?” All three turned, spotting a familiar pink hippo/gossip magnet just standing there. Kabae…
Retsuko gave Fenneko an immediate death glare. “Don’t you even think about it!”
“Think about what?” the hippo pressed, coming up right up and personal.
Fenneko just laughed. “HA-HA-HA-HA-HA…”
The little red panda grumbled. A perfect moment ruined… Finishing the last of her food, she slipped off her chair. “I’m going for a walk outside, get some fresh air,” she muttered, before walking out. She hoped to bump into Gori or Washimi, but they must have been elsewhere. All she saw was one of the latter’s shed feathers.
Slipping into the lift, she pressed the ground floor button, only realising when she got there that she could have asked Haida along to join with her. That could wait just a bit longer though, she guessed.
Right now, she needed fresh air, sunlight on her fur, and a secluded area or something where she could scream out her frustrations in a death metal tirade of rage. Little did she know that a certain mammal had spotted her and her plight and had taken off after her.
AN: I hope you all enjoyed my first foray into the world of Aggretsuko, and the mercliess ship teasing it presents (muhaha...). Next chapter will drop a bit earlier, likely on Thursday, so hopefully you won't be teased for too long. In any case, I put a lot of work into them, so dropping a comment (even a little one) is always super appreciated and puts a big smile on my face. Thanks, and looking forwards to next time.