Chapter 1: First Blood
Target: Male Raccoon
Occupation: Reporter for ZNN
Location: Downtown Zootopia
The Assassin, a male predator, sat on the top of a building, looking down below at the streets. He pulled his eyes away briefly to the open manila folder in his paws that contained a picture of a male raccoon. The raccoon is a renowned reporter for the Zootopia News Network, but he also carries a dark secret. The reporter is a member of the Templar Order and as a result, the Assassin marked him for death. But simply being a Templar was not the only reason. The Assassin learned of the raccoon's current investigation that warranted intervention. If the reporter were to the discovery, the Assassin, along with Zootopia, would be doomed. After days of tracking the target and making preparations, the circumstances were finally ripe. According to the schedule the Assassin procured, the raccoon is to be at his current location tonight. Finishing one last review, he closed the folder and waited patiently for the target to arrive.
At 12:08 AM, the raccoon finally appeared, and the Assassin climbed down from the building. On the ground, he began tailing the Templar from a safe distance. Night gave the Assassin a better environment to work in but made tails more difficult with almost no mammals around for him to hide in. Extra precautions were also taken since the Templar is also a nocturnal mammal. During the tail, a red light intersection forced the Assassin to stop briefly, but it lessened the chance of him being discovered. The light finally turned green for his lane a minute later and the Assassin crossed to the other side. In the middle of the intersection, lights shined brightly on him and he heard the sound of a screeching vehicle growing louder by the second. He snapped his head in the direction of the lights and sound to see a police cruiser fast approaching, trying to brake. The cruiser managed to stop just in time, almost hitting the Assassin.
A female voice was immediately heard from the cruiser. "Sorry about that!"
A male voice came soon after. "Me too. My partner wasn't focusing on the road!"
The Assassin raised his paw up to signal he was okay. "No worries!"
While walking away, he heard a conversation from inside the cruiser about the near collision with a pedestrian before the officers drove away. The Assassin smirked and chuckled at what he could hear but remained focus on the mission. Despite wanting to remain silent, not responding to the police would have drawn suspicion. Thankfully, the encounter did not scare off the raccoon. He hoped it caused the reporter to let his guard down by thinking the police stopped him for suspicious behavior. Eventually, the raccoon paused to check his current location. The Assassin stood across the street from him and feigned a phone call with his cell to avoid suspicion. The raccoon then entered a nearby alley and the Assassin soon followed.
At the alley entrance, he saw the reporter kneeling down to investigate the ground he stood on. While checking, the raccoon discovered a hidden sewer cover from knocking on the ground. Seizing the opportunity and realizing how close the Templar was to making the discovery, the Assassin quietly approached the raccoon and flicked his wrist, a blade appearing from the sleeve. Engulfed in his search, the reporter was unaware of the incoming danger as the distance closed between the two predators. When the raccoon stood up, he was suddenly seized from behind and felt a paw cover his mouth. Before the Templar could struggle, he grunted and felt something sharp enter his back abdominal area. The Assassin immediately released the raccoon and calmly stepped back with the blade covered in blood. The reporter grabbed his wound, gasping in pain as he had trouble standing up.
"I warned you to stay away and gave you ample reason to do so," The Assassin said. "You left me no choice."
"What difference would that make?" The raccoon said, breathing heavily from the wound as he clutched it. "You would have come after me regardless. Am I right?"
The Assassin remained silent.
"I thought so. I was never afraid of you, Assassin. I faced danger and threats throughout my career. The only difference was that you actually fulfilled your threat. I commend you for that."
"Even in low numbers, the Assassins are still a force to reckon with. It only takes one."
"You cannot stop the truth from getting out. All of Zootopia will know what happened here tonight, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. You ironically helped me complete my last mission."
The Assassin leaned down closer to the Templar. "I'm not trying to stop the truth. I do this to send a message, to your Order and to Zootopia. This is only the beginning."
The predator watched the raccoon stumble out of the alley, weakly calling for help before encountering a female mink and falling over dead in front of her. The mink screamed at the sight and in a panic, saw the Assassin in the alley. She quickly hid nearby and reached for her phone to dial the police.
"911, what's your emergency?" The dispatcher answered.
"Hello...police?" Her breathing was heavy and frantic. "Someone's been murdered...and I think I'm next!"
"Calm down ma'am. What is happening now?"
She slowed her breathing enough to respond. "I'm currently hiding nearby the murder scene, but I don't know how long I'll be safe. Please send help right away! "
"Stay calm. Can you give us your location?"
The mink relayed her location.
"We're sending officers right away, ma'am. Stay hidden and remain on the line. Let us know if anything else happens."
The mink took a deep breath before responding. "Okay."
She remained calm and quiet but still fearful for her life. Moments passed and nothing else happened. The mink wondered why the Assassin did not pursue her since she witnessed the crime. Knowing the risks, the mink took a deep breath and looked in the alley. To her surprise and relief, the Assassin was gone.
Under the sewer cover, said mammal descended down the ladder into the tunnel and followed it to a dead end, hearing the incoming sirens on the way. There, the Assassin removed a block from the side wall to reveal a keyhole. He inserted the blade in the hole and jiggled until a mechanical noise sounded. The wall in front of him descended to reveal the hidden secret: a secret hideout. The wall hid the entrance after the Assassin entered. Inside, he walked to a board where pictures of Templars were posted all over Zootopia. With a marker, he crossed out the image of the raccoon reporter. At the computers, the Assassin accessed the traffic cameras to the location of the murder and the footage revealed the ZPD already on the scene. Sitting back in the chair, he sighed and watched the situation unfold.
"There's no turning back now."
Chapter 2: The Message
Slowly moving the rest of this story over from FF. I did my best to edit the chapter without changing too much of the original.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
In Zootopia, anyone can be anything. But for a long time, the city did not always abide by that motto. The Night Howlers crisis exposed that reality and in the aftermath, the city launched a campaign to repair the damages caused by the crisis. Leading the efforts Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde, the first bunny and the first fox officers on the force. Through their successes, Zootopia was truly becoming a place where anyone can be anything. The fear and prejudice against predators were frowned upon but still lingered. But when they lose ground in one area, they find another to be expressed. The issue itself and its lasting damages must be solved and healed over time with great effort.
To maintain the recent peace and prosperity and exemplify its motto, a corporation was established to have mammals come together and make technological and scientific advancements for the benefit of Zootopia. Naturally, a predator and prey were the founders and serve as the CEO and COO. The two named the corporation Depolitio, meaning perfection, for the purpose of perfecting the city. Within three years of its existence, the corporation became successful and the city blossomed.
Meanwhile, Judy and Nick's lives have changed for the better since that fateful encounter at the ice cream shop. Foiling Bellwether's plot and Nick joining the ZPD solidified their friendship. The two enjoyed their time as police partners and became the best duo on the force, using their combined skills and knowledge to solve numerous cases. Despite the popularity, Judy and Nick remained humble and preferred living the normal life; satisfied with breaking their own species' stereotypes.
Judy andNick wrapped up another case and reported their success to Chief Bogo. They sat in the same chair in front of the buffalo while he looked over their recent accomplishment.
Bogo finally placed down the documents down and removed his reading glasses. "Hopps, Wilde, congratulations. Another case solved and another job well done. There was no doubt in my mind of your capabilities."
"Thank you, Chief." Judy smiled.
"Anything else you have for us?" Nick asked.
"One last thing: you can either perform nighttime patrol or fill out your reports for this case."
A smirk appeared on Nick's face when hearing the options. "Hmm, it is a difficult choice. Be stuck in a cubicle doing paperwork or be stuck in a cruiser while taking in the nightlife."
Bogo huffed. "Keep that up and you'll end up on parking duty. I'm sure you two share fond memories of it." He continued to glare at him as Nick kept a straight face.
Judy shook her head. Dumb Fox. While outwardly annoyed at Nick's endeavor to get on Bogo's nerves, she secretly enjoyed his wit because it brightens her day whenever she was feeling down.
"We'll go on patrol, Chief," Judy said. "We could use a break from these cases."
"Very well, here's the area. You can turn in your reports tomorrow morning before noon." Chief Bogo assigned them the location. "Now get out."
Judy quickly jumped off the chair and yanked Nick out of the office before he could respond. The sudden pull caused Nick to yelp. Once they were walking away, Nick yanked his arm out of Judy's grip and started massaging it.
"Ow! What was that for?!"
"Because the last thing I need is for you to push too many of the Chief's buttons. Again."
His smirk returned. "Does he have a self-destruct button?"
She closed her eyes and shook her head. "Let's just go already."
They exited the building and went to their police cruiser. Judy and Nick entered the vehicle and drove to their assigned location. The two arrived and began their patrol.
"Another day at the office." She said.
Nick leaned against the window. "Yep, but I don't mind if the city becomes quiet for a while."
His comment caused Judy raised her eyebrow. "Oh, getting bored of being a police officer now?"
"No, but these recent cases haven't brought much excitement. Don't get me wrong. We take on some excellent ones, but the Night Howlers did set the bar a little high. It just would be nice to solve another big mystery again."
"I feel you, but sadly those cases are few and far. Especially with how well the city is currently."
"Such a shame." Nick pulled out a pawpsicle and licked the frozen treat.
There were small differences between the day and night patrols. At night, crime increased slightly with fewer witnesses around and are harder to detect under the cover of darkness for officers without night vision or other strong senses.
During Judy and Nick's patrol, there was currently little action going on. Soon, boredom began to overtake Nick and he let out a loud groan.
"Honestly," The fox said. "I thought patrolling at night would at least be different from the day. I'd rather be doing paperwork back at the office right now."
"Aren't you foxes nocturnal?" Judy said. "This is normally when you are active."
"Yes, but normally I'm doing something else with my night."
"You agreed to do this remember?"
Nick smiled mischievously, deciding to have a little fun with Judy to alleviate the boredom. "No, you agreed for us if I recall correctly. I had no say in the matter."
That made Judy upset and caused her to be distracted while driving. "Honestly Nick, I can't believe the nerve of you saying---"
"Watch out!" Nick yelled, quickly sitting up and pointing in front of them.
Judy snapped her head forward to see a mammal crossing the street. She immediately hit the brakes, causing the police cruiser to skid and barely missing the mammal at the last second. The two officers hurriedly rolled their windows down to check the pedestrian.
"Sorry about that!" Judy apologized.
"Me too. My partner wasn't focusing on the road!" Nick yelled.
"No worries!" A male voice responded and safely crossed the street.
"Carrots if you're trying to prove the notion of bunnies being bad drivers wrong, you sure are doing a terrible job at it."
Judy let out a loud growl at his remark and punched Nick's shoulder hard.
"OW!" Nick grabbed his shoulder to massage the pain and was met with Judy's glare.
"You were distracting me so that means you were responsible as well!" The bunny yelled.
"Hey, you should be thanking me for spotting the mammal! Otherwise, this night would have been disastrous!"
Judy groaned and plopped her head on the steering wheel. "Nicholas Wilde, I swear you are the worst!"
Nick simply smirked while reclining in the seat. "I know, but that's why you like working with me."
Judy's anger slowly faded from Nick's humor and she couldn't help smiling. The bunny knew that he liked teasing her. Yet despite trying to anticipate him, she still falls for it. "Alright, I admit this would have disastrous had you not warned me."
"And I probably went too far with my words," Nick conceded. "I blame the boredom that overcame me."
"No doubt. At least something exciting happened during our patrol."
"I don't deny that."
The two continued their patrol and took turns driving when one got sleepy until completing their rounds. On the return trip to the Precinct, the cruiser's radio went off. "All units, all units, please respond. We have a 187." The night shift dispatcher gave the location of the police code in Downtown.
"187? Homicide?" Nick said.
"We were just in that area too." Judy picked up the radio and responded to the call. "This is Officer Hopps accompanied by Officer Wilde. We are en route."
Judy turned the cruiser around and sped to the location of the homicide. Upon their arrival, officers had already closed off the area. While approaching the crime scene, Nick and Judy heard their names being called and saw an officer motioning for them. The two quickly walked over to the officer.
"What is it?" Judy asked.
"Chief wants you two to do the sweep until forensics arrive. He says he'll make the assignments tomorrow but wants an initial investigation done immediately."
The two nodded and entered the crime scene where they saw Chief Bogo waiting for them.
"Chief, what do we have?" Judy asked.
"The victim is a male raccoon. He has a small but fatal wound in his back. We suspect it was a sneak attack from inside the alley but have no further details. There is a female mink who saw the crime and called it in."
"Can we see the raccoon?" Judy asked.
Chief pointed in the direction. "Right over there."
Judy and Nick saw the body lying face down near the wall. With forensics still on their way, the body was exposed for them to see. They saw the wound and blood stain upon closer inspection. Despite seeing more gruesome sights, Judy never got fully desensitized from seeing a corpse and cringed at the sight. Nick, though, had seen corpses on occasion during his hustler days whenever deals go south or betrayal occurs. Compared to others, this was mild for him.
"Wow," Judy said in astonishment. "You wouldn't even notice until it was too late."
"That's the point," Nick said. "This type of murder is meant to be committed unnoticed."
"But it doesn't explain why the culprit would leave the victim out in the open."
"Chief does suspect the crime occurring in the alley so the intention may have for it to remain hidden. Unfortunately for the culprit, it failed spectacularly."
Judy and Nick then visited the mink, who was currently with the Chief. Bogo was trying to calm the mink but with no success. He turned around to see Judy and Nick approaching and the citizens gathering around the scene.
"Hopps, Wilde, will you please take her witness statement. I have to keep the crowds away."
"Sure thing Chief," Nick said.
Bogo then left Judy and Nick with the mink.
Judy knelt down in front of the mink and spoke in an assuring tone. "Ma'am, I know this was very hard for you to experience, but we can't help unless you tell us what you saw."
The mink still had difficulty calming down.
"Maybe a pawpsicle will help?" Nick offered.
Judy snapped her head at him. "Nick!"
But the mink meekly grabbed the pawpsicle and took a few licks, eventually calming down.
"See, I told you," Nick smirked as he pulled out his old pawpsicle. "I'm going to check the body again in case we missed anything."
Judy glared at him before focusing back on the mink. "Will you be able to tell us what happened now?" She had her notepad and carrot pen ready to write down the information.
The mink took a deep breath but still stared at the ground. "I was walking to my home when I passed by the alley. The raccoon suddenly stumbled out and grabbed me, asking for help before collapsing on the sidewalk." The mink became more frantic as she continued. "When I saw the blood on his back, I got scared!"
Judy noticed the sudden behavior change. "Shhh, relax. Did you see anything else? Perhaps the mammal responsible?"
She took a deep breath and slowly calmed down. "I looked in the alley and saw the killer. Standing there. Watching me. I quickly hid and called the police, but I was still in danger for being a witness. When the mammal didn't appear, I took the risk to check. I just had to know why the killer didn't pursue me. Fortunately, the mammal was gone."
"That was very brave of you." Judy complimented, placing a paw on the mink's shoulder. "Can you describe the appearance? This will help with the investigation."
"I couldn't see well since it was dark, but from where I was looking, the mammal appeared to be medium sized, was wearing a hood, and had a long tail."
Judy wrote down the crucial details. "Anything else you can tell us?"
She shook her head.
Judy stood back up. "Thank you for your cooperation, ma'am. We'll find out who did this. Keep the pawpsicle."
She went to Nick who was inspecting the body. "She didn't say specific, but there are enough details to narrow down the list. Did you find anything?"
Nick held out his treat. "Hold my pawpsicle."
Judy took the frozen snack while Nick puts on a glove and carefully padded down the body.
Moments later, he pulled out a white feather stained with blood from the location of the wound. "An odd place for a feather to be. How often do you see birds in Zootopia?"
Judy vehemently shook her head, "No, that's impossible! The mink said she saw a mammal with a long tail."
"Then this must the culprit's mark."
"If so, then why? What's the point of doing that?"
"I don't know." Nick puts the feather in an evidence bag. "But we should be careful."
Judy suddenly had a terrifying thought. "Nick, you don't think that mammal we almost hit on our patrol earlier could be the culprit? The mink described seeing a hood and a long tail. We saw those two features on that mammal."
Nick pondered her words until his ears lowered from that thought. "I hope not. But what are the chances?"
The forensics team finally arrived to perform a proper analysis. Nick handed over the feather to the team, who were grateful for the officer's caution and care. The ZPD and forensics finished the investigation and cleaned up the crime scene. The body was moved to the morgue and all the evidence was taken back to the station. Because the crime occurred late at night and most officers had already gone home, Chief Bogo decided to make the announcement tomorrow morning.
Judy and Nick entered Precinct One the next morning, ready to solve last night's murder. With a few minutes to spare before roll call, they stopped for a chat with their favorite cheetah at the reception desk, who had just consumed another doughnut.
"Morning Clawhauser!" Judy greeted.
He heard her voice and turned to them. "Hey you two! How are you both doing?"
"Ready to tackle the crime from last night!" She said enthusiastically.
"Oh yeah, I heard about that. Chief was not happy being called out before clocking out."
"Well," Nick said amusingly. "It looks I have competition on who can get on the Chief's nerves."
Judy rolled her eyes. "Come on, we have to get to the bullpen before we're late and upset him even more. Catch you later Ben!"
"Nice talking to you both!" Clawhauser said, waving at them.
Inside the bullpen, the officers were discussing last night's murder. Judy and Nick quietly sat in their seat and listened to the conversations around them. Some voicing their excitement while others voicing the concerns. The chatter finally stopped when Chief Bogo entered the room. The officers sat in silence as he walked up to the podium, given the seriousness of the crime.
"Alright. As you know by now, there was a murder committed last night. Currently, the body is at the morgue for identification. Unfortunately, there was little evidence recovered to identify the culprit but there are still have enough to work with. Thanks to Officer Wilde, we now have an important lead that will bring the culprit to justice."
Nick smiled. "Why thank you Chief. It's nice of you to recognize an officer's contribution."
"I'll take that as a compliment."
While not the reaction he wanted, Nick still considered it a win-win.
Bogo revealed a picture of the blood-stained feather. "This feather was found on the victim. Forensics is currently analyzing for its origins. Though I doubt they'll find anything conclusive about the culprit since it's the victim's blood on the feather. Again, we still have something to work with. Given the circumstances, there are several tasks that must be completed before we can properly take action against the mammal. For now, it will be the usual assignments. While doing so, I want you to contain the growing panic. This incident has already received enough publicity as it is. " He put on his reading glasses.
"Fangmeyer and Delgato. Robbery incident at a store in Downtown."
The tigress and lion retrieve their file and left the room.
"Grizzoli and Wolfard. Street racers near a university."
The two Timberwolves did the same.
"Higgins and Snarlof. Car accident in Savanna Central."
The rest of the officers got either patrol or other assignments. After they left, only Bogo, Nick, and Judy were left alone in the bullpen. The fox and the bunny already suspecting what their assignments would be.
"Alright Chief," Judy said. "What do we need to do?"
"Glad you asked Wilde," Bogo flipped a page on the clipboard. "You need to compile a list of suspects from the given descriptions. Retrieve the results from forensics. And finally, check the footage from the traffic cams for additional evidence."
Nick let out a long whistle. "We got our work cut out for us."
"Indeed," Bogo said. "Someone mammal's trying to leave a mark. We'll make sure it's on the ZPD records. Dismissed."
Bogo was out of the room, leaving Nick and Judy behind.
"Did he just try to crack a joke?" Nick asked, exasperated.
"Don't know. Don't care," Judy said, not wanting to waste time. "Let's get to work.
Judy and Nick first checked the footage of the crime scene for more clues to the culprit. Judy searched through the traffic cams while Nick stood by and watched.
"Here we go," Judy said as she found the traffic camera and played it. "Now to see what we can find."
Night made it difficult to make out clear images. The footage revealed the raccoon coming into view and entering the alley. The culprit then appeared, crossing the street and into the alley. There was no action until the moment when the mink encountered the raccoon. The culprit did not come out from the alley the entire recording.
"Strange," Judy said. "Forensics didn't find any trace of the culprit during the investigation."
"That's the mark of a professional right there," Nick said. "Getting away with murder is no easy task, especially around a witness. I'm surprised our assailant here didn't come after her."
"Do you know or see anyone like that?"
Nick shook his head. "These mammals are well hidden. The only reason you encounter them is because you attracted someone's attention or theirs."
"I can't imagine what the raccoon did to deserve this." She turned her attention back to the screen. "Hopefully we discover something important."
Judy rewinded the footage for the best possible angle of the culprit. Once the image was found, she zoomed in on the culprit, but the hood kept the features well hidden outside the witness's description.
"It's no good," Judy said. "We can't see anything with the hood on."
"Not exactly," Nick pointed to the figure. "Look at the outfit. It's not your standard hoodie. The hood is attached to the rest of the attire. It could be a trench coat or a robe."
Judy looked at the attire and understood Nick. "You're right. If we can get a closer look at the attire, we can find out the manufacturer."
"That's where our footage comes in."
"Let me find our dashboard cam." She pulled up a different tab and searched through footage until finding theirs.
"Okay, let's see if it's our mammal," Judy said.
They watched until the moment of the near collision. Judy and Nick saw the mammal jump backwards as a precaution from almost being hit.
"Wow, I'm impressed that we didn't hit him," Nick said.
"Now for a better look," Judy said while zooming in. "We just need to see the appearance."
The lights from the cruiser revealed much of the appearance and confirmed the similarities.
"The appearances definitely match," Nick said. "Can we assume we let a crime-in-progress occur?"
Judy slowly began to panic and her nose started twitching. "Calm down Judy. Other mammals could be dressed the same. Just need to see where this one goes."
She returned to the traffic cameras and browsed for their cruiser. After locating it, they followed it until the encounter. From there, they followed the mammal, hoping to deny their worst suspicions.
Judy's eyes widened when the mammal entered the alley at the crime scene. "We just let a crime-in-progress occur."
"Come on Carrots. How could we have known?"
Judy remained frozen, staring at the screen."Chief Bogo is not going to like this."
Nick turned her face to him, wanting to reassure her. "Hey Judy, look at me. Chief Bogo doesn't need to about this okay?"
Judy immediately snapped out of her trance and nodded. "R-right. He doesn't."
"That's my partner." He released her face. "Now where were we?"
"We were going to check the attire for the manufacturer."
Judy returned to the still image of the culprit on their dash cam. The two inspected the attire for anything significant.
Judy became frustrated. "Ugh! He backed away just enough to avoid us seeing any logo!"
"Again, not all is lost." Nick pointed to the figure again. "Look at the clothing style. Where in Zootopia do you find one of those?"
Judy looked at the frame and realized the same thing. "Nowhere, so it must be custom made. If we can get a sample of the material,"
"We can track down whoever is making them."
Judy looked at Nick with admiration. "Clever fox."
"Why thank you. And don't forget. We know the gender too, remember?"
Judy remembered hearing the mammal speak in a male voice when they apologized. "Perfect! Now we can begin identifying the suspects."
"You get started on that. I'll run by forensics to see if the results are ready."
Judy nodded and got to work while Nick left to get the results. A short time later, the fox returned to their office. Judy heard Nick approaching and turned around to see him with a folder in possession.
"Are those the results from forensics?" Judy asked.
"Yep. It wasn't much so that's why they came back quicker than usual."
Judy took the folder and spent a few moments looking at the results.
"Hmm. Just as the Chief said. The blood belonged to the victim and no other DNA was detected." Judy then looked at the results on the feather.
"According to this," Nick said. "The species is an eagle. But since the blood makes it hard to determine the type. They're still looking into it."
"It still makes our assignment easier. We don't have to search the thousands of mammals traveling in and out of Zootopia."
"I'm sure that would have been fun. By the way, we still need to finish that report from last night. Why don't you work on the list of suspects while I finished that up." Nick proposed.
"Are you sure?"
Nick nodded, "Positive. I should be finished before the noon deadline."
"Thanks Nick," Judy smiled and then began working on the list.
The two spent the entire morning working on their respective tasks. Nick kept an eye on the clock to make sure he had enough time to turn in last night's report. He managed to finish with enough time to submit.
After turning in the report, Nick returned to his and Judy's desk to see two large stacks near the bunny which he assumed to be the list of suspects. The fox stared in disbelief at the size.
"You can't be serious right?"
"I am," Judy said, already searching through the list. "And this is after we narrowed it down from the footage, the gender, and forensics."
Nick pinched the bridge of his snout and sighed. "This is going to be a long day." He looked at the large stack of papers again. "Maybe a long week."
Target: Female Leopard
Occupation: Professor of History and Archaeology
Location: University of Zootopia
Time: Day…One Week Later
She is a long-time professor and well-known in her field. Being a predator was not an obstacle on her path to success. The leopard's expertise in history and archaeology has proven valuable to the Zootopia's collection of knowledge. But she is also a Templar. During her sabbaticals and vacations, the leopard delivered important information to the Order and assisted with their projects. At the same time, she subtly indoctrinates the Templar ideology into her students and to an extent, her colleagues.
Unlike the reporter, the Assassin had more time to prepare the assassination but was also under more pressure to carry it out. The pressure came from the Templars learning of the raccoon's death. It will certainly cause them to take measures in adjusting their plans and making it difficult for the Assassin to carry out more assassinations.
With knowledge of the leopard's schedule, he patiently waited outside the building where she was currently holding a class. Finally, the leopard was spotted leaving the building, having finished the class and was returning to her office. Knowing the path, the Assassin was on the move and focused on when to strike. While he preferred to make the kill outside, the leopard was safe as long as she remained out in the open and away from others and once the feline was inside, it would be near impossible to make the kill. Also at this particular time of day, the flow of students was slow. After assessing the situation, the Assassin made a last minute decision.
While walking, the Templar leopard noticed several mammals wearing hoods. She almost assumed the worst but remembered that the university sold those type of jackets. Still, the feline remained cautious and avoided eye contact unless spoken to directly. Many of her students and fellow faculty either stopped or joined her walk to have a conversation. The leopard made the effort to avoid idling around too long when stopping. Soon, her building appeared in sight and she let out a sigh of relief. But this caused her to lower her guard as the leopard failed to notice the single occupant sitting on the bench near the building. While rushing by the bench, the leopard was suddenly grabbed by the occupant and felt something sharp go inside her abdomen. The Assassin carefully placed the leopard on the bench and carefully released her, revealing a bloodied blade.
The leopard clutched her wound and looked up at the Assassin. "You? I thought we destroyed you."
"A shame this must happen to a feline. I take no pleasure in taking killing my own."
"I knew the reporter's death was no random incident." She coughed in pain. "Your little campaign will destroy Zootopia."
"Just like how you are destroying the youth of Zootopia?"
"Is that what you think?" The leopard scoffed. "You truly are short-minded as they say."
"You are encouraging the youth you teach to persecute others for simply having differences!" He rebuked.
"Differences are the reason for why Zootopia still has troubles. Only look around to see what arises from them. The destruction resulting from the tensions between predator and prey. It would no longer exist in the new Zootopia."
"While I agree on that point, it doesn't make it right to persecute others. Differences are what make Zootopia unique in the first place. It should be celebrated, not suppressed."
The leopard only laughed. "You'll see how true your words are in time, but by then, it will be too late for you to realize that." She exhaled for the last time.
The Assassin stained a white feather with the leopard's blood.
"Nick. Nick, get up."
The fox moaned as he awoke from his slumber to see Judy standing next to him. "Is it time to go home yet?"
"It's only ten in the morning."
Nick plopped his head back on the desk. "Wake me up when it's our break."
"Nick, you know we're supposed to be looking over the files on the suspects."
He sighed heavily while bringing his head back up. "Why did Bogo have to assign us the case?"
"Because he knows our capabilities and will give us a promotion when we succeed. We both agreed to this remember." Judy quickly continued before Nick could protest. "And no, I didn't speak for you. Let remind you that you happily jumped at the opportunity. A pretty rare sight for him and me." Judy smiled at the last part.
"Are you sure that wasn't you, Carrots?" That remark earned him a punch in the shoulder, which was enough to jolt him awake. "Ow, okay!"
"But you are right about me being excited about the promotion, I just wanted to remind you of your similar reaction. Anyways, with most of the preparations done, it should be easier from here."
Nick furrowed his brow. "Do you really think that, Carrots?"
Judy's ears drooped. "Okay maybe not, but still."
Nick reclined back in his chair. "If you want my progress report, none of the mammals I looked into so far have a criminal record. What about you?"
Judy sighed heavily. "Nothing. There's really little to go on. Are you sure you don't know anyone who could tell us about the culprit?"
"Fluff, I already told you. No one I know has encountered or even seen this mammal. Whoever we are dealing with is very selective in making contact."
"We'll just have to keep searching then and note the possible candidates."
Nick put his paws on his face. "Ugh, not even a promotion is not keeping me from wanting to pull my fur out."
Judy did her best to reassure him. "I know it's been a week since the incident, but we can't let this case get cold. Something will pop up soon that will help."
During their conversation, police officers ran by in a hurry. Judy and Nick wondered what was going on and stopped one of them.
"Wolford, what's going on?" Judy inquired.
The Timberwolf was breathing heavily from running. "We just got a call for a murder at the University of Zootopia."
The news shocked Judy and Nick as Wolfard continued on.
"Do you think it's the same mammal?" Nick asked.
"Only one way to find out," Judy jumped off the chair and made for the door. "Come on."
At the crime scene, Judy spoke with the witnesses and Nick inspected the body with the forensics team while the Chief and the other officers kept the spectators away. Judy spoke with Nick after interviewing the witnesses.
"It's definitely similar the first one except with more witnesses this time. From their description, the culprit was sitting on this bench when the leopard passed by. The culprit got up, grabbed, and set her down on the bench before walking away. The students came investigating when they saw the leopard not moving and discovered the murder. They gave the same description of the appearance." She looked up at Nick after reading her notes. "What did you find?"
Nick took his aviators off. "The wound here is the same except the entry point was from the front. It must have happened when the culprit grabbed her. Forensics also found this." He revealed a white feather stained with blood in an evidence bag. "This is more than just a random act. Whoever is doing this must have more targets. We better watch out in the future."
The two saw Chief Bogo approaching them.
"Did you find anything of significance?"
Nick showed the blood-stained feather.
"So it isn't a coincidence then." Chief sighed and resigned himself to the fact. "The public must not know about the connection. Understand?"
Judy and Nick both nodded.
"Now gather the evidence and continue your investigation."
They nodded. "Yes sir,"
Judy grunted as she finished researching the next suspect on the list. "Another dead end."
Nick huffed. "Now you know how I felt earlier when you interrupted my nap."
"You're not supposed to sleep on the job anyways."
Nick shrugged his shoulders and returned to his share of the work.
Judy continued to review the profiles of the victims when she noticed a particular connection. "Interesting."
"You got something, Carrots?"
She turned to face Nick. "It's a hunch, but I noticed that both victims are predators."
Nick's ear perked at her words and faced Judy. "So you think our killer is targeting predators? That's a bit of a stretch considering there are only two incidents so far."
"I know, but it could be a possible motive."
Nick hesitated. "I guess, but we need more evidence. Right now there's isn't much."
"You're right," Judy sighed. "It just bothers me that there is still prejudice against predators. I mean we both proved the Night Howlers were responsible for them going savage."
"You got to remember that this doesn't go away overnight, Carrots. Take me for example. I still get prejudice remarks for being a fox even three years after we saved the city. That and flashing my police badge only keeps the trouble at bay."
"Well when we do catch this murderer, I'm going to find out the motive. No one, predator or prey, deserves this."
Nick smiled at her energy. "It's that optimism is why I enjoy being your partner."
His compliment made Judy smile too. "What would you do without me?"
They both returned to their work after the exchange.
Target: Male Camel
Location: Law Firm in Sahara Square
Time: Dusk…Ten days later
He is one of the most prolific lawyers in Zootopia and the most sought after for difficult cases. His non-bias when selecting cases made him even more favorable, resulting in both predator and prey vying for him. But few knew of his secret. Underneath all the praise and reputation, the lawyer was a Templar. Most involved settling the dispute and controversy for the Order. The remaining cases were used as a cover to hide the true motives.
Perched on top of the law firm, the Assassin waited for the camel to exit the building. Same with the leopard, he had more preparation but even more pressure to carry the assassination. The camel is certain to have learned of his two colleagues' deaths and will take extra precautions to avoid that same fate. Since the previous assassinations occurred on the ground, the Assassin decided to change tactics and perform one from above, hoping to catch his target by surprise.
When the time came for the lawyer to leave, he did not appear. Overtime, being held up at work, possibly taking an alternate escape, and other reasons flooded the Assassin's mind. Not taking any chances and wanting to investigate much of the possibilities, the Assassin concentrated his thoughts at the exit until his view changed. With his field of vision tinted, he saw a trail highlighted on the back side of the building. "Gotcha." His eyes followed the trail until seeing a figure glowing in yellow. "There you are."
The Assassin returned his vision to normal and pursued his target. He traversed the rooftops and slowed down once he caught up to his target. The Assassin noticed the camel's erratic behavior while walking: occasionally glancing at his surroundings, seemingly dropping his belongings before looking around afterward, the slow increase of walking speed. "He knows that I'm coming for him." A bus drove by their location and with that, the camel began running after it. "Shoot! I better get to him before he gets on!"
The journey from his office to the bus stop was agonizing for the camel. Fear of his death grew into paranoia and slowly got the better of him. Seeing his bus passing by momentarily snapped him back to reality. Now he could run without looking like a fool. The fear caused the camel barely making it to the bus stop and be last in line. He kept looking around, anxiously waiting to enter the bus. The line moved slowly as the passengers paid their fee and found their place to sit or stand.
With each passing second, the camel's paranoia began to show, twitching at the slightest disturbance and drawing eyes from the passengers off and on the bus. After what felt like an eternity, the camel finally reached the doors with the bus pass out to pay the fare. Wasting no time, the camel stepped onto the bus when an eagle's screech was heard. His eyes widened in horror, and the next thing the camel knew, he was pounced to the ground and felt a blade enter his neck. The not so subtle attack drew immediate reactions.
"Someone call the police!"
The passengers screamed and the driver immediately closed the doors and stepped on the gas. The bus darted down the road to escape the immediate danger.
"I knew it was you." The camel grunted in pain. "Who else would it be?"
"I have to give credit where it's due. Your efforts to avoid me was a nice change of pace."
"It was worth the attempt. Even though I accept the inevitability of my fate, it does not mean I should readily embrace it."
"You know. If you weren't a Templar, I would actually admire your work and character." The Assassin admitted.
"So you take my life simply because of my allegiance as with the others? Is that your reason? A shameful, no, disgraceful one." The camel chastised.
"No," He denied. "I did it to spare Zootopia the suffering should your Order continue to live on."
"And how does that compare to the aftermath of my death? If your goal is to prevent suffering, then you still failed."
"Make no mistake. The suffering that will occur now pales in comparison to what your Order should bring upon Zootopia."
"A choice between the lesser of two evils it seems. A situation common in my field. But it's clear to me you have chosen to continue Zootopia's current problems. I hope you are satisfied with that." He exhaled for the last time.
The Assassin took a deep breath before staining a white feather with the camel's blood.
"Thank you for your time. We'll let you know if anything else comes up." Judy said.
Hoping to understand the motives behind the murders and identify a suspect, Judy and Nick decided to interview known associates of the two victims. Judy asked the questions while Nick protected her in case the associates got violent and also determined if they were lying. The two had spent the past ten days conduction interviews with little progress.
They exited the building and entered their police cruiser. Judy plopped her head on the steering wheel out of frustration as Nick reclined in his seat and put his paws behind his head.
Judy took out her notepad and crossed another name out. "Everyone we interviewed so far has said only praise for the victims. Which begs the question: why would someone want to kill them?"
"You don't enjoy success without making enemies. Even if they are hidden. Those predators probably burned a few bridges on their path to success. I wouldn't be surprised if they were involved in shady business along the way. Trust me."
"I do, except for the shady business part." Judy then decided to lighten the mood. "But since you don't know anybody who knows this mammal, I'm starting to have my doubts."
Nick gasped and feigned being hurt. "I can't believe you would say such a thing, Carrots. I told you I know everybody." But he became serious again. "Though I do admit on rare occasion I don't know someone, even rarer if they live in Zootopia."
"And how did you go about to know them?"
"By doing what we are doing now: ask around for information and using known connections. No matter how long it takes, the end reward is worth it. Personally, it's a matter of pride. How can I claim to know everyone if I don't?"
"I didn't know you heard a personal streak," Judy said curiously.
Before Nick could respond, their police radio suddenly buzzed and a familiar but frantic voice of Clawhauser was heard. "Dispatch to all available units, we have 187 in Sahara Square." He quickly gave the location.
Judy and Nick looked at each other and nodded.
"Time to find out more about our mysterious culprit," Judy said.
She revved up the cruiser and they hurried to Sahara Square. There, the officers had blocked off the area and were redirecting the traffic. Judy and Nick approached the line of officers and were let through after being recognized. As with the previous scenes, Judy spoke with the witnesses while Nick inspected the body with forensics. The same distinctions are there with a few important exceptions.
"Either this mammal is getting bolder or is sending a message," Judy said. "Multiple witnesses saw the culprit descend from above and murder the victim. Before that, they heard an eagle's screech. Some claimed to a silhouette of an attacking eagle before the camel's death. This still doesn't explain the feathers."
"The culprit is definitely sending a message," Nick revealed another bloodstained white feather. "And it's not just the feathers being left behind. We can throw out the motive of predators being targeted, the victim being a prey proves that anyone in Zootopia can be next. Predator or Prey. Male or Female. Whoever is doing this must either be sadistic or has ulterior motives."
"I was really hoping that wasn't the case."
The two turned around to see the Chief standing behind them with his hooves crossed.
Bogo could only shake his head. "So much for keeping this quiet."
While the debate over Delgato, a lion, and Fangmeyer, a tigress, seems to have cleared, there is still debate over Grizzoli being a white wolf or a polar bear as far as I know. For this story, he is a white wolf. The rest will remain as they have been named during roll call.
Chapter 3: Politics
Until they meet, the Assassin will be referred as the killer or whatever the media names him to Judy and Nick in their conversations since they along with the rest of Zootopia do not know about both Orders just yet because of their secret nature.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Good morning, Zootopia. I'm Fabienne Growley."
"And I'm Peter Moosebridge."
"The most recent attack has confirmed that a serial killer is currently targeting predators and prey. Three mammals have died so far in this spree and the motive behind their deaths has remained unclear. The only clue is this white blood-stained feather found on the most recent victim according to eyewitnesses." A picture of the feather was shown on television. "The ZPD has recently confirmed that the same feathers were also found on the other two victims. Chief Bogo has released a statement regarding the recent development,"
"I represent the entire Zootopia Police Department when saying this. We vow to do everything in our power to bring this mammal to justice and will not be deterred by this individual's actions. Right now, we ask for your patience and trust as we work to stop this crime spree. Do not, I repeat, do not attempt to be reckless stop this mammal yourselves. The individual is considered armed and extremely dangerous."
The screen returned to the studio where Peter Moosebridge took the lead.
"In other news, the prey-predator company Depolitio has launched a campaign to stop the killings. They rightly believe that this mammal will undo all the progress made in bringing harmony to Zootopia and will revive the previous tensions between predators and prey. The company has gained approval from City Hall and joined forces with the government to increase the search efforts. This partnership has been well received and brought a renewed sense of hope among the citizens amidst the skepticism. This has been ZNN with your news."
Bogo shut off the video on his computer he had been showing to Nick and Judy in his office and turned the screen back facing him.
The Chief covered his face with his hooves and sighed heavily. "Just when things couldn't get any worse."
Judy and Nick became confused at his statement.
"Excuse me Chief," Judy asked. "But I don't see the problem with having outside help, especially now that the killings growing big enough."
"That's not the issue, Hopps." He uncovered his face, revealing an unpleasing look. "Since the partnership formed, public opinion and support have turned more favorable to the company. This has subjected the ZPD to doubt and humiliation from lack of results. You may have noticed the more vocal critics outside the building and the tense atmosphere inside upon arrival this morning."
"Wow," Nick said in disbelief. "They really think a company is going to stop this," He used is paws in quotations for the next part. "White Feather Killer as the media has called it?"
"Apparently so. I don't know how Depolito has this much allure over them. If this keeps up, it won't be long before they and the citizens start demanding us to relinquish control of the case over to them. With support from the populace, I have no doubt City Hall will give in to their demands."
Enraged at the possibility, Judy immediately stood up on the chair and slammed her paw on Bogo's desk. "They can't do that! There's no way they can do that!"
Bogo slammed a hoof down and pointed the other at Judy in response. "SIT DOWN, HOPPS! And don't you ever slam my desk again while I'm in here!"
Realizing her mistake, Judy sat back down feeling guilty for the outburst. Nick placed his paw on her shoulder to comfort her.
"I hate that possibility as much as you do," Bogo continued in a calmer tone. "But there's nothing we can do to stop their campaign. It's within their rights."
Judy and Nick remained silent, but their expressions hid nothing.
"I understand your frustration. Everyone else feels the same. The best thing we can do right now is to lock this mammal away forever before the situation gets worse." Bogo gathered some files together on his desk. "Now go on over to the bullpen. I have important information pertaining to the case that the rest of force must hear. Dismissed."
Judy and Nick saluted the Chief and exited his office. On the way, they observed the tense atmosphere in Precinct One. Officers were frustrated but remained professional to further avoid ruining the ZPD's image. The only positive was that the media paid more attention to Depolitio than the ZPD, allowing the officers to continue their work. Even then, those out on patrol or doing field work still received negative attention from the citizens according to their reports.
Once out of range, Judy grabbed her ears and released her frustration. "UGH! I can't believe this!"
"Calm down, Carrots!" Nick said, trying his best to alleviate his partner's frustration.
"How can one mammal cause so much fear to all of Zootopia?"
"You act like it's never happened before."
Judy glared at Nick and pointed a finger at him. "That's not the point. This mammal has made a fool of the ZPD and is toying with us. Worst of all, we're losing support from the citizens!"
"I realize that, but running around and shouting to the heavens won't help us."
Judy sighed, having finally calmed down. "There must be something we are not looking at. Something right under our noses."
"Look at the bright side. Chief must have a breakthrough if he ordered us to the bullpen."
"Hopefully. My parents are panicking over this and have been begging me to return home until this is over! Not they have already been doing that."
In the room, the officers were not their rowdy behavior. It was a rare day of silence before Bogo enters as even Judy and Nick, who are normally talkative, remained silent. Chief Bogo finally entered and every officer gave him their undivided attention. He noticed the silence before entering and knew they needed some good news.
"Alright, I understand this frustrating for all of us, but we must remain professional. That is first and foremost. Neither this mammal nor the overwhelming support for a company will deter us. Our job is to protect and serve the citizens of Zootopia. We will continue our efforts to eliminate this threat. Second, all the bodies have been successfully identified and a connection was discovered. The victims are all high profile in their fields. This leads to my last point. Since the mammal appears to have criteria for the targets, I am assigning you in pairs to protect the potential targets. Clawhauser and I will be protecting Gazelle."
"So you finally admit your love for Gazelle huh?" Nick shouted, unable to contain himself after being silent for so long.
"Shut it, Wilde!"
Despite the seriousness of the situation, the other officers quietly chuckled at the exchange, secretly thankful for Nick's humor to lighten the mood. Bogo quickly refocused the situation and began pairing up the officers and assigning the targets.
"Hopps, Wilde, you two are assigned to protect the reinstated Mayor Lionheart. Everything has already been arranged so all you have to do is report to him. Dismissed."
In his office, Leodore Lionheart was busy trying to contain the chaos caused by the Assassin. While a curse with the amount of negative response directed at City Hall and the ZPD, Lionheart considered it a small blessing with the killings being the main focus over matters for which he wished for more time to deliberate.
In the midst of his thoughts, he heard someone knocking on his door. "Come in!" Lionheart felt relieved when saw Judy and Nick enter. "Finally, the ZPD came to their senses and decided to send extra protection!"
Judy took a moment to clear her throat and gather the proper words, "Pardon me for asking Mayor, but don't you already have bodyguards?"
"Yes, but I feel more comfortable with the ZPD's best officers protecting me. That is why I personally requested you."
"Very flattering of you," Nick said, standing proudly.
Judy ignored the remark. "You have our word, Mayor. We won't let that mammal even breathe the same air as you."
"I'm counting on that. This is getting out of paw. Not even the Smellwether's plot was this chaotic!"
"What would you have us do?" Nick asked.
"Stay close, don't let anyone near me I don't allow, and perform a security check for those I do," He pointed and Judy and Nick looked in the direction to see a large desk set up with the files on the case. "I'm aware of your investigation so I made the necessary accommodations. I'll even allow you to ask me questions about the case. Within reason."
Judy breathed a sigh of relief, knowing they can continue their work while on guard duty. "Thank you for allowing us to continue our work, Mayor."
"Yeah," Nick said. "You don't want to see Hopps here cramped up in a room all day with nothing else to do. Trust me."
This earned him a punch in the shoulder and a glare from his partner.
"Alright enough fooling around!" Lionheart ordered. "I want to see progress on finding this killer!"
"Yes, Mayor!" Judy and Nick acknowledged.
Throughout the day, Judy and Nick followed Lionheart's orders in checking any visitors for danger while continuing their work at the desks. The procedure involves one collecting loose items and the other scanning the clothes with a metal detector. The items were then returned to the visitor after the scan was completed. Their interview with Lionheart revealed nothing suspicious and Nick could tell that Lionheart was truthful in his answers. Being arrested can change an individual for the better.
Fortunately, few visitors came to the office that day and they all were cleared of danger. Unfortunately for Nick and Judy, their work did not end at night.
"What do you mean we're not finished?!" Nick yelled, flabbergasted at the news.
"You heard me," Lionheart said, unfazed by the outburst. "I want you two to protect me at all times."
Judy had refrained from protesting for long enough. This was borderline insane. "Sir, is that really necessary? I know your life is potentially in danger, but do you not trust your own security to protect you in your home?"
"You're not the one being targeted here, Hopps!" Lionheart yelled.
"Excuse me Mayor, but you need to calm down!" Nick intervened. "She has a point. It's one thing to protect you at work, but at home? That's a little much."
"You don't understand. It's not a possibility I could be next! It's a certainty that I am next!"
The response set off red flags for Nick and Judy.
"What are you talking about?" Judy asked, curious to know more.
Lionheart realized his comment and quickly calmed down. "Sorry for my outburst. You must understand why I am paranoid about this."
"Clearly," Nick said unapologetically.
He and Judy still had their suspicions but filed them away for later.
"I do sincerely apologize for my behavior," Lionheart continued. "I know your services are already compensated, but I want to make it better."
Just then, a female kangaroo entered the room. "Pardon the interruption, but I must speak to you."
Lionheart recognized the kangaroo as one of his own but remained cautious. "Before you speak, Hopps, Wilde."
"Yes, Mayor." Judy begrudgingly said as she readied the metal detector.
"Sorry about this," Nick said as he gathered the bin.
The kangaroo smiled and waved a paw, "You're only doing your job, officers."
The marsupial removed any loose items on her and placed them in the bin Nick was holding. Judy then scanned her with the metal detector. Except for the metal parts on her attire, the kangaroo was clear.
"She's good," Judy said.
"Please continue," Lionheart said.
The kangaroo nodded. "Sir, you can't remain out of public eye forever. It will send a bad message to the citizens."
Lionheart narrowed his eyes at her, "You know very well why I am doing this." He said sternly.
"Yes, Mayor. But understand that if this behavior continues, the citizens will realize even the mayor is afraid. when that happens, they'll call for a new one. Someone who is not afraid and will do everything to stop this mammal."
There was a brief pause to let the kangaroo's words sink in.
"You make a good point there," Lionheart conceded. "I must show that Zootopia's leaders do not fear this mammal. I'll do something, but it must be cautious."
"The ZPD will gladly assist you." Judy quickly offered. "I can guarantee you their full support."
"We want this mammal caught and locked away forever as much as you do," Nick added.
"I'm glad to hear that. I will discuss this with the rest of the council, the ZPD, and Depolitio." He looked back at the kangaroo. "Please arrange a meeting tomorrow and notify the other members, the Precinct Chiefs, and the company's CEO and COO."
"Yes, Mayor." The kangaroo exited the room.
When the three were alone again, Judy looked back at Lionheart with hope in her eyes, "So does this mean we can go home?"
"No," Lionheart put his paw up and continued before they could protest. "Please, I beg of you. Just for tonight. I'll even make your stay comfortable, and you can still continue your work."
Wanting this to end, they finally gave in.
"We'll do it," Judy said reluctantly.
"At least I can cross that off my bucket list," Nick said.
The next day in City Hall, Nick and Judy waited with Lionheart and the council outside the conference room. The police chiefs arrived first, greeting Lionheart and his mammals as they entered.
"Hey, Chief!" Nick exclaimed.
Bogo stopped in front of Nick and Judy. "Hopps. Wilde. Performing your duties I presume?"
Judy nodded. "Yes, Chief."
"Good. Because Lionheart is sending progress reports. So I'll know if you make a mistake."
"Understood," Nick said. "We promise to do nothing but our absolute best."
Bogo nodded at their commitment. "See that you do." He then entered the room to greet the Mayor and the council.
Minutes later, a group of mammals in suits led by a zebra and a hyena approached the conference room. The zebra and hyena saw the police officers at the entrance and stopped to speak to them.
"Is this where the meeting is?" The zebra asked politely.
"Yes," Judy said. "You must be from Depolitio."
"Correct," The zebra extended a hoof. "Arlyss Maverick. CEO of Depolitio. A pleasure to meet you."
The hyena then extended a paw. "Kazim Karrar. COO of Depolitio. You two must be Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde."
"A pleasure to meet you also," Nick said as he shook the hyena's paw.
Judy shook zebra's hoof. "Just to warn you, the police aren't too pleased with being the patsy in this. You should be careful during the meeting."
The CEO sighed. "It is unfortunate, but that's why we're also here to address that. We can't have division among us or the killer will take advantage and cause more mayhem."
"Believe us," The COO said. "This puts more pressure on us to get the results. Taking on this full time does more harm than good by stretching our resources."
"Then we wish you luck in the meeting, but first," Nick said as he picked up the bin.
"Sorry, Mayor's orders," Judy said as she readied the metal detector. "We don't lose our jobs for disobeying them."
The zebra nodded. "We understand."
Nick and Judy performed the arduous task of inspecting every mammal in Depolitio's group. A few expressed their mild disdain at Nick holding their belongings, but Arlyss and Kazim quickly silenced them with threats of repercussions. Finally, Nick and Judy completed the inspection and the Depolitio representatives entered the conference room.
Behind closed doors, Lionheart discussed how to address the citizens of the Assassin. After much debate and compromise, City Hall and the ZPD agreed to hold an indoor rally at the Zootopia Regional Convention with heavy security at the entrance and inside. The rally will also be broadcast for those who are unable to attend.
But the plan was met with heavy criticism and dispute from Depolitio. Despite the opportunity to capture the Assassin, Depolitio reasoned that it would severely backfire and Lionheart ends up dead. City Hall and the ZPD responded by pointing out the lack of progress on their end, subtlety hinting them to be all talk and no action. The two sides continued to throw verbal jabs at each other that eventually led nowhere. Meanwhile, Judy and Nick heard the entire discussion from outside the room.
The company's reaction set off red flags for Nick. "Depolitio's response is very suspicious," He said. "It's like they don't want to capture this mammal."
"They're only concerned for Lionheart's safety. An indoor rally could still leave openings."
"Possibly, but they seem to know a lot about the mammal in question."
"Who doesn't? His actions have been broadcasted all over Zootopia."
Nick sighed at Judy's lack of understanding. "I'm saying they know information that we haven't uncovered yet. Don't you find that suspicious?"
Judy took a few seconds to ponder his words. "Hmm, you're right now that I think about it. So you think there is a connection between the two?"
"I hope not, but my hustler instincts are skyrocketing right now."
"We can look into that later. For now, we focus on this."
As the meeting progressed, City Hall and the ZPD stood firmly by their plan and will carry it out despite the opposition. Depolitio warned once again that they were making a mistake and the potential fallout. This time the response they got was an adjourned meeting. Nick and Judy quickly stood aside when they heard mammals standing up. They saw the doors open and Depolitio representatives leave in frustration. Judy and Nick looked at each other, silently understanding the consequences.
During the preparation, extra precautions were taken to protect Lionheart during his speech. At his request, Judy and Nick will patrol the stage while two of his personal bodyguards stand by him. Another line of officers, joined by Chief Bogo, will protect the immediate area around the stage. Beyond that, there will be undercover officers among the citizens and sniper teams on the upper levels. SWAT team will also join, given how dangerous the Assassin is. Days before the rally, they held drills in the area to learn the routines, scout the possible entry points, and prepare for the Assassin's next appearance.
Meanwhile, Judy and Nick were ordered by Lionheart to protect him 24/7 despite their vehement protests. But Lionheart assured it will only be until the end of the rally and the officers relented solely for that reason. Despite the accommodations and extra pay, Judy and Nick became frustrated with the job as they spent more time on protection than on the case. Even the allure of living in the Mayor's abode eventually ran out. For them, the rally couldn't come any quicker as any casework they hoped to get done was stalled.
Because the political rally was a highly publicized event, the turnout was much higher than expected and the visitors filled the convention center to the max. SWAT and all available ZPD were assigned to watch the area from the outer perimeters to near the stage. The exceptions were officers assigned to the potential targets. This was to avoid the possibility of the Assassin targeting them with the entire force focused on the rally.
Seeing the large turnout caused some fear for Nick. "I'm starting to think the company was right in their concerns. There are enough mammals here for the mammal to slip through unnoticed."
"It may be," Judy replied. "But desperate times call for desperate measures."
Nick sighed at those words. "You have no idea how many times I hear that.
"Look at it in this perspective," she said, trying to encourage him. "It's a win-win situation for us. Best case scenario. The mammal appears and we catch him. Worst case scenario that doesn't involve death. We prevent the assassination and get a better look at the mammal. If nothing happens, Lionheart gets to live another day."
Nick chuckled. "I wish I had your optimism. But even if nothing happens, Lionheart is still in danger. I doubt the mammal will stop if he fails."
Judy's ears drooped at the comment. Nick did have a point but now was not the time to dwell on it. "We'll just have to cross that bridge when we get there. But first, we need to make it to that bridge."
After one last check, Judy and Nick walked onto the stage and waited for Lionheart's arrival. The audience calmed down as Mayor Lionheart appeared with a grizzly bear and rhino bodyguard and stood at the podium to give his speech.
Bogo's voice then came through their radios, "Report in. Is everyone in their positions?"
"Sniper teams in position."
"SWAT team in position."
"Stage team in position."
He then heard confirmations from everyone else.
"Excellent, stay vigilant and the mammal will be apprehended."
As Lionheart gave his speech, Judy and Nick walked around the stage, keeping their senses heightened for any sign of the Assassin while the bodyguards stood behind Lionheart. Bogo would periodically check in to see if anyone spotted the Assassin.
"Status report." The Cape Buffalo heard everyone but the sniper teams. "Sniper teams report."
There was no response.
"Sniper teams! I repeat, report!" Again, no response and Bogo became alarmed. "Someone check on them now! We need their support! Everyone else, arm yourselves and stay alert!"
The officers and SWAT on the ground readied their weapons and kept watch for the Assassin. They didn't see any signs of threats and remained focused. Then, they heard the news.
"Sniper teams are down! I repeat sniper teams are down!"
Thankful for the news being transmitted through police radio, Bogo dreaded the next part. "Give me the details."
A sigh of relief was heard. "Alive but unconscious. The tranquilizers have also been taken."
The rest of the force knew it was bad if the Assassin possessed police weapons.
"Stay with them until they regain consciousness. Everyone else, stay vigilant! Protect Lionheart at all cost! Our mammal is in the building and armed."
The check-in became more frequent to ensure the everyone's safety in the convention center. Then, lack of updates started to occur. This caused more alarm and drew officers away to investigate. The only thing preventing the rally from being canceled outright was the chaos that will occur from everyone trying to leave, giving the Assassin the perfect opportunity to strike. The officers and SWAT maintained their professional stance to avoid revealing the knowledge. As Lionheart continued, Judy and Nick heard an eagle's screech, alarming them as they recognize the detail from the most recent murder.
"Nick, do you hear that?"
"Yes, Carrots. He's here. Keep your eye out and be careful."
With so many mammals at the rally, Judy and Nick must rely on their special senses to track the Assassin. As the remaining officers became stretched thin, they prepared for the inevitable. While scouting the immediate area, another eagle's screech was heard. This time much closer. Judy and Nick quickly looked in the direction of the sound and saw a hooded mammal rapidly approaching the stage. It didn't take long for them to recognize the individual.
Nick pointed at the Assassin, "There he is!"
Judy did the same. "Stop him!"
Everyone else looked in their direction and saw the Assassin in the midst. The citizens became terrified and quickly moved out of danger. Exposed, the Assassin ran to the stage and the ZPD quickly mobilized their remaining numbers. What was supposed to be a fortified line was now only at half strength as a result of the Assassin's work. Despite the lesser numbers, the remaining officers moved in for the takedown. At the police line, the Assassin drew out an umbrella and used it to vault over them. Seeing that happened, Judy and Nick quickly drew their tranquilizers and the bear and rhino moved to protect Lionheart.
What transpired next occurred in a flash. At the stage, the Assassin grabbed Judy and Nick's arms that were holding the tranquilizers and pushed them down to the stage floor. Then, he launched himself into the air off of them with the tranquilizers in possession. The Assassin shot at the bear and the rhino, leaving Lionheart wide open. Quickly disposing of the guns, he raised the left paw and flicked the wrist. Judy and Nick recovered in time to see a blade appear from the paw as the Assassin fell forward in Lionheart's direction.
Lionheart stood in fear for his life, along with everyone else present or watching on television. All the protection that Zootopia could provide him had failed in an instant and now there was nothing else he could do to prevent his end. Everyone watched in horror as the Assassin was about to perform the kill. Cameras snapped the image and videos recorded the moment. It felt to all but the Assassin as if time slowed down. But then to their surprise, he flew right by Lionheart and pounced on the rhino bodyguard instead, stabbing the neck with the blade and ending a life.
"What sense does it make to take the Mayor's life in front of many?"
The rhino huffed. "Fool, what makes you think it was going to happen here?"
"That doesn't change anything. Lionheart's efforts along with that of the ZPD have brought peace and prosperity to Zootopia and you would destroy that."
"We are not ignorant of the results. We simply wanted his cooperation to maintain Zootopia's recent success."
"And substituted it with something similar to the Night Howlers? It's clear that he disagrees with your plans."
"Regardless, you fell right into the trap. Now all of Zootopia knows of your appearance."
"But not my species and identity." The Assassin clarified.
"They will know eventually from the footage and the crime scene. It's only a matter of time."
"You are right about that. But Zootopia will not only know my identity and motives, they will the plot by you and your Order."
The rhino shook his head. "Not after this, you will give them enough reason to rally Zootopia against you. You're all by yourself with no one else to help you." The rhino exhaled for the last time.
"Then I'll make some friends."
The Assassin closed the rhino's eyes and stained a white feather on the wound with the blood. Those acts gave the ZPD and SWAT enough time to gather near the stage to make the arrest.
"We have you surrounded! There is nowhere to run! Surrender or we will take you down!"
The Assassin saw weapons pointed at him and did not move. The standoff felt like an eternity until a large smoke cloud engulfed the stage and the surrounding area. Mammals backed away as the smoke continued to spread. Judy and Nick successfully moved Lionheart and the bear bodyguard out of immediate danger despite their large size and being disoriented from the smoke. Lionheart remained in shock from the sudden turn of events and the bear was unconscious from the tranquilizer dose. The ZPD and SWAT immediately moved in to protect the Mayor from further harm as the civilians fled out of the building. When the smoke cleared, the Assassin was gone.
"Which way did he go?" Judy asked frantically.
Nick recovered before Judy and searched around. "There!"
Judy looked at the direction Nick pointed in and saw the Assassin leaving the scene. A scowl of determination formed on her face, "He's not getting away!"
The bunny took off running, ignoring her partner's pleas. Nick pursued and successfully caught up to Judy. Their pursuit was hindered from the chaos caused by the assassination. From their location, Judy and Nick watched the Assassin leave through the back entrance. With their window getting smaller by the second, the two officers increased the pace, using their small size to pass through the legs of larger mammals. They finally escaped outside and saw the Assassin walking away.
"Stop in the name of the law!" Judy yelled. "You're under arrest!"
The Assassin immediately broke into a sprint when hearing the police behind him. Judy and Nick broke into a sprint also and pursued. Citizens along the path cleared the way when hearing the officers shout and seeing the runners. The Assassin tried to use the stoplights to increase the distance between himself and the officers, but Nick and Judy foiled his attempts. The chase at one point crossed a red light intersection and they were nearly hit by vehicles, more for the officers than the Assassin. That close call was the last straw.
"We need to end this before someone gets hurt!" Judy yelled.
"He'll try to escape into an alley!" Nick cried.
"Then we split up and cut him off!"
"Keep after him, Judy! I know my way around. Keep me updated on your position!"
Nick and Judy separated at the next intersection. Judy barely had enough stamina to keep sight of the Assassin but pushed on, updating Nick continuously on their location. As suspected, she saw the Assassin enter an alley and informed Nick just before arriving at the location.
"Nick, the mammal has entered an alley." She radioed.
He responded immediately. "Where are you?" She gave her location and Nick hurried to them.
In the alley, the Assassin reached a dead end and stopped running. He turned around to see Judy and then Nick appearing beside her moments later. The Assassin did not move and let the officers approach with their tasers drawn and aimed at him.
"You have nowhere else to go!" Judy ordered. "Put your paws up now!"
"Come along quietly and there won't be any more problems." Nick calmly said.
The Assassin slowly brought up his paws while Judy and Nick kept their tasers trained on him, ready to fire at any moment. Halfway through raising his paws, the Assassin clenched his left paw to the right and flung his right one forward to the left. Before Judy and Nick realized what happened, they felt their tasers missing from their paws. They looked to see blades impaled through their weapons against the brick walls.
The two returned their attention to the Assassin and saw his paws crossed with one having what appeared to be a miniature bow. The Assassin straightened his paws and positioned his feet and arms into a martial arts stance. Shaken but not deterred, Judy and Nick assumed into their sparring stances.
"Okay, if that's how you want to go out," Nick said.
"Don't underestimate us," Judy warned.
They remained in their stances until Judy and Nick charged forward at the same time. The officers hoped that the combined attack would overwhelm him or at least let them grab a piece of clothing. That failed when he leaped over them and now they were the ones cornered in the dead end.
"Okay, now what?" Nick said.
"Wait a few seconds," Judy said before she charged forward again.
Nick understand her plan but would have a few words later about charging head-on into danger, again.
Just like their initial attack, the Assassin defended himself with little difficulty and eventually punched Nick with enough force that it launched him into the wall.
"Nick!" Judy's gaze followed her partner. but she quickly realized the mistake of looking away. Fortunately for her, the Assassin did not attack and waited until their eyes met to resume fighting.
With Judy alone, the Assassin went more on the offensive, landing mild hits on the bunny while dodging and deflecting her attacks.
To her surprise, Judy failed to land a single hit despite having taken down mammals many times her size before and this mammal was no bigger than a wolf. During one attack, the Assassin punched Judy in the face with enough force to launch her backwards. Nick recovered in time to see Judy land hard on the floor and saw her bleeding from the mouth.
"Judy!" He became enraged at Judy being hurt and snapped his head at the Assassin. Roaring with fury, Nick immediately got up and launched an all-out assault. The Assassin did the same to him in less time and eventually with a punch to the nose, sent Nick to the ground next to Judy.
The officers recovered from the blows and looked up to the Assassin covering his mouth. As they waited for his next move, a smoke cloud engulfed the alley and sent them into a coughing fit again. Expecting an attack, Nick and Judy hurriedly limped for the alley entrance, hoping they don't run into the Assassin. The two escaped the smoke and collapsed onto the ground. They recovered in time to see the smoke cleared and no Assassin. Despite using their senses, they found no trace of him in the alley. Their broken tasers were found on the ground without the blades.
"Darn it!" Judy yelled in frustration. "We almost had him, and the knives are gone too! That could have been useful evidence." She desperately looked at Nick. "Did you manage to get a piece of the clothing?"
Nick shook his head. "Sorry Carrots, I didn't even land a hit on him."
Judy groaned in frustration and pounded the ground with both paws.
"Now there's no point in sulking over it," Nick said. "This won't be the last encounter."
Once Judy calmed down, she looked at Nick and gasped. "Nick, your nose."
He checked it and saw the blood on his paw. "It's nothing serious. You should check your mouth."
Judy did so and saw hers covered in blood as well. "Is it bad?"
Nick shook his head. "Nothing a little water won't fix, but it did scare me at first."
"We should be lucky to have escaped with only minor injuries."
"I'm more afraid if our mammal decides to do worst."
They pulled themselves to their feet and recovered the damaged tasers.
"We should clean ourselves before returning to Bogo," Nick said. "Can't have him get us evaluated for something minor and be potentially taken off the case."
"That's much worse than the mammal escaping."
Frustrated at their failure, Judy and Nick returned to the rally to investigate the crime scene after cleaning blood off themselves in a restroom.
To anyone who was wondering, that was a phantom blade and throwing knife the Assassin used to knock the tasers away.
Chapter 4: Discovery
When Bogo saw Nick and Judy return, he was furious at their sudden disappearance at a critical time. "Hopps, Wilde, where have you two been?!"
"Sorry, sir." Judy quickly apologized. "We saw our mammal leaving the premises and made the pursuit to arrest him."
Her answer only increased the Chief's wrath, "You two should know better than chase after a dangerous killer. You could have gotten yourselves killed!" His volume increasing near the end. He kept his composure but that didn't stop his body from radiating anger.
Nick and Judy lowered their heads in shame and said nothing, knowing he was right.
"Sorry sir, it won't happen again," Nick apologized. He then looked around before facing Bogo again, "Where is Lionheart and how is that bear bodyguard?"
The Chief relaxed slightly and crossed his arms, "The Mayor is currently safe and being protected by SWAT. The bear has no serious injuries and will recover. I assumed you failed to make the arrest."
"We had him cornered, but he fought back," Judy said in defeat.
"We survived the encounter," Nick added. "But once again, he disappeared without a trace,"
Neither mentioned their minor injuries received from the fight.
"Chief," Judy said. "I suggest we watch the alleys. It appears that's where he originates from our recent encounter and investigation."
"We intended to report our findings after the rally," Nick said.
"Duly noted." He then turned to the officers. "Get the Mayor to safety and secure this location!"
The entire building was closed off and became a crime scene. Questions were raised on how the Assassin weakened the security and why he didn't kill Lionheart. Worse, the events were broadcasted on live television, bringing more doubt and humiliation to City Hall and the ZPD. The only positives were now the citizens can now aid in capturing the Assassin after seeing his weapon and appearance.
With everyone else occupied, Judy and Nick investigated the dead rhino on stage while waiting for forensics to arrive.
"At least now the murder weapon has been identified," Nick said. "I've never seen a concealed knife like that before. Once we arrest him, I want to know how it works and where it came from."
Meanwhile, Judy was confused about the turn of events, "I don't get it. Why target one of Lionheart's bodyguards and not him?" She put on a glove and padded down the body. While searching, Judy felt an object and pulled it out. Her eyes widened in horror at the concealed blade. "Why would you have this when you have a standard issued weapon, or better yet, your strength?"
Nick shrugged his shoulders. "Last resort, or it could have been placed there by the mammal himself?"
Judy shook her head. "No, we would have seen it. I suspect something deeper with our culprit." Judy noticed a piece of paper from where she removed the blade. "Hello, what is this?" She placed the knife in an evidence bag and pulled out the paper to read it.
The Assassin will appear at the event. Make sure you are alone with him and the target before carrying out your orders. May the Father of Understanding guide you.
Judy had to refrain from becoming too excited, "I was right! The bodyguard did have orders to kill Lionheart, and the plan was to implicate our White Feather Killer. What I'm more curious about is that the note calls him the Assassin with the A capitalized."
"His actions deserve the name, but I never heard the word Assassin used as a title." Nick took a second to grasp the situation. "Boy, this just got more interesting. I'm starting to believe my hunch is becoming more plausible."
Judy placed the note in another bag and hid it and the blade. "I doubt Chief Bogo will believe this. The knife and the note will implicate...the Assassin was it...more than the rhino."
"So we do that separate investigation you mentioned earlier,"
Nick took a moment to think. "Hmm, where do you want to start?"
"I want to investigate if Lionheart had a connection with the victims. From his outburst earlier, he certainly feared for his life and these mammals could be responsible."
Back at Precinct One, Judy and Nick ran another background check on the victims. The bunny on the computer and the fox reading the physical files.
"According to the database," Judy said. "These mammals were involved with Lionheart during his campaign and once he got elected,"
"Huh," Nick said curiously while reading. "It also says they played a major role in Lionheart's release and reinstatement as Mayor."
"Bogo did say they were prominent in their field, so they could have had a lot of influence."
Nick closed the file and laid it on the desk, "Too much influence if you ask me."
Judy scoffed and rolled her eyes, "Nick, you seriously can't think these mammals were into shady business."
"Remember what I said earlier, Carrots. Their assassinations raise the possibility. That's what we're trying to find out for Lionheart."
The two continued their search until Judy came across an interesting piece of information.
"Look Nick. Lionheart broke off contact with them just before the reporter's death."
Nick saw the information on the computer screen, "And I bet the assassination attempt was to prevent a leak and pin the murder on the Assassin. Whoever these mammals belonged to must have planned this," He sighed deeply. "Too bad there's nothing connecting them to Depolitio. Pardon me for wanting that."
"You're probably not alone there," Judy said. "We still need proof if there is a scandal since we only have assumptions."
Nick and Judy combed through the information again, but the search yielded no results.
"Well no surprise to see nothing relating to threats and warnings against Lionheart in the files," Nick said.
While continuing the search, they discovered their previous involvement with Zootopia's pop star Gazelle.
"Check this out!" Judy said. "These mammals also worked with Gazelle and she too broke off contact them before the first murder." A dreaded thought came to her mind. "Do you think there's a plot to assassinate her?" Judy could only imagine the potential catastrophe on Zootopia.
"It happened with Lionheart. But other than severing ties, Gazelle has too much integrity to be involved in shady business."
"Should we tell Bogo?"
Nick shook his head. "This is a very serious assumption here, Carrots. Bogo will demand proof when we have none. Despite being a massive Gazelle fan, will Buffalo Butt even believe us?"
"No, but he'll definitely want to protect Gazelle during her performance."
Nick smiled with satisfaction, understanding Judy's plan. "Right. That will draw out the Assassin if there is a plot. But after the rally, it could be a while before Gazelle even considers performing."
"Knowing her, she'll want him caught as soon as possible. We just have to wait and continue our investigation for now."
In the aftermath of the assassination attempt, Lionheart to imposed stricter security measures. His appearances became even rarer, preferring television broadcast over live appearances. The partnership between the city and Depolitio became more strained when word got out that the company failed to contribute to capturing the Assassin. In the public eye, the combined forces would have ended the killing spree. As a result, support for the company took a hit, and City Hall and the ZPD secretly enjoyed in their misfortune. Though they themselves didn't escape blame, they grew more tolerant at the negative reception.
Judy and Nick were released from protecting Lionheart after the rally, bringing them much relief. Having more time dedicated to the case, they began their side investigation. The two immediately ruled out questioning Maverick and Karrar because of the strained partnership. This was proven by Bogo's colorful response to any company representative visiting the ZPD. Instead, Nick and Judy visited two mammals whom they feel might have worked with the victims: Dawn Bellwether and Mr. Big.
At the prison where Bellwether is incarcerated, Judy and Nick successfully arranged an interview with her. In the interrogation room, they saw Bellwether sitting at the table surrounded by predator guards who were justifiably grimacing at the ewe. Nick and Judy, meanwhile, maintained their professional appearance. The officers requested to speak with her alone, knowing that her information is sensitive. The guards agreed and reminded them that they will be ready to assist at a moment's notice.
Naturally, Bellwether was unenthusiastic about seeing Nick and Judy. After they were left alone, the ewe spoke her disdain, "What a surprise to see the hero cops of Zootopia here!"
"Hello, Bellwether," Nick said nonchalantly.
"What do you want?" She quickly put her chained hooves up before they could respond, "Wait, let me guess. You want to talk to me about the White Feather case?"
Judy sat down in the chair, maintaining her neutral expression. "It's more than that," She said in a serious tone. "We discovered the victims' connections to Lionheart. Perhaps you met them while as Assistant Mayor and later as Mayor."
Bellwether scoffed and rolled her eyes. "You don't need me. You have Lionfart and the police database."
"Two problems there," Nick said. "The system didn't provide us all the information, and Lionheart rarely lets anyone meet directly with him after the rally."
"Well isn't that unfortunate." She said while crossing her arms.
"Please," Judy pleaded and pulled out her notepad and carrot pen. "If you know anything, tell us. Someone will die by their paws eventually. It already happened to a predator. It will happen to prey; who even you don't wish harm upon. We'll help you out when this is all over, and your contribution right now is the first step."
After a brief pause, Bellwether realized they were right. The sheep took a deep breath and leaned forward to whisper. "These mammals approached me when they discovered my Night Howlers plot. They offered their support in exchange for me granting them benefits when I became Mayor. But I quickly discovered that their plans involve harming the prey."
"Yet you tried to have me kill Judy." Nick reminded, glaring at the ewe.
Bellwether shook her head. "This is much worse. It's what ultimately turned me away. I immediately severed ties with them after making the discovery. Deliberately harming prey is a line I refuse to cross. With obvious exceptions." Bellwether glared at Judy but the latter kept her professional appearance to Nick's admiration.
"Good to know," Judy said, showing no emotion and writing down the sheep's words on her notepad. "Anything else you can tell us?"
"While in prison, I overheard their plan to recruit the Mayor. Clearly, that failed. But to be honest, I'm actually glad this mammal is dealing with them. I support their goals but not their methods."
"Did they try to contact anyone else and do you know the exact details of their methods?" Judy asked, wanting change the subject.
"I was arrested before I could investigate thankfully. They warned of consequences when I broke off contact with them. I would have been silenced permanently had I not been discredited."
That made Bellwether the third mammal to have a troubled encounter to Nick and Judy's knowledge. This made them wonder how many more mammals could be in trouble.
"Thank you for your cooperation, Bellwether," Judy said.
"Be careful in your investigation. They have eyes and ears everywhere." She pointed her hoof at them. "Remember your promise."
Judy and Nick nodded and left the interrogation room as the guards returned Bellwether to her cell.
Once outside, Nick leaned over to Judy, "Are we really going to help her out of prison?" He asked, worried about assisting the mammal who nearly destroyed them.
"Nope, but we can place her under house arrest and lighten her sentence should her information come through. No good deed goes unpunished."
Next, the two visited Mr. Big in Tundratown. His daughter Fru Fru had given birth to a new Arctic shrew and named her Judy as promised. Mr. Big followed through with his promise in declaring Judy Hopps to be her godmother. In a surprise twist, he also declared Nick to be the godfather, reasoning that seeing him turn his life around for the better convinced the shrew that the fox was a changed mammal. Nick gladly accepted the renewed friendship. The mob boss enjoyed having the two visit on their days off to care for and play with their goddaughter.
The officers noticed the heavy security to Mr. Big's mansion on this visit compared to previous ones. The polar bear at the front entrance immediately stopped the civilian vehicle. Judy lowered the window so the polar bear can speak.
"State your name and business."
"Judy Hopps with Nick Wilde. We're here to see Mr. Big."
The polar bear saw the two and then radioed in. "Let them in."
They opened the gates and Judy and Nick drove onto the property.
"Looks like these mammals tried to recruit Mr. Big," Nick said.
"You may be right about that."
After Nick and Judy parked their vehicle, two polar bears met them and escorted them inside to Mr. Big's office. After checking on Fru Fru and her daughter, Judy and Nick entered the office where Mr. Big and his polar bear, Koslov, were waiting for them.
"Welcome back, my friends," The mob boss greeted. "I do enjoy having your company here. It's nice to have friends in the ZPD."
He brought his ring forward and the two kissed it before speaking.
"I hope you realize we can't do you a lot of favors," Judy said.
"Of course, I am only joking." Mr. Big then became serious. "But I know why you're here."
This surprised Nick and Judy.
"You do?" Judy asked.
"Yes, and I'm afraid to tell you that I have no connection or ever made contact with this White Feather Killer as the media calls it. If I ever did, I would have iced him in a heartbeat for his killing spree."
"Actually, we came ask if you know the victims," Nick said. "Show him, Hopps."
Judy stepped forward to the table and revealed their pictures.
Mr. Big leaned forward to look at the photos. "Ah yes, there are actually more than those pictured here. They tried to make me an offer I couldn't refuse, but I disagreed with their plan."
"What was their plan?" Judy asked, eager to get answers.
"They want peace and order in all things. While noble goals, I disagreed with their highly questionable and borderline unethical methods. Despite being a crime boss and wishing to increase my power and influence in Zootopia, I could not go along with that. It was too much even for me."
"Judging by the heavy security, they tried attacking you like with Bellwether and Lionheart," Nick said.
"Yes. Fortunately, my experience of being targeted by my enemies has saved me. Their first attempt ended with the perpetrators being iced. But I fear it will only be a matter of time before they succeed. They are more powerful than I realized."
"Don't worry, Mr. Big," Judy assured. "We'll find these mammals and expose their plot."
"I know you will. Before you leave, I have a request. When you do find the White Feather Killer, do not arrest him immediately. Instead, bring him to me so that I may reward his services and inquire about the motives. I do sound hypocritical for threatening to ice him just moments ago, but I changed my mind after connecting the pieces."
"We'll do out best," Nick said. "But we can't guarantee if the ZPD gets to him first."
"Thank you for your time Mr. Big," Judy said.
"Always a pleasure to have your company."
The time spent traveling visiting and setting up meetings with their mammals of interests consumed the entire day. Tired but wanting to continue working, Judy and Nick ordered take out and crashed at Judy's new apartment which she got a year after Nick joined the ZPD. She tried to convince him to move in with her, but Nick reasoned that he favored the peacefulness that came from solitude and needed to be responsible for himself. Still, Judy convinced him to look for a better apartment.
In a makeshift office of her apartment, Judy and Nick laid out the information from Bellwether and Mr. Big along with everything else gathered so far on the table. While organizing the information on the bulletin board, Judy looked back to see Nick sitting on the couch and eating his meal.
She grew annoyed at his lack of contribution. "Nick, aren't you going to help me?"
"I will, Carrots. But organizing is your specialty so I don't want to mess anything up and have you yelling at me later."
Judy grunted but conceded. "Fair point."
Once she finished, she joined Nick on the sofa and ate her meal beside him.
"This is what we have so far. There are four dead mammals whose deaths were caused this blade." She pointed to their pictures on the board along with the best quality picture of the weapon acquired.
"Aside from rhino who was only an average bodyguard," Nick said. "The others are prominent in their respective career fields. This is where it gets confusing. We originally thought it was an attack on high-profile figures, but that changed with Lionheart being spared. Now the question is why the rhino and not the Mayor?"
"More importantly, who is this Assassin figure, what are his motives, and what exactly are these mammals planning?" Judy wondered.
"To be honest, I feel relieved from this recent development. When Bogo said the victims were high-profile, I was worried about us being targeted given our popularity in Zootopia."
Judy looked up at Nick, surprised to hear that. "Really? I didn't know if you felt the same. You make yourself extremely difficult to read."
"Glad to see I haven't gotten rusty," Nick's satisfaction was quickly replaced with sadness. "But seriously, the feelings have been there since we first heard the details. When we were separated during the chase, I was worried that the Assassin would kill you. And seeing him hurt you in the alley pushed me over the edge. I really thought it was the end when we were knocked down and engulfed in smoke."
Judy saw Nick's sadness after he finished speaking and snuggled closer to comfort him. "Nick, thank you so much for caring for me. You have no idea how relieved I felt when he left us alone back there. Don't forget that I care so much for you also. You're my partner and best friend so I'll always look out for you. Until it's certain that the Assassin won't target us, we must remain on guard."
Nick and Judy cuddled together and spent a few moments in silence, happy over their survival. Working non-stop since being assigned the case, they cherished the moment of respite and refused to let thoughts of the Assassin taking their lives affect them. Much to their reluctance, the two resumed working. Eventually, they slowly came to a realization. What started as a series of homicides has unraveled into a conspiracy that could have more dire consequences than the savaged predators.
"Nick. You realize if we do uncover something sinister, it could bring pandemonium to Zootopia with the possible numbers involved."
"Which is why this must be kept secret, even from the ZPD. Again, we need solid proof before coming forward. Even our reputation won't change how the city views the Assassin."
"Don't forget that any information leaks could scare away him and the potential conspirators."
Judy took a deep breath. "Gosh, I wonder how many more mammals are involved."
"I'm more concerned with their intentions for Zootopia if they succeed."
"Hmm. The only one who knows is the Assassin, but it's impossible to track him."
"We'll just have to wait until he strikes again because I doubt the traffic cams will help us this time."
"Hmm. Maybe not. I'm curious to see how he bypassed all the security."
"Then we pay a visit to our old pals tomorrow morning."
The next day, Judy and Nick accessed the cameras from the day of the rally and found one with a perfect view of the entrance. While looking through the footage, the Assassin came into view and stood across the street from the entrance.
"Time to see how he got in," Judy said.
They watched him look at the mammals going into the rally. The Assassin then set his sights on his target and made the approach.
"Stealing an invitation." Nick presumed. "Why am I not surprised?"
Judy and Nick watched him carefully close in without drawing attention. His paw was seen slowly reaching out as the Assassin got closer. Nick and Judy barely missed him swiping his paw and pick-pocketing the invitation. He walked a short distance away and quickly replaced his hood with a top hat.
"Is a hat really going to make a difference?" Nick said.
The Assassin approached the entrance and showed the invitation at the checkpoint. Seconds later, he entered the building.
"I don't believe this." He said in disbelief.
"It only works if no one sees you do it." Judy reminded. "Do you really find that hard to believe?"
"It's just that…how does no one see this occur?"
"We can ask him when we bring him in."
They changed cameras to the back entrance and fast forwarded until they saw the Assassin and themselves exiting the building.
"There he is," Nick said.
"Now to see where he goes," Judy said.
They tracked his movements through the cameras to the dead end alley and never saw the Assassin come out.
"That must be his base," Judy said
"Wait." Nick checked the surrounding cameras. In one footage of the alley, they saw him climbing onto the roof and then running across the rooftops. "Remember, he is a professional. The Assassin probably planned for that escape. He just needed to lose us first."
Before they continued, a knock came on their door. They opened to see Fangmeyer standing nearby.
"Fangmeyer, what is it?" Judy asked.
"Chief wants everyone to the bullpen for an urgent meeting. It's about the White Feather Killer case." The tigress answered.
Judy and Nick looked at each other and nodded.
"We'll be there," Nick responded.
Fangmeyer nodded and left for the meeting.
"What do you think it will be this time?" Nick asked.
"If I had to guess," Judy said. "It's a plan to draw out the Assassin now that he's proven to be hard to get."
Chapter 5: The Concert
Inside the bullpen, the atmosphere had returned to the normal rowdy behavior that had been recently absent, showing the officers' determination to stop the Assassin. Judy and Nick calmly sat in their seat and were not surprised to hear the Assassin being called a coward by their fellow officers for his methods. They could only sigh and refrain from voicing their objections.
Bogo entered and the officers became silent and gave him their undivided attention. The Chief stepped up to the podium and saw their renewed fire and determination. Though his outward expression didn't show it, he was happy to see that in them.
"I called this urgent meeting because Gazelle, a possible target, is holding a concert later this week as a sign of positive action. She has asked the ZPD to provide protection during the performance. We have already accepted her request because we are good mammals and do not wish harm upon Zootopia's pop star." His tone becoming serious near the end. "Her manager has provided us with the plans so we can properly prepare. Let's get to work."
The room erupted in excitement and continued as the officers were leaving.
"It seems our luck is changing for once," Nick said, keeping a calm expression but his wagging tail betrayed him.
But Judy bounced with energy, trying not to binky. "I know right! We need to start investigating all the mammals working for Gazelle."
"Hold the phone there, Fluff. We can't make our actions obvious. We don't want to alert Gazelle's potential assassin."
Judy managed to calm down from her excitement. "I know. We'll be careful in our search. Should we tell Gazelle?"
"Yes, she needs to be aware of this so she can be on the lookout also. I have no doubt she will cooperate."
"When do you want to tell her?"
"When she's alone. Can't have her assassin within earshot."
Like the rally, the concert would be held indoors. This one in a stadium. As per terms of the partnership, they reluctantly presented their plan to Depolitio. Naturally, the company refused to see them, clearly displaying the increasing division. Regardless, City Hall and the ZPD moved forward, spending the time leading up to the performance reviewing the plans and assigning officers and SWAT to every possible entry points.
To prevent another escape, a special unit was created with two roles: scent and speed. The speed unit consisted of the fastest and most agile officers. The scent unit consisted of officers with a strong sense of smell. One member of each unit would be paired up when the Assassin appears. Judy was assigned the speed unit and Nick, the scent unit. Naturally, they became the assigned pairs.
Because smoke was used in the previous escape, the ZPD will use gas masks to eliminate that factor. To prevent another surprise and from stretching their forces, an extra officer was assigned to protect the sniper teams and the police concentrated on the stage area.
Meanwhile, Judy and Nick had their own plans for the Assassin. Should they meet alone, the officers will approach peacefully and reveal their discoveries to him, hoping he would explain the motives behind the assassinations and cooperate. Should they end up arresting the Assassin, Judy and Nick will work to prevent any unfair treatment to avoid losing their chance of confirming their suspicions.
In her dressing room, Gazelle rehearsed the lyrics from her selection of songs and constantly reminded herself that the concert was for the benefit of Zootopia. Even if she was putting her life in danger. A knock on the door disrupted her thoughts.
The door opened and the singer was surprised to see Nick and Judy as her visitors.
"Officers, what brings you here?"
"Just checking up on you," Judy said. "How are you feeling?"
"A little nervous to be honest, but it's something I must do. Zootopia already went through this before, and I do not wish for this to continue any longer."
"We understand," Nick said. He paused for a moment before continuing. "Listen, there's a reason why we came here."
Gazelle became curious. "What is it?"
"Before we say anything else, do you trust us and promise not to tell anyone else, not even the ZPD?" Judy said.
The singer became concerned from the seriousness. Whatever Judy and Nick had to say must be important if it must remain a secret. "You two saved Zootopia before so I promise."
Nick checked to make sure that the door to the dressing room was locked and then took a deep breath before speaking. "We believe there is someone in your group who plans to kill you."
The information stunned Gazelle into silence. She slowly sat down in her chair with her hooves over her face as the information was almost too much for her.
Judy continued on with the conversation, "Gazelle, we looked into the mammals killed and noticed that you previously had contact with them. Do you remember?"
The singer slowly nodded her head, lowering her hooves to her chin. "Yes, but what does that have to do with someone wanting to kill me?"
"Because these mammals were also previously in contact with Lionheart," Nick said. "And look what happened."
Gazelle put the pieces together and came to the terrifying conclusion. "I don't believe this. Do you know who it could be?"
Nick shook his head, "No, but there is someone who does,"
The singer realized who he was referring to but immediately had doubts. "How can you be sure that I'm not the one?" She didn't have the same trust as Judy and Nick had for the Assassin.
"Because Lionheart would already be dead."
"We understand that this is hard for you, but it's the only way to know for sure." Judy reasoned.
"We thought about questioning everyone else but that would only draw suspicion and possibly scare your assassin away," Nick said.
Gazelle sighed but knew they were right. "This makes me want to take action, but I know I can't. What should we do?"
"I'm afraid we must carry on as normal and hope nothing happens to you," Judy said, disappointed with the lack of options. "We'll keep watch on you at all times before, during, and after the concert."
"If we're in luck our mammal will appear and eliminate your assassin before it happens," Nick assured.
Gazelle shook her head, displaying her reluctance. "This is not something I wish to be a part of, but if it's the only way to understand this mammal's motives, I will do it. If what you say is true, then I hope he does appear."
"Thank you for understanding, Gazelle," Judy said.
"And remember," Nick said. "If you suspect anything, let me and Hopps know immediately. We can't have the other officers getting carried away with the arrest."
Gazelle nodded, now more determined and confident. "I will."
On the day of the performance, it was a sellout crowd. But the ZPD and Gazelle's group knew it was the perfect opportunity for the Assassin to strike. Police officers and SWAT surrounded the stage area so that only her and her dancers were allowed inside. Gazelle began her performance with her hit Try Everything. From there, the concert carried on and finished as scheduled. No reports of the Assassin came in, but they remained on guard and vigilant.
When the concert ended, Gazelle's organization and the police waited until the audience cleared out of the stadium. The police force then surrounded Gazelle and her tiger dancers and cleared a path to the backstage. They arrived safely and allowed the entertainers to pack up. The equipment and clothing were moved first and then the entertainers. While the police escorted Gazelle and her tigers to their ride out back, Nick became alarmed when something tipped off his smell.
"Carrots, my nose is picking up a familiar scent with one of the dancers."
Judy became alarmed as her ears went stiff. "What do you want to do?"
As they neared the back exit, the tiger dancers moved ahead in front of Gazelle to allow the police to defend the rear. Just before leaving the doors, Judy broke through with her tranquilizer drawn and aimed at the tigers.
"Stop right there! You're under arrest!"
The others were stunned at her action.
"Hopps, what are you doing?!" Bogo yelled, shocked and enraged at such accusation.
"I know you'll have a hard time believing me Chief," She then pointed to one of the dancers. "But that tiger is going to kill Gazelle!"
They looked back and forth at each other with anger and disbelief.
"That's absurd! Stop this nonsense!" Bogo yelled.
"Tell that to Officer Wilde who found a blade on the dancer."
The rest looked to see Nick standing next to the dancer. The fox reached out to the tiger and pulled out a blade from the dancer.
Gazelle felt overcome with betrayal as one of her own was the last mammal she expected. "It's you?! How could you?! Why would you want to do such a thing?!"
Caught, the dancer quickly wrestled the blade from Nick and took Gazelle hostage. The ZPD and SWAT immediately moved into position and aimed their weapons at the tiger. The dancer held the blade against Gazelle's neck as he backed towards the exit.
"Make any wrong move and it will be the end of Zootopia's pop star's career!" The dancer warned.
Clawhauser was filled with rage at her idol being threatened. "If you make any mark on her, I swear!"
"You won't do anything!" The dancer interrupted. "You're going to let me go and not come after me."
"We will find you even if you escape!" Judy yelled.
"The entire area is surrounded so good luck trying to get through!" Nick warned.
"Your numbers don't matter," The tiger refuted. "Once I disappear, you won't ever find me again, and that's a promise."
Gazelle was doing everything to not panic, "Please, don't do this. Think of the consequences."
"Quiet! Keep moving!"
Gazelle looked at Judy and Nick and the latter gave a slight nod. She understood what she must do and motioned the other officers to keep their distance. The ZPD and SWAT carefully followed the tiger as he backed away to the exit while restraining Gazelle and holding a blade to her neck. If they fired, the tiger would still have time to kill Gazelle so they had to wait.
"Once we arrest you, there will be justice to pay for your actions!" Bogo yelled.
"We know you're the White Feather Killer who's been terrorizing all of Zootopia!" Clawhauser cried.
The tiger laughed at their accusations. "I'm afraid you got the wrong mammal here. I'm not the responsible for all those murders."
"Impossible!" Bogo yelled, furious yet confused over the tiger's words. "Then who are you?!"
The tiger shot an infuriating smirk. "Have to catch me to know, but you won't get the chance."
Gazelle continued to distract the tiger and buy time for the Assassin. "You didn't have to take me hostage. You could have fled instead. Now you will pay for your actions. You will not escape!"
"You're not in the position to make any threats."
The hostage situation continued as the police force formulated a plan to rescue Gazelle and take down the tiger. Unfortunately, they were quickly running out of time as the tiger reached the doors and forced them open with his back. The entire group was met with flashing lights and loud screams as fans waiting for them caught witness to the hostage scene. The tiger took advantage of the distraction to move to the parked vehicle.
While reaching for the door with one arm, the tiger suddenly gasped and became rigid. He released Gazelle who quickly ran to safety and was protected by Bogo and Clawhauser. Their sights quickly shifted back to the dancer. They and everyone else watched the tiger stand motionless and drop the blade. He looked down at his belly and saw a growing blood spot. The tiger fell to the ground revealing the Assassin sitting in the vehicle with the hidden blade activated, having lowered the window to make the kill.
The Assassin stared at the tiger with his arms crossed. "Was this to draw me out or we're you really going to kill Gazelle?"
The feline grunted in pain. "Both, she sealed her fate when refused to cooperate with us."
"If you paid any attention to her interviews, you would know that your vision for Zootopia is not the Zootopia she wants."
"She would have understood had she let us explained further."
The Assassin shook his head. "Why even explain your intentions if you end up eliminating the mammal for refusing?"
"We're not foolish enough to reveal everything from the start. We start small and continue if they have interest."
"It's your methods she disagrees with, not the goals."
"And you think she agrees with yours?"
"No, but my explanation will convince her."
The tiger chuckled. "Do you really think what you do is any different from us? We both eliminate those deemed a threat and want the same thing."
"It does little to change our methods."
"Of course you say that. Regardless of the outcome, the purpose was to paint you in a bad image. You're marked for death now and there's nothing you can do about it." The tiger exhaled for the last time.
The Assassin calmly stained a white feather with his blood.
"Stop him now before he escapes!" Bogo ordered.
The Assassin threw smoke bombs and fled.
"Gas masks on now!" Bogo commanded.
The police quickly put on their gas masks and pursued the Assassin. They come outside to see it dark and raining. The dispersing fans and getting Gazelle and her remaining tigers into the vehicle took precious time away. Police helicopters were immediately notified and tracked the Assassin's location. The lights shined down on the Assassin who was currently fighting three officers near the police barricade.
The Assassin pounced on and knocked the first officer out with a punch to the face. Seeing the second charging in, he looked down to see a taser on the utility belt and drew it. The Assassin fired the taser and brought down the second officer. Noticing the third moving in, he rushed to the second and looted the first weapon he touched, a tranquilizer. The Assassin fired and brought the third officer down. With the immediate threat cleared, he threw more smoke bombs and broke through the police barrier before reinforcements arrived and saw the carnage left behind.
"Everyone, get with your partner and find him!" Bogo ordered.
The speed and scent units quickly mobilized in their assigned pairs and pursued the Assassin. With the amount of distance the Assassin must have put between them, the police were forced to rely on the police helicopters and eyewitnesses to point in the direction. Having seen the footage, Judy and Nick knew of the Assassin's plan.
"He's using the roofs to escape the police," Judy said. "We have to intercept him there."
"But which one? He could go to any of the roofs in his path."
"To catch an Assassin, we have to think like one."
"Okay, how do we do that?"
"Stay low, keep watch, and listen." She turned off the sirens and turned up the police radio.
Listening in on the updates, the two drove ahead of the path. They soon received word that the helicopters lost sight of the Assassin and reported the last known location. Judy and Nick drove and stopped at the outer perimeter. From there, they patrolled the area at cruising speed while keeping watch for the Assassin. From the rear view mirrors, Nick caught a glimpse of a hooded figure walking in the opposite direction. The headlights shined on the figure and it was enough for Nick to recognized the Assassin from the attire.
"Where is he?" Judy asked, searching their surroundings.
"Behind us, but we'll lose him again in our cruiser."
Judy carefully slowed down the vehicle. "Then what do we do?"
"We use his escape plan against him."
They parked the cruiser nearby out of sight and followed the Assassin on foot. The darkness covered for their movements but made it harder for them to track the Assassin. Judy and Nick came across a fire escape in an alley next to them. The two nodded and hurried to the fire escape, barely keeping quiet with their movements. Judy and Nick climbed to the top of the fire escape and discovered ladder above them locked.
"Give me a lift so I can extend the ladder," Judy whispered.
Nick lifted her and she jumped for the ladder. The bunny succeeded and climbed onto the roof. There, she lowered the ladder for Nick to climb. On the roof, they went to the edge and looked down.
"Is the Assassin still there?" Judy asked.
Using his night vision, Nick located him next to their building. "Yes. Call it in."
Judy turned on her radio. "This is Officer Hopps with Officer Wilde. We have located the mammal and he is on the move. Request back up to our location." She relayed their location to the other officers.
Moments later, cruisers and helicopters closed in on the area. Nick and Judy watched for the Assassin's response and just as they hoped, he started climbing their building. Judy and Nick got ready and confronted the Assassin once in view.
"You're not safe here!" Judy yelled, her voice muffled from the mask.
The Assassin turned to see them on the rooftop with him.
"Don't think you're the only one who can use the rooftops!" Nick yelled.
The Assassin immediately threw a smoke bomb and fled.
Judy and Nick quickly slipped on their gas masks and pursued while relaying their locations so the others can intercept. The Assassin's display of speed and agility shocked the two. They wondered where he learned the skills but pushed those thoughts aside. The Assassin tried to lose them with smoke bombs, but upon seeing their gas masks, he soon abandoned that tactic.
Seeing that smoke is no longer a problem, Nick and Judy removed their gas masks. The chase led to higher buildings, forcing them to climb up the next. Up ahead, the Assassin saw a long jump to the next building. The Assassin broke into a full sprint and leaped off the edge. Propelling forward in the air with his arms and legs, he safely made the jump. Judy and Nick saw the display and did the same, but they barely managed to grab the ledge. Their exhaustion from the chase was beginning to show. While pulling themselves up, Judy suddenly lost her grip and started falling when the brick she was grabbing loosened.
"Carrots!" Nick swiftly grabbed her but the sudden added weight caused him to lose grip as well.
"You're slipping!" Judy yelled.
"Hold on! I can get us up!"
As Nick lifted Judy to where she can grab the building, they heard the sounds of footsteps approaching. They looked up and were surprised to see the Assassin looming over them.
Fear overwhelmed the officers from knowing that this was the end and they began to wonder how it will happen. Neither of them wanted their careers to end like this, but they knew dying on the job was a risk that came with being an officer. Judy had radioed in their current location earlier, but the ETA received was not encouraging.
The Assassin kneeled down and brought his arm forward, grabbing the fox's arm. Nick and Judy closed their eyes, expecting the end to be swift. In that moment, they felt happy for their time spent together and took great satisfaction in going out together.
Instead of feeling gravity, the officers felt themselves being pulled up. They opened their eyes in surprise and shock to see the Assassin pulling them onto the roof. The unexpected outcome had Judy and Nick reeling when seeing the Assassin walking to the opposite ledge brought them back.
"Wait! Don't go!" Judy cried.
The Assassin stopped at the edge, giving them the opportunity to approach him.
"We know about the victims," Judy said. "The information in their files aren't complete."
"If you come with us, we promise to hear your explanation." Nick pleaded.
The Assassin remained silent, still facing away at the ledge.
"We want to know why you are killing these mammals," Judy continued. "But we also know there's more to it and are willing to help," She hoped it was enough to convince him despite knowing well they were permitting murder under their watch.
"Think about it," Nick proposed. "We both have information that will help piece the puzzle together. You can prove your innocence and we'll protect you."
Bogo's voice on the police radio suddenly interrupted the conversation. "Hopps, Wilde, we're at your location. What's your status?"
Nick and Judy had hoped for more time, but since the police announced their presence, the Assassin would be fleeing any moment now.
"I'll see you soon." The Assassin spread his arms out and leaped off the building. Shocked at such act, Judy and Nick dashed to the edge and managed to catch a glimpse of him disappearing below.
"How in the world can he do that?" Judy asked, knowing that he had survived but wondering how from such a fall.
"From my hustler days, no one I've seen can survive a jump like that. I don't know how that is possible," Nick said.
"Judging from his words, I think he wants more than just the ZPD's information."
"I have the same feeling, Carrots. He knows that an officer is working with these mammals."
"Chief Bogo is not going to like this."
"And I doubt he will believe the Assassin saved our lives."
"I think we should keep those details a secret," Judy revealed her carrot pen. "At least we recorded his words."
"And the evidence too," Nick revealed two plastic bags containing the blade and the note from the tiger dancer.
"What do you mean he just disappeared?" Bogo yelled, outraged and in disbelief that the Assassin would just disappear.
"Sir, we don't know how to explain it," Judy said. "One moment, he was standing at the edge and speaking to us. Then he just jumped off the building."
The last sentence reminded Bogo of something, "Now that you mentioned it, we did see a figure falling from the building at your location. We can assume it was our mammal. I sent officers to scout where he might have landed, but they reported nothing. I think it's safe to assume this mammal will no longer be a problem."
"I wouldn't say that just yet," Nick said.
"What do you mean?" Bogo said, curious at his words.
"Listen to this." Judy pulled out her carrot pen and played the recording.
Bogo's eyes immediately widened. "Are you saying that he'll target the ZPD next?"
"It happened with Lionheart and Gazelle, especially with how he appears and disappears," Nick said.
Bogo realized how true those words were and the consequences if word got out that the Assassin successfully infiltrated the ZPD and killed his target. "I won't take that chance!"
In the aftermath of the political rally and Gazelle's concert, the citizens became divided over the motives of the Assassin because of their unexpected outcomes. When asked, Lionheart refused to comment while Gazelle gave a conflicted answer.
"The terror caused by this mammal must not go unpunished. Zootopia does not deserve to live in such fear. But it doesn't change what he did for me. He saved my life and I believe the life of Mayor Lionheart as well. For that, I am forever grateful. If there is a reason for why these murders occurred and why Lionheart and I were targeted, then this mammal will have the answers." She then faced the screen to speak to the audience. "If you are out there watching this, I implore you to come forward so we may know your reasons."
Chapter 6: The ZPD
Slowly back on bringing this over from FF. I'm not going to change too much. Just some editing here or there.
The next day, Bogo arranged for another meeting that included the other Precincts to discuss the Assassin's possible visit to the police department. When he reached out to the other chiefs, they were more than willing to cooperate once Bogo informed them of the situation. Considering themselves high-value targets according to the Assassin's perceived criteria, the chiefs decided to remain in their respective districts and televise the meeting.
Bogo sat in a chair in the conference room of Precinct One, accompanied by Nick and Judy and in a conference call with the other chiefs. With everyone present, the meeting began. Nick, Judy, and Bogo could hear the eagerness from the twelve other chiefs.
"Now I understand that we are all angry at the outcome of the concert," Bogo began. "But this has resulted in another major development. Thanks to the resourcefulness of officers Hopps and Wilde, we have reason to believe this mammal will strike at the ZPD next. Hopps."
Judy played the recording for them to listen. While the message was short, it left the other chiefs intrigued yet terrified at the cryptic message.
"While this confession is vague at best," Bogo continued. "There is no doubt about the target. Since he neither specifies the location nor does it change his intentions, we must all be alert and vigilant. Because he uses civilians to elude capture, I propose that we allow him to enter our buildings unhindered and deny him that protection. Once he is confirmed to be inside, the building will be locked down to prevent his escape."
There were no objections. Some even voiced their creativity if the Assassin came to their precinct. A few of the suggestions left Nick and Judy feeling uncomfortable.
"Then it's settled," Bogo continued before the conversation digressed too much. "It is vital that we constantly update each other of our status. Together, we will bring down this mammal and bring him to justice."
The other chiefs acknowledged the plan and promptly dismissed themselves to begin the preparation, leaving Bogo, Nick, and Judy to themselves.
"Hopps, Wilde, a word before you leave?"
The two looked at each other momentarily, wondering what he wanted.
Bogo sighed deeply. "I know you two are on the case, but for your safety, I can't have you here should the killer arrive. You both are high-profile figures of Precinct One, so that makes you prime targets."
"No, sir," Judy objected. "That is not a good idea!"
Bogo furrowed his brow, clearly annoyed at the bunny putting herself in imminent danger once again. "And why is that?"
"Because," Nick said. "If he wanted to kill us, it would have happened when he cornered us both times. The first could be written off as him trying to find our weaknesses, but twice and with how vulnerable we were?" He shook his head. "Officer Hopps and I should not be here right now."
Bogo did find that odd from Nick's explanation, but one question remained. "Then how come he promises to attack the ZPD?"
"That's the key here, Chief," Nick continued. "We don't know who is his target."
As much as Bogo hated to admit it, Nick made sense. "Alright, you have a point. But that doesn't mean he'll try to use the both of you as hostages."
"Put us on surveillance then," Judy quickly said. "We can track him for you and be away from the danger."
Bogo carefully considered their reasoning and proposal. Judy was right, but the Assassin would search every part of the building to find his target. However, with each precinct preparing for the arrival, he needed all of his officers available. There was too much uncertainty to make the right decision. He finally made his choice against his better judgment. "Fine. You two can have that position, but I'm stationing an officer with you as a precaution. I don't want any risks."
"Thank you, Chief!" Judy exclaimed, grateful that everything worked out in their favor.
"Is there anything else you have to say?"
"Yes," Judy said, hoping to increase the odds in the Assassin's favor. "While the idea of letting the killer come to us sounds good, I don't think a direct attack is a good idea."
"We saw how this mammal can fight," Nick said. "Numbers don't seem to matter to him."
"I understand, but I doubt one mammal can take on the entire ZPD Precinct and win."
"But he's not after the ZPD," Judy said.
Bogo became confused, raising an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
Nick quickly covered her mouth. "Uh, what she means is that this mammal is smart enough not to fight the ZPD directly."
The buffalo remembered how that approach failed numerous times despite their best preparations. Even Nick and Judy, his best officers, failed to catch him. "Hmm, you're right. Thanks for the information." Bogo then left the room.
Judy wrestled free from Nick's hold and punched him in the arm. "What was that for?!"
Nick immediately shushed her. "You know we're not supposed to tell him about our suspicions!" He whispered.
"But he has to know that there is an insider at the ZPD is involved! The mammal may try to sabotage!"
"And what? Cause everyone here to be paranoid of each other or alert the officer?" Nick shook his head. "No, it's better if they see it for themselves to understand. Besides, Bogo will keep the mammal busy."
Judy sighed with reluctance. "I don't like this, but you're right. How will the Assassin know where to find us?"
"We told him where to go remember. We just need to track his progress when he gets here and give him our information."
"For once, I don't mind being away from the action."
After the emergency meeting, the ZPD prepared for the eventual arrival of the Assassin while Judy and Nick planned to secretly give him unrestricted access to the database upon his arrival.
All the precincts practiced their routes and trained their combat skills to take down the Assassin. All done in secrecy. Because he did not specify the timing or the location, every precinct remained on watch around the clock with overtime compensation until the capture. Should the Assassin prove difficult to capture, the police planned a discrete movement of reinforcements. Should there be any leaks or rumors, the excuse for such a large scale preparation was in case the Assassin struck at the ZPD. In reality, that was not far from the truth.
Meanwhile, Judy and Nick made the necessary adjustments to watch the cameras and work on the case. In the camera room, they were joined by the resident technician, a coyote named Thomas, and an officer assigned to them by Bogo on rotation. If for any reason Nick and Judy needed to leave the room, such as Bogo's orders, they were to be accompanied by the officer.
"I don't why you two would want to be in here," Thomas said. "There's not much to do."
"It was either that or be stuck in a safe house," Nick said. "And you know Carrots. She can't stand being in one place for a long time."
"Hey!" Judy cried out from a few feet away.
Thomas motioned around him. "And this isn't?"
"At least we have something to do here. What are our options in a safe house? Sit around and wait all day for news?"
"Fair points. At least I have company."
Judy spoke with the current bear officer guarding them. "Are you okay with this?"
"If it stops the killer's rampage, then yes. My family worries that I may be next despite them not knowing of the killer's criteria."
The bunny's ears drooped. "Oh." Her cheerful attitude quickly kicked in. "Don't worry. It will be over soon."
The officer chuckled. "I wish I had your optimism, Hopps."
"I tell her that all the time!" Nick shouted.
"It's a compliment!"
One night during Judy's watch, she noticed something on the surveillance feed. "Everyone, you need to see this."
Nick, Thomas, and Rhinowitz, the current officer guarding them, stopped what they were doing and looked at the cameras. There on one of the feeds, the Assassin was seen approaching the building.
"Our friend has arrived," Nick said.
"We need to let the Chief know right now," Thomas said.
"I got it," Judy said while reaching for the line.
"Let me know if the killer comes to this location," Rhinowitz said as he went outside to stand guard.
Judy hit the button for Bogo's office. "Chief, he's here."
Static was heard before the buffalo's voice came through. "Thank you, Hopps."
Bogo sent the word out and the entire Precinct was on high alert. Judy, Nick, and Thomas watched the screens for the Assassin. Unfortunately once inside, the Assassin appears to know the camera's blind spots, making it difficult for the three to track. However, they began to notice the disappearance of the officers in their search.
"What's going on?!" Thomas exclaimed. "I can't find everyone!" His worry growing in his voice.
"Hold on," Judy assured. "Let's not call for reinforcements just yet."
"I wouldn't be too sure Carrots," Nick said as he pointed to one of the feeds.
There, the Assassin sneaked up to an unsuspecting officer and performed a silent takedown before moving on.
This confirmed Thomas' worst suspicions, and he immediately reported the action. "Chief, we need to call in reinforcements! The killer is taking down our officers!"
"Acknowledged. You and Rhinowitz must protect Hopps and Wilde at all cost if he goes to your location! Inform me when the reinforcements arrive."
Bogo immediately alerted the other Precincts of the attack. While they trusted that the Assassin can escape, Judy and Nick still did their best to buy enough time for him to get to their location without giving themselves away.
All of a sudden, a struggle and banging were heard outside the door that lasted a few seconds and then a loud thud. Judy, Nick, and Thomas watched the door slowly open, revealing the Assassin and an unconscious Rhinowitz on the floor. Judy and Nick were not surprised, but Thomas was stunned. Before the coyote could react, he felt a prick in his shoulder. Within seconds, his vision faded and he blacked out. Judy and Nick watched Thomas slump in the chair with a dart sticking from his shoulder. The two looked back to see the Assassin holding a ZPD tranquilizer gun. They remained silent as he entered the room and closed the door behind him. While Judy and Nick knew he would do them no harm, his actions still brought fear. The three conscious mammals made eye contact.
The Assassin stopped right in front of them. "Where's the database?"
Nick pointed to the location. "Right over there."
The Assassin looked in the direction and walked over to check it. When confirmed, he reached into his attire and brought out a drive. He then inserted it and downloaded the data. To Nick and Judy, this was the perfect opportunity to ask questions since they don't know when the next time they could meet alone. In the end, they felt that the current situation was inappropriate. Silence occupied the room until Judy nervously broke it, trying to make conversation.
"I know many of us here won't admit it, but they're grateful for you saving the Mayor and Gazelle's life."
"And we're especially grateful for you saving our lives back there," Nick added.
The drive continued to download, and the room remained silent again until Judy broke it again with less unease this time.
"So, how do you know who is a double agent?"
"You'll find out soon enough. All I ask is for you forgive me for what I'm going to do," The Assassin turned his head to them and all the two could see was the smile under his hood. "Don't worry. No one else will die."
"That's...reassuring." Nick hesitantly said.
"They called for reinforcement from the other Precincts. They're on their way here at this moment." Judy warned.
The Assassin nodded. "They did huh? Thanks for the warning."
"You're welcome," Nick said. "You better finish up here before they arrive. I doubt you can handle them despite what we've seen."
He chuckled. "I know my limits. Taking on one Precinct is enough, and my target just happens to be here."
Once the drive finished downloaded, the Assassin retrieved it and turned to leave when Judy spoke up.
"Wait, we can help you." Judy pleaded. "We know the ZPD isn't friendly to your methods, but you can trust us."
"She's right," Nick affirmed. "All of Zootopia know of your assassinations which means your targets know as well. It will be very difficult for you from here on out with everyone searching."
There was a brief pause as they waited for the Assassin's answer. Judy and Nick felt that this was their last chance to become involved once the Assassin carried out his mission here. Afterwards, they would have no choice but to give up reaching out to him.
"Find the mark at the origins." The Assassin left the room before they could ask more questions.
Satisfied with the answer, Judy and Nick quickly returned to their duties before their cover is blown. To their surprise, the Assassin was seen going in the direction of the front entrance where the lockdown had been activated.
Bogo's voice then came on the radio. "Hopps, Wilde, what's the status of the killer?"
They looked at each for a moment before Nick nodded.
Judy answered the radio. "He's heading for the front entrance."
"Affirmative Hopps. You four continue to monitor his movements and the backup. All available officers! Meet me in the lobby now! We must hold him down until reinforcements arrive!"
Judy and Nick sat and watched the Assassin stroll by the wounded and incapacitated officers. They saw him entering the main lobby and Clawhauser hiding behind his desk, trying to remain hidden. There, ten ZPD officers appeared and immediately surrounded him. The last line of defense included Bogo, Snarlof, McHorn, Higgins, Francine, Fangmeyer, Delgato, Grizzoli, Wolford, and a Boar officer.
"There is no escape!" Bogo announced. "You are facing the best of Precinct One!"
The officers had their weapons drawn and aimed at the Assassin. They were ready to attack at the slightest movement. But they still held out hope for his surrender.
"Oh boy, this should be fun," Nick said. "They better hope he's in a good mood."
"He's not making an effort to escape, so his target must be among them. Not including Bogo of course. Maybe that's why he's doing this."
In the main lobby, the Assassin quietly stood in the center. A large cloud of smoke suddenly erupted from him and engulfed the entire area, enough to stun the officers but light enough to clear easily. The smoke finally cleared and to their surprise, they saw the Assassin in the same position but noticed something different. He was holding a cloth bag, and they noticed their paws empty. They quickly looked to see their weapons and belts missing. A look of terror befell their faces. What happened next further surprised them. The Assassin revealed a ball with a string attached. He placed it into the bag and pulled the string. He quickly tied the bag and heaved it as far away as possible from them. The officers questioned the action when their answer came a few seconds later. The bag exploded and destroyed the weapons. The situation quickly became more dangerous for the officers. They wondered if he had more explosives on him.
While distracted, the sprinklers went off as a result of the explosion. This drastically changed the environment.
"Okay, that was clever," Nick admitted.
"Clever how?" Judy wondered.
"He just evened the playing field."
Judy immediately understood his statement. "Smart mammal."
Without their weapons, the officers had no choice but to use their physical strengths with extreme caution, refusing to be deterred by how dangerous the Assassin is. Relying on experience from the sparring matches, they immediately got into fighting stances and waited for him to make the first move. In their minds, the officers lavished the opportunity to see how he fairs in the open instead of the shadows. The Assassin simply raised his fists clenched together and signaled. At that moment, the officers moved in for the takedown.
Grizzoli went in with a flying kick, but the Assassin quickly caught his foot. The white wolf fell to the floor, and the Assassin stepped hard on his abdomen, breaking a few ribs.
Three others charged in but the Assassin deflected their attacks. Francine tried to grab him with her trunk, but he caught it instead. The Assassin pulled Francine in close and proceeded to punch her repeatedly in the face before using all his strength to knock the elephant to the floor with assistance from the wet floor. He then broke one of Francine's hooves causing her to trumpet as he dodged an incoming kick.
Snarlof charged in to grab him when the Assassin caught both his arms. Still holding on, the Assassin jumped, let go and kicked the polar bear with both feet. Snarlof stumbled backwards and slipped on the wet floor, landing hard on his back. Before the bear could get up, he suddenly felt his leg twisted in an unnatural way and let out a roar of pain from the bones breaking.
Back in the surveillance room, Judy and Nick watched the scene unfold in silence. With her ears down, Judy covered her mouth with her paws and a look of horror on her face. Nick gulped nervously and had the same look as when Judy busted him for tax evasion.
The Assassin pushed down another officer as Higgins attacked. He blocked him and pushed the hippo to the ground. The Assassin then unleashed a series of fast punches on Higgins's chest and then his face, essentially incapacitating him.
The Assassin quickly returned his attention to the remaining officers, waiting for the next attack. They, including Bogo himself, were hesitant to strike, shocked from witnessing such display of strength and brutality.
After a few seconds, Wolford reluctantly charged forward. The Assassin blocked the attack and hit the wolf in the neck to stun him. He then brought his head down and kneed him in the head. The Assassin grabbed his head and tossed him away with all his strength. Wolford fell to the ground hard head first and was incapacitated.
McHorn charged in, but the Assassin used his large size against him and tripped the rhino. McHorn fell to the ground hard from the momentum. Before he could recover, he felt his bones break in his shoulder and lower back, letting out a bellow of pain.
Only Delgato, Fangmeyer, Bogo, and the Boar remained. In a desperate attempt to bring down the Assassin, they all attacked at the same time, hoping the simultaneous assault would give them the break they desperately needed. Instead, their plan failed as the Assassin deflected each and every one of their attacks.
With each deflection, the Assassin launched his own. He first kicked the boar away and knocked Bogo away with a punch to his face. The Assassin ducked a swipe from Fangmeyer and focused on Delgato. Caught off guard, the lion was unable to avoid the knockout blows on his head and neck. Fangmeyer went for another, but this time the Assassin seized her arm. Caught off by the swiftness and strength, the Assassin dealt knockout blows on the tigress to her neck and belly. He watched as she fell to the ground before turning his attention to the raging Cape Buffalo staring him down.
Fearless as he is, Bogo charged forward and threw a few punches. But like with the other large mammals, the Assassin used the size against him, and in his rage, Bogo stumbled, leaving him exposed for a moment. The Assassin proceeded to deliver the same fast punches to Bogo's chest, actually punching him to the ground and left him twitching from the assault.
The boar remained lone fighter standing, and he quickly considered the options. He never expected this from someone slightly taller than him. His chances quickly dwindled as the Assassin slowly approached him. In a panic, the boar attacked, but the Assassin caught his arm and landed a few blows to stun him. He then grabbed the boar and flipped himself over. Midair, he turned himself around, still holding onto the boar, and landed safely behind him. The action caused the boar to fall off his feet, and the Assassin now held the boar's head in his paws. The boar struggled to break free as the Assassin proceeded to punch him in the face repeatedly until his nose began to bleed.
Seeing that, the Assassin stopped and raised one of his paws. With a flick of the wrist, he activated the hidden blade. The boar's face expressed his fear at his oncoming fate. But instead of immediately claiming his life, the Assassin opened up his uniform with the blade. There, hanging around the neck was a necklace in the shape of an incriminating red cross. That was all the Assassin needed to see. The boar's eyes widened in horror as he raised the blade and snuffed him out. All present or watching witnessed the assassination.
"Is this all you came to do? To take my life? Was it necessary to hurt everyone else?"
"I came here for more than that. As for the other officers, you left me with no choice. They are fortunate to escape with their careers intact."
"I hope the pain and suffering you caused is worth it."
"How does that compare to their heartbreak when they find out who you really are and how you used them?"
"I would have protected them in the new Zootopia. It matters little now. The ZPD will not take kindly to you murdering a police officer in the line of duty."
"That is until they see your sabotage to their operations and the information you leaked to your Order, then they'll reconsider. They trusted you as one of their own, and this is how you return the favor."
"You will still be punished for this. Even you must know that it is a crime."
"I'm prepared to deal with the consequences."
The boar scoffed at the defiance. "So what else did you come here for?"
"To retrieve information necessary for me to expose your Order's true motives and make some friends at the ZPD."
The boar weakly laughed at the last part. "Now who in their right mind would want work with you?"
"I'll give you a hint. They're the first of their kind."
A few seconds later, the realization came. "Of course." The boar exhaled for the last time.
The Assassin took out a white feather and stained it with the boar's blood.
Judy was stunned over the fight's outcome. "Sweet…cheese...and...crackers."
"Well," Nick slowly said, also stunned. "At least the rest are not dead…I think."
The two heard sirens and helicopters approaching the building. Looking at the cameras, the reinforcements from the other Precincts had arrived.
"What do we do?" Judy asked. "They need to get in, but the Assassin might be caught."
Nick sighed. "He's going to have to take care of himself. We can at least use their arrival as an excuse as to why he escaped."
The Assassin recovered the necklace and dropped the boar at the same time the sprinklers stopped. He heard the sirens approaching, signaling him of the reinforcements.
"You're trapped now!" Clawhauser cried from the front desk. "The rest of the entire police force here!"
The Assassin looked over to the cheetah, who immediately cowered behind the chair, his confidence gone instantly.
Ignoring him, the Assassin fled to the back exit. The last line of defense lasted no more than three minutes. The lockdown was lifted allowing the reinforcements to enter the building. They were horrified at the wounded officers and the dead boar officer laying before them. Clawhauser immediately alerted them to the direction the Assassin fled in. Realizing they might have given him a chance to escape, the entire building was surrounded. Despite a full sweep, he was nowhere to be found. Judy and Nick were able to cover for themselves and the Assassin since no one else witnessed what transpired between the three.
The attack and the carnage left ZPD devastated. While they were able to keep the incident from the public, it was a serious blow to their morale. Precinct One, home of the top graduates from the academy, was nearly decimated. For the other precincts, they remained paranoid that the Assassin could launch an attack at their locations.
A private funeral was held for the fallen officer and boar's relatives were informed that he died on duty as the official story. Because one of their own was attacked, the ZPD was now determined to catch the Assassin to show their resolve and avenge their fallen officer.
Chapter 7: Templar Order
In the aftermath of the Assassin's visit, the other Precincts temporarily reassigned some of their officers to Precinct One, allowing Bogo and his officers to rest and recover. Judy and Nick used the opportunity to finally meet the Assassin without any interference. That following morning, they rode in Nick's car to the location of the first murder and parked across the street from the alley at a parking meter. As a result of the Assassin's actions towards the ZPD, they have yet to follow Nick and Judy's tip of investigating the alleys.
"So, we know the location, but we don't know the mark," Judy said. "I doubt a feather would stay in place for long for us to find it."
"I know the mark," Nick said.
She raised her brow at him, astonished at how he could know that detail. "Really? How?"
"I saw it on the belt strap when he was in the surveillance room."
Judy took a moment to remember the events from that night, and it finally came to her when the memory of the Assassin standing before them surfaced. "That's right. Good eye, fox. Hopefully, he's there waiting for us when we find it."
Nick placed a paw on his chest. "Why thank you. Now I suggest we both search one side of the alley to cover more area. I'll take the right side."
"I'll take the left then. If we're in luck, the Assassin might save us the trouble and show up."
They stepped out of the car, and Judy walked to the alley while Nick filled the meter. "Better not find a parking ticket when we come back." He mocked.
Judy rolled her eyes. "Har har."
The two stood at their respective walls and put on the gloves and masks they brought to assist in searching through trash. Nick and Judy began their search, intending to leave no stone unturned. While the mark would unlikely be so close to the entrance, the two made no assumptions with the Assassin.
Minutes later, Judy heard Nick call her. "Carrots, I found the mark."
Excited, she hurried over to find him standing in front of a cleared patch. "Where is it?"
Nick pointed to the spot. "Right there."
She followed his finger and saw the symbol near ground level. "Interesting." She leaned down to get a better view and brought her phone out to take a picture. "Have you seen him?"
Nick shook his head and removed his gloves. "Not since I found it."
Judy removed her gloves too, "We'll wait here then. We have until the end of the day."
"Do you want a pawpsicle while we wait?" Nick held one out to her while holding one for himself.
"Thanks." Judy took it, and the two discussed their questions for the Assassin.
"So, do you still want to arrest him?" Nick asked, now that they finding answers about the Assassin.
An internal conflict raged inside Judy. Her justice side yearned for it after a long and humiliating pursuit, but her rationale side understood the rare opportunity. "I don't know. While the Assassin must answer for his crimes, we'll get more answers this way than interrogating him. "
"I understand. There's no reason to betray his trust. Besides. We're in trouble if those mammals discover us snooping around their business. We're not in the position to remove our only protection."
"It doesn't have to be that way. The ZPD can protect us once we come forward with this. Worst case scenario, Mr. Big can offer us protection. We know how protective he is of family."
Nick smirked. "My. My. The cute bunny here is growing more tolerant with skirting the law," He placed his paws on his chest and fawned. "I'm so proud."
The bunny tossed her pawpsicle stick at him, scoring a direct hit on the forehead. "Dumb fox."
The fox could only chuckle as he picked up the dirty stick. "At least your aim is improving."
"Do you want me to try again?" She challenged.
"Maybe later, unless you want to get your paws dirty." He said, tossing the sticks into a nearby trash can.
As soon as Nick returned to his spot, a screeching echoed in the alley. The two quickly turned in the direction of the noise and saw the Assassin standing a few steps away. Nick and Judy assumed the noise was the signal and approached the mammal until the three were face to face once again, staring in silence.
The officers realized that they finally have the opportunity to get a full detailed observation on the Assassin's appearance. The robe was mainly black with highlights of blue, white, and gray in various locations. Though he crossed his arms, Judy and Nick could see the braces on the wrists that held the murder weapons. Judy saw around the waist a red sash and a belt with the buckle displaying the aforementioned mark. Meanwhile, Nick focused on reading his body and facial expression. He considered the Assassin fortunate that the beaked hood shadowed his eyes. Still, the exposed facial features and the long tail appearing from under the robes were enough evidence for them to determine the species to be a feline with black fur.
"You two continue to impress me," The Assassin said, finally breaking the silence.
Judy and Nick broke from their observation and started paying attention to him.
"Not many would be able to figure out the cryptic messages." He continued.
Nick stood with pride. "We told you can trust us."
The two could see a faint smirk appear on his face. "Evidently, but I am curious to know why you would risk your career in meeting with me."
"Because," Judy said. "Officer Wilde and I discovered the shocking and incriminating evidence from the mammals you killed and speaking with their associates,"
"We knew that you are the only one who can explain this," Nick added.
"I assume you kept this a secret?" The Assassin asked, already knowing their response.
"Correct," Judy confirmed, "No one knows of our separate investigation."
"We understand the dangers to the city and ourselves," Nick affirmed.
"Then you are proving yourselves more trustworthy," The Assassin turned around and motioned with his head. "Come with me, and I'll fill in the gaps."
Judy and Nick followed him to a spot in the alley where they saw him kneeling and flicking his wrists to activate the blades. Seeing the mechanism again only increased their interest at the weapons. The Assassin jammed the blades into the ground and pulled up until a piece of the ground lifted, revealing a hidden sewer cover.
"I didn't know there was a tunnel here," Judy said in amazement.
"There isn't," The Assassin said while lifting the cover. "This is another entrance. What you are about to see is why I killed the reporter earlier. I hope you're ready."
"Clever," Nick admitted. "Where is the main entrance?"
"I trust you enough to reveal the information, but you're going to have to earn the rest."
"Understandable," Judy said in disappointment.
Judy and Nick entered first and descended into a dim tunnel. The Assassin joined them after covering the hole again.
"It's not too far from here."
This filled Judy and Nick with hope as they began walking.
"Did you build this? And was this ever part of the public systems?" Judy observed.
"No, others did in the early days of Zootopia. The tunnels connect to our hideouts throughout the city."
"There are more Assassins?" Judy asked, wondering if they were going to meet them.
"Yes," Nick and Judy immediately took note of the depressing tone. Knowing how much trouble they went through for this opportunity, the two chose to press that topic for the time being.
Nick quickly changed the subject. "This is impressive. If I had known about this earlier, a lot of trouble could have been avoided."
"Even if you did, you couldn't access them. Only Assassins and their allies know how to."
It worked, and the three were grateful for the subject change.
"Then where are the other tunnels?" Judy asked.
"As the Assassin presence decreased over time, they became forgotten. I am the reason this tunnel has remain active. My hope is to discover the others while on assassination missions."
"I have to give you credit," Nick said. "It's no small feat keeping all of this a secret from everyone."
"The last thing we need is to draw unnecessary attention."
The smell from the sewer increased as they ventured ahead, but it didn't bother them.
"I'm curious," Nick said. "How are you able to imitate an eagle's screech?"
"I had one as a pet. Eagles are often companions for us. Sadly, he's no longer with us, but my friend imparted me with valuable skills and knowledge."
Nick and Judy shared those sentiments, memories of having to cope with fallen officers in their careers. They could speculate how important the eagle was to the Assassin.
"And the feathers?" Nick continued.
"Ah, makes sense."
"If you don't mind, can you tell us your name and species?" Judy asked, hoping the subject isn't too sensitive.
"My identity will remain a secret for safety reasons, but I am considered unlucky by most mammals. My growth spurt didn't help me either as a kit."
"You got bullied too? That makes three of us." Nick sympathized.
Judy suddenly had a terrible thought, "Wait, the mammals you killed. Were they the bullies?" She wondered if this was for revenge.
"No, that was a long time ago, and I moved on. These mammals pale in comparison to those bullies."
"You mentioned a growth spurt. Then how tall were you supposed to be?" Nick asked.
"Just above your size, Officer Wilde."
His words puzzled Judy, something she should have known better. "How does that make any sense? I've seen mammals use their size to intimidate."
"As I said, when they couldn't bully me on my appearance, they resorted to superstition."
The officers could not believe how this could happen to him, but they understood the sensitive topic and decided to let him explain when he is ready.
Finally, after a few minutes of turns, the three arrived at a dead end.
"This is it. Don't touch anything without my permission."
The Assassin removed a piece of the wall that revealed a keyhole. He inserted the blade into the hole and turned until they heard a noise. The wall then descended to reveal a large base, surprising the officers.
"Welcome to my little home."
Judy and Nick slowly entered and were in awe of the design. The place was the size of an office floor building and was divided into two halves. Vertical support beams were scattered around to prevent collapse. At their end, there was a large space with a workbench and various exercise equipment lying around. Judy and Nick assumed this space was for training. In one corner, there was a kitchen setup that included a fridge, microwave, a bar counter, and a mini grill. Another corner was closed off by a wall that Judy and Nick assume to be the bathroom. On the other end, there was a computer table and another large space. They made a note to ask the reason for the open space later. One corner at that end only had a door. They assume it led to another room. In the last one, there was a double size bed with a nightstand and two sets of drawers for clothes underneath the bed. Once they were all inside, the wall ascended and sealed the entrance.
"How did you even set this all up without the city noticing?" Judy asked, trying to comprehend how the Assassin maintains the place.
"We're under one of the more luxurious apartments. That way the electricity and water use can be attributed to the building's usage. But I'm careful to avoid anomalies in the system."
For Judy, it still didn't explain one thing. "And how have they not discovered this place?"
"The Assassins sealed the entrance from the complex. This floor had a different purpose before I made it my home."
"I can see why you silenced the reporter," Nick said. "He would have exposed your whole operation."
"There's more to it than that." The Assassin led them to a wall lined with pictures and notes on a map of Zootopia. "This is all the information I collected so far. I wish to add your evidence."
"Here you go," Judy said as she and Nick gave him their findings.
He inspected the bags with the notes and the blades. "This is good." The Assassin then placed the evidence accordingly. "Okay, take a look."
Observing the board, the officers saw the pictures of mammals, some of whom were crossed out. They recognized those mammals as the ones assassinated. Under them were their names, species, and occupations.
Their eyes then explored the map, looking just like a police investigation board. Judy read the word above it. "Templars. Is that who they are?"
"Correct. They're a secret organization with members in all branches of society."
"That is a lot of prominent figures involved," Nick said. "This smells of a crime ring."
"Not in the normal sense." The Assassin revealed the Templar necklace taken from the boar. "In the past, this was how they used to identify each other. I'm surprised the officer carried this on him, considering the organization currently operates in secret. Templars rarely use these to identify themselves. Then again, few would understand its significance." He hung the necklace over the boar's picture.
The sight of the necklace bothered Nick. "Is that their insignia?"
"Yes. Very few know of their existence, outside of the Assassin and Templar Order."
Nick and Judy followed the lines to two high-quality, circled pictures in the center.
"Look, Nick," Judy said. "The CEO and COO of Depolitio are Templars as well."
"I should have known they are involved!" Nick said, pounding his fist into his paw.
"Here's what you don't know about them. Arlyss Maverick is the Grandmaster of the Templars. Kazim Karrar is his right paw. With them in power, the Templars nearly had control of Zootopia until I appeared."
Nick's eyes widened a familiar picture as the details became clear. "Carrots, it's that kangaroo we saw in Lionheart's office earlier, and she wore that same necklace."
Judy saw the picture and gasped in horror. "We need to warn him! But we first need to connect the kangaroo to the assassination attempt first. Good thing he's taking precautions. The kangaroo probably ordered no further attacks on him until the things have calmed."
Another set of lines led to various question marks on the map.
"What are these for?" Nick said.
"You'll know soon," The Assassin said. "Let me show my findings so far thanks to the information from the database. Thank you by the way."
The Assassin sat down at the computers and began typing while Judy and Nick stood on opposite sides of him. "This should only take a few moments."
While he typed, Judy became curious at the bandages on the Assassin's paws. "What happened to your paws?"
He paused and sighed. "Even I couldn't escape my own wrath."
"Oh." Judy didn't comment any further, understanding how the injuries occurred.
As they waited, Nick's eyes were drawn to the hood of the attire. His curiosity got the better of him, and he reached forward to pull it back. Noticing the gesture, Judy glared at him and mouthed, "Don't."
Nick shrugged her response and continued to reach for the hood. Before he could touch it, the Assassin suddenly grabbed Nick's arm.
"I ask nicely that you stop unless you want an injury. Believe me. I can make it look like an accident." He activated the blade to show his seriousness. He retracted the blade and released Nick's paw.
Nick quickly backed away for his safety, clutching his assaulted paw as Judy snickered.
"Dumb fox." She mouthed.
"How did he know?" He mouthed.
The Assassin brought up all current information on the Templars. "Here are their backgrounds and operations. As you can see, their occupations shadowed their motives."
Judy and Nick read the presented information and were shocked at the Templars' actions. This was an ongoing process of slowing changing Zootopia. For what purpose, they hope to have the answers soon.
"I can't believe it," Judy said in disbelief. "You would have never even known."
"This brings everything to a whole new level," A distressed Nick said.
With this revelation, Judy had only one question on her mind. "When do we come forward with this? The city wants to know why you're killing these mammals."
The Assassin leaned back in the chair. "Not until all the Templars are dead. If we do it now, they'll crush us with their power and influence. You'll be ruined, and I'll be dead." He got up and started walking, Nick and Judy following behind. "Despite having an appointed Grandmaster, eliminating the leader will not dissolve the Order because they operate as a council. So long as one lives, the Templars will live on and will return. Their power must first be stripped." He stopped in front of the wall. "Since they and I operate in secret, I need proof to implicate them since my current evidence insufficient. The Templars I've slain said all they know before passing away. None of which have led me closer to the Grandmaster."
"We can help you." Judy offered. "After seeing their damages, we can't let them succeed."
"At this point, I'm willing to accept any assistance, and I'm grateful for the offer. But you must understand the risks."
"We're willing to take them."
"So," Nick said, looking at the wall. "Judging from the map, you and the Templars must be searching for something that is somewhere in Zootopia."
"Correct, Officer Wilde, and as you can see, neither of us knows the exact location or how many are there. It can either help them achieve their goal or destroy Zootopia. My hope is for the latter so they stop their pursuit. The Templars know better than to destroy what they want to control. Regardless, Zootopia is in danger. I can't explain all the details until we find that object."
Judy noticed Tundratown marked on the map for a Templar target, a polar bear, and a location of interest. "You have leads in Tundratown?"
"Yes, why do you ask?"
"We're friends with the crime boss there."
This piqued the Assassin's curiosity. "Interesting, how did that happen?"
"It was an unusual set of circumstances," Nick said hesitantly. "Anyways, we spoke to him earlier, and he mentioned his encounter with the Templars. He knows we're searching for you and promises that if we did, we bring you to him. Don't worry. He wants to reward you."
"It must have been before my arrival, but I'm not surprised to hear of their attempt to recruit him. Let me gather a few things and then we'll go."
The Assassin went to acquire some items and, together they returned topside. Nick and Judy brought their vehicle close to the alley so the Assassin can easily slip in unseen. The mammals then drove to Mr. Big's estate in Tundratown. One thought burned inside Nick and Judy on the way.
"Do you think that Templar polar bear is working for Big?" Judy asked. "He may be their connection to him."
"That remains to be seen." The Assassin said. "His low rank meant I spent little time investigating him."
"Do you want to help find that Templar?" Nick asked.
"After we find the location of interest."
With their questions answered, Judy and Nick let the Assassin prepare for their meeting with Mr. Big with the occasional talk. In no time, they arrived at the estate. At the gates, the polar bears recognized the officers but questioned the third passenger during the security check.
"Who is that with you?" One of them asked.
Judy looked back at the Assassin and then at the polar bear. "He's the one who killed the mammals threatening Mr. Big."
The polar bear and the Assassin made eye contact. Neither said a word, and the officers waited patiently. "I see," The bear finally said. "We've been waiting for you."
They let them in and informed Mr. Big of their arrival. The trio was met by more guards who escort them toward Mr. Big's office.
Chapter 8: Seismic Expedition
The atmosphere was different this time around at the Big estate, and it was all because of their guest. The Assassin brought an air of fear and respect for his abilities rather than his personality. Raymond and Kevin walked behind him while Judy and Nick led the way. Anyone passing by became silent and stiff when their eyes fell upon the hooded mammal. Even the accompanying polar bears remained on guard, worried he may strike. Just before reaching Big's office, they encountered a polar bear carrying an Arctic shrew.
"Fru Fru!" Judy exclaimed.
She and Nick stepped forward to greet their friend. The shrew kissed Judy on the cheeks and shook fingers with Nick.
"How's the baby?" Nick asked.
"Oh, she's having her nap right now. Poor thing fell asleep before you got here."
Her eyes then fell upon the Assassin standing a few steps away, and her sweet personality instantly disappeared. Nick and Judy noticed this and quietly stepped aside. The only sounds in the hall came from the snow falling outside. The officers waited in anticipation for the shrew's response.
Fru Fru raised her arm and beckoned the Assassin forward. "Come here please."
He stepped forward but suddenly stopped by Nick and Judy. Everyone else watched him remove and give his weapons them. Confused, they took the items and watched the Assassin close the distance between himself and the shrew before stopping at arm's length.
Not satisfied, Fru Fru beckoned him further. "Bring your face close."
The Assassin obeyed, and he stood noses to nose with her. Fru Fru moved to the edge of her polar bear's paw and kissed him on both cheeks. Nick and Judy released a breath they unknowingly held, worried that she would berate him for his actions.
Fru Fru smiled back at the Assassin. "Thank you."
He returned the gesture. "You're welcome."
"Go on. Daddy's waiting for you."
He nodded and retrieved his weapons. "Shall we?"
Raymond motioned the trio forward, and they continued to Big's office. There, Kevin opened the door, and the five saw Mr. Big, his handler Koslov, and multiple polar bears waiting inside. The group stepped in and stood a few steps from the desk. Nick and Judy could feel all the eyes were on the Assassin. Mr. Big finally broke the silence by raising his arm with the ring. Seeing this, Nick and Judy stepped forward to kiss it. The Assassin simply bowed in respect, assuming the gesture was a family thing. With the introductions made, Nick and Judy finally spoke.
"Mr. Big, we'd like you to meet our new friend," Judy said.
"He's all yours," Nick said.
Once again, the Assassin gave his weapons to Nick and Judy and stepped forward. The act of presenting himself as harmless surprised the mob boss. Silence occupied as the Assassin and Mr. Big made eye contact despite their eyes being shadowed.
"Retrieve your weapons. We speak as acquaintances. Not enemies." The shrew began.
The Assassin held his paws out, and Nick and Judy returned the items. He put the weapons back on and stood with his paws behind the back.
"So, you are the one responsible for the deaths of these mammals." Big continued.
The Assassin nodded but remained silent.
A smile then formed on the Arctic shrew's face. "I offer you my thanks for saving the lives of my family and myself and wish to reward your actions. You should consider yourself fortunate since I had my own plans for punishing them."
"You're welcome, and I'm glad to see your change of heart."
"But before I can reward you, I must know a few things. You should know my first question."
"I do. If you don't mind, I wish for only a select few to be present for my answer. The information is very sensitive."
While normally Big would never agree to that condition, his instincts told him that the Assassin would not harm him. The fact that he allowed a few bears to be present convinced him. "Hmm. Very well, who do you want?"
"Judy and Nick because they earned the right to know. Your most trusted bodyguard to put your bears at ease."
"I can agree with that. Koslov, you stay here. Everyone else, leave."
The remaining polar bears left the room until only Judy, Nick, Mr. Big, Koslov, and the Assassin remained.
"Now then." Mr. Big said, motioning his paw for him continue.
"These mammals are a secret order called the Templars. Tell me what they told you so I can confirm or deny. I owe Nick and Judy an explanation as well."
"I see. To begin, their goal is to have peace in all things by creating a new world. I longed to increase my influence beyond Tundratown, and their offer initially appealed to me."
"What problems did you have with their offer?" Judy asked.
"Their plans involve controlling and unifying Zootopia." Mr. Big said. "They believe that order, purpose, and direction are the key. But that is not why I ultimately refused. What they were willing to do is what turned me away. My Grandmama taught me better."
"Correct," The Assassin said. "Their methods are highly questionable. Deception, manipulating individuals and events, murder, and warfare to name a few. Ironic how the Templars say they care for individuals yet have an unethical treatment of them and tend to commit atrocities for the greater good."
"We've seen that a few times already," Nick confirmed.
"So Mr. Big," The Assassin continued. "Will you aid me in bringing down the Templars?"
There was a brief pause as they waited for his response. Nick and Judy hoped he would say yes, but the Assassin only cared to not have Big as an enemy. Still, they all hopes he would say yes to not complicate matters in the future. They'd rather not have the shrew suffer another Templar attack or worse.
"I want to be sure I can trust you before I give my answer. I do not wish to suffer the consequences of this."
"I'll be brief. No one will know of our alliance because I work in secret. The only time you will ever see me is when I need your aid. I perform all the preparations and operations alone. I can also promise that no harm will fall upon you, your family, Hopps, and Wilde because of my actions. My creed forbids it. However, if your actions cause the Templars to retaliate, I cannot be held responsible, but I will assist in any way possible."
The room became silent again as Mr. Big carefully thought over the proposition. The Assassin said all he can and could only hope for the best. Meanwhile, Nick and Judy remained silent and nervous. While they wanted to voice their support, the two realized to let the Assassin speak.
Finally, Mr. Big broke the silence. "Hmm, your reasoning is sound. I will aid you in your fight."
"I also ask that you not speak to this information to anyone. The Templars have ears in places."
"It's the least I can do to reward the services you have freely given me."
"Thank you. Your bodyguards may return so they can hear my purpose in Tundratown."
Mr. Big snapped his fingers, and his polar bears came back into the office and stood in their positions.
"Before we continue, I have one question," The shrew said. "Why you hide your face? I can understand when you are in public, but why here? Surely you can trust me."
"With all due respect, it is for the safety to anyone who comes into contact with me. I do not wish for harm upon those who know my identity by the Templars. You can call me…the Sentinel if you wish."
"An interesting choice for an alias."
"Mr. Big," Judy said. "The...Sentinel is here because he has information on why the Templars visited you."
"Let me see."
The Assassin pulled out a map of Zootopia. "If you don't mind,"
The shrew gave the order, and Koslov moved him to allow the Assassin to open a map of Tundratown on the desk.
"The Templars and I believe that somewhere in Tundratown is an object of great power. Whereas they want to use it for their goals, I want to keep it hidden, depending on the exact nature of the object. I also believe the site can house something that could potentially destroy Zootopia. Unfortunately, the operation is questionable in the eyes of the public and requires large funds."
"I see. No wonder they wanted my influence and resources. I assume you wish the same thing."
"Then I will grant my resources to you, but on one condition." He pointed with his finger. "That blade of yours,"
The Assassin raised one of his arms and activated the hidden blade.
"I've seen the footage of it in action. It is a very intriguing weapon. Would you be interested in providing some for us?"
"Of course, as long as I am compensated, and I can provide free training for them if you wish. But it must be after the Templars are eliminated. Because Zootopia knows of the blade, you will risk the investigation if the weapon is discovered on your polar bears."
"I understand." Big motioned his paws to the bears around the room. "The guards who stand around will aid you. You can begin working immediately."
Koslov took Mr. Big away, and the Assassin led the others to the den. He laid out all of the information on a large table as everyone else gathered around to hear the instructions.
He placed a finger on the location. "This is a possible site for the object in question. It's on the outskirts of Tundratown. If the object in question is the one that can destroy Zootopia, we can only hope that its location will limit the damages and casualties if something goes wrong."
Judy gasped, Nick's eyes widened, and the polar bears remained expressionless at the information. But they all knew how disastrous it could be for Tundratown.
"We must be very cautious and draw very little attention. Only two cars maximum." He then looked up at the polar bears. "Raymond, Kevin, you two will ride with myself and the officers. I'll give you the directions."
The polar bears acknowledged the orders.
"The rest of you will follow behind. At the site, I want the polar bears to stand guard while Hopps, Wilde, and I infiltrate. Do we understand?"
They nodded in agreement.
"Good, let's go."
The Assassin gathered the information, and the polar bears went to bring out the cars, leaving him, Nick, and Judy alone. With no one else around, the Assassin approached the officers.
"Listen, before we go. I need to make sure you are not seen with me."
Judy and Nick wondered how he planned to do that.
"What are you going to do?" She asked.
The Assassin brought out his bag, and their eyes widened at seeing a rabbit-sized and a fox-sized robe. "This will hide you from sight."
Nick and Judy were shocked at the thought of wearing an incriminating attire, but they understood that there would be rabbit and fox Assassins.
"I'm not sure if this is a good idea," Nick said with concern.
"I know, but the potential fallout out is too much. This is only when you are with me, and you don't have to use my weapons."
"You do have a point," Judy said, taking the bunny robe.
Nick sighed, taking the fox robe. "I hope you're right about this. How come you didn't tell Mr. Big about the Templar target?"
"He has enough to deal with. The last thing he needs to know is someone in Tundratown spying on him. You'll know when it happens."
"Okay, but why did you tell him to call you the Sentinel?" Judy asked. "The Templar note called you an Assassin."
"It's for his safety. The less he knows about me, the less chance of him attracting the Templars even more. But you are correct, I am an Assassin."
"Will you explain your group also?" Nick asked.
"As I said, you earned the right to know."
Judy and Nick nodded and proceeded to properly disguise themselves. They were surprised that they didn't need to remove their clothes and the robe can simply be slipped on. The officers felt slightly uneasy as they pulled the hood over their heads, completing the look.
"I feel so wrong in this. It makes me feel like a murderer." Judy looked up at the Assassin. "No offense."
"I look forward to hearing the explanation for this style," Nick said, looking over his appearance.
The trio went outside where the polar bears waited for them with two vehicles.
"Are we ready?" The Assassin asked.
The polar bears nodded.
"Alright," The Assassin brought out a piece of paper and showed it to the bears. "Put these directions in your phone, and we can leave."
Two of the bears took a moment to bring out their phones and pull up the map apps. Reading the paper, they input the directions and nodded their confirmation.
"Okay, let's hurry."
Everyone piled into their respective cars and sped to their destination, hoping the Templars were not already there. They arrived within minutes, and the Assassin signaled for them to slow down. The cars parked just out of sight, and the occupants stepped out and gathered together.
"Follow me and stay quiet." The Assassin ordered. "If the Templars are here, the cars need to appear inconspicuous."
The rest of the mammals followed him on foot to the location. No one said anything during the trek. All was calm and quiet until the Assassin suddenly jumped behind a small hill and ordered the others to do the same.
"What's going on?" Judy whispered.
"Take a look overhead. Carefully."
They peeked their heads out and saw a camp at the site. Many mammals patrolled the area or lounged around.
"Where did they all come from?" Judy asked.
"Mercenaries working for the Templars," The Assassin said.
"Great, how do we get past them?" Nick asked.
"I may have an idea." The hooded mammal turned to the polar bears. "You want to teach the Templars a lesson, right?"
They eagerly nodded.
"Now's your chance. Use the second vehicle to lure them away. If they see Big's car being lightly guarded, I'm certain they will pursue. Keep them away for as long as possible. Are you up for the task?"
They nodded in agreement.
"Good, move on my signal. Raymond, Kevin, you'll come with us. There will be a few left behind to watch the site. We need your help in dealing with them."
"But what can we use for a silent takedown?" Nick asked.
"Did you two get your tasers replaced?"
"Yeah, but they're not exactly silent," Judy said.
"Just cover their mouth as you hit them a few times in the chest or neck. If they're too far, whistle to get their attention. Do you have extra radios on you?"
Nick took out one and gave it to the Assassin. "We brought it just in case."
He set the radio on a secure channel before putting it away. "Good, I'll direct you to the targets."
Judy took a deep breath. "Okay, we trust you."
"Good thing we're wearing these robes," Nick said.
"Told you they would come in handy." He turned to Raymond and Kevin. "I assume the two of you know how to perform a silent takedown?"
The two polar bears nodded.
"Excellent. Everyone else, distract them."
The rest of the polar bears silently slipped away to the vehicle. It wasn't long before the vehicle sped by the location and immediately drew attention from the mercenaries. Just as they hoped, most of them mobilized and pursued.
"Move!" The Assassin ordered.
They entered the site and hid close to each other behind various objects. Two mammals, a goat and an antelope, currently prevented them from moving forward.
"They're mine." The Assassin brought out an umbrella and a taser and silently approached them. Behind the antelope, he quickly brought the umbrella over his neck and held the herbivore in a chokehold. The antelope struggled to retaliate, but his vision started to go dark until he lost consciousness. The Assassin gently placed him down and moved toward the goat until he was behind him. The hooded mammal hooked the umbrella on one leg and tripped the goat. The herbivore fell into the snow, but before he could get up, he felt of jolt of electricity flow through his body until his vision went black.
With the two mammals down, he signaled to the others. "Let's go."
The officers and the two polar bears followed him through the site. This time, a cougar and a panther were blocking their path, and Judy and Nick were near them. The panther stepped away leaving the cougar alone.
"You're closer Judy, so the honor is yours."
The bunny took a deep breath and prepared herself. "Okay."
Because of the size difference, she had no choice but to bring the feline closer. She whistled and the cougar immediately heard the noise. Jud waited patiently with her taser ready as she heard footsteps approaching her location.
When the cougar arrived at the spot, he suddenly felt something jump on him followed a sharp pain in the neck and a surge of electricity. The feline convulsed and gargled as he fell to the ground. Judy held the taser to neck until the mammal went limp.
When it was done, she removed the taser and released her breath. "It's done."
"Good, now hide the body before the panther returns."
"That might a problem," Nick said. "The panther is coming back, and he noticed the disturbance."
"Oh no," Judy frantically said. "What do I do?"
"I got this, Carrots."
"Be careful Nick." The Assassin said.
The panther heard his friend's cry of pain and caught a glimpse of him falling to the ground. He immediately rushed over to find him lying unconscious and began checking his vitals. As the panther reached for his radio to report, Nick quickly pounced him and jabbed the taser into the feline's neck until he lost consciousness.
Raymond and Kevin immediately came in to move the felines.
"Sweet cheese and crackers, that was too close!" Judy said, relieved to have averted a fight.
"We need to be more careful in this environment," The Assassin said. "You two did wonderful nonetheless."
The group carefully covered the tracks and hid the bodies before moving forward. With coaching from the Assassin, Judy and Nick slowly improved the silent takedown. The polar bears, though, had no issue whatsoever, dealing specifically with the larger ones. Their displays of action caused even the Assassin to flinch. He made a mental note to avoid any future trouble with Mr. Big. After what seemed to be an eternity, the group finally arrived at the other side of the camp where they discovered cave entrance in the ice wall.
"I hope this is a regular cave. There could be more inside, so we must be careful." The Assassin turned to the polar bears. "Stay hidden and watch the entrance. Get out if the mercenaries return. But if they return with your friends," He smiled. "Have fun."
They smiled at the order and nodded with slight outward enthusiasm. With that, Judy, Nick, and the Assassin entered the cave.
As suspected, there were already mammals inside. "I rather avoid them as much as you do. I hope your police training prepared you for this."
Judy and Nick watched him climb a nearby ice pillar and scale across the terrain. After determining the path, they followed and were able to get through unseen, thankful for their ice wall training. As they ventured into the cave, the ice walls changed to stone walls.
"We're definitely in the right place." The Assassin said.
"I saw pictures of this at your base," Judy said. "What exactly is this?"
"According to my notes, this is a Precursor Temple from an ancient civilization, and the object in question should be at the end of all this."
"Uh, this looks more modern than ancient," Nick said with skepticism.
"I'll explain later. We must reach the end before the Templars do."
As they walked, Nick and Judy were amazed that such a place existed underground. They wondered if there were more in Zootopia or the rest of the world. Their thoughts were quickly interrupted when the ground shook. Judy and Nick looked down to see a light shining from the floor that grew bright with each passing second. Caught up in the sight, they were suddenly bowled over by the Assassin as the light became a wall for a few seconds before disappearing.
The Assassin was breathing heavily as he stood up. "That was too close."
"What in the world was that?!" Judy exclaimed.
"Energy walls. They're a defense mechanism." He cut fur from his paw and waited for the wall of light to appear again.
When it did, the Assassin dropped the fur, and they watched it instantly vaporize from touching the light, leaving the officers in shock. They looked ahead and saw the extent of defense mechanisms. In addition to the energy walls all over the path, sections of the wall and floor moved in intervals.
"That is some security measure," Nick said.
"This complicates things. Move carefully and take your time to anticipate. It looks like we're the first ones here so no rush."
They carefully navigated to the other side of the cave, having close encounters with the energy walls and unstable structure. After crossing the dangerous and deadly environment, they arrived safely at the stairs on the other side.
"I thought this only existed in movies!" Nick said while taking deep breaths.
"We should be close now. It's not much farther." The Assassin said.
"This object must be very powerful if the builders put so much effort into protecting it," Judy said.
"How are the Templars even going to get through here?" Nick asked.
"They can't blow the place up, so they'll likely use test subjects."
"Why do they always do that?" Judy exclaimed. "They claim to be for good and do this?!"
"It wasn't that way, but I'll explain once we're out of here."
They resumed walking after catching their breath and ascended the stairs into a hall. At the end, they entered a chasm with a large pillar at the end of the path.
"I don't see anything," Judy said.
"Hold on." The Assassin took out his notes and started flipping through the pages. "Check it out while I see if something must be done."
Judy and Nick approached the pillar with the Assassin following behind. Judy brought out her phone and began recording for evidence. At the pillar, Nick touched the structure, trying to see if there is something hidden.
"I'm not sure what to do."
"There must be a switch somewhere."
As the officers inspect the pillar, a section descended to reveal an object suspended above a pedestal. Nick and Judy stared in awe, wondering what kind of power the object has.
Nick reached forward with his arm while Judy continued to record. "Is this it?"
"DON'T TOUCH IT!" The Assassin ran up to them.
Nick immediately pulled his paw away and looked back at the Assassin. "Why? This is the object right?"
"It is. But not the one that grants powers."
A horrified Judy looked back and forth between the object and the Assassin. "This is the one that could destroy Zootopia?!"
"That depends on how deep this location is from the surface. If there are more like this out there in populated areas, then there will be high casualties. We need to leave this alone, and maybe have Mr. Big seal off this location."
"Guys, we have company," Nick said.
The three turned around and saw Templar forces approaching. A beaver led the group whom they recognized as a Templar target. Judy quickly stored her phone but left the recording on.
"Well done Assassins, you saved us a lot in finding the artifact for us."
Hearing them being called Assassins shocked the officers.
The true Assassin immediately stepped forward. "This place does not hold what you are looking for. Take a look for yourselves." He stepped aside to reveal the object. "This is not the artifact, but what holds this entire section of Tundratown together. If you disturb it, the district will be damaged, and lives will be affected. This is not something we should fight over."
The beaver looked at the object suspended above the pedestal and considered the Assassin's words. Seconds of dreadful silence passed. Nick and Judy were absolutely terrified if the beaver ignored the warnings, but the Assassin knew the Templar had knowledge of this particular artifact.
"Hmm, you're right. I guess we're done here." The beaver turned to leave but stopped to say one last thing. "Of course, I can't let this expedition go to waste, and since no one else will know what happened here, I can use the opportunity." His expression became deadpanned. "Kill them."
Everyone else prepared to attack as the beaver disappeared from view, and the Templars struck first. The current platform gave Judy, Nick, and the Assassin little room to maneuver. But Judy and Nick's size and the Assassin's skills allowed them to move around the mercenaries and the platform. They managed to keep them away from the object.
"Do these mammals not understand the danger they are putting themselves in?!" Judy cried while dodging an attack.
"Not as long as they get paid for their services!" The Assassin yelled while launching an attack.
"Glad to see where their priorities are!" Nick exclaimed while maneuvering around the Templar forces.
During the struggle, a ram charged at them. Seeing this, they quickly moved out of the way. The ram collided into the pedestal and knocked the object off. The object disintegrated upon impact with the platform.
"That's not good," Nick said with worry.
The place immediately shook, and stalactites fell from the ceiling. Judy and Nick quickly moved out of the way before being crushed by one. While Nick, Judy, and the Assassin struggled to stand, the mercenaries slowly pressed their way out of the room.
"Earthquake!" Judy yelled.
"Follow me and don't stop running!" The Assassin ordered.
The Templar forces managed to escape the room when they finally moved. Judy, Nick, and the Assassin tried to follow the same path, but a large stalactite fell and destroyed it, forcing them to take one of the alternate routes. They escaped the room just before the alternate route collapsed. While running, the energy walls were still active while parts of the path and the cave collapsed around them.
"Why did it have to be an earthquake?!" Nick cried. "Why couldn't it have been a rolling boulder?!"
"Really Nick?" Judy yelled in disbelief. "You want to make a joke now!"
"Less talking! More running!" The Assassin ordered.
Along the way, they saw the Templar forces fall victims to the earthquake and the defense mechanisms. Unbeknownst to the parties, the Polar Strait was above the chasm, and the collapsing walls caused water to flow in. Judy, Nick, and the Assassin ran for their lives to avoid dying in the structure. They safely arrived back in the ice cave but continued running. The earthquake revealed more defense mechanisms in the cave as they ran. While crossing an ice bridge, it collapsed with Judy and Nick still on it. The Assassin heard their cries and turned to see they survived but were separated from him.
"Are you all right?" He called out.
"We're fine!" Nick cried.
"Just keep running! I'll make sure you don't lose sight of me!"
"Got it!" Judy confirmed.
The three kept on running with the Assassin remaining in sight for the officers to follow. The two soon were the same path again and slowly caught up to him. But eventually, the path came to an end at a cliff, and they became trapped.
"Great, now what do we do?!" Nick cried.
The Assassin looked down below. "Jump!"
"What?! Are you crazy?!" Judy yelled.
"Jump, like I do! Trust me! There's no time for debate!"
Nick and Judy watched the Assassin leap with his arms out and flip over on his back as he fell. They looked behind to see the path crumbling away. With no other choice, the two ran forward and leaped off the cliff just as the cave collapsed. While falling, Nick and Judy shifted their body positions until their backs faced the bottom and their limbs were spread out. The rush of cold air sent shivers down their bodies, and they mentally braced themselves for the impact. Within seconds, they suddenly felt their backs hit something, and a wave of cold washed over them. Nick and Judy slowly opened their eyes and realized the snow covered them. They quickly dug themselves out of the ground and started gasping for air. After getting their bearings, they saw the Assassin sitting in the snow inches away.
"Everyone in one piece?" he asked.
Nick checked himself for any injuries. "A little shaken up, but I'm fine."
"I can see why you didn't want us to touch that," Judy said while climbing out of the hole.
"We have to get back to Mr. Big and tell him all this. Hopefully, the earthquake didn't cause too much damage to Tundratown from this location."
They hurried to the insertion point to find the polar bears fighting off the mercenaries. They quickly assisted them and escaped before reinforcements arrive. On the return trip, the mammals looked out the windows to see the damages the earthquake caused to Tundratown. Cracks in the road forced them to swerve to avoid flat tires and crashes. Boulders of ice littered the area. As they drive closer to the city, smoke was seen coming from the horizon, and parts of the ice building were in ruin. They can only imagine the number of casualties.
"Oh no..." Judy said in horror.
"Dear sweet Maid Marian..." Nick responded.
"Permission to turn on the radio?" the Assassin asked in a panic.
The driver nodded, and he turned on to the news.
"An earthquake of currently unknown magnitude has struck Zootopia. While seismologists are investigating, it appears to have originated from Tundratown as the district is reporting heaviest damage followed by the Nocturnal District. Reports have come in that the Cliffside Asylum has collapsed into the waterfall as a result of the earthquake. Exact total cost figures are currently unknown, but they are estimated to be in the millions. Casualties continue to slowly climb with incoming reports, but so far no deaths have been reported. Emergency services are currently working to quell the chaos that is beginning to rise. City Hall will issue a statement later on the matter. Stay tuned as we continue to bring you updates on this natural disaster."
The Assassin immediately turned the radio off, unable to bear the news. The car was silent for the remainder of the trip, but the emotions ran high. Judy nearly broke into tears, feeling guilty from knowing that so many mammals were hurt. Nick and the Assassin calmly assured her that the Templars were responsible. Raymond and Kevin also comforted Judy, not wishing to see a family member in tears.
At Mr. Big's estate, the outside appeared intact, but they were more concerned for the residents. No fissures appeared to have passed through the area, bringing them a slight relief. The cars stopped at the entrance to speak with the guard there.
"The boss and his family?" The driver asked frantically.
The news brought a wave of relief to the group.
"The daughter and her family are being taken care of at the moment." The guard then looked at Judy, Nick, and the Assassin. "The boss wants to see you immediately."
The three nodded, and the guard opened the gates. From there, they separated from the polar bears and hurried to Mr. Big's office. But on the way, a small wail came from one of the rooms.
"Wait!" Judy cried, recognizing the noise.
She had already gone off before Nick and the Assassin could protest. The two decided to follow Judy, knowing Mr. Big would prefer to have all three present. They finally stopped at a room, and the Assassin saw the scene before him. The polar bears stood around a bed, currently occupied by Judy, Nick, and Fru Fru who held her crying daughter. The Assassin quietly stood outside the room as they comforted the toddler.
"How is she?" Nick asked.
"The tremors woke her up." Fru Fru said, cradling little Judy.
"What about you? Are you hurt?" Judy asked, worried about her friend.
The shrew shook her head and looked to her guard. "Tony kept us safe."
The polar bear nodded in acknowledgment.
Little Judy finally stopped crying after more cradling from her mother and comforting words from her godparents. Within minutes, she finally fell asleep, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
Fru Fru looked up and saw the Assassin standing outside. Her face then became serious. "Please come in."
He calmly entered the room. The polar bears released a low growl at his presence but restrained themselves because of Fru Fru's request. The Assassin knelt at the base of the bed and brought his head close to the shrew.
"Tell me. Did those mammals cause this?"
"Yes, they tried to kill me, Nick, and Judy.."
The three immediately saw the fire in her eyes. The Templars had attacked Mr. Big's family once again, and all of Tundratown suffered as a result. "Then promise me this. You will do everything in your power to destroy them."
"It's my sworn duty."
Fru Fru slowly rocked her daughter. "It's all I ask."
The Assassin slowly stood up. "Let's go. Her dad is waiting for us."
Nick and Judy wished Fru Fru and her daughter well and were escorted to Big's office by Raymond and Kevin. They found the mob boss and his polar bears waiting for them and were surprised to see the room intact. They assumed that the bears cleaned up the damages as evident by the damaged border for the painting of Mr. Big's grandma.
"Sorry for being late," Judy apologized. "Nick and I had to check on your daughter."
"I would be very upset if you didn't," Big said. "It is good to see you care for them." He then noticed their attire. "I see the Sentinel has given you his outfit."
"It was for our own protection," Nick said. "We couldn't risk the Templars identifying us."
"I understand. What happened out there? Was the earthquake set off from the site?"
"Yes," The Assassin said. "Unfortunately, we found the object that could destroy Zootopia."
"The Templars were also at the site," Judy said. "They must have discovered the location around the same time we did."
"We warned them about the object," Nick said. "They did listen at first but then decided to use the opportunity to kill us."
"One of them disturbed the object during the fight, and the earthquake happened." The Assassin said.
"I see." All in the room could faintly see Mr. Big's paws clench in anger. "The Templars will get their comeuppance for threatening not only your lives and my family but all of Tundratown. The Big family officially declares them as enemies. They will regret of ever attacking us."
"Just be careful. They won't hesitate to remove thorns in their side."
"We will be ready," The mob boss took a deep breath and calmed down. "I am sorry you did not find what you are looking for here, but I am grateful to know the Templars no longer have a reason to currently be in Tundratown."
"As am I, but they still may come after you. They might have identified your polar bears while we escaped."
"A risk I'm willing to take. Is there anything else you wish to do here before you leave?"
The Assassin paused for a moment before sighing deeply. "There is...one more thing." He activated the hidden blade and charged forward at a polar bear standing in the corner by Mr. Big and Koslov. Before anyone else could react, the Assassin stabbed the guard in the neck.
"You just made a big mistake." The polar bear said. "Mr. Big will ice you for this."
"I earned his trust, so I should have no problem explaining how the Templars spied on him and our movements."
"What proof do you have for your case?"
The Assassin revealed a file on him. "I have enough dirt on you to convince Mr. Big in reforming his bodyguard selection process." He put the file away.
"My death will not stop the Templars from pursuing him. In fact, it will only increase their efforts. Without my reports, they will know something is wrong and will send someone to check. Ironic isn't it? Your actions could be the very reason for his downfall."
"Unfortunately for them, they won't know if an Assassin was involved once I'm gone, and Mr. Big can make up any story about your disappearance."
"They'll know the truth soon enough. Once they do, he will only have two options: join us or be destroyed along with his family and work." The polar bear exhaled for the last time.
The Assassin stained a white feather with the blood.
Two polar bears immediately grabbed him as another opened the floor to the freezing water below. The Assassin did not resist as an angry polar bear held him over the pit. Judy and Nick saw the fury in the room and rushed over to Mr. Big.
"Wait!" Judy begged. "He has a reason for doing this."
"Just give him a chance to explain." Nick reasoned. "Please!"
The angry polar bears slowly lowered the Assassin until Mr. Big held up his paw, still glaring at the hooded mammal.
"I will give you one chance to explain why you had the audacity to murder one of my guards in my presence. If I am not convinced, you will be iced."
"Thank you. May I have one of my arms?"
The bears reluctantly did so but still held him over the chamber.
The Assassin pulled out the case file from his outfit. "The polar bear was a Templar who reported and tracked your actions. The information comes from my investigation."
Koslov took the file and read through the information. When he finished, the polar bear slowly looked to Mr. Big a devastated look.
"Is it true?" Mr. Big asked.
Koslov revealed the information to him who read it himself. "I can't believe it," The voice sounding crushed and betrayed. "How could he do this to me?"
"And if you put me down, I can show you the most incriminating evidence."
Desperate to know, the mob boss gave the signal. The polar bears closed the cryonic torture chamber and put him down, hoping that the betrayal was a lie. The Assassin searched the Templar as the others waited in anticipation. He finally pulled out a folded piece of paper and opened it to read it.
"Just as I thought, this a report of our meeting," He placed the correspondence on the table. "It also includes the updates on the conditions of your estate and the involvement of Hopps and Wilde. They won't know now, but I have no doubt he's leaked more before our arrival."
The revelation finally shattered the toughness of the mob boss and the polar bears. They felt violated that one of their own had committed the worse type of betrayal: family betrayal.
"That traitor. I TRUSTED HIM!" Mr. Big yelled and pounded his armrest but immediately calmed down. "It's a good thing you got to him before I did. I would have done terrible things for his actions."
"I know this is difficult for you to grasp so Hopps, Wilde and I will leave you be." He pointed to the dead polar bear. "Do as you wish with the body. I got what I needed. Be warned, expect more Templar attacks now because of this."
"Very well. You have my thanks for this revelation. I will never forget your contributions. My home and services are open to you."
The Assassin nodded and recovered the information. "One more thing." He retrieved a familiar necklace from the bear's neck and placed it in front of the shrew. "Normally I take this whenever I kill a Templar. But since you've been infiltrated already, you will need this to identify double agents."
The arctic shrew looked down at the red cross before him. "Is this their mark?"
"Yes, it looks similar to the crucifix Koslov wears but not the same," The Assassin saw the relief in the mob boss's expression at knowing his most trusted bear was not a Templar. "It may not always be a necklace but this mark is used to signal their members."
Their eye met once more.
"You have done me an invaluable service. Welcome to the family."
The Assassin acknowledged the compliment. "Goodbye, Mr. Big. I hope to see you again soon on more friendly terms."
After the mob boss shook his finger, the Assassin exited Big's office. Judy and Nick silently followed after saying their goodbyes.
Chapter 9: Assassin Order
Evening approached by the time they left the Big estate, and the return trip to Downtown was silent. This time, Judy drove while Nick sat in the front passenger seat, the latter leaning against the window and resting his chin on his palm. The two occasionally looked in the rearview mirror to glance at the Assassin in the back. The hooded mammal sat with his arms crossed, silently looking out the window and appearing to be in deep thought.
Nick and Judy had many questions and concerns on their mind. But for now, they focused on getting out of Tundratown. Emergency crews blocked off sections of the road as they worked tirelessly to save lives. This, and also harboring a wanted mammal, forced the officers to take multiple detours. Nick and Judy felt helpless as they watch chaos and crime reigned over the district. They were currently ill-equipped, and the Assassin's presence would only bring more trouble. Scenes of mammals huddled together in comfort on the streets yanked at their hearts.
Eventually, they could no longer avoid encountering other mammals as the vehicle approached the district's border. Mammals scrambled to evacuate, and the precinct had set up a security checkpoint to restore some form of order. Fortunately, the department performed a stop for only those entering Tundratown.
"Stop here." The Assassin said, pointing to an empty lot.
"Huh? Why?" Judy asked.
"I'll explain when we stop."
Judy promptly obeyed and drove to the lot. Once the car parked, the Assassin stepped out of the vehicle and moved over to the driver's seat.
Judy lowered her window, confused over the Assassin's actions.
"It's better if we leave Tundratown separately. If the police see my hood, they'll assume the worse. But I'm also not ready to reveal my face to you just yet. No offense."
"None taken," Nick said.
Judy wanted to protest that they could trust him, but in the end, she relented to his request. While disappointed, she likened the Assassin to Nick when he slowly revealed information of his past life. All in due time.
She sighed heavily, "Alright, should we meet up at your base?"
The Assassin shook his head. "We can rendezvous just outside of Tundratown. I know you have so many questions, and it would be unfair of me to leave them unanswered." He then revealed the radio given to him by the officers. "I'll let you know where."
"See you then."
The Assassin nodded, and Nick and Judy watched as he disappeared into the night. The officers then resumed the drive out of Tundratown. Traffic became more congested as they approached the checkpoint, the car slowing to a crawl as a result. But none of that mattered to them with their minds elsewhere the entire time. Before long, Nick and Judy finally left Tundratown and immediately contacted the Assassin.
"We're out," Judy said.
"As am I. Did you have any trouble?"
"Nope," Nick replied. "Where are you?"
The Assassin gave them his location, just a short distance from the checkpoint, and they drove there to pick him up. The two arrived and saw the hooded mammal appear from the shadows and join them in the vehicle.
"Alright, now that we're safe, we can talk." The Assassin said.
The officers didn't know where to begin, but one thought stuck out among the rest.
Judy took a deep breath and spoke first. "We don't like that your lead caused thousands of mammals to suffer. I know you warned us about the dangers, but we didn't expect it to be this bad."
"It's a sad reality when fighting the Templars. They're persistent if not resourceful." The Assassin then sighed. "I understand if this affects your decision to help me, and you are free to walk away. But be warned. If that happens, you won't find me at my location. I'll disappear by the time you come to arrest me. Should you reveal the evidence, not only will you suffer a backlash, but the Templars will take extreme measures in silencing you."
"First off," Nick interjected. "There are two things you need to know about us. One, we do not give up so easily. And two, we are not letting the Templars succeed knowing their actions."
"Then what is the problem?"
"We need you to be more open with us," Judy said. "Yes, we understand the secrecy, but we will not stand by as you and the Templars endanger Zootopia!"
There was a brief moment of silence before the Assassin sighed deeply, knowing they were right. "I don't want to frighten you with my answers, but at the same time, I would be breaking my creed if my silence does bring you harm." He took a deep breath and got himself comfortable in the seat. "I will speak to your heart's content. All I ask is to keep it within reason and to please keep an open mind. What do you want to know first?"
Judy fired off what she considered the most pressing, "We understand why you waited, but how did you know that polar bear was a Templar?"
"I have this rare sense that allows me to determine the motives of mammals."
"Like a sixth sense?"
"You can say that, but this is something that you must experience yourself to understand."
"Okay, then explain this," Nick said, changing the subject. "Why did the Templar beaver called Judy and I Assassins?"
"Because your robes have our insignia; the same symbol found in the alley and on my belt buckle. But being an Assassin is more than the name and attire."
"Do you plan on recruiting us?" Judy asked.
"Only if you choose to. Those who do not volunteer should not be forced to fight. To be honest, I rather not involve any more outsiders. This cooperation only works because the Templars are unaware of it. I intend on keeping it that way."
"And killing the Templars?"
"Only Assassins are permitted to do so. I only ask that you stay hidden and do what's necessary to protect yourselves."
"Hopefully, that doesn't happen," Nick said. Even as a cop, the thought of intentionally taking a life bothered him greatly. The sight of death is already discouraging.
"So are Assassins sworn enemies to the Templars?" Judy asked.
"Yes, the Assassins fight for the free will of all in the name of peace. We believe it allows for new ideas and individual growth. But the Templars fear that this will lead to anarchy. While this is true, the individual learns nothing, and we consider knowledge important. Individuals can use it to work together and achieve peace. But even our Order has its flaws, and my publicized assassinations are an example. Stealth is preferred, but circumstances can change that."
"That's drastically different from your description of the Templars," Nick said. "Yet both orders want the same thing. I don't see why you can't work together."
"Believe me. There have been truces in the past, but the more radical members thought otherwise. Unfortunately, they tend to be the proactive ones. Overall, our differences are too great, and that division eventually became unbreakable."
"Same goal, different methods," Nick repeated.
"Exactly, but I'm going to be very biased right now. I still side with the Assassins for this reason. If the Templars succeed, they will control every single aspect of your life. Yes, there is a chance of anarchy should we prevail, but mammals can work together to prevent it. It all comes down to this: do you want to choose how to live your life or have it chosen for you?"
There was a moment of silence as Nick and Judy processed the knowledge. It was a lot to take in, and there were still things that remained unclear.
"When explained that way, I can understand your reason," Judy said. "What the Templars want is not what Zootopia is. How can anyone be anything if they can't choose?"
Nick sighed and shook his head. "I've seen this too many times. Mammals using good intentions to justify their actions. The Templars are no different."
"Unfortunately, the Assassins have made that mistake. We must be careful that our cause does not blind us to the point where we hurt others instead of helping them. Is there anything else you wish to know?"
"If you don't mind," Judy cautioned. "How long have you been an Assassin?"
"Twenty years. I was recruited a year after graduating from college. The Order deemed me beneficial in their fight from their scout report. But the Assassin-Templar conflict has been going on much longer."
This piqued Judy's curiosity. "How long?"
"Thousands of years with most of the warfare occurring by proxy. The exception was when both orders went public for a few hundred years, but that was almost a millennium ago. It is a very ugly game of tug-of-war where the livelihood of the world is the mark on the rope. Stalemates have occurred, but the fighting eventually resumes. Right now, the Assassins are on the losing side."
Hearing the current situation frightened Judy, given the magnitude of the consequences. "Do you think you'll be victorious?"
The Assassin wished he could answer that, but the complicated history has discouraged him on occasion. Not wanting to distress the officers, he defaulted to his mission. "My main focus is on eliminating the Templars from Zootopia. That's all it matters."
Judy nodded, but thanks to Nick, she knew that was not a definite answer. "I understand."
"Let me ask you something," Nick said. "You're an Assassin, but from our experience, you take very few lives. Despite having multiple opportunities, you choose to escape or only injure."
"I don't take lives or hurt mammals unless I have to." He raised an arm and activated the hidden blade. "It's why this blade only sees the blood of my targets. Going on a killing spree will break every tenet of the creed. That's not to say it hasn't occurred in the past, but times were different."
"That's a very interesting blade. Is that the signature weapon for Assassins?" Nick had been wanting to know ever since he first saw it in action at the rally.
"Correct, it's called the hidden blade, and the name is self-explanatory. Novices begin with one and must earn the right to carry two." He revealed the second one before retracting both. "There are also different versions, and they can have other features. That miniature bow you saw on my wrist is one of them."
Satisfied with finally getting answers about the weapon, Nick and Judy next asked about the Assassin Order in general.
"You keep mentioning a creed," Judy said. "Is that your code?"
"Yes, it's what separates us from common murderers. The creed and the code are actually two things."
"What's the code?" Nick curiously asked.
"Three tenets that guide the Assassins:" He raised his paw and started counting. "Stay your blade from the blood of an innocent. Hide in plain sight. Never Compromise the Brotherhood, directly or indirectly. The first tenet is why I am answering your questions. As you said, my silence can result in innocent bloodshed."
"Huh. You sound more like a vigilant than an Assassin."
"You could say that."
"And what is the creed?" Judy asked.
"Nothing is true. Everything is permitted."
Nick and Judy tried to understand the meaning, but they became more befuddled the more they tried to comprehend it.
"How does that make any sense?" Nick asked, finding the creed absurd.
"It's meant to be an observation rather than an actual creed to live by. The best way I can describe it is with a quote from a prominent Assassin."
To say that nothing is true is to realize the foundations of society are fragile, and that we are the shepherds of our own civilization. To say that everything is permitted, is to understand that we are the architects of our actions, and that we must live with their consequences whether glorious or tragic.
"The true meaning of the creed, though, is something that can only be understood through realization, no matter the explanation. Even that, however, is only the first step."
The flood of information on the Assassins and Templars has only left Judy and Nick with increased thirst. Nevertheless, a great burden had been lifted off their shoulders. The risks and time spent to make contact with the Assassin have massively paid off. They had finally found the motive behind the killings and were now emboldened to bring down the Templars in Zootopia.
The conversation was suddenly interrupted by Judy's phone. Seeing Bogo on the caller ID, she answered and put the Chief on speaker. "Hello?"
"Hopps. Is Wilde with you?"
"Right here, sir. How are you feeling?" Nick responded.
They heard Bogo trying to push through his injuries. "I'm still in a lot of pain, but I can return to limited duty. So please Wilde."
Nick barely had time to respond when Judy pulled his tie. "We are in no mood!" She whispered harshly. She took Nick's whimpering as a confirmation and released him.
"Understood Chief," He replied, recovering from the assault.
"I assume you are aware of the earthquake in Tundratown?"
"Yes," Judy said.
"Then I expect you here tomorrow morning. I'm sorry to cut your break short, but we need every able-bodied officer."
"We understand," Nick said.
"Good. See you tomorrow."
Bogo hung up, and the car became silent again.
A few seconds passed before Judy finally spoke. "Listen, Nick and I have been thinking. You should tell the ZPD about this."
Were the hood not over his head, the two would see the Assassin raise a brow. "Care to explain why I should risk being arrested? More importantly, why should they know about the Assassins and Templars?"
"Well, that can remain a secret," Nick assured. "But if you want to keep us on board, then we need reinforcements. Judy and I can only do so much without breaking the law."
"You also said that there could be more sites like the one in Tundratown," Judy added. "If we want to stay ahead, the police can help us."
"Valid points, but the city is already in fear from the assassinations. Knowledge of the sites will only lead to more hysteria. The Templars might even use this as an excuse to investigate under the guise of protecting the city."
"True, but you can't expect them to stop searching." Nick reasoned.
"No, not really." The Assassin faced the window again. "But who is going to listen to me?"
"Now wait," Judy said. "Nick and I are respected officers at the ZPD. We'll make sure the others don't harm you,"
Seeing their continued persistence, the Assassin finally relented to their request. "I trusted you with the information on the Assassins and Templars, so I'm going to trust that there will be no issues arranging my visit. I do have a few conditions. First, I want the meeting to happen at night. I don't want civilians around. Second, I will only speak to Precinct One. I have my suspicions that the Templars have infiltrated the police department, but yours was the only one I confirmed."
The second reason alarmed the officers. That thought never crossed their minds since the beginning. Now they were glad to have kept this investigation a secret.
"You're right," Judy said. "We can't take that risk."
"We'll do our best to honor your conditions," Nick said. "The possibility of turncoats is our best shot to convince Bogo."
"Do what you can. Pick me up when everything is ready."
They dropped the Assassin off at their meeting place and returned the outfits to him. After bidding him goodbye, the officers rode for their apartments. Nick took over driving so Judy can rest, and the ride was relatively quiet.
Nick glanced at his friend and saw the telltale signs. "Something on your mind Carrots?"
Judy had remained silent and stared out the window, her ears drooping.
"Is it what the Assassin said?"
But she neither responded nor moved.
"Talk to me, Judy." Her behavior concerned him, and he did not like seeing her this way.
Hearing her first name finally got her to respond. "Yes."
Nick decided to cheer Judy up while comforting her as well. "What is it? I promise I won't judge."
Judy just sighed, not even bothering to respond to his humor. "I feel conflicted over this whole thing. If the Assassin was trying to do that, then he did a good job."
Her abnormal response piqued Nick's curiosity. "Explain."
"Well, I first believed the Assassin was a criminal when he appeared. That changed when we encountered the Templars. But after our conversation, I don't know anymore to be honest. They both want what's best for Zootopia, yet how they want it is different. "
Nick could relate to her struggle. Having more time to ponder the words, the fox offered his explanation. "He was explaining his reason for siding with the Assassins. He knows we want to help him, but he wants to know if our commitment is sincere."
The remark finally brought her focus away from the scenery and to him. "What do you mean?"
"While we did offer our support, I think the Assassin wants us to find that conviction; the same one that drives us to be police officers."
Judy slowly nodded in understanding. "It does make sense." She decided to ask him the same question. "What about you? How is the Assassin picking your mind?"
Nick could only smirk. "Ha, that's easy. The Creed. Even if it is meant to be only an observation, how does a mantra with conflicting ideas last for so many years? I say this is the number one candidate out of the outrageous creeds I've heard."
"Well, think about it like this," Judy proposed. "If nothing is true, what should we believe? And if everything is permitted, what should we do? I believe this is what the Assassin is trying to explain."
"I guess." But she knew he remained unconvinced.
"Let me use us as an example. You lived with a certain notion about everyone's species, and I lived with a certain notion about Zootopia. Yet we both know they can be false. Hence the former. We each chose a path in response to those notions out of the many options available. Hence the latter. That's not to say our current path is a bad one. Going back to the conversation, it's all about choice. Does it make sense?"
Nick started to understand Judy's explanation, impressed with her intuition. "It does. Look at you Fluff. Already making that first step."
"When compared to a certain dumb fox, I'd say I understand the Creed better than him."
"Ouch," He said, feigning offense. "That hurts Carrots."
She giggled as they finally arrived at Judy's apartment, and Nick parked in front of the entrance.
Before leaving, Judy turned to Nick and smiled. "Thank you for taking me home and talking about this. My head feels much clearer."
Nick smiled in return at seeing his happy bunny again. "You're welcome Fluff. Goodnight."
Sometime later, the two lay on their beds, Judy in her pajamas and Nick in his boxers, as the memories of that evening ran through their minds. As a result, sleep evaded them for the longest time. Hours later, their eyes widened in realization and immediately grabbed their phones.
Judy: You still awake Nick?
Nick: I was wondering the same thing, Carrots. I'll let you go first.
The rabbit began to furiously type her response.
Judy: You know it. Have you been thinking the same thing I have for the past few hours?
Nick: Nothing gets past you huh? Is your decision the same as mine?
She took a deep breath before typing her response. The slight delay caused Nick to wonder if she still had any hesitation.
Judy: Definitely! We can't let him do this alone.
Nick: So does that mean you want to be an Assassin? ;)
Judy: NICK! ARE YOU CRAZY?!
Nick: Lol! I'm just pulling your ears Fluff. Now let's get some sleep. I'll see you in the morning.
Satisfied with their responses and after Judy calmed down, they placed their phones back on the nightstands and laid in bed. Finally, exhaustion from today's events overcame them, and they were fast asleep.
Chapter 10: Partnership
Judy and Nick confidently entered the lobby of Precinct One that next morning. The bunny bounced in her steps, and Nick casually walked with his head raised and paws behind his back. Officers in the lobby took in the strange sight, unaware of the reason behind their behavior. Ultimately, they passed it off as them trying to remain positive given the current situation.
Judy and Nick approached the reception desk where Clawhauser slowly ate his cereal.
"Morning Clawhauser," She greeted.
Her voice caught his attention, and he looked down to see them. "Oh...hey, you two."
They noticed his gloominess and soft voice.
"What's got you all sad, Ben?" Nick asked.
The cheetah slowly set down the cereal bowl. "I'm…still freaked out from that night. I know I should be more concerned with the earthquake, but I can't get those images out of my head!"
Judy immediately understood what he meant. "I remember. You were right there to see everything."
"The way he took down all those officers, including the Chief. I've never seen anything like that before. It's like watching Judy in the ring but only more terrifying!" He became increasingly frantic as the memories flourished.
"That sounds about right," Nick said before being punched in the shoulder by Judy for the remark. "Ow!"
"A-anyways," Fear still prevalent Clawhauser's voice. "When he looked at me after I threatened reinforcements, I thought I was done for!"
Nick felt pity for his friend for having to be that close to the action. "It must have been frightening, but we promise that he will not hurt you."
"Trust us," Judy affirmed.
"Yeah…okay." Their comforting words finally brought a small smile on his face. "You two do know how to cheer a friend up. Thank you."
"No problem, Ben," Nick gave him a finger salute.
"See you around!" Judy exclaimed.
Inside the bullpen, they noticed a couple of empty chairs while walking to their seat. Despite nearly decimating their numbers, Nick and Judy felt happy from knowing their friends would return to work. Yet they suspected the Templars had all but declared war on the ZPD. The two arrived at their seat just when Bogo made his entrance, and they saw a large cast covering his upper body under his uniform, signifying the extent of the injuries inflicted by the Assassin.
"All right, let's get started." Bogo looked at the officers in the room and could see their anxiety over the damage report. "The earthquake registered a 6.5 on the scale. Property damages have reached into the millions as of this morning." He paused for a moment while dreading the next part. The others noticed this also. "72 confirmed deaths in Tundratown alone. 24 of them police, paramedics, and fire department."
The news hit them hard, but it hit Nick and Judy the hardest knowing that the earthquake could have been prevented. The bunny tightly held her friend while she battled to hold back her tears. The fox himself bit his lip and clenched his paws as the emotions threaten to overwhelm him. They wanted to come forward with the truth right away, but the two remained focused on arranging the meeting so the Assassin can explain everything.
"As of right now, I am currently suspending all your cases indefinitely to assist with the recovery effort. If you think your case is vital, wait outside my office so we can speak."
Judy and Nick wasted no time in leaving the room, not wanting to deal with their fellow officers' reactions. Even if Bogo would have a less than favorable response, they knew he would not turn down the opportunity to meet the Assassin. The Chief just need to be convinced to not arrest him.
Minutes later, Bogo finally arrived, and Nick and Judy saw other officers requesting not to be reassigned. The Cape Buffalo at the door and stared down at his two small officers.
He opened the door and motioned them inside. The two promptly obeyed and hurried to the seats. They watched Bogo amble to his desk and sat down in the chair. He remained silent as he clenched his hooves and stared at them.
The two took the silence as permission to speak, and Nick couldn't resist a smirk and a comment. "How are you feeling Chief?"
The buffalo could only glare at the fox. "Very funny Wilde. I feel like a jackhammer crushed my chest."
Judy quickly interjected before Nick could continue. "At least you're still alive. How are the other officers?"
"The eight officer who were injured alongside me are on medical leave indefinitely but will recover. The rest only have minor injuries. That killer is paying our medical bills once he is arrested."
"Maybe he can work it off by teaching you his skills." Nick offered, his heavy sarcasm present.
Bogo just shot him another glare. "I'm not going to respond to that because I'm in so much pain right now. Just tell me why I shouldn't suspend your case. I know it's important, but I have yet to see any significant results."
"We do have results," Nick clarified.
"Well, show it then."
"We…can't show it to you right now," Judy struggled, eyes wandering around the room and nervously twiddling her fingers. "The reason is...uh."
Bogo's glare became more intense, and his nostrils flared. "Spill it already! My patience is running thin here!"
Nothing but the absolute truth could satisfy their boss, so Nick took a deep breath and broke the news before Judy's behavior got them into more trouble. "The killer found us." While not the entire truth, the two didn't want him to know of their actions off the record.
Hearing that piece of information caused Bogo's eyes to widen. His mind scrambled at the possible ramifications. "And what happened?"
Judy and Nick instantly became silent from his low tone.
When they didn't respond accordingly, Bogo immediately assumed the worse. "Did he threaten you to not speak about it?"
"No, absolutely no!" Judy vehemently denied, frantically waving her paws. "We just didn't know how you would respond."
Bogo snorted. "Between the strained partnership with Depolitio and this earthquake, some good news about the killer is a small relief. What did he want from you?"
"He wants to come forward and explain himself," Judy said.
"But with a few conditions," Nick said.
Bogo flared his nostrils but remained silent. "And what would that be?"
Nick began listing the conditions. "He will meet only at night, he will only speak to Precinct One, and he will not be arrested once inside."
The Cape Buffalo could only groan at the proposal, but internally, he shouted to the inner sanctums of his mind at the sheer audacity. "I have serious issues with this. If it were not for my pain, my protests would be much stronger. Why should he comply with his demands?"
Now was the time to use their ace. "He claims there are moles in the ZPD," Judy said.
Bogo narrowed his eyes and clenched his hooves again, anger radiating from him. "What do you mean?"
Nick took a deep breath before answering his question. "That boar officer was a mole, and we don't know if the other Precincts have been infiltrated. Only the killer has the full details, and that's why he requests to speak only to Precinct One."
Judy and Nick could see the veins pulsating on Bogo's forehead. They wondered if this was too much stress for him.
As for the Cape Buffalo, nothing angered him more than having turncoats among his officers. If there was even the slightest possibility, he would do everything in his power to confirm or deny the accusation. "Very well. Bring him here, and I promise we will not arrest him," He quickly raised his finger. "But we will take action if we believe he is an immediate threat. I will inform the officers about this."
"Thank you, Chief," Judy said. "You won't regret this."
"I hope so." His voice becoming softer. "Your task for the day then will be to keep in contact with the killer. But I absolutely need you tomorrow for the Tundratown recovery."
"We understand, sir," Nick said.
"Good. Now if you excuse me, I'm going to take some medicine."
Nick and Judy stood in front of the wall that kept the Assassin's base hidden. They contacted the hooded mammal with the radio they let him keep from their tip to Tundratown.
"Hello? Are you there?"
The Assassin responded moments later. "I am. Do you need to come in?"
"Yes," Nick said. "We're behind the wall. Don't worry. We made sure no one spotted us before coming here."
"Alright. I'll let you in."
A few seconds later, the wall started descending, and the officers proceeded inside where they saw the Assassin practicing a wooden dummy.
"Training?" Judy asked.
"Yep, give me a moment. I'm almost finished with this technique."
"Take your time," Nick said.
They watched him complete a series of hits and kicks on the wooden dummy. The sound of contact rang throughout the base.
With one final kick, the Assassin ceased and breathed a sigh of relief. "Okay, I apologize for the delay."
"No worries," Nick said. "Seeing this explains a lot."
The Assassin shrugged his shoulders. "Long hours of practice and a calm mind are all it is. What did Bogo say?"
"He agreed to your conditions and will set up a meeting," Judy said.
"Good, and I'm nearly ready with the information to present, especially on the Templar police officer. That will be the key to calming them down long enough for my explanation."
"However," Nick interjected. "Bogo did warn that they will take action if you're not careful."
"I won't give them a reason. My actions should be enough for them to reconsider."
"Since we're waiting on him to arrange the meeting, our only assignment is to bring you in when everything is ready," Judy stated. "Would you consider telling us more about the Assassins and Templars?"
"Well, it's only fair since you risked a lot. But I have one condition," He held out his paw. "Give me all your recording devices. You are not officially Assassins, so this information must not leak. Also because you are still on a need-to-know basis, I decide when the discussion ends."
"We understand. There is the danger of knowing too much." Nick said.
"And you remember that none of this leaves the base unless we all discuss it."
"We promise," Judy affirmed.
The two relinquished their recording devices and listened as the Assassin began explaining to the long history between the secret orders. The hooded mammal finally revealed the name of the object being sought by him and the Templars: Pieces of Eden. He further listed the different artifacts and explained their general powers. One of which he stressed: mind control.
The secrets were mind-boggling. Judy and Nick could never imagine how extensive the orders were in society, but before they could inquire more, the Assassin refused to discuss the matter further. While disappointed, the officers respected his boundaries, knowing their questions will be answered as they continue the fight. The Assassin returned their devices, and the conversation then moved on to more general topics such as his training and lifestyle.
Nick and Judy thought about revealing their newfound convictions to him, but he could construe that as joining the Order. Normally, they welcomed the opportunity to move forward if desired, but the thought of ever planning to take a life held them back. Ultimately, Nick and Judy decided against it for now. All three unofficially understood that this was a major obstacle the officers must overcome first.
A few days later, Bogo notified Nick and Judy that meeting had been finalized who then informed the Assassin. On the night of the meeting, the two waited outside the building for him while eating their dinner: a salad for Judy and a bug burger and fries for Nick.
They had spent the past few days being part of the relief effort in Tundratown. Their small stature proved valuable in locating survivors and paving the way for bigger mammals. The seismologists determined the earthquake originated from the collapse of an undiscovered underwater cave and are baffled at the previously unknown fault line.
The memorial service was difficult, but they could finally release the pent up emotions. Judy broke down crying and had to be comforted. Nick too shed a few tears as the guilt slowly spilled over. They knew very well the Templars were responsible and promised to avenge the deaths. Not to their surprise, Depolitio put the partnership hostilities aside and contributed to the relief effort. However, in the minds of Judy and Nick, the name that represents Zootopia's bright future is now tainted and linked to a dangerous organization.
"Mind if I get a fry?"
Nick and Judy turned in the direction of the voice and were surprised to see the Assassin. They wondered how long he had been standing there or if he'd just arrived.
"Uh, sure," Nick said, holding up the box.
"Thanks." He grabbed a fry and covered it in ketchup before eating it.
"How did you do that?" Judy said in astonishment. "My hearing should have picked up your footsteps!"
The Assassin swallowed his fry. "Trade secret."
His response caused Judy to narrow her eyes and point her fork at him. "Don't think you can keep this up!" She lowered the utensil. "Are you ready for this?"
"Yes. Although it will be difficult to avoid mentioning the secret orders, my main concern is that my actions or words might offend the officers. I just know they're looking for a reason to retaliate."
"Don't worry about that," Nick reassured. "We'll stand guard by you in case that happens."
"Thank you. Remember that they're on a need-to-know basis. Embellish the details of our roof encounter and cooperation."
"Right up my alley," Nick said confidently.
The Assassin caught the peculiar sight of the unguarded front entrance. "Something tells me I'm in for a warm welcome."
Judy finished her salad and disposed of the trash. "Just stay close to us and don't do anything unless ordered to."
"I really hope Chief Bogo told the other officers about your arrival, or we'll have a serious problem on our paws," Nick said while throwing his trash away.
They cautiously entered the building and discovered the lobby empty and silent save for Clawhauser at the reception desk. At the sound of the doors opening, the cheetah turned in the direction and became excited at seeing Nick and Judy approaching. But that excitement immediately turned to fear at the sight of the Assassin following behind them.
"Is that him?" He said, quickly cowering behind the desk.
"Yes, did Bogo tell you?" Judy asked.
Clawhauser slowly nodded. "He wanted another officer to accompany you in case anything happened." He cowered further, his face barely visible. "He's not going to hurt me is he?"
"Don't worry. He has no intention to." Nick looked up to the Assassin. "Right?"
The hooded mammal nodded.
"O…Okay then, follow me."
Clawhauser slowly stood up and nervously led them to the bullpen. At the door, they heard the chatter in the room, mainly officers motivated to capture the Assassin and avenge their fallen brother. Clawhauser first entered the room to inform Bogo of their arrival. Moments later, he exited the room and gave the Assassin a warning.
"I wouldn't want to be you right now. The ZPD wants justice for all your damages and chaos, but I will say this and I know Chief Bogo won't admit it. The two of us are grateful for you saving Gazelle back at the concert."
The hooded mammal smiled at Clawhauser's friendliness. "Glad to know I have a few more friends here."
"Well then, you should hurry on in now."
"Thanks, Clawhauser," Judy said.
As the cheetah returned to his desk, Judy and Nick entered first for the introductions while the Assassin waited outside.
"Chief," Nick said while nodding.
"Hopps, Wilde," Bogo's eyes moved upwards to see the mammal of interest standing a few feet away. A slight scowl formed on his face as they exchanged looks, but he took a deep breath and calmed down before the emotions got the better of him.
"Let me speak first before you introduce our visitor," Bogo said.
"Thank you, Chief," Judy said.
The Cape Buffalo walked to the podium, and the room gave him their undivided attention. "Alright, I know this is late for a briefing, but it is very important. First, I want to congratulate your efforts in keeping the incident quiet. All the injured officers, including myself, are recovering well, but it leaves Precinct One short-staffed for the time being. A donation pool is open for the family of the fallen officer and any contribution is welcomed. Secondly, I also want to congratulate your efforts in helping the recovery in Tundratown. Now onto the meeting. A few days ago, Officer Hopps and Officer Wilde once again made a major discovery on the White Feather Killer case. I will now let them speak."
Nick and Judy gathered two chairs and brought them to the podium.
"Thank you, Chief," Judy said before facing the officers. "First, we want to tell you the truth behind the roof encounter as that was the catalyst that led to where we are now. While Officer Wilde and I pursued the mammal, we nearly lost our lives. But to our surprise, it was the killer who saved us from death."
Understandably, there was a small commotion among the officers. Why would the killer rescue two cops who were trying to arrest him? Especially high-profile figures of the ZPD?
"Yes, we were confused as well and questioned his decision," Nick confirmed. "The only response we got was in the recording. The next time we encountered him was at the infiltration," This part they relied on the story they made up that night. "After he ignored us for the second time, Officer Hopps and I realized that he wanted something else with us."
Judy took over explaining from Nick. "Officer Wilde and I took the liberty of performing our own investigation to find out the truth. It eventually led to coming in direct contact with the killer."
"We proceeded with caution and convinced him that it is to everyone's interests that he comes to the ZPD and present his information," Nick said, before taking a deep breath. "At this current moment, he is standing right outside the room waiting to come in."
The room nearly erupted in a riot with many angry officers threatening to leave their seats to investigate. Judy and Nick quickly calmed them down before it was out of control. It helped that Bogo threatened parking duty indefinitely to anyone who stepped outside the room.
"Please calm down!" Judy pleaded. "We understand you're angry, but this mammal has information that is vital to Zootopia. We saw it for ourselves, and it would be wise for all of you to listen."
"However before he comes to speak," Nick said. "You must know the information is very sensitive and must never leave this room. Any leak will not only endanger his life but Zootopia also."
Once the officers had calmed down somewhat, Nick and Judy introduced the Assassin.
"And now, we will introduce you to our visitor."
The moment the Assassin stepped into the room, the atmosphere became silent to where the tension could be cut with a knife. He could see the glares and hear the low growls. He ignored them with the hood the only thing protecting his identity. Were their jobs not on the line and seeing examples of his strength, the officers in the room would have charged forward and attacked at the Assassin. The entire room was a tinderbox.
Judy and Nick moved in front of the podium to stand guard while the Assassin took the stand. They and Bogo glared at the rest of the officers and had their paws on their weapons, daring them to step forward.
"Thank you, Officer Hopps, Officer Wilde." He turned his attention to the audience. "I want to begin by apologizing for any injuries I inflicted on you and say that I fully support the ZPD." He revealed his bandaged paws. "It's not much, but even I didn't escape punishment from my actions that night." The Assassin placed his paws back on the podium. "Now, I want to show you something on the officer I killed." He pulled out the file and began posting its contents on the board behind him. "I know many of you here want justice, but this information will explain my reasons for taking his life."
The officers begrudgingly read the contents of the file, and their anger slowly turned to devastation. Betrayal from one of your own always hurts, especially if the individual was entrusted to protect and serve. Judy, Nick, and the Assassin could see the cracks forming, but Bogo and the officers needed a little more push before the Templars' plan could be revealed.
"He'd been sabotaging your operations against me," The Assassin continued. "He allowed the false bodyguard and the tiger dancer to infiltrate and nearly kill their targets. How they replaced the real ones is unknown to even me, but I can only assume the worse. If you wonder why they couldn't be arrested, it because arresting them wouldn't make any difference."
Chief Bogo and the other officers were confused at the last sentence. Now was their chance to make Precinct One their allies.
"These particular mammals have much influence in Zootopia, or rather some of them had. They are part of a secret organization that either controlled or currently controls major occupations in Zootopia."
He pulled out another file and posted its information. The Assassin momentarily looked down at the photos of the CEO, COO, the kangaroo, and one other mammal.
Not yet. Too high-profile.
He closed the file and returned to the podium. The officers looked at the mammals involved with the organization. Some were high-quality publicity photos while the rest were taken from a separate investigation. All but two were crossed out, and they understood the reason for it.
"These mammals worked with Bellwether during the Night Howlers, but she severed ties with them because of differences. In reality, they were only using her for their own goals. To put it plainly, they want to control every aspect of Zootopia so the city can be at peace." He pointed back at the board. "As you can see, they were making progress until I appeared. Now I do not take issue with their goal. I do take issue is their methods. I will reiterate what I said to Officers Hopps and Wilde, do you want to choose how to live your life or have it be chosen for you without objection?"
Bogo and the officers in the room slowly became more convinced from listening to the Assassin.
"Believe me. I was reluctant to come here and speak because the information is very sensitive. It is only because my assassinations are drawing a lot of attention and making it difficult for me to track these mammals. While you are free to choose to assist, I only care that the ZPD is no longer an enemy. That's all I have for now. I do have one question before Bogo comes in to conclude the briefing." He took out the taser. "To whoever this belonged to, can I keep it?"
He waited for a response but none came. "I'll take that as a yes. Thank you for your time and patience."
The Assassin stepped away, and Bogo came on. "I think we all can agree about having a change of heart. This is very serious right now, and the livelihood of Zootopia depends on it. These mammals must be stopped before they succeed. We will continue this tomorrow morning. Remember, this information must not leave the building, and we must wait until more evidence surfaces before releasing this to the other Precincts. Do you all understand?"
The officers collectively nodded. The possibility of moles in the other Precincts was likely given how extensive the mammals' influence is.
"And don't worry about hiding my entrance." The Assassin said. "I'll be here."
The next morning, they met again in the bullpen to hear the Assassin's plans for taking down the Templars. True to their promise, all of Precinct One remained silent and eagerly waited for their orders. The Assassin watched in satisfaction and relief that he was gaining allies. The moment the Templars begin losing their power and influence is when the true nature of Depolitio can be revealed.
Bogo took the podium to open the morning's briefing. "Now that we had time to digest the information, we can begin working to expose these mammals and their plot. Speak with our visitor if you wish to assist and he will inform you of any assignments." He then let the Assassin take over.
"Thank you, Chief. First and foremost, do not, I repeat, DO NOT pursue the targets. They will discover our alliance and will do everything in their power to discredit you to the public. We know I already caused enough of that. Leave them to me, and you can cover up the damages to protect all of us. Second, do you remember the earthquake in Tundratown?"
The officers nodded and immediately gave him their full attention.
"It wasn't a natural occurrence." He pulled out some files. "During our meeting, I convinced Officer Hopps and Officer Wilde to partake in my investigation. In Tundratown, we discovered a hidden temple that held an artifact suspended above a pedestal. The artifact and the temple served as an anchor for that section of Zootopia and if disturbed…well you heard the news. Before you ask, no, we did not disturb the site. What happened was that we encountered those mammals and warned them about the dangers. They did heed the warnings but decided to use the opportunity to eliminate us."
He could see the anger rise in the room as they waited for the next words. The revelation all but confirmed their determination to bring down the Templars.
"Unfortunately, there could be more temples located in Zootopia. While they do not intend to disturb them, their pursuit of a particular site could lead to their discovery. They will not hesitate to secure them for leverage. This is another reason why I came here." He lifted the stack of files. "I want you to investigate these possible locations and report the findings. Do not attempt to secure the area if the descriptions match. It will attract their attention and alert them. We'll discuss how to secure the sites when we find them. Bogo will assign the officers, and I'll assign the locations."
The Cape Buffalo then began assigning officers in groups before the Assassin assigned them the locations. For Judy and Nick, they remained assigned to him because Bogo did not want to risk other officers ruining the fragile partnership.
"Thank you again for helping with this, Chief Bogo." The Assassin said.
"A pleasure to help, Mr.…"
"Call me the Sentinel."
"Well then Sentinel, the ZPD is very grateful for your knowledge and services." He then exited the room, leaving Judy, Nick, and the Assassin alone.
A few moments passed before the hooded mammal spoke. "That buffalo is going to be a pain to work with I can feel it."
"You'll get used to it," Judy assured. "He does that to all new recruits and partnerships."
"Why am I not surprised? Nice cover by the way. I couldn't have said it better than myself."
"They're on a need-to-know basis." Nick reminded.
"You did a good job with your presentation as well." Judy complimented.
"Thanks, I'm surprised I made it through without saying the words Assassin and Templar. Anyways, I have a request. I need to speak with Bellwether about the remaining Templars. She may have valuable insight into their plans."
"We can do that," Nick said. "But I don't think entering with your hood on is a good idea."
The Assassin switched the hood with the top hat from earlier. In that moment, Judy and Nick realized he had just allowed them to see his face. The mammal in question had brown eyes and all the features of a feline: eyes, ears, nose, whiskers, etc. Despite the face reveal, they couldn't pinpoint an exact species because the features were a mixture. One possibility did cross their minds but they withheld it for the time being. If the Assassin had a reason for covering his face, then they will wait on him to tell.
Still, Nick crossed his arms, and his face immediately fell with skepticism at the disguise. "Do you really think that's going to work?"
The Assassin chuckled. "You'd be surprised at how easy it is to fool the eyes. Now all that's left is to deputize me so I can enter with you. I strongly wish to not reveal my identity."
Nick's skepticism was immediately replaced with a smirk. He took out his wallet and pulled out a sticker with the words Junior ZPD Officer on it. Wasting no time, he walked up to him and placed the sticker on the robe.
The Assassin inspected the sticker for a few seconds before smiling and nodding in amusement. "Nice."
Still smirking, Nick admired the display. "Never gets old. Back on the subject of Bellwether, I hope you have better luck with her because she didn't say much in our conversation."
"I'll convince her with my incentives. Just make sure we're the only ones talking."
"We can arrange that," Judy said. "We'll let you know when we're ready."
Chapter 11: Malpractice
Much to Nick's continuing disbelief, the disguise worked as he, Judy, and the Assassin entered the prison complex without any issue. The hooded mammal remained silent and let the officers arrange the interview with the prison warden. When asked, Nick and Judy passed him off as an informant in a related case. Near the interrogation room, the three saw the guards standing outside the door, and after acknowledging their presence, Judy and Nick entered first while the Assassin remained behind the one-way mirror.
The next time Bellwether saw the officers, she became more excited, thinking they came upholding their promise. "Are you going to release me?"
"No," Judy said. "But someone wants to speak to you."
Her excitement immediately turned to bitterness. She sat back in the chair with her arms crossed and a scowl on her face. "Then you're wasting your time here."
Nick slowly leaned forward to whisper, a wide smirk on his face. "What if we told you that someone is the White Feather Killer ?"
The sheep's eyes widened, her jaw nearly dropped. "Are you serious?"
"Absolutely," Judy affirmed.
Bellwether looked back and forth between the two, wondering why they had smirks on their faces. Finally, a chill feeling overcame the sheep, and her expression became deadpanned. "He's outside. Isn't he?"
Nick clapped his paws together twice, and the door opened to reveal the Assassin standing outside. A sense of fear and reverence overcame Bellwether as she watched the hooded mammal enter and stand behind the officers, but her expression remained stoic.
"She's all yours," Nick said, as he and Judy moved to the corners near the door.
Meanwhile, the Assassin sat down across from Bellwether and brought out a folder from his robe. The sheep remained silent as she watched the hooded mammal remove some pages and laid them out before her. The former mayor glanced down and saw they were pictures of mammals. She had her suspicions about their identities.
"Hello, Bellwether. I suggest we keep our voices to a whisper."
She lifted her face to where their eyes met, keeping her facade. "So, you're the Assassin. The Templars warned me about you when I severed ties with them."
"Good, then you know what I want, and we can get right to the point."
He pushed the photos forward, but she quickly put her hoof up. "Not yet, should I expect this night to be my last?"
The Assassin shook his head. "You're no longer affiliated with the Templars, so I have no reason to. You should consider yourself fortunate. I had planned your assassination before your arrest. Besides, why should I waste the opportunity to learn more about my enemies? Anything else?"
Bellwether felt a wave of relief when hearing her life would be spared. "I was told you can help me. I want to know how."
"Of course," He removed three documents from the file and placed them before her.
The picture of herself immediately drew the sheep's attention, and she began reading. Bellwether skimmed but understood the general subject. The Assassin first described her reason for severing ties with the Templars once she discovered their real motives. He then explained her plans to punish the Templars before her arrest. The conclusion ended with the Assassin's pursuit of her to inquire about the Templars and her plans.
When she finished reading, the sheep looked up and nodded with satisfaction. "This is good evidence, but will it be enough?"
"That depends on the justice system. In spite of your actions against predators, I'll make sure the evidence is not tampered with."
"Very well." She returned the documents to him, glad to know that one predator supported her.
The Assassin first brought out a voice recorder and shook it, asking the sheep for consent. When she nodded, he turned the recorder on and placed it between them. "Now, can you identify the remaining Templars? And what can you tell me of their plans before your arrest?"
"Hold on! I can't tell you that."
The Assassin tilted his head in confusion. "Why not?"
She sighed deeply before leaning in closer. "I was foolish to think that prison could protect me from them. They came to release Lionheart and me in exchange for our cooperation. You already know why I refused. They failed to recruit my accomplices because they knew little about them," Bellwether took a moment to get herself comfortable in the chair. "Because of my refusal, I was told that if I didn't remain silent willingly, then I can remain silent permanently."
The Assassin understood her warning and took a moment to look around the room. "Then we'll do our best to keep you safe."
After he finished scanning, the Assassin turned to the officers. "The room is safe but do you mind securing the entrance?"
"We'll do what we can," Judy said.
"We'll tell the guards outside as well," Nick said.
While Bellwether and the Assassin quietly stared at each other, the officers exited the room to inform the guard of their intentions, so they don't assume the worst. With some persuasion, the two sides compromised locking the door and granting the officers to question any visitor to the room.
Finally, Judy and Nick returned to the room, catching attention from Bellwether and the Assassin. The bunny gave the hooded mammal a confirmation nod while the fox locked the door.
The Assassin then brought his voice to a whisper. "I suggest we keep our voices low in case the walls have ears. I do have one more measure." He turned to Judy and Nick. "Can you place her in protective custody after we finish?"
"Thank you." He returned his attention to Bellwether. "Will you tell me now?"
Knowing this was the best she could get, the sheep first pointed to the pictures of a badger and a beaver. "I don't know their names, but I do know everything else about them. These two, in particular, are currently working on a project. At the hospital where the female badger doctor works, she collects blood samples from her patients and sends them to the male beaver scientist at Depolitio for analysis. Before my arrest, the beaver reported a match, and he and the doctor had plans to conduct more research at the hospital first before bringing the patient to the corporation. They expressed great interest because the match belongs to a female. But that was three years ago, so I don't know their progress."
"Judging from my own investigation, their lack of activity means that they either just brought the patient to the hospital or are working on the transfer. Interestingly enough, Hopps, Wilde, and I had the opportunity to meet the beaver in Tundratown. He must be the one leading the expeditions."
Bellwether then pointed to the pictures of a female kangaroo and a male deer. "Florence Flyer: politician. She handles the legal process for their projects. Wesley Hart: bank manager for the Bank of Zootopia. He is vital in providing most of the funding. I never got to ask where the money comes from, but I suspect it's not legal. Without them, the Templars would resort to desperate measures."
"No doubt they wish to hide their true motives. I may hold off on them until the right time to avoid any jeopardy. You should know that Hopps and Wilde got a glimpse of Florence in Lionheart's office before the rally. She may have had a part in organizing his failed assassination. My intervention has prevented them from carrying out any future ones on him for the time being."
Bellwether next pointed to the pictures of a zebra and hyena. "These two should be familiar to you: Arlyss Maverick and Kazim Karrar, the CEO and COO of Depolitio. I don't have to explain much, but I will say this. Karrar makes more appearances while Maverick tends to stay in his office to oversee everything. Together with Florence and Wesley, they organize the projects and are very high-profile figures. Last I heard they were preparing for one in Sahara Square. If you plan on taking their lives, it will be difficult now with your public assassinations."
"You forget that I can work with tight security to my advantage. They'll fall sooner or later, one way or another."
"That is evidence from the news stories."
The Assassin began collecting the photos. "Well, that's all I want for now. Thank you for your time and contribution, Bellwether. Your confession will be included to further support your case." He turned off the voice recorder and tossed it to Judy and Nick which they quickly caught.
"Don't forget your promise." Bellwether reminded.
While the guards escorted Bellwether back to her cell, the officers and the Assassin wasted no time leaving the premises. The officers didn't want to spend any more time in the company of a wanted mammal while in the prisons. Even the Assassin admitted to feeling uneasy and avoided eye contact and conversation whenever possible. Once safely on the way back to Precinct One, the three let out a huge sigh of relief.
"That went much better than I expected." The Assassin said.
"Your interrogation skills are impressive," Nick complimented. "But they could use some polishing."
"I understand. You would have seen a more effective interrogation were it not for concerns of Templar spies of information leaks."
"So what are we doing now?" Judy asked.
"The doctor and the scientist have just made a huge step forward. I believe they do have their female patient thanks to her blood sample."
"What do they even want with her and all the blood samples?" Nick asked.
"We rescue the patient first, so I can explain to you and her. The plan is to go tonight to avoid civilians and use a police cruiser without drawing suspicion. In the meantime, we need Bogo to place Bellwether and the patient in protective custody."
"You may have to show him your evidence," Judy said.
"I'll reveal enough to satisfy the request. Once we reach an understanding, then I can fully trust him with more sensitive information."
Between the Tundratown earthquake, the strained partnership with Depolitio, and the Assassin finally revealing himself, Bogo was surprisingly calm, yet found himself in a dilemma. After being humiliated repeatedly, Zootopia finally has the opportunity to end the fears caused by the Assassin. But after this morning's revelation, he began to feel conflicted. Bogo still despised that he and the rest of Precinct One had to abide by the Assassin's terms, but he knew better than to ruin such a rare opportunity, especially if it means exposing turncoats in the ZPD. For now, he would take it one day at a time and hopefully gain common ground with the Assassin. A knock on his door suddenly disrupted him from his thoughts.
The door opened, and Bogo saw Judy and Nick enter with the very mammal on his mind moments ago.
The Cape Buffalo sighed. "I assume you have something important relating to those mammals?"
Nick and Judy sat down in the chair while the Assassin remained standing.
"Yes," The hooded mammal said. "And I have two requests."
Bogo closed his eyes and put a hoof on his face. Not even a day and I'm already having to make concessions. "Tell me, and I'll do what I can." He then glared at him. "Within reason."
He nodded and pulled out a file. "That I can promise you. I want Bellwether in protective custody." The Assassin removed some documents and slide it forward to Bogo. "You'll find the reasons in these copies for your records."
The Chief took a deep breath and opened the file. Judy, Nick, and the Assassin waited silently as Bogo read the papers, hoping it was enough to convince him.
A few minutes later, the buffalo finally looked at the three with a serious look. "I only have one question before I give you my answer. Did you do all this work by yourself?"
The Assassin understood his intentions. It would be easier for Bogo to pass off the evidence as obtained from a private citizen than under his direction. "Yes."
"Then I'll see to it, but don't expect the results anytime soon. The city's resources are tied at the moment due to unforeseen events."
"Now what is your second request?" Bogo secured the copies in his drawer.
"I also want protection for an individual that is currently in custody of these mammals. From Bellwether's interrogation, this individual is in danger from them."
"Do you have proof?"
"No, but I can get you it."
"Until you do and also somehow bring the individual to us, I can't process your request."
Bogo could see a smirk appear on the Assassin's face that could rival that of Nick's. Oh no...
"Then I'll have to fulfill those requirements."
The Cape Buffalo rubbed his hoof down his face and sighed. "Fine, just don't tell me the details."
"Thank you for listening. We'll see you soon."
The Assassin got up and headed for the exit. Nick and Judy looked between him and the chief before quickly joining the former. As soon as the three left, Bogo glanced down at the file and sighed.
That night, Judy, Nick, and the Assassin departed for the hospital where the Templar doctor works. They arrived at the location and parked in a garage where the Assassin discussed the plan.
"Our top priority is to rescue the patient with the secondary being to retrieve the doctor's information. The hospital database should give us their locations. The security cameras must be disabled so we can move freely or our partnership will be exposed."
"How do you want to approach this?" Judy asked.
"I'll enter from the roof to avoid the cameras. If it's locked, I'll find another way in. Hopefully, there is an open window on the way up."
"What do you want us to do?" Nick said.
The Assassin handed them the doctor's picture. "Don't wait for me to get access to the patient. Use your imagination if asked for a reason. Find her while I retrieve the information and disable the cameras. Any questions?"
"What if the doctor is with the patient?" Judy asked.
"Stall and let me know through the radio. Anything else?"
"Will you kill the doctor?" Nick asked.
The cruiser became silent at the question. They could imagine the disaster that will occur in the aftermath.
"I hope not on this trip," They could hear the conflicting tone in his voice. "But I will if she tries to alert the hospital."
"Fair enough," Judy reluctantly agreed. "The ZPD will be alerted immediately when that happens."
"Hopefully, we're not spread too thin from investigating the sites to control the damages," Nick said with concern.
It was an inherent risk, but they would try their best to avoid it at all cost. While the Assassin climbed to the roof, Judy and Nick entered the main lobby and approached the front desk. The female porcupine receptionist heard their entrance and looked up.
"May I help you, officers?"
"Yes, we need to see this doctor and her patient," Judy revealed the picture.
The porcupine inspected the picture for a few seconds and then back the officers. "She is very busy right now and gave strict orders concerning visitors. As for the patient, visiting hours are over unless you have reasons."
"Well," Nick said. "We have evidence to believe that the White Feather Killer will strike here tonight, and the doctor and her patient could be his target."
The receptionist gasped in horror and clasped her mouth from the terrifying news. "I'll let her know about you. Here is their location." She gave them the information, and the officers thanked her and hurried to their target.
They could hear the porcupine report them to the badger. Once safely away, Judy elbowed Nick in the ribs, livid at him complicating the mission.
"Did you have to mention the Assassin?!"
"Ow," Nick groaned while massaging the afflicted area. "He said to use our imagination."
"But did you have to use that! Now how do we rescue the patient?!"
"Relax, Carrots. The Assassin knows he won't get the patient without alerting the doctor whether she's with her or not. It's just a diversion for him to get into her office."
Judy tilted her head in confusion. "How do you know?"
"I've been used as a distraction a few times before meeting you. It's paid fairly well."
This impressed Judy more than anger her. "Clever fox."
The Assassin radioing in interrupted the conversation. "Good news, I'm inside and currently on the way to disable the security cameras. Do you have the location of the doctor and patient?"
"Yes, but we have a problem," Judy said. "The receptionist tipped off the doctor of our arrival. Not yours, just the two of us."
"Relax. This is to be expected. At least it will be easier for me to sneak into her office. Stick with the plan and keep me updated. Be discrete." The Assassin ended the chat.
"I told you," Nick said.
Judy shook her head. "Something tells me we're in for a hot encounter."
The patient's room number was 704. The officers took the elevator there and began searching for the patient's room number. Were it not for their uniforms, the staff and security would have questioned their presence. Silence roamed the halls of the building during the search.
Nick leaned over to Judy to whisper. "Don't say this to anyone else Carrots, but hospitals really give me the creeps at night."
Judy sighed and facepalmed. "You've been watching too many horror movies again haven't you?"
"Hey, it could happen!" Nick exclaimed but still in a whisper.
"Yeah, in your dreams."
They eventually found the room number and carefully opened the door. Inside, Judy and Nick tip-toed to the bed and saw the female patient, a large white lynx, sleeping. The two stood by her bed and thought about their next action.
"Do we wake her?" Judy whispered.
"We can't just carry her out of here," Nick whispered.
The lynx suddenly woke up, surprising them. The officers saw the fear in the lynx's blue eyes, giving no doubt that their appearance frightened her.
"Easy, we're not going to hurt you," Nick said while motioning with his paws for her to calm down.
Judy did the same. "We only want to talk to you. My name is Officer Judy Hopps, and this is Officer Nick Wilde."
The lynx looked at her visitors as they flashed their badges. Her terror softened only slightly. "Please, you must get me out of here!" She frantically said. "The doctor…"
"Forgive my patient's response. She has been through some terrible treatments."
Judy and Nick turned around and saw the badger doctor standing in the doorway. But something about her felt familiar to them. Within seconds of taking in the appearance, their eyes widened in horror as they recognized the female badger doctor who accompanied Lionheart at the Cliffside Asylum.
"You must be the officers who are escorting us to safety." The doctor said, oblivious to their expressions.
Nick and Judy quickly shook their expressions off before the Templar badger could ask.
"Yes, yes we are," Nick said, his mask slipping on. "Let's get going shall we?"
"And what of my patient?"
Judy noticed the way the lynx cowered against the bed. The terror in her eyes convinced her that she and Nick needed to get the patient away from the Templar doctor as soon as possible. "You first then her. She is not the one being targeted."
The badger's expression quickly changed to one of anger. "No, I will not leave her!" She objected. "Doing so will bring harm upon her!"
But Judy stood her ground. "With all due respect doctor, it is for your own protection."
The Templar badger countered with her own. "With all due respect officers, I am bound by the Hippo-cratic oath to keep my patient safe and healthy." An infuriating smirk that could rival Nick's appeared on her face. "I'm sure you don't want Chief Bogo to know that you endangered a life."
Judy and Nick remained silent, angry that she was right. They will have to find a way to separate the two once they return to the Precinct.
"Good," The Templar said. "Now follow me to my office so I can recover my work and continue it at the ZPD. Let me unhook the patient so you can bring her."
The badger strolled approached the bed to prep the lynx for escort. With only the IV fluid stand attached, she left the officers with the task of moving her. After the badger left the room, Judy and Nick stood by the bedside as the lynx shifted her legs off the bed.
"Don't worry," Judy assured. "We can still get you out, but you have to trust us."
"What's your name?" Nick asked.
The lynx looked at the officers before nervously responding. "Valerie. Valerie Lucius."
Nick smiled at the small opening and wasted no time taking advantage of it. "Well Valerie, you're going to be safe. That's a promise."
Seeing their confidence, Valerie calmed down and let the officers escort her. They followed the badger back to her office while Judy and Nick tried to stall for the Assassin to bail them out this dilemma.
"Thank you for warning me of the killer," The Templar doctor said. "You can only imagine the fear and panic that overcame me."
"We're glad to receive the anonymous tip in time," Judy said.
"Do you know why the killer would target you?" Nick asked.
"I don't know. I'm only helping patients I take on or assigned to."
Had Judy not know the badger was a Templar, she would have fallen for her words. But Nick had no trouble seeing through the act. Valerie, meanwhile, remained silent and continued walking.
"Are you well known in your field?" Judy asked.
"Why yes!" She exclaimed. "It's why Lionheart hired me to initially treat the savaged predators. Does my reputation play a factor in being targeted?"
"You see," Nick said. "We discovered that the previous victims were high-profile figures in their respective careers. It's only fair to ask and confirm."
"Oh dear, I didn't know that! I'm sure they've done nothing wrong to deserve this."
It took every bit of Judy and Nick to not call her out and arrest her so they quickly changed the subject.
"What's so important about the patient that we must bring her along?" Judy asked.
"I'll tell you since I must explain to the ZPD anyways. In short, I've been working with a scientist to develop a cure a major disease, carefully regulated of course. We found that certain blood samples will help create the cure and believe the patient here is a match after testing her blood. That's why we must take her with us. We're so close to a breakthrough!"
At that moment, Nick decided to put the badger in the spotlight after witnessing Valerie's reaction to her. "That's great, but I assume your patient here has an irrational fear with your work?"
"I admit to doing some questionable actions in my excitement, but I'm very careful. The patient is invaluable to our research. It took years to find the right match. The last thing I want to do is destroy the results."
Valerie winced at her supposed compliment but refrained from speaking out. Judy and Nick calmly placed their paws on her in comfort while slowly moving in front of the feline. They needed to separate the two females as soon as possible. Agonizing minutes later, the group finally arrived at her office.
"Wait here while I get my research. " The badger entered the room while the others waited outside.
"As soon as we get to our cruiser, Officer Wilde here will sit with the badger while I sit with you," Judy said.
"Just do what you have to do," Valerie said.
Then, Nick's nose picked up a familiar scent. "Carrots,"
Her ears shot up, and she looked at Nick. "He's nearby?"
Valerie became confused as she didn't expect another mammal to be with them. "Who is?"
"A friend. Just wait." Judy assured.
The badger finally exited the room with her research. "I have everything I need. Shall we?"
At that moment, Judy and Nick's eyes slowly widen, and Valerie took a few steps back with a frightened look on her face as a subtle shadow overcame the badger.
The Templar doctor grew irritated at their lack of response. "Why are you all standing staring at me like that?"
The voice caused her to turn around in surprise and see the Assassin towering over her. Before the badger could respond, the hooded mammal grabbed the Templar and stabbed her with the hidden blade.
The badger breathed heavily as she clutched her wound. She glared at the Assassin standing a few steps away. "How could you do this? How could you stop our progress?" The badger rebuked.
The Assassin slowly stepped forward. "Your progress involves violating the privacy of the citizens and performing research against a patient's will."
"Yes, and it was all for the good of Zootopia. Can you imagine all the knowledge that will be known? How many terrible things we can prevent? It would have made Zootopia a wonderful place to live."
The hooded mammal stopped in front of the badger and kneeled. "But at what cost?"
"We cannot achieve our goals without sacrifice. Some must be made for the betterment of all."
The Assassin shook his head. "Not this way. There are better solutions."
"And you think those solutions will solve all the problems of Zootopia?"
"No, but you can't solve problems without creating new ones."
"Those new problems would pale in comparisons to our current ones. You would have seen it were it not for your campaign. In the end, your actions will be responsible for Zootopia's future calamities. It already has begun." The badger exhaled for the last time.
The Assassin brought out a white feather and slowly stained it with her blood.
He carefully laid the badger down to avoid spilling blood on the floor. The display nearly caused Valerie to scream until she remembered the consequences and quickly covered her mouth with her paws.
The Assassin looked up and noticed a fourth with them. "Is that our patient?"
Judy and Nick nodded while Valerie desperately tried to calm herself down.
"Then we don't have much time. I disabled the security long enough for us to escape. Take an alternate exit to avoid drawing attention. Park on the street in case the alarm goes off so no one stops our escape. I'll catch up to you later."
"Don't take too long," Nick said.
"I'll be quick." The Assassin moved the badger into her office and closed the door.
"Valerie," Judy said. "We're getting your stuff first before we go. Make it quick."
She slowly nodded. "Okay."
They quietly and quickly returned to the white lynx's room. Valerie entered first while Judy stopped to speak with her partner.
"Nick, wait outside while I help Valerie get dressed and ready."
The fox nodded and closed the door after the girls entered the room. While waiting outside, Nick contacted the ZPD about a murder at the hospital. In his mind, at least it can be construed as the ZPD taking action and failing instead of doing nothing.
"Dispatch this is Officer Wilde. We have a 187." He gave the hospital's address.
"10-4 Wilde. We're sending all available units immediately."
With that, Nick waited for Valerie and Judy to come out. He had his weapon out as a precaution. Moments later, the girls emerged from the room with Valerie in her normal clothes and carrying a bag with her belongings.
"Let's get out of this nightmarish place." The lynx said.
The three silently hurried to the nearest staircase as they descended to the first floor, Judy leading while Nick protected their back. Throughout their escape, they moved carefully to avoid alerting the medical staff and security. Occasionally, the officers ordered Valerie to hide when encountering said mammals. They finally reached their destination and rushed to the nearest non-emergency exit then to their cruiser in the parking garage.
With the officers in the front seats and Valerie in the back, they carefully drove off the premises and parked across the street. The three anxiously watched and waited for the Assassin to appear. Suddenly, the hospital's security alarms sounded, causing them to be concerned.
"Oh no," Valerie said worryingly.
Judy's foot began thumping, and her nose twitched madly with each passing second. "Where are you?"
"He'll be here Carrots," Nick assured.
They soon spot a figure running towards the cruiser and recognized the Assassin.
He finally reached the vehicle and quickly entered the back passenger seats. "Go!"