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The Wild Times "Incident"

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            Countless shocked faces stared at the sight with gaping mouths, an attendant or two in some of the surrounding carnival booths made calls to the park’s central office, and some observers whose brains weren’t broken put in calls to the police. And some others, a growing number as more seconds passed, decided to make their own exit as their minds returned to full function. At the center of them all, the sight to be spoken of, was a naked sloth, smarmy-faced and dancing.

            “Come on everybody!” He shouted to the remaining crowd, speaking and moving at a normal mammal’s speed. “Hit the rhythm with me!”

            The mammals who’d yet to run watched the clotheless sloth place a paw on his head and throw a pointing arm out, breaking into the sprinkler dance style while also swinging his hips about like he was working a hula hoop. His hitting of that rhythm caused even more of the remaining crowd to cautiously take their leave. After their departure, less than a dozen or so were left, and even they were beginning to slowly slip back one step at a time.

            “Where ya going? Come on, this is just the warmup!” The sloth tried to encourage them to stay. He pointed a long slothly claw at a pig and wolf, the nearest mammals remaining, both in the midst of their slow-back escape. “You two! Do the sky bike with me!”

            Without stopping their retreat, they watched him leap over into a handstand and start heave-kicking into the air, as if he were treading water upside down to a thick beat that only he could hear. The complete eroding of his audience didn’t go unnoticed, and the sloth quickly flipped back up onto his feet. Taking a look around, he saw that all of the various booth attendants were still there, and literally waltzed his naked way over to one selling the usual fairground fried dough.

            “Hey sweetiehopps.” He said to a practically frozen kangaroo behind the counter. “Let’s dance to the Oh Oh Flamingo!”

            While the nude sloth began tossing his body about in bird-like motions, elsewhere in the amusement park a large hare hopped his way in a zigzag fashion through a yet-undisturbed crowd, blithering a tune to himself as he went.

            “Hippity hoppity hippity hoppity, why don’t you all just get socked in the jaw okee?” He stopped in place, seemingly thinking over the last bit. “No, that doesn’t work. Oh well!”

            Upon that decision, his eyes found the nearest mammal to him, and he went right to work. A passing gnu, clueless to the unhinged mind just beside him, suddenly felt an impact against the underside of his jaw. The hare had leapt up into a superhero takeoff punch, and sprung right into a second jump upward the moment his feet connected with the ground again. At the height of the second jump, he kicked off of the gnu’s chest, sending the mammal crashing backward into another and sending himself flying off towards a gazelle a few feet away. The gazelle found himself suddenly looking to the side as a punch sent his head turning right nearly forty-five degrees.

            The additional stumbling of multiple mammals had begun to draw attention to the developing scene, one wolf in particular looking just in time to see the white blur hurtling at him.

            “Ow!”

            Hippity Hoppity had landed a punch on the wolf’s muzzle. A pig facing the other way spun around at the voice, only to find a bunnypunch impacting his own flat nose. Both his fingered hooves immediately cupped his snout, and a mere instant later he felt a decent blow to his rounded gut as the hare used his stomach as a horizontal trampoline, sending himself off at a porcupine. By now, the general crowd around them was attentive to the bizarre situation at-paw, and the porcupine instinctively put his spiked back to the hurtling mammal just in time. Or so he thought. Instead, the hare somehow managed to get to the ground before he would’ve had a very spikey day, and slid through underneath the porcupine, throwing in a quick bash to the nuts as he went.

            Elsewhere, in section of the park not yet altered, a pair of ZPD officers were casually walking through, serving as both a deterring presence and a rapid response in case things happened. One was a rather unamused hyena, and her partner was an arctic fox, bright in both his fur color and demeanor.

            “No, you’re definitely the more tolerable one.” She was telling him.

            “Really? Thanks!” The fox responded. “You know hearing something like that from you really means a lot.”

            “Telling somebody they’re not annoying is a pretty poor excuse for a compliment.” A more high-pitched voice dished a bit of snide-snark. Its apparent source was a little ZPD fox plush secured to its own place on the smaller officer’s duty belt.

            “Wallace!” The actual fox scolded the stuffed toy. “Be nice!”

            The hyena’s eyes only focused on the fox himself, however. “How did you pass the psych eval?”

            Before he could provide and answer, both of their radios crackled, and a dispatch voice came along. “Call for any officers on-site at Wild Times. Multiple 10-68s about a 10-59 in-progress in booth lane three, possibly 10-51.”

            “Malicious mischief?” The fox voiced in some surprise.

            “Drunk malicious mischief!” Wallace corrected.

            “They only said possibly.” His owner then corrected him.

            The hyena gave no acknowledgement to their conversation, instead activating her radio unit to respond. “Hyenandez and Frost, we’re on it.”

            “Oh,” Frost happily reminded her, “actually you’re supposed to say Hotel Foxtrot, 10-43.”

            Hyenandez almost growled, but settled for just responding with. “Don’t push it.”

            “Grumpy spots!” Wallace the police plush got the last words as they began making their way over to the food booth aisle of the fairgrounds part of the amusement park.

            In still yet another area of the park, screams erupted as a red panda was swung round and around beyond her control, at the paws of a tornado-whirling Tasmanian devil. He had her paws clutched firmly in his, and spun about at hyperspeed, centrifugal force pulling the animal he held out away from him, completely parallel to the ground.

            “Let her go!” Some mammal shouted from the crowd.

            “Uwehehehahahaheeheheheehuwehhhh! Ok!” The hyper-spinning mammal agreed, releasing his grip on her. She went flying off, soaring up and over the tarp top of a nearby fair booth over to another, being thankfully granted a softened landing by the neighboring booth’s stockpile of filled water balloons. With her out of the immediate picture, the taz stopped himself for a wide-eyed look around at the surrounding crowd. “Huheheheh! You know wat my favert movee is?!” He asked with a huge, mind-long-gone smile. “TWISTER!”

            Everyone fled. Whether from the intensity of his answer, the fact that he began spinning around again, or just the unwanten totality of it all, everyone fled. Some, of course, bumped into or even tripped over each other as they went, leaving a number of citizens behind to be terrorized by the dizzying wonder for at least a few more seconds. One, a poor, frightened ewe, couldn’t seem to even stand back up, instead trying to crawl her way backwards.

            “No!” She yelled at him. “No! Stay away!”

            “Uwehehehahaheheheeheehehehuh! Ok!” The whirling blur agreed, almost politely? He shifted his track as best he could, diverting away from her like a side-winder tornado, heading instead over towards the nearest ride; by irony, or lack there of, said ride happened to be the tilt-o-whirl.

            A mile or two away, rolling casually through the streets in her police cruiser, was Officer Emily Timber, at every stop light so sweetly and so preciously looking down at her steering wheel. Looking, at the shiny engagement ring on one of the fingers gripping it. Michael proposed to her! To her! Really!

            “All-call for available units near Wild Times.”

            Her radio broke through her dreamy thoughts, and her mind hopped straight through the crack into full alertness.

            “Multiple 10—59 and 10—54 reports, possible 10—50s and developing 10—99. Available units respond.”

            Emily gripped her transmitter and answered back. “Ida-one-four, Officer Timber, 10—43.”

            “Copy, Ida-one-four is 10—43.” The dispatcher acknowledged Emily’s intent to respond.

            The white wolf switched on the cruiser’s lights and mid-roll sirens, making her way down towards the Wild Times park as a couple other squad cars started radioing in their availability as well.

            Back at Wild Times meanwhile, still another grouping of attendees were being . . . not necessarily terrified, more just harassed. A scraggily-furred badger was scurrying to and fro, dashing from one mammal to another, spilling words and warnings.

            “You don’t get how deep their string-pulling goes!” She yelled up to an oryx while she shook his legs like she was expecting apples to come falling down from tree branches. Her head swung to the black bear next him, who had pulled her cub close and was trying to back away. “The ringtails! They’ve had their creepy little finger-paws in everything from the beginning!”

            “Can you shut it, lady?” An armadillo called out from the shrinking line of a nearby ride.

            The badger’s attention instantly went to him, and with new mental flood pouring out. “You’re one of them too!” She screamed, pointing his way with a very unkept claw. “You think I hadn’t figured you out from the start? Hiding in special little scaly suits? Your body shape’s the same under those things! What kind of pathetic disguise is that supposed to be?”

            After recovering from the mental face-wall of the assertion that armadillos were really raccoons hiding in scaly suits, more mammals started casually making their way off, while at least one did put in a call to the cops.

            “Hey.” A smoothly casual voice made a draw for the crazy mammal’s attention. The owner of the new voice was a raccoon himself, late-twenties-looking, dressed in grey pants and a nice blue button-down shirt, with a yellow undershirt behind it apparently. “Ya know I honestly gotta hand it to you.” He somehow managed to come across as both trolling and genuine at the same time. “I’ve never run into anybody who actually started to figure us out.”

            The badger froze for a second, seemingly surprised at actually seeing one of them. But, her mind quickly made itself up on what that meant. “Ha! Nice job trying to catch me off guard, but I knew you’d come for me eventually.”

            The raccoon gave a faint shrug and a quick head tilt-toss to one side, letting his amused eyes drift in the same direction before rolling back. “I wouldn’t be so quick to count yourself that high up on the ringtailed cabal threat list.”

            The badger practically looked offended at the suggestion. “Oh you really don’t get how much I’ve figured out!”

            “Nah, we do.” The raccoon replied, his ultimate troll-in-control face still just as solid. “Just not that impressed.”

            She quite visibly didn’t know how to handle it. He was just dismissing her. They were just dismissing her! After all she’d uncovered, all the digging, all the piecing together, everything she’d figured out, it was just NOTHING to them!?

            “Don’t get me wrong.” The ringtail assured her. “You’re the first mammal I’ve seen who’s ever made it this far. Just not quite enough ta shine the flashlight on the ringtail, so ta speak.”

            The raccoon kept her going, turning her in mental circles and, most importantly, keeping her focused on him, without her ever being aware that’s what he was doing.

            Meanwhile, again, in yet one more region of the park, one that had absorbed a number of mammals who’d just fled from the others, there was still another scene emerging into life. A little caution cart, used to drive mice and other tiny rodents around, was driving much faster than it should have been. But it wasn’t the driver who was out of his right mind however, it was their pursuer.

            “Git back here!” A rather portly pig shouted after them in the accent hailing from that northern region of the Ewe Cay; Trotland, Scruffland? Whatever it was called. “I’m gonna EAT ye!”

            The tiny driver dodged in between walking mammals, finally catching sight of a potential safe haven. A police officer was just ahead, a white wolf presently speaking to some panicked citizens who were pointing her in the direction of somewhere else in the park. “Officer! Officer!” He cried out as he raced up and smashed the brakes of the caution cart just in time. “Officer!”

            The wolf turned her attention down to him then. “Hey, hey, easy,” she said, kneeling down closer, “what’s going on.”

            The rodent threw a quick look over his shoulder, seeing the belly-shaking pig still coming. “HIM!” He shouted.

            The wolf looked in the indicated direction, seeing the pig standing some fifteen yards away and panting like he’d just run a marathon.

            “Git back here little man!” The hungry beast yelled.

            “Sir,” the officer stood up, the rodent meanwhile dashing some way behind her, “sir, stop.” She ordered the new arrival.

            “Outta the way lassy!” The pig shouted back her. “I’m RE-inventin the food chain!”

            Being ambidextrous proved itself worthwhile as she slowly drew out her taser with one paw while keeping the other loosely hovering over her firearm. The mammal was readying himself to charge, and she had a more than apprehensive feeling that he was beyond the point of reasoning and commands. “Sir, stay—”

            “GET! IN! MY! BELLAYYYYYY!” He charged, awkwardly heaving one leg forward after another.

            “STOP! SIR STOP! NOW!” She held her taser trained on him, now waiting for him to inevitably get in range. But her other paw actually gripped onto her firearm now, as the dreading, sinking realization came over her: tasers don’t work well on obese suspects. She took the hoping chance and fired the wires out nonetheless. And . . . it worked? She wasn’t sure whether it was the shock from the taser, or if the pig just wasn’t meant for running.

            “HOOOOOOOO!” He screamed, dropping to his knees. “MAH SIDES ARE STITCHIIIING! HAWWWWWW!” The pig fell further, now down completely. “HOOOOOO! MY GLUTTS ARE FROZEN TOGETHEEEEERRR! HAWWWWWW!” He laid there on the ground, amidst a wonderment of mammals whose brains were firing hard, trying to comprehend what all of this was. A fingered hoof eventually shot out once the shocking ceased, pointing in the still-cowering rodent’s direction. “You’re LUCKY wee man!”

            Watching from inside the highest cart on a conveniently stuck Ferris Wheel, was an older fox, dapper-dressed and whimsically twirling a long marching band baton as if it were a villain’s cane. “Fantastic fantastic!” He uttered to himself as he watched more and more police vehicles arriving at the outskirts of the hybrid fairground-amusement park. “Surely young Nicholas is bound to be among you lot eventually. Just wait till he sees the grandiosity of what we’ve all put together for him! Twenty-five years of absent birthdays Nicholas, I’m only sorry this is ALL I could muster up for you!”

            Back at the scene of one particular naked, non-slothly dancing sloth, a new involuntary audience of two and a half had arrived for him. One Officer Hyenandez, one Officer Frost, and one ventriloquized plush officer.

           “Eyyyy!” The sloth greeted the two while in the midst of doing The Moonwalk. “My true, blue mammals, you’re just in time for the Swan-Flow MAMBO!” He left them dazzled as transitioned into some indescribable crossbreed of ballet and Latin dancing.

           “Excuse me sir?” Officer Frost asked, covering his eyes but maintaining his snow white politeness. “Would it be okay if you put on some clothes?”

           “Why would I want to any thang to hamper my freedom, little man?” The twisting, spinning, ballet tip-toeing nudist responded.

           It was Officer Hyenandez’s turn, though she reflexively made a snide remark rather than actual addressal. “If you value your freedom so much maybe you shouldn’t be gyrating naked in public.”

           “But this is as free as you can BE, BabySpottyCheeks!”

           The hyena officer had been looking away, just off by enough degrees to keep him in her vision without the actual image of him being in focus. But that comment, whether that was intended as a flirt or not, that was it. They’d only just arrived ten seconds ago, but she’d already had enough. She snapped her gaze right to him, done-faced and dead-eyed. The yellow tool emerged in her paw, and the wires spat out from it. Rapid clicking sounded instantly, and the sloth’s vocabulary underwent a change.

           “Hoooooo WAY o WAY o WayO!” He lost his bodily control, dropping to the ground step by step. “And THAT’S the whole show!” His show ended with a faceplant into the well-trodden soil.

           The cessation of rhythm-hitting seemed to be perceptible all around at once, as the nervous faces of countless fairground and park workers began to creep up from behind the hiding places they’d taken in their various booths and stands. They’d been rescued!

           “Um, Carla . . .” Officer Frost had uncovered his eyes, now slowly turning them in her direction, away from the collapsed dancing wonder. “Uh, you know when we confront—”

           Carla was SO close to growling, and for all intents and purposes, she might as well have growled with her eyes.

            For all his upstanding fox approach to things, her partner, at least in this case especially, could feel where she was coming from pretty well. “Nevermind, sorry.”

           Carla groaned abruptly, slapping a paw to her face and even pulling a bit at her mane. “Nope,” she had to force herself to say, “that was beyond a screwup. I’ll write myself in for it.”

           “Get ready to listen to that bunny run her mouth to you about self-restraint.” Wallace the plush commented.

           “Wallace!” The toy’s owner scolded him.

           “I can tune out cottontail,” Carla said back, “but I’d rather not have a month without pay.”

           “Hey come on!” Her partner encouraged her. “Captain Kenda has to review it first. He knows what extenuating circumstances are.”

           “You BET I’m extenuating!” The sloth’s voice suddenly hit their ears again.

           Thankfully, they both saw he wasn’t back up. No, he was still lying on the ground, but he’d managed to turn his face out from the dirt to stare back at them with that same smarmy-gyrator expression.

           Once again, upon the same time of the same day, in one of the last undisturbed park areas remaining, a pair of foxes were standing together outside of the bumper cars arena, waiting for their son and his cousin to re-emerge, even though the two fourteen-year-olds would almost certainly get right back in line again.

           “You look really beautiful right now you know?” The male fox let his wife know. “More like glowing, I’d say. Absolutely glowing.”

           His wife looked like one would expect had she heard it a thousand times before, which she had, but still hadn’t lost any of the core joy of hearing either. She also knew he wanted something he likely thought she would otherwise disagree with, but before she could ask . . .

           A shriek rang out through the immediate crowd. Everyone’s attention was flung about, searching for the source. While no one saw anything at first, they did see a long, sharp object go hurtling up at an angle out from among the sea of heads, arching through the air and coming back down. It was a plus-sized toothpick.

          “Ah!” Some deer shouted, finding the projectile now hanging from his cheek, embedded by a mere few millimeters, the most it could go. He removed it as everyone looked on. It didn’t even permit a miniscule blood droplet, not even of the tiny scale one would see from a busted pimple.

          “That’s right.” A calm, creepily suave voice spoke up. “Learn to fear.” The source of the voice was . . . a rat? He was. Indeed, a black rat, dressed in black pants and red and white striped shirt. He had a number of plus-sized toothpicks with him, and was apparently using them like javelins. Taking another without warning, he heaved it high into the air, aiming for an elephant making his way through. The javelin hit its target . . . only to just bounce right off with no notice taken by the animal it struck. “Hm, disappointing.” The rat remarked to himself.

          The husband and wife fox pair shared a look with each other. No words, but a message still, one of well this is something.

          “Say,” they heard the rat speaking again, and found him looking in their direction, at her specifically, “might I admire, someone’s looking mmmarvelous tonight.”

          “Funny you should say that in the middle of the day.” The husband responded.

          “He’s insane.” His wife told him what he’d already deduced.

          “Time is relative.” The rat responded to them both. “I may have only just spotted you,” he told the wife, “but I’ve had my eyes on you for a Long time.” With the end of his words, he tossed his javelin toothpicks aside and began a slow, romantic advance, snapping his fingers every few seconds, one direction then the other. After a few steps, he somehow produced a small knife, one of just the proper size to fit as a sword of sorts for him. He tossed it freely into the air and astonishingly caught it with his teeth by the flat edge of the blade.

          “Am I being flirted with by a psychotic rat?” The fox wife asked herself.

          “You know I can’t really say that I’m sure.” Her husband answered, gently putting an arm out in front of her. “But I also can’t really say I feel like letting you find out what his idea of the first date is.”

          As the rat continued his advance, the fox husband drew out numerous plans of action on his mental chalkboard. While he’d always had an annoying flair for the extravagant, he did know that the simpler the better when it came to things where dazzlement wasn’t exactly the priority. Ultimately he just decided that his shoes should be thick enough. He’d just punt the little guy if it came down to it.

          It didn’t come down to it, however. Instead, the rat’s romantically rhythmic advance was abruptly halted by someone’s heavy jacket being thrown on top of him, covering him over entirely.

          “Say? Who turned out the lights?” The rat asked.

          Instead of an answer, the owner of the jacket, which both foxes now saw was a thick, fly-fisherman’s jacket, dropped down to hold the jacket taught to the ground, keeping the rat trapped beneath it. The fox husband dropped himself to aid the mammal, who turned out to be—

          “Kylie?” The fox was a bit surprised to see his oddly named opossum friend. Oddly named for a guy, at least.

          “I was in the area.” The opossum’s entire demeanor was as simple as ever.

          “Well, you always do seem to be available whenever everybody needs you most.” The fox responded with some suppressed admiration.

          Kylie just shrugged with his eyes completely still.

           “Perfect timing.” The fox complimented his friend again, before looking back to his wife. “Honey, would you mind—” He found her with her phone already held up to her ear, on the line with 911. “Great, quick thinking!” He turned back to his friend then, just as the rat they had trapped decided he was just going to slice his way back out to the sun. “You think this thing’ll last until the cops get here?”

           “It’s got a steel mesh inner lining.” Kylie answered him.

           While not quite enough to trigger his more signature, mouth-open shock response, the revelation of his friend’s reinforced fishing jacket did get some visible surprise out of the middle-aged fox.

           “What?” Kylie asked, genuinely not getting the surprise. “I’m an opossum. We grow up in rough neighborhoods.”

           “Well,” a completely different fox remarked about the rat from his view high up in the Ferris Wheel, “I supposed he was the most disappointing one of the bunch.”

           He perused the entire story playing out below him. Two officers were occupied leading a finally-restrained sloth away, reluctant to even remotely touch him. Another, that white wolf, had received a puma as her backup. They had worked together to roll the obscenely fat assailant from earlier over onto his stomach, and were now joining several pairs of cuffs together to enable the restraint of his arms as behind his back as they could get them. Tazzy Taz was whirling and twirling, tornadoing forward through a now-vacated lane of rides and fair booths. More than a dozen other officers were now running into the park, while several more were emerging from newly-arrived cruisers in the parking lot. But still no sign of young Nicholas!

           No matter. They still had more to offer!

           Back down below, the last untouched vestige of the park, the final bastion of would-be sanity, was about to be lost. In one of those small tents where exhibits were usually held, one in particular where attendees could pay to go in and see a sentient reptile, two zebra kids had entered to find . . . not a sentient reptile. Somehow neither had noticed the frightened tanuki fleeing out from under the side of the tent just before they’d walked in, fake scales and other pieces of his flawless costume falling away as he’d run. Instead, they’d gone inside unaware, and now stood looking upon a large wooden cage cut from a live-cargo shipping crate. Inside, curled as close to a ball as he could be, the only way he could fit, was a rhino smiling back at them a little too intensely. He was shirtless, with a pair of what had to be seatbelts wrapped over from each shoulder to form a X on his torso. And, with the busted half of a cinder block secured to his head like some aberration of a helmet.

           “Hey!” One of the kids complained. “You’re not a talking reptile!”

           “Na,” the rhino answered, “Ah’m the Juggernaut!”

           The enormous mammal burst the wooden enclosure apart, sending wood flying and two zebra children running out screaming.

           Their mother was heading towards the tent herself, on her way to grab them and leave now that she’d become aware of all the various happenings going on around them. Instead, she found them running towards her in terror. Kneeling down to their level, she began to ask what was going on, but what was going on went ahead and revealed itself instead.

           “HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” The Juggernaut crashed out from the tent, busting straight through one of its support poles and leaving the whole thing to collapse in his wake. His yell seemed unending as he charged forward step after ground-shaking step. The zebra mother pulled herself and her kids from his path just in time, all three falling back to watch the rhino go lumbering past.

            The Juggernaut kept going, running headlong without a single flinch right into the flimsy wall of one carnival booth, and then another, and then another, and then another. A line of sight was left completely open from one end of the row to the other, each and every built-in-an-hour booth and game wall now having a vaguely bipedal rhino shaped hole in it.

            At the other end where he emerged, a certain fox and hyena officer were in the midst of hauling away the naked, formerly-dancing sloth. The process of such was interrupted first by the two of them, and even the mammal under their arrest, detecting the mild earthshakes as each of his steps grew closer, and then of course by the incredulous shock when a massive rhino burst through a nearby wall dressed like a villain from a B-rate superhero movie. They watched the juggernaut take a few seconds pause to breathe, just as violently as all of his prior actions.

            “Hey-eyyy man,” the sloth apparently couldn’t keep himself from a remark, “looks like ten-ton trombone could go for a nice Dry Ice bath back at the springs.”

            The comment caught the rhino’s attention, and despite his not actually having clearly heard any of the words within it, it caused him to once again initiate the only form of action that he allowed of his existence. “You’re about to find out what happens!” He declared just before he began his charge.

           “What happens when what?” The plush on the fox officer’s belt asked.

           “Not the time Wallace!” His owner answered.

           “HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!” The Juggernaut began barreling toward them, leaving the two second-year cops with just a few seconds to figure something out. They could split one way or the other, try to drag the former hypnotic dancer with them in either direction. Maybe they just heave him out of the way and then each dive for it at the last possible instant. Or perhaps, the option on the hyena’s mind at least, they could just let the sloth get what was likely coming to him one anyways. But then again, she was already probably in trouble still.

            Just before they would have had to select an option, however, an alternative choice was suddenly made for them. A large lion, one of the park’s ordinary security officers, came in from the side and with great effort managed to sweep The Juggernaut up from the ground with his own momentum, and transformed the entire motion in a suplex maneuver on the rhino. One more time, the very Earth shook, this time from the delivery of the enormous mammal into it, instead of from him rumbling across it.

            Carla, the hyena officer, knew the lion. She recognized him the moment he stood back up. And she was, well, her reaction wasn’t exactly on the pleasant, side. More just on the Carla side. “You? Seriously?”

            The lion dusted off his paws together in the old stereotypical that takes care of that motion. “El Orgullo’s luchadore past serves him well.”

            “You guys know each other?” The fox asked.

            “Regrettably.” His partner answered.

            “Cackles!” The lion seemed slightly more upbeat at recognizing her than she did him.

            “Don’t push it.” Was her response greeting.

            “Nice to know all her friends get the same chummy treatment at least.” Wallace commented, with no visible movement from any actual mammal’s face or mouth, giving El Orgullo just a slight bit of uncertain pause for a moment.

            “What are you doing here?” Carla asked the lion.

            “El Orgullo applied for various positions as keeper of security.” He answered. “He first sought just as you did to join the ZPD and champion JUSTICE throughout the city! But El Orgullo was not given a passing evaluation by the gatekeeper of mental health.”

             Carla looked . . . brain-flattened, if that was a real term. Something beyond just incredulous at least. “They managed to turn down you, but somehow let them through?” The creeping insanity of her actually acknowledging Wallace as a separate entity from Jimmy only dawned on her after the words had left.

           “Maybe the department psychologist just isn’t a massive PLUSHIST like someone we know!” The little stuffed toy gave a snide explanation.

           “Hyenandez! Frost!” Everyone’s, minus the unconscious juggernaut, attention was drawn over to Francine, an elephant ZPD officer rushing over to them. “What’s . . .” she looked over to the incapacitated rhino lying on the ground in his crudely-made x-mammal costume, “this?”

           “Not a question anyone’s gonna have an answer for.” Carla more remarked at the whole thing herself, rather than really replied.

            Another shriek prevented the asking of any potential other questions by the elephant, and everyone looked just in time to see a creepy-eyed kangaroo leap into the air clutching one of his fellow species members by the throat, and then slam him down into a carnival ooze dunk-tank, followed right after by wombat sliding in from around the corner holding a replica announcer microphone.

            “Down-Under Taker with the CHOKE SLAM!” He declared to his . . . audience, with intensity.

            Francine just stared at the whole thing for a moment, before she finally managed to re-form her mind’s ability to process reality. She turned to her much smaller colleagues just to give them the simple instruction. “Take the sloth to any of the empty cruisers. I’ll deal with whatever this is supposed to be.” She stopped for moment, looking down at the unconscious rhino she realized she’d momentarily forgotten. “And that.”

             Carla and Jimmy made no complaints or attempts to refuse. They followed their sergeant’s orders quite readily, and finally hauled the nude sloth away from sight.

             Meanwhile, high up on the ferris wheel still, that sharp-dressed, dapper-mannered fox continued to overlook them all. Well-satisfied with his work, but still not yet satisfied with its outcome.

             “Where IS he where IS HE?” He asked no one, pacing back and forth across the meager space he had available. “He HAS to come! Doesn’t he? I can’t simply be made to look the fool by the paws of chance?”

              Just then, movement in the parking lot drew his eyes to the fourteenth and fifteenth pairs of ZPD cars to arrive. And as he gazed down, desperately baiting out each possible second . . . he finally showed! Out of one of the most recent cars, a dumb heckling bunny emerged, and from the other side, a dashing, uniformed fox after his own image.

              “HaHA! Young Nicholas!” The maddening thrill that overcame the cane-wielding fox certainly would have terrorized any mammal in a right state of mind. Granted, there weren’t exactly any of those left around here.

              Down below, while a certain Tasmanian devil spun and spun and spun, somehow immune to any sense of equilibrium imbalance, one of the only dingo officers on the ZPD was readying himself on one side, while a pair of his civilian friend’s he’d unexpectedly ran into stood on the madmammal’s other to assist him.

              “We got yer back, Trevah!” A fellow dingo promised him, standing beside his own kangaroo friend, both looking perhaps a little too eager for a fight.

              “Huhuhuhehehahuhuhweheheh!” The spinning creature finally stopped himself for a second, spotting the civilian pair first, and focusing on the male kangaroo, who’d inexplicably ripped off his shirt. “Wllway! What whuappened to yor fpouch?” The tazzy asked.

              Both the civilian and ZPD dingo immediately became alarmed, and their kangaroo friend went dead-eyed.

              And thus the whacky taz was rendered unconscious, and an otherwise-sane kangaroo ended up needing to be restrained.

              ZPD’s fox and bunny pair, meanwhile, raced into the mixed fairground and amusement park, just in time initially to pass by one of their colleagues holding a bundled fly-fisherman’s jacket that was swinging and wriggling, as a creepy voice came from some tiny mammal clearly restrained inside, muttered something about fearing the smallest things in life. And then seeing Francine dragging an unconscious rhino off, with McHorn nearby carrying a knocked-out kangaroo over one shoulder, and a wombat over the other, with the smaller of the two’s paw still clutching onto a fake wrestling announcer mic. They were just about to decide which still-ongoing showcase of amusement they wanted to assist their fellow officers with, when the ferris wheel they’d stopped beside began to move.

              The Imperial March from Star Wars suddenly played across the park’s loudspeakers as the mastermind of it all stood atop his ferris wheel cart, casually being lowered down to them as the ride turned.

              “Whatta ya know?” Nick mocked to his partner. “Looks like we’re gonna be bringing in another theater and film student.”

               Judy just let out something halfway between a groan and a huff as her eyes rolled. “Alright!” She shouted to the descending dapperfox. “Sir, for your own safety first all, get down from—”

              “Nicholas!” The madfox cut her off, not even giving her any attention. “HaHA! I was growing worried you wouldn’t show, but here you are! What do you think? Quite a nifty birthday surprise from your old man eh? I’ve been kept from giving you the kind of celebrations you deserve for so long, but no more! It’s me! It’s your one and only DAD!” He threw his arms wide open, tophat in one paw and theatrical cane in the other, and lastly proceeded to leap off the cart, performing a half-decent flip in the air before failing at a superhero landing. But in the end, he stood right up, smiling, beaming really, placing his tophat back on his head and pulling down to straighten out his suit.

              Judy had lifted her weapon once he’d made his leap, wielding only a taser. Nick usually covered her with lethal whenever they faced an armed threat, simply because an actual firearm was just a bit too heavy for the bunny to carry around constantly. Now she herself actually admitting as much, that would never be something anyone would ever hear in their lifetime. But, while in the present situation he would only be fronting the same non-lethal weapon as her. When she darted her eyes his way for a brief glance, however, she saw nothing raised.

              Instead, she saw his arms slowly falling, and when she actually turned for a real look, she saw his ears slowly slipping down as well, and his face . . .

             “Nick?” She’d never seen him look like that . . .

             “I bet you weren’t expecting something this extravagant were ya son?” The madfox drew attention back to himself. “You have no idea how lost I was on just what kind of marvelous display you deserved. I spent minutes, hours, days, weeksmonthsyears! Thinking, concocting, devising this great arrangement to get you out here. And now you’re finally here!” The aging fox’s giddiness was quite tangibly genuine, and perhaps that might have been the most unnerving part of it. He tapped his cane on the ground and its top immediately popped off, spraying confetti and very brief sparklers into the air.

             The action caused Judy to hop back, almost firing at him even. But Nick . . .

            “Too much of a letdown?” The older fox asked, staring down at his now-busted cane before looking back up to his son. “I tried to get some actual fireworks in there, but it just wasn’t going to work.” He waited a few seconds, sinking a bit as his son’s face didn’t change. “But don’t you worry! I got you presents! AND a cake!” He proceeded with his efforts.

            “Nick?” Judy didn’t even tell the madmammal to freeze when he made his new move. She was still too focused on . . . what was wrong with Nick? This . . . no, this guy . . . there’s no way this guy was actually Nick’s dad, was he? Nick's dead was dead. That's what Nick said. That's what his mom said . . .

            The fox who was indeed Nick’s dad had rustled into his former ferris wheel cart for a moment, returning then with a jumble of perfectly-wrapped presents, and Nick’s favorite cake. Really. It was. It was Nick’s favorite cake, that one he’d seen as a kid in the grocery store bakery display and always wanted. His dad had made his own little addition even, adding the same number of candles as his son’s age, and having arranged them into a pattern to read “# 1” if one looked down on the cake from above.

            “Here! Open the first one!” His dad handed him the first present, which Nick’s paws received, just out of basic reflex. But he didn’t open it. Instead, the younger fox just stood there, staring hollowly back at the one who’d given it to him. His dad’s face was holding its celebratory demeanor, but the pull of emotional gravity was beginning to make itself known. “Did you want to open it together?” He put forth an answer for himself as to why his son was just standing there. “Alright, here we go!”

            Nick just held the birthday gift as his dad tore it open. It was a custom-design shirt, and a rather fancy-fabric one at that. It had a wash of deep, dark and darker blues, and the bright lettering: “The Scouts didn’t Deserve Me.”

            “Pretty neato eh?” His dad said, before shifting to another. “Oh! You’re gonna love this one!”

            The second was revealed to be a tie, one with a very unique design. On the wider portion near the bottom of it was . . . Nick’s face, or rather a split image of it. Split right down the center, one half of his face was his casual self, green shirt, regular shades and all; while the other was his officer self, uniform, ZPD aviators and all. And both sides bore his inherent smugness. Above each half of his face, ascending the tie was stylized lettering, one half reading “Law” and the other reading “Swag.”

            Suddenly the older fox leaned much closer to his son, whispering instead of proudly declaring as he had been doing. “And this one’s gotta be a secret from little twitchy over there till you’re right and ready. I wasn’t sure what either of your tastes might be, but I hope it’ll do.”

            Nick just stood there as his dad sneakily slipped an engagement ring box into his son’s uniform pocket.

           “Wilde! Get back!” Other officers’ voices suddenly materialized as some of their coworkers were now running over.

           “Nick!” Judy finally found the wherewithal to at least yell out again.

           Nick’s dad looked alarmed at first, but then it just dissipated into . . . genuine . . . sad, disappointment? “But we haven’t even lit and blown out the candles!”

           “Wilde!” Someone else yelled. “Get back!”

           Nick moved. He finally did move again after all that time, but it wasn’t quickly. He just turned, rotating himself one-eighty, and walking away.

           “Nick?” Judy asked once more as he passed her by, eyes still hollow.

           The other officers, and few mental ward workers rushed forward toward his dad the moment Nick was clear. And his dad, for his part, played his part.

          “Oh, no!” His acting was just as overdramatic as one might have expected if familiar with his son’s antics. “You’ve stopped my dastardly plan!”

          “Nick!?” Judy broke off from the scene and started following her partner instead.

          He kept walking, without even looking back. “I have to talk to my mom.”