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Zootopia: Fear Itself

Chapter Text

'How the hell... am I supposed to get up that...' He thought out loud, staring at the imposing mass of wooden beams that constituted a wall that all fresh recruits must clamber over to even be considered worthy to progress. Standing at nearly 20 feet tall this impressive structure was the most difficult section of the entire course, which to a Coyote standing at a mere 4 foot 3 inches tall seemed an almost impossible mission to conquer. The obstacle course consisted of a number of rather tricky challenges that mammals must overcome to advance in the training program, some of which had already proven to be too much for some of the smaller and less committed members of the group. 

'Just like everyone else around here, put a little effort in for a change' a voice said as it shot past him at break neck speed before mounting the wall, using claws to effectively and effortlessly scale the monstrous structure.  

'Easy for you felines to say, least if you fall... or get pushed... you land on all fours, unlike me...'  he muttered to himself as he desperately tried to find an alternative route to the top without plummeting to a very painful and embarrassing heap on the ground.

'SIXTY SECONDS, ALL MUST PASS OR ELSE YOU ALL RE-RUN THE COURSE' shouted a very tall female polar bear in a rather commanding voice not unlike an army drill instructor, certainly more fearsome at least, this is one bear you deffinatly do not want to get on the wrong side of. 'COME ON SNOWFLAKE, YOUR GETTING UP THAT WALL IF I HAVE TO PERSONALLY KICK YOUR SCRAWNY ASS UP IT MYSELF YA HEAR'

There was a slight twinge of fear slowly creeping up the Coyotes neck as he stood fixed in place, trying in vein to locate a safe and easy way up the obstacle. By this point there had already been several mammals that have successfully scaled the daunting woodwork and landed, albeit painfully, on the other side. 

Sitting playfully on top of the wall however was a light gray Lynx with black markings, short silver hair and  bright emerald eyes. 'Come on snowflake, its only a little wall, surely you aren't gonna let this little thing stop ya? Would be dreadfully embarrassing for you to fail or give up now, not after you have come all this way' she said with a somewhat sadistic grin on her face. 

Lucy Benson, 20 years old, top of this years Zootopia Police Academy class, incredibly intelligent for her young age yet not afraid to tell people exactly what she is thinking even if it is meant in a demeaning or generally rude fashion. This feline excels in physical fitness and intellectual prowess, coming out on top of each and every written assignment she is handed and besting opponents 3 times her size with her ability to react quickly in any given situation.
 
For the purpose of scaling a large wooden wall there is nothing like having sharp, retractable claws as a somewhat secret weapon and the stamina to match her strength, this lynx was assured to pass this years final exam with ease yet why stick around on top of the wall. What possible reason would someone so gifted possibly have to run the risk of failing for? 

'Come on already, don’t think about it and just do it' she shouted down to the young coyote, in the process of steeling his nerves. 

'TWENTY SECONDS' yelled the imposing polar bear from the sidelines, carefully clutching a bear sized stopwatch so as not to crush it in her vice like grip. 

With a clenched fist and a determined look in his eye the coyote who was barely out of his teen years himself took one final look at the wall. 'Don’t call me snowflake!' He yelled before launching himself towards the massive wood wall with every ounce of power his hind legs could muster. 

'About damn time' Benson muttered under her breath before preparing to slip down the back face of the wall and to the finish line, assuring her passing grade and admittance to Precinct 1 on the ZPD. All she had to do was let go of the wall, so why was she hesitating. She looked back to see the young coyote make his initial jump, claws immediately digging into the wooden wall as he scrambled up the wall until...crack. The wooden beam splintered under his claw. It was at this point he knew that his dream of making it into Precinct 1 and making his uncle Rockford proud... was over...  

His eyes closed and his heart heavy, trying to find the correct words to tell his uncle, Detective Rockford, that he didn't make it, that all his hard work and education had been for nothing. The fall felt like an eternity, darkness surrounded him and in this moment he though of a few possible futures, perhaps a pizza delivery guy or perhaps stripper. He already has the policeman's uniform. Whatever was in store for him it sure looked bleak, as if his future had just been ripped from him when... 

'Gotcha...' 

The canine opened his eyes in utter disbelief. Benson, instead of jumping down and finishing the course had leaned backwards, hung herself upside down from the top of the wall and managed to grab the coyote by the paw. The female that cared little for anyone else had momentarily given him his future back and like hell was he about to squander this second chance. 

He sunk his claws on his free paw into the wood and hoisted himself up onto the top on the wall and pulled Benson back upright. The two mammals sat side by side on the wall as the polar bear watched on and nodded in approval.

'Here comes the easy part, just let gravity do the work' said Benson as she pushed herself off the wall, closely followed by the coyote. 

Both landed on their feet in the soft sand accumulated at the bottom of the wall, the finish line was less that 20 meters away. The future that both had been fighting for was within their sights.  
Using the last of their energy the both of them made a last ditch sprint to the finish line, knowing that time was almost up.  

'3.......2.......1.......' Shouted the bear, grasping her stopwatch to the point of it developing stressmarks as she watched with pride as 2 future officers passed the finish line together within the allotted time. 

'Congratulations, you pass' she said with a grin from ear to ear, 'you can rest assured that all 12 of you new recruits can call yourselves officers of the ZPD, I am proud of you all' she said in a more humble tone than that of her coach persona. 

'Well snowflake, looks like we will be seeing a lot more of each other in the future' said Benson as she collapsed to the ground, nearly unable to catch her breath. 

'I said stop calling me that' the coy said as he collapsed next to her in worse state than she was. He looked over towards the feline and smiled 'The names Alexander Hunter, ZPD, and don’t you forget it!'

 

Chapter Text

It was 5pm, June 28th, the day after the final exam and all 12 of the fresh ZPD officers were feeling both the physical and mental drain of the previous day. Today however was a balmy 25o, sun beating down upon the academy lawn and a gentle breeze flowing through the fur of the mammals laying upon it. 

"Whew, hot out today huh" said the polar bear instructor "shouldn't you guys be planning something, some kind of leaving do... after all these past 6 months have been rough for all of you and who knows what the future holds" 

"she's right you know" commented a black fox by the name of Niles. "We all have our preferences handed in, we all have where we want to be placed and our specialty but I dare say no matter what happens after this... there's no reason we cant all stay in touch right" 

"I agree!" Shouted a young river otter girl called Amelia "But yeah we gotta do something, how about tonight?" 

Alex was sitting just a few feet away beside a rather shy Gray Hare that goes by the name of Bixby. At just 3 feet tall he is of average height for his species but a little on the frail side, having managed to pass his exams using his intellect and agility much like Benson did.  

Alex nudged him and asked "Pub night?". Bix answered with a simple nod, a smile and a thumbs up towards Amelia. 

"Okay then settled, drinking sesh tonight then huh?" Amelia motioned towards the 12 rookies to which the answer is a simultaneous nod in agreement from everyone. 

Benson however couldn’t help but stare in Hunter's direction, careful not to meet his gaze for the previous night, as everyone else was asleep she caught him doing something rather curious. Something she had never seen before. 

--- 3:15am The Night Before ----------

The night was calm and clear, no traffic at this time and nothing but crickets were stirring in the undergrowth. Light, wispy clouds partially obstructed the only major source of light, the moon.  
Benson, the star of this years cadets, was struggling to get any kind of sleep tonight. Tossing and turning in her single bed, kicking the sheets off and even switching sides in the bed did nothing to overcome this feeling she had deep down inside. There was something that really bugged her about the finals exam the previous day, a feeling that she couldn’t shake off. Why didn’t she just finish the exam. Why did she help Hunter up the wall. Why did.... "The hell is that?" She thought out loud.  

She rose out of bed and peeked out the window of her second floor dorm room to see someone out on the baseball field moving some equipment around. The faint sound of metal scraping along the ground got her intrigued, she wondered what someone would be doing up at this hour and what the hell they were up to. 

Benson jumped out of bed and slipped on a pair of jogging bottoms and a vest thinking that it wasn’t too chilly out tonight and with her dark marking it would make her harder to see in the shadows. Slipping on her trainers she thought it might be good practice for her to go out the window instead of disturbing the other patrons of the building. 

Carefully opening the wood frame window and propping it open with a few books she skillfully slid out feet first and gripped onto the wooden sill with her claws. "Dammit they moved the boxes..." She whispered to herself, her escape plan foiled by the janitor. "This is gonna hurt" she said as she let go of the ledge and gracefully landed on the pebble stone walkway 10 feet below. The sharp pebbles pressed into the soft pads on the underside of her paws. It hurt, but curiosity got the better of this cat as she got up, brushed herself off and made her way stealthily to the playing fields. 

She crouched down as she got close to the bleachers, sticking to the shadows as much as possible. As she got underneath the steps she got as low as possible, resting on her stomach and peeking through the seats to see Hunter standing in the middle of 4 automatic baseball throwing machines. 
Alex was dressed in all black, hoodie, jogging bottoms and black trainers, clutching onto a single length of pipe approximately 2 feet long. Almost half as tall as he was but that didn’t deter him from swinging it around, warming up it would seem. He paced back and forth between them, checking the settings on the machines and that each of them were full.  

Giving everything a final once over he took a length of thick, black cloth from his hoodie pocket and tied it around his eyes, making sure there was no folds or creases and pulled it tight. Finally he pulled his hood up and raised his pipe in both hands as if it were a katana. 

"Snowflake?...wha" she thought but before she could finish Alex tugged on a small piece of string that simultaneously triggered all 4 of the machines, all running on a randomized timer.  

The first ball shot out of the machine facing towards his back. Alex's ears perked up and he blocked it with the make shift bat by reaching it over his head and deflecting the path of the ball. 

"Snowflake your gonna get yourself hurt" she though, and with each ball that flew towards him, with every perfect deflection Benson's back arched a little more, each time she almost readies herself to jump out and switch them off. If she had the time. 

After a few minutes more of precision combat against the vicious baseballs the machines ran empty. With a small sniff of the air Hunter knew he wasn’t alone. Without a moments hesitation he slid his blindfold off and turned towards the bleachers where the feline was still lurking, laying prone and watching him with curiosity. He knew that she was there but pretended to be blissfully unaware and decided to tease her a little. He walked over to the opposing set of seats on the other corner of the square and picked up a water bottle. Before he took a drink from the bottle he took off his hoodie. 

He walked back into the center of the square, taking a swig from his bottle very few steps to stay hydrated. A small grin appeared on his face as he looked over the field at all the baseballs on the ground and then a small, quick glance towards the bleachers where the kitten was hiding. 

"Hope your enjoying the show, officer" he laughed to himself before walking back to his own dorm room. 

Benson was still laying prone spying on the Coyote as she noticed she was blushing. "What the hell Lu... catch a grip" she repeated, confirming to herself that he meant nothing to her but as a workmate yet there it is again... what is this feeling deep down, in the pit of her stomach. 

--- The Next Day ----------

"Hey Lucy, were going for some drinks soon, you up for it?" Niles shouted over to her "think of it as the going away party, before were all split up for different precincts" 

Benson snapped out of her daydream with a pop. "Huh, sorry... uh yeah that sounds great, long as I'm not the one carrying you guys home haha" she replied somewhat nervously, knowing that this feeling she has regarding Hunter may surface again if she isn't careful. 

Alex crept over to Lucy without her noticing and whispered gently in her ear "Perhaps we'll be carrying you". These words and his proximity to her caused the fur on the back of her neck along with her tail to fluff up. 

Alex noticed this and decided to have a little fun with it. "What's up buttercup? Didn’t frighten you did I?" He said with the biggest and most obvious grin on his face that he could pull. 

"I..I..uh...yeah right... as if you could scare me" she said stumbling over each word, trying desperately in vain to his her embarrassment. "A...Alright then... s.shall we go get ready for tonight?" Muttered the hard blushing feline before she stormed off in the direction of her dorm. 

"Funny as it was dude... maybe you took it a bit too far, perhaps you should apologize huh?" Bixby chimed in as he walked over to Hunter who was at this point looking a bit remorseful himself. 

"Yeah, I think your right, il talk to her tonight". 

--- 8pm That Night ----------

"D'ya think im a little overdressed Al?" Bixby asked feeling a little anxious looking around the imitation British pub apply named 'The Tower Tavern', then down to his professionally tailored charcoal gray suit that made his baby blue eyes stand out from across a crowded room. 

"No more so than me dude, don't worry everything will be fine. Besides you guys certainly know how to be stylish huh" Alex said, reassuring his childhood best friend and bestowing a sense of confidence in himself aswell. Hunter was wearing what he himself would describe as his 'usual attire' consisting of a plain white shirt, dark gray waistcoat with a blood red tie and a golden tie clip. Unusually tho he was wearing a pair of dark colour combat pants and a pair of hiking boots that oddly fit in perfectly with his top end. 

"You guys? Whadda ya mean you guys? And buttering me up with compliments isn't gonna get you anywhere, already have a boyfriend and you know it" Bixby chuckled to himself knowing full well that Hunter fully supported him. "Speaking of which I believe he is coming to the graduation, id very much like for  you to meet him, I think you would get on like a house on fire!" 

Both mammals made their way into the back corner of the pub where the rest of their classmate with the exception of one were sitting, already 3 pints into what can only be described as a long night.
 
The walls of the bar were lined with newspaper clippings on influential headlines from the past several decades, all framed with golden furniture, almost tacky in appearance. The bar itself was solid mahogany imported straight from England, where the sister building stood right in the heart of London. The owner of this establishment was infact the owner of both bars, leaving her brother to run the busier of the two back home. 

Above the bar was all manner of alcoholic beverages ranging from vodka to absinthe, 3 beer taps at each end of the bar with a single center piece reserved specifically for ale. Behind the bottles on the wall was a long and very old mirror which looked to be older than the bar, maybe even Zootopia itself.   

"Another please" said a voice coming from the corner of the bar closest to the table of graduates, a voice that sounded happy to be included but at the same time bored of the proceedings and as if they were about to leave after one final drink, a voice that was close enough to the group to not look like an outsides yet far enough to keep to themselves.
 
Alex let out a sigh "well... guess I gotta bite the bullet and apologize before we find her name off the register in the morning..." 

"For the best dude, il keep the crowd riled up for ya!" Bixby said excitedly as he rushed off to order a fresh round for the table. 

The Coyote slowly made his way over to the feline in a beautiful red dress, drinking by herself. "Hey Lu.. Listen im sor..." 

"Don't" Benson said immediately as she heard his voice and put her finger on his lips. "Don't wanna hear it, just let me finish this and im gonna go get some sleep..." She said in a defeatist tone of voice. 

Alex felt even worse now for what he said, firmly believing that there wasn’t anything he could do... unless... 

"Fine, I wont apologize... but how about a game instead" he said, starting to cheer up a little and feeling confident that if this work it will be better than a simple sorry. 

"What are you cooking up Snowflake?" She said, more curious now than depressed. 

"Don't call me Snowflake. I figure that since you and I have chosen Precinct 1 as our preference, odds are we will be partnered up, soooo dontcha think we should get to know each other a bit better...or... at all... lets face it i know nothing about you and I genuinely would like to" 

Benson took a few seconds to think the proposition through, adding a few ideas of her own to make it a little more interesting. "Okay Snowball, on one condition... every interesting thing that we learn about the other, the asker must take a shot... deal?" She said, now with a warm hearted smile upon her well groomed muzzle. 

Before Alex could process what exactly the new rules entailed he agreed with a strong handshake. "You're on!, you first, what would you like to know?" 

The bare skin on Benson's long Lynx ears went a bright pink as she looked around to see if no one was looking their direction before looking Alex deep into his ice blue eyes and asking exactly what he was expecting. "How in hell did you hit all the balls last night blindfolded?" 

"Mad skills?" He said jokingly "Or if you don’t believe that... it partially cheated on that front to be honest... I dipped the tips of the barrels in citrus juice so the balls would come out with a hint of orange" 

Benson looked genuinely confused by this revelation, as if it explained it but failed to explain it at all. "What the hell are you talking about?... oranges?... That’s how you seen the balls?"

"I didn’t see the balls at all, i smelled them." He said, a little proud of his unique ability. " When I was 4 I was in a car crash, broke my nose in several places and ironically after that my sense of smell was dialed up to 11. Its my greatest asset, its how I passed sensory training top of the class, the instructor just thought it was my canine senses but its more." 

"Huh, that is interesting..." She said realizing that meant she needed to do a shot. 

Hunter motioned the bartender, a large Canadian Moose dressed in a smart but casual suit not unlike Alex's own. He brought over a new, unopened bottle of tequila, cracked the seal and poured a measure of the liquid into a shot glass that seemed to be much larger than a usual glass Benson seen the size of the shot glass and looked to the bartender who merely looked at her a shrugged "Irish". 

Lucy looked at the full glass with a face of regret, realizing the size of the glasses and that she had made a huge mistake. She held her nose and necked the shot. The fur on her back stood straight up and a shiver engulfed her from her toes right to the tips of her ears before starting to cough violently. "I hate you Hunter!" 

"Heh good girl, okay I guess its my turn huh?" Alex said while pondering exactly what he needed to ask, realizing that there wasn’t many of these shots he could take before getting drunk himself. "Okay, I need to ask... I was done for yesterday, why did you save me?" 

Benson tensed up, knowing the feeling she had earlier that day was coming and with a alcohol fueled vengeance. Her ears went red once more knowing full well that it was some kind of attraction but she couldn't full well tell him that. "I...I honestly don't know. I mean I would have done it f-for any of the mammals on the c-course had they of needed help, yeah, I care about all of you g-guys and don't want to see any of you getting hurt" she said, stammering and tripping over her words while trying to find a way out of the situation without wimping out. 

Alex raised his paw, "Lu, if you don’t want to talk about it we can move on, that cool with you?" He asked with honest concern in his voice to which she nodded in agreement, thankful of the stay of execution. 

"T-thank you... Im sorry" she said, blushing hard, enough for Alex to take notice. 

"Its okay Kitten, but I still drink" he said as he eyed up his ominously overflowing glass of tequila. He took a deep breath and chugged it all down in 2 gulps, wiped away any excess from his muzz and smiled "Piece of cake" he said, his eye twitching a little. 

"Bull... your feeling that big time and I know it!" She said playfully, really starting to come out of her shell. "You'll be spitting fire in a moment" 

"Phew... your turn" he said, beginning to sweat under his thick fur. 

Without even thinking Lucy jumped in "What about family?" 

Alex's expression sobered up slightly. "Remember I said I was in an accident when I was 4? I was in the car with my mom and older brother, I broke my nose and wrist, he broke his arm... mom lost her life..." He said, a hint of a tear started to form in his eye. 

Benson noticed this and wiped it away. "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to.." She began to say before being interrupted. 

"Its cool!, these things happen, its not like were the first to be orphaned so young. After the funeral Uncle Rockford came to take us in... we called him uncle, he's our Godfather."

"Rockford....Rockford..... it can't be Chief Rockford of Precinct 5?" Lucy asked in astonishment before being greeted with a smile and a finger to her lips. 

"Shhhhh, I don’t want people to know, I'm doing this for him, to thank him for all he's taught me and my brother, I promised to become a detective in Precinct 1" he smiled, feeling a weight lifted from him. 

Benson grabbed the bottle and pressed it to her lips before taking a huge swig from the Mexican forget-me-juice. Her face contorted into a few unusual positions before slamming the bottle down, damn near cracking it. Alex could tell from this that she had perhaps a lower tolerance than he did, which he was happy about as it meant he didn’t look weak in front of her.

"Okay Snowfluff, you... me... now" she said to him with a deadly straight face. 

Alex blushed slightly, taking the wrong meaning out of the sentence for a second before asking "Why do you call me Snowflake or Snowball or whatever you feel like in the moment?"

"Simple, the tips of white in your fur, reminds me of an Arctic Fox or Hare or somethin" she said before taking another drink from the bottle, not realizing the rules, or not caring. 

Hunter giggled to himself a little, enjoying the sight of the usually calm and collected Lynx now starting to lose her sharp edge. He decided that if she was going to break the rules then he should a little as well as he too took a long gulp directly from the bottle. It was at this point he knew that tonight was going to be interesting. 

--- 2:15am the next morning ----------

"Okay Kitten, careful now" Alex said as he tried in vain to direct the heavily intoxicated feline in the direction of her dorm room. It was like the blind leading the blind as Alex himself could barely walk in a line even if he wanted to. 

"Uh... Lu.... please tell me you hav *Hic* have your keys?" He asked as the feline broke free from his grip and leaned against a nearby wall. 

"Il never tell, Officer. You're gonna have to *Hic* search me" she said playfully as she spread her legs and pressed against the brickwork. 

Alex sighed before saying "you lost them haven't you?" 

"Y *Hic* yeah I lost em..." She said looking somewhat ashamed of herself. "Can I stay with you?" She followed up, becoming instantly happier, going from one end of the spectrum to the other in a matter of seconds. 

"There's nothing else for it, il make you up the *Hic* sofa bed" he said before motioning her towards the male dorm rooms. 

After a few minutes of careful navigation of the staircase that almost seemed like an adventure they arrived at Alex's Room that he shared with Bixby to cut costs. It took a few attempts for the inebriated canine to find the right key for the lock, and even more tries to get it in the hole to which Lucy noticed. 

"Does it take you this long every time to find the hole?" She said without missing a beat, giggling like a school girl to herself. 

Alex sighed, although he did see the funny side of the joke and with a click, the door opened and he stumbled into the living room.  

Within a few minutes Alex had the sofa bed set up and a few blankets and pillows set upon it for the feline to do with whatever she wanted. He stumbled over to the door to make sure it was locked before he himself went to be but as he turned around he noticed Benson had stripped down to her underwear and was standing next to him. 

Before he had any time to react she hugged him, forcing him against the door. The canine blushed hard, feeling as if he was going to melt from the heat his own body was producing over the intimate situation. 

"Uhhhh, Benson, w-what are you doing?" He asked, knowing full well that he wasn’t going to get a good answer. "Come on, we should get you into bed" he said innocently enough. 

"Bet you'd *Hic* like that wouldn't ya" she replied while nibbling on his tie. "Alex... I'm sorry about your mom... honestly *Hic* I didn't mean to bring up any bad things... memories..."

"Before tonight you never called me by my name... It's okay Lucy, honestly... now..." He said before picking her up and carrying her onto the sofa bed, pulled the sheets over her and rested her head on a mountain of pillows. "I want you to get a good nights sleep, il leave you a glass of water for you in the morning" 

"Mmm, night night Snow... Alex" she said just before she drifted off to an alcohol induces slumber.

Alex couldn't help but be happy that he finally managed to bond with his future partner, even if it descended into a drinking game with no clear winners. He couldn't help but wonder how the others were getting on as he walked over to his own room and began to undress and pull on a pair of jogging bottoms. He couldn't help but wonder if Lucy was warm enough with those blankets but those thoughts soon passed as he drifted off to sleep himself. 

--- 9:12 AM ----------

Sunlight just about managed to creep through the cracks in the wooden Venetian blinds. 150,000 kilometers away and yet was a perfect shot to hit Benson right in the eyes. 

"Ugh... someone turn off the sun please...." She mumbled as she slowly started to come around, head pounding from can only be described as 'alcohol abuse' the previous night. The past 12 hours were a complete blur to her, she had no idea what happened past the conversation between her and Hunter. 

She pulled the blanket from over her head, the moment the sun hit her head she winced in agony and blocked it out with her paws. In doing this she realized that the bed was not her own. The smell of the entire apartment she knew was eerily familiar to Alex's scent. 

Further inspection caused her to freeze perfectly motionless, her eyes widened and a cold sweat broke on her brow. This wasn't the feeling of her own bed, nor was it the lumpy feeling of a sofa bed. A quick glance under the bed covers and she noticed that she was in nothing but her underwear.

Using her keen detective skills that the police academy had provided her with she deduced that she was naked, in bed, with Alex asleep beside her in nothing but a pair of jogging bottoms. The exposed flesh on her ears turned a bright pink, her paws began to shake a little with embarrassment as she realized what this may imply. 

"Oh sweet cheese and crackers..."

Chapter Text

--- 3:00am,  June 29th ---------- 

When most would be in bed asleep, or the wildcats party it up to the small hours, there are those that make the most of the darkness. Criminals. Thieves. Prostitutes. Murderers... When most would be safe at home there are those that satisfy their obsessions... their passions... their bloodlust in the dead of night.

The night was cold, the wind choppy as if there was a storm approaching and the Central Train Terminal of Zootopia deserted with the exception of the Police Academy drop outs that now call themselves security guards and 2 golden jackals , bundled up in thermal coats to stave off the elements this time of night. 

"The damn train is late, the Boss won't like this... you know what he did to Eric right". Niki was small in stature compared to the average jackal. He spoke in a soft and caring tone of voice, the kind of voice that would sound good as a backing singer for some popstar.
 
"Would you stop with Eric already... every time something like this happens its always Eric Eric Eric, you needa think about something else before i drop you onto the tracks myself". The other jackal, Addison, was taller, about average for the species and had a more stern way of speaking, with authority and confidence.  

"I know, i know, it's just the Boss gets mad easily... I'm scared Addy" said the smaller jackal, with a slight tremble in both his paws and his words. 

"Niki... you need to chill, it only just turned 3... think about something el..." Addy started just as he heard the unmistakable sound of the locomotive pulling into the far end of the station. 

"See, good ol reliable Zootopia train service... runs like a swiss watch... now he is to be in the front most cabin" Addy said as he motioned to move further down the station to line up with the front carriages of the train. 

The pitiful excuse of a security guard, a moderately overweight tiger with what can only be described as yesterday's lunch smeared on his uniform, briefly awoke if only to acknowledge the arrival of the last train of the night before his shift ended.  

The roaring train came to a sudden stop as it entered the arrivals section of the platform. With a click the doors of the carriage unlocked and began to slowly slide open and out of the darkness came a small figure with 2 large bags being dragged behind. 

The mammal stepped forward into the light of the station and set his bags down in front of him. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly as if to take in the essence of the city. the mammal was wearing a black hoodie that was a size too big for him, dark coloured cargo pants and a pair of think military style black gloves. But most curious of all, a perculiarity that both Niki and Addy picked up on almost instantly as they made their way towards him... he was wearing a pure white, expressionless facemask. 

The mask itself was blank. No mouth, no nose and just the right contours to make out it was designed specifically for a rabbit. The straps were thick and had a solid backplate fixing it to the arctic rabbits face tightly. 

"G-Good evening sir, may we take your bags? Master War has been expecting you, o-our car is outside" said Addy with a visible tremble in his voice, the emotionless expression combined with the stories he had heard about this rabbit instilled an almost petrifying fear in the predator. 
The arctic rabbit looked right towards the jackal with piercing blue eyes through the only distinguishable features on the mask which were no more than 2 holes about an inch and a half wide. His eyes fixed on Addison as if he were mentally trying to choke the life out of his body before the rabbit broke the stare and shook his head. 

After regaining consciousness one more time, the security guard decided it was time for his end of night walk around the station, which was clearly not his favourite part of the job. He picked up his torch, keychain and tranq pistol before unlocking the door to his booth and stepping outside to the fresh night air.  

"We had best get going before butterball over there looks this direction" said Niki who was standing behind Addy, with a submissive look on his face and a sense of fear that was one step away from making him urinate right there and then on the platform. 

The arctic rabbit put his finger to where his lips would be as if to imply silence before slowly and quietly unzipping one of his bags. This bag turned out to be a gun carrier for a high power, scoped rifle. The rifle was a highly modified Remington 700 model chambered to a custom .338 lapua magnum with a tungsten core. 

The tiger made it only 3 steps away from his booth before he turned towards the newly arrived train and found its only passenger staring at him from 50 meters. Despite the distance the tiger felt the cold, dead eyes of the rabbit burrow into him, enough to make the fur on the back of his neck stand on end. The guard dropped his torch, ran as fast as his little legs could carry him back into the guard booth in the belief that the reinforced ballistic glass would keep him safe until the police showed up. How wrong he was. 

The rabbit lifted the rifle, chambered a single .338 round and gently locked the bolt back into place. Placing it to his shoulder and taking aim at the feline down range. 

The tiger frantically tried to find his cell phone buried under a mountain of empty chip packets and soda cans until "AHA... FOUND IT" he screamed, but alas the last spec of hope he had left shattered along with the ballistic window. 

The deafening sound of the rifle being fired echoed around the station, shaking the windows on the upper level and had the jackal henchmen flinch in surprise. The inch thick ballistic glass buckled as the round sliced through it as if it were paper. The fattened feline was dead before he heard the shot. A small hole appeared in the center of his forehead and a trickle of blood slide down the tigers face as his lifeless body crumpled under the weight of itself as the tungsten cored round continued through the skull and through the concrete wall behind before finally coming to a stop 2 inches deep into a wall on the next platform. 

The arctic rabbit held position for a further 15 seconds after the shot like a trained sniper wanting to confirm the kill before he relinquished his hold on the rifle and placed it back into his carrying case. 

Addy stood in disbelief that the 3 foot rabbit would simply murder an innocent just because he looked this way. He stood in front of Niki so he wouldn’t have to see the blood spatter on the wall of the station. Niki himself has his eyes tightly closed and held his paws to his ears, he made no noise but it was visible that he was just about to cry. Addison reached his paw around behind himself and took hold of Niki's paw, squeezing it a little trying to tell him to stop crying. 

The masked rabbit took his gaze off the guard station and slipped his rifle back into its carrying case, put the hood of his hoodie up around his head and handed the rifle case to Addy, giving Niki the lighter duffle bag and motioned with his finger to get moving.  

Addy walked behind the rabbit, keeping pace while Niki was glued in the spot, unable to take his eyes off the guard station... Unable to comprehend what had just happened... Unable to fathom why this masked rabbit would do what he just did... 

"NIK!" Shouted Addison as he started to walk up the stairs of the station towards the carpark, wondering whether or not this rabbit was as sadistic as his own boss. Wondering if disobedience meant punishment. 

Niki snapped out of his daze in time to see Addy motion with his paw to follow him up the stairs. The petite jackal obeyed and bounced along as fast as he could to catch up. The duffle bag was small and light, allowing him to be on Addy's tail in a matter of seconds. 

"Niki focus, run ahead and bring the car around" Addy whispered before handing him a set of keys. 
"Okay..." the young jackal replied, still clearly distressed by the nights events. As he moved to pass Addison, the other jackal grabbed onto Niki's tail and stroked it gently. Niki looked back to see Addy smiling softly back at him. This simple gesture completely flipped his grief on its head, his tail had its wag back and the night seemed much brighter. 

After 3 more floors of silence both Addison and the masked rabbit reached the parking structure, greeted by the young jackal chauffer who quickly got out of the driver seat of the large black SUV with tinted out windows and opened the rear driver side door, allowing the dangerous lapin to enter. 

Addison climbed into the driver seat, adjusted his seat to accommodate his larger build while Niki sank into the large seat on the passenger side. With all on board Addy set off out of the parking facility and onto the main strip of downtown Zootopia. 

As the SUV drove down the main street Addison decided it would be best to give the rabbit his privacy and raised the separating wall between front and back, turning off the microphone. Upon doing this Niki looked over to Addy with a half-hearted smile, unsure of how much more of this life he could take. 

"It's okay Nik, only a few more months then we disappear, only need a few thousand more Zollars and we start a new life... together" Addy smiled back at Niki, changing up gears as he did. In that moment Niki put his paw ontop of his on the gearstick and blushed a little. 

"You promise?" Niki asked, on the brink of tears.

"Promise" replied Addy. 

In the back seat, the lights were off, the rabbit sat in almost complete darkness. The only light filtering in was the bright show lights of the high rise Zootopia buildings they passed. The lapin did nothing but stare out of the window, through the tinted glass as the late shift workers or the romantic couples out for a late night stroll, bathing in the lights of the city. He caught the reflection of his own piercing blue eyes as he looked up to the sky just in time for the first lightning surge of the night. 


--- 4:22am, June 29th, Central Train Terminal ---------- 


"GET THOSE REPORTERS OUT OF HERE... NOW!" Shouted the hulking tower of a mammal that answers to the name Bogo. The chief had responded to a fatal shooting in the central train station. Upon arriving at the scene he was immediately hit with the unmistakable scent of blood in the air, a strong iron sting in the nostrils. As he made his way down the stairs to the main platform, making his way past the forensic teams scouring the area for evidence that could help identify the murderer, the smell only got stronger until... 

"Oh no... no don’t let it be him" he said with a feeling of dread creeping upon him. The buffalo had another careful look around as he moved closer to the security booth, taking note of the entry path of the bullet in the ballistic glass. He noticed that the bullet had passed through... through the victim... and into the wall... actually through the wall. This fact added to his anxiety, knowing that a high caliber weapon has been used, the low angle of the bullet's entrance and exit of the booth. The only thing that could make this situation worse is... 

"SIR, WE FOUND SOMETHING" shouted a female clouded leopard dressed in forensic scrubs standing by the train. She motioned him over as she took a photo of a spent casing laying by the tracks, slowly and carefully picked up the bullet casing and slipped it into an evidence bag. 

Bogo sprinted as fast as he could over to the CSI. The leopard actually flinched as she seen the freight train with legs charging her before coming to a halt just before knocking her into next week. 

Bogo took a few seconds to catch his breath back before asking "Please... please do not tell me that it’s a .338...". 

The leopard girl looked away "Sorry sir, is there a problem?" 

The Chief took out his cell phone and called officer Clawhauser. "Come on, pick up pick up" 
"Sir? It's like 4 in the morning, What's up?" Clawhauser replied with a light yawn rounding off the question.
 
"Clawhauser, call Animalia Police Department, precinct 1 and ask for Detective Jenson Howlett... tell him he's here... you tell him the ghost is here... I need him here, immediately!" 


--- 9:12am, June 29th, Alex/Bixby's Apartment ----------


"Okay, okay, somehow you got yourself into this mess and somehow you will get yourself out of it... oh crap what did I do last night?" Lucy thought to herself as she tried to rub away the onset of a vicious hangover. The room was spinning slightly as if she was still a little buzzed from the copious amounts of tequila (and probably other beverages) she had consumed just a few hours before.

"Easy does it" she whispered to herself, slithering out of the blankets trying desperately not to wake the sleeping canine next to her. "Piece of cake!" She spoke up a little more confident in her escapology talents. 

"Pfft, almost Kitten" Alex spoke up, smiling a little as he winks back at her. 

"EEEAAAAAHHHH..." Screams the kitten, her fur and tail puffs up as she instinctively throws herself out of the bed, landing hard on the floor. 

"Ouch... you okay Fluffbutt?" Alex asked with genuine concern in his voice. Peering over the edge of the bed to see if his future partner didn’t split her head open on something he had noticed that the female lynx wasn't leaving a lot to the imagination. Being the gentlemammal that he is, Alex threw the stunned lynx the blanket so she could cover herself up, preserving some dignity. 

"So... do you want to explain exactly why I'm in your bed?.... without clothes?...." The young kitten asked while rubbing her head to check for blood, blushing real hard and trying to adjust the covers so that nothing was on show for the dirty minded canine to pick up on. 

"Sorry, I didn't mean to stare..." Alex said, rubbing his head bashfully while pretending he didn't enjoy the peep show. 

"Bullshit, what happened" Lucy demanded to know, getting more upset that embarressed now. At this point she was becoming more and more concerned incase Alex wasn't the mammal she thought he was, that he could possibly have taken advantage of her vulnerable state. The though grew and grew in the back of her mind and began to manifest as she stood up, holding onto the blankets and stared at Alex with a furious expression. 

"Honestly.... I tucked you into the sofa bed, you can check the lounge if you don’t believe me. It must have been 5am or round about that I woke up to you scrambling into the bedsheets, cuddling up to me mumbling something about... and I quote...'Cute Canines". 

Lucy began to blush again, the feeling of anger depleting, eyeing up the exit for a quick escape. She knew that her sleepwalking state might give away long hidden secrets that under no circumstance Alex should know about. Before she could make a break for it she felt a warm paw on her shoulder. She looked up to see Alex just a few inches away from her muzzle. The hot flushes she was experience peaked at that exact moment, surely Alex would have noticed at this distance. The thin skin not covered by fur began to turn a crimson red and her heartrate picked up, almost bursting out of her chest. Her breathing became more noticeable, heavier and heated. 

"Lu I know... I know that there's something you want to talk about with me, I want you to know that I am here whenever you want to talk about it, I will always be there for you, you can count on me" Alex spoke softly to her, his breath warm and enticing, his eyes staring deeply into her soul, the grip on her shoulder making the young lynx perspire under her fur. 

"Whenever you want to talk just let me k..." Alex began but couldn’t finish as the now frisky feline grabbed the fur on the back of his neck and dragged him into a deep and meaningful kiss.
 
Alex could hardly believe what was going on as his eyes grew large and he too began to heat up under his fur, truly was not expecting what had just transpired. Not that he was complaining, he was loving every second of it. After a few more sensual seconds he grew more confident and began to lean into her, becoming more forceful, more dominant... more alpha. 

After a good 30 seconds of solid kiss the 2 young mammals broke apart, both breathing heavily, starting to sweat. Lucy didn't seem to care that her blankets began to slip. Alex seen his opportunity, lifted the lynx up onto the bed and onto his lap, wrapping his legs around her hips before the 2 decided to give the kiss one more go. 

After a few minutes of passionate making out Lucy suddenly came to her senses and broke free from the embrace yet remaining close to the canines muzzle. 

"I...I'm s-sorry Snowflake... I didn't mean for that to h-happen..." Lucy said, stumbling over her words, afraid of how Alex would react over this revelation but surprisingly he just looked deep into her perfect emerald eyes and reassured her "Lucy, it's okay, I suspected for a while and truth be told... I've had a crush on you for so long now, I honestly never thought this would happen" the bashful canine admitted proudly. 

Lucy threw her arms around him and leaned into his chest, the blankets at this point had slid down to waist level and did absolutely nothing to hide her upper body. 

"Alex... I need to admit something...I'm scared. I know there are a lot of people in this city that have mates of a different species, to them it doesn’t matter. I'm scared... because I'm not one of those mammals, I have only ever dates other lynx. But I have feelings for you, I don't know why I feel this way, I'm scared of my own feelings".

Alex immediately comforted her, held her tighter and whispered into her ear "Don't worry, I won't press the matter, if this was just curiosity then that’s okay. Like I said I'm here for you, any time you need someone to talk to, someone to cuddle into... someone to make out with perhaps... or just if you need a chat. I am here if anything pops up and you need a friendly ear" he said firmly, installing a sense of confidence into his partner. 

The lynx felt safe in the canines arms but... a little uncomfortable.

"Uhh....Alex... shall we talk about THAT popping up first?" She said as she pointed down under the covers between them. 

Alex immediately went bright red, this was one of those moments he wished that he could just spontaneously combust... and judging by the hot flush he just received that possibility may become reality. 

"Lucy.....um" he said, attempting to shimmy her off and away from his arousal. 

"it's okay Snowflake, I take it as a compliment, now can you pass me my hoodie, it’s a little cold..." She said, trying to move the awkward situation on slightly. 

Alex reached over the edge of the bed and grabbed his own hoodie which was a few sizes too large for the small framed feline but due to her revealing situation this would be the best scenario. The lynx slide the hoodie on and gently broke the embrace they had under the blankets and went over to the window. 

"Seems to be a nice day outside, I wonder how the others got on last night. I honestly don’t remember much of what happened". Small talk seemed to be working as the 'feeling down under' Alex was experiencing was subsiding. 

"Nor do I, I remember taking you back here because you didn't have your keys" Alex said as he reached over for his jeans and a t-shirt that was spread on the floor. "Sorry for the mess by the way... I wasn’t expecting female company" he smiled as he tried in vain to tidy up other clothes strewn about the room. 

"Um... Snowflake..." Lucy turned to Alex holding a set of dorm keys with the name 'Benson' on the nametag. "Apparently my drunken self refused to go home heh..." 

"Haha, you devil" Alex replied playfully. "Come on, il fix us up some breakfast" he said as he opened his bedroom door to reveal Bixby was asleep in the hallway, half naked clutching an empty bottle of wine. The door to the apartment was fully open and the young rabbit was lightly snoring. Seems like he had a damn good time. 

Both Alex and Lucy stood in the hallway, trying their best to hold in their laughter, the situation was just too good of an opportunity to pass up. Alex slowly made his way into the kitchen, went over to the drawer that they kept their paper bags. Lucy immediately knew what was about to happen, she brought out her phone and started to record the following events. 

Creeping over to the sleeping lapin Alex blew up the paper bag as big as it would go and tied off the end. He looked over to Lucy and nodded to say 'Ready'. 

Lucy nodded back at him as he lowered the paper bag down to ear level with the passed out bunny and with his other paw burst the bag with a bang that could have woken the dead.

"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH..........Fuck you!"

Chapter Text

--- 9:20am ----------
"When you are asleep... I will shave a dick into your cheek... I want you to know this... to fear me... to know I will get my revenge..." Bixby threatened, hunched over a cup of coffee with the grumpiest face he could possibly pull. His eyes were barely open, only getting a few hours of sleep the night before with this fact very visible on the young hare's face. His ears were nearly drooping into his coffee, surely that would waken him up a little.

"Hahaha oh come on bunny boy, it was hilarious and you know it!" Alex retorted with a smug look across his face. "Come this time tomorrow you will be more famous than Gazelle!"

"You're fans on fluffbook seem to think so hehe" added Lucy as she brought 3 bowls and a box of cereal over to the kitchen table and handed out the bowls.

"You're entrails will become your extrails... I will wear your fur to the graduation ceremony" Said the clearly annoyed hare. He sighed before pouring the cereal into a bowl followed by milk. "Say... why are you here anyway Lucy? I didn't think you and Alex were that close haha".

Lucy blushed a little as she stumbled for a decent answer. "Uhh, lost my keys, slept on the couch..." She said, knowing she couldn't exactly tell the buck what transpired both last night and this morning, not yet at least she thought. The young kitten still felt very unsure of her own feelings on the matter.

"A likely story indeed" replied Bixby, he was no dumb bunny, he knew full well he was out of the loop on something but decided not to press the matter any. "Well... if yall don't mind, I'm going to head for the shower and prepare my uniform for graduation tomorrow... I'm so excited" he said, giddy as a schoolgirl before rushing off towards the bathroom, leaving a half finished bowl of cereal in his wake.

Alex and Lucy couldn't help but just laugh to themselves as they watched the lapin get whisked away by his own two feet. The two officers then looked over towards each other, meeting the others gaze as if this were some soppy romance movie.

Alex noticed the lingering feeling of anxiety emanating from the feline which prompted him to attempt to break the tension.

"So, you had a lot of boyfriends before?" He asked curiously while throwing a gentle smile towards the kitten sitting opposite.

"A few" she replied. "Nothing particularly serious, a little kissing, maybe some caressing and why the hell am I telling you this?!.....wait.... what exactly do you mean before?... before what?" She asked, a little heated and bewildered by the canines odd question and way of wording it.

"Nothing, didn't mean anything by it heh... I personally have never had anyone like that before, perhaps that'll change now" he replied, his smile growing larger as he finished his sentence still staring into Lucys big, bright emerald eyes.

"Change n..." Lucy started but couldn't finish her sentence before spitting out a mouthful of cereal and nearly choking on a few grains of it that had slipped down her throat.

"Shit are you okay?!" Alex asked, alarmed as he stood up and prepared to perform the Heimlich.

Lucy raised her paw as if to say she was okay while trying to catch her breath.

"Hold up... you don't think that were together do you?!" She asked after a good few deep breaths
Alex sat back down, relieved that she was okay before saying "No no, I was just messing with you, I'm sorry".

"Coyotes mate for life don't they?... Even if I was okay with having an inter-species boyfriend, I honestly don't think I'm ready for a commitment as big as that" she said, looking away from the canine's perfect blue eyes, afraid that she had just irreversibly offended or hurt his feelings. "Please don't think any differently of me, I.... Like I said earlier I'm just not sure what I want yet. There is a part of me that wants to jump your bones right here on the kitchen table but another part wants a feline husband and a few kittens in the future..."

Alex stood up and walked around the table and over to Lucy who was nearly in tears thinking the worst. The canine placed his paws on her shoulders and convinced her to look into his eyes before saying "Look... Yes we mate for life... No I am not forcing you into this position... I want you to make the decision for yourself... I feel for you and I know you feel the same way just deep down but in no way will I force myself upon you from now on. I promised you an ear for any of your problems... And if you think there is something in our futures... I will wait patiently for you"

This speech, almost sounding like a vow, came from deep down. Alex truly meant what he said and Lucy noticed. Her heart rate started to pick up as the 'pro-Alex' part of her began to long for the canine.

Alex's keen sense of smell picked up on the subtle change in the felines scent, an ability that he kept hidden from the majority of mammals, and determined that his words left a lasting impression.
"T-Thank you Snowflake..." She said as she smiled back at him with tears of joy in her eyes.
Alex didn't try to correct the nickname, he simple smiled back.

*BEEP BEEP*

"Hmm? What was that?" Lucy asked as she broke the gaze, looking around the room for the origin of the sound.

"It's just the News alarm, it gives a notification to breaking news articles on the radio" he said as he reached over to the kitchen work bench and pressed the 'ON' button on the radio.

The small digital radio burst into life, adjusting itself automatically to the ZNN News Channel where the voice of Fabienne Growley, one of ZNN's main anchors, spoke softly through the speakers.

"Police have issued a warning to all individuals traveling at night in the heart of Zootopia to be extra vigilant. This comes just hours after a brutal shooting occurred on Zootopia's Central Rail terminal. The victim, whom has not yet been identified until next of kin have been notified, was pronounced dead at the scene. No further details have been released at this time, stay tuned for updates. Thank you"

"What do you make of that?" asked Alex, wondering what implications this would have on Precinct 1 where the 3 friends would be attending within the next week.

"No idea, but I feel sorry for the mammals family and I hope they catch the person that did it" Lucy replied as the bathroom door slammed opened, steam emanating from the room and the silhouette of a half-naked hare with a towel wrapped around his mid-section, talking on the phone.

"Yes sir....Yes sir... Of course... Yes I will inform Officers Benson and Hunter... Yes sir, we will be there, thank you" Bixby ended his phone call abruptly, looking a little distraught.

"Uh Bix? You okay there bud?" Asked Alex, wondering who was on the phone and what was their need for the three of them so urgently.

"That was Chief Bogo of Precinct 1, he requested our presence immediately at the Precinct 1 HQ along with.... literally every police officer in the entire city... Just what is going on?" Bixby answered with a hint of anxiety and confusion in his voice. "Im sorry if this sounds bad but Lucy you need to leave now, go get into your uniform and meet us back here in half an hour, we will make our way to the meeting together. Alex get a shower quickly and get dressed, your uniform is in the wardrobe."

Lucy sensed the urgency in Bixby's voice, a little amused that the lapin was being so forceful, something that was seriously out of character for him. She thanked them for the cereal, went back into Alex's room to get her dress back on before making for the door back to her apartment.

"Oh and Lucy..." Bixby said, just catching the felines ear as she turned in the doorway to see the hare staring back at her with a cheeky smile on his face. "Next time you and Alex are banging, put some pants on before coming out of the bedroom hahahaha"

The feline turned bright red, looking as if she was about to keel over right then and there. Instead she just laughed rather awkwardly, turned around and started to walk back to her dorm room.

"Bix... you know your gonna have to apologies to her right... and we didn't have sex" Alex protested, however futile his answer may be.

"You want to tho, ive seen how you look at her. Coming from a mammal in love, I know the look"
The canine didn't see the need for further arguments and decided to let Bixby win the argument. He retreated to the bathroom to get washed up and get dressed for what would be the Beginning of the End.

--- 11:50AM, Precinct 1 HQ ----------

"This thing in chaffing like hell" Bixby said as he tried desperately to prevent his ass eating his pants without it looking sketchy surrounded by hundreds of ZPD Officers. The trio of mammals arrived at the Precinct 10 minutes before the conference was due to begin. The large hall that was to be used was big enough to accommodate four hundred seated officers comfortably, which may still be too small for the massive influx of mammals that were currently making their way into the hall and taking their seats.

The 12 new recruits were told to be seated in the front row in specially reserved seats. This seemed highly unusual at the time but as Bixby thought more about it he came to a saddening realization. The Graduation ceremony was cancelled. There was no other conclusion.
Alex and Lucy were seated next to each other but unfortunately Bixby was assigned a seat 3 spaces down.

"Man I'm sorry Bix, maybe I could switch with you?" Alex offered, trying to cheer the hare up a little.

"Haha no that's okay, this shouldn't take that long anyway!" Bixby responded with a skip to his step. Even if the Ceremony was cancelled he still took comfort that his boyfriend would be arriving just a little later in the evening. Bixby skipped over to his seat, planted his ass and waited patiently for the assembly to start.

--- 12:00PM ----------

The mammoth of a mammal that was Chief Bogo stepped onto the stage at the front of the hall, walked over to the platform in the center surrounded by the chiefs of all 9 districts, including Chief Rockford of Precinct 5, Alex's legal guardian.

"All right SHUT UP!" Shouted the towering water buffalo which was followed nearly immediately by complete silence throughout the hall.

"Thank you, Ahem, first off I would like to apologize to our newest recruits, due to recent developments the graduation ceremony has been cancelled. Following this meeting our 12 newest members of the ZPD will be assigned to their chosen departments and partnered up, you will be starting official duty beginning next week... now... I'm sure by now that you all have heard about the murder that happened earlier this morning. I can confirm now that this was the work of a foreign serial killer that goes by the codename 'Ghost'. Not much is known about this individual other than he is extremely dangerous and should not be approached."

"Guess that’s what the news report was all about... it must be serious for all the heads of the ZPD to be meeting like this. I don't think uncle Rockford has ever mentioned a time where they were all together" Alex whispered as he leaned over to Lucy's ear.

"Yeah this is really bad..." she replied, looking a little unsure of her career choice after hearing the phrase 'serial killer'.

Bogo continued. "This brings me to my next order of business. Effective immediately all officers will be required to wear both a lethal and non-lethal sidearm. Within the next 3 days all officers will report to weapons lockup to receive their lethal firearm and will be required to wear it at all times, both on and off duty. I'm sorry if this inconveniences any of you. And finally to combat this 'Ghost' I have requested the assistance of a detective that has had prior dealings with this killer. He will be formulating a taskforce and leading the search for this madmammal. All officers are required to assist him to the best of their abilities do I make myself clear?"

Upon hearing the question at the end of the chief's statement the entire hall erupted in a unified "YES SIR!"

From the sidelines a mammal approached the podium where Bogo was standing. The mammal was tall, very tall, just a heads height from being equal to the Buffalo himself. He was dressed in a dark suit, black jacket, waistcoat and dark gray shirt and tie. Unusually though this wolf was wearing one single, thick material glove on his left paw, yet his right was ungloved. On his lower half he wore formal wear pants and combat boots. It was clear to see that this mammal was a hybrid, he had the facial features of a gray wolf but darker fur and piercing red eyes. He was no ordinary wolf, he looked as if he crawled out of hell itself. His blood red eyes hovered over the crowd for a few seconds before fixing briefly on the rookies in the front row.

Bogo closed his speech. "This is Detective Jenson Howlett, homicide Department of the Animalia Police Department. He will be conducting the investigation into this 'Ghost' individual. Detective." He motioned for the Abnormally tall wolf to take the podium and make his presence known.

The wolf turned to chief Bogo and smiled while outstretching his paw. “Thank you old friend for the introduction” he said politely as he took center stage at the podium. The lupus cleared his throat and adjusted the microphone carefully to avoid feedback.

“Thank you Chief Bogo for having me here this afternoon and thank you all for coming down here on such short notice, now, I really should be getting down to business. I have been summoned here to your beautiful city as a favor to my dear friend…” he said as he motioned to the cape buffalo “… to assist in the capture of one aptly named ‘ghost’. I myself have had dealings with this ‘ghost’ in the past, been investigating him for 5 years now but he has never been… predictable. Very little is known about him, and I’m only assuming ‘him’ due to the power of the rifle used in each of his murders, most likely male. We know he is 3’5”, arctic rabbit and extremely fit and strong for his size. His weapon of choice is a remington 700 model customised to chamber a .338 lapua magnum round that he designed himself. This magnum bullet has been engineered for maximum penetration, the tip made from tungsten and resembling a mason drill bit, the core is also tungsten for added penetration.”

As Detective Howlett finished his sentence a paw was raised in the front row, from Officer Bixby no less.

“Do you have a question?” the wolf asked, peering down the aisle to the hare.

“Yes sir, how do you know the rounds were custom? And was there ever an intact bullet found?” the curious hare asked, wondering how exactly ‘very little is known’ suddenly turned into a full speech.

“An excellent question Officer, no, there was never a complete bullet found however at one particular scene, the only scene in fact that multiple shots were fired, there was enough fragments to form what could be classified as an almost intact bullet. Our lab had a mock round crafted for us as use in evidence.” The wolf seemed both pleased and unsteady with his answer, dragging up the past was not what he had expected when giving this statement.

“If there are no further questions I would like to get onto the main purpose of this assembly. I will be forming a specialized taskforce with the goal of taking down this sniper before he causes too much damage. Unfortunately due to recent unrest within the city of Zootopia I have been limited to the number of Officers at my disposal.” Upon concluding his sentence the wolf unpacked 3 small envelopes containing the names and personal details of the Officers he had specifically chosen.

“In no particular order the first Officer I have chosen is Officer Bixby O’hare…” the wolf said clearly into the microphone.

The hall began to stir with whispers of ‘who?!’. Larger mammals in the crowd began to grow restless, anticipating who else would be picked.

Between hearing Detective Howlett pick him and the whispers coming from the older, more experienced mammals Bixby’s paws started to get clammy and shaky. There was a sense of pride at being picked for the team and an element of fear and discouragement at the prospect of dealing with a serial killer and being at the helm of the investigation with such little experience. The young buck started to tap his foot nervously wondering how he would be seen by his friends if he excelled and left them behind. Nervously he took a glance down the row towards Alex and Lucy, stunned to find both of them giving him the thumbs up and smiling. The feeling of dread subsided and a new pride built up within him as he looked back at the wolf with determination, hopped up onto the chair and saluted the Detective.

“SIR…” he shouted with authority. The wolf met his stare and asked “So you are Officer O’Hare then yes?”

“Sir may I speak freely?” Bixby asked with a sharp and powerful tone, nothing was going to stop him getting his point across.

“Very well, what would you like to say?” the wolf asked as he slouched over the podium a little in anticipation.

“It’s Bixby sir… Officer Bixby… I don’t go by O’Hare… its just for official documents…” Bixby said while still in the salute position.

Lucy seemed a little confused. She had only known him by Bixby anyway and hadn’t even known his surname. But why the determination to drop the last name? The lynx gently nudged Alex to get his attention and whispered “Why doesn’t he use his family name?”

“It’s…. Complicated. Bix came out to his parents at 14, he was young but knew what he wanted. His entire family didn’t accept it tho and kicked him out. I knew him for 3 years before that and uncle Rockford took him in. A year later Rockford became his legal guardian.” Alex continued to smile towards the hare with pride.

Lucy felt bad for asking, she knew it must have been a hard time for both of them growing up. “Oh” she said, “Well im glad to have met you both” the lynx said, smiling with glee.

“Officer Bixby huh? Very well, I will try to remember that” the hulking wolf said, grinning as he stood back upright at the podium.

Bixby smiled warmly back at the wolf, knowing that Howlett was a kind heart putting on a hard exterior.

"My next choice..." Howlett started as the whispering from the crowd started up again but much louder, anticipating his next choice. Bogo noticed this and with a loud, vocal grunt coupled with a 1000-yard stare that seemed to creep onto each and every soul in the room, immediately silenced the hall, the respect that the buffalo earned in his years of service along with his immense stature clear for all to see.

"Ahem... my next choice... is Officer Lucille Benson" Howlett motioned down the row towards the young Lynx.

Stunned at hearing her own name being called out, Lucy stood to attention and saluted just as Bixby had.

"Heh... or would you prefer some other name?" The wolf asked playing on the exchange he had just moments before with a determined Hare.

"Huh, oh.. N-no sir....or.....well, just Lucy... never liked Lucille that much" she said, stammering over her words and a little hot under the collar due to all the eyes currently trained on her.

Alex nudged her gently and whispered "Psst, nice going, you seemed to have made quite the impression, congrates!". This little gesture booster her confidence greatly as she smiled back at the detective and took her seat.

"Excellent, the name suites you my dear" the wolf smiled back. "And my final choice..."

The hall erupted once more as one simple word rang out and reverberated around the walls... 'Final'.

"ONLY THREE?!" one voice shouted out followed by "YOU ONLY PICKED ROOKIES IDIOT"

Both Bixby and Lucy drooped in their seats, staying out of the line of sight of the angry officers.

It was at this point one of the nine police chiefs, a large, elderly lion stood up slowly, walked over to the podium assisted by a mahogany walking cane and let out a massive roar. The primal sound echoed around the room immediately silencing the angry Officers and causing everyone to take a seat. Even Detective Howlett was left stunned by the sudden outburst from a senior member of the department.

The lion finished the roar, cleared his throat away from the microphone then faced the crowd in front of the podium, not needing a microphone. "Now... this young Detective has been summoned here to assist in the capture of a serious criminal. He has the full support of all 9 Precincts, and I will be having words with ANY mammal that has a problem with that, do I make myself clear?" the old lion protested to the hall.

This statement was met with murmurs and whispers, the crowd unsure how to feel about this.

The lion slammed the tip on his cane against the stage. "I SAID DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR?!" He roared, affirming himself as the dominant force in the entire building.

The hall erupted once more but this time with a unanimous "YES SIR!"

The lion nodded at Detective Howlett and slowly made his way back to his seat.

"Meet Chief Rockford of Precinct 5... he's a charmer isn't he" Alex whispered over to Lucy who was frozen in position due to the ferocious lion's outburst.

"I uh... and he's your Godfather?!" She just about managed to squeak out as she broke her gaze on the awe-inspiring feline.

"Yup, he'll grow on you" Alex replied, accidentally implying she would need to get to know him for whatever reason. "Uhh what I mean is he is an acquired taste".

"You want me to meet your dad huh...moving along quickly aren't we?" Lucy said, blushing a little.

"I-I didn't mean it like that" He concluded, blushing a little himself and giving a cheeky smile back to the feline.

The Hellhound returned to the podium to conclude his team line-up. "Where was I....My final choice, Officer Alexander Hunter"

"Wait what?!" Alex gasped. "I can understand Lucy and Bixby but why me?" Alex stood up and saluted the Wolf with a confused expression on his face.

"Alex then yes?" Howlett nodded towards the Coyote who in turn nodded back. "And so that concludes my selection, would all Officers mentioned previously please report to Chief Bogos office on the upper level, thank you."

--- 12:48pm ----------

It took a solid 15 minutes for all of the mammals present in the assembly to get out of the hall due to the high foot traffic in the corridors of Precinct 1. The workforce of Precinct 1 had returned to their desks in an adjoining room, detectives and patrol cops alike wandering in and out of this space, shuffling papers and making phone calls. One officer in particular, a large bull elephant was being particularly loud about his objections to Detective Howlett's team choices. It was at this point that the 3 rookies entered the room on their way to Bogo's office which was through another door and down the hall a little. The presence of the new mammals caused the room to go silent for just a few seconds before returning to its usual busy routine. Bixby and Lucy passed through the room, pretending not to notice the stares of contempt as they did, but as Alex was almost clear his ears picked up some chatter.

"This is ridiculous, those 3 squibs have no experience in this kind of thing... should be me on that team not some dumb Lynx bitch..." Said the aforementioned elephant in a tone that he thought wouldn't make it to the recruit's ears. "Maybe she will get killed and I can put my name in there, maybe solve the case haha"

Alex's blood boiled as he heard the nasty things this obnoxious mammal was saying about his partner. He reentered the room and walked up to the large beast without a hint of fear in his body. "You wanna run that by me again Detective?" He said to the immovable object before him. In most cases the outcome of a fight would be pretty obvious to see... and elephant versus a coyote is a fairly uneven match up.

"Yeah, I said I hope the bit-…" the elephant attempted to say but couldn't finish his sentence as the young canine rammed his foot into the elephant's right knee, dislocating it to the point that the large mammal crumpled down onto his other knee. Being within reach now Alex grabbed the ele by the tusks, jumped backwards across the detective's own desk and with all the force he could muster slammed his head downwards onto the desk. This sudden and violent impact broke the left tusk completely off at the base while also breaking the detectives jaw in 2 places, rendering him unconscious.

The young Coyote simply looked down at the bleeding mess on the floor then continued to walk towards Bogo's office, unbeknownst to him that both Bixby and Lucy had witnessed the violent act from an otherwise pacifist mammal. Lucy was stunned that someone would defend her honor in such a dramatic way while Bixby looked on as if he had seen an event like this before coming from the reserved canine.

"Shall we get going? Don't want to be late now do we..." Alex said as he motioned towards the Chief's office, a cheeky grin on his face hoping that he had impressed the girl he was longing for.

Chapter Text

“HUNTERRR!” The sound wave rolled around the office like a thunder clap. “Care to tell me why one of my finest detectives will be eating soup for the foreseeable future?”. Bogo was standing in the doorway to his own office, furious over what the new recruit had done just minutes before. He walked in and slammed the door shut behind him, near breaking the pane of glass in the centre and knocking off a few photos from the walls surrounding. 

The three rookie officers were sitting in a row right in front of the Chief's desk, waiting patiently, a look of worry on each of their faces.  

“Calm down Bogo, I would chalk it up to self-defence” said Detective Howlett who was sitting patiently in the corner awaiting the arrival of the Chief. 

“Calm...CALM....How in the hell do you expect me to be calm about this?! If you didn’t need him i’d make damn sure he sees the inside of a cell for that stunt he pulled” Bogo replied staring at the young coyote, still seeing red. 

“Look your detective made some alarming comments about my team, I have witnesses to back this up... in truth you have grounds to suspend the elephant, not the coy” Howlett shot back, making a perfect argument that Bogo could not challenge. 

Bogo walked over to his desk and sat down behind a mountain of paperwork built up in just a few weeks. “I’m sorry Jay, this month has been... stressful... and now this ‘ghost’ turned up and started his own killing spree... This city needs help now more than ever.” 

“Zootopia hasn’t fully recovered from the Night Howler case, I get it, there's still violence on the streets... that's why I'm building you this team, so that when i go back to Animalia you have some fine young detectives to support you” Howlett spoke up as he stood from the chair in the corner and moved into the light.  

Alex raised his paw to insert his own statement. “Sir, if I may... I apologize for my misconduct earlier and I promise that you will receive my full, undivided loyalty.” The young coyote raised himself from the chair and saluted the chief as his sign of respect. “This team will not let you down, sir!” 

“See, can’t say I made the wrong choice now can ya” Howlett turned to Bogo and gave a devilish smile at the mammoth mammal. “Now... down to business... Officer Bixby please stand” 

Bixby immediately stood to attention, his underwear still uncomfortably flossing his ass. “Yes sir”

“You were my first choice for this team, I know I said in no particular order but you were always the first choice. The reason I chose you was your test scores.” Howlett announced as he opened one of the envelopes with Bixby’s name on it. 

“Sir? I don’t understand...” Bixby claimed, confused why the wolf would bring them up. The majority on his scores were above average but nothing extraordinary. 

“Were you holding back? Why are they so low?” asked the wolf trying to elicit the truth from the lapin. “All new recruits are subjected to a basic form of the Mensa Test. It may not be particularly accurate but its close enough... your score was 167... a damn genius that hides his talents... why?” 

The young hare knew that he was caught out, he was holding back. “I, uh, d-didn’t want to be put behind a desk or anything... I wanted to be out in the field and was scared that if my superiors knew I had brains that I would be put to work on a computer...” 

“Well don’t worry, on this team you will be seeing plenty of field work... hell you’ll be begging me to put you on a desk haha” The Detectives words lifted a huge weight off the hare’s shoulders. The 2 mammals smiled at each other, already forming a close bond. 

“But there’s still something else that I wanted from you on my team... I can tell by these results that you have a keen eye for details, how’s your perception?” Howlett asked as he moved closer towards Bixby and leaned against the edge of Bogo’s table. 

Bixby looked the wolf up and down for a few seconds nervously. 

“Go ahead Bix” Alex whispered loud enough for the lapin to hear.

“I-I can tell you have been injured sir... badly. Not from a war, in the line of duty?” Bixby muttered cautiously, trying to pick his words before he said them. 

The Detective gave a content look, sealing the deal that this hare was the right mammal for the job. “Go on...” 

“It was the first thing I noticed sir, as you were walking you favoured your left side as if it were heavier than the right, and just wearing one glove as if to hide something... your stride was a little off too, seemed to me like you were still getting used to walking, but the nail in the proverbial coffin was when you shook the Chiefs hoof... it seemed forced sir, like you weren’t used to using your right paw... you are a lefty... but you couldn’t use your left paw because..... you have 2 prosthetic limbs?” Bixby concluded his deduction on the Detective, showing off his remarkable perception. 

“Bravo... bravo... Very few would come to the conclusion about my arm... but my leg as well... you truly are a unique individual Officer Bixby, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise” Howlett assured Bixby as the hare sat in his seat, his foot twitching, trying to reach the floor. 

“Thank you, sir, I will do my best!” Bixby saluted the Detective and calmed his twitchy thumper down. 

Detective Howlett gave the Hare a thumbs up in approval before moving his attention onto the young, innocent looking feline. “Officer Benson, I have read through your file, seems to me that you are also holding back some. You graduated top of the class with a particular emphasis on your hand-to-hand combat skills...but there is a foot note here that convinced me to pick you as my second choice... care to elaborate on what that is?” 

“Uh sir I don’t know what your talkin-...” she started but was cut off by Howlett slamming her folder down in front of her, with photos of mammals that had various injuries spilling all over the desk. This sudden aggression caught her off guard as she jumped a little in her seat, taking a second to look through the photos before burying her head in her paws, ashamed of what she seen. 

“These... were 5 of the combat instructors of the ZPD Academy charged with training the new recruits on how to deal with different threats... you beat them all bloody... the foot note even gives you a nickname...’Hellcat’...what do you have to say for yourself?” Howlett said as he leaned in closer to the sobbing feline. 

Alex couldn’t help but reach over to Lucy and place his paw on her shoulder, trying what little he could do to comfort her. 

“I'm sorry, I'm so sorry... I...I don’t know what came over me... when I fight I need to make sure I win...I'm so sorry...” She sobbed, now in tears with her head in her arms hunched over the desk.

“Sorry for what?... you didn’t hear me when I said this is the reason I picked you... This team would be lost without a strong ace in the hole.... and ‘Hellcat’... I love it!” Howlett cheered the young Lynx on, praising her particularly violent streak. 

Lucy stopped crying and lifted her head out from her arms. “You... you mean it? You're not gonna fire me?” she said, her fur still matted with tears but with an ecstatic expression on her face. 

“Hell yeah I mean it!” Howlett offered his paw for a fist bump to which the young Lynx reciprocated. She wiped away the tears and saluted the Detective as Bixby had done.

“Aaaaand you... Officer Hunter, pleasure to make your acquaintance” the wolf said as he stretched his paw over to shake with Alex. 

Alex shook the Detectives paw but before he could release his grip Howlett pulled his arm towards himself. “Odd fur colour for such a young canine... what are you 21? 22? Why do you have silver fur mixed in with your tan? And your eyes... those crystal blue eyes defiantly don’t belong to a coy” the detective asked curiously. 

“I don’t know sir, I've had this since I was born... and I am 20 years old sir” Alex corrected the Detective. 

“Seems to me like you have a little something else in you huh? Have you ever entertained the thought that you might be a hybrid like myself? My mother was a Grey Wolf and my father was... something more exotic... have you ever heard of a Black Dog? Vicious creatures, violent and powerful and yet my mother fell for one... but that's a story for another time....I digress... your eyes, fur and slightly smaller build remind me of a smaller canine, fox perhaps?” Howlett was trying the coyote, to see what truths he could get out of him. 

“No sir, my parents were Coyotes, my mother would have told me otherwise before she....” Alex stopped mid speech and looked down to the floor. 

“Did I hit a nerve? I'm sorry Alex” Howlett replied with sympathy this time, scaling down his interrogation tactics. 

Lucy repaid Alex’s kindness by resting her paw on his head, ruffling his fur a little. 

“No sir, the fact is I have no idea why I look so different to other coyotes, and I wouldn’t like to entertain the thought that my mother was sleeping around...” Alex said as he raised his head with determination, taking a deep breath and noticing some scents in the air he hadn’t noticed before. 

“Very well, lets not dwell on the past, its not good for either of us wouldn’t you agree? Now, I have noticed that your results were also average but 2 key points stood out, one of which I was certain and the other you proved to me just 10 minutes ago in the other room. First off it says here that you just barely scraped by in your physical combat examination... from what I hear you did to that elephant I find that extremely hard to digest, we all know that you can fight, perhaps later we will get a demonstration. My second point is that you came top of the class in the sensory category, care for a demonstration now?” asked Howlett, curious to see what Alex could do when he tries. 

Alex took a deep sniff of the air and closed his eyes. He decided to get his own back on the detective for the things he said about his family history. 

“Your left arm has been replaced from the shoulder down and your left leg from just above the knee... you had the joints oiled just this morning before coming here. You don’t seem to have very good eating habits as there is a dollop of jam on your shirt from what I smell was a hastily eaten sandwich before coming into the assembly hall... when walking from the train this morning to the precinct you stepped in what smells like mint ice-cream, there is still some left on your right shoe and oh... congratulations, I wish you the best of luck” Concluding his statement Alex reopened his eyes to find Bogo staring at him with his mouth wide open and Howlett standing next to him with an equally surprised look. 

“That...was pretty good... what exactly did you mean by congratulations?” Howlett asked, a little afraid of the answer. 

“I can smell that you and your missus had sex just last night, didn’t ‘pull out’ and you had a shower afterwards. I can’t tell the species but there is just enough of her scent left on you to know. I also smell the distinct lack of latex... you two are trying for a cub... Congratulations” Alex sat back in the chair with a smug look on his face while the wolf was slowly turning a brighter shade of pink in some spots. 

“Ahem... yes we are trying.... um... well done Officer Hunter, and well played” Howlett calmed down a little and thanked Alex for a demonstration of his acute sense of smell, and noted his distinct lack of respect for authority figures. 

"Thank you sir" Alex saluted, giving a slight cheeky grin as he said it. 

Howlett cleared his throat and continued. "Anyway... I'm sure you understand that none of you are ready to be hunting down serial killers. We as a team will be investigating the 'ghost', learning all we can about his activities and affiliates. The ultimate goal is to capture him alive, for him to stand trial for his crimes. In the meantime, while we track him, I will be training you as detectives. This team isn't a one and done deal, like I said, when I return to Animalia you will continue to work as a team to bring Zootopia back on track, do I make myself clear?" 

All 3 rookies roared to life with a unanimous "YES SIR" 

"Good, now go back to your barracks and pack your things, from tonight we will all be staying in the same apartment. We will eat together, Work together, Sleep together... figuratively speaking..." Howlett added. 

The 3 rookies seemed to like the idea of staying together in the same apartment, a true team building experience. 

"The ZPD have been kind enough to renovate 2 apartments, merging them into 1 large premise as a work space for us however, the work isn't complete yet so we will be staying in a smaller building until then. I will give you the address before you leave. Oh and I hope none of you mind sharing the apartment with a Wolf" Howlett concluded with a very wolf like smile.

"I'm good with that!" Bixby shouted out before coming to a realisation... His mate was coming to Zootopia tonight and had planned to still be in the barracks dorm room (alone). "Uh...sir... I have a very personal favour to ask... would you mind if... my Boyfriend could come over?... he is coming to Zootopia tonight and I really want to spend the night with him" Bixby asked, putting on the biggest bunny eyes he could pull. 

"Bixby...2 things... first off when we aren't on duty, you call me Jay for short. That goes for you two aswell ya here" Howlett stated towards the Lynx and Coy as they stood in the doorway. 

"And second, if he truly means that much to you then who am I to deny love, text him the address when you get it yeah?" Jay smiled down at the hare and ushered him out of the office, closing the door behind them. 

"I wouldn't get too attached to your little projects Howlett, if the ghost gets wind you are in the city they will be the first ones to die" Claimed Bogo as he raised himself from behind the desk. 

"I'm not so sure, they all have skills that will be very valuable to the city but I don't think that they will be much of a target for the ghost... it'll be me he is after" Jay exclaimed. The wolf put the documents back into his satchel and started to massage his left shoulder where the metal met with his flesh. "The bastard will want to finish the job after all... I'm his only survivor, his only mistake... and I will be his downfall" 

--- 6:00pm, Howlett's Temporary Apartment ---------- 

"Ahh, I'm glad your all here!" Jay opened the front door of the apartment to the 3 rooks with their belongings in 6 duffle bags in the corridor. "We were just preparing dinner for you but it'll be a while yet" 

"We?" Lucy asked wondering who else would be living with them. It then dawned on her what Alex had said earlier about Jay and his missus. "Ohh, your mate is here too? Can we meet her?" 

"Of course you can, she's just in the kitchen down the hall and to the right. HEY RU, THE ROOKIES ARE HERE!" Jay roared across the medium sized living space. 

Before the new arrivals regained their hearing, a small mammal burst around the corner and walked down the hall towards them. She was dressed in tight jeans, black shirt and wearing an apron over the top of it all. "Hola, mi nombre es Atreyu Akri! (Hello, my name is Atreyu Akri!) but you can call me Ru, It's very nice to meet you all!" She said. The mammal was an Iberian Lynx, not much different to Lucy except in colour and markings. She had a little light blue fur dye around her golden eyes to make them stand out a little more and 3 piercings on her left ear, to show her more punky side. 

Before he could say or do anything all Alex could think about was how such a big wolf like Jay was able to court a small feline like Ru, a part of him wanting to ask him his secrets but another part wanting to avoid the subject, remembering his promise not to push Lucy's decision. 

"Woooow your pretty!" Bixby made the first move and walked right up to the lynx, introducing himself in flamboyant fashion, as is his style. Lucy and Alex followed suit soon after, making good first impressions as Jay looked on, glad that everyone is getting along so well. 

The group talked at the kitchen counter top while dinner was being prepared, getting to know each other more before Bixby and Lucy went to set the table. A full spread, complete with potatoes, carrots, tofu for the predators and a selection of sushi as a secondary. All 5 mammals sat around the circular table, readies their plates and were about to eat when. 

*Knock Knock* 

"Hmm? Were we expecting more guests?" Ru asked as she set down her cutlery and started to get up from the table. 

"OH" Bixby let out a gasp. "It's him!" he said as he leapt from the table and raced to the door. 

Ru tilted her head in confusion. "Him who?".  

"Bixby's boyfriend, I invited him here to stay on Bix's behalf" Jay quelled his mates confusion.

After a few tense seconds Bixby made his way back into the kitchen/living area with a Coyote in paw.  

Alex's eyes went wide, his pulse started to race and he dropped his cutlery to the table, startling Lucy sitting next to him. He clenched his fist ready to pounce the first chance he got. 

"Guys I'd like you to meet Tri-…." Bixby started his introduction but was abruptly interrupted by Alex launching himself off his seat and into the other Coyote. 

Both canines landed on the couch, Alex trying desperately to get his paws around the others throat.

"ALEX STOP!" Bixby shouted but to no avail, his words fell on deaf ears as the other mammals raised to their feet ready to pull them apart.  

"Grrrr... After all these years you show up here?!" Alex cried before he was kneed in the gut and sent flying across the room. The other coyote got to his feet and rushed over to pin Alex to the wall, using his larger build to his advantage. "It's been 9 damn years and not even a single letter your heartless bastard... I've missed you..." Alex shouted at the larger canine before breaking down into tears and leaning his head into the other's chest. "Tristan... I've missed you" 

"I know Brother, I know, I'm sorry" said Tristan, the other Coyote. 

Bix let out a relieved sigh as he seen Tristan let go of Alex, nearly in tears himself but holding them back as best he could. 

--- 15 Minutes Later ---------- 

"Sooooo Tristan is Alex's older brother huh? Aaaand also Bixby's mate..... that doesn't make things weird at all haha" Lucy said to try and lighten the mood to no avail. There was no more fighting or crying but an air of tension in the room. 

"I'm sorry to all of you, to Miss Atreyu for ruining dinner, to Detective Howlett for fighting in here and to the rest of you for my behaviour" Alex apologized for everything, his ears droopy and head bowed. 

"Oh come on, there is nothing to be sorry about" Ru proclaimed with a hint of a Spanish accent shining through. “And were not so formal here, its Ru and Jay” the Lynx said with a giggle. 

Bixby and Tristan were out on the balcony overlooking the city’s Downtown District, deep in conversation. The young hare’s paw stroking the back of Tristan’s paw as it rested on the railing. From inside their words were indistinguishable to untrained ears, perhaps best that way, there was alot for them to discuss. 

Jay stood up from the table and began to roll up the sleeves on his shirt, revealing the extent of his prosthesis. The rooks still sitting at the table looked away, not wanting to pry into the backstory of it. Jay noticed their apprehension and decided to take off the shirt entirely.

“Lets get past the metaphorical elephant in the room shall we... ask away” the wolf said as he folded the shirt and laid it neatly on the couch. 

Lucy was the first one to chime in after a few seconds of uncertainty. “H-how did it happen?” she asked in a timid, shaky voice. 

“Courtesy of the ‘ghost’. I joined the APD when I was just 17, did my tour of duty for 3 years and then decided SWAT was my true calling. It was on my 5th year in the department that we were called to a warehouse, in response to a shots fired incident. Our information was wrong however, what my squad and I were told was that the shooter was inside the building so we did what we classed as routine sweep and clear. Bottom floor was clear so we began to ascend to the second. That's when he struck... the ghost was positioned 300 meters away on another building overlooking the north side of the warehouse... he was... testing new rounds. I lead the squad up the stairs and then...” the Wolf hesitated for a few seconds. 

“It’s okay dear, it isn’t your fault, no one could have warned you about him” Ru said as she came over to the wolf and hugged him from behind. 

Jay took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “At first all I heard was the glass in the window beside me break so I stopped. I hadn’t noticed I had been hit until the loud pop beside my ear followed by a sudden and intense pain enveloped me. The bullets he was testing that night were tipped with an explosive fragmentation element... it went into my shoulder, deep in and detonated. By the time I realised what had happened I was on my knees, my arm hanging off with just little bits of clothing holding it in place. The ghost miscalculated... just that one slip up was the difference between my arm and my head. I am his one mistake” 

“I really wanna get this guy now...” Alex proclaimed with his fists clenched tight. 

“You may very well get your chance pup, I chose you 3 because you have skills that will hopefully keep you alive.” Jay replied as he sat back at the table. “I fell to the ground helpless as the rest of my squad were picked off one by one... ghost had recalculated for the mass of the round and massacred everyone. One of the shots was just a prediction, he shot into the wall below the window in hopes of hitting me again, just to be sure. The bullet however hit my left knee, shredded it like it was made of jelly. After 15 minutes of silence, all my team members were nothing but stains on the walls... I managed to radio back to the station to send help. Long story short, I alone survived... barely... took a year out to recover where I met my beautiful mate Ru then returned to the Precinct and transferred to the investigation department.” 

“Heh you are missing the most important part of the story... the bit about the angelic nurse who nursed you back to health and gave you your mobility back!” Atreyu blew back, flustered that he had left out the part where they met. “This pup would still be in a wheelchair if not for me haha, I met him in St August Hospital just after the shooting, at the time I was still an apprentice prosthetic engineer but I persuaded my teacher to give him his life back. From there we grew closer and closer. And now I cook for him and tune up his parts when they need it.” She concluded with a smile on her face. 

“Tune up my parts? No no that’s the ‘after hours’ work we do” the wolf grinned back at the petite feline knowing full well he was about to get a slap. And justice came swiftly, as swift as an elbow to the gut from the surprisingly strong Lynx.

“Guess who isn’t getting any for a while” she replied as the wolf doubled over laughing. 

“Don’t need to be a detective for that one” Alex added before letting out a yawn and searching the room for a clock. “Well i think its bed time for me, miss Akri where will we all be sleeping?” 

“Oh yes! Um Bixby and Tristan will be using the first room on the left...” Ru pointed down a small hallway on the right side of the apartment. “Jay and I are the in the room on the opposite side of the hall... and you and Lucy can have the room on the other side of the apartment, first door on the left!”. Upon concluding her sentence, the feline had a very mischievous grin on her face, Bixby had filled her in on the awkward exchange just this morning. 

Lucy nearly choked once again, this time holding it back. “Say what now?...” she shot back, giving a grimacing look towards the hare still on the balcony. “Bixby, right?”

“Oh yeah!” replied the other Lynx. “In seriousness your room will be the room on the right, opposite Alex, if that’s okay with you two?” 

Lucy gave a thumbs up to Ru as she thanked her for dinner and retreated hastily to her room to avoid any further embarrassment at the paws of the crafty Iberian. 

It wasn’t long after this that everyone else decided to get an early night's sleep. All residents of the apartment were in bed, either asleep or up to no good, by 8pm. The short summer nights causing difficulty for some to sleep. 

--- June 30th, 2:12am ---------- 

Lucy had been tossing and turning in her new bed, unable to get accustomed to her new surroundings and situation, unable to sleep she decided perhaps a bit if fresh air would calm her nerves, coupled with a cold glass of water. The young feline made her way out of her room and through the living room silently thanks to her feline traits, and made her way out onto the balcony.

She took a deep breath as she closed the sliding glass door behind her and hung her arms over the railing, thankful for the dry night and gentle breeze. 

“Can’t sleep?” said a voice emanating from the corner of the balcony in the shadows. This sudden and unexpected question nearly caused Lucy to jump out of her skin, muffling a slight scream with her paws as she turned to see Bixby sitting on top of a low wall peering over to her.

“Gah Bixby I'm gonna kick your a-...” she began but was cut off. 

“Beautiful view, isn’t it? If this is just the temporary residence, then what will our office be like?” Bixby butted in as he turned his gaze to the Lynx who was illuminated by the dazzling neon lights of Zootopia at night. 

“I dunno, but I think this opportunity is incredible” she said as the hare jumped off the wall and stood next to her. As he approached she could see that all he was wearing was a pair of jogging bottoms. He looked physically exhausted and still shaking a little but not from the cold breeze. 

“So, you and Tristan get reacquainted huh?” Lucy asked, glad the shoe was on the other foot this time. 

“We got reacquainted 4 times il have you know... we playing the questions game then? Haha” Bixby replied as he looked back out to the City. 

“Bix, I am an open book and you know it, ask away” she said, immediately regretting it. 
"I think you know exactly what I am gonna ask" the hare said with a smirk as he bumped his hip into hers playfully. 

Lucy let out a sigh as she looked towards the street below. "It's complicated..." 

"Then un-complicate it. Follow your heart for a change, not your head. Tell you what, go out to dinner with him, or just food, hell a walk along the beaches will do... at the end if it feels good then follow what you think is right, if not then at least you will know... but it's not fair on either of you to have this tension and you know it" Bixby turned to walk back into the apartment but stopped to have one last look at the beautiful night time city lights. "Beautiful night" Bixby muttered as he walked back into the apartment and back to his room. 

"Yeah... Beautiful..." Lucy muttered as a tear rolled down her cheek.

--- 10 minutes later ---------- 

Lucy felt better after spending some time in the fresh night air and decided to try sleeping once again. As she crept her way back to her room she stopped in front of her door. "Bixby is right" she whispered to herself as she peeked over to Alex's room. Resisting the urge to just go back to her own room, instead she decided to give into what she felt to be right and turned around and opened the door to Alex's room carefully to not wake the coyote. Her Emerald eyes glowing in the dark of the small bedroom as she scanned her surroundings, careful not to step on anything while making her way over to the bed. She stood at the side of his bed for a few seconds, building up the courage she needed before slowly and carefully climbing in next to the sleeping canine. 

"Okay don't freak out, this is nice" the feline thought to herself, a little hot under the collar but oddly feeling more relaxed now than she was on her own. "Maybe if Alex lets me, I could share the room... nooo bad idea, what would everyone think... I don't care what they think... Bixby is right, I will give Alex a chan-…." She thought just as Alex rolled over and wrapped his arms around her mid-section. 

A hot flush rushed around the lynx's body as the Coyote pulled her in closer. She bit her lip to stop her from crying out or gasping. The feeling receded after a minute or so and she felt comfortable enough to pull herself closer into his chest. A low purr began to radiate from the feline as she began to enjoy her situation she found herself in. 

"Good night...Snowflake" Lucy whispered as she closed her eyes to get some sleep.

Chapter Text

--- June 30th, 9:30 am, Somewhere in Zootopia ---------- 

“Niki... Niki... Come on sleeping beauty, time to get up or we will be late”. Addison and Niki slept together in a communal sleeping quarters, their work they do being of the up most secrecy and thus weren’t allowed outside of the building. The two Jackals found it more comforting to sleep together given their work and social circumstances. 

“Ugh just 5 more minutes...” Niki pleaded with his mate to no avail. The pair were already late for their duties but they were not strangers to avoiding punishment. 

“Hey Addy... Do you really think we can escape this place?... I’m worried Master War will hunt us down and make an example of us...” Niki’s biggest fear above all else was losing Addison because their boss decided he was no longer needed or displeased him.  

“Nikola please, stop thinking like that, we will be just fine... and besides you remember what Death said, trust me we will be out of this city before you know it!” Addy comforted Niki as he nuzzled into the taller canine's chest fur.  

Niki let out a sigh as he thought over their planned escape. “But how do you know everything will go right... I'm just scared... I love you” 

“I love you too Niki... trust me, Death’s plan will work... now, let's get going, the ghost is waiting” 

After just 10 minutes the pair were out of bed and dressed, no time for food as they rushed to the room that was assigned to ghost. Niki knocked on the door to no response. A second attempt to alert the occupant was met with the door swinging open slowly to the surprise of the jackals.
 
“Uhhhh... hello?” Niki said in a timid voice as he slowly set foot into the room followed closely by Addy. “Um, Sir? We have been assigned to bring you to the meeting of the other horsemen, are you here? Hel-...” just as Addison made his intentions clear the rabbit fell from the ceiling with a pair of small, silenced pistols, pinned both of the jackals to the floor and planted the tips of the silencers to the backs of their heads. 

The initial shock prevented either of the canines to yelp out or plead for their lives, all they could do was close their eyes, hold paws and wait for the gentle whisper of the suppressed pistols. However, this sound did not come. Instead the rabbit simple got up off of them, walked over to the bed and placed his pistols back in their holsters. Nikola was the first to look up and check what the situation was, surprised to see the lapin sitting on the bed staring at them with his dead blue eyes, waiting for instruction. The rabbit was wearing only a pair of black cargo pants and his signature white mask, as if the pair had interrupted him while he was getting changed. 

“This rabbit is seriously creepy...” Addy whispered to himself as he raised himself from the floor and rushed over to assist Niki. “Sir we have been...” Addison tried again as he was cut off by the ghost raising his paw as if to tell him to be quiet. 

Ghost raised himself from the bed and slipped on a black shirt from the duffle bag at his feet before making his way over to the pair. The rabbit brought out a small note pad and pen, scribbled something down and handed the pad to Addison. 

“I heard you the first time” was what was written on the small bunny sized paper. Addy felt insulted by the manner in which the sentence was written. Ghost took the pad back and motioned his paw out the door as if to say lead the way. 

“Yes sir” Niki answered as he took an enraged Addison by the paw and walked out of the small guest room. “Hun don’t do anything stupid, let's just get on with it please” 

Reluctantly Addy and his mate lead the way out of the room followed by the lethal lapin as he strapped on his twin pistol holster. 

--- 10:00am, Main Complex ---------- 

The main building the jackals were working out of was vast, a large warehouse with massive shipping containers spread everywhere and wooden containers opened and their contents neatly stacked beside them. This warehouse was the central hub for one of the biggest smuggling rings in not only Zootopia but the entire country. Everything from drugs, weapons, priceless antiques and even mammal trafficking, something that Master War was particularly fond of. 

War was the stuff nightmares were made from. He is a well-built Rhino sporting a very robust suit of armour very reminiscent of a samurai armour, lightweight yet bullet proof. Much like Ghost, War also wore a Japanese hannya mask on the bottom half of his face but for more than one reason. 

Mainly simply to hide his identity during his job as an assassin. This hulk of a mammal stood 14-foot-tall, much taller than others of his species. He was at the peak of his physical capabilities, which played perfectly into his preferred way of killing his target. War’s method of assassination was two massive battle-axes, hand forged especially for him and damn near as indestructible as he was. War wasn’t particularly intelligent but what he lacked in brains he made up for in combat prowess, easily able to best the vast majority of opponents even larger than himself. 

Addison, Nikola and Ghost eventually found themselves at the base of a moderately sized office elevated on stilts, allowing the occupants a complete 360-degree view of the vast storage space.

“Sir, Master War is just up those stairs, he is expecting you” Niki said humbly, motioning towards the stairs ascending to the office. 

As Ghost made his way past the two canines he slipped Niki a small note that simply said "Wait here". He climbed the stairs and entered the almost pitch-black room. All of the windows were shut out with blackout curtains, the lightbulbs removed... the perfect den for a master killer. The only furniture in the room was a filing cabinet in the far corner and a desk and chair in the centre. From this chair slowly rose a massive figure, barely visible in the darkness. Ghost was naturally apprehensive about the much taller mammal, his paw fixed on his pistol ready to drop whatever threat stood before him. 

"So... you are the famous Ghost we have been hearing about. Your stories have been plastered all over the news lately, and nice shot in the train station, haven't seen a snap shot like that since my deployment. I bet you have many questions as to why we summoned you here, to put it short... you are the only candidate that could possibly take the place of our recently departed 4th member. We are the Four Horsemen, I myself am the embodiment of War. You will meet Famine and Pestilence when they arrive in the city and you... you... our Master has selected you as the replacement for Death...I think it's fitting, don't you?" 

War moved from behind the desk to flick on a small lamp on the end of his desk, moving closer to the rabbit, revealing his armoured figure and kneeling down in front of him. 

"I understand you are a mute yes? Unable to speak?" War muttered through his mask, the light helping Ghost to become accustomed to his surroundings. The first thing he noticed however was the War wore the mask because of a particularly nasty facial wound extending from his neck all the way up behind the mask and out of the top, ending just past his right eye. His horn was also missing, snapped right at the base. All Ghost could think was this must have been a very violent encounter.

Ghost caught onto what War was saying and nodded as to not seem rude. He took out his notepad and began to write some notes down. 

"So, what do you think? We summoned you here to be a part of this team, you have shown your skills and you certainly have my approval, we can provide you with anything you need for your tasks. 

Ghost tore off a single piece of paper from the notepad and handed it to the monstrous mammal, barely being able to hold it properly the Rhino read out loud “My only condition, I want the two Jackals that met me at the train” 

“I don’t particularly like sharing my toys... but I will make an exception this time... there is still some tasks for them to do for me but otherwise... do what you will with them” War seemed displeased having to give up 2 of his slaves but for the services of arguably the best sniper on the face of the planet... he obliged. 

War turned back around to his desk, flicked off the lamp and sat back down in his chair in the pitch black of the room. “Welcome... Death” 

Before Ghost left the office, he took one final look back at his new partner in crime, his cold blue eyes piercing the darkness as he met the shining amber eyes of the most sadistic and unforgiving killer he had ever met. Ghost opened the door, allowing his eyes to readjust fully to the brightly lit before he attempted the stairs down to his new assistants. 

The rabbit began his decent down to the two Jackals who were patiently waiting for him at the base, afraid to move, following orders down to the letter after years of physical abuse and conditioning by the dozens of other Jackals under War’s control.  

Both Addy and Niki had worked their way up the ranks of Wars personal slaves to become 2 of his 10 assistants but despite this they still feared him. War was an individual that took great pleasure in disciplining his followers, in some cases even killing them to ensure the rest of his toys stayed in line. His greatest weapon was fear, the thought of the giant swinging his axe in anger kept most of the Jackals in line, the disobedient ones were quickly culled and replaced by new freshly kidnapped cubs from various countries. Each and every one of Wars followers were once trafficked cubs that he bought to be his work force. Addison and Niki were no exception. 

Addison was abducted from his hometown in England when he was just 6 and Nikola when he was 4 from Germany. Both sold into slavery where they made their way to Zootopia in which they were snapped up real fast. War has a particular fondness for Jackals, being that they can be vicious when provoked, can infiltrate very easily and their canine loyalty an added bonus. 

Addison had been working for War since he was just 10 years old, going on various infiltration assignments on behalf of the Rhino. Niki on the other paw has only had to endure the wrath of War for 6 years. He was 16 when War spotted him on the ‘market’, a little older than what he would usually go for but decided to recruit him anyway. For 6 years Addison had been protecting the younger canine, eventually developing feelings for each other and learning secrets about each other, one secret in particular that set Nikola apart from the rest of the other Jackals.

Ghost arrived at the bottom, greeted by 2 patiently waiting canines, tense, anticipating the rabbits next move. Ghost simply took out his notepad again and began to write once more. The pair glanced across at each other, sharing a nervous shrug before the lapin handed a small note over to Addison stating “You two will be working for me from now on, don’t disappoint.” 

This moderately unsettling closure to a sentence put them in edge but dared not speak up. Ghost took one more look around the warehouse, gave the two lovers a paw gesture to ‘follow’ and began walking back to his accommodation in silence. 

--- 9:20 am, Howlett Temporary Apartment --------- 

Much to Lucy’s surprise... Alex didn’t have a functioning alarm clock. The natural light of a new day trickled into the dimly lit bedroom, gently waking the slumbering kitten from a pleasant dream and with a content smile creeping upon her face her first thoughts were of her first day on the ZPD Taskforce... followed by... “OH SHIT...” 

9:20 am... she slept in... everyone else will be up and ready to go... missed breakfast... how do i get out of this room and into mine... but all those thoughts faded into nothingness as the slender yet toned canine tightened his grip around the slim felines waist, dangerously close to her mid-section. This however didn’t seem to phase her too much, instead deciding to nestle her way closer into him as he spooned her.

Alex briefly opened his eyes, somewhat awake but still very tired. “Morning kitten...” he whispered into her ear as he pulled his grip tighter, noticing the feline didn’t resist at all. 

There it was... the hot flush... the feeling of heat flooded her body the very moment she felt his breath on the base of her ear. “Good morning snowflake, we are late for work” she replied, trying to repress the urges she was experiencing. Failing miserably. 

“May I ask... this is the second morning in a row I have woken up to find you cuddled into me” Alex asked as he felt a small paw take hold of his own and slowly started to tug on it. 

“I couldn’t sleep last night, it just... didn’t feel right to me so i went to get some air... ran into Bixby who... kinda gave me the boot up the backside I deserved... this is me, following my heart for once so please... don’t lead it astray” the kitten began to purr as she moved his paw upwards, under her tank top. 

“Lucy what are yo-...” the coyote began as his nose kicked into overdrive, a scent that even he couldn’t ignore for long. A scent that now made sense to him, to why the kitten was so brazen in her advances, why she didn’t try to get out of bed but instead unbeknownst to her began to move Alex’s paw to a very compromising location. The young Lynx had begun her first heat cycle of the season. 

“Lucy stop... before you do something you regret” Alex whispered unto deaf ears as the feline continued to purr. Despite this exact exchange being what Alex dreamed of for months he couldn’t bring himself to ruin their relationship this early on. 

Lucy continued her playful exchange, noticing a distinct pressure nudging against her back. “I can tell your enjoying yourself, is that your phone or are you happy to see me?” she quipped as her other paw began to slowly move around to the solid object pressing against her lower back. 

The larger coyote forcibly stopped his paw from ascending Lucy’s chest. “Please... Stop...” 

These words finally sunk in as Lucy snapped out of her lust filled confusion and apologised. “Alex... oh no... I'm so sorry, I don’t know what came over me..I..I...” 

“Shhh, it’s okay, believe me it took all I had to resist...  but seriously tho, I do really like you but I don’t feel comfortable with casual sex, it's just... not what I want, especially from you... your too important to ruin whatever it is we have... please. I know I said that I wouldn’t push you to make a choice but... would you..uh... would you like to go get something to eat sometime?” the canine began to fell hot under the collar as he finally got to ask her out properly on his terms. His heart was in his mouth anticipating what Lucy’s response would be. Planning his exit in the likely event she would say no. His mind racing with ‘what if’ questions. What if she rejects me totally and the team suffers. What if she quits the ZPD because of me. What if- 
“I would love to...” Lucy spoke up, stunning Alex in the process. “But... I don’t want you spending too much on me... no gifts... just some good food from your favourite burger cart, do we have an agreement?” 

“I..uh...y-yes, hell yes” Alex pulled the kitten into his chest tight and nuzzled his chin on the top of her head. “I will not disappoint!”  

“Shhhh... they might hear you” Lucy said playfully as she looked over towards the door. “Hey can I ask something...” she said as she slipped out if Alex’s grip and hopped out of bed, standing beside the mattress and facing towards the canine in nothing but her underwear and a tank top. The lynx thankful that this time she wore a top, unlike yesterday morning. “Would you mind if I slept in here with you more often? I... I’m kinda scared of being alone in a strange place...” 

Without even hesitating the cunning coyote looked the Lynx up and down and said “As long as I still get this stunning view” 

Lucy caught onto this little quip and walked over to the window of the bedroom that was directly facing the bed. “This view?” she started as the blinds snapped up, unexpectedly showering the dimly lit room in sunshine. Poor coyote... 

--- 12 Blind Minutes Later ---------- 

“Quietly now...” Alex whispered as Lucy slipped through the barely open door of the bedroom and into the hallway. She leaned on the wall beside Alex’s room to wait on him when she noticed something unsettling and halted. 

Alex opened the door slightly wider, trying to prevent the door from creaking too badly then gently closed the door behind him, making as little noise as possible. He glanced over to Lucy to find her stuck in place, unable to move and staring into the kitchen area. “Lu? You okay?” he began as he too glanced over to the communal table in the centre of the room. All residents of the apartment gathered around it, toast in paws discussing a new case. All eyes upon the half-naked officers as they finally emerged from their slumbers. 

Bixby was the first to break the silence and tension of the room. “Good to see you took my advice” 
I suppose the only word that correctly describes how both Alex and Lucy were feeling right now would be ‘Mortified’. 

“Well... I'm just gonna crawl into my room and die...yep” Lucy said as she made a break for her own room before being stopped by Alex, who instead went back to his room, grabbed a large hoodie and slipped it over the moderately exposed Lynx.  

Lucy looked up at the taller canine and smiled at him. This small gesture of stopping her from retreating like she always did and instead dressed her in his own clothes actually filled her with a feeling of confidence, something she wasn’t expecting. The pair made their way across the living space towards the kitchen for some toast. 

“So, what's the deal? We forget this and move on or gush over the newlyweds?” Jenson quipped from the other side of the large table. 

“Oh, leave them be dear, i think its adorable!” Ru replied, shooting down Jay’s joke immediately before anyone else could chime in.  

“Well then, pull up a chair, we as a team have our first assignment. There was a bank robbery this morning, Sahara Square Central Bank, Bogo as asked us personally to look into it... and I aim to please. As he is famous for doing we have 48 hours to close the case, so I told him to make it 12” Jay gave a devilish smile, not to everyone’s liking however. 

“How do you plan to close this in just 12 hours?!” Bixby queried, not liking the sound of this wager.

“Simple, Lucy and I will follow up witness reports while you and Alex Investigate the bank, it'll be a fun little game indeed” Jay was dead set on turning this high-profile theft into a game of cat and mouse (no pun intended... well a little). “Oh, and Alex, I called in a favour in Zootopia’s Police Academy, had your sensory test scores amended to what I believe they really represent. In doing this I've had your name added to the database for ZPD Officers that can track Criminals by scent. Means whatever you find on a crime scene can be used in court as tangible evidence. So, don’t get a cold ya hear!” 

“That's.... incredible, thank you sir...er... Jay!” Alex proclaimed, the mention of his senses inadvertently caused him to smell the faint sting of gunpowder emanating from 3 boxes on the coffee table in the lounge. His curiosity getting the better of him. “Jay what’s in those?” 

“Oh yes, as per Bogo’s orders, all Officers must carry a lethal firearm at all times, both on and off duty for their own protection.” Jenson walked over to the 3 small wooden boxes, decorated in mahogany with brass embellishments. Upon each box was the full name and officer number of the 3 rookies, again etched in a highly polished bronze plate. “So i took it upon myself to collect a few items for you three, Bixby yours first” 

Bix hopped over to his box, as excited as a kit on Christmas morning. Slowly he opened his box to reveal a nicely polished, chrome revolver with his name and number engraved along the barrel. “It’s... It’s... beautiful...” Bixby was stunned by the perfect condition of the gun, the vast majority of his mind focusing on all the small details while a piece of him wished he would never have to use it. Not for moral reasons, simply because he didn’t want to ruin the finish. 

“It’s small, designed for a mammal your size but unfortunately that limits the calibre size to a .22 Super Hornet. It's a small projectile but it travels very fast. 

Bix lifted the revolver out of the box very gently to reveal a leather holster and his Official ZPD badge strapped onto the belt. “This is incredible, how can I ever repay you!” 

“Don’t use it on me and we have a deal!” Jay joked as he slid the second box closer to the edge of the coffee table. “Lucille my dear, your turn” 

Lucy didn’t particularly like guns, preferring to use her own claws in a fight instead but looking at the splendour of Bixby’s Super Hornet, she began to feel a little giddy. The lynx made her way over to the table and rolled the sleeves of the massive hoodie up above her elbows.

As the box was slowly unlocked and opened, Lucy found herself stunned, shocked that something so deadly would be so beautiful. The box opened to reveal a gloss black Sig Sauer P226 with a polished silver slide, again engraved with her name and officer number. “This is amazing... I don’t know what to say but.... wow” 

“There’s no need to say anything my dear, you need protection and that thing can bring down some hefty beasts if needed. Its chambered for 9x19 Parabellum, so it has some kick you may need to get used to... bit I feel the size and versatility suits you very well” Jay patted the purring kitten on the top of the head as he lifted it out for her followed by her badge and holster.

“Ahhh! this is so cool!” she proclaimed as she began to fit the belt onto herself before realising.... “Aaaand still not wearing any pants...” 

Jay let out a small laugh as he brought the 3rd and final box over to the edge. “Alexander, if you please” 

“Let me guess, is it a Derringer or something?” Alex asked jokingly.

“Aww man that would have been an awesome gag... why didn’t i think of that... dammit” Jay sat back up onto the sofa and let the young canine discover his service weapon on his own. 

Alex unlocked the beautifully crafted box and pried open the lid. To his amazement it wasn’t a comically small weapon but a Wartime Era Colt M1911. This gun wasn’t perfectly finished in a high gloss coat, nor did it have his name engraved upon the slide. Instead it was worn, the paint has started to fade and the wooden grip began to lose its pristine colour. This gun was positively not from the ZPD Armoury. To Alex however this gun was special, he knew exactly where this gun came from... 

“Chief Rockford asked me to give you this, said it was his during the war. It's a beautiful piece, maybe a little upkeep is required but altogether... it has a history...” Jay responded, unbeknownst to him Alex was nearly in tears at his Godfathers gesture. Alex had grown up around guns, learning to use them from a young age. This one in particular always caught his eye. It was the centre piece on the fireplace of Rockford’s home back in West Woodlands. The coyote had used it a number of times with Rockford’s permission and always wanted one of his own. 

Alex set the gun very carefully on the table, retrieved his holster and badge and closed the box. “I swear... I will not let you down Uncle...” he said as tears began to run down his cheek.  

Lucy seen the emotional look on his face and instinctively wrapped her arms around him and kissed him on the cheek. 

This sudden affection caught Alex off guard. “Moving along quickly, aren’t we?” he joked, playing on what she had said to him during the meeting yesterday. 

“Oh Alex, don’t make it weird” the lynx retorted as she wiped the tears from his cheek and kissed him once again, this time briefly on the lips. She leaned into his ear and gently whispered “I never did get what I wanted this morning...”  

This small sentence caused the composed Coyote to crumble, his paws started to tremble and his exposed skin turned a bright red. “I uhh...” 

“Just something for you to think about” Lucy smiled playfully as she made her way to her own room and locked the door behind her.

Chapter Text

Most would have different opinions as to where in the city sells the best coffee, others don't really care because... Coffee... But to the keen taste buds of a veteran Police chief, the best place for coffee was Mallory's Coffee Cart, two blocks away from Precinct 5. Each and every morning Chief Rockford would stop by for his usual black coffee, 2 sugars and a blueberry muffin to go, today however he ordered two of each. This routine was a ritual for him, practiced since the opening of the cart 9 years ago, like clockwork. The final 5-minute casual stroll to the Precinct usually allowed him to arrive precisely at 9am, give or take a few minutes for friendly chat. 

The presence of the large cat demanded respect amongst his fellow officers, with a number of early birds sorting out their morning duties before reporting to the bullpen. These officers included the receptionist, a female clouded leopard by the name of Kimberly Tucker. Miss Tucker was always in sharp at 8:30am to have her paperwork sorted and ready for the chief to arrive, knowing his routine like the back of her paw.  

"Good morning Miss Tucker, another fine day today isn't it!" Rockford spoke as he walked over to the front desk with a second paper cup filled with coffee and plonked it down in front of the young feline officer. "Today especially, it isn't everyday a beauty such as yourself turns 25, Happy Birthday Kim" the old lion remembers the birthdays of each and every one of his officers, along with their names and even the very date they came to the Precinct. 

"Good morning sir, and thank you, blueberry muffins are my favorite!" The feline replied, noticing the single, lit birthday candle in the center of it. "Oh, that is adorable!" She said as she blew the candle out and placed it to the side of her desk. "Thank you so much sir" 

"You are most welcome Miss Tucker, and please, call me Martin" the old lion picked up his mail and began his long journey upstairs and to his office. When he arrived outside his workspace he paused for a second with an uneasy feeling in his gut, perhaps something was amiss, or perhaps his meal last night was a little dodgy. After a few seconds of hesitation, he unlocked his door and walked into the dark room. The aging officer could not remember if he closed his blinds or not before he left for home last night, unfortunately this forgetful streak seemed to be becoming more frequent lately, prompting him to make an appointment with a doctor a little later in the afternoon. That much he remembered.  

Rockford laid his cane upon his desk and walked over to the window, carefully feeling his way around the room as he went. Just as he was about to open the blinds, he heard a sudden and unsettling voice that made the fur on the back of his neck stand on end. 

"Good morning, Chief Rockford, you are looking well" said a voice coming from the shadows of the room. The voice seemed to resonate around the room before making its way to Rockford's ears, causing the Chief to freeze momentarily. 

"Who is there? Show yourself!" He shouted as he swung round, forgetting to open the blind and instead made a dash for his desk where he kept his service weapon fully loaded for times such as this. 

"Oh please, after all these years you should know me better than to let you have a loaded gun to point this way" the voice said as a figure emerged from the shadows and approached the desk, what little light filtering in just barely making the mysterious mammal's figure visible. 

The chief stopped in his retrieval of his pistol, realizing the voice was right after feeling the weight of it without bringing it out.  

"Do you not remember me? I'm disappointed old friend" the figure walked slowly over to the side table that contained Rockford's personal stash of alcohol, mainly whiskey, and proceeded to pour just 1 glass for the chief.  

"I know you don't drink, and I don't want any so don't bother pouring it" the old lion spoke up as he sat down in his chair and flicked on a small desk lamp beside his computer. 

The dark figure shied away from the light briefly as to not blind himself and leave him open for an attack. He slowly looked back at Rockford sitting behind the desk, picked up the single whiskey glass and brought it over to the desk. 

The mysterious mammal was clad entirely in a dark coat, eerily similar to the grim reapers cloak but only around his upper body. Black combat pants with a utility holster strapped to his right leg. This mammal favored close and personal engagements, refusing to carry a pistol of any kind, instead wielding a moderately sized sword strapped to a sheath on his back. On his paws were thick tactical gloves with a pattern resembling carbon fiber on the knuckles. But most troubling of all was his choice of apparel to conceal his identity. Ghost was not the only mammal that chose to wear a mask to instill fear in his targets as this mammal wore what appeared to all intents and purposes to be the skull of a canine. This mask was the exact shape and size of a Wolf's skull, made from a mesh of carbon fiber and Kevlar fixed with 3 straps on the sides and top. Half of the mask was bone white while the right half was charred and cracked, fire damage of some kind. The eye holes glowing with red LED lights to prevent anyone from discerning details about the mysterious mammal. 

"Charon, the infamous serial killer, come to collect an old lion's soul, have we?" The white furred feline asked with pride, knowing his time must be close at hand due to his age and failing health but wasn't expecting the harbinger of death to come quite so abruptly, and with the face... er... mask of someone from his past. Someone so dangerous. 

"No, Martin, not this day. I have come to ask you a favor... don't come after me" Charon asked politely as he slipped the glass over to the aged lion. "I am not here for you, or any of your Officers... I am here for the Ghost" 

"Ah yes, the Ghost has made quite the entrance a few days ago. Bogo of Precinct 1 has formed a taskforce to track him down and bring him in but alas, I fear he is too much for them alone..." Rockford took the glass and peered deep into the strong-smelling liquid in the container. The aging Chief took a few seconds to collect his thoughts before he proceeded, his next sentence setting future events into motion. "I will make a deal with you... protect my sons, protect the officers in their assignment... and protect my city. Do this and my officers will not pursue you, nor will I, will you do this for me?" 

Charon thought about this for a few seconds, letting the logistics of this request sink in. “Judging from what I hear, they don’t need much protection… I mean just look who is leading them… I've had my fair share of run ins with the Hellhound of the APD. That wolf nearly cost me a target... Nearly” Charon exclaimed as he glanced over to the Police Chief giving him a disappointed stare. “Sorry, past habits and all that” 

“Look, I get that you are trying to redeem yourself for your life of killing for money, I understand if this request puts your identity at risk or even your life… but my sons are in way over their heads with this investigation. I am offering you the first brick in your path to salvation. Please.” Rockford set the glass back down onto the table, completely uninterested in it. “I don’t know who you are, but I know deep down there is a light inside of you”. 

“Martin… Fine, I will do what I can to assist in the capture of Ghost, to the best of my abilities I mean. I guess I should introduce myself to them huh” Charon said as he walked over to the front door of the office, peering through the glass to see if the coast was clear. “But first I must pay a visit to a late friend, and strike a deal with his daughter.” He opened the door and began to exit the room. 

“Good luck” Rockford whispered under his breath as the door closed behind the mammal and his silhouette vanished from view. The elderly feline couldn’t help but feel disgusted with himself for making a bargain with who he would consider the devil himself. The two mammals had a long history between them, Charon the hitmammal with a heart and Rockford the stern, no nonsense law enforcer. Even Rockford being in his late 60’s would be more than a match for most mammals of Charon’s smaller size but there was something about the killer that Rockford couldn’t place, a sort of familiarity about his choice of words and upkeep. 

But finally, the deal with the devil was done, Charon was gone and Rockford was left alone with his thoughts. His day had began bright and full of life but he feared this meeting would culminate in a large body count. The anger began to rise inside of him the more he thought about it, how easily he pleaded with a killer for help, how easily he managed to infiltrate his office in the middle of the Precinct… how easily this glass of whiskey would go down. Without a moments hesitation the lion threw the glass of whiskey against the wall of his office, shattering the fine crystal into pieces. He held his head in his massive paws as he contemplated what he had done.  

--- 10:22 am, Sahara Square Central Bank ---------- 

"Lucy, I'm sorry about what I said last night." Bixby and Lucy were standing on the street outside of Sahara Square's biggest banking building as the hare was tampering with the cities CCTV system, plugging his own custom Tablet PC into the system. "I was... for lack of a better phrase... on a sexual high... when I said you should consider Alex I honestly didn't mean you should sleep with him" Bixby said as he fidgeted with the wires inside the camera pole, somewhat shamed of how he handled himself last night. His tiny paws reached deep into the darkness inside the pole and pulled out a bundle of cables, digging through the mess for one specific green cable, finding the correct one within seconds. "Cut please" 

"Dude, it's okay... honestly it really was what I needed to hear... and we didn't 'sleep' together, just slept together" Lucy responded as she extended one of her razor-sharp claws and cut the wire effortlessly, as if it was paper. "But I have talked to him and we are going for food a little later tonight, just a little chat" 

Bixby took apart a USB pen and twisted the wires into the circuit board before wrapping it in electrical tape and finally plugging the Stick into his Tablet. As you can tell this hare had done this before. "Well... Glad I could help then! Heh and I thought he didn't have the balls". Suddenly the screen of the Tablet kicked into life and brought up the security feed for not only the main street and its adjoining alleyways but the view from inside the building itself. "Were in! now let's see what's on here" 

Meanwhile inside the building, Alex and Jay were talking with the head of security in the bank and the manager, both shaken from the recent incident. The manager, a warthog by the name of Mr. Graves, had been attacked by the masked criminals and as such was being attended by a paramedic on scene for a head wound. Despite this he was willing to give his statement. 

"They came out of nowhere, one minute it was business as usual and the next there was 3 of them, all wearing masks pointing guns at the customers and cashiers. One of them shot the ceiling and told everyone to get on the floor. Once everyone was down the big one, I think he was a tiger, grabbed me and took me to the vault. Before I lead him down though I heard the other two shooting out the cameras, I don't understand why, they were wearing masks." 

"It's okay sir, please take your time" Alex chimed in, comforting the older warthog. Alex's nose was on full alert because of the strong smell of gun smoke mixed with a little blood. "Do you mind if I have a look at the tapes, or what they recorded before being destroyed?" 

"Timothy, would you mind showing the Detective the security footage?" The manager asked of the larger head of security, a lion in his mid-forties who was built like a tank yet visibly distressed by the events. 

"Of course, sir, right this way detective" the hulk of a lion motioned his massive paw over to the security booth housing a number of CCTV monitors. 

"Sorry, I'm not a detective just yet, but thank you nonetheless" Alex smiled at the warthog as he followed the Lion over to the booth just barely big enough for him but perfect for the small Coyote. 

"What happened next?" Howlett asked, being particularly careful with his tone of voice so he wouldn't scare the shaken mammal. Howlett's stature was actually a hindrance for him during an investigation, the sight of a 6'10" Wolf Hybrid wasn't a comforting sight for a victim, especially in Zootopia where the violent crime rate was much lower than in Animalia.  

"Once in the vault room he had me open the door, which I couldn't do myself so he hit me with his gun and proceeded to open the door himself. His strength was crazy. I pretended to be knocked out on the floor but I could hear him rummaging around for something inside, I don't know what exactly until we take inventory im afraid" the warthog had to take a short break for a second to collect his thoughts while the paramedic finished treating his wound. 

"After about 30 seconds I seen him sprint out of the vault room like there was something chasing him. Never in my life have I seen a lion run that fast. By the time I got back up to the main floor they had all gone, ran out of the fire exit on the south side of the building" Mr. Graves pointed towards a small door almost hidden away in a corner. 

Howlett looked over towards the door. "Thank you, sir, for your time, I have all I need, you should go to the hospital and get checked for a concussion" he said as he put away his small note pad where he kept his case notes. 

"Detective! I think I found something" Alex shouted over as he was fidgeting around with the security feeds. Howlett made his way over to the small room, ducking as he walked through the door. "Watch this" Alex said as he pressed the play button. 

The camera showed 2 medium sized canines stalking around the floor, everyone else on the floor cowering for their lives. One of them pointed towards the crowd and shouted what was presumably instructions to stay on the floor. Just a few seconds later the 2 canines in unison looked at the cameras and began shooting them out systematically. 

"They shot them all of a sudden... it's as if they were told to do it at the same time... you think there's a fourth member?" Howlett asked. 

"I think there may have been but that isn't what I noticed, its small, almost missable unless you pay attention" Alex said as he started to rewind the tape to 30 seconds before the shooting. "Very closely on the second canine" 

Howlett watched the screen as close as his snout would let him get. The second canine was walking past a wooden desk, watching the hostages while the other was shouting threats when all of a sudden... he sneezed. It was a small sneeze but it was there. 

"Son of a bitch... how did you spot that?" Howlett asked, pleased with his rookie on picking up this minor yet vital detail. 

"When my nose is my best asset then I look for any possible angle to get their scent... he can wear a thousand layers of clothes but he just sneezed his identity all over those stacks of papers" Alex said smugly as he pointed at the exact desk the canine walked past and proceeded to it with haste. 

Alex picked up the top page that was most exposed to the saliva of the canine with a pair of tongs and slipped it into an evidence bag. "At the very least we have his DNA but..." He began as he took a sniff at the open bag. "...He is a Jackal... that's odd, Jackals are usually outsiders, why would one commit a crime on such a scale?" 

"No idea but the Bank manager told me that the three of them left the building using the fire exit in the corner, which leads to an alley way if I'm not mistaken. Think a getaway driver was waiting for them?" Howlett asked as he and Alex walked over to the fire exit and carefully opened the door, paws on pistols just in case. 

In the alley were a set of tracks, looking to belong to a long wheel base panel van and a long scrape running along the length of a dumpster towards the end of the alley. Light blue paint had flaked off of the vehicle and transferred onto the green trash receptacle. 

"Looks like they headed north at least" Alex said as he approached the dumpster and with a steady paw scooped the blue paint into an evidence bag. "Large vehicle, blue in color with 2 Jackals, a Tiger and an unknown driver. Shouldn't be too hard to track down, right? Still doesn't explain why there was 2 Jackals, there rare in the heart of the city." 

"Why don't we ask them?" Said a female voice from behind the 2 investigators. Lucy and Bixby had managed to track the movements of the van right from the alley out into the industrial district. "We couldn't track them the whole way I'm afraid but we have a good start!" 

--- 2 Hours Later, Industrial District ---------- 

The team decided it was best to split up to search the vast area for the van. Bixby and Lucy had requested the use of a police cruiser while Howlett and Alex used the Detective's personal SUV. 

Lucy was the driver in the cruiser, providing a perfect excuse to get to know Bixby a little better as neither of them spent a significant amount of time together.  

Lucy was the first to break the silence. "So... you don't like your family?" She asked, almost immediately regretting the question. "Shit wait, sorry I didn't mean it like that" 

"S'okay, I don't mind" he replied with a smile, knowing how awkward Lucy was around him see as how Bix and Alex have known each other since they were young teens and she was essentially the newcomer to the group. "Yes, it's true, my family are assholes of the highest order" 

"Because your gay?" Lucy asked, trying not to offend and to keep the cruiser on the road, multitasking at its finest. 

"No...is that what Alex has you thinking? I told him that because it was easier to explain..." Bixby said as he stared out of the window, looking for the light blue van in amongst the buildings. "Ya see, me and my 2 sisters are the product of my mother having an affair and trying to cover it up." 

"Oh, oh Bixby I'm sorry for asking" Lucy felt like an ass for bringing it up even if the young hare didn't mind talking about it. "Want to change the subject?" 

"Nah its cool. When I was 14 I discovered my mother had an affair with a neighbor, a difference sub species of Hare from the rest of my family, which resulted in my sisters and myself, i guess that makes us Hybrids huh... that's why i'm tall for a Hare. For years she hid it but I managed to piece it together and confronted her about it, which at first, she adamantly denied but then couldn't hide from the genetic differences between me and the rest of my brothers and sisters. I came out a few weeks later and she decided to use that as the catalyst to rid herself of the guilt. I was tossed out of the family right there and then, with Alex and Chief Rockford taking me in. I'm grateful for both of them." 

"Seems it's difficult to find someone in this city with a happy childhood..." Lucy said as she focused on the road, the deeper she went into the district the more unsteady and dangerous the roads became. Large vehicles passed through here regularly and so the area was littered with debris and potholes you could bathe an adult in. 

"How'd you mean Lu? I deduced you didn't exactly grow up in privilege but I wouldn't have guessed anything dark? Or am I wrong?" Bixby looked to Lucy, wondering if his abilities were getting rusty.
 
"I uh... well..." Lucy began to waiver a little, unsure if she actually wanted this conversation to continue, wanting to get her past off her chest so badly but it would bring back too many painful memories. 

"Lu, if you feel uncomf-…" Bixby began but was interrupted. 

"No, I've hidden from my past for years... just promise you won't see me differently if I tell you?" 

"Of course, my dear" Bix said as he placed his paw on top of hers, this small gesture really providing a boost to her confidence. 

"My... my father was... abusive, mother just stood back and watched. My brothers and I would get punished on a regular occurrence, me worst of all because i was a girl, that part you can use your imagination for... as we grew up my brothers got less and less punishments and began to take traits from my father, becoming increasingly violent so I had to do the only thing I could.... I learned to defend myself. When I fight someone, I have to make sure I win, it all stems from my childhood... I had to win or else get beaten. When I finally saved enough money, I jumped the first train I could and enrolled in the Academy. I am truly grateful for you, for Alex and for the other rooks. You all took me in without eve-..." 

As Lucy was about to finish her sentence she slammed on the brakes, much to Bixby's surprise. Poor Hare's eyes nearly popped out and went through the window. "The hell was that?!" He shouted, checking himself for whiplash. 

"Bix, get low and look out your side..." She said as she slunk down into her seat. 

Bixby did the same as he peeked out over the door. "What am I looking at here?" 

"The warehouse with the red doors, check out the left side of the building, just around the corner"

Bixby took a closer look and to his amazement there it was, a blue panel van with a large scratch running along the outside of it with little flakes of green paint, the same color as the dumpster. The pair couldn't believe their luck, not only did they duo find the suspect's van but they found it before a trained detective and the envy of all bloodhounds. 

Bixby gave a devilish smile as he looked around the building then over to Lucy. "Heh heh, Jackpot!"

Chapter Text

“I mean what is a Black Dog anyway, I think you just made that up!” Alexander Hunter was in the passenger seat of Detective Howlett's personal Vehicle, arms folded behind his head and daydreaming out the window to his right. 

"Well pup, if I made it up please explain how I'm a 6-foot 10 wolf with red eyes. I'm just saying you should keep your mind open, I'm not saying you are a hybrid, simply that there are unusual elements in your anatomy" Howlett retorted with a content grin on his face, his signature expression it seems. 

"You leave my anatomy outta this, Detective” 

“Ha little on the short side of a Coy, Icy eyes and a white tint to your fur and you've never been curious? And to answer your question, a Black Dog is the thing nightmares are made of. Averaging 8 feet tall, jet black fur, red eyes and a temper to make the most hardened criminals piss themselves. Luckily I'm only a half breed so I have a nice side." Jay laughed to himself as he turned down yet another side street in vein, searching for their missing suspect's van, wondering if they had dumped it instead of escaping with it. 

“My mother was a detective in the APD, damn good at her job too for a grey wolf. To bring down a drug kingpin she had to go undercover and work her way up the gangs ranks. What she didn’t expect however was to fall for the head of the organisation... my father... Emery Howlett. Howlett was violent, ruthless... no mercy for his victims but somehow... she tamed him, this young undercover wolf tamed the legendary Black Dog Drug Lord.” 

At the conclusion of his family history, the police radio in the vehicle sprung to life., somewhat startling Alex as he was too engrossed in the Detective's story to anticipate the sudden noise.

“Bixby to Howlett, do you copy, over” 

Jay lifted the small microphone meant for smaller paws and replied “Howlett here, over” 

“Sir, we have the vehicle, south side of the district, Penton street, warehouse 8, over” 

“Damn they beat us to it” Howlett said as he turned to Alex in the passenger seat “Copy, we will be there in 10, sit tight, over” 

Alex couldn’t contain his joy, fantastic detective work from two rookies on their own with their first assignment. Not only did they manage to track the suspects down to the district but the very building! “Well done Lu, nice one Bix” Alex muttered under his breath. 

--- Penton Street ---------- 

“I say we go in...” Bixby suggested to his partner as they parked their cruiser in a warehouse just 100m down the street. “I bet we could sneak in through the back and up to the higher levels” 

“That's a horrible idea... it could get us killed or worse... suspended” Lucy voiced her concerns as she exited the vehicle and locked the doors. 

The two officers made their way to the warehouse all the while bickering on what the best option would be. Do they wait and risk the suspects getting organised or do they go in and scope out the situation? Ultimately Lucy gave in to Bixby’s hare-brained idea (apologies for the puns...)

“Hey, something has been bugging me since this morning... I didn’t see Tristan at the breakfast table, is he okay?” Lucy asked as they approached the back entrance of the warehouse.

“Oh yeah he's fine, he had an early interview with a law firm here in Zootopia, with a high chance of getting it! I'm so excited that he might be staying in the city from now on!” Bixby had to muffle himself so he wouldn’t give themselves away to the suspects inside. The little Hare couldn’t contain his excitement any longer, his mate might not have to go back to Animalia.  

“That's fantastic news! Aww i really hope he gets it, you two are so cute together!” Lucy beemed with glee. 

“Woow wooow... only other hares can call hares cute...” Bixby said with a stern, no nonsense tone of voice. 

“Oh.. I'm so sorry... I-“ 

“Hahaha gotcha, I don’t mind one bit, but there are a few that do” Bixby smiled at Lucy before returning his attention to the task at hand... how to get into the building without alerting the thieves. 

Lucy too began to map out the exterior of the warehouse, looking for unusual entry points that maybe a feline or lapin could squeeze into before... there... a small window with a broken pane of glass. Problem is, that window is 20 feet in the air. 

“I can do it....” Lucy whispered to herself just enough for Bixby to overhear. She took a few steps back all the while eyeing up the target. Without warning the young feline sprang into action, the retractable claws on her feet digging into the ground below as she propelled herself up the wall and with one final stretch of her feline paws, he claws grabbed onto the wooden window frame. 

Bixby seen his opportunity, he knew exactly what Lucy wanted to do and knew that she didn’t have the height to pull it off. The Hare prepared himself for a high jump, shimmying down as low as he could go before using all the power his hind legs could generate and launched himself up in the air. At the peak of his ascension Bixby reached out and grabbed onto Lucy’s shirt, preventing himself from dropping. From here his light weight body proved little difference to the felines ability to hold onto the ledge. With his other paw Bixby reached through the broken glass and opened the latch holding the window shut.  

From there Bix dragged himself through the open window before grabbing onto the dangling feline outside and helping her through the small opening. 

Both mammals were out of breath, taking a few seconds to catch their breath on the higher tier walkway of the warehouse. 

“Holy shit we did it...” Lucy managed to squeak out as she massaged her paws to prevent them cramping up later.  

“Hell yeah!” Bixby wasn’t quite as out of breath as Lucy was but defiantly felt the strain in his legs. The hare crept over to the ledge of the walkway and peered down into the dimly lit warehouse.

The building was full of used wooden crates, as if the space was used exclusively as storage for the storage boxes themselves. There were hundreds of them, and the young lapin knew there would be plenty of evidence here to bring all the crooks to justice. Somewhere... in one of the many, many boxes... 

Lucy joined Bix in checking out the area, getting a good reading of the building, looking for escape points, defendable locations and possibly hidden weapons. 

“Check out the size if this place B, its huge” Lucy exclaimed as she finally got her bearings and breath back. 

After a few seconds had passed a voice could be heard from the depths of the building, followed by three other, quieter voices following suit. 

“DON’T TELL ME WHAT I CAN AND CANNOT DO WITH MY MONEY!” the larger voice shouted, almost roared as the distinct figure of a tiger emerged and settled in the opening at the centre of the warehouse, followed by what appeared to be 3 smaller canines, most likely jackals. 

“Bill calm down, it's yours to do with what you will just... if a tiger suddenly comes into a vast amount of money then alarm bells will ring, the fuzz will be onto you in a flash and I for one won't be going to prison!” one of the Jackals spoke up in open defiance to the much larger feline.

“After this has been fenced we are going our separate ways, ya hear?! I'm done with you three, been nothing but a pain in my tail since we started together!” Bill the tiger claimed, visibly enraged by the mere presence of the canines. 

“Whatever, the antique will fetch a cool mill all day long so you can have your split whenever you wish!” another of the Jackals bit back, just as annoyed by the situation as the feline was. 

Watching on from above the two rookie officers hadn’t noticed a small mammal creeping up behind them, lethal weapon drawn and ready to use it if the need arose.  

Bixby managed to pull himself away from the events below enough to hear the tiny footsteps coming from behind. His heart racing as he only had a second to get his pistol and react, Lucy still oblivious to the assailant behind. The Hare swiftly reached for his pistol but was intercepted by the mystery mammal who grabbed it just before he has the opportunity to even touch it. 

Lucy noticed this and instantly realised there was a gun pointed right at them. Both of the rookies knew they had messed up royally before a small voice broke the silence. “Who are you, and why are you here?” 

“Z-Z-ZPD, y-your under a-arrest!” Bixby couldn’t help but say the first thing that came to his head, a sentence he had been hoping to use for the first time under better and more favourable circumstances. 

“ZPD you say? Both of you? Ah you must be rookies” the voice said in a more upbeat tone than what was expected. Bixby homed in on this and slowly turned around whilst still on the floor. 

“No way...” Bixby recognized immediately who the mysterious gunmammal was. 

“Officer Judy Hopps, ZPD! Now, why are you in this warehouse?” Judy asked as she handed the hate’s pistol back to him. 

“I...I can’t believe it's you...It’s really you! You are my hero Miss Hopps!” Bixby said as Judy placed a finger on his lips to prevent giving away their location. 

Lucy let out a sigh when she realised the assailant was actually one of the ZPD’s finest... but... why was she here, never mind them. 

“Officer Hopps, why are you here? Are you here of a case?” Lucy asked, not knowing the bunny quite as well as Bixby obviously did and not wanting to cause tension between them and an experienced officer.  

“My partner and I have been tracking a burglar for a few days now, a tiger, he broke into a convenience store in Sahara square and made off with the cash register. I didn’t realise until just before you got here that he was a person of interest in another case” 

Lucy interjected just after the bunny had finished. “I'm sorry, your partner?” 

Just as Lucy asked her question, Hopps pointed down to the clearing below where the voices had become hushed. “We should get down there, he may need some help” Hopps said as she stood up and made her way to the small set of metal stairs leading to the ground below. 

The bank robbers in the meantime had gotten out a small antique vase from one of the various wooden containers and set it atop a table that had been placed out by one of the jackals. The gang had gathered around the table, still bickering between themselves as a second mysterious figure approached from behind one of the containers, unbeknownst to them. 

The small mammal, a red fox wielding a shotgun slid around the edge of the box and took aim at the criminals. 

“Okay fellas, everyone stand up and put your paws on your heads, this is the ZPD!” the fox demanded as the 4 thieves complied with the officers demands with exception on the tiger. 

“Well, Well, if it isn’t Nicholas Wilde! Didn’t know you had swapped sides. Tell me, would you drop that gun if we offered you a cut of the pie, so to speak?” Bill asked as the tiger slowly turned around, recognising Nick’s unmistakable voice anywhere. 

“No dice Bill, I figured you would be behind the robbery, just couldn’t stay clean, now could you?” Nick said as he moved in on the 4 mammals, moving to within a few feet of them. 

"What can I say, once a thief, always a thief... You should know that, ay Nicky?" The tiger spoke up as he lowered his paws down to his waist. 

"I said paws up!" Nick demanded. It was at this point that Judy, Bixby and Lucy had arrived to the flank of the fox, weapons drawn and pointed towards the gang. 

"Oh how cute, you brought backup, but I think you'll need something a little bigger than those pea shooters to bring me in" Bill approached the officers, showing that there was nothing in his paws and making no threatening movements. 

"Don't call my Rabbit cute!" Nick barked back at the feline, evidently hitting a nerve. 

"Your Rabbit? Aww Nicky I wouldn't have taken you for an Inter-species type" 

As the two mammals spoke, the 3 Jackals began to slowly spread out, unnoticed by the Officers. 

Outside of the building stood a lone Coyote, gun in paw trying to open the front door of the warehouse without drawing any attention to himself. To his surprise there was no guards by the door, unusual but expected. He slipped through the narrow crack and into the structure, moving around the boxes like a ninja, pistol at the ready. 

In just 30 seconds Alex had positioned himself right behind two of the Jackals, recognising one of their scents from the bank as the sneezer. He moved in close, holstered his 1911 and removed a dart from his belt with his right paw, readying the tranq gun in his other. When he felt the time was right he struck, stabbing the dart into the neck of one of the Jackals while at the same time firing another into the second. When both of the canines were out for the count he drew his lethal pistol and took aim at the third Jackal. 

"Alex!" Lucy shouted in surprise, not knowing the Coy was even in the building at the time, but also wondering where the fourth member of their team was.  

Playing on the sudden confusion of the situation, Bill grabbed the shotgun out of Nick’s paws and threw it to one side, lifting the fox with one arm and holding his claws to his throat. 

“NO!” Screamed Judy upon seeing her partner being held hostage, prompting her to take a few steps forward for a better shot on the perp. 

“Judy wait, think about this” Bixby grabbed her paw and brought her back to reality. “We need a plan...” 

“I have one... let the fox go and you get to live, sound good to you?” Alex spoke up with authority, knowing something that no one else in the building was in on. “My partner has a shot on you and will take it when I give the signal so last chance... Let the Officer go...” 

The tiger backed himself against a large storage crate to protect his flank. His eyes widening upon hearing this new piece of information, cementing the fact that he and the lone Jackal were heavily outgunned. His only play was his hostage. All exits were blocked by ZPD and this unknown 5th officer had a clear line of sight on him. He’s screwed... The feline began scanning the rafters looking for any signs of a mammal with a gun but no... nothing...  

“Last chance” Alex shouted at the tiger, his pistol steady and his nerves calm, he knew this would end one way or the other. 

“Fuck you...” Bill scoffed back at the officers. No later had he spouted his profanity when a single pane of glass in an upstairs window shattered and fell to the floor... along with the tiger. Bill had been shot in the shoulder which caused him to release his grip on Nick. Wilde scuttled across the floor to his weapon and trained it on the wounded tiger. 

Judy ran over to her partner who was no worse for wear, wrapping him in a hug, to hell with the case, her partner was more important. 

Lucy and Bixby holstered their weapons while Alex trained his on the tiger, the main threat. The feline and lapin cuffed the unconscious Jackals, then the third, finishing up with the tiger, needing larger cuffs.  

After a few minutes of everyone reaffirming themselves, the 5 officers had lined the suspects up against a large wooden box, awaiting the arrival of a ZPD Transport Vehicle. 

“Alex, who shot the tiger? W-was it the Ghost?“ Lucy asked, still confused by the situation but calmly reviewing the events in her head. 

“That would be me, Officer Benson” a stern voice coming from behind the feline shortly followed by a large paw rested upon her shoulder sending chills up her spine. Detective Howlett stood behind the rookie, holding his custom Arctic Warfare Longrifle. “Explain to me what the definition of ‘sit tight’ means to you exactly” 

“Sir, I'm sorry, I...” Lucy tried to defend herself but she knew her actions were clearly in the wrong. 

“It was me sir... I provoked her into infiltrating the warehouse before you arrived, to search the area for hidden threats, sir” Bixby spoke up, defending his team mate, knowing it was his actions to call into question not hers. Lucy was innocent. 

"Nobel, sticking up for your friends like that, admitting your mistakes. I'm not angry or disappointed, I just want you to think how this may have gone down if Alex didn't make it in time... If I wasn't a trained SWAT Sniper... If Officers Hopps and Wilde weren't here for back-up, do you understand?" 

The Wolf Began to break down his rifle into smaller, more manageable pieces to transport. "When the transport for these guys arrives, we should head back to the station. No doubt there will be a mountain of paperwork for all involved. Ha paperwork... Welcome to the Police Department! Get used to it!" Jay let out a very vocal laugh, realising the Rookies were painfully unaware of the mountains of paper awaiting them back at Precinct 1.  

All 3 rooks let out a sigh, wishing that the tiger had a chance to shoot them instead. Their first case on the ZPD, a Bank robbery involving 4 mammals solved in just a few hours and a chance meeting with 2 of the ZPD's more famous names. An eventful day indeed. But the day was not finished for one mammal in particular. For him it was about to get much more interesting. 

--- 11:00pm, June 30th ---------- 

The night was still, just a few street lights illuminated the huge mansion owned and maintained by the Big Family for many generations. Outside were 4 guards, a step up from the usual 2 due to the new uninvited guest in the city, Ghost. These 4 polar bear guard had been on duty since 9am that same morning and thus weren’t quite as alert as they should have been, protecting one of the biggest (no pun intended) names in the criminal underworld. 11pm was the perfect time to strike as the changing of the guards was due to take place any second now. 

Just outside of the property lurked a shadow in the treeline opposite the main gates. This shadow was clad entirely in black to hide in the darkness, his realm. His mask’s eyes normally glowing with a red hue were dim, masking his presence further. No weapons tonight, he was going in naked, so to speak. “Just a few words” he thought to himself, “Just words...” 

When the coast was clear, Charon emerged from the treeline, staying low to the ground, and made his way over to the eastern wall, just a few feet from the gate. This time there were 8 guards standing by the small opening just big enough for a car to get through, this however did not faze him, not one bit. The guard chatted amongst themselves for a few minutes before half of them made their way back into the mansion ground, presumably to their checking out point to clock out and head home to their families. Charon slowly slid around the corner just as the 4 guards had their backs turned in the opposing direction, allowing him to slip past them and onto the property, still sticking to the shadows like a moth to flame.  

Breaking into the building itself was a piece of cake to a master of infiltration such as himself. Charon took pride in his previous life of crime, his signature ability was his skill of breaking into places most would have thought impenetrable. And for an assassin of his calibre the Big Mansion was like breaking into a corner store, Childs play.  

11pm, right now Fru Fru Big would be in her private office, reviewing the days business dealings, making sure money hadn’t gone missing and in the process counting up payment for her staff that helped maintain the mansion all these years. Mrs Big had inherited the family business and the mansion after the passing of her father, Mr Big. Since then Fru had tried to convert her family’s business in the criminal underworld into a more sustainable and legal alternative in the property development and construction industry. Her work with the city created countless new jobs for Zootopia and helped re-establish the city as a dominant force in the global economy, gaining construction contracts in a number of other cities.  

In just a few minutes Charon had traversed the central staircase and slipped past a number of guards unnoticed until he found himself outside of Fru’s private office. The killer knew the mansions layout like the back of his paw, having done a few...contracts... for Mr Big himself. The office contained a large majority of business documents and cash so it was well defended against common intruders, if only Charon was common. The main door into the room was blocked by large wooden doors with a blast resistant core inside them, the lock was a key code entry system and opened with pneumatic hinges. 

“Oh Mr Big I sure hope you haven’t changed your ways” Charon muttered to himself as he typed 20140525 into the key pad next to the huge doors, crossing his fingers as he pressed enter. The pad flashed green and the doors unlocked themselves followed soon after by the hinges pulling the doors open. “Thank you, old friend” he thought to himself as the doors opened fully and the mammal stepped inside. 

The room was decorated beautifully in old fashioned mahogany furniture, obviously passed down through generations of the family. A portrait of the late, great Mr Big was hanging prominently above the fireplace almost as if he was staring at everyone who entered the room. This room however was not the office but rather a sort of reception room before you entered the main office, separated by a large door that a polar bear would have no problem getting through. 

Charon approached the door with apprehension, peeking through the glass to find Fru Fru sitting at a desk, on top of another desk designed for a larger mammal as she was sifting through an endless pile of paperwork. He switched the lights of his mask back on and slowly, carefully he turned the door knob and slid open the door. 

Fru was too busy buried deep in the pages to notice the mammal enter the door and close the door behind himself. He briskly walked over to the desk, knowing full well she had no idea he was even there.  

“My my, Miss Fru Fru Big, time has been on your side I see” Charon said in the loudest voice he could muster without alerting the guards, much to the shrew's surprise. 

Mrs Big screamed at the top of her lungs as the papers went flying across the desk. She stumbled back before diving for her desk and retrieving a small, mouse sized blade from the second drawer down and pointed it towards the intruder. “NOT ANOTHER STEP!” she shouted, a cold chill running down her spine as she finally got a chance to look at her intruder more carefully. The skull mask with glowing red eyes and the cloak that must have been stolen from the reaper itself, all of it was designed to generate the maximum amount of fear in a target. However, she was no target. 

“Relax, milady, you probably don't remember me. It has been a number of years after all” Charon reassured the small mammal as he raised his paws in the air to show no weapons.  

The shrew calmed down a little but maintained a grip on the knife. “Oh, I know exactly who you are, I know you and my father were good friends and I know you have killed more mammals than the war itself! What are you doing in my house?”  

“To be blunt Miss Big, I have come to ask 2 favours of you, if you see fit to allow it” Charon said as he slowly lowered his arms in a show of submission, he knew whose house he was in and didn’t want any trouble. Despite being unarmed however he would still be a match for her bear guards.  

Fru became less defensive, lowering her knife but still maintaining a firm grasp on it, should the need for it arise. “What do you mean favours?” 

Charon pulled up a chair to the desk and asked “May I sit?” to which the small mammal nodded. The killer took a seat just a foot away from her.  

“Charon, what could I have that you possibly need?” Fru asked as she too took a seat at her desk. 

“First off, I've come to pay my respects to your father, he was a dear friend” Charon said as he lowered his head in respect to his departed friend. “He helped me out of a great many sticky situations” 

“He used to tell me stories of your accomplishments, how you could get to anyone no matter the situation, how no one was safe if you had their contract. To me you were just a legend. To him you were a scary story” Fru said as she picked up a small portrait of her father that had fallen from her desk as she was startled.  

“We were good friends, truly” Charon spoke as he looked at the small portrait of Mr Big sitting proudly upon the mouse-sized work space. 

“Charon, can you do something for me first? Please, if you truly have respect for my father, for me and for my family... remove your mask when you speak to me” Fru made her demand, unsure of how the notorious criminal would react to such a personal request, regardless of family history. 

This request took the normally calm Charon by surprise. Many had asked him to remove his mask but very few got the privilege of him honouring their request. Mrs Big on the other paw was an exception. He let down the hood of his cloak, revealing his ears and fur colour before unclipping the straps on the back of his mask. The ballistic mask was easily removed and placed on the table, the glowing red eyes staring right at Mrs Big. 

“Oh...I wasn’t expecting...” Fru started but couldn’t finish her thought before Charon cut in. 

“Expecting what? That I wasn’t hideously deformed? That I'm not some kind of monster? Not many do. Because of who you are I feel I can trust you with my face, can I trust you?” 

Mrs Big stared at Charon’s face for a good few seconds before firmly saying “Of course you can trust me, I keep my word”. At this point the knife had completely disappeared from the small mammal's paw, feeling completely at ease being in Charon’s presence. 

“Thank you Miss Big, you are a kind heart and a true friend” Charon replied, a comforting smile appearing on his muzzle. 

“Please, it’s Mrs now, I have a family to provide for. Now, about those 2 favours you mentioned before” Fru corrected him before asking, still wondering how she can help. 

“Actually its... more of a favour and a half” Charon said with a smirk, knowing exactly what he wanted. “A year ago, I left something here with your father for safe keeping, asked if he could keep it in his vault. I need it back” 

“I haven’t been in that vault since he passed away, most likely whatever it is, it's probably still in there. And what is the second favour?” Fru asked curiously. 

“My second favour... if any of your mammals have a run in or know the whereabouts of the Ghost, I need you to contact me immediately, please. It is very important.”  

Fru listened to the mammal's request and thought it over, an easy decision to make. “Of course, that will not be a problem... but... I may need you to do something for me... call it an apology for breaking into my home unannounced.” 

Charon leaned back in his chair, knowing something like this could happen and hoping that the request wasn’t something that put his new ideals in peril. “And what would that be, Milady” 

“I need you to kill someone for me...” 

Charon hung his head, he knew his particular service would be called upon. “Oh, Fru Fru, please don’t ask this of me” 

“Charon please hear me out. This... vile mammal is responsible for a number of disappearances, drug trafficking, mammal trafficking and other illicit activities. The police know about him but can do nothing...please” Mrs Big pleaded with Charon.

The masked mammal rose from his seat and walked to a window overlooking the garden. Even in the dead of night the Big Estate’s garden was a thing of beauty. A multitude of species brightening up the surrounding space, making the mansions grounds one of Zootopia’s best kept secrets. Charon could smell the sultry scents of the flowers even from behind the glass, mixed perfectly with the rich scents of the hard wood furniture. A moment of peace, tranquility for the cautious mammal. But only a moment. 

“378...” Charon sighed, his breath steaming up the window, leaning against the window sill contemplating the number... 378... 

“I beg your pardon?” Fru knew she had hit a nerve of some kind. Fearful that her request may have taken it a touch too far but remained adamant in her convictions. 

Charon raised his head and looked at the shrew in the window’s reflection. “I have been trying to turn my life around... to seek redemption for my past. For over a year now I have been trying to fit into society, to make the most of my skills for the greater good... and so far, I have managed to drown my demons, but some remain.” Charon took a deep breath and turned to face the smaller mammal with tears streaming down his face. A genuine look of guilt etched into his expression as he reminisced of his history. Fearing for the future. “I guess what I mean to say is... Hi, my name is Charon, and I am an addict... It’s been 378 days since I last took someone’s life and it looks like that will be coming to a close.” 

Fru looked mortified. This admission from the legendary assassin chilled her to the bone. “I'm sorry, truly I am, but if I had any other means of cleaning up this city... I need your help...” 

“I understand, the city will be rid of this plague, just give me time.” Charon approached the table once more, clearing the tears from his eyes and cheek and took a deep breath to catch his bearings once more. “I’m a little rusty so can you give me a month, maybe two?” 

The shrew nodded. “So be it, and thank you” she said as she held out her family ring. 

Without a second thought Charon bent down and gently kissed the outstretched paw of Mrs Big while grabbing his mask on the far side of the desk. The second deal was complete, all but guaranteeing zero interference from the criminal underworld or the ZPD. Only one group was left that needed convincing. One group that had him more on edge than anything he had ever come up against. He had to convince the hellhound of the APD to help him bring down the Ghost. No mean feat... 

“I wish I could stay and chat but I have some things I must attend do milady, I bid you farewell and goodnight”. Charon slipped his mask over his head and made for the exit, his tail visibly swishing side to side underneath his cloak. He paused at the door, his tail drooping downwards, hesitating opening the door, knowing what comes next. 

"Charon..." Shouted Mrs Big after the larger mammal just before he leaves the office and out of ear shot. "What's your name?... how will we contact you?..." 

The Killer took a few seconds to think about his answer, wondering just how much he could trust the daughter of his former best ally. 

"My name...." He said as he turned to face her, partially removing his mask and staring deep into her soul with his shining, golden eyes, brandishing a very devil-like grin on his muzzle. 

"My name is-…"

Chapter Text

--- 3:14am, June 30th, Precinct 1 ---------- 

"Ughhh, kill me now!" Bixby slammed his forehead down onto the desk in front of him as the mountain of paperwork kept piling up before him. Apparently, there is a lot of legal documentation involved when one mammals case becomes directly involved with another individual's case. Because Team Howlett and Officers Wilde and Hopps both met abruptly while investigating essentially the same criminal then each member had to file their own paperwork on the matter. 

Judy and Nick were well versed by now in how to handle these matters, having their work finished well over 3 hours ago. That included the interrogation of one Mr Bill Clause, master criminal of the grocery store variety, not so much in the bank robbery variety. 

Thankfully for the Team they didn't need to go through the motions of interrogation as the evidence was enough to convict all 4 members of the gang. Although this was the first incident report any of them, bar Howlett, ever had to write so for hours, Bixby, Hunter and Benson were left scratching their heads on the proper procedure in filing the case. 

"I've been done for about 20 minutes now, feels great to be free from that chair!" Lucy claimed as she sat atop Alex's desk eating an apple and playfully flicking stationary at him to distract the young canine. 

"Would you quit it... trying to finish up this statement so we can go home..." Alex was understandably a little peeved, Howlett had finished his work hours before and decided to head home for some 'quality time' with his wife, leaving the rookies to fend for themselves. 

"Finished!!!" Bixby shouted as his voice echoed around the room and down the corridor, alerting a certain Buffalo who just so happened to be walking around the station for a little exercise. 

"What are you three still doing here? It's 2 in the morning!" Bogo shouted as he peeked his head around the door frame, a little bleary eyed himself. 

"Chief? I didn't know you were still here... were just finishing up out statements then heading home" Benson replied as she let out a yawn and stretched over Alex's desk, further annoying the Coy. 

"Lucy..." Was just about all Alex could say as he focused nearly exclusively on his last sentence, making sure there was no mistakes as he didn't plan on rewriting any of it. 

"My apologies" she said as she lifted herself off his notes. 

Bogo grunted and simply walked away without any further acknowledgment, Much to the rookie's relief. 

"Finally done, now we can go home!" Alex said as he raised himself from his seat and began to put his waistcoat back on. Alex's dress sense was actually something of a turn on for the young Lynx who watched him slip the coat on and neatly fix his tie under it. Lucy really appreciated a well-dressed mammal. 

From their Precinct to the apartment was only a 15-minute walk, made even quicker with the little amount of traffic on the roads. The night was cool, a slight breeze coming from the water to the south-west and not a single could in the night skies. Perfect night for a walk. 

It had not taken the trio long to stumble their way into the complex in their sleep-deprived state. The prospect of a warm, cozy bed and someone to cuddle up to was a strong motivation for Bixby, and to an extent Alex and Lucy also. By the time Lucy had locked the front door behind her Bixby and Alex had already made their way to the bedrooms. 

"Sure... leave me to lock up why don't ya..." Lucy mumbled, placing the keys in a bowl by the door. She then went over to the kitchen area and retrieved a bottle of water from the fridge, cracking open the cap and taking a few gulps from it. However, something was off... she couldn't place what it was but there was something wrong, as if someone had been in the apartment... or still is. 

Without hesitation she finished the water bottle, placed it back onto the counter-top and retrieved her pistol from its holster. "Who is there?" She asked loud enough for anyone in the immediate area to hear but unfortunately not loud enough to travel to the rooms. "Show yourself!" 

Upon hearing the words 'show yourself', a dark figure raced towards the young officer, startling her and causing her to pull the trigger in its general direction. There however was no bang, no flash, and no bullet traveling down range. The figure had managed to slip a knife between the firing pin and the hammer of the pistol before it was discharged. 

"Shhh, we can't be waking the others now can we..." A voice said, an unfamiliar voice to the Lynx but something oddly soothing about its delivery, despite its message. "I just want to convey a message, one I am hoping you can deliver to Detective Howlett under more..." He looked down at the pistol, "...Suitable circumstances" 

"Who are you and what do you want" Lucy asked, trying to find the best way to deal with the situation but however she thought about it, it was always her that would end up injured. she needed the knife away from her gun. 

"My name is Charon, you may know me as a criminal but right now I have come with an offer of friendship, to you and your team mates. As you could probably tell I'm not exactly in Jay's good books, hence why I have come to you with this message. He may try to shoot me...". Charon removed his knife and with a great amount of skill, stemming from years of close quarters fighting, he removed the magazine from her pistol and emptied the chamber of its single round before setting them on the bench beside her. "Friendly... truce?" 

"Fine, what is the message?" She said, arms folded with her gun still in paw. 

"Simple, both mine and Jay's paths have aligned. He wants to rid the world of the Ghost... as do I. I propose a mutual understanding, at least until the world it rid of this menace... and any associates he may have." 

"You're not asking much... just a wanted criminal and the top detective from Animalia working side by side.... is that all?" Lucy asked with a hint of sarcasm in her voice. 

"No I think that’s... oh no wait, one more thing... tell him to not pursue me, it'll end badly for him" Charon threatened. "You have a nice evening now!" he said as he turned towards the front door, took the keys and unlocked the door. 

By this time Lucy had managed to slip the single bullet into the chamber and point it at Charon's back, from this distance it would certainly hit its mark. "Give me a reason not to pull this trigger" she asked. 

Charon froze briefly before turning to the Lynx, his glowing red eyes intimidating but not scaring her. "Because Ghost is one deadly little bunny, he will not hesitate to plant a bullet between your eyes if he knows that you are onto him... and I don't want that..." He said, somewhat mournfully. "Oh, and I'm bullet-proof, you are not" he said as he exited, closing the door slowly and lightly behind him. 

Lucy rushed over to the door, gun at the ready while she slowly opened it again. She knew exactly what to expect when peeking out and down the corridor, just as she though, he was gone, not a single trace of him ever being here. 

She admitted defeat and retreated back into the residence and locked the door behind her. The Lynx’s heart was racing , a million questions raging through her mind like a wildfire, she couldn’t focus on anything else at that time but the stern warning about the Ghost and the offer of an alliance. Probably the only option the team has if they stand a chance against a hardened assassin. Fight fire with fire. 

After a few minutes slumped in the hallway against the front door, battling her thoughts she heard a familiar and comforting voice coming from the kitchen. 

“Lucy? You coming to bed or what?” It was Alex’s voice. The only voice right now that she could take comfort in. The only voice that mattered. “Come on its way past your bedtime kitten!” he whispered jokingly in her direction. 

Lucy picked herself up off the floor, put on a brave face and proceeded towards Alex’s room. “Coming, Coming... geez your so needy” she joked, trying to play off what had just happened. Not wanting to talk about it, at least not till the morning when she could convey the message to Howlett. 

“Oh im needy am I? I do recall you wanted to sleep in next to me!” he jested back to the Lynx as she passed him in the hallway and into his bedroom, stripping down to her underwear and proceeded to steal one of his shirts as nightwear. 

“Yes, you are needy, and yes, so am I... and right now I needy a cuddle so, let's get crackin!” Lu said playfully as she clambered into bed all the while motioning him with just a finger. 

“Yes mam!” he replied stripping down to his underwear and climbing into the double bed beside her, maintaining a little distance... just in case... 

--- 10:00am, July 1st, War’s Warehouse ---------- 

The peak of Zootopian summertime. The first day if July, where temperatures reached high 90s and most mammals with a spot of free time headed right for the beaches. Those without backyard pools that is. The children of the vast city excited that school was out for 2 months. 2 months for them to explore, play games outside with their friends or for some to help their parents with odd jobs that required attention.  

For others it was the start of their holidays, some jetting off to distant lands or perhaps just a few cities or states over to visit family. Niki in particular loved the summer months, he loved working outside in the warm summer air, loved venturing into the city albeit for nefarious activities but nonetheless.  

Addison preferred Winter however, he would much rather have it too cold than too warm. If its too cold, simply put on some extra layers... if its too warm however there was no helping it, short of shaving himself bald. This opposition was practically the only thing that the two lovers would ever come to blows about. Their favourite seasons wouldn’t exactly be much of an argument in the grand scheme of things. 

One mammal in the ‘employment’ of War was fond of the summer months just as much as he loved the snow. Ghost was laying on top of the vast warehouse, soaking up the heat of the sun as the hustle and bustle of the jackal workforce could be heard below. The rabbit was naked from the waist up, resting upon his thin ballistic vest to prevent his back from getting burnt on the hot corrugated iron roofing. His suppressed pistol resting beside him for quick access if needed and most unusual of all, his mask was removed. The mostly solitary and particularly paranoid mammal felt at ease on warm summer days where he would find a spot where he could be himself. Out of view of prying eyes where he could remove his mask without compromising his identity. The roof was the perfect place. This particular spot was obstructed from the ground and sides, only those who knew he was there, such as Niki and Addison, would be able to find him. Ghost's spot had however a terrific view of downtown Zootopia, the massive tower blocks in the business district glistening in the sunlight.

The day was perfect. The sun beat down hard on the city. Not a single cloud in sight. Perfect. 

"Niki, don't go up there!" Addison and Niki had essentially become Ghost's personal assistants, confidants and to an extent... friends. Or at least Ghost wanted to make friends with them. 

"Oh Addy, don't be a wuss" The Jackal said as he climbed a small ladder leading to a skylight, the only entrance to the roof. He peeked over the edge, not getting a particularly good view on the rabbit's face but rather the underside of his boots. Deciding to get a better view, and hoping not to get caught out, he ventured further up the ladder, until his entire head and upper body was visible from the rooftop. 

The rabbit heard this and promptly grabbed his mask and pistol, placing his disguise over his face without fastening it to his head and pointed the 9mm square at Niki's forehead. Ghost's brilliant blue eyes fixated on the stunned Jackal with a similar feeling washing over the canine's body as the previous day when he was held at gun point. 

Speechless, the young canine let go of the ladder to raise his paws in the air, surrendering to the rabbit. In doing this however he inadvertently lost his footing on the ladder and began to tumble backwards. Luckily his mate followed him up the ladder and managed to catch him before he could do some real damage. 

"Augh, Niki get your fat ass up there, I can't hold you all day!" Addy shouted from below, with Niki's ass pressed up against his face... not that he was complaining... not really... and with a gentle push Niki got his footing back and ascended to the roof, closely followed by Addison. 

Ghost, his pistol still trained on the couple, glared at them with discontent. The young arctic rabbit had kept his identity secret for many years, silencing anyone who had seen his face. These actions however created a loneliness within him, unable to connect with others, distancing himself from everyone, eventually leading to a form of paranoia that all but consumed him.  

His only way of dealing with it was to shut everything out, focus on the mission, no friends or relationships. Unfortunately, this lifestyle was taking its toll on him and he longed for someone to talk to, someone to connect with, someone to befriend. Ghost was hoping that taking on Addison and Niki he would be able to fill the void, that he could finally make some friends. 

Although he was only in his mid-twenties, the assassin gained quite the reputation for completing exceptionally difficult contracts. His preferred method of killing, if you hadn't guessed, was long range. He only felt comfortable on a job if the target was far enough away that they could be killed without even hearing the shot. Far enough that any security or hidden threats wouldn't have any time to react as the bullet flew through the air and hit its mark, each and every time. Ghost was classified as the deadliest, most effective long-distance shooter on the planet. Rarely did he ever have to take a second shot on a target, even to judge distance. The rabbit had fired his custom R700 enough times to know the kick back intimately, to know the flight time of the bullet accurately and to gauge the distance perfectly. One shot on anyone was all the rabbit needed. 
And from just 20 feet away, Niki was about to find out just how deadly his accuracy was... or so he thought...  

Ghost lowered his pistol and motioned with it to join him on the roof. By this time Niki had clambered onto the edge of the roof, just beside the opening for the skylight with Addy following just behind. the pair looked at each other with a hint of fear in their eyes. This lapin was unpredictable, one minute he could be holding you at gunpoint and the next he could be staring at you complacently as if waiting for his orders. 

Not wanting to anger him, the jackals slowly made their way over to him, paws raised to show no sign of threat to the smaller mammal. Within just a few seconds they had closed the distance and were standing in front of the half nude rabbit, Niki blushing a little. 

"I-Is everything okay s-sir?" He muttered, scared of his own words as if he was speaking out of place.  

Ghost placed his pistol on the roof beside him and patted the metal next to him as if to say sit down. It was time he made some friends. Time to do something that went against what his instincts were telling him. He lowered his mask and set it on the roof just beside his gun. The arctic rabbit was, for want of a better description, unremarkable. His fur was brilliant white as was typical with his breed, with no discernible markings on his face or ears. His nose however was more reminiscent of a hare, larger and more pronounced on his face than a rabbit would be. His perfect crystal blue eyes were a focal point for the mammal, not many having such strikingly powerful colours. 

One feature that would set him apart from any other arctic rabbit would be a large, long scar that stretched from his upper lip on the left side, running down his mouth and continuing on down his neck. From the end of the scar was yet another, even more gruesome looking wound. It was understandable now why the small mammal couldn't speak, his throat at one point in his past had been cut... cut being the mild term... in truth it looked more like someone had tried to remove his head. The rest of his body was covered in other wounds, a kind of connect the dots of past injuries ranging from scrapes to knife wounds and bullet holes. This rabbit, for being so young had seen his fair share of violent chapters. 

The jackals were stunned. Hearing all the tales of the infamous Ghost, that the lapin never removed his mask for anyone, that no one knew his identity nor anything else about him. They felt honoured. 
He took out his small notepad and pen from his combat pants and began to write in it. When finished he handed it to Addison and pointed to it, wanting his to read out oud for Niki to hear also. 

"My name is Ghost, pleased to meet you... What the hell? We already know who you are, what is this?" Addison asked, a hint of confusion and anger in his voice. Upon finishing his reading of the note, he was offered another. "I would like to start fresh" 

"Aww Addy, he wants to make peace! Hello, my name is Nikola and this is my mate, Addison! Do we just call you ghost?" Niki said, to which Ghost nodded and began to write some more. Giddy with anticipation Niki was eagerly awaiting Ghost's next note. "Ohhh Addy, the bunny is opening up! I bet he has all kinds of neat stories to tell!" 

"Yeah can't wait..." Addison said with annoyance. Ghost picked up on this and before handing over another note he wrote a little side note on the paper especially for Addy and handed it to Niki.

"Problems trusting people, no friends, want to make new start, want to apologise to you and Addy for my actions. P.s. Addison I'm sorry to you in particular, I did not mean to be so rude, it's how I cope" Niki read out, a little confused by 'cope'. "What exactly do you mean by cope? If i may ask? 

Ghost began once again to write in his notepad, this time take a little longer than usual, making sure to get every detail of how he wanted his words to come across correct. He passed it once more to Niki. 

"Cope with other mammals, to block them out. Last time I trusted someone intimately, she slit my throat with her own claws. My own mate tried to murder me... Oh Ghost... I'm so sorry, if you want to change the subject, lets" Niki asked, trying to comprehend how someone could do that to their one true love. 

This revelation tugged on Addison's heart strings. He may be cold on the outside but deep down he didn't really have a grudge against the lapin. Being dropped by him the previous day and held at gunpoint mildly annoyed him but otherwise he knew that the Ghost was in a similar situation than he and Niki were in. Forced to do unspeakable things, not being treated like equals and being isolated from everyone else. "Ghost... may I ask something?" 

The rabbit turned to face Addy, their eyes locked in an intense stare-off.  

"What does War have on you that makes you his puppet?" Addison asked with a slight hesitation, unsure of if it was his place to ask or not. War would usually have others outside of his jackal subordinates that completed various other odds and ends for him, most of them being forced to usually through blackmail or threat of violence. Violence however could be ruled out in Ghost's case, Addy being all but sure that Ghost could take him in a battle. 

Ghost hesitated, briefly looking towards the city and taking a deep breath before clicking his pen and beginning to note down his thoughts. When completed he passed the paper to Addy who proceeded to read its contents to himself at first. 

"Uhu... so... Master War knows your real name? I understand how to an assassin that could be a major problem but I don’t understand how that would be significant enough for you not to take a shot at him from a long way off..." 

"Addison... War sent that Wolf 'Abernine' to bunny burrow 2 weeks ago... remember? It stands to reason that if he knows Ghost's name then he knows his family..." Niki spoke up with concern in his voice. Concern for the young rabbit who at this point had risen to his feet and began to slip his mask back on, gun in paw and looking towards the skylight. "Huh? What's wrong?" 

"Well, it didn't take you very long to piece that one together now did it?... and here I always thought you were a little touched in the head!" An unknown voice said, the voice coming from the skylight coupled with the faint clicking of claws ascending the metal ladder to the roof. When the mystery mammal revealed himself, he was met with the barrel of Ghost's 9mm pointed his direction.

"Woooow big guy, I'm just here to deliver a message. Wouldn't want to shoot the messenger, so to speak hahaha". This new Jackal on the rooftop revealed with a wicked grin upon his muzzle. The pupils of his golden coloured eyes were small, crazed in appearance. He was tall for a jackal, well rounded and muscular. His clothes were dark and old, as if he only had the one set comprised of navy jeans, a black jacket, and hiking boots. The overall appearance of him was that of a mental patient, deranged and psychotic. For that he was. 

"Cerberus... fuck do you want?" Niki spat at the other Jackal as he approached. Addison positioned himself in front of his mate to protect him from anything... unexpected. 

"Relax, pillow-biter, I'm not here for you... just a little job War wants his token bunny to do for him, it's your specialty after all isn't it?" Cerberus laughed as he pushed his way past Addison, knocking him to the ground and stood in front of Niki with a disgusted look on his face as he stared at the younger, smaller mammal before him. "Yaknow, I have no idea why War bought you. You are tiny, weak, dumb and fit for fuck all... you disgust me" 

Niki had heard all of these insults before. Being on of War's personal assistants didn't affect how the other jackals seen his and Addison's relationship. Most found it unusual and unnatural. Cerberus' words hurt, but it was pretty tame compared to other times... 

Ghost had heard enough and forced his way between the two Jackals to separate them, holstering his pistol and snatching at the letter in Cerberus' paw. 

"Fine, whatever, hope you fags enjoy your party up here, I'm out!" Cerberus said as he turned towards the skylight, flicking Addison on the forehead on his way past. 

Niki let out a suppressed sigh, his pent-up anger boiling down to a simple exhale. He knew that he couldn't touch that asshole in any way because he was War's favourite. That jackal was essentially untouchable. "I'm sorry you had to see that. He's had it out for us for years..." 

Ghost helped Addison to his feet and gave an 'Okay' symbol using his paw. 

"Yeah, I'm fine, Niki?" Addy said as he walked over to his mate to inspect him for injury. 

Niki was just inches away from bursting into tears himself but held strong for Addy's sake. "W-what does the note say?" 

Ghost opened the envelope and read its contents to himself, skimming over its words carefully before folding the page back up and slipping it back where it came. 

"Is there a problem?" Addison asked carefully, grabbing onto Niki's paw for additional support. 

The ghost didn't reply. He simply looked up at the two jackals, his cold, crystal eyes staring aimlessly at them. There was hint of a slight tremble in his paw, as if something had got his heart racing, something got him excited for a job. At last, a chance to prove his worth, his skills. A true test of his murderous capabilities. A chance to prove he was indeed Death.

Chapter Text

--- 11:45am, July 1st, Howlett Residence ---------- 

“He was in our home and you DIDN’T SHOOT HIM?!” Understandably Howlett was pissed, having a serial killer in his home, just feet away from his mate and threatening both him and his team merely with his presence was enough to set his emotions in a spin.  

The team was sitting around the table in the dining area of the complex, discussing the events of the previous night with Lucy at the helm. The feline had explained all that transpired when everyone else was in their rooms, right down to the finest of details. A particular skill that she took pride in was her ability to think under pressure such as that. 

“Initially I was ready to drop him but... the more he talked... the more I.. I believed him” she said. Lucy hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, as to be expected after coming face to face with an assassin. “Sir, believe me I don’t want to work with him but... I think he could be useful.” 

Jay slammed his fists down on the table, the bowls of cereal and cutlery jumping a few inches from the table top. “I DON’T GIVE A DAMN IF HE WANTS TO, NOT HAPPENING!”  

“Hun, calm down... we will figure this out as a team” Atreyu butted in, stroking the Wolf’s paw to ease his heightened emotions. “It didn’t seem like he meant us any harm right?” 

“I suppose so but still... he is a murderer” the wolf said in a calmer voice. Ru’s words have a soothing effect on her mate. 

“Mrs Benson is correct, from what I've heard Charon seems willing to come to an agreement and from my knowledge of the Ghost... he may be of service to us” Tristan emerged from Bixby’s room dressed in his best suit, dark navy in colour with a black tie. 

“Well don’t you look handsome!” Bixby immediately spoke up, his heart aflutter at the well dressed coyote, even more spiffing than Alex. 

“Shh babe, I know it” Tristan winked at the Hare, sending shivers up the Hare’s spine and dirty thoughts rushing through his head. “Now, Detective Howlett if I may interject, I myself have had dealings with individuals in my career that have been associated with Charon, if you would have me I may be helpful to your investigation.” 

“And what exactly do you mean dealings?” the wolf asked. He knew that Tristan was working in Animalia around the same time as himself but their paths never crossed. 

“Well you see, back in Animalia I was a criminal prosecutor for the city. There have been a few occasions that the name has came up during a case. Mostly psychopaths trying to pin the blame on another well known killer just because a knife wound vaguely looked similar. I haven’t exactly built up a case against Charon but I know enough about him to be useful based on third party accounts. Lucy darling, I believe you have written down all that transpired between the both of you this morning, may I have a look at your notes?” 

“Hmm? Ohh of course!” the Lynx was a little set back from Tristan’s grasp on the English language, how he embellished his words, choosing them carefully. She knew he was well educated, not dissimilar to Alex. When she woke up this morning she immediately wrote down their conversation, word for word, carefully detailing his actions along with any peculiarities in his mannerisms. Lucy passed her notes on Charon over to Tristan, watching anxiously as the taller Coyote ran his claw along the lines of the paper, taking note of every detail. 

“And this is 100% accurate yes?” he asked as he looked up from behind the pages. Lucy hadn’t noticed the canine had slipped on a small pair of reading glasses that perfectly framed his glowing golden-hazel eyes. 

“Yes, sir” she said, the sir part accidentally slipping out as if she was speaking to a superior.

“Heh, sir... Okay my dear, there are a few things that seem a little odd in my personal opinion, i will highlight them in red pen if you wish?” Tristan reached into his satchel that was hung around another one of the dining room table chairs and grabbed a few highlighters and a red marker. 

“Sure, what have you got?” Lucy asked inquisitively.  

“First off, you are all rookie officers, with the exception of Howlett of course, and thus aren’t on the system yet... so how did he know about this apartment? He couldn’t have followed you as he was already here and waiting and Detective Howlett would have made sure to keep the location of this place off the books so again, he is resourceful. On that same page we can rest assured that we are completely safe, if he knows where we live then he could kill us all in our sleep, as he hasn’t done that then its reasonable to assume this partnership is legit.” 

Jenson spat at the prospect of a team up, despite it being the logical choice. “This is ridiculous. He is a killer, we should be out chasing him not entertaining the thought of recruiting him!” Understandably Howlett was annoyed. This killer was within feet of not only him but the one thing in the world he cares for, Atreyu. “No, I wont work with that bastard...” 

“You may not have the choice, Detective...” Tristan said as he continued to outline certain phrases and mannerisms in red marker. “Another thing that stood out is when he said ‘associates’... the Ghost exclusively works alone. A study conducted on the Ghost revealed that he most likely has deep rooted paranoia, there is no way he would willingly be working with someone else. And further more Ghost has been around for a number of years, as has Charon... so why all of a sudden is Charon gunning for the rabbit? It doesn’t make much sense” 

All members of the party gathered around the table shrugged their shoulders in unison. Tristan’s theories proved sound, it didn’t make much sense for Charon to be in Zootopia, never mind trying to complete a contract hit on another assassin.  

Tristan stopped in the middle of outlining a point. “Bixby what do you make of this?” he said as he slid the final page over to his mate. 

The hare studied the phrase for a few seconds, taking note of various points and possible subliminal messages. 

“I...I think I know what your getting at hun...” Bixby said, looking across the table at his mate. “It makes sense in a way, but it's an out-there theory...” 

“Lucy dear, how many of your romantic partners currently reside within the city? And have you been keeping in contact with any of them as of late?” Tristan asked the feline, much to her surprise. 

Lucy’s romantic life seems to be the subject of conversation a lot lately, between having feelings for Alex and now this... 

“What exactly does that have to do with this Charon character?” she asked, a little hot under the collar, not expecting to bring up her sexual history. 

“I merely ask as there is a possibility that one of your previous partners may have some information that could help in the investigation... at the end of your conversation he said he doesn’t want to see you killed... in one aspect that implies that he has a personal connection to you. Most likely not the case however we cannot rule out the possibility that Charon could be a former lover of yours, it explains why he talked to you personally and not Alex or Bixby or even Mrs Akri...” 

“Tris, please, call me Ru” 

“Sorry ma’am..er... Ru. Anyway, would you mind providing the names and have the Detective run a background check on them, maybe a follow up interview on their location this morning?” Tristan asked as he stood from the table and grabbed his satchel. 

“Uh... sure i guess, if it helps” Lucy reached for a pen and some paper but before she could write anything down the loud and obnoxious sound of Howlett’s phone kicked into life. 

The wolf noticed the caller ID of Chief Bogo and answered immediately. “Yes sir?... we are at home discussing the case... yes sir... no... no that's... that's impossible... we will be right there...” and with a click Jay shut off his phone. 

All ears were pointed in the wolfs direction. Something was amiss, from what little the team actually knew of the detective there was one thing that stood out. The wolf rarely stumbled with his words. Whatever the Chief told him, they all knew that it was going to be a long day. 

Bixby was the first to break the silence. “Jay? What’s up?” 

Howlett was getting more furious by the second. “That bastard Rabbit... that... fuck!” 

“Sir please calm down and tell us, we can’t help, we can’t be a team if you keep us in the dark...” Lucy chimed in, at this stage very concerned for the team’s leader. 

“Ugh... that fucking Rabbit shot and killed Bill Clause...” Jay revealed. Within the hour Ghost had managed to kill the team’s first criminal suspect.  

“And you think its a message?” Alex thought out loud, unintentionally making his theory sound more like a question than an observation. 

“I don’t know, but we have to attend a meeting at the Precinct immediately” Howlett said, his paws still shaking from the news... 

--- 12:30pm, July 1st, Precinct 1 ---------- 

“So tell me, when will you be bringing in the Ghost? Will it be this afternoon? Or perhaps tomorrow? Come on Detective speak up, no need to be shy” Bogo was pacing up and down his office. Slightly peeved would be a severe underestimate. Not only had an assassin made a mockery of his Precinct but made his officers and his facilities look inadequate.  

“I don’t know” Howlett muttered, he emotions betraying him.  

Bogo made eye contact with the wolf for the first time since he arrived at the station. “Mr Clause was released into our custody just this morning and now he is dead. Laying upstairs in a pool of his own blood and grey matter and I have no physical evidence to go on. From your reputation in the APD I was expecting a bit more... capabilities when i brought you in and-...” 

“JUST REMEMBER YOU BROUGHT ME HERE! YOU NEEDED MY HELP!” Howlett snapped at the Buffalo, the Black Dog in him rearing its ugly head in a vicious and threatening way. Threatening not for the chief, but for Howlett... for his job and his team. 

“Calm down Detective or ill have you send back to where you came from... I put you on the bank robbery as a trial and you did splendidly, however, i also expected YOU of all mammals to be using your time wisely in finding this Rabbit... and you have nothing to show for it? 

"With all due respect, I have a team of rookies helping me go after an assas-…"

“Just remember that YOU were the one to choose these newbies, not I!... I had hope you knew what you were doing!" Bogo shouted, slamming his over-sized hooves down on the desk, leaving behind a noticeable divot in the wood. 

“I need time to train them up. Lucy is the one mammal in this precinct that has a hope in hell to fight him in close-quarters... Bixby’s intelligence is a major asset to tracking him down, and once I get some fur or a drop of blood, there is no escape from Alex’s nose... but I still need time to train them...” 

"You need more than time Jenson, you need a miracle... That's why I made a call to the Major Crimes Division in Huntington... there sending over an agent once he becomes available." Bogo sat down in his chair, appearing to calm down a little. Much to Howlett's confusion. 

“Sending who?" Jay asked. There were very few individuals that could match the Ghost in combat or intellect... and even less that he was willing to work with. 

“Agent Savage... he is currently on an undercover assignment in the middle east but when he returns, he will be the newest member of your team. Do I make myself clear?" The chief made his demands clear. The team was to have a fifth member, much to Jay's distaste. 

“That jumped up little furball? He’s a kiss-ass, a mediocre sniper and barely worth anyone’s time!" He spat back at the Chief. Savage was at the bottom of said list of mammals to work with, but unfortunately the choice was out of his paws. Perhaps this addition would prove useful?... perhaps as cannon fodder. 

“I said... Do. I. Make. Myself. Clear?” Bogo said in the calmest manner he could muster. 

“Ugh... yes sir...” Jay said, rolling his eyes and cursing the name 'savage' under his breath. 

“Good... oh and Detective Howlett just remember... I’m a lover, not a fighter but if you fail me I will happily use my hoof to fuck you up and down this Precinct... am I understood?” 

“Yes. Sir” Howlett saluted, trying to hold back his laughter at the Chief's well-prepared threat.

“Good... you have until October 18th to capture the Ghost, by any means necessary. Should you fail you will be sent back to the APD, and your precious team will be fired. Now leave”

--- 10:30pm, War’s Warehouse Roof ---------- 

A lone figure sat atop the empty roof space, admiring the lights of the city as the sun began to set behind the monstrously tall buildings at its core. 

Ghost was still on a high after completing his first assassination assignment under War’s orders. Orders... something the Ghost will have to get used to. 

The Lapin was eager to prove himself as a valuable asset to the mammoth Rhino that held the keys to his family’s safe release. He knew that once his usefulness ended, so too would his family’s lives.
 
One bullet. One life. One more day Ghost’s father would remain in the world of the living.  

One bullet. One life. One more day his sisters could go outside and pick the summer flowers.

One bullet. One life. One more day his mother could bake her famous wild berry pie. 

One bullet. 

Ghost had placed his mask on the tin roof in front of him. He knew there was no one around, not at this time of the evening. Most would be going to sleep. Addy and Niki were told to get some rest by the rabbit, both of them looked particularly drained so out of the kindness of his black heart he gave them the night off. 

The rabbit wasn’t wearing his sidearm, nor his ballistic vest... hell he wasn’t even wearing a shirt. He enjoyed the sun’s dying rays basking his body during sunset. He was almost meditation to him, or what form of relaxation a highly strung, paranoid assassin could attain. No the only other item he had was a cell phone. With only 1 number saved in the contacts, this was all he needed. 

He hovered his paw over the ‘call’ symbol for the past 15 minutes, every fiber in his body wanted him to press it but his mind kept telling him no. No, this could be dangerous for them... he couldn’t tell them anything, even if he wanted to. 

Tears began to form in the corners of his eyes, his paw began to shake. Never before had he conjured the courage to press the button. But tonight, he thought to himself, tonight was the night. He closed his eyes and pressed the flashing green button. 

Ghost’s heart was pounding. This decision gave a stout chill up his spine. A tingle in his paws. A much bigger thrill than an assassinati-...  

“Hello?...hello?... who is this?...” 

Ghost’s eyes erupted into waterfalls of salty tears. The voice on the other end of the phone was a voice that he hadn’t heard in 10 years. The voice that filled him with both feelings of pure joy and profound sadness. 

The voice of his father.

“Hello?... If you kids don’t stop crank-calling ill be forced ta call the police, ya hear?...HELLOOO?...” 

Ghost could die a happy bunny, knowing that they were all safe for the time being. Just the knowledge that his father hadn’t changed one bit convinced him that everything was okay, even just for that second... that second was enough. The tears running down his face coupled with his sadness and joy caused his nose to stuff up a little. He sniffed to help clear it. 

“Someone there?... Is that?.... Son?... my Little Snowflake... is that you?...” 

With a click, Ghost hung up the phone, throwing it to the side causing the battery to break free from the main body of the cell. By this point the once fearless Rabbit was a sniveling mess. He lay back on the tin roof and gazed up towards the sky just as the stars were beginning to break through the orange and blue haze. 

The fearless assassin at this moment in time was a 12 year old bunny, a mess of emotions and tears. desperately missing his family but unable to return to them. To keep them safe.  

The act of hearing his father’s voice and the subsequent flood of emotions had taken its toll on the bunny. He was exhausted after his day of planning a kill and the escape that ensued.

The bunny closed his eyes, the last thing he seen was the north star, burning brightly above as he drifted off to sleep. 

--- 1:34am, July 2nd, Howlett Residence ---------- 

Not a single sound could be heard from the apartment, the snores and uh... other noises... were confined to each individuals private quarters. The majority of the buildings occupants, along with most of the city, were asleep after a long hard day in their jobs, taking care of their kids or in some cases... shooting a criminal from 600m through solid concrete... The city now however fell silent. 

For one rookie detective however, this was not the case... there was meetings to attend. 

Lucy Benson, the Hellcat of Team Howlett was standing outside on the balcony, overlooking the city and reading through her phone, chilling in the night breeze. Well, not so much chilling exactly. The lynx was waiting for someone in particular. Someone who could be an valuable ally, or a deadly foe. 

She didn’t have to wait long however. A tingling sensation sprouted on the nape of her neck, not from a cold wind but from something much more sinister. The feline resisted against all her instincts to reach for her Sig, this conversation would be a peaceful one, until she got answers at least. 

“Beautiful night, wouldn’t you agree Officer Benson?” said a voice, standing on the ledge of the balcony, out of her line of sight and striking distance. She wondered tho, could this phantom survive a fall from such height... 

“It’s dark... and cold... merciless” Lucy replied, biting her tongue from lashing out at him. 


“Are we still talking about the night... or have you done some research?” the voice asked, already knowing the answer but seeking a way into a stable conversation with the young future detective. 

Lucy didn’t reply but instead, gave a half cocked smirk in the killers general direction. “You hacked my phone and sent a text from me to myself... wanting to meet me here... untraceable... smart” 

“I'm afraid my dear I haven’t requested an audience here with you to compare intellect...” Charon started but was interrupted by the Lynx. 

“...Jay is fixated on hunting the Ghost, mostly without the help of scum such as yourself...” Lucy spat back at the masked murderer. Turning to meet his demonic gaze. His ferocious crimson eyes burning in the dead of night but alas, Lucy had experienced horrors much worse than what Charon processed. Horrors that haunted her to the core. 

“Ouch... Detective... words hurt...” Charon jested. 

“I am serious, Charon, stay out of our way. Don’t think for one second that if you get in our way we will spare you prosecution because you showed restraint here, now... You could be the mayor of Zootopia for all i know but that doesn’t mean Jay wont put a bullet in you... so please...” 

Charon stepped over the balcony railing and rested his feet on the stable ground of the tiled floor. Stepping into the light gave Lucy a more comprehensive view of her target.

Charon wasn’t wearing his usual cloak, instead he looked more like a comic book supervillain than anything else. Even his mask had changed. No longer was one side of the mask charred and cracked but was now made whole, finished in bone white and looked slightly thicker than the previous. He still wore a hood to conceal the rest of his head that was fastened to a ballistic vest on his chest and abdomen, coupled with a small backpack strapped to the rear. Below that he wore a black, skin tight fabric shirt, long sleeve of course, that stretched down and met with his usual gloves. His lower body still consisted of dark coloured cargo/military pants, sporting plenty of pockets and pouches. Holding them up was a belt, a few additional pouches built into it with a drop leg holster fitted to the right side. This holster however did not hold a pistol, instead were an assortment of throwing knives and sleeper darts.  

“Well check you out... Halloween come early?” Lucy joked, trying to make light of the situation but failing miserably. 

“Officer Bens-...” Charon began but was rudely cut off by the Lynx. 

“Lets skip the official titles huh? Call me Lucy.  So what do they call you?” she asked, attempting to trick him. 

“...Charon... but nice try tho... and no, this get up is the only thing keeping me from having an unfriendly encounter with a speeding bullet... the vest is DragonSkin, the shirt and pants are Kevlar with an Underarmour coating and the mask is ballistic... will stop up to a .44 Magnum. So you see Miss Bens... Lucy... make no mistake, I am hunting the Ghost with or without your help. Without will be harder but ill manage. And I could really use your help...” Charon moved in closer to Lucy, both still looking out at the city lights. The killers movements were slow and methodical but reminiscent of a school kit moving in on his crush. “Lucy? May I ask you something personal?” 

Lucy was taken aback by Charon’s forwardness. It almost seemed as if the two had been friends for a very long time. “What is it?” 

“What happened to you that broke you so badly?...” 

Lucy was shocked. This phantom had seen right through her, to the deepest corners of her soul. He knew she was hurting. “And why in the hell should I tell you something like that? We are not friends... we are not ally's... and I wouldn’t even class you as an innocent bystander...” 

“Because right now I am the closest thing you have to a willing ear... I will listen in confidence” Charon confided, meaning every word... there would be no one to tell anyway. Charon leaned in closer, within a foot of each other now still bedazzled by the neon of Zootopia. The Assassin placed his paw on top of Lucy's, comforting her on this cold, unforgiving night. 

“A willing ear huh...” she said as she looked down at the larger mammals paw resting upon her own. “My father was a drunk... a cheat... a substance abuser... a... an abuser...he took delight in coming home from work, drunk already, wanting to pick a fight with anyone and everyone... my mom took a beating just as much as the rest of us. My brothers tho... they soon learned that this kind of treatment seemed to be normal. They became physical... with me... with my mom... coupled with my dad beating us left and right... then when his fists got tired... he retired to... to my bedroom...” 

“Oh Lucy...” Charon muttered, his concern genuine as he looked into the Lynx’s tear filled eyes and finally he could see all her pain and anger coming to the surface. “If you wish we can stop...” 

“I don’t know why im telling you this... it just feels... right” Lucy revealed as she used her free paw to wipe away some tears but the torrent kept coming. “I finally decided to join the ZPD...to make a difference to young girls like me... to save them... but that dream almost came crumbling down... The night before I was due to leave my father found my diary and my savings... he knew what I was up to and tried to stop me... that's when... that's when it happened... I became the Hellcat... Charon I... I killed my father... I tore him apart... My claws slashed and slashed and... and then I just ran... to the train station.” 

“Lucy, you shouldn’t feel guilty for what you did. That bastard had it coming. He deserved it, unlike you... you my dear need to let go of this burden. Trust me it will consume you. And for what its worth... you may have saved your mothers life down the line... or your brothers...” Charon’s words hit home. With that, a smile emerged from the sadness upon Lucy’s face. Getting a secret as big as this off her chest felt indescribable. The weight lifted from her shoulders and the immeasurable guilt that went along with it faded into nothing.  

“T...thank you...Charon” the young kitten muttered as she placed her other paw on top of his. 
Lucy couldn’t see the mammals face but she knew he was smiling just as much as she was... and crying. 

“I must go now, Lucy... please remember that you are in control of your future... your past transgressions do not determine your path in life.” And with those wise words of wisdom Charon hoisted himself back over the balcony and onto the stone outcrop of the building. Before he disappeared completely from view he took one final looks back at his new friend, hoping that she took his words seriously. His crimson eyes glowing in the backdrop of the shadowy city. 

Lucy took one final look back at him also before retreating back into the safety of the apartment. Back into the soft, warm bed beside the mammal that made her heart flutter for no reason. She lay beside the peacefully sleeping Coyote for a few minutes, playing back her rendezvous with the mystery mammal one more time...  

“I hope I’m wrong about you... for everyone’s sake...”

Chapter Text

--- 1:15pm, July 28th, Downtown Court House ---------- 

Three full weeks had passed in the city of Zootopia since the assassination of one William Clause. The team of rookies weren’t so much rookies any longer. In such a short time they had captured 3 killers, 2 arsonists, 8 thieves and a very skittish rapist that received the end of Lucy’s claws more times than anyone was counting. She had a bad morning... 

Crime rate had taken a noticeable dip in the month that Team Howlett was active in the ZPD. Unfortunately however, much like his namesake, Ghost was as elusive as ever. Not since his taunt had the Ghost reappeared in the city, perhaps for the best, but that didn’t stop Jenson from compiling a very thorough file on the bunny.  

The Team’s new complex was nearing completion, with only the finishing touches to be added to give it a more... homely atmosphere. Sleeping arrangements had remained the same, Alex and Lucy becoming a little more intimate than before. Alex had promised to take Lucy out on a few dates, to which he kept his word. As Lucy’s request they ate from Alex’s favourite fast food stand by the waterfront, the night was calm, not a cloud in sight and the wind was non-existent. A perfect first date in their eyes. Second date was a little more active. The couple going bowling and go-karting before ending the night with some ice skating in Tundra town Square. And for tonight, what would be their third date, they decided to try a new high-class restaurant that had just opened up a few blocks from their old apartment. But first, the team had to conclude their assignments. 

“WOOOO FINALLY FREE!” Bixby let a yell out standing atop the steps of the Central Courthouse building in the heart of Downtown. The team had been part of a trial involving a serial killer that had been plaguing the ZPD for a few years. This case was special for the team tho, it was the first case to directly involve Tristan as the lead prosecutor. 

“Try not to sound too excited my love, this WAS a murder case after all...” Tristan said as he walked past the smaller hare. As always, the Coyote was well dressed in a navy-blue suit, white shirt and black tie coupled with his thin rimmed glasses. 

“Oh yeah... sorry!” Bixby replied in a hushed voice, making a complete fool of himself in front of his superiors. “Buttttt... now that that is concluded we get the rest of the day off! We don’t have to report in again until 8am tomorrow!” 

Lucy walked past the bunny and patted him gently on his buns. “And I bet I know what your evening is going to consist of” 

“Same as yours Lucy dear, same as yours, with maybe a little less boinking... but only a little less!” Bixby retorted as he noticed Lucy starting to blush under her fur. 

“I..I don’t...We do-...” Lucy was cut off as Alex exited the building behind them and stood just a few steps behind her. 

“What don’t you do?” he asked, his sensitive ears having already picked up the conversation but decided to have a little fun at his crush’s expense. 

“Alex, would you kindly tell them that we are not boinking!” she said, flustered that the two team mates were ganging up on her. 

“Now now... you three are the finest detective team the city has right now, try to show a little professionalism while you still wear that badge” a booming voice from behind Alex caught them all off guard. As the 4 mammals turned to face the mammoth that produced the voice they were greeted by a familiar face. 

A tall Lion stood before them, walking stick in paw and a grin from ear to ear. The voice that could strike terror into the hearts of many was none other than Martin Rockford, Chief of the 5th Precinct of Zootopia and guardian to Alex, Bixby and Tristan. 

“Well aren’t you a sight for sore ears, remember sir, inside voice while your outside...” Bixby lead with a few jokes, his sense of humour was something that Rockford particularly favoured in the young Hare. 

“Ha ha it’s good to see you too Bix, and Alex it’s been a while hasn’t it. We are in the same city and not once have you paid a visit to a crippled, elderly Lion” Martin said, trying to play the guilt card but alas, it  failed. 

“Heh sorry ya old Goat, been busy putting bad guys away. Seems Precinct 5 isn’t pulling their weight these days, they have to send rookies like us to clean up your streets!” Alex retorted, knowing his words were empty of ill will. 

"Pulling our weight huh? Interesting, guess I'll have to make a few changes to my roster, wouldn't you say?" The old Lion said. Just as he finished his sentence however his gaze met that of his eldest ward, Tristan. The pair hadn't exchanged so much as a letter in almost 15 years. Needless to say, there was an air of tension between them, enough for the Officers to feel. "Tristan? Is that you? My how you've grown..." 

"Save it Martin, we both know our particular relationship cannot be salvaged with pleasantries, so please don't embarrass yourself further." Tristan said as he turned his back on the Police Chief and began to walk away. This cold reception did not go unnoticed by Bixby in particular, who proceeded to chase after the Coy. 

Rockford was left speechless at the exchange but deep down he knew he deserved what he got. He had hurt Tristan at a time when the pup needed a father figure the most. 

Lucy broke the awkward silence. "Uh, sir? Is everything okay?" 

"I deserved that. And he is right, I messed up big time with him. When he was just 9 years old I sent him to a Military school to finish out his education, I just couldn't handle what he was..." 
"What do you mean 'couldn't handle him' exactly?" The Lynx pushed further before noticing Alex's fist beginning to tighten up. She knew this was painful for all involved but wanted to better understand Alex and the Chief, reasoning to herself that it was part of the healing process to bring all emotions to the table. 

"Tristan was... Prone to violence, aggressive mood swings and a particularly gifted mind. None of which was a particularly good combination in an impressionable pup. I was left with no choice but to send him somewhere that could not only handle his violence but could re-direct it towards something good. Who would have guessed his aggression reformed itself into a strong moral code... Young Tris became a brilliant Attorney that takes no prisoners..." Martin tried a half-cocked smile but he knew this was no time to be praising. 

"...And look who he turned out to be. Like you said he is an amazing Attorney and the perfect mate to Bixby. You should be proud that your decision turned him into the Coyote he is today!" Lucy Interjected before Rockford could belittle himself any further. 

"She's right Martin. At first, I hated you for sending my brother away but eventually I seen why you did it. I forgave you a long time ago so why don't you do the same?" Alex added, his fist unclenched but his heart still beating fast and strong. 

"I do, I just wish Tristan could forgive me..." The elderly lion concluded. "Maybe you should all come out to the cabin some day? Pave the first step in the healing process now that my boys are all together?" 

"That would be lovely, sir" Lucy added, smiling at the lion who was smiling back at them.

"… Hold the phone.... Tristan and Bixby are mates?... as in... Mates mates? Hahaha I didn't see that coming!" Martin spoke softly, joyfully laughing to himself.

--- 

"Tristan wait up!" Bixby shouted after the canine as he walked off, his strides double the pace of the Hare. 

"Bixby... Now isn't the best time, I don't want you to see me like this..." Tristan shouted back, still walking away from the scene. 

Bixby stopped in his tracks, started thumping his large foot on the ground and shouted "TRISTAN ARTIMIS HUNTER, YOU STOP RIGHT THERE!" 

Tristan stopped dead in his tracks, the words of his mate seemed to have a paralyzing effect on his feet.  

"Bixby please... let it go" 

The Hare walked over to the canine and encircled him before standing face to face with Tristan. Or... face to stomach would be more accurate. Bixby looked into his golden-hazel eyes, that were slowly filling with tears. 

"Listen, I know what happened between you and Rockford, it doesn't take a genius, but you can't let your emotions cloud your judgement. Talk to him, re-connect, or at the very least act civil for our sake... he is both mine and Alex's Dad after all..." With that Bixby leapt up into Tristan's arms and wrapped his Legs around the Canines waist, nuzzling into his shirt while doing so. 

"Oh Bixby..." Tristan grabbed him by the bottom to stop him slipping down. The canines tall, muscular frame allowing him to hold the Hare with little effort in a comfortable manner.

"Please my love, if not for him or yourself, then for us..." Bixby said as he gazed into Tristan's eyes again, using his free paw to wipe away the tears from his golden pools. 

"Bixby, I love you... Okay, i will at least talk to him... For you" Tristan admitted as he kissed the hare on the lips and grabbing him in closer to his body. After a good few seconds their embrace ended with smiles all round. 

"I love you too... Always" 

--- 2:04pm, Sahara Square Train Station ---------- 

"Yes, I have arrived safely... Yes, I have packed enough underwear, geez... Yes, yes of course I have, stop asking... Okay I have to leave now, I will call you again tonight... I love you too, bye" Click.  

Train #25 departing from Huntington to Zootopia had arrived on Platform 12, a few minutes late but that couldn't have been avoided, debris on the track causing slight delays but nonetheless making good time. Aboard was a particularly well-spoken Jackrabbit with a very thick English accent, getting an earful from his girlfriend from the sounds of it. He was wearing his best attire, consisting of a jet-black suit and red tie that contrasted with his ice-blue eyes and light grey fur. his face was marked with black fur, 3 streaks on each cheek and 2 on the tips of each ear. 

"Geez, that Vixen does not let up..." The rabbit stepped out of the carriage, rubbing his ears from the chewing he received on the phone. He looked up through the glass skylight at the beautiful city of Zootopia, gazing at its infinite beauty. "Hello old friend, good to be back..." 

The bunny took his cases from the bottom deck of the train carriage, one long case and larger suitcase, presumably full of clothing... and underwear. He took a deep breath and proceeded to the exit of the station. When he emerged from the platform and onto the streets of the city he looked up again at its splendour and whispered to himself "Jacks back!" 

--- 

Agent Jack Savage was not the only mammal of interest on the train however... 

The very last two mammals to emerge from the train before the doors closed were a pair of felines, Ocelots to be exact.  

"Hey sis, we made it! Put your mask on and hurry before you get locked in again!" One of the felines shouted as the other slowly staggered down the thin stairway and onto the platform. "Fam? I'm guessing you're not feeling too hot this afternoon huh?" 

"You would guess correctly, Q, threw up like 5 times on the way here..." Fam said, her voice slightly muffled through a thin cotton mask, very reminiscent of a hospital mask. 

"Don't worry Fam, War said he had our quarters sterilised for us, no germs!" Q reassured her sister. 

Fam was a very sickly Ocelot. Disease had taken hold of her early in life and left her in very poor condition. Her body was thin from malnutrition, her clothes barely hanging onto her frail frame. The feline was wearing plain, light green shirt and a pair of skinny jeans that even on her looked baggy. 

Q on the otherpaw was healthy, the appropriate height and weight for an individual her age and stature. she was dressed in a very punky attire, a black shirt with some kind of unreadable band logo printed on the front, skinny jeans ripped all over and an uncountable number of piercings all over her body, a stark contrast to her sister. Q picked up her sister's baggage coupled with her own to help move them along. 

The twins reached the exit to the train station, set their bags down and took a short break while they waited for their ride to arrive. In the few seconds they were already there for Q had noticed a grey rabbit standing by the roadside, presumably waiting for a taxi to pick him up. 

"Damn rabbits..." Q said as she ground on her teeth and reached behind her to a small sheathed blade on her lower back underneath her shirt. 

Fam noticed this and took hold of her paw. "No Q, not today, remember War wants us to lay low until his plan reaches Phase two... Just a few more days" 

Q let go of the blade and pulled her shirt back down, covering the weapon and spitting in Savage's direction. "I fucking hate rabbits..." 

Jack finally managed to hail a cab. He packed his cases into the trunk carefully and climbed into the back seat as the cab made its getaway from the station. 

"You're lucky, cottontail..." Q muttered under her breath. 

No longer had the taxi disappeared from sight had a black SUV pulled up alongside the twins. The door of the driver side burst open and a Tall, scruffy Jackal stepped out. 

"Sup, bitches" Cerberus shouted, loud enough for passers-by to take notice and show their disgust with a few scrunched-up expressions. 

"Well hello you... oh my..." Q voiced out loud her desires as she pressed a finger to her lip and gazed in the Jackals direction. 

"Can you not be a slut for 1 day?" Fam asked, giving a rather disgraced look towards her very 'out there' sister. 

"Can't help it, haven't got laid in dayyyys" 

"It's been legit 2 days..." 

"Don't give a fuuuuck, he's mine tonight!" 

"WHAT YOU LOOKING AT?! AAAHAHAHA" he shouted at the pedestrians as the sisters grabbed their belongings and bungled them into the vehicle, followed by themselves for what can only be the weirdest car journey in Zootopian history. 

--- 3:30pm, War's Warehouse ---------- 

Ghost, Addy, Niki and War were waiting patiently for the arrival of the twins, Conquest and Famine. 
"Death? I don't suppose you have ever met the twins before? Perhaps crossed paths on a contract ha... they are really something. Conquest is a genius when it comes to various types of poisons. she likes to coat her blades in them for maximum damage. And her sister Famine is a tech phenomenon, amazingly gifted individual." War tried to make small talk, forgetting for a moment that the rabbit was a mute, but that didn't stop him. The Rhino considered the twins good friends and was excited to have them back in the city. 

Ghost however, was far from excited. The rabbit still had his family on his mind, his father's thick Bunny Burrow accent still fresh in his mind, along with a twinge in his back from sleeping rough on the metal roof, which seemed to be becoming a weekly tradition. 

"Psst, hey Addy, do you remember the last time Q and Fam were in the city? I don't, it's been years" Niki whispered over to his mate, puzzled by the sudden meeting called forth by War.

"Me neither Niki, and yeah it must be years." Addison agreed with his mate. 

The party didn't have to wait long. From just outside came the unmistakable sound of tyres screeching on the concrete. The SUV had arrived with its special package. The Twins and Cerberus slammed the doors, reiterating their presence in the complex. Deciding not to keep War waiting they entered the warehouse immediately, leaving their gear in the vehicle to be retrieved later. 

"OHHH WAAAARRRR! Were home!" Q shouted across the warehouse, around the various corridors. Tact wasn't her strong suit, she preferred to let everyone know of her presence.
 
The voice was familiar to Ghost... Familiar enough to make him reach for his pistol out of instinct, something that Niki noticed, making him feel on edge. 

Cerberus was the first to walk around the corner and into the meeting room, raising his middle finger to all in the room. The Jackal wasn't didn't care much for offending the wrong people, War's punishments didn't have the desired effect on this canine. 

Following closely behind was the sickly Fam, bashful and not making eye contact with anyone in the room, instead just walking over to the table, pulling up a chair and setting her head down on the table. "Imma throw up" she mumbled. 

"Oh, come on now, his driving wasn't that bad... Was only what... 4 red lights?" Q said smugly as she walked around the corner and into the room. Scanning the participants of the meeting, she met with a few familiar faces, some of which had grown up a lot since their last meeting. "My, my Niki and Addison, haven't you two grown HA, last time I seen either of you, you weren't at legal age..."

"Q! Stop thinking of fucking for 5 minutes!" Fam lifted her head enough to meet Q's eyes with disgust. 

It was at that moment... as soon as Fam mentioned the Letter Q... coupled with the familiar voice... it clicked with Ghost. The Rabbit produced his pistol and pointed directly between Q's eyes, squeezing the trigger as he did. 

In a split-second Niki knocked the pistol out of line and a shot rang out around the room. Despite the gun being suppressed the shot was loud enough for the participants, with the exception of War, to be startled by the sudden sound. The bullet ricocheted around the room a few times, harmlessly embedding itself in a wooden pallet just out of sight. 

"The hell?!" Niki said as he let go of Ghost's pistol. "What was that about?" he asked the Rabbit. 
Ghost didn't reply in any way, instead opting to stare intensly at the Ocelot. 

Q's Playful attitude changed in an instant. She was pissed. "Fucking rabbits..." She mumbled to herself as she produced her curved knife from her lower back. 

"SILENCE!... everyone calm the fuck down or you will be answering to me!" War spoke up, causing all participants to immediately drop their attitudes and pay attention. Ghost lowered his pistol while Q stabbed her knife into the table. "One of these days, bunny, you won't wake up!" 

Ghost took out his notepad and jotted down a few words before handing it over to Addison to his immediate left. 

Addy read out the note. "QUINN HENDRICKS, 26, HUNTINGTON" 

Q froze at the sound of her full name. "Who the fuck told you?... WHO!" 

Ghost passed another note to Addy. "We were mates... I loved you... You betrayed me..."

Niki knew immediately from a past conversation with the Rabbit that he was referring to the female that cut his throat out with her own claws. It all made sense now. Only Q was that psychotic. 

"MATES?! Oh please, as if I would ever let a Rabbit inside me... you make me sick..." Q spat at Ghost. 

"Enough! I care little for past indiscretions you three may have. So long as you are working for me you will remain civil with each other. There will be no backstabbing in here. And whenever my plans come to fruition then you have my permission to murder each other but until then you will follow my every order!" War stood from his chair, almost hitting his head on the ceiling, and walked over to a corkboard wall plastered with information about Team Howlett. "Now... at first I didn't think much of these 4 individuals but as of recently their leader, one Jensen Howlett..." 

The name made the fur on the back of Ghost's neck stand on end, catching his undivided attention as he sat back into his seat. 

"… has been making progress on finding this location. Three of my Jackals were involved in one of his cases but fortunately their loyalty prevented this complex being compromised. Their commitment to their cause has been rewarded with a quick assassination in prison. Now as for the Officers, I will be sending teams to kill them before our plans become public knowledge." 

"OH, Oh, OH SEND ME SIR!" Cerberus shouted from the corner of the room. 

"Of course, I will be sending you, you are one of the few that haven't failed me. Obviously, we cannot simply kill the entire team however, that would look particularly suspicious as they are investigating out resident Rabbit. No. You Cerberus will kill the team and I will be sending others to assassinate all of the rookies that the Academy has produced this year. That way it will look like an attack on the police instead of a personal vendetta." 

This plan didn't sit right with either Addison or Niki, both Jackals had a gut feeling something wasn't right but hadn't the courage to voice their opinions in fear of punishment. 

"Cerberus, assemble your best and form 10 teams, locate your targets and strike. For tonight is Team Howlett's last night in the world of the living!"

Chapter Text

--- 7:54pm, July 28th, Howlett Temporary Apartment ---------- 

"Shit, shit, shit, running late, oh so late" Bixby shouted to himself as he ran down the corridor of their building's top floor. Bixby was wearing a dark grey formal outfit, minus the jacket, with a tight fit waistcoat and amber coloured tie to match his mate's eyes. "Damn pocket watch running slowly! Why did I buy this piece of crap?!" 

Alex, Lucy, Jay, Ru and Tristan were already in the elevator at the end of the hallway waiting for the young Hare.

"Chill dude, its only just 5 minutes away, we will be fine!" Alex tried to reason with the rushed buck to no avail. Bixby was in a flap to catch the elevator before it left his sorry ass behind.

"Thanks again, for inviting us, it was very nice of you!" Atreyu Wore a stunning azure dress, slit open at the side to reveal a little leg. Her hair was swept to the right side of her head, held with a little fur spray. Around her eyes was the same shade of azure blue in highlights as her dress. 

"Oh Ru, I told you it's cool!" Lucy said as she pressed the 'hold' button once more. The younger Lynx took a page from Ru's fashion book and wore a crimson dress with matching highlights around her eyes and 2 bangles on her wrists. One major difference however was the rule about firearms. Under the slick scarlet number, she carried her Sig in a thin holster strapped to her upper thigh.

Both Alex and Tristan wore strikingly similar suits, with the exception of Alex's tie matching his frozen crystal eyes and Tristan's matched to his golden amber pools. Alex wore his badge and pistol with pride, as he did every time he left the building with his highly polished badge of honor. Tristan however was not allowed to carry a pistol but opted for a concealed knife connecting to his belt on his back. 

Jay wore his traditional black waistcoat and red tie combo that never seemed to fail in emphasizing his more sinister features, notably his blood red eyes. The wolf hybrid also carried his sidearm, a modified Smith and Wesson M500, strapped to his belt. His preferred handgun, more like hand cannon, as it sat perfectly in his larger paws while the kick was something very few under 10 foot tall could handle comfortably. 

"HOLD THE ELEVATOR!" Bixby shouted, just 20 feet from making it in time. The doors began to close, Lucy cheekily let go of the 'hold' button while smiling devilishly at the blustered lapin. "LUCYYY!" He shouted as he just about managed to squeeze through the doors before they closed and stranded him 8 floors up. Panting, trying to catch his breath, Bixby poked Lucy in the stomach. "Damn you felines and your...*Pant*… Mischievous ways..." 

"Next time you won't forget your gun then huh?" Jay spoke up, motioning to Bixby's pristine Hornet as he strapped it to his belt on the right side. 

"Yeah, yeah" 

--- 7 minutes later, Le Trou D'arrosage ---------- 

Alex opened the door and politely allowed the ladies to enter the restaurant first followed closely by the rest of the party. 

A buck deer stood resolute as the front desk, awaiting their arrival. "Bonjour, and welcome, Hunter party, oui?" He spoke with a mixture of French and English. 

"Yes, sir, party of 6" Alex spoke up, as it was himself that made the reservations. "Heh, Hunter party, makes it sound like we are going to war" He tried to joke, to not even a chuckle. "Well fine then, ya'll have a dry sense of humor anyway" 

"Right this way, sir" The deer walked off, motioning them to follow him into the main room. The Restaurant was massive, easily able to comfortably seat at least 100 guests and still have room for the waiting staff to move between the tables. The walls were a mixture of red and gold ornate decorations with stone pillars holding up the vast structure. 3 large windows on one wall allowed a view of the street while another that separated the kitchen and eating area was decorated with various paintings, mostly reproductions of other famous works. The tables were laid out in random locations, allowing room for the table's occupants to move freely without bumping into anyone else. Hunter's table however was slap bang in the center of the room. A table prepared for a party of 6, with plates and cutlery already out and waiting. 

"Sorry we were late, we ran into a little problem heh..." Alex apologized to the waiter as he arrived at the table and began to pull out seats for everyone to sit. 

"Think nothing of it, sir, we allow a grace period of about 15 minutes per guest" The Deer spoke softly with a thick French accent. 

When the party was all seated the deer handed each mammal a menu and allowed them a few minutes to read over its contents before bothering them about their orders. 

"Daaamn, it all looks good!" Bixby drooled all over the menu, the seafood dishes, salads and soups. Just the appetizers to the lapin sounded phenomenal. 

"Ha, not as good as this..." Tristan said as he snapped a shot of Bixby litterally drooling onto the table cloth. "Yup, that's going on my wallpaper!" 

"HEY NO FAIR!" Bixby protested as he used a napkin to clean his muzzle of saliva. 

"Alls fair, my love. Besides, you'd do it to me too!" Tristan batted back, making a perfect argument that Bix couldn't even deny. The Hare simply nodded in defeat. 

"You two are so cute together! How exactly did you guys meet anyway?" Atreyu asked, realizing that she hadn't actually spent as much time around them as she would have liked in the month of living with the lovebirds. 

Bixby spoke up. "Jobs fair actually, I was doing research on the ZPD to see what I would like to specialize in if and when I passed the Academy. I happened across a lonely Coyote, standing by himself at a stall that was advertising Public Defense teams. Boring stuff, I know. So, I decided to introduce myself... The moment he turned around and our eyes met, I needed him in my life. Just got lucky that he was not only an Inter, but also liked dudes!" 

"Yeah and since then I haven't managed to shake him off me" Tristan joked as he took Bixby's paw in his own. 

"And you never will! Dude if I die before you I promise to haunt the shit outta you!" Bixby laughed as he nuzzled into his mate sitting next to him. 

"Just needa make sure the walls in the new complex is sound proofed!" Alex added, winking at Bixby

"Why? You and Lucy loud?" Tristan shot back without a moment's hesitation. 

Lucy immediately started to blush under her fur. Any more and the skin on her ears would match her dress. "For the last time, w-we aren't having sex!" 

"You two are awfully giggly at 1 in the morning for 'just friends', care to elaborate?" Jay piped up, joining the conversation in style. 

"Sometimes we find it difficult to sleep, it's a little warm during the summer and were usually too fired up from work so we play a few boardgames to calm us down and help us sleep. You all needa get your minds outta the gutter, its dirty in there!" Alex defended their honor, much to Lucy's relief. Any more accusations and she may consider moving out. 

"Whatever, just wear protection kids!" Jay jested as he stroked Atreyu's leg underneath the table. 
"Mrs Akri, you have asked about all of us but we know little of you. Would you mind telling us a little about yourself?" Tristan asked as politely as he could, not wanting to pry too deeply incase its too personal for not knowing her long enough. 

"Not at all dear, where should I begin? I was born in the Iberian Peninsula in Spain, grew up there and moved to the States when I was 10. My parents both got jobs over here really easy, it was back when Animalia wasn't quite so... Mafia ruled as it is now. Back when the city was just as beautiful as Zootopia. Unfortunately, I grew up pretty quickly there. After I left school I applied for a job at the St August Hospital as an Apprentice Prosthetic Engineer and luckily because I studied Mechanics in my education I got accepted for the job. I started my training at 18 and by 24 I stumbled upon a 7-foot Wolf, laying helpless in a room, all alone. Not that I felt pity on him or anything..." Ru said as she winked at her mate. 

Jay gave a devilish smile back at her coupled with a reciprocating wink.

The Lynx giggled a little before continuing with her story. "...I seen his injuries and knew that I could help him. I knew that I could give him his life back. Just didn't realize that the more I looked at him, the more metal I added to his body, the more I caressed his chest... The more I fell in love with him. After a few months of reconstruction and rehabilitation, he popped the date question and boom, from there we got married, are looking to start a family together and live out the rest of our lives in peace together! Unfortunately, with the Ghost out there, we may not get that..." 

"You knew from the get go that connecting yourself with Jay, you were putting your own life at risk... and yet... you still stood by his side. That right there is true love!" Bixby saluted Howlett, all the while holding onto Tristan's paw tighter than ever before. 

Tristan blew a kiss to his mate, shedding a slight tear at the sappy story Atreyu had to offer.

Alex couldn't help but look over towards Lucy after hearing such a strong love story. After all, the Lynx was the only girl that truly had a place in the Coyotes heart.

Lucy noticed out of the corner of her eye that Alex was blushing, staring towards her. This elicited the same reaction out of her, involuntarily of course. For weeks now, Lucy had managed to keep her feelings in check, able to control to a certain degree how she felt around the canine. Deep down she knew she had feelings for him but was scared to act upon them for fear of something negative happening. Her demented past prevented her from wanting anything sexual but her body inadvertently made it more and more difficult for her to hide it. "Uhh, may I be excused, I require the bathroom" 

"Ohh dammit, I forgot my pills at the apartment..." Atreyu spoke up just after Lucy finished her sentence. 

"Ohh! Perfect, I can run back and get them for you!" Lucy said as she slowly stood from the table, gracefully pulling her dress down to prevent the Bear from Table 14 from receiving an early 'full moon'. 

"Il tag along! I could use some air before we order anyway" Ru said as she too stood and adjusted herself. Both women convened at the side of the table closest the main entrance and linked arms. "Shouldn't be too long dear, only a 10-minute walk!" Ru spoke as she and Lucy made for the exit. 
"Well that was weird...." Bixby whispered over to Tristan, to which the canine simply nodded in agreement. 

--- Outside The Restaurant ---------- 

After a short and rather awkward silence, Lucy broke the atmosphere. "Thank you, Ru"

"Hm? Thanks for what dear?" She asked, knowing full well what the gratitude was for. 

"For getting me out of there, I have been trying sooo hard to get Alex out of my head..." Lucy replied, bashfully rubbing her left elbow and not wanting to make eye contact with the other, more experienced Lynx. 

"May I ask something?... Why must you stop thinking about him?" Ru asked 

"...Simply put, if I acted upon how I truly felt about him, I'm worried I would come on too strong... sure I want a relationship with him but... I think we are very different... for one, I am not an inter and... and..." 

"And I don't think you are being honest with yourself. You should really be asking yourself what you want deep down. Would you be truly be happy with a Lynx, or would you want something more exotic like canine... "Atreyu reasoned, the moment she mentioned 'canine' however, she began fantisizing about her own canine. 

"… Perhaps you are right, I know that I have been beating around the bush, so to speak..." 

"I'm sure, you have... heh...." Atreyu added, giggling to herself at making a dirty joke.

"...Atri... that's nasty..." 

"You denying it?" Ru asked as she took hold of Lucy's paw. 

"… Maybe once" Lucy giggled to herself while blushing. the skin on her ears brightening up like the neon signs above. 

After a few minutes the two felines finally turned the corner onto their street, eyeing up their apartment from ground level. Atreyu lead the charge towards the establishment. The pills may have been a good excuse to get Lucy out of there but obtaining them was in fact a genuine concern for Ru. 

The two felines found themselves at the front entrance of the complex within a few seconds. the main hall was fairly spacious with a few couches spread out around 2 coffee tables and a main desk at the far end of the room to serve the public. Usually there was a lobbyist on duty at this time of night, a wolf named Marco. A very timid young lad and very friendly to boot. He was on duty when the party left not 15, 20 minutes ago. all the lights in the lobby were off, which was very unusual as they shouldn't be turned off until Marco went home at 11:30. Something was off... 

Atreyu was just about to turn the door knob on the entrance before Lucy stopped her. "Hold up... something's not right... I want you to wait out here for me, I won't be long"  

Lucy produced her pistol from the leg holster around her thigh and flicked the safety off. the fearless feline entered the building, slowly as to not alert any remaining suspects, if any. Carefully, Lucy made her way over to the front desk, making use of her keen feline night vision. She scanned every inch of the front room for movement, ready to react should the need arise.  

Having not found any sign of Marco or anyone else for the matter she made her way around the corner towards the elevator. After many late nights getting home from the Precinct in the darkness she was fairly adept at navigating her way around the building in low light. Eventually she found the elevator and proceeded to press the 'call' button. It did not take long for the mechanical lift to arrive on the ground floor, and with a ding the doors flew open. 

The following sight nearly made Lucy gag... Lying face down on the Elevator floor was the teenage Wolf Marco, eyes wide open and a pool of blood still forming around his head. The poor boy had been executed at close range, with a perfect circle clearly visible in the center of his forehead. The blood was still pouring from the wound fairly freely, meaning it could only have happened within 10 minutes... the perps may still be in the building. Lucy reached down to the canine and closed his eyes. "I'm so sorry..." 

Lucy pressed the button for her floor and the elevator doors slid shut. Patiently she waited, standing next to the body of the young wolf until finally... ding... her floor. 

The Officer edged around the corner very slowly, keeping a sharp eye out for any form of movement. The main lights of the floor were out but there were 3 lamps in the hallway that produced a fair amount of light in their own right. As she peeked around the corner leading to her apartment she noticed the distinct outlines of 5 larger mammals, standing outside of their room. From what she could tell these mammals were most likely canine, the musk coming from them made it a little clearer. 

"COME ONNNN WE DON'T HAVE ALL NIGHT YA'KNOW!!" one of them shouted as he slapped the back of another's head. The 'slappee' was kneeled down by the door knob, with what appeared to be a set of lockpicks. "Get the door lock, quickly, I wanna see the show from outside! HAHAHAH" 

"5... I can take em..." Lucy said out loud to herself, confident in her abilities. the look of hesitation in her face disappeared the moment she seen 2 of the criminals holding handguns. This revelation actually excited the feline. "Bastards picked the wrong building..." she said, her teeth bare, her pupils narrowing into slits and her emerald eyes glowing in the darkness... This wasn't Lucy any longer... This was the Hellcat. She quietly tore the side of her dress up to her waist for better maneuverability. 

Her nimble feline feet made no noise as she slithered around the corner and slowly moved forward towards the group, clinging to the walls as tight as she could. Her Sig in paw and her claws on all 4 limbs extended and sharp as razors. When she was within sprinting distance she raised her sidearm, still unbeknownst to the intruders, and aimed a shot at the kneeling canine. From this distance she could recognize the species of the invaders as Jackals, not dissimilar to those in her first case.  

With her pistol raised she fired a round into the shoulder of the kneeling jackal. A scream of agony mixed with the shock and pain sent him tumbling through the door, into the apartment, clutching at the open wound as blood poured from between his fingers. The noise and suddenness of the attack caused the Jackals to flinch, disorientated and frantically trying to find where the shot came from. 

All the while Lucy had closed the distance, using her lightweight frame and powerful legs she propelled herself into the air using a small side table. Claws extended she came down on one Jackal like the wrath of God. Her claws tearing down the canines face, removing large chunks of meat. This target was strategically eliminated first as he was one of two holding a pistol. He needed to go first. As she landed, the Lynx positioned herself perfectly to fall right onto the foot of the second gun-mammal, causing him to yelp in pain and loosening his grip on his weapon. Lucy picked up on this and fired a second shot into the wrist of the canine, causing him to drop it entirely. 

The feline then sank her claws into the back of the maimed Jackals leg and tore out ligaments from the back of his knee, causing him to topple like a house of cards. Three down, Two left.
 
The leader of the Jackal intruders, Cerberus himself, had adjusted to the assault, produced a knife from his jacket and lunged towards the feline. With a swift slice, Cerberus came within millimeters of making contact with the Hellcat, Lucy having dodged the knife at the last second. She waited until he was in close as the size difference put her at a disadvantage. On the rebound, Lucy pushed Cerberus’ elbow away from herself, knocking him off balance. This was quickly followed by the feline’s claws making deadly contact with the jackal’s abdomen, cutting him right down to the rib bone. The leader doubled over in pain but kept a firm grasp on his knife. 

Having no time to spare, the Hellcat rushed the fifth canine, narrowly dodging to the right to avoid the canines claws coming into contact with her. Then something unexpected happened. 4 loud pops from behind her. Bullets whizzed past her as she kicked the leg out from underneath the final assailant, grabbing his arm and twisting it behind him. Effectively using him as a fleshy shield.
 
The gun-mammal that Lucy had previously crippled had found his pistol and had no objection to firing round after round into his comrade in an effort to hit Lucy who was standing behind the jackal. After a few more loud bangs the hallway was met with a click. And another… his pistol was dry. Lucy seized her opportunity to fire shots off from her own Sig. First shot hitting him in the chest and the second in the neck. Normally Lucy was a lot more accurate but when under fire, this will do.  

The Lynx let go of the body as it crumpled in on itself to the floor. Two dead, three if the tall one doesn’t get his face put back on very soon. By the time the gunfire had stopped, Cerberus had regained his footing and charged the feline one more time. This time he anticipated her deflection and faked a left swing, catching the petite pussycat off guard. The blow made contact with her cheek, sending her tumbling back but within a few seconds she had regained her balance and began to fight back. She launched herself towards him with all the power she could muster. Her razor sharp claws met with his extended arm in an effort to block her. Lucy’s hidden weapons damn near sliced through the jackals arm length ways, cutting him down to the bone. The sudden pain threw him off, Cerberus started thrashing around aimlessly in a desperate attempt to strike the Hellcat down. Lucy however was far more calm and collected. She waited until her opening appeared and as graceful as a ballet dancer she moved between Cerberus’ flailing arms, up his body and slashed at his throat. 

It was the end. The end for the Jackal leader, War’s second in command had fallen. He dropped to the floor and fell back against the concrete wall, blood oozing from his mouth and neck.  

Lucy too had, by now, landed on her feet. She was visibly exhausted, panting heavily as she scanned around herself looking for anything she missed. To her surprise she had made a mistake. Standing at the end of the hallway was another Jackal, one that was unfamiliar to her. He must be with the attackers…  

The Jackal standing at the end of the hallway was none other than Niki. He had been ordered into the stairwell to watch for anyone coming up the stairs, not knowing that the elevator was still operational.  

Niki took one look at the blood soaked Lynx, the devilish smile, the emerald pools with demonic slit pupils. She was a true demon. Without a seconds hesitation, Niki took off running for the stairs, moving as fast as his legs could carry him away from the devil herself. 

Lucy was about to take off after him when she heard one of her victims gargling on his own blood. 
“Pathetic coward…” Cerberus managed to just about spit out his words from his torn vocal cords. 

“Who sent you?...” Hellcat asked nicely, for if she had to ask a second time it wouldn’t be quite so polite. 

“Ha… you wont live long enough to need that information…” he spat back at her. “But War sends his regards…” his final words trailing off into whispers as his life faded away with the blood exiting his neck. 

Lucy took a few seconds to catch her breath, to compose herself before she attempted to track down the sixth and final assailant. As the adrenaline began to leave her system she felt a sharp, stinging pain in her left side, just below her ribs. She felt down her scarlet dress and detected a wet spot, coupled with a small hole. A stray bullet from one of the attackers had somehow found its mark. Lucy had been shot, through and through, in the side. The feline applied a little pressure to the area to calm the bleeding but to her surprise there wasn’t much of it. Perhaps the bullet missed anything vital and only hit meat. No time to worry about it though... In the silence of the corridor she heard a faint noise. Curiosity got the better of her as she craned her neck to locate the source. 

From inside the apartment she noticed a duffle bag that had no business being where it was. Upon closer inspection the noise she had heard turned out to be a low key ticking sound… emanating from the bag. 

Looking closer towards the bag, Lucy noticed a timer built into the side with a few wires protruding from it. The timer read 00:04… and was counting down in seconds. That bastard that Lucy shot first had activated the timing sequence when he fell to the floor… 

“Alex…” 

--- Outside the complex ---------- 

Atreyu was standing waiting patiently for the Lynx to pop her head around the corner with a smile on her face saying “Nothing to worry about!” 

Unfortunately that was not the case. Ru knew what the sound of a gunshot was like from inside a building. She knew that there was trouble, and she knew that if anyone was to escape the situation, it was Lucy. 

“Please be okay, please be okay, please be okay” she pleaded with herself out loud for the world to hear. Knowing full well that so many gunshots couldn’t be a good thing in any instance. 

“Ohhh… please be o-…” before she could even finish her sentence, the unthinkable happened. A huge explosion tore through the building’s top floor, throwing glass and debris all over the street below, all over Ru. 

The Lynx took cover as best she could but inevitably the glass cut her up. Her wounds however weren’t life threatening… 

A few seconds later Atreyu emerged from her cover, in shock at what had happened. Onlookers had began to gather on the street and mammals of all shapes and sizes emerged from their houses along the street. Nothing this scale had happened in Zootopia for a very long time. 

Atreyu took some time to collect herself, the medical professional in her tending to her own wounds as best she could before it dawned on her… 

“Lu…LUCYYYYYYY!!” 

--- Le Trou D'arrosage ---------- 

“…And the idiot charged at me with a spoon!! A FUCKING SPOON!!” Jenson and the rest of the gang were still in the restaurant, swapping stories with each other to pass the time. Their waiter had passed by twice already asking if they were ready, both times he was met with a resounding no.

“Ha, what did you do?” Tristan asked, nearly in tears by the conclusion of the tale. 

“I did what was necessary, shot him in the kneecap HA!” Jenson, laughing like a Hyena, couldn’t help but tell jokes to break tension. Mainly directed towards Tristan, as the wolf and the Coyote hadn’t spent much time alone together due to their work rotas.  

It was Alex however to break the tension… but only to voice his fears a little more clearly. 

“Bix…” 

“Yeah Alex, I noticed…” Bixby whispered back to him… 

Jenson overheard the two friend conversing and noted a distastful expression coming over their faces  “Noticed what?” he asked, trying to remain hushed also. 

“Remember when I said Jackals were rare within the city limits… I was being generous… there almost non-existent and yet…” Alex started before being interrupted by his brother. 

“There are 4 waiters, 2 chefs and 2 janitors… I count 8…” Tristan chimed in, followed by Bixby…

“10…” The young Hare noticed 2 more carrying in crates of what appeared to be food. 

“12… There are 2 more In a car outside… I can smell them…” Alex corrected. “Maybe it’s a coincidence…” 

“Alex, what have I told you about coincidences?” Howlett replied as he released the catch on his holster. 

“So far 5 of them have made eye contact on more than one occasion… that indicates they are keeping an eye on us…” Tristan deduced. And correct he was… 

Alex closed his eyes and took a long, deep breath in through his nose… “Oil, Lead, Gunpowder… most of not all of them are packing…” 

“So its settled then… Tristan, when the bullets start flying can I count on you to get as many innocents out through the back door as you can?” Howlett requested of the Coyote, which was met with a confident nod back in his direction. “Okay on the count of three, we make our move… get as many out as possible then fall back to the street!” 

Bixby started. “One” 

Followed by Tristan. “Two” 

“Three”  

Howlett stood, unholstered his Magnum and held it in the direction of one of the Jackals. It was then that he realized three of them had already made a move for their weapons hidden under their shirts. The Wolf, confident who was an attacker and who was an innocent, fired two shots. Being the Sharpshooter that he was, the first shot found its mark in the left eye socket of a Jackal. The second hit another directly in the chest with enough force to knock him back several feet.

Two down. 

Bixby followed suit, joined by Alex not moments later. The rookie pair located their targets easily, most of them hiding behind over turned tables or the bar. Bixby fired first, lodging a few bullets in the hardwood furniture right in front of the attackers.  

The Jackals retaliated, a hail of lead flew towards the Officers but luckily found nothing but air as they zing on past the mammals.  

Tristan, in the few seconds that had elapsed had managed to navigate the floor, picking up children and smaller mammals that he could easily carry while ushering others towards the back door through the kitchen. The Coy, along with 13 other smaller mammals had lined up against the back wall, just out of sight from the gun-mammals but still in danger. He was about to open the door to the kitchen when he heard the unmistakable sound of a safety latch being messed with. Tris immediately withdrew his large knife from its sheath and waited patiently for the intruder to emerge. 

It didn’t take long however. Within just seconds the door swung open and two Jackals had emerged holding automatic rifles. Luckily they had tunnel vision and hadn’t noticed Tristan or the others lined up just behind them, something the Lawyer used to his advantage. Tris slid up behind the first one and with a quick and fluid motion snapped the canines neck, sending him to the floor instantly. The second however wasn’t allowed a quick death. The Coy plunged his knife into the Jackals lower back, with the tip protruding from his stomach. The edge of the blade did not cut the fabric of his shirt at the front but was visible as a crimson pool started to form around his belly button. 

“You ruined my evening…” Tristan whispered coldly into the dying canine’s ear as he slowly twisted the knife and finally, after the assailant took his final breath, he withdrew his blade. 

“Come on, follow me…” he motioned towards his group as he lead them through the kitchen and out the back catering entrance. 

Back at the gun fight, Alex dispatched 2 of the attackers as they made silly mistakes, most notably peeking out to see if he had hit anything… which was met with a piece of copper hurtling towards him at 1200 feet per second. 

Bixby had managed to eliminate 3 of the Jackals. Two of which had emerged from the car parked outside and burst in through the front door, only to be met with the Hare and his .22 Hornet. 

The fire fight continued on until one of the Jackals, a tall and skinny, dark coated canine, yelled the one word that gave the team a sigh of relief. “RETREAT!” 

With that the attackers ducked out the back door through the kitchen, avoiding fire from Alex’s .45 and Howlett’s .500. 

“ALEX, BIXBY, HEAD OUTSIDE, WERE TRAPPED IN HERE!” shouted the terrifying Wolf Hybrid as he used his enormous pistol to motion towards the front door. It didn’t take mich convincing at all to get the two rookies outside and taking cover behind a parked car just across the street. 

“Everyone here? Anyone hurt?” Jenson asked around his two teammates, having spotted a little blood on Bixby’s shirt. 

“Just a graze, sir” the Hare reasoned with him. 

“HEY!” came a cry from down the street. This sudden noise coupled with their heightened adrenaline levels caused the three Officers to draw their weapons on the source. Luckily it was Tristan who had just finished tending to the escapees.  

The Coyote noticed the three suspects making a run for the door and decided to intercept them. One was unconscious and bleeding while the other two were whimpering and crying, being held down by the previous patrons of the establishment. “Seems you missed a few…” 

At the conclusion of his sentence came a sound off in the distance that was unmistakable to even an untrained ear… a sound that, judging by the direction, made the hair on the back of Alex and Jenson’s necks stand on end…  

An explosion… 

“Was that…” Bixby couldn’t finish his sentence before his gifted mind jumped to the conclusion and sudden realization that the sound came directly from the apartment block… from where Lucy and Atreyu were currently at… He ran as fast as his legs could carry him all the while shouting at Alex “COME ON, THEY ARE IN TROUBLE!”  

Alex followed suit and began to run after his friend and partner. It wasn’t until just then that he realised that Lucy, the girl of his dreams, was in real dang… hold on… that smell…  

Alex was halted in his tracks… he took a deep sniff… and his eyes widened in fear. The Coy’s keen sense of smell detected the distinct smell of semtex... coming from… 

“BIXBY! WAIT!” 

Too late… 

The Hare was passing by a silver city car, around 15 feet away from both of them when it suddenly and devastatingly detonated. Bixby didn’t have any time to react. The blast caught him and sent his small frame flying, careering directly into Alex, who was also just milliseconds away from being thrown by the explosion. 

The two mammals landed hard, luckily Bixby landed on top of Alex which cushioned his landing but Alex caught the most of the impact. The Canines head met the concrete violently and his body rag dolled unconsciously along the road before coming to a more permanent stop against the sidewalk.

Bixby too crashed into the pavement to a lesser extent but attained some deep wounds in the process. 

Three mammal's lives were in the paws of a few right now. Their fates are unclear. 

What started as a lovely night out with friends suddenly and dramatically took a turn for the worse. 

To all intents and purposes, War got what he wanted…

Chapter Text

Beep 

“Whats that?...” 

Beep 

“That sound... its like...” 

Alex awoke abruptly with a gasp as if he had been underwater, the faint sound that caught his attention ending just as suddenly. The Coy found himself in a somewhat familiar setting, tables and chairs scattered around a large open plan room, a large window stretching the length of an entire wall and a larger table positioned in the centre of the room. A circular table designated for 6 mammals. Looking down to check himself he found that he was in his detective gear, his waistcoat/combats combo and his pistol strapped to his side. 

“Wha... Where am I?” he muttered to himself, rubbing his eyes in disbelief at his situation. “Wait... the restaurant?...” 

“Yeah dude! You musta got hella drunk to pass out like that!” a voice echoed around the room void of other souls. 

Alex lifted his head in shock at the sudden appearance of another mammal. The voice sounded omniscient but... familiar. “B...Bixby?” 

“B...B...Bingo... Why are you stuttering? It’s unlike you to be caught off guard like that” Bixby was sitting cross legged in the centre of the table, his arm folded into his chest all the while wearing his signature know-it-all smart ass grin. 

“Bixby where are w-...” Alex tried to establish his situation further when a flash of pain caught him by surprise. He flinched in pain and held his paw to his temple.  

BIXBY WAIT! 

Those 2 words flooded his every thought for a solid 5 seconds before receding back into silence. Alex opened his eyes to have another look around. Much to his horror. The tranquil restaurant floor was soaked in blood and glass. The large window was smashed into thousands of pieces and scattered across the interior. Tables and chairs were over turned and riddled with bullet holes. However the most shocking find was the numerous bodies strewn across the floor. Innocent victims of a massacre. No. Perpetrators. 

“Who are you?!” Alex turned back to Bixby, still sitting on the table with a devious smile on his face. 

“What do you mean? I'm Bixby” the Hare replied, his expression not changing in the slightest. 

“Bixby wouldn’t make fun of someone with a speech impediment, even as a joke... Who are you” Alex reasoned, surprising the impostor with his deductive reasoning. 

“Huh... very good pup, usually takes longer to catch on. As for who I am?” the individual said as his form started to grow a little taller, his fur grew a little darker and longer and his ears began to shrink into themselves. His eyes changed from a pale blue to emerald green. Before Alex could comprehend what was happening the mystery mammal had morphed into the exact likeness of Officer Lucy Benson. Scarlet dress and all. 

“I am who ever you want me to be... I am Bixby, I am Lucy, Howlett, Tristan, Bogo, Earth, God, Death... I am everything. And right now I am here to tell you that your time has not yet come...”

Alex, still in shock at this figure suddenly morphing species and gender, stood from his chair slowly and began to walk around the table, keeping his eyes on the figure of the female Lynx at all times. 

“God? Death? And what do you want with me?” he asked, bracing himself for the answer, for whatever it was it cannot be good. 

The figure began to grow once more, changing into the form of a Jackal wearing a long brown coat. His face however was a little messed up, a bullet hole tore through his cheek and a second one just above his left eye still leaking a thick red ooze onto the table below him. 

Alex stopped in his tracks and looked away from the mammal at the centre of the table. He knew full well who this one was supposed to be... His first kill. The Coy took a shallow breath, choosing his words carefully before speaking. “It was him or us, I have no regrets...” 

“Oh, I know you don't. Death is a fact of life, it was his time, he made a stupid mistake and looked out from behind cover as you shot. I am not here to condemn you, as I said before, it is not your time. There is still more you need to accomplish in life. I wont collect you until it is your time.” 

Beep 

The sound started again, catching Alex’s attention once more. The Coyote looked towards the exit of the establishment, out into the darkness of the night. 

"So, tell me... why are you trying to torture me?" Alex asked inquisitively as the night sky outside began to glow an ominous red and orange tint. "I can only assume this reality is all in my head, the room being the last room I was in, my freshest memory. Lucy wearing her red dress... the Jackal... The restaurant... everything is relatively new..." Alex closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "...So what happened after this? Outside is on fire... did I die?" 

"Heh, yes, this is your sub-conscious. How perceptive you are" The Jackal smiled back at the Officer, his dead eyes fixated on Alex as he leapt off the table and over to the Coy. "But don’t worry, you will know soon enough" 

Beep

The Jackal was now standing within a foot of Alex as he was still staring towards the door of the French establishment. "Are you ready to face reality?" 

"Yes"

---  5:05pm, July 30th, Savanna Central Hospital ----------

2 days had passed since the bombings. The city was still in total shock at the sudden and unpredictable violence not 48 hours prior. Chiefs Bogo and Rockford had given a personal statement at a press conference, assuring the public was safe from further attacks and that this was an isolated incident... How wrong they were. 

Despite the unrest amongst the ranks, the majority of the ZPD had gathered at the conference to pay their respects to those lost in the bombings. 

Savanna Central Hospital houses most of those caught up in the attacks. Ranging from minor injuries to life threatening conditions, all staff of the hospital were on paw to take up the slack, to help all that they could, as best as they could. The ZPD officers that were caught up in the incident were all receiving treatment and round the clock armed guard, for reasons that only the upper staff of the ZPD knew about. 

In room 1116, one of these officers resided. An officer that was considered high risk in both medical treatment and safeguarding from further retaliation. An officer that was about to have the shock of his life. 

Officer Alexander Hunter lay helpless in a hospital bed, the room dimly lit and the walls barren of stimulus. A faint beep could be heard from one of the machines the young canine was hooked up to, his heart rate monitor. In one corner was an arm chair designed for a medium sized mammal, which at this moment in time was currently occupied by an unknown presence. 

Suddenly, after 2 days of unconsciousness, Alex began to stir from his slumber.

"Mmmm... ugh... Where?..." He said as he slowly and carefully raised himself up in the bed. A sudden pain shot up the canine's side which caused him to winch and move a little slower. He took a moment to gather himself before having a look around the room, allowing some time for his eyes to get used to the low light levels in the room. Once he could see relatively clearly, he noticed the mysterious figure sitting on the chair in the corner. "Who... Who's there?" 

"Hmm? Oh, Officer Hunter, your awake!" An English voice shouted up, a set of long ears shot up against the backdrop of the closed blinds. "How are you feeling?" 

"Uhh, a little sore to be honest... I'm sorry but who are you?" He replied, trying to figure out for himself the identity of the other mammal. 

"Oh, sorry, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Special Agent Jack Savage, it's a pleasure to meet you Officer Hunter!" 

"Special Agent... And why are you here?... And, where am I?" 

"What do you remember?" Jack asked Alex as he stood up on the chair and slowly turned the dimmer switch on the light, showering the room in a growing luminescence.  

"Last thing I..." Alex began as he had a few flashbacks of the gunfight. Every shot vivid in his mind, every pop of his 1911 causing the canines paw to flinch a little, enough for the Jackrabbit to notice. 

"Seems you remember enough huh... May I call you Alex?" Jack asked, getting an almost immediate reply in the form of a simple nod. "There's no easy way to explain this but to simply drop it like it is. It seems the rookies of the ZPD this year were targeted in a mass terrorist attack aimed at the Police Department. Motives as of yet are unknown." 

"Wait... What do you mean the Rookies? Which?" Alex butted in immediately as Jack finished his sentence. 

"All of them I'm afraid... All 12 officers that were assigned to Zootopia this Summer had been targeted... I'm afraid only 3 have survived..." Agent Savaged dropped the bombshell, so to speak. A revelation that Alex was clearly not prepared for... 

"All of... LUCY? BIXBY?" 

"… Are safe, for the time being, a little banged up but alive. They are being guarded as we speak, nothing will happen to them" 

Alex eased up, feeling as if a huge pressure had been lifted off his chest. His best friends had survived the attacks. But still, the young canine couldn't help but feel a sense of sadness that 9 others had lost their lives. 9 mammals that he had grown attached to over the past number of months as they trained together, ate together, studied together... graduated together. 

"Max, Amelia, Niles, Billy, David, Wallace, Chester, Pauline, Anna... There all gone?" 

"I'm afraid so, Alex. The 9 rookies, along with 17 other Officers that were either assigned to them or in the general vicinity of them. From what I gather the only difference was in the case of the Team. You, Bixby and Howlett were targeted by a full team of assassins followed by a car bomb... Unusual, but it makes me think you three were a priority target" Jack concluded his hypothesis.

"Were there any other casualties?" Alex asked, almost not wanting to hear the answer.

"… 78 Civilians were caught up in the attacks, 16 lost their lives. When the bomb went off beside you and Bixby, the building opposite suffered massive structural damage... It collapsed, killing 8... The ZFD are still pulling mammals out of the rubble." 

A single tear rolled down Alex's cheek. He couldn't bring himself to look the Jackrabbit in the eye, in the back of his mind he was partly responsible for the death and destruction that had just occurred. 

"Don't you dare... Alex don't you dare feel guilty, I can see it in your eyes. If you want to feel angry, feel anger towards the perpetrators. If you want to feel sad, do it after you make the City safe for the remaining mammals. If you want to make amends, do it by picking up your gun and badge and making a difference!" Jack had had enough of mammals in this situation before, firmly believing that tough love was the best way forward. Just how he was raised and look how he turned out. 

"YEAH, STOP CRYING, I'M TRYING TO SLEEP HERE!" 

Alex's spirits suddenly picked up. He sat up in his bed, disregarding the pain coming from his wounded body and began scanning the room for the jackass he knew that it came from. 

"Oh yeah!" Jack said as he sprung from his seat in the corner and over to a dividing curtain to the left of Alex's bed. As he reached it, the rabbit slid it open, revealing the purposefully scrunched up and goofy looking face of a very familiar Hare. 

"I'm afraid doctors couldn't fix my charming good looks, what do you think, be honest, do I look sexy?" 

"Still as ugly as every Bixby!" Alex smiled for the first time since he woke up, tears still running down his face but in this instance, they were for the best. The joy of seeing his childhood friend alive and kicking almost brought his to a full-blown cry. 

"HA still better looking that you pup, these hospital gowns don't do my figure justice anyway. Even Tristan is bored of me" Bixby said as he pointed over to a sleeping Coyote, spread length ways across a double sofa against the far wall. Tristan was wearing the same suit he had worn to the restaurant, albeit a little torn up from the blast and bloody from the Jackals he took down. Also, a set of cuffs, fastened to his front side. 

"Uh... why is my brother under arrest?" Alex couldn't help but to ask.

"Funny story... when I got out of surgery, he demanded to see me immediately but the doctors refused, stating that I needed time to recover. He might have... flipped a little and assaulted 4 Police officers before Howlett grabbed him. They aren't pressing charges but requested that he wore the cuffs 'just in case' haha. Still doesn't beat what Charon did when he heard about the attacks on the team. He tracked down the bomb maker, beat him to a bloody pulp and hung him up by his tail outside the front entrance to Precinct 1, completely unseen by any of the officers. the mammal was half dead by the time they managed to get him down." 

"I can imagine, he wanted to help us didn't he? Perhaps a little extreme tho... How are you feeling anyway?" Alex smiled while asking. Knowing full well that if his own body was anything to go by then Bixby must be in serious pain. 

"I'm uh, not too bad I guess. Little banged up but alive!"

"Bixby...." 

"Fine... I was standing closer to the explosion than you were. I have burns to my back, multiple penetration wounds, heh kinky... uh shrapnel still imbedded in my left leg, 5 broken ribs and a concussion. I believe that’s all. I'm more worried about you tho..." Bixby exclaimed, holding his head low and his ears lower. 

"What do you mean?" Alex asked, knowing he had wounds but they weren't anything he couldn't handle.

"You haven't been told about your injuries yet, have you?" Bixby asked, looking over to Agent Savage. "Alex, your heart stopped on the operating table for 2 minutes... you were dead..."

The Coyote's eyes widened as he looked over at Savage, who was sitting back on his chair letting the two friends get reacquainted. "That explains the dream..." he muttered to himself. 

"What dream?" Bixby asked, overhearing the canine talking to himself.

"Nothing, it doesn't matter" 

"Huh... Okay, well the worst wound was the one to your side. A large piece of metal shot from the car and into your side, it took 2 hours to remove it before you bled out, that’s when you went into cardiac arrest. A few other lacerations, several broken ribs, oh by the way I landed on you, few scrapes and bruises and a severe concussion" 

"Wait, what do you mean you landed on me?! and where exactly Is Lucy anyway?" 

Just at that moment, Detective Howlett walked into the room, making his presence known to all within the area. he shot a disapproving look towards Savage before walking over to the rookie's bedsides. 

"Lucy is in the female section of this ward, they weren't allowed to house you three together despite my protests. Savage would have been more than enough to look after you all. And how are my two rooks doing this morning?" Jensen asked, bringing coffee to all four of the rooms occupants, setting one down on the table next to Tristan. "Lazy bugger"

"Thank you for the coffee, Detective" Savage said politely upon receiving a paper cup of pick-me-up juice. 

"Yeah, yeah, are these two fighting fit yet? We have a rabbit to go after" Jenson fired back.

"I think I'm okay sir, but Bixby I'm not so sure about" Alex answered Howlett's question and directed attention towards the hare in the other bed. 

"He's right sir, the burns on my back need some time to heal. I may be out of action for another week but give me my laptop and tablet and I can be useful in other places" 

"Don't worry about it Bixby, you take time to heal up, tomorrow Hunter, Savage and I will meet with the Chiefs, give them the sit rep and determine how we move forward with this." Howlett was firm in his convictions but sympathetic to a fault in his friends well-being. he cared not for the job but rather that everyone made it through alive at the end. He wasn't about to push Bixby's body to the limit for his own selfish goals of capturing the Ghost. "For now, I want you two to rest up. I have checked in with Benson, she seems to be getting better every passing hour." 

"What happened to Lucy?" Alex couldn't help but to speak out of term to his superior. Howlett was on duty at the moment but allowed it to slip in the present circumstances. 

"Bens... Lucy was at the centre of an explosion..." Howlett revealed, his head lowering out of respect. 

The moment he heard this Alex immediately started to undo the number of wires and tubes that ran into his body, ripping them out as if he didn't care about hurting himself. 

"ALEX CALM DOWN!" Jay howled, loud enough for doctors and nurses down the hall to peek out of their respective rooms to see what the commotion was about. 

Alex immediatly stopped what he was doing, not out of fear but rather out of respect for Howlett. He knew that if Lucy was in peril then the Wolf wouldn't prevent him from seeing her. 

"She was attacked outside the apartment by what forensics have concluded was a small pack of Jackals not dissimilar to the ones that attacked us. The pathologist that examined the bodies concluded that they all died before the bomb went off which means my little Hellcat took down 5 Jackals all by herself. She only survived by quick thinking on her part. Lucy fashioned herself a shelter using the bodies of two of the canines. When we found her, she was laying underneath them, her claws buried deep into their backs, using them as a shield. I'm afraid she has some temporary hearing loss, as can be expected, dislocated jaw that's on the mend, dislocated ankle and some internal bleeding caused by a bullet to her lower left side just above her hip." 

"I see... may I see her?" Alex asked, furious at the Jackals not for the restaurant but for laying a finger on his partner. 

"Not yet Alex, visiting hours aren't for another hour, I'm only here to check up on my officers. And Savage here is your personal guard" 

Jack waved from the corner. "Hello!" 

"So for now... rest" Howlett commanded the two officers as he turned and exited the room, closing the door behind himself. 

"Alex are you okay?" Bixby asked, concerned for his partner's mental state after such news. 

"I need to see her Bix..." Alex said as he continued to remove his medical equipment from his body. "Huh, aren't you gonna try to stop me, Savage?" 

"Call me Jack, and no, my task is to guard you so if you'd like a stroll then who am I to deny you, ey?" Jack replied as he turned and faced out the window, winking in the process.

"Heh, thanks Jack" Alex said as he stood for the first time in 2 days, his legs showing signs of weakness as his knees began to shake a little under his own weight. 

Outside room 1116 it was relatively empty, visiting hours having the most traffic with staff and the general public but right now, right now was the perfect time for a spot of sneaking. Wearing nothing but his hospital gown, Alex slipped out of his room and closed the door silently behind himself. He made his way over to floor 11's main desk and proceeded to steal, well borrow, the patient rota to find out exactly what room Lucy was in. The Coy was in luck, Lucy was at the top of the list, room 1102, just at the far end of the current hallway.  

Alex slowly made his way down the corridor, his padded feet falling silently on the marble floor as he kept an eye out for nurses or other officers but alas, nothing. After just a minute he found himself outside the Lynx's room, wondering if he should knock first or ninja his way in. Finally deciding to knock just in case he found his partner in a compromising position, he proceeded to tap gently on the frosted glass window of the door. Glancing from left to right he kept a sharp ear out for anyone approaching from down the hallway. "I'm an idiot... she can't hear that" he whispered to himself as he opted for plan B. Carefully he turned the doorknob until the lock clicked open and the door loosened from the frame. The Coy slowly slid his way into the room and closed the door behind himself, keeping his eyes closed just in case she was changing and perhaps didn't want the added complication. "L-Lucy? Officer Benson?" 

"Alex?! The hell?!" Lucy shouted across the room, a disapproving expression washing over her face. 
An unknown party was also within the room, sitting next to the bed on a small stool. The mammal was another Lynx, male, similar in fur colour and pattern to Lucy but different. The Lynx had shining golden eyes surrounded with a thick pair of full frame glasses. He was of medium build but clearly well-toned, wearing a shirt that was perhaps a little too tight for him, skinny jeans and a pair of converse. 

"Hey dude" was all the second Lynx could say in the situation.

"Um... hey, sorry to barge in like this. I uh, just wanted to see if you were okay Lu. I just heard about what happened...and..." 

"Alex..." She sighed. "It's okay... but you should knock first"

"I... I did knock but I didn't think you would hear..." Alex said, still looking at the male Lynx, his heart sinking a little. 

Lucy could see the tiny hint of depression hovering above the Coyote and decided to break the tension. "This is Merrick, He's a friend of mine from back home" 

Merrick followed suit. "Just happened to be in Zootopia on business and heard of the attacks on Rookie Officers, rushed straight to the hospital and found out Lucy here had been attacked." 

"And so you snuck into a Hospital out of visiting hours to see her?" Alex remarked with just a hint of jealousy (A lot of jealousy). 

"Aaaand that's my que to leave, It's been good seeing you Lucy and I hope you get well soon!" Merrick said as he stood from his stool and flung a small satchel across his back while retrieving a pair of earphones from his pocket. 

"Good seeing you too Mer, Have a safe trip home" Lucy smiled back at the Lynx as he brushed past Alex, still standing by the door in his gown. 

As he passed Alex he whispered over to the canine. "Don't you dare let anything happen to her again" before popping his earphones in and walking out of the room, leaving Lucy and Alex alone in the semi-darkness. 

Alex couldn't help but growl and bare his teeth at the seething words of the Lynx, nearly tempted to go after him but decided against it as he heard his name being called. 

"Alex!" Lucy shouted, motioning him over with just a single finger and a cross look on her face. The same look a mother would give her child when they broke a vase. 

The anger fizzled out almost immediately as he slowly made his way over to the Lynx's bedside and plonked himself down on the very same stool. 

Lucy sighed, picking her words carefully to avoid any conflict. "Alex, I'm not mad that you invited yourself in but I am mad that you decided to sit on the stool" 

Alex looked confused, tilting his head like the dog he is. "Wha?"

Lucy pulled up the blankets and invited him into the bed beside her. "Don't worry, I don't bite"

The Coyote didn't need to be told twice as he leapt off the stool and into the bed, completely disregarding his own injuries in favor of making sure he didn't hurt Lucy. 

When they were both undercover Lucy wrapped her arms around him in a tight embrace. "Alex... When the bomb went off I thought I had lost you... I thought I was gonna die and that I wouldn't be able to spend any more time with you. It scared me..." 

Alex, reciprocating the feelings, threw his own arms around her and pulled her in tight. "Don't worry, I promise I won't die if you don't, deal?" 

Lucy pulled the Coy into a deep kiss before pulling back. "Deal" 

"May I ask, who was the Lynx exactly?" Alex felt compelled to ask, fearing competition for Lu's affections. 

"Merrick is an old friend of mine from Kingston. Yes, we dated for a while if that's what you wanted to know but we split up on good terms and don't fancy getting back together with him. You have nothing to worry about from him." 

"Worry about? I have no idea what you mean" Alex shyed away, visibly blushing under his fur. 

"Oh, I think you know what I mean pup, I'm not ready to be your mate, but if you would have me I would very much like to be your girlfriend..." 

Alex couldn't believe what he had just heard coming from his partner. The revelation excited him very much, as evident from his uncontrollable tail wagging. 

"Wow, calm that thing down before you break something! So how about it, I know Coyotes mate for life but if you are willing to mix things up then I can break my rule of dating outside my species." Lucy said as she blushed through her grey fur. The temperature of the bed quickly getting out of control from the body heat. 

"I would love that! Er I mean... Yeah that'd be cool I suppose" Alex trying to play it off cool, again being betrayed by his own emotions. 

Lu let out a small giggle, she felt like she was a teenager again, asking her first boy out on a date. 

The two lovebirds both decided to take it easy for the rest of the day, to enjoy each other's company and let their bodies heal up before the meeting tomorrow. 

For their future together, they both need to be in peak condition. 

--- 9:20pm, July 30th, War's Compound ----------

Niki had been hiding out in the city for the past 45 hours, no sleep, no food, living in fear of every police siren and black SUV that passed by. His clothes dirty and his fur matted from crouching for long periods of time beside and even in dumpsters. He feared going back to the compound, feared what War would do to him if he found out that he was the only survivor and that he ran away from his mission like the coward he was.  

But now that he was standing outside War's compound on the outskirts of the City he couldn't help but be brave. He knew that his mate was inside waiting for news of his return. Maybe he would get lucky and War wouldn't know about what happened? No, there is no way Niki would be that lucky. All he could do is enter the warehouse and face the consequences... 

The Jackal punched in the code to the front entrance, pausing on the last digit as a teardrop landed on his paw. "Come on you coward, Addy is waiting for you..." He psyched himself up as he pressed the final key and the door swung open with a buzz. No turning back now. 

Inside seemed like it had been deserted, the storage containers had been moved along with the other wooden pallets. The portable defences were removed and to all intents and purposes the warehouse looked like any other building. But one thing familiar still remained. The smell of blood and decay. Something had happened in his absence. 

Rounding the corner into a smaller room he was halted in his tracks, frozen in place out of fear. Before him, in the small room was a crowd of about two dozen Jackals, all holding automatic rifles... with War himself standing in the centre of the room.  

"Good evening Nikola, It's so good to see you again" War said, the ever so slight hint of anger in his voice. "Where has my lieutenant been the past two days?" 

"Sorry sir, I got lost..." Niki said, his legs trembling in fear. If he had had a drink in the past 2 days then surely it would be all over the floor by now. 

"Lost huh? But you have been in this city for a very long time now. I don't see how you could get lost" War said as he nodded towards two of the other guards who quickly walked over to Niki and grabbed him by the shoulders. "You see, I expect better from my army, I expect them to follow orders such as 'Kill a Target' or 'Return to base' but no. Here we have a Jackal that I spent good money on, one that I trusted not following orders... so what should I do?" 

"Please sir... Give me a chance..." Niki muttered, now fully engulfed in tears, his knees all but given up on him as the guards held him up. 

"Oh I forgive you, yeah... But you still need your punishment" The Rhino said as he stepped out of the way, revealing a sight that almost made Niki pass out. A sight that those of a weaker stomach couldn't watch. 

On the wall directly behind War was a Jackal nailed naked to the wall by his paws and feet. A burlap sack placed over his head with blood visibly pouring through it. The Jackal had been cut up with sharp knives, as if he had been tortured. His knees had been destroyed with what looked like a heavy blunt object. 

"Like what you see, Niki?" War said as he walked over to the small canine. "Can you guess who that is yet?" 

Unfortunately, Niki knew exactly who it was. His naked body plain for all to see was one that Niki himself knew intimately. He knew every old scar, every blemish, every colour change in his fur.

"WELL?" War shouted as he produced a large blade from his armour and ran the edge of it up Niki's spine, being careful not to break the skin. 

"A-Addison..." He sobbed, barely able to catch a breath between grief-ridden heaves. 

"Your god damn right it is!" He said as he kicked the small of the petite Jackals back, hard enough to propel him forward to with 15 feet of Addison's helpless body. 

"N-Niki... Is that you?" The Jackal beneath the hood just about managed to spit out, along with a fair amount of his own blood. 

"Oh Addy, I'm so sorry" Niki couldn't even bring himself to look up at his mate, knowing full well that it was his fault he was in this position in the first place. 

War walked briskly over to the couple, feeling generous enough to let them have a final word together. Albeit a short one, for his patience was at its length. With one quick jerk he removed the hood from Addison's head, ripping out a few hairs with it. 

Addison's body was bruised and battered, bloody from the past 24 hours of non-stop torture. Ever since Niki had failed to return to the compound with the rest of his team, War had concluded that they had failed in their mission and thus took his frustration out on the nearest mammal to him, three guesses as to who that might have been. A solid day of torture had left the young Jackal's body broken and unusable. Even if he was treated right now there wouldn't be much a hospital could do for him. Q brought it upon herself to slice up his body for a bit of practise, the poison of her blades being a slow acting one but ultimately brought death to whatever it cut. 

"Niki... Don't you... Don't you dare blame yourself..." Addison tried his best to speak but his weakness clear in his voice. He was barely able to keep his head up on his own strength.

It was only when Niki mustered up the courage to look his mate in the eye to apologise once more that he noticed the one thing that finally broke his spirits. Q had removed his eyes and sewn then shut. 

Niki fell to the floor once more, completely in shock, unable to speak as War walked up from behind and stood in front of the Jackal pinned to the wall. "It's amazing the amount of damage the body can take and still remain conscious. You could lose pints of blood, you could be beaten for hours with bats or hammers... hell you could lose your eyes and still long to open them once more. But inevitably all things must come to an end, wouldn't you agree Addison? 

Addison knew that War was standing directly infront of him and so with his defiant last chance he gathered blood in his mouth and spat it back in the face of the rhino. 

Obviously, War wasn't pleased with his lieutenant's latest act of betrayal. He wiped his mask and face down with a small piece of fabric handed to him by another Jackal, turned around to Niki's helpless form on the floor and picked him up by the fur on his head. 

The Jackal let out a yelp as he was lifted into the air and pointed towards his mate. Forced to watch Addison's final moment. The worst kind of punishment he could think of. 

"Open your eyes Nikola, before I remove your eyelids!" Holding Niki in one paw and the large knife in the other he forced Niki to open his blood-shot and puffy eyes. 

Sensing his end, Addison summoned up all the strength he had left and put them into his three final words. 

"I LOVE YO-…" 

War plunged his knife into Addison's chest, a clean shot to the heart. The Jackal didn't even have the time to yelp out in pain as the light faded from his body, within seconds Addison's head hung low and his breathing stopped. He passed away with a smile on his face, he last thoughts of Niki, his mate.  

Niki screamed out for his lost lover. A storm of emotion washed over his body as he was helpless to prevent his mates demise. All he could do was take in the details of his face, engraving his likeness to memory forever. 

With one fluid motion War threw the limp body of Niki a few feet away towards the Jackal guards as he retrieved his knife from the deceased canine. "Take that trash from my sight, do whatever you like with him, just make sure it's painful." 

--- Roof of The Compound ---------- 

One party member that was not present in the crowd was the Ghost. War had told him to make himself scarce for the evening so he decided to get some rest on his favourite hiding spot, the rooftops.

He was all too aware that Addison was being interrogated but was unable and outgunned to man a rescue attempt or persuade War to spare him. All he could do was wait and hope that the two lovers survived their ordeal as he had gotten attached to the pair. 

The Arctic rabbit lay prostrate on the highest point of the roof, his mask removed as he watched the sun set off in the distance, anticipating the bright neon lights of the City to be switched on any moment. A small tear began to trickle down his face before finding its way onto the metal roof.

As he lay there, he made the shape of a heart using his fingers and placed the shape over his own heart, smiling up towards the sky as another day set.

Chapter Text

---5:50pm, July 31st, Precinct 1 ----------
Precinct 1 was a buzz with activity this morning. It had been days since the bombings but fresh reports of suspicious devices left all over the city kept the department on their toes. The ZFD had only just concluded their own investigation into the device left by the French Resteraunt that had caused a building to collapse entirely. A strangely powerful device, and one that had never been seen before, but alas, the bomb maker was still breathing through a tube and wasn’t much use to anyone at the moment, thanks to Charon.

Alex’s wound were only just beginning to heal properly and was informed by his doctor to take it easy for a week or two but he was not fortunate enough to be given a break. Chiefs Bogo and Rockford had requested Team Howlett to attend a meeting. But with two of its members still recovering in hospital, only Jay, Jack and Alex himself were able to attend.

The three mammals were seated just outside Bogo’s office, staring down into the lobby below, buzzing with activity. A heafty sized line was slowly forming at Clawhauser’s desk but the over-weight Cheetah appeared to have it under control.

Alex was the first to break the awkward silence emanating between Jack and Jay.

“Soooo... you two know each other?”

Howlett let out a grunt before replying. “Unfortunatly... I worked a case in Animalia alongside him... remind us how that ended?”

Jack face palmed, hard. “Ugh you cant let that go can you... Il skip the boring details right to the end. Essentially Howlett and I had a perp cornered in a warehouse, he had taken a hostage and was armed with a pistol. Howlett engaged him, trying to grab his attention while i got into position with a long rifle. After a few minutes I couldn’t get much of a shot on him so Howlett coaxed him out a little more, a more aggressive stance makes for an easier target. I aimed for his leg to incapacitate him but... heh...”

Howlett began to chuckle a little. “HA oh no continue, this is the good part”

“I was a little off target... the suspect moved out of shot a split second before I took it. The bullet grazed the thigh of the hostage and... hit the suspect... in the...”

“AAAAHAHAHAHA lets just say we hope the guy got plenty of use out of it before they were shot off!” Howlett laughed hysterically by the conclusion of the story.

“Oh come on, it wasn’t that funny...” Jack defended himself to no avail, even he though his misplaced shot was something to laugh about, considering who it was.

“Sorry Jack but that is pretty funny” Alex couldn’t help but crack a smile at the tale. Crossing his legs as he pictured the aftermath of the poor mammal. 

Both Jack and Howlett immediately stopped laughing, their ears shot up, followed closely by their bodies. Both mammals stood at attention, leaving Alex still seated wondering what was going on. Just then however, both Rockford and Bogo emerged from the Buffalo’s office.

“I can hear you three cackling from outside! Show a little professionalism before I put you and your team on PARKING DUTY!” Bogo snapped as he turned the corner.

Upon hearing the Chief’s voice, Alex tried to stand as quickly as he could before being seated again with a paw placed firmly upon his shoulder by the wolf.

Rockford spoke up when Bogo was done chastising Howlett. “Alex, how are you feeling?”

“Fighting fit, sir” the Coy replied as he saluted the Chiefs from a seated position.

“I hear your wounds were severe, shouldn’t you still be in the hospital? Rockford asked, with genuine concern in his voice. 

“The doctor gave me the all clear, so long as i take my meds three times a day and don’t fight ninjas, sir” he joked, trying to lighten the mood a little.

“I can tell you are gonna be annoying for me in the future...” Bogo said as he held the bridge of his nose and motioned the mammals into his office with his other hoof.

----------

Bogo's office was exactly as it always has been, almost to a point of being scary in just how little it's interior changes. The blinds were half cocked, allowing a miniscule amount of sunlight to illuminate the room... or perhaps illuminate is the wrong word. The only other source of light was from Bogo's personal computer, its blue glow casting a shadow against the wall in the shape of a severely pissed off Buffalo.

"Well?... What's the progress?" Bogo barked towards the three Team members. His expression changing only slightly from 'Angry' to 'Mildly Angrier'.

Howlett, being the senior member of the team, was the first to apply his extensive research... which amounted to almost nothing.

"Sir, there is a reason why he is called 'The Ghost'… he's damn near impossible to locate. There haven't been any suspicious deaths or any other markers implying a sniper was involved. All information regarding him is at my disposal but... he's still in the wind"

Jack was the next to put in his two cents. "My contacts in Major Crimes haven't been able to dig up any dirt on the rabbit either, he is very, very good at covering his tracks"

Bogo simply grunted at the lack of Intelligence gathered by the most experienced team in the building. "And what do you have to say, Officer Hunter?"

Alex looked up towards the hulking mammal, right into the Chief's eyes. Every muscle in his body was shaking uncontrollably but he tried his best to hide his anxiety. 

Before Alex had the chance to speak, a softer yet louder voice from the corner of the room piped up in his place. 

"Give the boys a break, Bogo. Can't you see they have all been through a lot in the past few days. Remember when you were a rookie? and I was your superior, hmm? I couldn't keep you out of trouble! And now look at you... Chief of Precinct 1 no less. You set the team a goal and a time limit, what more can you expect of them, going up against a world class assassin... need I remind you the Ghost has been in Zootopia before and you didn't even catch a glimpse of him!"

Chief Martin Rockford may have been a strict, no nonsense detective in his prime but in his twilight years he has been known to be a softie at his core. Aided by his cane, the aging Lion made his way over to a couch sitting against the side wall of Bogo's office and proceeded to plant himself as if he weren't about to leave ever again.

Bogo had nothing further to say on the matter of the Ghost, instead turning his focus to the recent terrorist attack in his beloved city. He cleared his throat and returned to his dead-eyed staring contest with Team Howlett.

"As it stands, I have my best Officers looking into the attacks, why the ZPD were targeted primarily and why your team was a difference circumstance. Officers Hopps and Wilde have been assigned to investigate the attack at the..." Bogo reached into his pocket and produced a small notebook, flicking through the pages until he found what he was looking for. "…'Le Trou D'arrosage'… I hate the French... Howlett... Do you think this may be connected to Ghost?"

"Honestly, I have no idea. It is a possibility but it isn't in his style. He never uses explosives and he always acts alone... but serial killers have evolved their styles before I guess..." Howlett was unsure. For the first time since Alex had known him, he had never known the Wolf to be unsure about the Ghost before.

"The only way to know for sure is to investigate further" Jack chimed in. "Shall we discuss tactic perhaps?"

"Sounds like a plan to me" Rockford agreed with the rabbit, knowing full well there wasn't much else that could be done at that moment in time.

--- 5:36pm, July 31st, War's Warehouse ----------

War's old compound was barren, all containers and wooden pallets had been moved to another location, or perhaps several. His plan had begun to take effect and the city was no longer safe. There were very few items left at the old warehouse, just some personal items to be collected at a later date. a few wooden shipping boxes scattered throughout the open plan warehouse.

To a select group of mammals, this place had been called 'home' for a number of years, ever since War had bought each and every Jackal out of slavery and into his own personal army. Every one of them had pledged allegiance to the Rhino, in varying degrees, but all of them lived under the same roof as their master. Niki was no exception. But now he found himself in a most precarious position.

For the past 20 hours the young Jackal had been submitted to various tortures, performed by those that he once called friends. Niki had been tied to a chair and beaten to within an inch of his life, left to recover a little then beaten some more. The canine had lost a lot of blood but refused to simply give up and die, despite the thought running through his mind a few times... just to be with his beloved. No. That's not what Addison would have wanted! That one thought was what kept Nikola going strong. 

The jackals that had pummelled Niki so badly had decided to take a break for a while, much to his delight. This meant he could continue his escape plan. For hours now, he had slowly and carefully pried a nail out of the wooden chair using his now bloody and deformed claw. This nail would be his salvation. With this nail his reach was now long enough to touch the ropes that bound his paws. With the tip of the nail he grinded the fibres away, piece by piece for as long as it took. 

After 50 minutes all hope had left the broken canine. His plan to break the rope appeared to have failed. He lost the last hour of his life in a futile attempt at freedom. Wait... YES! The nail had worked! Niki shed a tear of joy and cracked a smile for the first time today as the ropes that held him to the chair fell free and he could sit up. even the feeling of being able to stretch his arms felt amazing.

But now isn't the time to celebrate... "Come on Niki, how do I get out from here?..."

He reached down to his ankles and undid the rope, finally allowing him to stand, albeit a little unsteady on his feet. The jackal took his first careful steps around the small room. The space that he was kept in for the past day was tiny, little more than a storage room for mops, buckets, cleaning products and such.

"Perfect!" He thought to himself as he picked up one of the wooden mop handles and snapped it in two. He then proceeded to pick up a bottle of extra strength bleach from one of the racks and a squirt bottle full of window cleaner from another. He poured half the bottle of cleaner out into a bucket and mixed the bleach into the squirt bottle until the consistency was correct.

"Come on you bastards!" Niki thought out loud as he waited patiently for the guards to come back to the room to finish him off. He didn't have to wait long however. Just 3 minutes after arming himself, he heard the clicking of the locks on the other side of the door. 

Two jackals entered the room, laughing and joking to themselves about what their next form of torture would be while eating a sandwich. Damn that sandwich looked tasty...

Niki shook his head to get the thought of food under control as he readied his bottle and make shift baton.

One of the jackals finally took notice to the empty chair in the middle of the room surrounded by blood. He spat out his sandwich as he made for his pistol. The second one was a little more perceptive as he noticed the blood trail ran behind the door. As he swung the door back around he was met with a prolonged spray of diluted bleach to his eyes.

"AHHHHH..." Was the only thing he could say as he dropped his keys and staggered back, tripping over the other jackal's foot and falling to the floor. The second jackal reacted to the sudden commotion and swung his pistol around towards Niki but the young jackal anticipated this and blocked his arm, holding it up towards the roof and used the splintered end of the wooden shaft to impale the guard through the stomach. 

The guard dropped his pistol as his legs gave way beneath him. He was still alive but required urgent medical attention. Niki took the other end of the mop with him as he scooped up the keys and ran out of the room. Before he closed the door, he peeked through the door and said "I'm so sorry..." Before closing the door and locking it from the outside.

"Okay... in the hallway... this looks like the living quarters... perfect" he thought to himself as he ran down the narrow corridor hoping that none of the other guard in the area, if any, had heard the struggle. 

Eventually he reached the communal sleeping area, ducking behind one of the beds to remain undetected. He slowly peeked out from behind his cover to look for guards. To his surprise there was no one there. All the other jackals must have been moved to another compound by War. Lucky me!

He made his way over to a small ventilation cover in the north most corner of the room, having to slide a storage trunk out of the way to access it which wasn't easy to do with broken ribs. The pain had begun to set in as the adrenalin diminished. His wounds had begun to catch up with him. He used the keys taken from the guard as a flat headed screwdriver to open up the vent and slide the cover off, setting it to one side but easy to get to from inside the vent. 

Niki made his way into the ventilation system, taking some time to close the vent up after himself to cover his tracks. He crawled through the darkness for a good 40 feet, right turn, another 20 feet and another right turn. This final turn lead him to a small duffle bag, purposefully left there for him by the previous 'Death' who had intended its contents for both Niki and Addison... 

The Jackal took a few seconds to collect himself at the thought of his mate possibly still pinned to the wall but unfortunately, he was not in the position or physical state to help him down or bury him... All Niki could do was run... and that thought destroyed him inside...

He shimmied the bag out of the way and slowly but carefully undid the vent cover at the end of the shaft. He turned back around and grabbed the bag and dragged both it and himself out of the vent.

This final cover lead to the outside but he wasn't out of the woods just yet. There was still a 20-foot wall to climb and barbed wire on top before he could take freedom. True freedom. The first time out in the real world when he wasn't under War's direct orders.

The jackal took a quick glance left then right and pulled the bag over to himself. Out of the bag he took a length of rope with a hook on one end and a series of knots at 12-inch intervals. One more check, up and down the courtyard to check for guard. Looks like his luck had run out. There were 4 guards patrolling the area, two of which had automatic rifles. This was defiantly not looking good for the poor canine, he needed at least 2 minutes to set up the rope and climb to safety, never mind the broken ribs and other injuries, hell it may take longer. How was he supposed to get over the wall now...

"Theres.... there's no way that still works..." He thought to himself. This new plan however had risks of its own...

He silently crept his way back over to the vent and crawled back inside it, leaving the bag at the entrance to the shaft. He shimmied his way back down the vent and into the sleeping quarters once again. It wasn't long after reaching the room and diving behind a bed for cover that he noticed 2 more guards were now walking around and between the beds.

"Hey, wonder if that little traitor is dead yet?... wanna check?" One of the guards spoke softly to the other, grinning menacingly as he did.

"Come on, we have a job to do, don't do anything to get us in trouble, ya' hear!" the other jackal snapped back, almost to the point of ignoring him if he wasn't so stupid.

"Ugh fine, this is boring..."

"Yeah I know but still..."

Niki quietly slipped underneath one of the beds in the nick of time, just as the guards passed by. He really hoped that they wouldn't notice the vent cover had been removed and was still open for the room to see.

The jackal lay there underneath the bed for a good few minutes as the guards did their rounds and began walking towards the door and finally... left the room entirely. 

Niki didn't have time for this. He slipped out from under the bed and dashed across the room as quietly as possible, reaching the far wall in record time.

"Gotta be quick about this..." He said out loud as he removed the pin from the fire alarm and pulled the lever down. The building erupted in a deafening siren that could be heard from a few blocks away. 

Niki used all his strength and endurance to dash back across the room, before the guards returned to the room, and dove head first into the vent. He crawled as fast as he could down the tight space, right turn, then another and finally he reached the exit. Quickly he grabbed the duffle bag and rope, had a quick look around the courtyard and took a sigh of relief. Finally, a spot of luck, the 4 guards had went back inside to investigate and he was free to get to the wall. 

A quick sprint later, Niki found himself staring into the sky at the imposing mass of brick work and cement before him. He took the rope in one paw and began to swing it around and around to build momentum. When he achieved the desired force, he let go and the hook shot skyward, up and over the wall and catching on a lamp post on the other side. Niki took a second to catch his breath, holding his side in excruciating pain as he began to cough. he held his paw up to his mouth to muffle the sound a little but was horrified to discover a significant amount of blood had been coughed up as well. "Shit..." The canine thought to himself...

Niki looked up at the rope and took his first step to freedom. He grabbed the rope and forced his body to climb, using the knots as foot rests. Every pull was agony, every inch excruciatingly painful but the thought of his mate guiding him forward pushed him forward. 

After a few minutes he finally made it, sitting atop the wall while rummaging through the duffle bag for the next item in his escape, wire cutters. Just as Niki had his paw on them the fire alarm sirens had stopped. The canine took a look around to see if he was compromised and to his horror, from the main entrance to the warehouse came the 4 guards from before, armed with their rifles and walking right towards him...

"HEY! STOP THERE!" One of the jackals shouted as he and the rest of his group charged towards Niki, guns raised and ready to fire. 

This sudden turn of events caused the duffle bag to slip from Niki's paws and fall to the concrete below. His entire escape hanging in the balance and with no way to cut through the barbed wire safely, Niki had no choice but to do the unthinkable. 

The guards began to shoot at Niki, who was a sitting duck perched atop the wall. It was like shooting fish in a barrel, so to speak. The bullets whizzing past and hitting the brick work just inches away from the canine.

Niki closed his eyes, having no other choice he grabbed the barbed wire, ripped its foundations from the wall and used the razor sharp makeshift rope to descend the wall. Every inch down was by far much worse pain than on the other side. His paws being cut to ribbons before he crashed to the ground, safe on the other side. But this jackal was smart. He wasted no time at all to pull himself to his feet and sprinted out towards the city. Sprinting towards the neon lights of Zootopia. To safety.

--- 6:45pm, Precinct 1 ----------

Howlett, Savage and Hunter had concluded their meeting with Rockford and Bogo. The mammals had spent the best part of an hour bringing all parties involved up to speed about the ongoing investigations in both Precinct 1 and 5.

Alex opened the door of Bogo's office and stepped out onto the balcony overlooking the lobby to get a breath of fresh air. After all he had been in there for quite some time and with a nose as sensitive as his, he couldn't stand smelling Bogo's breakfast any longer.

"And Howlett, I expect to see some results from you very soon, I want you to keep in mind you have until October to find the Ghost, am I clear?" Bogo barked orders as usual, he liked to hear the sound of his own voice sometimes. Something about it giving him a sense of power and authority.

"Of course sir, we will report in when Bixby and Benson are discharged from the hospital" Howlett saluted the Chiefs, a sign of respect that was hammered into him from his time in the Animalia Police Department.

"Uh, Jay... You might wanna see this..." Alex shouted over to the Wolf Hybrid, a slight tremble in his voice as his eyes were locked on a mammal in the lobby below. The smell of blood filled the young Coyote’s nose.

"What is it?..." Jay asked as he too looked over the balcony in disbelief at the sight presented before him. "What the hell..."

Downstairs, in the lobby not 40 feet away stood the broken and bloody form of a Jackal, mid twenties and deep lacerations to his paws and thighs, blood pouring from his mouth and a face that looked as if he had just gone twelve rounds with Officer Fangmeyer.

"I NEED TO SPEAK TO DETECTIVE HOWLETT, NOW!" Niki protested out loud for all to hear before collapsing from exhaustion to the cold marble floor.

Chapter Text

In most instances when a criminal admits to a crime, especially in the case of terrorism and endangering life, said mammal would be hastily placed under arrest. Within the hour they would be processed into the system and the Major Crimes Department in Huntington would conduct their own separate investigation into possible extremist links both outside the country and domestic. Evidence gathered against them would be filed and logged into the system also. Their clothes would be taken and processed, being replaced with the traditional orange jumpsuit and their photos taken to update their rap sheet.  

This was not one of those instances... 

Nikola, the Jackal involved in the attempted murder of multiple police officers including Officer Lucy Benson, a detail that made Alex’s blood boil, unusually was being treated with a little decency. He was being held in an interview room, the blinds closed over from the inside while an on-site doctor treated some of the Jackals various injuries.  

Despite being a prime suspect in the bombing, Chief Bogo was treating the canine with a small amount of respect. More than what was afforded him in the care of War anyway. 

Niki was given a cup of coffee, black with 2 sugars as requested as the doctor proceeded to stitch up his right paw. The Jackal took the pain like a champ despite not having any anaesthesia due to unknown medical history. Only twice did he wince in pain when the needle and thread came to a stop just before his wrist where the flesh was thinner and again when his face was being cleaned up and sutchered.  

When both paws were stitched up and cleaned the doctor, a male boar in his mid thirties, proceeded to bandage them up and tape the ends off as safety pins weren’t allowed in the interview room for security reasons. 

“Okay that’s your paws done, now ill need to examine the wounds on your thighs. If you would be so kind as to remove your pants and place them on the table please I can begin.” The doctor requested rather formally, similar to Bogo in trying to get the Canine to open up a little. To be co-operative. 

“No, sorry doc...” Niki replied as he pulled his shirt down a little. The doctor picked up on this small gesture and tried to reason with him. 

“Son, you have nothing to fear from me, i'm simply here for your well-being. I'm here to help you but I can’t do that if you refuse it” 

“Please... just leave... and thank you” Niki replied, the pup not making eye contact with the boar throughout the entire examination. 

The doc was speechless. He knew the wounds down there could easily get infected but having heard all that had transpired in the past few days and how this Jackal was at the centre of it all, he couldn’t help but be a little biased. 

“Fine then...” he said as he packed up his medical equipment, slinging his chair into the corner of the room and snapping the blinds up, allowing the two-way mirror to become visible. “...Have it your way then”. The boar made for the exit, grunting as he walked. Upon opening the door he muttered a word under his breath that he knew the canine would pick up on. “Scum...” 

Finally alone, Niki rested his head down onto the table, on top of his paws and closed his eyes, dreading who would walk through the doors to have a swing at him next. 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the glass, stood Chief Bogo, Detective Howlett and Officer Hunter, keeping a careful eye on the proceedings of the medical exam. 

The doctor from before opened the door into the room with force. “That bastard needs shot, not stitched up!” 

“That’s quite enough Doctor, what was his injuries?” Bogo quizzed the boar, looking for information he could use to het under the Jackals fur. 

“Deep lacerations to the paws and thighs, or at least from what I could tell. A few facial fractures I believe, coupled with some minor bruising and lacerations. The blood coming from his mouth however isn’t something you should worry about, a few broken ribs says to me its just a little tearing and should heal up on its own, just no solid foods for a while... like he’s getting any... That’s all... he appears to have been violently assaulted within the past 24 hours, much of the wounds to his face have already begun to heal and there’s almost no swelling.” 

“Thank you Doctor, you may take the rest of the day off, it sounds to me like you need to calm down a little” Bogo thanked the doctor for his time before promptly walking with him out the door and down to the lobby. 

“Jay, you gotta let me in there to talk to him” Alex spoke up just as Bogo left the room. The presence of anxiety completely gone now, to be replaced with anger and curiosity. 

“Absolutely not. You don’t need to be a detective to know you wanna beat seven shades of shit out of this one...” Howlett rebuked. 

“Please, I need to get in there... you can watch the entire time, you have my word...” Alex begged his superior, hoping to bring him over to his side. It seemed to be working tho... 

“Alex you will be the ruin of me... Ugh fine... Go on ahead BUT I will be watching, so no funny business!” 

The Coy didn’t waste any time. He removed his weapon and holster, placing it on the table beside Howlett before making his way out of the viewing room. Within a few seconds he was standing at the door of the interview room, frozen, unable to form a coherent thought past the swirl of emotions he was feeling going face to face with Lucy’s attacker. But alas, he had a job to do so he pushed his emotions to the back of his mind and went into the room with a clear head. 

“Good evening...” Alex said as he walked into the room, his eyes meeting the Jackals as his head shot up from the sudden commotion.  

Something wasn’t right... 

Alex took a sniff of the air and began to form a profile in his own head about the suspect. He walked over to the table and produced a small brown folder with an empty survey page inside, placing it on the table and produced a pen from his waistcoat pocket before sitting himself down directly opposite the Jackal. He brought a small tape recorder out oh his pants pocket and placed it on the table between himself and Niki. 

“My name i-...” Alex began before being cut off.

“Alexander Hunter, ZPD, age 20, ward of Chief Rockford, Precinct 5...” Niki looked up at Alex, noticing the disgust in his eyes that he knew so much about him despite never meeting before.

Alex himself realised he was staring rudely and averted his gaze. “My apologies... now...” he clicked his pen and poised himself to take note. “What is your name? 

“Nikola...” 

The Coy waited a few seconds, confused as to why Niki only gave 1 name. “Im sorry, is that all?”

“Yes... just... just Nikola...” 

“Okay Nikola, and how old are you? “ he asked, a softer tone to his voice, taking note of how shy and scared the Jackals was, making sure not to scare him into closing up entirely. 

The Jackal raised his head a little, his eyes puffy and red from crying and looked deep into Alex’s own. “23... Im sorry... could I get some food? Please?” 

All anger and malice that Alex held towards the criminal had melted away almost entirely as the other canine uttered those words so innocently. Just then it clicked, something so simple as food could get this guy to open up! 

“Yeah, Il be back” Alex said as he clicked the tape recorder to the pause position and promptly left the room.  

He entered into the viewing room to find that Jack had joined Jay by the glass window and was watching the interrogation. “Hey Jack, Jay did you bring your lunch?” 

“Yeah, why?” the wolf replied with a typical canine head tilt.

Alex made his way over to Jay’s carrier bag and retrieved his lunch box, removing a pack of sandwiches wrapped in cling film. 

“Hey! My wife made those!” Howlett barked as he watched the thief make off with his lunch. 

Alex opened the interview room door a little too forcefully, startling Niki in the process who nearly spilled his coffee. 

“Oh, sorry, my bad” Alex apologised as he sat himself back down at the table and produced the package of freshly prepared brown bread sandwiches with lettuce, tomato and tofu, an unusual combo but its what Howlett liked and Atreyu knew it all too well. 

Niki’s eyes went wide at the prospect of food, reaching out for it while drooling a little from the corner of his mouth before pulling back and looking up at Alex. “I-is this for me?” 

“For sure! Go on ahead and eat” the detective in training slid the package over to him. 

The following sight would have been distressing to younger viewers as the Jackal tore into the sandwiches, nearly eating the cling film along with it. Within a few short seconds both halves of the sandwich were but a memory. 

“Feeling better? Feeling up to talking?” Alex asked apprehensively, scared that Niki would clamber back into his shell and lose the most valuable lead on the attackers so far. 

“Yes... Im sorry” 

“It’s okay, now... Where do you live Niki?” 

“Nowhere in particular, the Master moved us about every few years once his jobs were finished” 

The word ‘master’ caught both the attention of Alex and Jensen. “What do you mean by master exactly?” Alex probed. 

“Master War, he was our leader... the other Jackals and I...” Niki replied, a little disheartened as he thought back to what War had done to his mate. “Um Alex... I will tell you everything you need to know if you can do one thing for me... please...” 

Alex stopped taking notes and listened carefully to the canines request. 

“Back where I escaped... Warehouse 23, South Side Docks... War killed my mate...” Niki began but he voice started to betray him, as did his tear ducts. “He murdered him because of me...*sniff*... left his body stuck to a wall... please *sniff* please bring my Addison back to me... I miss him...”. The Jackals emotions finally gave out and he buried his head in his paws and sobbed out loud. The devastating realization that his one true love was gone forever finally dawned on him. Poor pup... 

Alex put down his notepad and slid it across the table, out of his way as he reached both paws across to the canine and comforted him the best he could. 

Howlett spared no time and sent Savage to the warehouse to investigate along with a small group of off duty officers that were in the precinct to lend a paw. 

“Listen, im going to get us both a cup of coffee, I will be right back” Alex withdrew his paw and left the room, leaving the emotionally broken Niki to cry it out. 

Back in the viewing room Howlett was taking notes, noticing something in particular that he found odd. As Alex entered back into the room, Jay took little time before voicing his theories. “Hunter, have you noticed anything peculiar about him? About his body in particular?” 

“No... well... when I first walked into the room I took his scent and noticed something weird about his particular smell” 

“How do you mean weird?” Howlett asked, wondering if his choice in investigator had paid off. 

“I mean... He doesn’t give off the typical scent markers that a male Jackal normally does... and there’s something else to the scent but I would need help to confirm” 

“I know what you mean... his facial features are too soft, his chest is slightly off and his hips are... for a lack of a better phrase... too wide” 

Alex looked at Howlett, words were not needed in this gesture as the Coy turned back around and proceeded over to the coffee pot to brew some coffee. 

After a few short minutes Alex returned to the room with Niki, who had recovered slightly from his flashback, and placed another cup down in front of him. 

“Thank you, Alex” 

“No problem, Niki... Can I ask something rather personal, and I understand if you don’t feel like answering...” 

Niki didn’t seem surprised by the off topic nature of Alex’s question, like he knew it was coming. “Sure” 

Alex danced around his wording before finally coming out and asking it straight. “Nikola, are you male?” 

Okay, that question caught him off guard. 

“Uh of course” Niki shrugged, a little uneasy about the question and for good reason. 

“Niki please think about it, you have no need to hide any longer” 

The Jackal began to get a little uncomfortable in the situation but despite his involvement in the attempted murder of Alex’s partner, he felt safe around the Coyote. His paws began to get clammy and he found it difficult to look Alex in the eye but after a brief debate with himself about trusting the canine or not he finally made up his mind. 

“...No, I’m not” 

--- 

In Niki’s line of work being male is an advantage, or should I say, a necessity. Males were considered strong and dominant, unwavering and loyal, females were the opposite. Females Jackals were thought of as weak and vulnerable, capable only of raising the family. Even when they were being sold a male would be worth significantly more than a female, most females were sold as simple sex slaves then disposed of when they became useless to their captors. 

One particular Jackal managed to bypass this diversity when being sold, he kept his secret for many years, when his heat cycle began he deliberately undertook tasks that kept him away from other males. He entrusted his secret to only 2 individuals... Nikola, the weakest physically, smallest Jackal in War’s personal army... was in fact a female. 

Niki had kept his... her secret so well hidden for the past 18 years that nobody suspected, not even War himself was aware that Niki was a girl. Addison had discovered her secret fairly early on in their time together but unlike other Jackals that would have taken advantage of her, Addy instead protected her, fought off others that would want to harm her and helped her hide her body as she developed and matured.  

Nikola bound her chest with bandage, just enough to pass off as a broad, masculine chest. She used the little boys room when no one else was around, the showers too. There was never an occasion where she needed to be naked around other... with the exception of Addison. The larger Jackal never once took advantage of her, because of this Niki developed intense feelings for him, eventually leading to the two becoming mates. 

The pair kept up the appearance of a homosexual relationship to avoid suspicion. When alone for extended periods of time they could be themselves, to plan their escape, make love or just simple talk to one another. The past 6 years for Niki turned out to be a dream come true, for she had found her life mate in the darkest of places. 

--- 

45 minutes had passed and Nikola had told Alex everything about herself, everything that Niki knew about War’s operation was laid bare for the ZPD to work with. Unfortunately the Jackal didn’t have knowledge of the Rhino’s master plan or his current whereabouts as it was chosen by him at random. And besides, War wouldn’t make it easy for the ZPD if he knows one of his own was snitching on him.

Niki had been abducted from her home town in Germany when she was just 5 years old. She didn’t remember anything about her family, not even her family name, only her first name... Nikola. Her abductor knew he would get more money for a male and that she was almost worthless to him. So he did what he had to, he taught Niki how to act like a boy, to talk like one and look like one. 

It wasn’t until she was 16 that she was sold off once again, this time to a wealthy buyer from The States, a Rhino to be exact that she finally found something of companionship in Addison. 

“And now here I am, telling my story to a Coyote I only just met...”

“You don’t have to hide any longer, don’t have to pretend to be a boy... you can be you” Alex comforted the best he could under the circumstances. To which Niki appreciated. 

“Officer... I understand this means nothing to you... or to Miss Benson... but I am so sorry for everything...” 

Alex took a little time before he decided to say anything. It was still too soon for Niki to mention Lucy despite his anger fading, he wasn’t ready just yet. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath however, before he could say anything, a knock came from the mirrored glass. The Coyote raised himself from the table, switched off the recorder and made for the door. Before he left he turned to the Jackal. “Just take care of yourself, and congratulations...” 

Niki tilted her head at the word ‘congratulations’ confused as to its meaning.

Back in the viewing room Jensen was on the phone with Savage and his team after a quick search of the warehouse Niki had given to them. 

“Her story checks out, there were two bodies found... two Jackals... one nailed to a wall and the other stabbed in a small room, looks like where she was held...sorry Jack, I was talking to Hunter, notify Bogo and come on back”. After his call he turned back around to the window into the interview room, locking eyes with the unsuspecting canine on the other side. 

“So what do you think Al? Your theory correct?” Jay asked Alex, not removing his gaze from the form of the broken Jackal. 

“Obviously she needs to be taken to a hospital to be treated and confirmation but... I believe so... she must be at least one month along...” Alex replied as he too looked in on the canine.

“Heh... a pregnant terrorist... seems odd right” 

“Honestly... I would be inclined to drop all charges involving terrorism from her, it seems to me that she was acting under duress, blackmail of bodily harm...” Alex tried to reason with his superior. 

Howlett huffed. “ I think so as well... The body at the warehouse was self defense, the attacks... involuntary... but she can’t stay in the city... this ‘War’ individual will most certainly be coming for her, the collateral damage could be massive”  

“I’ve been think about that... What if we move her outside the city without letting anyone know? Chief Rockford has a place in West Woodlands where I grew up... He kept it out of his personal records, it’s off the books. 

Howlett looked over towards Alex, stroking his chin like he was an old grand master and nodded in agreement. “If we get caught were in a whole lot of trouble... I’m talkin jail time” 

Alex too began to play with his fur as he thought of a way around the legal system. “Maybe... Maybe if we convince Bogo that we were taking her to Huntington to drop off at the Major Crimes... she will be out of ZPD territory as well as Wars. Should I ask Rockford?” 

Howlett gave a devilish smile at the Coyote, remembering why he picked these three rookies fresh from the academy. They all had a bright future in law enforcement... despite bending the rules sometimes. He then turned his attention back to the fragile canine, waiting patiently for her judgment to arrive. “Inform her first... then talk to Rockford, i'l deal with Bogo.” 

Alex didn’t hesitate as he made his way back to interrogation and opened the door much more carefully this time, not wanting to give the canine a heart attack. 

He was caught off guard however as he met eyes with Niki who had her shirt lifted up and was poking her belly. Alex diverted his gaze as Niki lowered her shirt. 

“Alex... what did you mean by ‘Congratulations’...” she asked, knowing the answer but wanting to hear it from his mouth. 

He made his way over to the seat and plonked himself down while removing the tape from the recorder and switching it off. “I have a highly developed sense of smell. In most cases I can track mammals, detect their species and genders. In some rare cases I have correctly deduced pregnancy in mammals but it seems to only be in pure blooded cases. Officer Bixby and Howlett have unusual scents because they are hybrids but you... I am 90% sure based on your scent that you are with child... Congratulations” 

Throughout Alex’s explanation, Niki’s eyes grew wider with shock and awe. The Jackal was fully aware that Addison wanted to start a family but they both wanted to wait until they were out of the country and safe... but now is a good of a time as any. “That bastard...” she cried, tears beginning to run down her cheeks as she thought of the family life she thought was lost. “I told him to be careful... but no he wouldn’t listen... big oaf” she muttered as she buried her head in her paws. 

“Uh... Niki... is everything okay?” Alex didn’t know where to look, how to comfort her in this situation. 

The Jackal lifted her head with the biggest smile she could muster. “Everything is perfect... Addy is still here with me” she said as she placed her paws across her belly, protecting her growing child with her life. “I couldn’t be better!” 

This action brought a smile to Alex’s face as well. “I'm happy for you Niki, truly... but we need to talk about something...” 

--- 10:00pm, Precinct 5, Rockford’s Office ---------- 

“So let me get this straight... you want me to knowing harbor a terrorist... in my own home... and keep her a secret until she can change her identity and start a new life outside Zootopia... Did I miss anything?”  

Understandably Rockford wasn’t entirely convinced with his ward’s plan. He had listened to the tape recording and understood Niki’s situation entirely, even her pregnancy. 

“Yes sir... that pretty much sums it up...” Alex was standing formally in front of the Chief’s desk, alone, trying his best to not only convince his Guardian to let them use his West Woodlands home but to not tell any if the other Chiefs of their plan, unsure if any of them might be corrupted by the Rhino. 

“Right... well you can unclench your butt-cheeks Alex, I will allow you to use my house and keep your secret on one condition... you own me a full house cleaning on it when you get there!” 

“AWW... might just check her into a hotel then...” Alex feigned annoyance as he gave a side smile to the imposing Lion. 

Martin threw the keys to the young detective in training, which he caught with ease. “based on the evidence you have provided, I believe this female is innocent and in danger. Officer, escort her to West Woodland and keep her safe... And Alex... Be careful!” 

“Yes sir, and thank you” Alex saluted his superior, which was reciprocated by the chief before he let himself out.

Chapter Text

“This has to be the most stupid and dangerous thing I have ever heard...” 

It was just after noon on a bright new day, a day which Lucy wasn’t exactly looking forward to. Today was the day that Nikola was to be moved undercover to West Woodland near Bunny Burrow. Due to the inherent risk of the ZPD being infiltrated by the 4 killers or the Jackals thus, very few mammals were in on the scheme. 

Howlett informed Bogo about the interview and convinced him to allow the use of an unmarked cruiser, Alex acquired the keys to the house from his Guardian Chief Rockford and his blessing to conduct the operation. Agent savage had the task of finding out who on the police force he could trust as an additional body. Upon reading through the recent personnel files of Precinct 1 he settled upon two Officers. Two that he personally believed had the skills and knowledge to be useful coupled with being incorruptible cops. Officers Judith Hopps and Nicholas Wilde. An obvious choice. 

“... And Howlett is an idiot for agreeing!” Lucy and Bixby had been fully informed of the recent updates to their case. Understandably however, Lucy was very untrusting of the Jackal. She and Bixby were moved to the same room after constant and persistent threats from Howlett to the Hospital staff. The pair had received an email with Niki’s mug shot and identified her as the 6th mammal in the hallway the night of the bombing so naturally Lucy held a bit of hostility towards her. 

“Lu, chill... Alex must have a good reason to keep her safe. Perhaps he has a theory about where the Ghost is... or even this War character. He seems like the ringleader pulling Ghost’s strings anyway. Seems to me we should be after him more than the rabbit.?” Bixby tried desperately to defend Alex’s actions despite not knowing the details personally himself. 

Lucy let out a sigh as she made her way over to Bixby’s bed and climbed in under the covers. This however didn’t faze the rabbit at all, his mind was elsewhere, thinking about the team and the danger they were in. He had remembered not an hour earlier that the remote wireless system he installed into the city’s CCTV feed was still operational and was trying to boost the signal to cover the rest of the city. If he was bedridden then he would at least be useful and spot potential threats. 

“Alllmost...GOT IT!” and with a ping his laptop burst to life with feeds from every corner of the City. “About damn time, took way too long to do that... must be losing my edge hah” 

“Aww bless, your adorable when your frustrated” Lucy patted him on the head as she scanned over the video feeds from the Rainforest District.  

--- 

“Uhh Detective? Is all of this really necessary?” Nick Wilde, the first fox to join the ZPD following the invitation from its first bunny officer, Judy Hopps. Officer Wilde was dressed in plain clothes, his typical Hawaiian shirt and tie and a pair of brown pants. The only difference now was a bullet-resistant vest underneath and his police issue lethal sidearm strapped to his side.  

“If you want to live then yes, yes it is” Howlett replied as he unlocked the driver side of a black undercover SUV provided to him by Precinct 1 to transport his high value mammal Nikola. “If you find yourself unlucky enough to be on the dangerous end of a gun then you will thank me for making you wear that” the wolf smirked as he climbed into the driver seat and pressed the keyless ignition. 

Howlett himself was wearing full tactical gear, ballistic vest and combat pants concealed under a light green hoodie to blend in while driving. For this assignment they must remain undercover as best they could while at the same time being ready for any surprise situation that may arise. Howlett maintained that all team members must wear a bullet resistant vest and earpiece at all times during the near 300 mile drive. 

Agent Savage, Nikola and Hunter were present in the back seat. All wearing armour underneath their civilian clothes. 

Savage was wearing his standard Agent suit consisting of a while shirt with navy tie and a black blazer and pants. Alex opted to wear a thinner form of vest called Underarmour, a highly resistant Kevlar vest that allowed the wearer to maintain full mobility while providing the same protection of a standard vest. Niki wore a grey hoodie and a pair of flared jeans, fairly standard but that was all the ZPD currently had in lock up in her size that would also fit a vest. 

Nick hopped up into the passenger seat of the SUV and fastened his seatbelt. “Where is Carrots anyway? She should have been here by now” 

“I sent Officer Hopps on ahead to scout out the route we will be taking, checking for obstructions” Howlett replied, taking note of the disappointment on Nick’s face upon heading she was alone. “I see she means something to you, no?” 

“The chief doesn’t like co-workers dating but that won't stop us, Kind of wish you had sent me with her” Nick lifted his head up towards the wolf hybrid and gave a half-hearted smile. “But I have faith in her, she’s a strong one, that’s for sure!” 

Alex picked up on the part where Bogo didn’t approve of relationships between his officers and his heart sank a little. He reached his phone out of his pocket and pulled up a recent photo of the pair posing for a selfie together while on one of their more ‘successful dates’ (note the French Restaurant).  

Niki happened to look over at Alex and noticed the photo of the lovers on his screen. “Aww, so are you two an item?”  

“Ahh...” Alex nearly dropped his phone as he fumbled to close his gallery and lock his phone, forgetting the presence of the Jackal sitting beside him. “I-its nothing...”  

“Oh come on, I think it’s cute, you two make a lovely couple” she said, giving a heart warming smile towards the Coy. “Alex... protect her” 

Alex thought back to what that Lynx in the hospital had said to him two days prior. ‘protect her’ seemed to be a recurring theme in his life. One that he was determined to honor. “I will” 

Niki nodded happy in the fact that Alex was open and honest, unlike the canines she grew up around. She then turned her curiosity towards the Jackrabbit to her left. “And you Agent? Anyone special in your life?” 

Jack turned his attention to the Jackal and smiled. “Oh yeah! And she’s on my back each and every night. Her name is Skye, an Arctic Fox and an Agent like myself! She's my reason to fight” he replied with a twinkle in his eye. 

Niki smiled, content that she was being treated like any other mammal and not a criminal. “Im sure you two will make beautiful kits!” 

“Perhaps, s-somewhere down the line” the Rabbit replied as he began to blush a little under his snow white fur, his English accent betraying him for the first time since he joined the team. 

“Hey Tall, Dark and Grim... what are we waiting for anyway?” Nick began to get impatient knowing his partner and lover was out there unprotected on her own. Howlett was quick to pick up on this and decided to ease the foxes mind. 

Howlett pushed a button on the rear view mirror that opened a line directly between the SUV and Bixby’s laptop. 

“Hello, this is Officer Bixby's Laptop please leave a message after the tone...” Bixby answered with his usual charming voice. Followed swiftly by a slap to the back of his head. "Oww..."

“Bixby, can you locate Officer Hopps on the security cams?” Howlett requested from his smartest asset.

“Im already looking at her, she’s on 5th and Vine, stuck in traffic no less” Bixby laughed to himself before getting elbowed by his bed mate. “OW!” 

“Bixby, act like a grown up” said a dim, almost out of shot voice emanating from Lucy. The faint sound of her voice peaked Alex’s interest. His ears perked up immediately, something the two back seat passengers noticed. 

“Ut oh Al, hear something you like?” Jack joked, feigning shyness to imitate the Coy. This however was quickly followed by a slap to the back of the head as Alex reached over past Niki and whacked the Rabbit. 

“Alex you there?” a voice came across the call much clearer now, making the canines heart flutter a little. 

“Yes Lu, I’m here” he spoke back softly to his new girlfriend, something that none of the other officers had realised just yet. 

“Be careful, ya big oaf! If you die, ill kill ya!” Lucy said, a hint of a joke in her voice coupled with seriousness. 

Alex smiled to himself as he looked back down to his phone. “Don’t worry. Focus on getting better and Il see you at the cabin Lu” 

“Okay, promise me... promise me you wont do anything stupid” 

“I promise” Alex replied. He could almost hear the Lynx on the other end beaming with joy and looking forward to the trip herself. The Coyote however happened a glance across to his back seat co pilots in time to see both of them pulling the exact same ‘AWW’ face towards himself. “I WILL BEAT THE BOTH O-...” Alex was cut off before he could finish with his threat. 

“Come in Detective Howlett? Over.” Came another voice over the Cruisers internal radio. 

Jensen picked up the mouth piece, pressed the ‘send’ button and spoke clearly into it. “Howlett here, over” 

“This is Officer Hopps sir! The assigned route to the destination is clear, you may proceed, over!” Judy’s over excited voice shot across the radio with enthusiasm. It wasn’t often that she of Nick got chosen for these high priority yet secretive assignments and she for one was stoked for the chance to be working it. Nick not so much. He picked up the microphone and spoke softly into it directed at his lover. 

“Carrots, we talked about this, I know your excited but take it down a notch, over” 

“Hehe sorry Nick, you know I looove these kinds of missions! Over” 

Nick sighed, rubbed his forehead and looked over at Howlett with a ‘kill me now’ expression plastered over his face. “Come on Fluff Butt, first off it isn’t a mission, it’s an escort and secondly it’ll be over by tonight, over” 

“Well that just means on the ride back we can make a little ‘pit stop’ if you know what I me... Im on loud speaker aren’t I?...” 

Nick buried his head into the collar of his shirt, damn near ready to fling the SUV door open and bail out.  

Howlett took control of the microphone and spoke. “No, no, of course not. And on an unrelated topic, what you and officer Wilde do in your spare time is entirely up to you, be seeing you soon Hopps”  

From there the radio went silent, unsure of weather Judy had officially combusted from embarrassment or perhaps decided not to dig a hole for herself any deeper. 

“Ha... now we can go!” Howlett let out his signature demonic laugh just as Nick finally emerged from his make shift turtle shell to hide his shame. The SUV roared into life as the shutters directly in front of the Cruiser lifted, showering the Officers inside with the bright warmth of the mid day sun.  

After a few minutes the Cruiser emerged at ground level from the underground parking structure that housed all the larger models of ZPD Cruisers. From the entrance they took a sharp left down Meadow Street. A beautiful downtown area littered with fashionable dress shops and a larger shopping mall with its own multi levelled car park. At the end of the road was Evans street, named after Edward Evans, Founder of Zootopia’s most popular and profitable bank. 

After half an hour of taking back streets and trying their best to avoid the horrific mess of traffic in the business district of the City, the team finally hit the calmer and smoother lanes of the Savanah Central, their final district before hitting the west and finally heading south to West Woodlands. 

For the past half hour it had been fairly smooth sailing for the team, they chatted amongst themselves, exchanged stories of their lives in the city or elsewhere and even at one point discussed the best fish merchant in the city. Amir’s Angler won of course.  

Unfortunately however their easy journey was about to take a rough stumbling block... 

“Jay? Something is going on with Hopps’ Cruiser... the tracker has stopped moving and I can’t access the street cameras. It says you are only 2 blocks away, could you check it out?” Bixby came across the 2 way speaker with a little concern in his voice, something that Officer Wilde picked up on immediately. 

“What do you mean stopped moving? Is she okay?!” Nick piped up, concern washed over him over the well being of his mate. 

“Im sure she's fine, tracker probably ran out of battery or something... maybe she stopped for a leak?” Jay tried to calm his passenger down as best he could but even he found it suspicious that the tracker died and the CCTV wasn’t working. 

Nick’s nerves wouldn’t hold out tho. With ever passing second he grew more and more concerned about Judy, every corner that passed by he had his muzzle pressed up against the glass in search for her fuzzy tail until... 

“Turn here, your right” Bixby’s voice echoed around the Cruiser as Howlett turned as he had been told. 

The SUV turned into a sort of square, cobbled with old brick and lined with turn of the century buildings. At the square’s centre was an old fountain, still quite operational with a few moderate sized cars parked around it. Despite the tranquil vibe that the area gave off there was an eerie silence. There were no mammals, no traffic and not even birds were flying overhead. It appeared to be a ghost town. 

Alex was the first to comment on his surroundings. “Why would Hopps be stopped here? There's no shops, it’s all houses...” 

“Detective look!” Nick butted in as he pointed with haste towards a police cruiser. The drivers door had been flung open and appeared to be abandoned. No doubt about it, this was Officer Hopps’ Cruiser... 

Jay pulled his vehicle up behind the Cruiser and kept the engine ticking over. “Now Wilde, I need you to keep a level head as we search for Hopps, do I make myself clear? No hero shit you got that?” 

“Y-Yeah... okay” Nick begrudgingly agreed as he opened his passenger side door and emerged onto the street, closely followed by Jay, Jack and Alex. 

Before closing his door Jack turned to Niki, who at this point began to feel a little nervous, and told her “Stay in the Cruiser, unless told otherwise, got it?”. A feeling in her gut told her that there was something not right with this square. 

Jay drew his Magnum from its holster while Nick pulled his service weapon, a Glock 18, from his. The two canine walked cautiously up to the cruiser, taking note of every little movement that could be seen. Anticipating those that could not.  

Jack and Alex remained at the back of the SUV, protecting the teams rear from surprise attacks. 

“I don’t like this one bit...” Jack whispered, his accent clear to hear, as was his nerves. 

“Don’t worry, just keep an eye and ear out... I don’t smell anyone else around... It is weird tho...” 

Jay slowly approached the driver side door that was hanging wide open onto the street. Carefully he glanced around the frame of the Cruiser and into the driver seat. With a sigh of relief he motioned to Nick that the vehicle was clear, no sign of Judy. In most cases that was a good thing but now came the realization that the Bunny was missing.  

Jay noted something that filled him with a sense of worry. He remembered Bixby saying that the radio went dead, and that the CCTV cameras were out of service. As Howlett examined the driver seat he noticed a small, perfectly circular hole in the window. No cracks around it, just a clean penetration. Unfortunately said hole was directly in line with the radio. Someone with impressive accuracy had managed to destroy Judy’s radio before she had a chance to use it. 

Howlett then took note that the engine was still in the ‘engaged’ position however the engine wasn’t running. Another inspection lead him to a second small hole in the hood of the Cruiser. A second bullet he tore into the engine block, disabling the Cruiser in its tracks. That must have been the first shot... 

“Nick... stay low and move back to the SUV...now...” Jay whispered over to the fox, just loud enough for him to hear. 

Nick was the first to move, he slid back into the shadow of the building and moves slowly back to their own cruiser. Jay followed closely behind but before he reached his own vehicle, movement caught his eye close to the fountain. An unusual motion at that. He noticed the paw of a small grey furred mammal trying to signal out to him without making noise. 

Not long after Howlett noticed the wave, Nick too caught on to the unusual motion. However Wilde knew that shade of fur from a mile away, it was connected to his mate. “JUDY!”  

No later had the fox shouted the name of his beloved had a shot rang out around the square, hitting the SUV in the same spot on the hood as the first, killing the engine. This was closely followed by a second, again to the radio. 

The sound of the bullet ripping through the SUV could be heard on the other end of Bixby’s laptop. “GUYS? WHATS GOING ON?!” the Hare shouted out in concern. 

Lucy, in a state of shock, could only listen on as the bullets found their way into the cruiser. “Bixby you have to find another camera... now” 

“Already working on it!” he replied as he typed as fast as his little fingers could move, desperately searching for a workable security camera. 

“CONTACT! TAKE COVER” Howlett shouted as loud as he could while making his way over to Judy’s location, finding it to be a strategic vantage point based on the fact she was still alive after the ambush. The large wolf dove to cover as another shot could be heard and a bullet just about grazed his left leg just below the knee.  

“Detective! Your hurt” Judy said as she used all her strength to drag the massive wolf over a little more before taking out a small roll of bandage designed for a mammal such as herself.
 
“Il be okay... are you injured?”  

“No, he missed me...” Judy replied, almost breaking into tears as flash backs of the first few moments of the ambush began to play back in her head. 

“Hey, hey, come on now, crying wont help anyone, now do you have your weapon?” the wolf asked as he tried to wrap the tiny bandage around his leg. 

“No, it... it dropped out as I ran” she said as she pointed over towards her own cruiser. Sure enough there was a small .22 pistol of unknown make or model laying under the driver side of the vehicle. 

Nick had managed by then to move between parked cars with the swiftness of his heritage and planted himself firmly behind the next car over. “Judy, are you okay?!”  

“Oh Nick... im fine... please be careful!” the bunny replied, a small victory that both of them were alive and uninjured. 

Jack and Alex were still pinned behind the large Cruiser, trying their best to pin point the location of the shooter based on the line of sight and bullet trajectory. 

“Im thinking tallest building to the left... but which floor?... Could this be the Ghost?” Jack theorized that the bunny assassin was probably the only mammal in the country that could place 4 shots exactly where he wanted them. 

“Yeah... yeah it must be... can you get over to the fountain? We need a new vehicle” 

"STAY WHERE YOU ARE!" Came a booming voice that the Coyote knew all too well. Howlett knew that it was indeed the Ghost and if his team made themselves easy targets they would be the first to fall. The rabbit would make sure to make the wolf suffer by taking out his team first. "Just stay there, something isn't right..." 

Howlett's hunch played on his mind, Ghost was the best marksmammal in the country, how had he missed 5 shots, 5 clear line of sight targets... unless on purpose.  

"Hopps, how long have you been here? Has he taken any additional shots?" Howlett asked the bunny cop, trying to deduce the rabbit's motives... and his next move. 

"Well... 2 at my cruiser... and another 3 when I tried to move away from this car... why?" 

"That bastard... It's on purpose!" The wolf muttered as he held his mech paw out from behind his cover, only for it to be immediately shot at by the sniper. the bullet hit dead centre of his paw, disabling his fingers in the process... 

"He's pinning us? Why?" Nick questioned as he lowered his head further behind his cover. 

Having deduced the general building that Ghost was set up inside, Jack moved his way around the SUV to avoid direct line of sight with the rabbit. He reached the rear driver's door and swung it open, providing a little additional cover before motioning silently for Niki to stay low and exit the vehicle. "Come on, you're a sitting duck in there" 

Niki needed no persuasion. Quickly and carefully she clambered her way out of the SUV, keeping her head low and made her way alongside Jack to the rear of the vehicle. 

--- 

1 hour earlier Ghost had arrived in the square, clad in a dark coloured hoodie and carrying a concealed gun case made to look like a guitar case. the rabbit made his way to the tallest block of flats in the corner of the square, a building that had unparalleled line of sight to every inch of the area below.  

Up 4 flights of stairs he had already chosen his vantage point prior to arriving, having scouted out various locations that the team may try to take advantage of to escape the city in the dead of night. Room 406, owned by the Fevant family consisting of 2 adults and 2 children under ten years old. 

Ghost withdrew his silenced pistol, set his case down beside the door frame and gently tapped on the door with the barrel of his silencer. Within seconds a female Fox came to the door, unlocked it and opened it with a smile, seemingly anticipating someone else. "Hello?" 

The rabbit barged his way in, knocking the vixen to the floor and grabbing her by the shoulder of her shirt to drag her into the living area of the apartment. The vixen's kits were sitting at the kitchen table, drawing with a brand-new set of coloured crayons while having lunch. The kit's father was out at work, having had an early shift this morning at a local convenience store. 

"NOO PLEASE! LEAVE THEM BE!" Mrs Fevant shouted at the intruder as he raised her to her feet and motioned for her to move into the bedroom. Much to the vixen's horror, she obliged. Ghost then turned his attention to the kits, who were both now in hysterics crying as their mother had been forcefully removed from them. He pointed at both of them and then pointed into the bedroom, signalling them to go to their mother. to which both of them swiftly complied. 

The rabbit wasted no time as he went back to the hall and picked up his gun case, bringing it into the kitchen and removing a few cable ties from one of its pockets. He then joined the vixen in the bedroom with her kits and threw the ties down in front of them. 

"Y-You’re the Ghost... Please... Please let us go..." She pleaded with the rabbit to no success, Ghost simply placed his finger to his mask to symbolize 'silence'. She knew exactly what he wanted when she looked down at the cable ties. Mrs Fevant picked them up and slowly yet carefully she bound the wrists of her kits and then herself. Ghost nodded and began to walk out of the bedroom towards the kitchen, catching one final sentence from the Vixen. "You disgust me..." before he closed the door and locked it. 

Ghost removed everything from the table, placing the crayons and plates on the kitchen counter top before sliding the wooden furniture over to the main window. Carefully he opened the window out onto the street and propped it open with a book from the computer desk in the corner of the kitchen. 

He clicked open his gun case, revealing his Remington 700 with bipod. One by one the various pieces of the rifle were produced from the case. A Scope, Flash Hider and 2 different types of bullets including his custom .337 Lapua Magnum.  

Within a few minutes he had his rifle built up exactly how he wanted it and zeroed in to the fountain in the centre of the square.  

From here... It was just a waiting game... 

--- 

"That bastard..." Howlett growled, realising that he and his team had fallen right into the enemy's trap. A trap that had been so simple to set up and yet caught the most experienced of detectives.

"Okay, his attention right now is on me..." Howlett deduced, looking down at his disabled left paw. "… I can get Niki over here and into this vehicle, shouldn't be hard to hot wire..." 

The wolf opened the driver's door of the vehicle he was taking cover behind, noticing that the car was old and likely still ran on a hard wire connection to the ignition. Perhaps luck may still be on his side. The wolf motioned over to Alex and Jack, attempting to get the message across to send Niki over to him. 

Alex understood the instructions and informed Niki of the plan. "Okay Niki, I need you to run over to Howlett. Ghost isn't targeting you right now so if you are quick you should be okay!" 

Niki, who right now was rather distraught, wiped away her tears and tried to be strong for the Coyote. With a sniff and a deep breath, she agreed. "Okay..." 

Taking a few seconds to collect herself and summon the courage, the Jackal readied herself to the sprint of her life. One wrong move and the rabbit could put her down, just one slip could be the end of her life. One more deep breath. And then she ran, as fast as her little legs could carry her, she ran for dear life. 

The distance was only about 30 feet but in that moment it felt like 300. Niki sprinted at top speed as tears rushed down her face and her teeth bared, anticipating a bullet at any second. A bullet that never came. Ghost was too preoccupied keeping an eye on the wolf that he hadn't noticed the Jackal sprint across the courtyard towards him. 

Howlett caught her and dragged her down low before she sped off past the car and back into line of sight. "Well done! Now stay low while I....". The wolf couldn't finish his sentence as he felt the ground beneath his feet shake. Just one rumble, followed soon after by another... and another. "The fuck is that..." 

Jack and Alex were the only two mammals that could see what was making the ground rumble. Both mammals were frozen in place, their jaws wide open in shock at the sight before them. "J-Jack are you seeing this?!" 

"Yeah... what the hell?" Jack replied, not quite comprehending what he was witnessing. 

A few more tremors later the rumbling stopped but before Howlett could peek out of cover, the back end of the vehicle began to raise into the air. The entire car was vertical within a few seconds, exposing the 3 mammals hiding behind to direct fire from the Ghost. "What the hell is going on?" Howlett shouted, unable to see what was causing the vehicle to rise as the sun was mildly obstructing his view from his position. 

"GET OUT OF THERE!" Savage shouted over to the 4 mammals by the fountain, a noticeable terror instilled in his voice. "RUUUUN!" 

But before any of them had the time to move, a foot connected with Officer Hopp's chest, sending her flying to the other side of the fountain in one effortless motion. 

"JUDY!" Nick shouted as he broke away from his cover and made his way to his mate's side, completely disregarding his own safety from the sniper, of the new assailant. 

Howlett looked up as he managed to get the sun out of his eyes only to behold the mammoth figure of a rhino, clad entirely in a Japanese style of armor from head to toe, staring back at him. "Ah Shi-…" 

Just like Officer Hopps, Howlett was also swiftly disposed of with a powerful kick to his abdomen, sending him skidding across the cobbled courtyard floor, unconscious and bleeding from his mouth all the way.  

"Pathetic, so much for the great Detective Howlett..." the rhino shouted as he flipped the vehicle with just 1 arm onto its roof and slid it away a few feet down the road. "Now... where was I..." he said to himself as he looked down at the figure of Niki, who was curled into the foetal position against the bank of the fountain, crying her eyes out as she finally realised who the Mysterious Rhino was. 

"No... Please War... no... Don't *sniff* don't do this!" She pleaded with the hulking mammal to no avail. "I... I won't say a thing please..." She said, cuddling her arms around her stomach, her maternal instincts kicking in to defend her child. 

"Sorry Niki, you disobeyed me and killed another of my children... You cannot be allowed to live!" War stated as he reached around his shoulder and withdrew a large double-sided battle axe from a sheath on his back. "At least this will be quicker than that pathetic excuse for a canine Addison. You. Disgust. Me." 

The Rhino raised the monstrous weapon high above his head, prepared to fell the defenceless Jackal sobbing on the concrete below. However, before he could exact his particular definition of vengeance, a loud pop followed by slight pain began to emanate from the behemoth's side. Hunter fought back! 

"LEAVE HER!" The Coyote shouted as rushed the massive mammal, all fear washed from his body replaced only by burning desire to protect. Alex hopped onto the wall of the fountain, disregarding his own safety as he was now directly in line of sight with the sniper high above. The Coy fired off his .45 service pistol 5 times, 4 of them connecting with War's chest. his armour however took all of the bullets without even leaving a dent, much to Alex's annoyance. "Dammit... new plan..."

The canine jumped from the wall onto the roof of a parked car, the very same one Nick was taking cover behind not moments earlier, and with almost Olympic agility he leaped into the air as he withdrew a small knife from his pistol holster he landed a double kick to the rhino's chest, causing him to stumble back a few steps. 

"Why you..." War was becoming visibly angrier with the situation. He anticipated the encounter to only last a minute but has so far ran behind on his estimate. War was a stickler for detail, he demanded military precision when conducting an operation that he was directly involved in. War gained his footing and began to defend himself from the much smaller mammal, something he also hadn't intended on doing. 

Alex ran at War, sliding at the last second between his legs and firing his last shot into the back of the rhino's massive leg. Unfortunately, this did not have the desired effect as the bullet did little more than scuff his armour. The Coy however did not wait around, he took this opportunity to continue his forward momentum towards the overturned car, using its tires as a spring platform to propel himself up onto War's shoulders. 

The Rhino flailed around, using his free arm to try and knock the officer off while swinging his axe wildly with the other. "When I get you, I will break you in half..." He threatened, unfazing Alex who was straddling the Rhino for dear life. Before War could finish his threat, he felt yet another grouping of smaller bullets hit his lower abdomen, again failing to penetrate the oriental styled armour. Savage had taking this opportunity to back up his partner, walking towards War with a calm demeaner and taking each shot carefully not to his Alex. 

"Oh yeah, try this!" Alex shouted as he plunged his knife towards the back of War's neck with all the force he could muster... Clink...  

Alex's eyes grew wide with shock. Time appeared to slow down for him as the bladed portion of the knife flew past his head in 3 pieces before coming to rest on the cold cobblestone below. "...No..." was just about all Alex could say as he looked down to the point of impact and discovered the armour withheld his assault, breaking the knife into pieces and leaving War completely unaffected. 

Click. Click. Jack's pistol ran dry. "Ah shite..." He muttered as he fumbled for his secondary magazine while ejecting the first. 

"You two done?... Good..." War took a deep breath before reaching around and grabbing the bottom of Alex's foot, pulling his from his back and throwing him full force towards the ZPD SUV. The impact between Alex and the Cruiser caused the vehicle to lift up on two wheels and created a sizable dent in the driver side door, shattering its windows and covering the Canine in glass. 

"ALEX!" Jack shouted as he dropped his second magazine and ran towards his wounded partner. "No, No, No... Come on, be okay!" 

Alex managed to remain conscious after the impact but was clearly injured. Not two days after being released from the hospital and he was already badly wounded; his doctor won't be best pleased... if he lives... Blood began to trickle out of his nose and the side of his mouth as he propped his head upright to the view of Savage running towards him. The stitches in his side had come undone and was beginning to bleed through his white shirt and down past his vest. "Jack... Get... Niki..." 

"Oh yes... The traitor..." War had read Alex's lips from the distance and once again turned his attention towards the cowering Jackal who was petrified in place by the fountain wall. 

"No....No.... Please..." By now Niki wasn't even looking. She held her eyes closed out of pure terror. The last thing she wanted to see in this world was the smiling face of her mate in better days.  

"Don't cry Niki... I hate it when you cry" 

Her eyes shot open upon hearing a familiar voice. Before her was the apparition of her dearly departed, smiling back towards her. Addison reached his paw out towards her, completely blinding out reality for the terrified Canine. in that moment it was just him and her, together once more.

"Wipe away those tears, I hate seeing you like this my love..." 

"*Sniff* Sorry, Addy. I'm scared... I don't want to die... I'm sorry" 

"Don't be sorry, I don't want you to die either... Remember when we talked about cub names?... you wanted Emma if it was a girl, right?" 

"Y-yeah, and you wanted Michael for a boy..." Niki closed her eyes once more but this time, it was out of joy. In her final moments she had found peace.

Back in reality, War had made his way slowly back over towards Niki, dragging his massive battle axe behind him along the ground. When he finally reached the Jackal, he noticed her eyes were closed, she had a happy smile plastered across her face and was no longer trembling. "At least I don't have to listen to your incessive mumbling to spare your life any longer!". War raised his massive axe once again above his head, positioning himself in the correct swinging distance to cleave the canine in half with one swing. "I shouldn't have wasted my time on you, you pathetic excuse of a mammal!" 

"Niki... I want you to live... I want our child to have the life we never had... I love you" Addison's spirit whispered into Niki's ear as he slowly faded away, his final few words trailing off into nothingness. 

"I love you Addison... Forgive me..." 

With one fell swoop, War brought his Axe down towards the Jackal. Alex and Jack couldn't bare to witness the execution of the defenceless canine and inadvertently looked away. 

Millisecond felt like hours as Niki awaited the blade to come into contact with her body. Something that was destined to never happen it would seem. 

CRACK... 

The sound of metal on metal reverberated around the square. The dust and dirt on the ground lifted with the force exerted from War's axe as it came into contact with another object. A harder object. The shockwave that echoed around the area was enough to resurrect Howlett from his unconscious state. 

"I'm not dead..." Niki thought to herself as she slowly opened her eyes, blinded by the sunlight and needing a few seconds to adjust. "W-what happened..." 

Before the Jackal stood another mammal, draped in a tatty black cloak and hood and wielding a massive sword. The sword itself was impressive, being the size of the mammal using it but nonetheless able to manoeuvre it effortlessly. It was a thick bladed weapon, at least 6 inches across and bladed on both edges with a gut hook on one edge. The gut hook had managed to catch War's axe and prevented it from making contact with Niki. 

After hearing the metallic crashing sound, both Alex and Jack looked up, expecting to see the worst but was oddly surprised when they see the figure of a mammal defending Niki. The mysterious mammal had his sword held upright above his head with War's axe caught up in its peculiar shape. 

"Is that..." Savage was the first to speak up, his jaw hanging open at the incredible strength of the much smaller mammal. 

"It is..." Alex confirmed, a mixture of happiness and apprehension took hold of his words. 

The Mysterious mammal looked up at the Rhino towering over his smaller body.

"Hey War, been a long time old friend..." Charon spoke up, his glowing crimson eyes piercing through the darkness of his hood.

Chapter Text

"Bixby please... Whats taking so long?!" 

Lucy was up, out of bed and pacing up and down the hospital room shared now by herself and the young Hare. Her mind scrambled, thoughts of discharging herself early against Howlett's orders to pursue her teammates and hunt the Ghost and his accomplices. And on the other paw she knew that in her current condition she would be more of a hindrance in a fight with someone quite as formidable as the Rabbit. 

"Lu, this takes time... All of the Cities CCTV in that area are down... probably intentionally so please... just let me work on it..." Bixby replied without looking up from his laptop. The Hare had been working tirelessly since the pair had heard the first shot over the radio, the one that disabled the engine, closely followed by a second that severed the connection between them and the team. "I don't know what else you want me to do..." 

For the moment the Lynx stopped pacing. "… Bix I'm sorry, it's just...." 

"I get it, your worried about him, I am as well... for Alex, Jay, Jack... all of them... But all I can do I... Oh... OH!" Bixby flung the bed covers off himself and leapt out of bed, just about keeping his hospital scrubs under control as to not give the Lynx an unpleasant view. "I NEED AN ETHERNET PORT!" He shouted as he landed on the floor with as much grace as was permitted from a bedridden Hare. 

"What? Why?" 

"I think I have an idea" He said as he unplugged a cable connected to an Ethernet port in the wall. "Doesn't look important anyway...". The Hare connected his own laptop to the hospitals system directly and from there he had a more complete connection to the city network. 

“Bix… first off what are you doing? And secondly is it legal?...” Lucy asked as she made her way over to the Hare, scratching the back of his head as she arrived. “…Or do I need to know?” 

“Technically not legal… but I wont tell if you wont” 

“Will it work?” 

“That’s what I’m about to find out…” With a few key strokes on his laptop the screen came to life with a somewhat low grade quality video feed of the square, just about able to make out individuals around the area. “Can’t believe that worked… I got lucky enough to find a few webcams that were pointing near a window overlooking the area… this is the best view I can get us i'm afraid… but… is that who I think it is?” 

“I… yeah… that’s Charon!... what’s he doing there? And who is that guy with the axe?”  

---------- 

"Hey War... Been a long time old friend..." Charon spoke up, his glowing crimson eyes piercing through the darkness of his hood. 

War's massive axe having been stopped in its tracks surprised even the Rhino himself. Never had he thought that anyone could match his strength let alone a mammal barely breaking the 5 foot mark. 

"...Charon... You look well for a dead mammal" War replied as he met the demons gaze head on. 

"Guess the cat is outta the bag huh... no more hiding... I won't let you kill these mammals... HEY HUNTER, GET OFF YOUR LAZY ASS ALREADY!" 

Alex, who had just caught his breath back from his vicious assault, had snapped out of his daze as jack was still perplexed by the two assassin's sheer strength. 

"...How did he stop the axe?" Jack inquired, jaw still hanging open as he fumbled around for the bandages he kept in a small pocket of his jacket. 

"Jack... never mind that... help me up" Alex replied as he placed a paw on the Jackrabbit's shoulder and tried to stand under his own strength, ultimately completing this task with the assistance of Jack moments later. "And don't worry about bandages... one way or the other we won't be here long enough to need them..." 

Alex lifted Jack's suit jacket at the back and retrieved a rather large knife, out of proportion for the size of the rabbit but who is judging. "Jack, when I make an opening I want you to go as fast as you can and get Niki out of there. Jay is awake and moving on his own but I want you to check on him as you pass by. There is a sewer cover on the far side of the fountain just by where Judy and Nick are, I can smell it from here so, it isn't blocked... If Charon and I can't beat this guy then that is your escape route got it?" 

"Alex you idiot, your hurt... I have every faith you could hold your own but come on... that Rhino is fuckin' HUGE... not to mention your bleeding... even the two of you-…" 

"SAVAGE... Jack... please trust me on this one, it may be our only plan... the only way to keep everyone alive" Alex spat blood over the pristine cobble stone square that not 1 hour ago was most likely the most peaceful place in the entire city. The Coyote's eyes were only slightly open, the pain causing his body to show the initial signs of shock but he knew he had a job to do... If it killed him. 

Slowly the Rookie took his first step towards the fight before closing his eyes entirely. he took a moment to collect himself, preparing him for the fight of his life. "Mom, if your there... please help me... keep me swift, keep me safe" 

War was the first to make a move. He removed the pressure he held on his axe and began to raise it skywards again for a second quick attack. Charon anticipated this however and made a swift slash with his own sword across the giant's abdomen to no effect. The killer was just testing the structural integrity of War's Armor. 

Unknown to most mammals, Charon's sword was unique, one of a kind if you will. Its composition was unlike any other blade ever forged. It had the structural strength of Tungsten but nowhere near as brittle, resembling something closer to mild steel... a blade that could neither chip not break... could never get dull or lose its edge... and most prominently of all it only had about 1/3 the weight of steel of the same mass. A small mammal such as Charon could effortlessly wield this sword and use it to its deadly potential with ease. 

Unfortunately, Charon wasn't the only one to use this 'miracle metal'… It was War himself that introduced him to his armorer... the very same mammal that made Charon's Blade also made War's armor... 

Like a missile from the sky, the massive axe came crashing to the ground, barely missing both Charon and Niki, with the former pulling Niki from the weapons path in the nick of time. 

"Oh Charon I see you haven't lost any of your skills but tell me... if your absence have you kept your combat skills as sharp as your speed?" War mocked the small mammal to no avail, Charon was renowned for keeping a level head in a fight. 

"HA... just keep an eye on your own big boy... I'm coming for ya!" Charon shouted as he dashed towards the beast, blade ready to strike the same spot as before but when he was just feet away he altered his course, lowered his body and leapt high into the air while re-positioning his sword for a downward thrust. 

War seen this attack from above coming and quickly prepared his defense, raising the shaft of his axe to take the brunt of the blow. 

"Same old Char-…"  

War couldn't finish his sentence before he was struck hard in the chest. A familiar experience. 

Alex had chosen his moment perfectly to enact his counter attack. Just like before he had used the wall of the fountain while War's line of sight was obstructed and his focus was on the more dangerous opponent to launch himself up to chest height with the titan and delivered a double kick to his breastplate. War lost his footing in a split second as his focus shifted to the Coyote, he prepared to grab Alex for the second time. 

"You bastar-…"War muttered as for the second time in just a few seconds he had forgotten his true opponent. "Shit..." 

Charon's sword blow came down on the Axe with tremendous force, staggering the titan and making him lose his footing entirely as he fell backwards against one of the various parked cars in the square. 

Charon landed gracefully beside Alex and helped him to his feet. "Thanks squirt" 

"Don't call me that..." Alex replied as he grasped at his side, not wanting his wound to get any further damaged. "Help me?" 

"Hmm?" Charon looked down at the Coy as he tried to undo his vest with one paw. The killer clipped the strap of the vest off as it fell to the cobble below. 

"Thank you" Alex said as he looked to examine his side. as he thought all of his stitches had come undone and began to bleed. He needed medical assistance. "Hey, we need to finish this fast... I don't think I can hold out long..." 

"Understood, we need to act fast... hows your foot work?" 

"My what?" 

"That knife your holding... blade down and close to your chest in a defense position... not your first time with a blade is it? How's your knife skills?" Charon nodded towards Jack's knife and how Alex had instinctively held it in the best possible way to combat an attacker. 

Alex looked at the knife then back to his temporary partner. "Proficient enough..." 

"Good, get ready!" Charon motioned towards War, who was regaining his bearings. Unfortunately, that double kick was the last time that trick would work on him and they knew it. Time to formulate a better plan of attack. 

"You scum..." War was clearly angry. His voice was trembling with anger as he dusted himself off as if that last attack did little to no actual harm. "… I hope you have more than that" 

While the titan was distracted, Agent Savage had managed to sneak around the far side of the fountain, away from the battle and got to within a few feet of where Niki was frozen in place. "Psst... Niki... Hey!" 

The Jackal however didn't respond. All she could do was sit, frozen in fear watching Charon and Alex battle War, knowing full well that they didn't stand a chance. 

"Dammit..." Jack muttered under his breath as he lay prone on the ground and crawled over to her, making his profile as low as possible to avoid detection from the sniper who was still unaccounted for. Finally he managed to make his way over to her and tug on the bottom of her hoodie. This gentle tugging sensation mostly broke her out of her trance but only long enough to notice it was a friendly face. 

"Hey... Niki?!....grr...." Jack was getting frustrated at the canine and finally resorted to biting her on the paw to get her attention... and get it he did... 

"Ahh what the hell?!" Niki winced in pain and snatched her paw back away from the Rabbit. It may have been painful but at least he now had her full and undivided attention. 

"Come on! We have to move, keep low!" 

Jack turned around and began to make his way back over to the lower wall of the fountain closely followed by the Jackal. When he got into solid cover he checked his surrounding to make sure that he wasn't in line of sight with the windows that he suspected The Ghost to be holed up in. "Hey... Howlett... You okay?" 

After waking abruptly to the sound of War's axe make contact with Charon's blade, Jay found himself on the cobblestone floor, bleeding substantially from a head wound and suspected broken ribs but alive... for the most part. Upon awakening he noticed that by sheer luck he had landed out of range of the sniper, with only his mechanical leg hanging out of cover. Ghost had no shot on him and didn't want to risk making a shot through the concrete that would risk his position being discovered.  

Ghost knew that this wouldn't be the last time he would encounter the Detective so he wasn't too concerned with killing him today, although it would have made for a pleasant evening. 

War on the other paw had noticed the sniper's lack of enthusiasm... The Ghost's orders were to hold the team there until he arrived on scene then he had permission to start picking them off. The distinct lack of gunshots caught the Rhino's attention despite clearly seeing 5 mammals within his own line of sight... ripe for the taking. 

"Jay?..." Jack shouted once more over to the detective, this time getting a response. 

"Yeah... I'm cool... Get Niki into solid cover and make sure that... thing... can't get to her" Jay shouted over to his partner as he too tried to make for the rear of the fountain while staying low to the ground. His goal was to make his way over to Hopps and Wilde. 

"Get ready Alex..." Charon tightened his grip on his blade, anticipating an attack from War any second. His instincts were spot on. 

War launched himself at speed towards the duo, swinging his blade horizontally and narrowly missing the mammals as he readjusted his momentum into another downwards thrust. Just as his axe came crashing down, Charon pushed Alex out of the way gently so he wouldn't lose his footing and retain his balance. 

Alex countered with a swift slice up the side of War's gauntlet. Sparks flew from the point of impact, distracting the Rhino just enough for Charon to drive his blade into the cobble and use it as a platform to deliver a kick to the side of War's face. The blow wasn't enough to do any real damage but it flinched the titan enough for Alex to get a quick look around for weaknesses. 

Charon removed his sword from the ground and retreated back a few feet alongside Alex. "I think I have an idea... but you need to be fast on your feet..." 

War readied his axe for yet another attack. The monstrous mammal's stamina seemed to know no bounds. His armor impenetrable and his strength knows no end. But before he had any chance to make a move, Charon produced a smoke bomb from one of his holster pockets and pulled the pin. The small canister went off with a small bang and within seconds both the smaller mammals were completely hidden. "Oh? Really now..." 

It didn't take long for their motives to become clear. From above the smoke cloud shot up a small figure, hooded and preparing a downward strike. 

"Oh please... this again?" War raised his axe in preparation for the exact same strategy as before. Underestimating these two mammals may be his downfall but he didn't care. They got his blood up, he wanted them dead already and if they were stupid enough to try this again then the party is over. "I'm watching you Alex..." He muttered as he kept and eye on the smoke cloud, expecting the officer to emerge and try a half-hearted attack with his letter opener. 

… He had under estimated them greatly... it was a small change but significant... Almost too late for the titan. "What?..." 

Upon closer inspection of the mammal above him he noticed that indeed it was Charon but... He didn't have his sword... just a knife... "Shit!" 

Alex darted as fast as he could out of the smoke, wielding Charon's blade and swung as hard as he physically could at the Rhino's stomach once more, knowing full well he wasn't expecting a heavy attack from below but having to defend from above as well. For if Alex couldn't make contact then the trained paws of Charon could find his mark with a knife. 

With just a split second to react, War was in a real panic. There was but one thing he could do to avoid injury. Using his free paw, he unsheathed his knife from his belt just enough for it to come into contact with Alex's slash, preventing it from making contact with his body and allowing him to focus on his second attacker.  

As Alex's strike deflected off War's knife he felt his grip on the large blade slip. The blood on his paws caused the handle to become slick. Alex found himself without a weapon... and war seen this... 

The Rhino reacted within a moment, turned his head so that Charon had no target and gripped his own axe in two paws, using his momentum to begin a 360 degree turn and cleave the officer in half. 

Alex was defenseless. All he could do was watch in slow motion as the axe came swinging around his direction but his guardian angel was looking out for him. Or his guardian devil. 

Charon anticipated this attack and dropped the knife, landed in between Alex and his own Sword. He grasped his blade and got into a defensive stance just in time for War's axe to come into contact with his. The attack was hard, Charon struggled to block the momentum while protecting the officer at the same time. 

Alex looked up just in time for Jack's knife to fall just in front of his face. He looked up at War's arm, his gauntlet in particular and noticed something he hadn't seen before. A weakness... 

Alex picked up the knife, slid under Charon's arm and stuck the knife into War's forearm. It was in that moment however that Alex noticed something particularly unusual... not about War... but about Charon. The killer was wearing Strawberry Musk Mask. 

"Ahh you little shit..." War shouted as he lost his force on the axe and staggered back, wondering how he managed to penetrate his armor. 

"Alex, you okay?" Charon broke his blade loose from the cobblestone once more and readied it for a counter offensive. 

"It's no use... we can't take him like this... not today..." 

"I agree... thinking what I am?" 

"I think so" 

Alex took a quick glance over to the remaining mammals by the fountain. Jay by now had gotten to Nick and Judy with Jack and Niki not far behind... the duo had bought enough time for the injured to get to the escape route. 

"Do it" Alex nodded towards Charon as he removed three more of his smoke bombs from his pouch, throwing one towards the injured mammals, one between them and the fountain and finally one right where they were standing. The entire square erupted in a thick cloud of smoke, not even the Ghost would have been able to distinguish targets in the haze... if he was there... 

----------

A few minutes before the smoke bombs, Ghost had decided to pack it in, he wasn't going to get a good shot on the Detective so would have to wait for a better opportunity another day. The Rabbit dismantled his signature rifle carefully and placed each piece into the gun case with care.  

One final thing before he left however... he was a monster... but he didn't have a completely cold heart... 

He left his case by the front door and made his way back into the bedroom where Mrs Fevant and her two kits were being held. 

Upon seeing the Rabbit make his way over to her, the Vixen gathered her two kits with her legs and pulled them in close to her. "What are you going to do?!..." 

Ghost then produced a knife and jumped onto the bed, causing the Vixen to cower further back towards the head rest. 

Ghost used his finger to imply 'silence' before cutting the cable ties off of the eldest kit and giving him the knife.  

Mrs Fevant was perplexed that the murdered was simply going to let them go... that he wasn't worried about witnesses... "W...What?" 

Ghost jumped off the bed and made for the bedroom door, turning around before he disappeared from view and used sign language to mimic the words "I'm Sorry" as he left the apartment. 

----------

Back on the street War was waiting patiently for the smoke to clear, being vigilant of another attack coming out of nowhere. There was simply nothing he could do right now but wait... he couldn't very well wade into the smoke and risk getting cut up by an unseen attacker and he knew that they couldn't make a run for it without being spotted... so he waits. 

It was a solid 4 minutes before the smoke was thin enough for the titan to clearly seen through it unobstructed... to his shock... All 7 of his enemy had vanished with the smoke... 

"Those bastards... where did they..." War muttered to himself as he walked slowly around the fountain, almost doing a complete 360 of the water feature.  

“SIR?!” shouted an unknown mammal from one of the side streets of the square. A Jackal, dressed in a black hoodie and dark jeans emerged out into the open and ran towards the hulking Goliath. 

“What is it!” War asked with distaste, still searching for the missing mammals. 

“They don’t appear to be here any longer sir… should I bring the car arou-…”  

The Jackal didn’t have time to finish his sentence before War swung his massive axe over head and came down on the canine with such force that the blade effortlessly cleaved the mammal in two. His death was instant, obviously, but his message was clear to the rage filled beast as he pried his axe from the cobblestone and shook the blood off the tip and made his way towards his transport. 

“…I'm going to kill that god damn masked bastard if it’s the last thing I do!...” 

--- 

Due to both Alex and Charon’s quick thinking, all members of the extraction team had slipped past War and Ghost and made significant distance between them in the underground sewer system. Charon took the lead as his mask had a built in night vision mode. He also produced 3 large glow sticks and handed them out accordingly.  

10 minutes had passed, in complete silence. None of the team had anything to say. Most were either injured or carrying injured, they were all completely exhausted but knew they had to keep going or risk the Jackals finding them. 

Jack was taking up the rear of the group, his enhanced hearing coming in handy in case they were being followed. Howlett and Hunter were helping each other stay upright as both were pretty badly injured. Niki was keeping a close eye on the two wounded officers and making sure nothing happened to them. Followed closely by Wilde, who was carrying a still unconscious Judy in his arms. The blow to the stomach had winded her but her light body and body armor had taken most of the force and for now her injuries weren’t thought to be life threatening. This however didn’t stop Nick from worrying about her… 

“Another few hundred feet and we should take a rest, you guys look pretty beat up” Charon spoke up, breaking the silence that was almost deafening in the tunnels. Unfortunately that suggestion didn’t go down well with all members of the party. 

“And who made you the damn king of the tunnels? Why the fuck should we listen to you?!... for all I know your leading us right to that fucking tank at the end of this sewer!” Howlett, despite having a few broken ribs decided it was time to have his voice heard. “WHY SHOULD I FOLLOW YOU ANYWAY, YOU PIECE OF TRASH MURDERER” 

“Because, Detective, right now i'm the only one here that has any chance of keeping you and your team safe, because if I hadn’t intervened then Miss Nikola, Hunter, Hopps and yourself may not be alive… Savage may have gotten away with Wilde… but not far… and because…” Charon ripped the sword out of its sheath and pointed it right at the Wolf’s throat. “…I myself, can end each and every one of you right now… but I made a promise to keep you all breathing… and I intend to keep that promise!” he said, almost shouting at the level of disrespect he was receiving at the paws of the Hybrid. The masked mammal replaced his blade back into his sheath and continued on down the tunnel. 

“Grr… I should fucking shoot him….” Howlett bared his teeth towards the former criminal. The Hybrid thought he was above receiving help from someone as cold as Charon but deep down, under all the anger and hatred towards him… he was thankful. 

“Jay, calm down… doesn’t this prove he’s on our side? He could have just left us all to be felled like damn trees but he stuck his own neck out to help… at least for today give him the benefit of the doubt… he must have his reasons… right?” Hunter protested, having fought with the assassin and thankful it wasn’t against him… 

“I'l never trust that bastard… you don’t know these mammals like I do Alex… him in particular… he’s bad news through and through” 

Charon overheard the conversation between the two officers, and frankly he wasn’t surprised at Howlett’s unwillingness to accept his help but a promise is a promise, they just didn’t need to know it was an order from Rockford. 

“Hey, how’s she doing?” Niki approached Nick in an effort to check on Judy, the Jackal being tired of feeling useless in a high stress situation such as this. 

The fox looked tired, his arms straining under the weight, however small she was, and was beginning to fatigue under the load. “She’s breathing quicker now, that kick probably knocked all the puff out of her heh…” the fox tried to put on a brave face but the truth of the matter was he was worried, worried for the health of the Lapin. 

“Oh Wilde… here let me take her for a while, she’s in safe paws” Niki outstretched her paws to receive the officer. In any other situation Nick would have stuck out the pain in his arms, feeling the need to protect his love on his own terms… but after today… after seeing Hopps rag doll through the air… his nerves were shot, he needed a short break.  

“…Okay Fluff, thank you” the fox muttered as he relinquished his grasp on the petite officer into stronger paws of the Jackal. 

“Guys… wait… we may not need a break… I can smell fresh air!” Alex spoke up, stopping briefly to fine tune his already heightened senses. “Up ahead… then… right… I smell Whinnies’ Cafe by the lake side…” 

“Up ahead huh… must have lost track of how far we’ve come…” Charon looked back at the officer, his crimson eyes burning in the darkness. “Okay Hunter, you ready to get out of here?” 

Before anyone could answer, Jack sprouted out from the rear “WE'VE BEEN READY FOR AGES!”. This sudden outburst was silently applauded with an occasional giggle coming from Niki. 

“Heh… very well Agent” Charon proceeded in the direction Alex’s nose had perceived, unsure of where exactly this tunnel would lead them out… but anywhere was better than treading through a sewer with open wounds. 

After a few short minutes the group emerged at the mouth of the tunnel, greeted by the beautiful array of colors emanating from the skyline across the lake. The sun was setting over the buildings of downtown Zootopia and for a moment… just a moment… the team had forgotten all their troubles. Niki especially as she took hold of her stomach once again and thought of how much her lost lover Addison would have wanted to see what their first taste of true freedom looked like. This thought brought a tear to her eye. 

Only one thing stood in their way however. An obstacle that was swiftly dealt with by the leader of the pack, Charon. A small, rusty gate, fortified with a padlock barred the exit to the tunnel and was quickly dismantled by the killers heightened strength and razor sharp blade. 

“Maybe we should take a break, before we continue? Mr Hunter isn’t looking so good…” Niki was the first to speak after emerging from the tunnel, still rubbing her eyes from the transition of darkness to light. 

“I just need to sit for a moment, but i'm okay” he replied, still clutching his side as he helped Jay sit down on a small grassy hill to the right of the entrance. 

Shortly followed by the rest of the team, all mammals sighed a collective breath of relief. The enemy has no idea in which direction they disappeared to. No idea where they emerged and have no possible way of finding them. For the first time in a while, all mammals were at peace, however brief… All except their fearless savior, Charon. 

Alex noticed how uneasy the taller mammal was as he stared towards the Cafe not 100 meters down the shoreline, seemingly in a daze and a slight tremble in his paw. 

“Charon… are you okay?” Alex asked out of politeness, offering what little comfort he might provide. The Coyote too took a glance at the Cafe, bring up memories from his past of his mother and brother and how they used to visit this area. 

“Yaknow… my family and I used to come here every time we visited the big city. Ha I used to get the pancake stack, same as my brother… mom loved the blueberries… she didn’t get her blueberries the night the car went off the road…” 

Upon hearing Alex’s confession, the mammal snapped out if his daze and turned to the young officer, who was now welling up with tears of his own as he continued to stare at the quaint little diner by the roadside. 

“Alex… keep her safe for me…” Charon spoke as he placed his paw on the Coyotes shoulder, both mammals sympathetic towards each other. 

“Don’t worry, Niki will be saf-…” 

“No, I mean Lucy… she loves you yaknow… I could see it in her eyes that night in the apartment… keep her safe, Squirt” Charon re-sheathed his blade and looked over towards the group, lounging on the bank of the hill. “Have a safe trip!” 

“And where do you think your going?...” Jay withdrew his revolver and aimed it at Charon’s chest. Howlett’s injuries may have only been minor but they prevented him from holding steady aim with an outstretched arm and would most certainly prevent him from firing his weapon should the need arise. 

“Time I took my leave. I have leads to follow up on in the city, people I need to interrogate… or drop off a building… whichever comes first” Charon whipped his cloak around 180 degrees and covered his body with it as darkness fell. His threats of dropping someone off a building were hollow but he took a sense of enjoyment out of winding up the good Detective. “Adios, Team Howlett, maybe next time we meet, I wont be wearing my mask…” He jested as he walked off towards the city, disappearing into the growing darkness. 

“Grrrr… that bastard” Howlett fumed, dropping his service weapon to the grass and slumping back on the hill. “I hope he finds a bullet some day…” 

“You have to admit tho, he does have style” muttered Officer Wilde, not loud enough for the wolf to hear, but Savage and Niki picked up on it, followed by nods in agreement. 

“ I should go and find us a ride… it'll be dark soon and we need to keep a move on… Wilde would you care to assist?” Jack spoke up, motioning for Nick to come towards the diner with him. 

“Yeah… alright… hey Fluff… take care if her please…” 

Niki looked up from her cross legged position and nodded towards the fox as he and Jack walked off. Niki had Judy propped up against her stomach, in between her legs and keeping her head held up high. “Well Miss Hopps, your certainly lucky to have such a gentlemammal to look out for you” she said as she stroked the sleeping rabbit’s ears. 

“…Hey Jay?... honestly… you think we will make it through all this?” Alex asked the Hybrid honestly, wanting a real answer from him instead of his usual sarcastic methods. 

“… Honestly?... that’s not up to me… you and the team had their first taste of The Ghost today and you see how deadly his aim is… and this Rhino is a game changer… if what Niki said is true and there are 4 of them then… we have no chance…” 

Alex’s ears went droopy as he looked out across the lake towards the city. Negative thouvhts prevailed in his mind about the future, however long it may be. 

“Well… there goes my plans of having kits… heh…” 

“You think Lucy would sleep with you anyway? HA!” Howlett tried to lighten the mood somewhat as he too sat upright and took a gander at the beautiful city, a tear In his own eye. 

“WHATS THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN?!”

Chapter Text

--- 9:30pm, August 1st, War’s Hideout ----------

Having failed to silence Nikola once and for all, War couldn’t risk the location of his secondary base of operations to be known to the ZPD. This old and run down warehouse and courtyard was in the distant outskirts of Zootopia, well away from prying eyes. This particular property was purchased months ago under a false name the Rhino would use to avoid detection, and without the knowledge of any of his hench-mammals. Only the titan himself had knowledge of this place, making it particularly secure and untraceable. Only a few outsiders were told its exact location. The main warehouse was 4 floors high, breaking the 50 foot mark with ease at its highest point while the open roof courtyard was just 1 floor high. The courtyard was filled with wooden crates and oil barrels scattered around in odd patterns with two doors, one leading from the outside perimeter in and another that leads from the courtyard floor into the main building. The main building itself was sectioned into two areas by a large dividing wall and a series of corridors.

Like in the old base, War maintained his own private office, positioned on the top floor of the structure and secluded from wandering eyes, protected with various locks and cameras. One would assume that War was a particularly paranoid individual. Only a few days had passed since the group had to pack up shop and move to this new location but the move was completed effectively and ahead of schedule. 

The mammoth of a mammal was sitting alone, in the darkness, with just a single candle for illumination while writing his memoirs. Not often did the Rhino fail in a mission but once in a while it happens, much to the Jackals displeasure... normally War would be calm and collected, able to judge with a clear head... but when he fails an easy assassination, he becomes inconsolable. His army knows not to get in his way when this happens and instinctively know to make themselves scarce.

With the exception on one, brave but foolish soul.
A knock on the door of his study caught the Rhino’s attention. He stopped writing, closing over his notebook using the pen as a book marker and proceeded to call. “Come in”

“Sir?... Ghost is here... as requested...” a younger jackal said, his legs trembling with fear and on the verge of urinating himself. He proceeded to slowly walk into the room closely followed by the lapin assassin.

“Close the door” War said as he raised himself from his desk, his head almost hitting the ceiling as he stood.

The jackal did as he was told, closing the door after Ghost entered the room and backing up into the corner.

War let out a deep sigh as he moved towards the rabbit.
Ghost was completely unfazed as the titan stood before him. He had to stretch his neck straight up just to meet War’s gaze but not one fibre of his body was afraid, quite the opposite... he was very relaxed.

“You failed me Ghost... I asked you to shoot the team and leave the Jackal for me... and yet not only are they alive but the escaped with him... you played with them”

Ghost simply shrugged, knowing full well that this gesture would only provoke the Rhino further but after killing Addison, Ghost was rather lax about taking orders, especially from him.

“... Is that it?... That’s all I get?... huh...” War muttered as he barged his way past the lapin and proceeded to the Jackal standing in the corner. “What’s your name, boy?”

The Jackal could barely keep his bladder in check never mind looking him in the eye. “A-Adam...sir...”

“Huh... never heard of A-Adamsir before... you must be new” War stroked the young canines cheek with his paw as he just stood there, on the verge of tears but trying his utmost to hold them back. After a few more strokes the Rhino walked slowly back over to his desk, standing at the window and staring out into the night. “Tell me A-Adamsir... do you know the price of betrayal... the price of insubordination?”

“Y-Yes sir... its death...”

“Exactly...” War said as he undid the latch on the window and opened it wide out, securing it in place with the latch. 

“... It’s death” 

War walked back over and stood in front of Ghost. The rabbit was trying to figure out the purpose of the open window, he knew that War still needed him so why?...And then...

Ghost shook his head at War, trying to say “No” before looking over at the jackal standing against the wall, the poor lad was fully in tears by now but unfortunately frozen in place. But before the rabbit could react War retrieved his large knife from his belt and plunged it into the Young Jackal’s stomach, missing his vital organs on purpose to keep him alive, for now at least.

The Jackal spat blood from his mouth as it ran down his chin and onto his shirt, making no noise short of a gargle as he tried to breath through the pain. His eyes closed over from the agony and his teeth firmly shut trying to deal with the injury. 

Ghost felt helpless as the Titan raised the canine up off the floor using only the knife in 1 paw. He then proceeded to walk over to the window. “Now listen real well, rabbit... This is your last chance... should you fail me again... it wont be you on the end of my knife... maybe il start with your mother... sisters?... perhaps your father back in the Burrow?... Abernine would love to sink his teeth into Hare flesh at a moments notice...” 

War paused as he reached the window and had one final look out towards the city. Being 5 floors up he had a rather nice view of the city. He looked back towards Adam, still dangling on the tip of his massive knife, impaled and unable to remove himself from it. The poor canine was barely conscious but tried his best not to cry out, not wanting to give his attacker the satisfaction. 

“Did you hear me Ghost?”

Ghost simply nodded, feeling powerless to help the skewered Jackal...

“Good...” War said as he held his blade out of the window, Canine and all. 50 feet off the ground wasn’t exactly terminal but that didn’t stop the canine reaching for the windows edge, the window itself... anything to hold onto... to no avail... War tilted the blade slowly downwards as Adam slowly slipped off the edge, tearing chunks of meat out if him as the serrated edge passed back through his internals... now was the time to scream.

Adam let out a primal scream as he frantically tried to grab for the window, at one point trying to grab the razor sharp blade to hold onto. Unfortunately everything was out of reach and within a few seconds the last few inches of the knife had left his body, blood gushing as the final seriation exited at he plummeted to the concrete courtyard below. It took a few seconds for his small body to make contact with the ground. The sound of bones breaking on impact alerted guards on the ground floor as they rushed over to check on what had happened. Upon arriving, the guards discovered that he had managed to survive the fall, just barely but was bleeding out, only having seconds left as he felt the full pain before finally slipping into his final sleep.

The guards simply stood over him as he took his final breath, blood still trickling from his nose and mouth and spreading on the concrete from his stomach wound. Most mammals would seek medical assistance at a time like this but the guards of War’s compound simply looked at one another for a few seconds then went back to their posts, leaving the poor boys body spread in the courtyard.

Back in War’s private room, the titan was removing Adam’s blood from his blade before re-sheathing it and turning to the rabbit. “... Don’t fail me again... and get out of my sight!”

--- 12:04am, August 2nd, 3 Miles from Bunny Burrow ----------

“Hopps, you sure this Doctor will be open at this time of night?”

Detective Howlett was driving a dark green, wood sided people carrier that was borrowed with permission from the owners of Whinnies’ Cafe. He had been driving non-stop from the Lake side Cafe along the highway heading towards Bunny Burrow, by request of Judy. The team was but minutes away from reaching the main Farming town in the district, hoping that the Hopps family Doctor was still in practise.

“Yes Detective, he always used to stay open late in case any of the field workers needed medical attention after they finished their work. A lot of them didn’t know when to quit and worked well past sunset. So yeah, he shouldn’t be going home for a while yet” Judy replied to the Detective, hoping that her information was still reliable. 

“We can’t afford to leave it till the morning and the main hospital is too risky, predators will stick out like nails around here... We aren’t in great shape as it is for a fight” Howlett voiced his concerns, a genuine fear based on logic. Names like Howlett and Hunter would be very conspicuous in the Burrow.

“I understand, sir... Trust me”

“How’s Alex doing?”

Officer Hopps directed her attention to the Coyote laying next to her in the back seat, blood still soaking into his previously white shirt and his breathing beginning to shallow. “Not great, he passed out again...”

Wilde was asleep next to the Bunny Officer, holding her paw ever since she awoke from her own slumber not 2 hours before.

Judy awoke abruptly in Nick’s arms, flailing her arms and legs frantically as if she was fending off some unseen entity. After a few minutes she calmed down, requiring only Nick’s embrace to sooth her anxiety. After being caught up to speed with everything that was happening and everything that had happened she got to work like the officer she was. The Bunny, having had a little medical training in the academy set to work patching up the smaller wounds sustained by the group. But the bigger stuff would need to be seen to by a professional. It was then she hatched her idea of visiting Doctor Warner.

Niki and Jack were asleep cuddled together in the furthest back seats on the minivan. To anyone that didn’t know them, mammals would have thought they were an item with how cosy the couple appeared to be.

“Next left, you’ll see a green sign for the Doctor’s Practice, just pull in there” Judy pointed out the window for the Wolf to follow.

Before long the group found themselves pulling into an empty car park, the Practise just in front of the van with just 1 solitary light burning in the hallway. The place looked closed for the evening.

“Oh no...”

“Hopps... Wanna run by me again the part where he stays open late?”

“I haven’t visited him since I left for the Academy... I came here for my physical but... ohhh...” The Bunny jumped out of the van, followed closely by Nick and Jay, and ran up to the front door of the establishment, pressing on the caller button on the wall next to the door. 

Jay checked the door, but as he suspected, the practise was locked up for the night. The Wolf let out a sigh as he looked back at the van just in time to see Alex had come round and stepped out of the passenger side door, leaning on the body work for support. “We here?...” he mumbled.

“Yeah but we have a prob-...” Jay couldn’t get the words out before he heard a voice, a voice that filled him with hope.

“Hello? What do you want? Im afraid we are closed for the night”

“DOCTOR WARNER! IT’S JUDY... JUDY HOPPS... PLEASE WE NEED HELP”

“Miss Hopps? I thought you were in the Big City? Get tired of it already huh?”

“Please open up its an emergency!”

“Okay, il be right down”

It took less that a minute before an elderly Rabbit appeared from a small flight of stairs with a key in his paw and a smile on his face. A smile that was quickly replaced with apprehension as he caught the eye of the 6 foot Black Dog/Wolf Hybrid. Howlett’s red eyes almost causing the Doctor to drop his keys. “Ohh, goodness...”

The elderly Buck pushed the key into the lock and opened the door, the door barely swinging open before Judy burst through, grabbing the Doctor by the paw and gently guiding him towards the waiting room. While Hopps was getting Warner up to speed with the situation, Howlett made his way back to the van, clutching his ribs as he walked and helped Alex steady himself on his feet. “The Doctor will see you and Judy first, I can wait”

“No, no, you need to be seen too...” Alex protested but was quickly silenced by the Detective as he took the Coy by the shoulder and began to march him into the Office.

“I wont hear any more of it, you are bleeding... and im scared to think what the Hellcat would do to me...”. Jay and Alex made their way into the waiting room, leaving Nick, Jack and Niki to sleep in the van while everyone got patched up. 

Upon entering the waiting room, Alex and Jay were met with the steely gaze of Dr. Warner, an unhappy look on his face with Judy trying to get his attention back to her.

“Hopps, there Predators... you know I don’t work with them...” Warner said, motioning with his paw to the Hybrid in particular. 

“Doctor please, they need help... they’ll die if you don’t help them” Judy tried her best to reason with the Lapin but it would appear that the doctor wasn’t budging from his position.

“Take them to the hospital with all the other Foxes and Wolves! I can’t do anything here”

Jay finally had enough. He was used to mammals being intimidated by his stature and menacing appearance but this was a whole new level. “Doctor Warner, my name is Detective Jensen Howlett of the Animalia Police Department, and the Coyote is Officer Alexander Hunter, ZPD... We have been ambushed, attacked, shot, beaten... trodden through sewers and driven 300 damn miles to get help from you... so I ask you... are you going to let 3 Police officers die on your front doorstep because of a silly grudge you have for predators, or are you going save their lives and make a difference in the world... We can’t go to the hospital so we need your help, we ask you in our time of need... will you help us...”

The Doctor shyed away from the group for a second, walking over to his reception desk and leaning over it with his paws. Warner withdrew a small set of glasses from his coat pocket and started to tap them on his desk with an uneven rhythm. “...Howlett was it?... dammit... okay, bring him into room 3, there’s a table big enough for a Coyote in there”

Jay wasted no time in dragging Alex to the room and planting him in the centre of the table. 

“Thank you Doctor” Judy smiled over at the old Rabbit, thinking back to a time when pred and prey were at ends with each other, such as the case between herself and Gideon Grey and how their attitudes changed for the best.

“If the town hears that I’ve been helping predators like them il lose a lot of my client base... so don’t thank me yet, just wait till you get my bill”

Back in the examination room, Jay was trying to get Alex more comfortable by removing some of his bloody clothes and boots. War had really done a number on the Coyote, on top of the injuries he already had he sustained additional bruising around his back where he came into contact with the SUV.  Howlett suspected perhaps a few broken ribs as well but only Doctor Warner would be able to tell for sure. As for himself, the protective vest he wore offered a fair amount of padding that would have otherwise seriously injured the Detective, the broken ribs he thought he had turned out to be just some bruising brought on by the heavy kick and a head wound that looked more serious than it actually was. Probably his most serious injury was the bullet to the paw, luckily it was his mech paw but it still rendered it useless for the time being. 

“Hey Jay? What did War mean by ‘Dead mammal’? He seemed so sure that Charon was dead...”

“Huh? When was this?” Jay sounded confused, only then remembering that he had been out cold for a portion of the fight. 

“When Charon appeared and saves Niki... War said he looked good despite being dead”

“Ah... yeah... supposedly Charon died on a job, actually a little over a year ago, honestly I was surprised to hear that he visited Lucy back in the apartment... his body was never recovered so... whether or not this is the real deal or a copycat... I can’t say.”

At that moment, Doctor Warner made his appearance into exam room 3, followed by Judy and a rather sleepy female Rabbit, unknown to any of the officers.

“Good morning, mister...uhh... Hunter was it? This is my assistant Kimberly...” Warner said, motioning to the sleepy yet shy doe as she waved back at the 3 officers. “... As law in the burrow dictates an examiner must be accompanied by an assistant during these check ups, are you okay with this?”

Both Alex and Jay nodded in agreement with impeccable timing. 

“Very well then. Mr Hunter, as you are the most in need I will have a look at you first, please lay back on the table"

The Coyote did as he was told, gently lowering himself onto the cold metal table, just long enough for his entire length to lay upon it comfortably. The Doctor took out a pair of scissors from a drawer and began to cut off what remained of Alex's previously white shirt and started to carefully clean around the wound on his side.

As time went by, Warner periodically checked over at Hopps and Howlett, making sure neither of them was in any pain. In between re-stitching Alex's side, he had his assistant take Hopps into the back room and had her looked over to check for any additional injuries. Luckily her injuries were mild and a few pain killers were all she required. Warner's assistant also cleaned Jay's head wound and bandaged his ribs for support.

It took just an hour to patch up the team as best as a local Doctor could but without proper medical equipment, the team was still not at full strength. But they could be moved safely now.

Judy was the last one out the door of the clinic. It had just turned 1:30am by the time they were ready to hit the road once more. Rockford's house was just 12 miles away in The West Woodlands, nearing the border to Bunny Burrow.

"Thank you again, Doctor. I'm sorry for causing you all this hassle..." Judy turned before the spring-loaded door hit her on the behind.

"Oh, Judy... Think nothing of it. I will send the bill to your Parent's place. Don't worry, I was joking about it being expensive"

Judy gave a hearty smile, the award-winning smile that broke hundreds of hearts during her numerous T.V. interviews. After her farewells, she bounced back into the Van and back into Nick's sleeping arms.

--- 1:54am, Rockford's Woodlands Home ----------

"H-How rich is the Chief?!" 

"The answer you are looking for is very. He is a decorated war hero after all, not to mention the Chief of Zootopia's Biggest Precinct... comes with a nice salary" Alex replied, gazing upon the Super sized structure perked comfortably overlooking a deep valley.

The house from the outside looked like a typical wooden cabin that one would frequent from time to time for recreational activities such as swimming at the near by lake or venturing down one of the numerous hiking trails in the area. One main difference with the outside styling of Rockford’s summer home was that there were a few modern improvements, specifically to the heating system.

The fire pit was still operational but a new A/C system was installed at the side of the house. There was two separate balconies partitioned by a small wooden railing all around. Both of these front facing balconies overlooked the magnificent views of West Woodland. A particularly deep valley cut right through the district, some areas were particularly inaccessible but it didn’t stop adventurous mammals from trying. Rockford himself had to rescue a few in his own back yard over the years. The valley was dense with forest, pine trees made for Very dimly lit areas, easy to get turned around in but still held spectacular beauty.

“Rockford built this place himself, took him 4 years but it was worth it” Alex spoke up as he fumbled around him person for the keys. Once found he limped over to the building and promptly unlocked it, checking for unusual smells as he did.

“It’s out of the way... one road to and from it and surrounded by thick forest... this is perfect to hide a witness” Howlett muttered to himself as he took a glance back at the van towards Niki who was still asleep, wrapped in the arms of Agent Savage.

“heh... come on sleeping beauty” Howlett opened the back door of the van and proceeded to gently pick up the sleeping Jackal and wrapping her in a small blanket from the back seat of the van. The wolf took a glance over to Jack and realised this was too good of an opportunity to pass up...

Howlett slowly and carefully leaned over to the sleeping lapin, readying his swift escape and shouted in his ear. 

“LOOK, THERES THE GHOST!!”

In a split second, Savage shot up from his seat, produced his sidearm and proceeded to scan his surroundings. The poor lapin’s heartrate doubled in an instant, his eyes bloodshot and wide open on high alert.

“BAAHAHAHAHA!!” Jay couldn’t help himself but laugh as Jack finally realised what was happening. The Rabbit turned slowly towards the Wolf with a glare of death, contemplating turning his gun on the detective. 

“I could have shot someone, idiot!” Jack defended himself as he holstered his sidearm and jumped out of the van through the open back door.

“Heh, like the last time we worked together?” 

Jack sighed as he grabbed whatever gear he could carry from the van and walked towards the cabin. “No Detective... we are not starting this again”

Amazingly, Niki remained asleep through this entire exchange, lightly snoring but otherwise dead to the world.

The Wolf knocked on the window to alert Nick and Judy that they had arrived before carrying Niki into to cabin right behind jack.

“AHA!” came a cry from deep within the house as the lights in the entire cabin burst into life. Alex had stumbled around in the dark towards the breaker box and flicked the fuses on. 

The interior of the cabin was something from a high end decoration magazine. In keeping with the cabin feel of the property much of the structural beams were exposed and glossed in a medium dark brown. The furniture was the same, a high gloss finish on wooden tables, bookcases and shelves. The bookcases were filled to the brim with books on law and the history of the police force. There were display cases scattered throughout the open plan living room/dining room with various artefacts from a dark and dangerous era in mammal history. The Great War ended just 45 years earlier, resulting in the deaths of millions, most of which were civilians. A time what was not easily forgotten.

“So... was the Chief a historian as well?” Jack asked as he took his time peering at the various antiquities and weapons.

“Not exactly... he was a Captain in the Great War, leading a... very special squad behind enemy lines. His team was known as ‘The Four Lions’... His older brother Michael was the leader, then him and his two sisters, Ellie and Victoria... unfortunately only two would see the end of the conflict...” Alex answered Jack’s question, with a heavy heart but prideful that his Godfather was a true hero. One day he could only hope to emulate.

Jack looked somewhat remorseful at asking such an important question in the worst possible way. “Ahh geez... sorry Al...”

“Heh, its cool, I like reliving the stories he told us of his daring missions unto enemy ground. The bedtime stories he told to Bixby and myself on dark and stormy night that would send us right off, to hell with the thunder!!... no, I don’t mind telling the world about the Lions... I only hope we can do them proud...” Alex proclaimed as he moved to one if the display cases and laid his paw on top of it. The case itself was of an American flag, folded neatly between the outline of 4 Colt M1911 pistols. Two of these pistols however were unaccounted for. Alex knew exactly where one of the missing two resided, patting his service pistol as a memorial. “These belonged to the Four”

Howlett was the first to walk over, before laying the sleeping Jackal gently down onto the sofa in the centre of the room. Jack was the next to gaze upon the hidden piece of history.

“There were only 4 of them?” Jack asked inquisitively, impressed that a small group like that commanded so much respect.

“Initially there was just the 4 siblings, but once their exploits became more and more widespread others started to join them on missions. That was however until the end of the war, right before Michael was cut down by a sniper... Martin took up the role as team leader after that and became the eldest of the survivors, and was entrusted with the 4 Colts you see here... well kind of... Ellie requested to keep hers until her death as a reminder, Martin kept safe the other three.”

“I’ve only met the Chief a pawful of times but... every time he carried himself strong, every time he gave me a chill up my spine and i couldn’t figure out why... Now I know...” Howlett wiped off paw prints that he made upon the glass with his sleeve, leaving the case once again in pristine condition.

“Hey guys?” Nick poked his head around the corner of the doorframe, remaining outside as if he hadn’t permission to enter. “Judy and I are gonna take the train back to Zootopia if that’s okay with you?... Kinda been a stressful sort of day yaknow... between assassins and sewers and all that... sorry for bailing on ya”

Alex was the first to speak up. “You guys sure you don’t wanna stay? There are plenty of bedrooms in here and just wait till you get a load of the view in the morning!”

“Sorry kid, sounds nice and all but were gonna have to pass on that one... next time tho!”

Judy was the next to lean in around the corner, nestled between the Vulpine and the door frame. “Defiantly next time! Sorry we can’t stay, there’s a literal mountain of paperwork that isn’t gonna write up itself!”

“Heh, well only if you are sure. Take it easy guys! And try not to fall asleep and miss your stop!” Howlett jested as he smiled and waved.

“Safe journey home!” both Jack and Alex chimed in at the same time, once again with uncanny timing.

The train station was just under a mile away from Rockford’s home, having passed it on the road to their destination. It would have only taken the couple 15 minutes at most to make it to their train and safely back to the city. The team on the other had yet to find their own accommodations.

“Okay guys, its 2 in the morning, after today I think i can safely speak for all of us in saying were tired. This place has 7 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and ample room to move around freely, just choose a bed and lay down!” Alex let out a yawn, stretching in the process which twinged at his stitches to the point he stopped mid stretch to hold his side and lower himself back down slowly. 

Howlett removed his hoodie, unclipped his tac vest and removed the rest off his gear, piling it neatly on one of the armchairs in the sitting room. “Guess il be the first to make a move then, night guys!” he said as he proceeded upstairs to one of the many rooms on the first floor of the cabin.

“Same goes for me kiddo, been a rough sort of day huh” Jack stretched his arms skywards, his tight fitting shirt lifting also, revealing a number of healed scars on his lower abdomen.

“Jack...” Alex muttered as he first caught a glimpse of the old injuries.

“Another time kiddo, goodnight Al” Jack spoke as he too ascended the stairs and picked out a room for himself, leaving Alex alone in the living room... almost.

“Oh, Niki...”

Alex rushed upstairs and brought down a few pillows and a thick duvet, throwing it over the Jackal and placing the pillows under her head. Despite being the height of the summer, the nights in Woodlands can be rather cold and perilous for those unprepared for them, so Alex decided to heat the house through till morning the old fashioned way, by lighting a fire.

Within minutes the Coyote had a nice roaring fire built up and light, a skill his Godfather had taught him in his youth that somehow never left him. Alex placed the fire guard around the hearth and turned off the lights into the living room, leaving the fire as the only light source. 

“Hope your warm and comfortable enough Niki...” Alex made his way over to the sleeping Jackal and kissed her gently on the forehead. “Hope this new life treats you well, you deserve it” he spoke softly before he too retired for the night, upstairs and to the right, first door on the right... his old bedroom, exactly how he left it.

As he opened the door he was instantly greeted by the smell of fresh green apples, his favourite scent, emanating from a small air freshener I the corner of the room. The Coyote arranged his bedroom with space in mind. His bed was pushed way off in the corner opposite the window as some of the smells from outside would keep him up at night when he was a pup, a habit he never really out grew. A small bedside table with a lamp stood beside the bed and a small chest resembling a military footlocker at the base of the bed kept everything tidy. His walls were plastered with old casefiles that Rockford would bring home for him, copies of course, of major crimes that had been solved previously. Alex enjoyed leaving the culprit out of the files and trying to piece the evidence together himself and come to his own conclusions before checking his answers with the final results. Surprisingly, not being a detective himself, his success rate for major crimes was about 90%. His most recent was of course the Night Howler case, one that he was currently working on before he went off to the academy.

“Home sweet home”

Alex kicked off his clothes, balling them up and throwing them into a corner to collect in the morning. He didn’t even bother with a change of clothes, just stripped and climbed into bed, too tired to care who walked in and less caring about making himself decent if they did.

--- The next Morning, 10:00am ----------

Alex was woken by his alarm clock that was set to chime at 10am, each and every morning for exactly 1 minute, enough to wake the Coy but allow other guests to sleep without being disturbed. 

The Canine pawed at the clock while his face was buried deeply into the pillows, vaguely remembering the general location of the snooze button. After a few failed attempts at turning the clock off he opted to just let it run its course. 30 seconds later the alarm stopped but the damage was done, Alex was wide awake, now wondering if the rest of the team got any sleep after the events of the previous day. He rolled over, stared at the ceiling for a few seconds contemplating drifting back over to sleep before flinging the duvet off himself and rising to attention.

“Fine im up...” he muttered to himself as he stretched and rubbed sleep from his eyes. He checked his stitches in case any had come loose during the night and to his surprise, the stitches held stronger than those from the hospital. “Huh, Warner sure knows what he is doing...”

The Coy stood up, went over to his wardrobe and pulled out a fresh white shirt, black vest and combat pants, opting to leave the tie out of the equation for now. Now fully dressed he exited his room and proceeded downstairs, surprised to find that almost everyone was already awake and that Howlett was cooking up pancakes for everyone.

“Good morning guys” Alex shouted down as he trailed it off with a yawn.

“Hey look, sleeping beauty is up!” Howlett shouted back as he flipped the first batch of pancakes in the pan.

“Morning Alex” Niki waved over as she was still curled up by the remnants of the fire underneath the duvet.

“Wow you seem to have been productive today haha” Alex said, joking at how far Niki had travelled so far this morning.

“Not funny... its cold!”

Before Alex could reply however, there was a short, sharp knock at the front door. Jay instinctively reached for his pistol, unclipping the safety catch. 

“Room service?” Alex looked over at Howlett, knowing that there was no one that knew their location... they must have been followed or tracked somehow from Zootopia...

Alex slowly walked over to the door, his paw wrapped firmly around his knife as his service pistol was still in his room. Cautiously he opened the door and peeked through the crack, but was unable to see anyone outside. 

Hesitantly he opened the door a little more...

The young canine peeked his head around the door to the outside. Not a second after sticking his head out that he felt a sharp stinging sensation against his cheek and the force to go along with it. His tail puffed up as he tried to regain his bearings, only to find a very... very... very angry Lynx standing before him...

“...So where exactly would you like to be buried?!...” Lucy said, standing infront of him arms folded across her chest and tapping her foot on the wooden porch.

Chapter Text

--- 10:02am, August 2nd, Rockford Estate ----------

“...So where exactly would you like to be buried?!...” Lucy said, standing in front of him, arms folded across her chest and tapping her foot on the wooden porch.

“L-Lucy?!... I though you weren’t getting discharged till this afternoon?!...” Alex said, his cheek still stinging from the slap not seconds earlier.

“We were released early at request of the Chief... now back to the matter at paw... WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU DOING WITH THAT RHINO?!”

“I couldn’t just sit there and let everyone die now could I?” Alex tried to justify himself, his argument sounding much more logical in his head but alas, his reason fell on deaf ears when it came to this particular Lynx. Not moments after he finished his sentence however another slap came hurtling his way, fortunately for him this one was half-hearted and he was able to catch the Feline by the wrist and stopped her in her tracks.

As Alex defended himself, Lucy broke out into tears and pressed her head into the Canine’s chest, soaking it with her tears.

“You id *sniff* idiot... you could have been killed...”

“But I wasn’t... and everyone is alive because I stuck my neck out... Im sorry for worrying you like that and.... hey wait... how did you know there was a fight?!”

“I can answer that one!” said another voice a little further down the drive way. A familiar voice and one that brought a smile to the Coyote’s muzzle. “Bixby!” 

“Hey pup” the Hare spoke up, waved back and gave the cheesiest smile he could muster. “They decided the City was going to hell too quickly so they let us out early to fix it!”

“Yeah as if! It’s so great to see you two!” Alex piped up, smiling back at his partner as Lucy buzzled a little closer into his chest.

“Sorry sport, its not just the two of them...” came another, slightly deeper yet easily recognisable voice. Tristan rounded the corner of the cabin, from the direction of the garage as he caught the sound of his younger brother’s voice. “... Rockford and I are here as well yaknow” he said, feigning hurt as he placed his paw across his heart with a sorrowful expression.

“Tristan! And the Chief?” Alex questioned, wondering why Martin had decided to join them so early in the mission. Initially the Coyote had planned to have the Lion visit with Niki every other weekend as he normally would to check up on the expecting mother. “So... what’s the deal?”

“Well you see the four of u-...” Bixby began to speak but was abruptly cut off by his mate as a matter of point.

“Five of us B... Five of us”

“R-right...” Bixby looked towards the ground, somewhat apologetic and guilt ridden to forget about him...

Lucy broke her embrace with her partner and stepped away briefly before taking a sneak peek in through the open door to find a Jackal staring back at her. This sight brought mixed feeling to the feline. On one paw she wanted to make her pay for what their organisation had done thus far and on the other she wanted to offer her assistance to the pregnant canine.

After a few more seconds of memorising her facial features, Lucy took another step back, her eyes widened and her jaw hang open. “Tha... That’s the Jackal at the apartment!” Lucy muttered loud enough for only Alex to hear clearly.

“What?” Alex replied as he had just enough time to stop the Lynx barging past him and into the cabin. He outstretched his arm and took hold of the enraged Officer as she tried to dart in through the doorway and brought her forcibly out further onto the balcony area. “Lucy hold up... what are you doing?...”

“That bitch was with the group that nearly killed me!... and you expect me to just let it slide?!...”

Bixby and Tristan rushed over after witnessing the violent exchange between the partners and tried to offer what little they had in terms of negotiations.

Bixby started. “Lu... please... I’ve read her file... it was done under blackmail, threat of bodily harm...”

“Does it look like is give a shit?!... she needs to pay!”

“Lucy please... She’s an innocent in all of this... with no choice but to follow orders like you, Bixby, Alex... all of us” Tristan tried his paw in the proceedings, using his criminal understandings to justify her actions. “Give her a chance”

“Il give her no such thing!” Lucy hissed at the lawyer, her emotions in full swing and her claws bare, ready for a fight.

“She’s right...” A voice came from the entrance to the cabin, a defeated voice full of sorrow and remorse. “... I don’t deserve your help and more than the next common criminal... But I want to help make things right... the best I can...” Niki said, standing propped up against the doorframe wearing the blankets like body armour with the door itself flung wide open.

Lucy growled at the Jackal before Alex stepped in front if her. This action caused the feline to go silent. 

“Officer Benson...” He shouted. This use of her title caused her to snap out of her bloodlust, if only for a moment as the Canine’s next words sank in. “...This witness has vital information regarding the criminals... You will not stand between us and them...”

Lu looked up into Alex’s perfect blue eyes, a hint of a tear building up in one of them, before looking towards the ground, defeated at the sound of her partner’s voice. Alex knew he was the only one to get through to the real Lucy, but scared that he had maybe pushed it a little far. His heart lifted a little at her next response.

“...Sorry Alex... I need some time...” Benson said as she turned on her heels and walked down the balcony steps towards the hillside. The canine could smell the salty tears even from a distance which brought a tear to his own eye...

“Alex... you didn’t have to do that for me... I deserve everything she said. Yes I was there, as a lookout only... I ran as soon as I caught sight of her eyes glowing in the darkness... I feared for my life back then... but I have something to fight for now” Nikola said as she wrapped the blankets tighter around herself to stay warm.

“I beg your pardon Miss but there’s nothing to apologise for... you have given us a wealth of information we can use against the enemy... Your time has been paid in full... and we have something we need to discuss with you...” Tristan walked up the steps and took the canine by the paw, leading her back down them and around to a parked minivan with the ZPD logo plastered up the side of it.

“So you are the informant huh? They didn’t say you would be so cute...” Martin was waiting patiently by the side door of the van, ready at a moments notice to open them when he deemed it the right time. “We have something that we would like to help you with... my colleagues and I deemed it best if you were the one to make the decision...” He said as he clicked open the door and slid it all the way to the back.

Inside was a beautifully crafted and detailed pine box with wooden sculpted decorations adorning the sides and brass fixings running along its length. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the use of this particular box.

Niki stepped closer upon laying her eyes on the box, a hint of a tear began to well up in the corners of her eyes as she caught on to what the Chief was proposing. Within this coffin lay the body of her recently deceased mate Addison.

Rockford gently opened the top half of the coffin to reveal the peacefully resting body of the Jackal, wearing a fine dark navy suit and tie. A make up artist did her best to reconstruct the young mammals face, removing the stitches that bonded his eyelids shut and cleaned off all the blood. Addy looked at peace, as if he could wake up any moment. A small smile was etched onto his face, something that the morgue didn’t need to correct... he died smiling.

Upon first glance of her lover, Niki broke down in tears. Her legs all but giving way from under her as she couldn’t take her eyes off her mates lifeless body. The Jackal reached into the coffin and hugged onto Addy with everything she had. The tears cascaded down her cheeks and the calm country air was filled with the wailing sounds of sadness as she wept for her lost love.

Lucy was a fair distance away by now, huddled under a mighty oak tree overlooking the valley below, but could still make out the sounds if anguish coming from the Canine. No matter how angry she was with Niki she couldn’t help but be a little sad for her. The thought of Alex being in that coffin came to mind and how she would react in that situation but that thought was quickly stifled as she wiped a tear away from her eye and lay back on the grassy verge.

Martin was the first one to speak up as Niki’s sadness began to subside. “We will help you bury him... I thought it was only right that you should be the one to decide where rather than the courts...”

Niki slowly lifted her head towards the Lion, her eyes puffy and her fur wet from the tears. “Thank you...”

--- 8 hours later ----------

The group of mammals were in the dining room, preparing the table for dinner as the food slowly cooked in the kitchen. Lucy, after an hour of quiet contemplation, decided to join the group again and was given the full tour of the cabin, choosing without a second thought to sleep in Alex’s room because ‘It looked more comfortable’... yeah because that’s the reason...

Bixby and Tristan had chosen the Hare’s old room to settle down in. Martin had opted for one of the smaller rooms, giving his master bedroom to the Jackal, much to her protest.

The team had only just finished up the makeshift funeral service of Addison and laid him to rest about an hour previous. The group actually took it pretty hard, each imagining that it was their mates laying in that box about to be lowered into an eternal sleep. 

Niki had chosen a spot by a willow hanging over a small pond to be her mate’s final resting spot. A place that could be sheltered from the rain and snow while also having a breath-taking view of the sunset beyond the mountains.

Niki decided she wanted to spend a little more time by the grave while the rest of the group headed back indoors to prepare dinner.

“Sooooo... when are you and Skye popping out a kit?” Howlett smirked over towards Jack, raising an eyebrow and giving a devilish grin at the lapin.

Savage went bright red as he look on towards the detective. “Why that is none of your business! My sex life has nothing to do with an animal such as yourself!” the rabbit spouted, his accent and education clear to hear.

Lucy overheard the exchange and gave out a giggle, finding Savage and Howlett’s relationship somewhat amusing.

“And is something amusing you Officer Benson?!...” the rabbit said as he turned his attention towards the Lynx. “I dare say you wont be far behind in this conversation judging by the eyes the Coyote makes at you when your back is turned!”

Lucy gasped, a look of shock briefly appearing on her face as she looked over to the oblivious canine helping his brother and beat friend prepare dinner. He had his back to her and the Lustful Lynx couldn’t help but take a mental image of Hunter’s... form...

“He really thinks of me that way?” she asked as Jack sat forward at the dinner table, leaning his head into his paws.

“Oh yeah, 8 times between leaving the precinct and the fountain did he open his phone just to bring up a photo of you my dear... you got yourself a real Romeo there”

Lucy smiled a little as the tips of her ears went red for the rest of the table to see. “Oh my...”

“Lucy and Alex, sitting in a tree, K-I-S....” Jay started to mock the Lynx but was quickly shot down by his phone chiming from his pocket. The Wolf pulled it out to find his mate calling, something he knew would be happening but was nonetheless surprised by. He removed himself from the table and went out onto one of the balconies, sliding closed the glass door on his way out.

“Hello?” he answered the phone, a slight smile appearing on his muzzle as the sound of his love came through from the other end.

“Hello dear, I didn’t want to disturb you so early, I know it was a long drive to the district. Some scary things were going on in the city yesterday... there was some sort if terror attack on the outskirts between the police and some giant ‘Rhino samurai' or so im told...”

“Heh yeah... glad we weren’t around for that one... wouldn’t want to have to kick his ass or anything...” He replied, stretching the truth a little without lying.

“Ha yeah, glad you got there in one piece... um... just finishing a short 6 hour shift at the hospital... not much happening around here, just a few older clients needing a tune up...” Ru began to prattle on a little, clearly dancing around something, waiting for the best opportunity. Something that the wolf picked up on quite easily having known her for a number of years.

“Ru hun... spit it out, what aren’t you telling me?”

“Huh... oh... well I haven’t been feeling well for a few days as you know so I asked a friend here at the hospital to run some blood work on me...”

Jay froze, unsure of how to handle a situation where his mate had a life threatening illness. “Atreyu, please tell me everything is okay...”

“Well... I have a growth... It isn’t dangerous but it cant be removed... not yet anyway. It’s something we will just have to live with the rest of our lives...”

“Oh Ru...” Jay let out a sigh as he lowered his posture and rested his head in one of his massive paws.

“Hey, it’ll be okay... we just need to pick up a few extra hours to support it... hell we even get to give it a name when it grows up a little more...”

“Babe, I will be on the next train ho... wait... support it?!... NAME IT?!...”

“Yaknow... for a detective, you can be really slow at times... Were going to be parents Jay...”

It was at this time that Lucy, having been cooped up most if the evening decided to step out onto the secondary balcony for a spot of fresh air. She leaned over the wooden railing and noticed the detective just at the moment his expressions changed.

Howlett’s eyes shot open, his paw covered his mouth in fear of everyone else in the cabin hear his squeal in excitement. “Are... are you serious? H-how far along? Boy or girl?”

“Jay calm down” Ru giggled on the other end of the line. “It’s too early to tell anything but the nurse said she’s waging her money on it being a girl... I was thinking about naming her after your mother... if it is a girl after all”

“My mom?... Lily huh... Lily Howlett... I like that”

Lucy caught onto what the general conversation was about but dared not interrupt the lovers in such an important time of their relationship. The Lynx gave a warm hearted smile as she hung over the railing and tried to picture Jenson as a father. “Lily Howlett... Beautiful name” she muttered to herself only loud enough for herself to hear. It was then she realised that he was not the only expecting parent in the residence. Her eyes darted back towards the cabin, locking eyes with one particular canine as she helped prepare the table for dinner.

Niki noticed Lucy looking in at her through the window. She knew there was bad blood between them and didn’t want to exacerbate things, especially not this close to dinner, so she broke eye contact with the Lynx and continued her task of laying the cutlery.

Lucy looked sombre as she continued to watch the Jackal prepare the table with conflicting opinions on her. On one paw Lucy wanted to finish the job she almost started that night in the hallway while on the other she wanted to help the expectant mother because she knew it was the right thing to do.

She was broken out of her trance as her own phone began to ring with a more gentle gradient tone than that of Howlett’s irritating sound effects. Her caller I.D. flashed with a photo of none other than Merrick. The male Lynx had exchanged numbers with Lucy back in the hospital and had hoped to keep in touch with his former lover. Reluctantly she answered her phone. “Hello?”

“Hello? Lu? Ahh its great to hear your voice. I heard you got out of the hospital early, how are you feeling?”

“Hey Mer, yeah I’m doing okay, still very sore though... getting shot isn’t fun at all...”

“Yeah I’d dare say not!... Listen I’m sorry to bother you all of a sudden like this, It’s just... well when I heard you were injured I... I wanted to help...”

“Merrick... Don’t do this... it’s been 2 years since we broke up... I can’t go back there...” Lucy said with a hint of a growl in her voice. She wasn’t ready just yet to go back to her old life, her old town.

“No no, I get it... just... Don’t be a stranger if you ever do decide to come back to the town... for her sake...”

“... I know... How is she doing?”

“She’s doing well... yeah... very well... you should see her now”

“Oh Mer... look after her will ya? And give her a kiss from me please”

“I will, listen I’ll get outta your hair now, I’m sure you have important things to do so uh... yeah, be seeing you around!” Merrick said with an upbeat tone in his voice.

“Right, talk to you later, goodnight” 

“Bye!” *beep* Merrick was the first to hang up , rather abruptly I might add. No hesitation, almost as if he felt obligated to call her out of pity.

“Yeah...” Lucy pressed the ‘call end’ button on her smart phone and let it hang in her paw down by her side as she looked over the valley as the sun began its decent past the mountains.

“Hey Lu? Dinner is ready, come quick” Tristan popped his head around the glass doors out onto the balcony and greeted the Lynx. “Before Alex and Bixby scoffs it all!”

Lucy perked up a little at the sound of her provisional boyfriends name. “Kay, il be in soon!” she smiled back at the Coyote as he retreated back to the dinner table, drool hanging from his lower lip all the while.

“Heh... silly pup...” she muttered under her breath as she opened the door and went inside for a bite to eat.

--- After Dinner ----------

“Hey B, mind giving me a paw washing the dishes?” Alex beaconed the young Hare over to the kitchen sink, piled high with dirty plates and cutlery.

“Huh? Oh yeah, no problem” Bixby slid off the dining table chair and casually walked over to the sink, dragging a little wooden stool with him to stand on. The kitchen was definitely made for a much taller mammal but both Alex and Bixby adapted to it rather well.

“So...” Alex spoke up, handing him a clean plate for the Hare to dry and set aside. “... What’s on your mind? You have been distant since you got here, don’t think we havent noticed” 

Bixby looked over his shoulder to see who was around. Martin was asleep by the fire in his favourite armchair, his nightly tradition. Jack, Niki and Jay were in the living room going over files and updating information on the criminals they found themselves up against. Lucy and Tristan were outside on the balcony gossiping about Alex no doubt, she did after all want to hear more about his childhood and who better than his brother.

“There’s nothing wrong Al, drop it” Bixby replied rather coldly as he turned back to the task at paw. “It matters not anyway”

“It matters enough to be weighing on your mind... we all see it so at least get it off your chest with me rather than in front of everyone” Alex reasoned as he handed him another plate to dry.

Bixby let out a sigh and closed his eyes. He knew the Coy was right but he himself thought of the problem as little more than being homesick.

“Being in Zootopia for months at a time... seeing all these happy families walking side by side... makes me miss mine... see, I told you... its nothing”

“Oh B... maybe it’s time to face up to them... It isn’t fair that your mother threw you out of the family because of her mistake...”

“How did you...” Bixby looked up to Alex, confusion plastered on his face clear as day.

“Oh please... you are a Hybrid, that’s clear to see... your parents were not... doesn’t take a genius I just didn’t want to push anything so I played dumb...”

Bixby gave the first smile all night. Even back when they were young teens Alex knew enough not to pry into the lives of others.

“I don’t know Al... I’m not welcome in the house any longer... she wouldn’t allow it”

“Then you find someone that will listen to your side of the story... someone you were close to that will hear you out and back your corner... someone like...”

“My sisters... Mirabelle and Jasmine... they might be willing to listen... if... if there not already brainwashed that is...”

“Can’t hurt to try right?” Alex handed another plate to the Hare and began on the cutlery.

“True... thanks Alex”

“No worries B.”

In the living room, Jack, Jay and Niki had been pouring over the files on each and every member of this criminal organisation. Using Niki’s prior knowledge of the group she was able to fill in missing or incorrect information that proved useful to the team.

“Not much is known about War’s past but I will try my best to remember everything I can” Niki spoke up, affirming her trust in the team that they can handle these killers and avenge her mate.

“He must have a Military background... he was too methodical in taking out who he perceived to be the biggest threat, Howlett. He wasn’t anticipating Hunter putting up a fight in his state, or Charon showing up when he did... he was visibly stirred by that but formulated a defence very quickly to combat both of them” Jack was next to give his input to the conversation. He was right after all, War was more than a match for both mammals coming at him at once.

“I agree, he has formal training... and his armour...” Jay sounded off.

“Its custom... he had an armourer make it for him... along with Charon’s sword before he betra... uhh... never mind...” Niki continued before covering her mouth with her paw. She had made a mistake and revealed a little too much information.

“Before Charon did what?” the sentence caught Howlett’s interest, wanting to know the meaning behind the slip of the tongue.

The Jackal sighed, knowing there was no way of wriggling out if her mistake. “Before... Before Charon betrayed him... betrayed all of us...”

Jack and Jay looked at each other with interest. The plot thickened.

“Over a year ago, Charon was closely affiliated with War. He took on a number of jobs for him, mostly rivals... Charon never killed an innocent, he was good like that, always did his research on who he was about to kill. War approached him one day and offered him a title in his organisation... Charon was ‘Death’... before Ghost took the role”

“Beginning to remember why I hated that Asshole...” Jay growled with an aggressive tone.

“They didn’t look like friends yesterday” Jack commented, bringing Jay out of his tantrum.

“Charon took on a job that ultimately went wrong... the target was dealt with but the building he was in caught fire... until yesterday we all thought Charon had died on the job...” Niki looked down, visibly upset at events that had happened more than a year ago. Even knowing that Charon had survived and was better than ever she couldn’t help but feel upset that he didn’t remember her... it was him after all that planned both Niki and Addy’s escape from the compound.

Jack noted the Jackal’s emotional state and decided to move the subject on a little. “So Niki, what can you tell us about the other two? The Felines you mentioned before.”

“Oh... Conquest and Famine... Q and Fam for short... Q is, well, a psychopath. Nothing else describes her better... she would kill you just for looking her way. Fam on the other side of the coin is rather compassionate compared to her older sister. Fam has some kind of illness, had it since she was young. It’s made her very frail and sickly but she makes up for her physical inability by being super smart. She’s a self proclaimed master hacker. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating her tho, she took on kendo at her sisters request to help build her fatigued muscles so she can defend herself fairly well”

Jack sat back on the couch, taking note of everything the young Jackal told them, careful not to miss anything that could prove vital to the investigation.

“And then there’s Ghost...” Niki spoke, gaining Jay’s undivided attention.

“We know all we need to know about him...” the Wolf spoke up over Niki, unimpressed about having to talk about the murderer.

“But I know what he looks like under the mask...”

Both Jack and Jay’s eyes grew wide. Neither of the investigators imagined what had just came from the Canine’s mouth. “You what?!...” both mammals said simultaneously.

“White rabbit with light blue eyes, red scarf...” Niki started but was cut off by Howlett voicing an opinion of his own.

“Hmph... Sorry to disappoint you but that information is already widely know-...” Jay spoke but was cut off by the Jackal, in retaliation for being cut off herself.

“...And a scar over his lip, running down to his neck... under that is another, deeper scar... the reason he is unable to speak... that was Q’s doing... or so he told me...”

Both Jay and Jack immediately shut up and began to listen more carefully. “Go on”

“His family are from Bunny Burrow... he didn’t tell me a family name tho but... his contract with War is based on blackmail. War has leverage on him in his family... one of his associates is here right now watching and waiting for orders. Damn if I can remember his name. So you see... Ghost is more of a prisoner than an accomplice.”

“I don’t give a damn what he is... I’ll get that little bastard!” Jay spoke up, his teeth bare and a growl emanating from his throat, somewhat catching Savage by surprise.

The Wolf noticed both Jack and Niki wincing away from him, noting that he needed to change the atmosphere somehow.

“... Nikola, Charon did remember you... Back in the tunnel he mentioned you by name... even the fact that you were female... he remembered you”

Niki hang her head low, thinking about the masked mammal and how he saved her on many levels. A small smile crept across her face. “Thank you Detective...”

Back in the kitchen, Bixby and Alex had finished their cleaning up chores and decided to take a quick break before tidying the remains of the food into reusable containers for another meal.

“Hey Bix... When I got close to Charon... I noticed something about his scent...”

“You got his scent?... really?... dude we can track him with that!”

“IIII...wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were you... it wasn’t his scent but rather... a scent mask... he used a strawberry musk mask...”

“Hold up Alex, I think I know what you are getting at here... It wont hold up as evidence... there are millions of mammals that use that particular scent... hell both Tristan and Atreyu wear that scent along with most of the City... its very popular” 

It was at that moment that Chief Rockford decided to make his entrance to the conversation. “I wear that brand too Alex, Im afraid you have very little in terms of identification...” The Lion walked into the kitchen, pulled up a chair to the table and took a seat with his two adopted Sons.

“Hey Martin, Good sleep?” Bixby lightened up almost immediately. In the presence of the Chief, his mood always took a positive turn, despite the situation.

“It was until that Wolf kept speaking up... He’s so loud and irritating... oh well. So, you boys any closer to cracking the case?”

“No sir, we were discussing Charon and who he might be...” Alex replied as he rested his chin onto the table and outstretched his paws across the wooden surface. “But it’s hopeless...”

“I’d say so... he’s been around for 5 years and not once has he been close to capture... Hell I’ve had a few run ins with h-...” Rockford started but was cut off as his mind flashed back to the morning the devil himself came calling to his office... 

“Hmm? Something wrong Chief?” Bixby noticed a perplexed and sobering expression creep across the Lion’s face. An expression that even gave the Hare a slight tingle running up his spine.

“Yeah B... everythings fine it’s just... Don’t tell the Wolf. Charon and I have a long history together... a sort of ‘cat and mouse’ game, excuse the expression. He came to my office not long after your team was set up by Bogo wanting a favour. He wanted my precinct to stay out of his business in the City”

“What did you tell him?” Alex raised his head at the revelation, unsure of how this situation would play out.

“...I agreed with him”

“You did what?!” Bixby spoke up, almost shouting as he was hushed by the Chief.

“Shhhh... I have my reasons... I made a deal with him... I left him alone until his business was concluded... and he kept you and the others out of harms way. I was nearly ready to go through him for a shortcut when I heard you were all targeted for assassination...”

“How could you bargaining with a known serial killer?” Alex asked, perplexed by the Chief’s reasoning.

“Because I knew he could keep you safe... and that’s all I wanted...” Martin hung his head, ashamed thinking back on what he had done.

The trio sat silently for a few seconds as Bixby and Alex glanced over at each other, deciding on what to do. It was Bixby who spoke up first.

“You know that you could lose your job for something like this...”

“I know B...”

Alex followed suit. “Never mind his job, that’s jail time...”

Both mammals gave each other another cheeky smirk before Bixby delivered his verdict.

“...But... whatever conversations occurred in a private office that haven’t been recorded cannot be used as evidence in the court of law...”

“Exactly... it’s the word of two rookies over the word of a seasoned police chief... without proof we have nothing!” Alex finished, both mammals giving a big cheesy grin towards the Chief, instantly lifting his spirits.

“You are okay with it?” he asked, confused by how well the duo took the news.

“Charon saved not only my life, but everyone in this house right now... and I’m sure he wont stop there... he’s actually a good mammal” Alex spoke up, knowing full well that this conversation will never leave this room, and he was okay with that.

“I’m willing to work with him if it helps clean up this City... purely in a non-killing sense of the term...” Bixby followed up, gaining a smile from the tired, old Lion.

“Oh boys...” Martin muttered, a tear running down one cheek and a smile from ear to ear. “You boys will make fine detectives some day”

As the night dragged on, the residents of the cabin congregated in the Living room for a few drinks, minus Nikola of course, before retiring for the night. As usual, Lucy slept in with Alex. Niki was offered the master bedroom, Tristan and Bixby shared the Hare’s old room while Jack and Jay found spare rooms of their own to crash in. Howlett was particularly restless however, wanting the 2 remaining days in West Woodlands to come swift and bring him back to his mate and their little one. The Wolf barely slept a wink that night thinking about his future family, something that gave the Hybrid a perpetual smile. Jack took a phone call from his mate as well, filled with the usual ‘how’s the weather’ and ‘did you pack enough clothes?’. Honestly he couldn’t wait to get to sleep.

--- 9:12am, August 3rd ----------

“Hey babe? You sure about this?” Tristan asked, looking over his shoulder as he walked behind his mate clutching the straps of a backpack. The pair had driven to the border of Bunny Burrow and West Woodlands, parked the van they borrowed from the Chief and proceeded towards the property owned exclusively by the O’Hare family. “Don’t we need to be invited or something?”

“Don’t worry dear, you are with me... I mean I am still an O’Hare after all... might not be part of the family but I’m still allowed by blood. Besides, I wont let that bitch throw us out for a second time without her hearing my piece!” Bixby reassured his mate, despite himself being a little uneasy at the prospect of meeting his family once again after so many years. But the Hare was determined to make his stand, it was time the family heard his side of the story!

“But... What if they turn us away?”

“Then we knock harder”

Both mammals had been hiking through the wood now for about 45 minutes. Their feet were aching due to the hard and uneven ground and sweating as the summer sun shone high above them. It may only be morning but the heat was still there.

Bixby chose this time of day to visit the family because he knew that the majority of the older Brothers and Sisters would be out at their jobs while the younger ones will be starting their school day. The only mammals on the residence would be the his parents and perhaps a few of the other Children that were staying home from school.

The O’Hare family weren’t the traditional farmer family that the Burrow was known for. Sure, Mrs O’Hare had a sizeable fruit and veg garden out back but otherwise their estate was a lot smaller than others. The family was known for something else, something that set them apart. The O’Hares were cubsitters for all of the larger rabbit farms in the area. 

The farms that dotted the landscape were worked on by the families that owned them, but while the older mammals were out working the fields, who was watching the younger siblings? That’s where Bixby’s family came in. They cornered the market on taking care of the families that couldn’t cope with child minding and farm work at the same time. Usually between 2 and 4 O’Hares would be sent to any given household per day to give the parents a chance to catch up on their work or other activities.

“Were almost there...” Bixby spoke up as he crested the summit of a particularly tall hill surrounded by trees and wild berry bushes. This area was very familiar to the Hare as he used to play here with his siblings when they were young. 

“Good, I don’t think I can go any further!” Tristan wheezed as he placed a paw on Bixby’s shoulder for support and rummaged in his backpack for a bottle of water. “Why did I agree to this?”

“Because my dear, you love me and thus have to do my bidding. That’s how it works right?”

“I think you just made tha-...” Tristan spoke up but was halted mid sentence as the snap of a twig caught his attention. His ears turned towards the sound but his body remained static. “...B... I think were being watched...”

“From where?”

“Behind” the Coyote whispered back as he slowly began to turn around.

As he spun his head around, body following close behind, he was met with two pairs of eyes, bright blue and just as surprised as he was. The eyes belonged to a pair of female Hares, both with light grey and white markings not unlike Bixby himself. The pair both had a small thatch basket half full of wild berries almost entirely covered with a red and white polka dot napkin. Both of them wore strikingly similar attire consisting of a red and black tartan shirt and denim overalls.

Only one was brave enough to speak up. “W-Who are you... there shouldn’t be any Wolves around h-here!”

“Huh? Oh no no no, I’m not a Wolf, I’m a Coyote. My name is Tristan Hunter, nice to meet-...” Tristan was interrupted for a second time, except this time it was from the second Hare, a smaller and seemingly shier female, her hair tied up in a pink bow.

“Jonathan...”

Bixby’s ear perked up at the sound of his birth name. His eyes went wide as he tried to place the voice but was unable to, until he seen their faces. The Hare peeked around his mate, letting his ears extend skywards and his nose twitching. “Mira?... Jaz?...”

Both the Hares dropped their home made baskets at the same moment, the one with the pink bow, Mirabelle, dropped to her knees as her eyes filled with tears. All the while Jasmine covered her mouth to suppress her shock. “It can’t... You can’t...”

Bixby stepped out from behind the Coyote, his ears beginning to droop as he set his sights on the twins. His eyes began to water just like theirs as he smiled. “I’ve missed you guys so much!”

Chapter Text

When it came to one of the best assassins in the world, Ghost’s most defining ability would undoubtedly be his keen sharp shooting skills. But what most mammals fail to realise is that for the Lapin to get into the perfect spot to make an even more perfect shot, one must blend in with their surroundings. To kill a target in a high rise building, Ghost would impersonate a security guard or maintenance worker to ascend to the top floors without raising alarm. A moving target, he would plan the most likely route, scout the area and find the best line of sight to the victim, perhaps impersonating a cop or delivery service employee.

Describing Ghost’s best skill as his aim would be a grave error in this case. His best skill is to be anybody and nobody... to be a ghost.

The Rabbit was sitting alone outside one of Zootopia’s more famous coffee shops with his trusty laptop. The fresh morning air and the scent of ground coffee beans filled his nose with a delightful aroma. The sound of the busy City was ever present as mammals rushed to get to work within the inner limits of the metropolis while hundreds more pedestrians zoomed past, nose deep in their smart phones.

Ghost’s ability to blend in was second to none but in this case, the task was simple. All he needed to do was put on regular clothes and remove the mask... done... The Rabbit sat at the little cafe table, his face on display plain for the world to see, and yet no one batted an eyelash. As usual he played the role of a deaf buck, which gave him credibility when mammals wondered why he couldn’t talk and used sign language to communicate. 

“Here you go sir, one coffee, black with 2 sugars!” one of the waitresses, a female timber wolf wearing a yellow apron and  red rimmed glasses, came over and placed a rabbit sized cup in front if the buck. 

Ghost signed “thank you” to the waitress and gave a hearty smile up towards her.

“Oh you are most welcome, and your smile is just too cute!”

Ghost’s smile faded as he looked up at her with a disgruntled yet playful expression, raising one eyebrow higher than the other.

The Wolf realised what she had done and immediately corrected herself. “Oops, sorry... I didn’t mean cute... well I did but I... III think I’ll just go now!” the wolf dipped her head in embarrassment, spun on her heels and proceeded back into the cafe.

The Lapin shook his head happily as he turned his attention back to the laptop. A popup came on screen inviting him to join a shady looking Adult Chatroom. From the assassins experience he knew this link wasn’t all that it seemed to be as he hovered over the link and pressed the left mouse button.

Almost immediately, another user popped up by the name ‘H4tter’ and greeted the newcomer accordingly.

“Greetings G, I received your message. What is it you would like help with?”

Ghost looked over his shoulder to make sure there were no wayward eyes glancing over at his screen. He was careful like that, always sitting in a corner or against a wall and always having a full view of everyone in his immediate vicinity. He placed his paws on the edges of the keyboard as he carefully thought out what to type.

“I need you to Identify and locate an individual”

“Of course, do you have a name or Alias?”

Ghost began to type in the name of his next target...

“Abernine”

Ghost knew he was in a vulnerable situation and that something needed to be done about getting his family out of harms way. By any means. The Lapin had two options, first was to track down the wolf that was keeping an eye on them waiting for a kill order or second, to get a message to them explaining the situation and how to escape the burrow undetected.

The easiest option would be to get them to safety but that in no way guaranteed their lives. 

Ghost’s family was quite small in comparison to other families in the Bunny Burrow community. And an unusual pairing at that. The reason for their number being so small is that Ghost’s father is an Arctic Hare, while his mother was an Arctic Rabbit. Not much of a difference but a difference nonetheless, their genetics different enough to prevent frequent pregnancies. In reality, the family only had 14 children, far less than any other family in the area, but enough to remain a happy family.

The family had secrets tho... They weren’t always a happy couple, in fact Ghost’s father, Elias, often frequented bars in the area and... in rare cases... found companionship in other females. His mother, Anna, was a saint. She would always take him back despite his indiscretions. It was just the way she was. Eventually he got clean, off the alcohol and their bond only grew stronger from there... especially after the incident... The family was almost torn apart a few year back after 3 of their kits were killed in an accident, something Elias blamed himself for every day. 17 became 14 overnight and they never truly recovered. 

--- December 16th, 2003 ----------

Winter in Bunny Burrow can be quite treacherous, especially for the younger Rabbits and Hares that haven’t yet discovered the perils of frozen rivers and prolonged exposure to the elements. On average there are about 7 deaths relating to the weather conditions per week. Not unusually high but when you factor in that 5 of those 7 are usually children, you get some idea of how dangerous a Bunny Burrow winter can be.

But for some mammals, a chance to play out in the snow was way too much to resist. Especially for three young Arctic Hares and their trusty slingshot.

Malik Forest lays just on the outskirts of town, within walking distance of most farms in the area and a favourite place for a spot of hide and seek. The forest bordered a small mountain just off in the distance, a good 7 miles from the town, that was once home to a small scale mining operation that had all bit dried up along with the coal deposits just in time to see the uprising of both solar and wind energies. In the winter the forest is mostly off limits to locals but that usually doesn’t stop the more curious of characters from entering the eerie woods, looking for a perfect photo opportunity or perhaps just a spot to be alone with their thoughts. Or some target practise.

About a mile into the forest lay a small clearing with a few felled trees laying level on the ground and stuck solid into the dirt, making for an ideal range for a keen marks-mammal to sharpen their skills. Sat upon the fallen tree was 5 large, empty cans of what used to be beans, spaced about a foot apart as snow began to settle on top of each.

“Hurry up Blue, its getting cold and we have to head back soon! Give us a turn!” An Arctic Hare was standing around 30 feet away from the cans, wearing thick winter clothes but nonetheless still shivering at the below freezing temperatures. He wore a red and black beanie hat with a fluffy red tip, thick coat, pants and gloves and a pair of combat boots. He stood next to another, slightly smaller female Hare of similar bright white fur and clothes, looking almost like twins if you didn’t already know that they were infact twins. Triplets actually.

“Yeah... I-I feel a cold coming on!” the sister said as she stood in the snow huddled up to her older brother, shivering from head to toe in an effort to stay warm.

“Shh...” said the third sibling, a shorter but slightly better built Hare with ice blue eyes that contrasted his other two siblings hazel. “You’re distracting me...” Blue said as he closed one eye and drew a small slingshot loaded with a marble up to eye level and readied himself to fire at the cans.

To this Hare, seconds felt like minutes as he lined up his shot on the can in the middle if the pack. The wind blew around him, bringing a slight wiff of light snow that kissed at each of their cheeks. He waited for the perfect opportunity, a break in the wind and the dead silence of the forest that seemed to calm the young mammal as he felt the time was right.

There!

Without warning Blue let go of the marble as the rubber sling bounced back and threw the marble downrange at high speed. A look of joy appeared on the Hare’s face as he lowered the slingshot back down only to be replaced with embarrassment as he heard the unmistakable sound of hollow wood. The marble had missed the can entirely, bouncing harmlessly off the fallen tree’s trunk instead.

The older brother, Sam, let out a slight laugh, barely audible through the rising wind. “Ohhh so close sharp shooter... here, lemmi show you how its done” he said as he marched over to Blue and gently took the slingshot out of his paw before loading it once more with his own orange marbles. “It’s all about gravity see” Sam said as he readied the projectile, took aim and fired all within just a few seconds. The marble soared through the air and slammed dead centre into the middle can on the tree. “Ha! WOO! Now that’s how its done round these parts!”

Blue looked downrange in awe as his mind raced trying to calculate the flight path of the marble to make the shot for himself. “But... wha?...”

“Hey...” Sam leaned over to his younger brother and placed a paw on his shoulder for comfort. “... Don’t you worry, one day you’ll make that shot” he finished up with a smile as he placed the sling back into Blue’s paws.

“Um guys?...” a faint voice said as it carried on the wind to the brothers ears. A voice belonging to the middle sister, Issy. “I think we should go now...”

“Yeah Sis, were packing up now” Blue shouted over with a sweet smile on his face, not noticing the distress on hers...

“No I mean...” Issy replied as she pointed over towards the tree line at a tall figure standing slightly behind a thick pine, spying on the trio. The figure from a distance was hard to make out through the ever thickening falling snow but an orange hue was just about visible through the white.

Sam was the first to catch onto what Issy was fretting about, shortly followed by Blue. Both boys froze in place as the orange began to move, making its way out past the tree and out into the open. As more and move of this mysterious object came into view the siblings began to piece the puzzle together. Sam took Blue by the paw and began to back both himself and his younger brother towards their sister and further away from this new threat.

“I think its... a Tiger...” Blue whispered as they reached Issy who was shaking even more now, not out of cold but out of fear. “What does he want?...” she asked as she too took hold of Sam’s paw.

“I don’t know but... when you two have a chance I want you to run as fast as you can, I’ll be right behind you, got it?...” Sam reassured his younger brother and sister, his heart pounding just as hard but he knew he had to remain brave in the face of this potential threat.

A threat that was now confirmed. Indeed, Blue’s sharp eyesight was correct in making out this assailant’s species but failed to notice a rather large, bloody knife in his right paw. The tiger had a crazed look in his eye, a look akin to a savage mammal looking for his next meal. This tiger was not savage however, he had but one thing on his mind, and that was to sink his knife into the next living thing he found. The Tiger made the first move, placing one foot in front of himself, making as little noise as he could, still thinking in his own little world that the trio hadn’t noticed him. Clearly this pred was off his rocker. His small, narrow pupils fixed themselves on the Hares and refused to look elsewhere as he placed a second foot in front of his first. Before long the Tiger was advancing at a steady pace, still in the illusion that they hadn’t seen him yet.

The siblings of course had noticed and were making tracks of their own, keeping constant eye contact with him as they walked backwards through the thickening snow, making it increasingly difficult to make progress away from their attacker.

The wind suddenly died down, the veil of falling snow subsided and the Tiger froze in his tracks. His fangs bare and his eyes wide with crazed murderous intent. He gripped his knife tight and bent his heel up towards the air. Without warning the Tiger lunged forward, kicking up snow behind him as he darted at full speed towards the small Hares.

They barely had time to react as they turned on their heels and sprinted as fast as they could. But alas, it was not enough. The Predator had caught up with them before they even made it out of the clearing. The deepening snow coupled with their shorter legs had bogged them down and made it easy for him to catch up.

For a split second there was silence. Not a bird in the sky. Not the howl of the wind. Nor the screams of a terrified Hare... everything went dead moments before they trio knew everything they knew was over... just like that...

The crazed Tiger grabbed Issy by the back of the neck, sinking his claws into her flesh as he tightened his grip. The young Hare screamed as loud as she could as her airways were slowly closing over under the pressure of the monster’s paw.

Hearing his sister in pain awakened something deep inside Sam, something brave, yet foolish. The oldest Hare stopped in his tracks, about faced and charged at the Pred, with every bone in his body trying to hold his advance back he pushed forward. Upon meeting the tiger the brave Hare sank his teeth into his leg, biting down with as much force as he jaw could muster.

Blue slowed down as he glanced back just in time to see his brother turning the tables on the Cat. The young Hare stood in place for a few seconds, his analytical mind trying to devise a solution to save both his brother and sister from their attacker. Under instinct, Blue’s body subconsciously charged at the tiger, his buck teeth bare and his tiny claws extended and ready to do as much damage as he could. He knew his best solution would be to go for the face if he could get that high, and that’s just what he tried.

Unfortunately his timing was off, to disastrous consequences.

The tiger raised the knife in his right paw high, ready to strike Sam, who was unaware at that point of any impending retaliation. The elder Hare was mostly preoccupied with tearing chunks out of their attacker to notice his counter attack. Something Blue paid for dearly.

Blue jumped towards the Tiger, his claws extended and ready but he too failed to notice the downward slashing motion of the knife due to his bloodlust and caught the edge of the blade.

Lucky for Sam, Blue deflected the blade enough so it didn’t hit him... Unlucky for Blue, he caught the knife with his lower jaw...

The knife sliced the young Hare from half way up his left cheek, proceeding downwards and getting deeper as it went. The force of the knife cut into his upper lip, lower lip and exited under his chin, cleaving his lower jaw in two as it cut. The knife continued on its downward motion, slicing into the Hares small body starting at his left collar and ending half way down his stomach. These cuts weren’t as deep however as the lacerations to his face. Blue fell to the ground, bleeding fairly heavily into the perfect white snow as the pain finally hit his young body like a freight train.

“BLUE!!” Sam shouted, letting go of the Tigers leg as concern for his siblings grew and grew. This relinquishing of grip allowed the tiger the opportunity to slip the knife into his belt momentarily and grab the older Hare by the back of his neck. 

“Ahhh! LET ME GO!” He shouted in vain as the Feline pried his claws from his leg and held the helpless mammal up in front of himself with little effort.

The Tiger looked Sam dead in the eyes, not blinking once as he slowly scanned the Hare’s body for a moment before locking eyes with him once again and muttering something to himself. “You... Don’t look... Tasty...”

He lay the now unconscious Issy down gently in the snow and took hold of Sam by the throat, slowly squeezing the life out of him. The Hare struggled to breath, his arms felt heavy and his eyes began to become bloodshot as the Feline’s grip tightened.

Blue lay helpless in the snow, his vision fading fast and barely able to squeak out a sound as his blood flowed freely onto the fresh powder. “Sa...m... Issy....” he just about managed to whisper out as he looked up to see the life leave his brothers body... until... a sound that will haunt the youngest Hare for the rest of his life...

Crack...

Sam’s arms went completely limp, his legs stopped kicking... his heart stopped beating immediately. The Tiger snapped Sam’s neck like a twig. The sound of the break echoing in the empty expanse of the forest as the wind died down once more. The sound that would play in Blue’s mind for the rest of his days... the last sound he heard before slipping into unconsciousness.

---

A few hours had passed in the world of the living, the air grew colder as the wind bit at any flesh exposed. The sun had almost completed its decent behind the mountains overlooking West Woodland District, with just a faint hint of orange light filtering through the trees of the forest. Not that either of the remaining Hares could see it...

Following the assault, the Tiger had brought the survivors deeper into the forest, to a section usually off limits to thee public on account of its treacherous terrain and unforgivingly dense forest. A small cave, once used as a storage area for the various mines in the area, became the unlikely residence of said Tiger, hiding himself far away from the outside world as he kept to himself deep within the maze of trees.

Blue and Issy had been laid near the back of the cave, bound by rope and anchored to a piece of abandoned heavy mining equipment left behind after the coal mines ran dry. Issy had removed one of her shirts, sacrificing her own warmth, and had torn it into a few long pieces of fabric. Using what she had remembered from her Personal Health classes in school she had managed to get the majority of Blue’s bleeding to stop, with a few deeper sections refusing to stop running red.

Thankfully Blue was out cold for this and had felt little pain as his sister applied pressure to his chest and face. That was until she pressed too heavily on his jaw. Blue’s eyes shot open, startling Issy as she jumped back slightly at the sudden movement before recovering her composure and reaching out to cover her brother’s mouth from yelling out.

“Shh... Brother... It’s me...”

Blue stared blankly at the entrance to the cave for a few seconds, letting whatever light was left to help adjust his eye sight in the falling darkness. When he finally came round to his senses he immediately pulled Issy into a tight embrace. He was beginning to remember everything...

“Issy... ow...”

“Blue don’t speak... you’re hurt...” she said as she gently stroked his cheek just beside his fresh wound. The snow and cold temperature had slowed his heart rate down a little, preventing him from bleeding out. This gave his body a fighting chance to repair the damage. His jaw however was broken and his vocabulary was... limited due to the pain involved. 

“We should go...” Blue started as he began to lift himself off the cold stone only to realise his foot was tied in an odd knot, one that was not coming undone quickly or easily. “Damn...” he slurred as he caught a glance of the old machine he was attached to.

“What should we do?...” Issy asked as her eyes began to tear up at the prospect of a cold and short future. 

Blue’s mind began to throw scenarios at him, ideas of how to break the ropes and how to find their way back to the town before they froze to death or worse... the young Hare was suddenly reminded of his brother... and the noise of his bones breaking under pressure.

He slammed his clenched fist to the ground, then again, and again. “...We go home!” he said as he took to his feet the best he could, grasping at his chest as the strain of standing pulled at his blood matted fur. The pain he was feeling was clearly visible on his face but he knew he had to protect his sister from that mad-mammal at all costs. 

He took a few seconds to get fully acclimatised to his situation, looking and feeling carefully around in his surroundings for anything sharp he could use to cut the bindings. “Issy, is there anyshing your side?” he slurred his speech once again, still unable to form certain words.

Issy too fumbled around in the dark, caring little if she cut herself on anything sharp, but thinking if she could pick said sharp object up easily. “Sorry Blue there’s noth-..OW...” she replied just as she ran her hand across a piece of old iron with a few jagged edges laying just under the machine. It must have fallen off over time. “Think this’ll do?” she said as she carefully picked it up and passed it to her younger brother.

“Perfeck” Blue replied as the wound on his lip split a little with his smile. The Hare took hold of the sliver of metal and began to slowly and carefully saw at the ropes binding Issy’s leg.

Minutes seemed like hours as the dull piece of metal worked its way through the fibres, takes it apart strand by strand, all the while keeping an ear out for the returning predator.

“Where did he go anyway?” Blue asked quietly as he continued to cut. He looked into Issy’s tear filled eyes as she too was struggling to come to terms about their present situation and the fact that their brother was brutally murdered not long before.

“I don’t know... he began to talk to himself then... wandered off...” she replied as she took a deep sniff, her nose running from a mixture of the cold and her sorrow.

“...I’m shorry Issy... I couldn’t help him... I meshed up”

Issy took a second from keeping watch to move in closer to her younger brother and embrace him in a warm, soothing embrace. “It’s not you’re fault Blue... we will get through this... together...”

Just as Issy finished her sentence, success! Blue had managed to cut through the ropes that bound her to the spot, allowing her freedom to stand and explore the cave.

“Okay, thish metal is blunt, can you find shomething sharper?” Blue asked as he set his piece of broken metal down beside him just in case.

Issy stood up, slowly and carefully walked over towards the entrance of the cave and took in the view from the mouth of the cavern. She could see smoke on the horizon, maybe they weren’t quite as far as she had imagined. Maybe there was hope quite literally on the horizon. She spun on her heels and proceeded back into the cave in search of something sharp. A knife would work perfect, which is exactly what she found.

The Tiger had called this place home for what looked like a very long time. He had accumulated a vast amount of useless junk stashed away in a small secondary cave that branched off from another tunnel. However there was no need to delve deeper into the darkness as the young Hare found a small hunting knife embedded into a wooden support beam, as if stabbed into the frame out of sheer rage or aggression. She forcefully pried the knife from the timber and made haste towards Blue.

Blue, now armed with something that could actually do some damage, began to saw at his own bindings with great effort despite his injuries. Within seconds the rope that tied his leg had fallen free and he was able to move away from the jagged and rusting machine, free to make for the e-...
Blue froze in his tracks the moment he set his eyes upon the exit of the cave. Issy hadn’t realised yet as the light faded but her brother could see as clear as day... the figure of the killer standing at the mouth... watching what the pair were doing.

“That’s... not right... you should be... asleep...” he mumbled to himself, reaching into his pocket for a knife of his own. But the Hare didn’t give him the chance!

Blue set all fear aside, fuelled only by the desire to protect his sister he lunged himself towards the tiger with the knife in paw, ready to sink it into his matted orange fur.

Unfortunately tho the Tiger foreseen the charge and sidestepped at the last second, causing Blue to stumble over his own feet and hit the floor. The Hare was injured yet again but he knew what must be done. He glanced back over at his sister as she tried to sneak past the pred while his attention was firmly placed on the himself.

Issy crept slowly past the Tiger, clinging closely to the stone walls as she kept a close eye on the feline, in case he spotted her. Blue needed only to distract him for a few seconds, long enough for both of them to make a run for it. He knew it would be foolish to try and fight with him so he quickly formulated a plan as his paw became buried in the gritty dirt. Perfect.

With a grin across his face the buck grabbed a paw full of dirt and swiftly threw the debris into the killer’s face, temporarily blinding him.

“RUN!” he shouted as the large Cat flailed around, scratching at his eyes trying to clear the gritty particles from his retinas. 

Issy meanwhile broke out into a sprint, almost catching up with her brother in two or three bounds. Blue waited until his sister was safely in front of him before he too spun around and made for the exit.

Freedom!

Issy took the lead as she sprinted carefully but quickly down the steep embankment covered with snow. Even on a summers day this kind of terrain would be extremely difficult to navigate. In the winter, damn near impossible. Beneath the snow were hidden roots and stumps that could easily break a mammals toe or trip them up, sending them hurtling down to the river below. But the twins could care less as long as they escaped from their captor.

Blue followed behind, albeit a little more cautiously than his terrified sister. Neither wanted to look back in fear of stumbling but both wanted to know if they had gotten away or if they were still being hunted down.

Before long the pair made it to the bottom of the hill, just past the trees and stopped just short of a semi-frozen river. The siblings took a moment to catch their breath and looked back at the path they had carved down the trail. To their amazement, their kitnapper was nowhere to be seen. To all intents and purposes it seemed as if he had either given up or not bothered at all.

“Do you... think... we lost... him?...” Issy wheezed, trying her best to slow her breathing down but the cold air was hard to contend with. 

“I... dunno...” Blue replied, just as out of breath as his sister. “Bu we have to keep goin!”

Blue looked over at the river. It was daunting to say the least. From bank to bank it must be 60 foot wide, coupled with the cold conditions, chunks of ice floating down stream and a very strong current, this river was very dangerous indeed. Branches and submerged logs just under the surface could catch a small mammal quite easily, not to mention the fast moving currents that could easily wash away an elephant.

Blue squinted in the darkness, trying to find a safe spot to cross over and as far away from the cave as possible. Just off in the distance he could just about make out the shape of a fallen tree, half submerged in the water but stable enough to walk on. “There!” he shouted as he pointed towards the uprooted behemoth. The Hare took his sister by the paw and lead her downstream towards the overturned pine, walking carefully beside the river in the fading light.

“Hey Blue?... I don’t want to come back to this forest anymore...”

“Ish okay, we won have ta” he replied. Minutes later both Hares found themselves at the base of the tree. Blue was the first to jump up onto its thick stump as he slithered his way past the spider web-like roots protruding from the base. 

Blue insisted on going first, wanting to test the strength of the structure before risking his sister jumping on. “Issy, wai here for me... and keep a look ou” Blue tried to speak out but as the night progressed his jaw began to hurt more and more, limiting further his already narrowed range of vocabulary.

The Hare took a few careful steps out onto the trunk of the dead tree, careful not to step in any rotting sections. Within a minute he was one quarter of the way across the trunk. Feeling it to be safe enough, and with their time running out quickly, he deemed it safe enough for Issy to follow. With a wave of his paw he beaconed the older doe to jump up onto the wood and carefully make her way to him.

It didn’t take long for the twins to be reunited once more, embracing in a gentle and short lived hug before he stepped further out onto the makeshift bridge.

The twins were more than halfway across as the sun completely set on the horizon. The light had faded almost entirely and all that kept them going was their sense and a faint glimmer of light highlighting some broken branches to be traversed before they were safe.

Suddenly the tree under their feet began to tremble. One large tremor, then another, and another. Blue took hold of his sister and pinned her against a thick branch to stop her falling into the freezing cold river. He then trained his vision towards the base of the stump to see what the shakes were caused by. Much to his horror, the young buck caught the faint outline of a large mammal clawing at the wood, trying his hardest to dislodge it from the bank.

The Tiger had caught up with them. Cleared the dirt from his eyes and was more furious than ever. His teeth were bare and his eyes glowing in the darkness, fixated on the buck without so much as a single blink. The feline was trying with all his might to break the tree free from the mud and send the twins to a watery grave. Something that may yet happen.

“Oh no... ISSY HOLD ON TO ME!” Blue shouted as the river raged below them. He knew the only way to survive was to make it across to the other side before the Tiger got his way. He used all his strength and swung the doe in front of him and motioned for her to move gently across the trunk.

Alas, they did not get too far...

With one final slash of his claws, the Tiger cut the final root holding the giant of the forest in place as it gave way under its own weight and slid into the fast moving waters below. This sudden motion made Issy lose her balance. She reached out for something to hold onto but was unsuccessful. She fell, tail first into the frigid waters below.

“ISSY!” Blue shouted as he threw caution to the wind and let his instincts take over. He dove into the water after his sister in an attempt to rescue her.

Both Hares were swiftly washed downstream, losing sight of each other several times as their bodies were bashed and battered against the rocky bottom. With luck, both of them reached the surface a few times to catch their breath only to be dragged back under once more by the raging currents.

After what seemed like a lifetime of constant tumbling and tossing on the bedrock, Blue reached out and his paw finally caught onto something solid. A tree branch had gotten embedded in the rocks and provided the Hare an anchor to hold onto. He opened his eyes while underwater in the nick of time to see his sisters frail body wash past him. He had just enough time to grab onto her paw but it needed to be timed perfectly. And timed perfectly it was. With one swift motion he grabbed the doe by her wrist and held onto her for dear life.

Issy was barely conscious by this point. Her body had too been broken on the rocks and sustained a number of injuries, knocking the wind out of her as she was dragged along. She opened her eyes enough to see that it was her brother that had caught her and prevented her from being washed away. 

Blue tried with all his might, fighting a losing battle against the rapid waters to pull his sister up towards him and to the surface. 

Unfortunately Fate had other ideas...

The Buck’s grip was failing. He poured the last of his strength into keeping hold of the doe but he knew he couldn’t hold on for much longer. His bright blue eyes met with Issy’s Hazel pools as she simply smiled back at her younger brother.

She knew that if either of them were to survive then he would have the best shot...

Issy took one final look at her brother, the last time she would ever see him alive. She gave him a heart warming smile as she closed her eyes for the final time...

Finally, Blue’s grip gave out. The last image he would ever remember of his sister would be her body being torn away from his grasp and swept away by the freezing waters of the unforgiving forest.

Blue let out a primal scream, expelling what little air he had left in his lungs as his eyesight began to fade once more, he was mere seconds away from drowning himself. He knew the only way to live was to reach the surface, but there was so little time left and his body didn’t have the strength to struggle against the current... The young Buck looked up towards the surface, cursing himself for not being strong enough as the darkness and cold began to embrace his body. His sight was almost gone, he was about to go under and he knew it...

...But before he closed his eyes, an unknown figure doused in shadow entered the water above him, their legs kicking behind them and their arms outstretched, mere feet away from him. This was the last thing Blue seen before darkness took him.

Chapter Text

{MATURE WARNING, contents may upset some readers}

Three days...

For three days the town was in a frenzy after the reported disappearance of the triplets in the forest. A search party was quickly formed but the hours of daylight were short and the weather took a turn for the worse. At best the search teams had maybe 5 hours per day before low light or exposure got the best of them. Even the mammals built for arctic conditions had to turn back after long.

Blue’s mother was beside herself with worry. His father knew that there was little chance of any of them being found alive. They both knew deep down that this wasn’t a rescue effort... it was body recovery...

Three days... The worst three days for Blue’s family...

----------

Blue had survived his ordeal in the river. Survived the battering against the rocky bottom, the frigid cold of the water and the crushing pressure of the water breaking his tiny body. Survived the attack by the unknown Tiger in the woods that had but one thing on his mind... blood. Survived massive blood loss from his many injuries sustained in just one day. 

This Hare was one tough Lapin, and his rescuer knew it.

The young Hare had been pulled from the water by a stranger to the forest. The Stranger brought him to an old abandoned cabin in the woods, barely big enough for an elephant to walk around in. The interior of the cabin wasn’t anything special, a few synthetic fur rugs covered the walls to keep heat in. A small fire pit burned bright in the corner of the room, mere feet away from the foot of a small metal framed bed. Outside the windows were boarded up, preventing light from escaping and keeping the structure mostly invisible during the night. It was dark out, the snow had eased off but was otherwise still falling steadily. All chances of being rescued tonight were dashed.

In the far corner of the small cabin, about 10 feet away from the bedside sat the stranger. He wore a dark brown leather trench coat fastened with 2 belts, under that a white shirt and dark brown waistcoat combination. Attached to the belts was various pouches and a small satchel around the back. The mammal had a pistol strapped to his side, holstered and held in place by a double belt strap and wrap around leg straps. His lower half comprised of leather pants with thicker leather pads surrounding more vulnerable parts. He wore wild west styled boots, spurs and everything. Finally, and more unusually... The stranger wore a Cowboy hat and a plain white mask, fastened with 3 straps onto his face. The mask was outlined to fit a large canine of some sort, most likely a Wolf. Piercing golden eyes shone through the eye holes of the mask, not taking his eyes off the sleeping Hare for a second, monitoring his condition carefully.

Blue’s wounds were severe but the mysterious mammal had the skills and knowledge to stabilise the young one, bringing him back from the brink of death and allowed him to sleep and recover. But that was about to come to an end.

The Hare began to stir in the sheets that covered him, thee most movement that had occurred since he was laid down upon the bed.

Slowly, Blue opened his eyes, allowing time for them to adjust to his surroundings. The first time his perfect ice blue eyes had seen the real world since...

“Ughhh...” he groaned, moving his right arm out from under the blankets and up to his head, rubbing his eyes. “Wha... “

“Oh Good, you’re awake... Now I can go eat something” the Stranger spoke up, mildly startling the Hare as he raised himself from his chair and slowly crept over to the fire where a small pot was coming to temperature over the burning embers. 

Blue set his eyes upon the Stranger, keeping a close eye on his paws and watching for any sudden movements. “Where...”

“Are you?... No idea, a cabin in the woods is about all I could tell you kid... beyond that... I have no answer... as for what happened, I pulled you from the river about 2 miles upstream from here”

Panic began to set in for the Hare, the mask was doing its job and instilling fear in those who look upon it. But he knew he had to be strong, like his older brother used to tell him... “Sammy...ISSY?!... DID YOU FIND MY SISTER?!” Blue shouted, surprising himself with how clear his voice was despite having a broken jaw.

The Stranger cracked open a can of baked beans and froze in place for the briefest of moments before turning around to the smaller mammal and looking his dead in the eye. “Sorry kid, I could only save you... the girl was swept away by the waters...” he said as he turned back to his food and poured the beans into the cooking pot.

Blue hung his head in sadness. His eyes beginning to fill with tears and his breathing became more laboured. “Issy... i’m so sorry... I shouldn’t have let go...”

“Hey... no need for the waterworks kid, you did the best you could im sure, but if it was her time then it was her time. It’s up to Fate to decide, so put it in the past and forget about it...”

Blue was stunned by the words that just came from the masked canines mouth. His eyes shot open and his fists clenched, wanting to punch him was an understatement. “What?!... WHAT DID YOU SAY?!...”

The canine sighed as he stood up, walked over to the bedside and kneeled down. His mask just inches from the Hare’s face. “Listen kid, I know a thing or two about loss...”

“WHAT THE HELL DO YOU KNOW ABOUT LOSS! Ow” Blue shouted before being shut down by a pulsating pain in his jaw, causing him to wince in pain. “Fate had nothing to do with it... I couldn’t hold on any longer... It was my fault...”

The Canine reached behind his head and unclipped the straps on his mask, lowering it from his time-worn face. With his mask removed Blue could see more clearly the Stranger’s species, a silver furred Wolf, at least in his late 60’s. He had a massive, deep scar running across his left eye in an unusually jagged pattern, more like the flesh was torn at a point and not slashed. His left eye had glazed over completely from whatever previous injury he had sustained.

“Son, believe me, don’t hold onto the guilt... It will consume you entirely” the Wolf said as he placed the blank Wolf shaped mask on the bed next to the young Hare. 

Blue couldn’t help but stare, in a mixture of curiosity and distress. He wanted to know what happened to the Wolf but was a little apprehensive to ask.

“Well...” the Wolf looked out a small gap in the planks, enough to see the snow still falling. “Looks like you are gonna be here a while kid. You can call me Ghost... “ he said as he raised a paw to the Hare and wiped away a bead of tear that began its decent down Blue’s cheek. Blue continued to look dead into the Wolf’s good eye, occasionally glancing towards his damaged one, watching the flames of the fire pit dancing in its reflection. That is until Blue caught himself on.

“Oh... sorry, I didn’t mean to stare sir... and I’m sorry for shouting...”

“It’s okay, you are young and curious about everything, I don’t mind” Ghost said as he leaned across and grabbed two small bowls from a corner table beside the fire. “Do you like beans?”

“Y-yes sir” 

“Heh, please don’t call me sir, makes me feel old” the Wolf smirked back and reached over to the cooking pot, scooping up a half-bowl of beans and gave it gently over to the weakened Hare.

“Thank you si.... Ghost?...why do you call yourself Ghost?” Blue asked as he raised to bowl to his lips and slurped down his first bite of food in days.

“That’s...” Ghost started before pausing, thinking of the best possible way to answer the Lapin. “That’s a long story kid”

“Oh... Sorry...” Blue looked down into his bowl of beans, a little annoyed with himself at being unintentionally insensitive to the Wolf’s name.

Ghost scooped himself a small bowl and he too began to eat the beans, the juices running down his fur and onto his shirt, inciting a small giggle from the Hare. Ghost realised his spillage and swiftly cleaned himself up.

For a few minutes there was an air of silence between the two mammals, broken only by a burning question that Blue had for the Wolf.

“Um... did you fix my face?”

“Fix?... the bone? Sorry kid, your jaw still needs time to heal itself properly but...” he said as he picked up his empty tin bowl, shined it up a little with his sleeve and held it in front of Blue. 

Blue looked carefully at his own reflection and noticed a thin white paste and a few stitches held his split cheek and lips together. He pulled down the blanket that wrapped him and noticed the same paste and a few more stitches had sealed the wound on his upper chest caused by the knife.

“... That gunk is a special recipe my mentor gave to me before he died... its a very powerful antiseptic, anaesthetic and promotes fast healing in the applied area... long story short, your wounds will heal quickly and without pain but... the scar will be permanent and pronounced... maybe I should call you Scarface? Heh...”

Blue removed himself from his trance looking at his own reflection in time to hear the insulting name be thrown his way. “No... My name is N-...”

“Scarface...Kid im sorry but odds are we wont know each other long enough for me to remember your name...”

Blue actually too some disappointment from his words. He knew that once the snow stopped he would be going back to his home but... there was something about this Wolf that made him feel safe. Something inside that connected with him.

“Hmph... fine...” Blue said as he folded his arms across his chest and turned away, faking a huff.

Ghost finished off his bowl of beans and took both his and Blue’s bowl, setting them on the small table by the fire to clean later. He looked back over to the Hare and done something that he never thought he would ever do in his many years.

“...My name is Ghost because I am one...”

This statement caught the Lapin off guard. His eyes opened and his arms unfolded as he turned back to the wolf and sat upright in the bed.

“I haven’t told anyone about my past before... hell I just met you and I removed my mask... Maybe im going senile in my old age...” Ghost said as he shied away, closed his eyes and began rubbing his temples.

Blue noticed his apprehension and comforted him. He placed a paw on the Wolf’s arm and smiled over at him. “It’s okay, I wont tell anyone... who will believe me anyway”

Ghost opened his eyes again and made eye contact with the young Hare wise beyond his years.

“...I... I’m not just Ghost, I am The Ghost... the latest in a linage of canine assassins, trained to hunt and kill silently, to never miss a target... At any given time there is only 1 by the name ‘Ghost’, usually the master who chooses an apprentice to train a suitable candidate is found. To become a Ghost... however... one must know loss... The Ghost must feel the pain of losing someone they hold dear before they can truly understand what the title means... A hollow shell of a mammal” Ghost said as he removed his hat and began to peel his jacket off. “My mentor found me by the side of a road, at deaths door... and he took pity on me...”

Blue listened intently, he instinctively knew to pay attention to the old wolf for something that one day may save his life... or another’s.

“My wife and I were driving home from our 4th wedding anniversary... A beautiful candle lit dinner by the lake... we weren’t 3 miles from home when a drunk driver coming from the other direction swerved into our lane... I barely had time to react and...” Ghost began but was halted as tears began to run down his cheek from his good eye.

Blue exchanged the same kind gesture the Wolf showed him earlier and wiped the tear away from his eye. “It’s okay... you don’t have to say...”

Ghost cleared his throat and looked Blue dead in the eye, silently thankful for allowing him to unburden himself on a willing ear.

“... His car clipped ours and remained on the road. He came to a complete stop... as ours left the tarmac and hit a tree... My wife... She died on impact...” he said as he looked up towards the ceiling, trying desperately to supress another bout of emotion. “We were expecting our first child... neither made it... I survived because my seat belt was faulty. It launched me from the car upon impact and i landed in a ditch, wounded, bleeding and barely breathing. The last I remember was the car starting to catch fire as I slipped under”

“Ghost...” Blue spoke softly, failing at fighting back tears of his own.

“My mentor... he found me and brought be back to the land of the living... for weeks he treated my wounds and got me back to health. It was then he told me about the Ghosts, about how they work in the shadows to bring down the worst of the worst in society... the killers... rapists... abusers... When I was back to full strength he began my training. 5 years of it... it was hell”

“But you are alive... you survived it all... you found your way to the river at that exact moment to save my life... Like you said... Fate”

“Fate huh...” Ghost looked back down to the Hare, his golden eye meeting with Blues. “I hate Fate... Fate took my family... Fate made me a monster... Fate brought me the mammal that took them from me... Fate...”

“...Did nothing!... Don’t blame a word for what you are!... You saved my life, you aren’t a monster... You survived that crash and your mentor built you into what you are but the bottom line is... it was your choice to follow that path...” Blue flung the bedsheets off himself and slowly and painfully lifted his healing body up onto his knees, his weight causing him to sink into the soft mattress. The Hare stared intently into Ghost’s eyes, not seeing a murderer... but a wounded soul.

“...Yaknow kid... If I didn’t know any better id say you were some kinda philosopher in a past life... How old were you again?”

“Im 10...” Blue replied, a little ticked off at not being taken seriously.

“HA HA HA...Ohh sorry kid, never had a conversation with someone that could argue rings around me... let alone a child...”

“I am not a child...” Blue defended, a wave of annoyance washed over his face as his foot began to tap on the foam.

Outside, the wind and snow had began to dissipate just in time for the sun to ascend from the forests of the east, something that Ghost took note of.

“Heh well...” Ghost said as he glanced over to the small crack in the wall to see the first light of morning begin to filter into the cabin. “...You better get some rest kid... If everything goes according to plan then you should be back home by this evening”

Blue’s expression changed dramatically at the prospect of going home. On one paw he was glad to be safe and able to be reunited with his family. On the other however, he couldn’t bare facing them with a heavy heart of being the only survivor. Samuel died because Blue retaliated and made him lose focus. Issy drowned because he wasn’t strong enough to hold onto her and bring her to the surface... he felt the full force of guilt even if there was nothing to feel guilty about. The young Buck couldn’t bare the thought of looking his mother and father in the eye.

“...What if... What if I don’t want to go home...”

Ghost was in the process of standing up and putting his hat back on as he froze momentarily and looked down at Blue, unsure about his intentions. “What is that supposed to mean kid? You have to go back to your famil-...” he began but was cut off by the Hare.

“I can’t... I can’t go home... not yet...”

Ghost finished adjusting his hat and began to put his jacket back on. “Kid...”

“I CAN’T JUST IGNORE ALL OF THIS... I WANT TO BECOME A GHOST!”

Ghost once again placed his paw to the bridge of his nose, a little annoyed at this point by the Blue’s disregard of the implications of what he is saying. “...I have something I need to do... You stay here and we will talk when I get back...” he said as he unlocked the cabin door and picked up a large hunting rifle with sling. “...But I can’t train you...” 

Ghost fastened his mask back onto his face and promptly left the building, locking the door behind himself.

Blue stood on the bed, his mouth hanging open in disbelief at their exchange. He though for sure that the Wolf would accept him as an apprentice, that he would be able to take revenge on the Tiger in the woods that tore his life apart in just one afternoon... He thought for sure that Ghost was his friend...

The feeling of abandonment was quickly extinguished and replaced with rage. An anger that helped him formulate a plan... something stupid... and dangerous.

Back in the forest, Ghost was walking slowly and carefully through the trees, making a point of not disturbing the branches and leaving as little of a footprint in the snow as possible. In his many years he had mastered the art of staying undetected. He developed an ability to change the shape of his stride to hide his species entirely, for example, a longer stride and a deeper impression created reasonable doubt in anyone following him about his species, making it seem more likely to be a much larger mammal.

One thing that Ghost decided to leave out of his conversation with Blue was his reason for being in the forest in the first place... Ghost took a contract to kill a serial killer that had last been seen in this forest... A Tiger to be exact... Name unknown, age unknown, gender male... he took the contract without hesitation as soon as his employer told him about the number of kits the Tiger had taken and killed... and what he did to them between those events... 

--- Present Day Zootopia, August 2nd  ----------

Ghost was brought out of his daydream by the sound of his laptop screen pinging back to life and a notification popping up on screen. He quickly checked his surrounding to make sure no one could read his conversation.

“G? I found the individual you seek”

The Bunny was in luck. It would see that the Wolf known only as Abernine left a paper trail that only someone as skilled as H4TTER could follow.

“Where is here” Ghost typed into the chat box and hit enter, patiently awaiting a reply.

“1889 Springbok Road, Bunny Burrow... He is going by the name James Moon”

Barely a mile away from Ghost’s parents house. He knew that he needed to act fast but how... And then...

“Do you have any assets in the area? Someone that can kill a Wolf?” Ghost hastily typed, thinking that he may well be onto a solution to his blackmail problem, then he could focus on killing War for all that he put the assassin through.

“Only 1... but they aren’t as experienced as I would have liked...”

Ghost’s eye lit up as he ignored the inexperienced part. “Can he be sent at a minutes notice?”

“She... and yes she can...”

“Send her tonight...”

--- 8:45pm, August 2nd, Bunny Burrow----------

“KIIIDS!... TIME FOR BED!! YOU HAVE SCHOOL IN THE MORNING” shouted a young vixen, no more that 25 years old. She sported beautiful green eyes, not dissimilar to a certain ZPD Officer Wilde, black fur tipped ears and a pearly white smile. The Vixen was wearing a deep purple loose fitting shirt and black skinny jeans that showed off her figure rather well. 

“Awww but mom...” shouted one of her kits, a male fox, 6 years old and one of three siblings. He came running into the kitchen, almost sliding on a carpet placed on a wooden floor but maintained his balance and came to a complete stop inches from his mom’s leg.

“No buts mister, now off with you! Get your sisters ready for bed and mommy will be up with you shortly for a bedtime story, sound good?” She said with a smile as she placed her paw on the top of his head and ruffled his hair. 

She was wholly devoted to her three kits. Brooke Millar was her name, 25 years old, single and a mother of three due to a rather drunk one night stand. She would regularly work from home, providing over the phone counselling to ‘at risk’ children for a well respected local firm, something she always wanted to do from a very young age having been abuse as a kit herself. Brooke would never dream of laying a finger on a child, not in a million years.

Sure, she is able to provide for her kits with the income working as a counsellor but that was only half the picture. On rare occasions she would moonlight as something darker. This mild mannered Vixen was hiding a very big, very dangerous secret... Brooke Millar was an assassin.

Albeit not a particularly well known one by any means. Nothing like Ghost or Charon but perhaps that played to her strengths... who would suspect a doting mother of being a murderer? 

Exactly...

When a contract was pushed her way, she would make sure that her kits were tucked into bed, safe from her alternate life and out for the count. Normally she could stay out all night to complete a job and none of them would wake up.

“Moooooom?...were ready!” shouted a second voice, this time from one of the two sisters who was standing at the top of the staircase dressed in a bright pink onesie and holding a small teddy bear in one paw. 

“Coming dear!” Brooke shouted as she picked up a small basket of laundry and proceeded to the stairs.

The Vixen hadn’t made it half way up the stairs before her phone buzzed into life. A text message from an unknown host. “At this hour?...” she thought to herself. She hadn’t expected anyone to contact her that evening unless...

“Could it be...” she said as she whipped out he phone and balanced the laundry basket in one paw. The text on screen was from a withheld number, with a code word that was used to activate a contract. The code word was ‘SWIFT’... Brooke knew instantly what this meant. She leaned up against the wall and set the basket on the stairs leaning precariously over the edge, she needed both paws for this message.

{SWIFT... springbok... BB... 1889... single... AM... Ghost...}

Swift was the activation code for a contract, Springbok the road name, BB was the district in this case Bunny Burrow. 1889 is the house number for the occupant. Single meant that the target was most likely alone in the location. AM means quite literally ‘Any Means’ and Ghost was the original contract poster.

“That’s... not far away... I could do that and be back to kiss them goodnight” she thought to herself as she looked up the stairs towards her kit’s rooms. “And this’ll be my ticket to the big time! A contract for me from The Ghost himself!... ohhh we will be set up for years!” a rather devilish grin crept across the Vixen’s beautifully groomed muzzle as she knelt down to pick up the basket then continued upstairs to put her kids to sleep and to get ready for an easy and lucrative contract.

Within the hour, Brooke had read a short story to her three darlings and watched them drift right off to sleep, tucking each one in and planting a loving kiss on their foreheads. Immediately after attending to her offspring the Vixen ran right into her bedroom and tapped twice on one particular floorboard. With a faint popping sound the board came loose and she pried it up using her claws, exposing a small duffle bag which was quickly removed from its resting spot and thrown onto the bed. Inside the bag was a black long sleeve shirt, black pants, a pair of boots and a fabric half face mask and beanie hat. From another pocket she removed a holstered Glock with a suppressor fitted to the barrel and 2 magazines strapped to the side of the holster. 

It didn’t take long for Brooke to strip naked and slip on her form fitting assassin gear, strapping on her pistol and a small knife to each leg.

“Ready...and don’t you look gooooood!” she thought to herself as she stood admiring her form in front of a large mirror in the corner of her room.

It was just a 15 minute car journey to the target location. She did it in 10, parked the car a few hundred meters away from the house and took back gardens to remain undetected. The Vixen knew what she was doing, she clung to the shadows like a vampire and moved almost completely silently, only making an impact when she hopped a fence. 

Finally... 1889 Springbok Road... Brooke was standing in the back yard of the residence, in the shadows of a small shed as she scanned the house for any sign of movement. To her delight it would appear that the occupant was asleep, not a single light could be seen from the outside.

“This is gonna be too easy!” she thought to herself as she moved past the structure and closer to the back door, removing a small lock picking tool from a pack on her belt. It didn’t take this crafty Vixen to pick the lock on the back door and disable the alarm strip on the door frame that she knew was fitted to every house in this area. Childs play to a mammal as skilled as her. 

She entered the house, drawing her pistol from its holster and silently making her way across the kitchen in complete darkness. Her keen night vision was coming in handy with this particular mission indeed. 

“Okay... downstairs is clear... he must be in bed” Brooke thought to herself as she scanned the open plan living room to locate the stairs to the second floor. Sure enough, tucked away in a corner near the front door was the staircase. “That’s odd...” she stopped in her tracks just before entering the living room just in time to notice there was not a single piece of furniture in the building... she noticed it in the ki5chen too but it didn’t raise concerns till just now... “What’s this guys deal?... did he just move in?” she shrugged to herself before letting the thought pass by completely  and made her way silently across the living space to the stairs, creeping up each one carefully to avoid stepping on any loose boards and making a noise.

Upstairs was the same... no personal belongings... no furniture... no nothing... Brooke continued towards the only source of light in the entire house. Emanating from one room was a single solitary flame flickering atop a small candle placed rather precariously beside a mattress on the floor. Another thing that started to nag at the back of the Vixen’s mind... “There’s no one in the bed... nothing in the house... someone was here recently but... this place is empty... is this a set up?”

Brooke’s eye went wide with her sudden thought... “IS this a set up?!” she thought out loud.

“No, but you will wish it was...” Said a voice from behind, with a firm and dangerous tone of voice, startling the young fox as she gripped her pistol tighter and began to formulate a plan in her head quickly... too late...

She spun around on the spot, her pistol swinging around to take aim on the mystery mammal from behind but was stopped in her tracks by one single, large paw grabbing her by the wrist and forearm and squeezing.

Brooke couldn’t help but cry out in pain as the pressure exerted by the mammal’s grip began to cut off circulation to her paw. In her distress her trigger finger involuntarily squeezed off 3 rounds which planted themselves in a nearby concrete exterior wall. The quiet whisper of the silencer barely making any noise from outside the house.

“Little girls shouldn’t be playing with toys like that... look what you did to my wall!” the voice said as the rest of his body emerged from the shadows. Abernine, a 6 foot tall Grey Wolf, naked from the waist up with his perfectly toned and muscular body on display. Scars covered most of his torso, it was clear this Wolf knew pain and suffering quite well, in both receiving and delivering it. As he finished his sentence he applied a greater force to the Vixen’s forearm and with a swift and sharp flick of his wrist he broke both bones in Brooke’s forearm, causing her to howl in pain and release her grip on her Glock.

“AHHHHH...” she screamed as she used her good paw to try and release the grip Abernine had upon her. This action was quickly and effectively halted as the Wolf grabbed her by the mouth and lifted her with just one paw, pinning her against a wall as he released her broken arm with his other paw.

“You my dear are loud and annoying... The Boss will want to meet you...” Abernine spoke softly, leaning in and whispering into her ear before pulling back and clenching his fist.

The last thing Brooke seen before darkness was the hulking fist on a 6 foot wolf hurtling towards her face...

--- Some Time Later ----------

“Psst... hey... wakey wakey...” 

Abernine was towering over the unconscious Vixen, who right now was bound by rope to a wooden arm chair. Her wrists and ankles were tied to the wooden frame coupled with another length of rope wrapped around her mid section to hold her in place. The Wolf had also removed every piece of clothing she was wearing to make sure there was no hidden blades to escape with... it was clear that Abernine was cautious and experienced.

He walked over to a small side table with a few tea candles spread around it for lighting and picked up a glass of water, bringing it carefully over to the sleeping fox. The Wolf held it up over her head and began to pour it slowly onto her fur.

The cold shock of the cold water brought Brooke out of her slumber with a gasp as she tried to raise her paws up to stop the water, quickly realising that she could not.

“Ugh... where...what happened?!...”

“What happened my dear is that you broke into my house, brandishing a firearm and were forcibly detained... but don’t worry you will be released shortly” Abernine slinked out of the shadows and into the candle light, still shirtless and showing off his physique. If she didn’t feel so threatened by him she might just find him attractive.

“Are you a cop?” Brooke asked as she tried to struggle with the tight ropes with her unbroken arm.

“No, but by the end of this... you will wish I was”

That sentence sent a chill up the Vixen’s spine, her first thought went to her kits, who would look after them if she got hurt or went to prison. Or worse...

“Ah, he’s ready...” Abernine spoke up as he retrieved a large screen tablet from the same side table and pressed the power button. He placed it in an upright position facing towards the bound and trembling Vixen as a small tears began to form in her eyes. She began to bite her lip nervously as she awaited the screen bursting into life. And she didn’t have to wait long.

“Good evening...” a voice came from the tablet’s speakers just as a dark image appeared on screen. The image was difficult to decipher at the start but as the system warmed up, the connection got stronger. Before she knew it, a masked Rhino was sitting in a moderately lit room with a distressing look in his eyes as he peered directly into the canines soul.

Brooke felt her legs get weak as she realised who the video call was connected with. In a list of top 10 deadliest assassins on the planet... War was ranked 9... and he was a force defiantly not to be trifled with.

“... I assume you know who I am?” War spoke up so she could hear him clearly. The Rhino’s eyes began to wander on the screen, much to Brooke’s distress.

The Vixen closed her legs more firmly as she realised what was on display. “Y-Yes sir... I know who you are...”

“So why then have you broken into the home of my most trusted assistant?”

“Your...Oh my god... I-I didn’t realise S-Sir... I...”

“Silence!... It matters not... What I really want is to know who sent you” War sat back in his seat, getting comfortable for the... interrogation.

Brooke sat silently for a few seconds, biting her tongue as to not break one of the golden rules... Never surrender a client. “I’m sorry... I cannot tell you th-...” she began but was cut off by a left hook to the jaw from Abernine. The wolf,  no pun intended, wasn’t holding his punches.

The savage blow to the face knocked free 2 of her teeth as she involuntarily spat them out onto the floor, along with a significant amount of blood and saliva. The pain was enough to prevent her from opening her eyes as she tried desperately to hold in her anguish.

“Let me ask you one more time... Who. Sent. You?” War began once more, rarely had anyone refused to give him information... but sooner or later they all broke... he firmly believed this Vixen was the same as the rest.

“I... Made a promise!...I will not-...”
Abernine assaulted Brooke once more, this time with a well placed kick to the ribs, lifting the chair she was tied too off the ground and back a good 2 feet to the back wall. As the chair hit the concrete, so did the Fox’s head, the whiplash briefly causing her to black out and wake up all in just a few seconds. But the more worrying injury was the kick. The Wolf’s attack knocked the wind out if her and broke a few ribs in the process. As she regained consciousness she began gasping for every breath.

The impatience was becoming more and more evident in War’s eyes. It had been barely a minute since he asked but he grew tired of the Vixen’s resolve. “Abernine... plan B” he said as he shut down his link to the torture and waited patiently for the results.

“Yes sir” the Wolf said as he unrolled a small leather wrap that was sitting beside the table. In the pack was a few razor sharp scalpels, a metal mallet, ball peen hammer, various needles and rubber tubes and two 9 inch rusty nails. The nails had clearly seen use before, there was a faint smell of blood coming from the tips... and not from just 1 species. Abernine retrieved the nails, much to Brooke’s distress. “These... these are my favourite tools for interrogation... as you can see, the blades have never been used... because the nails work every single time... I hear they are particularly painful” He said with a faint hint of a smile creeping over his face. Clearly he was enjoying himself a little too much.

Brooke had just barely managed to catch her breath again as she entered the begging phase of the pain. “Please don’t... Il do anything please...” she muttered, blood pouring from her mouth and bose as her right eye began to slowly close over, the swelling had began to set in.

Abernine walked over to the Vixen and kneeled down in front of her, stroking her inner thigh with one of the nails. “Yaknow... you sure are a beauty... Damn shame if you ask me” he said as he spun the nails point down and plunged both of them into Brooke’s kneecaps.

The Vixen screamed at the top of her lungs, tears breaking free from her emerald eyes and blood spitting from her mouth onto the floor, some hitting the Wolf.

“OH THATS NOT EVEN THE BEST PART! WE ARE IN THE BASEMENT BITCH SCREAM ALL YOU WANT!!” Abernine shouted right into Brooke’s face as she screamed, drowning out her anguish with his own sick and twisted plot. “The next part is where the fun really begins!”

Abernine briefly left the basement and returned soon after with a broken bedside lamp, ripping the cord from the wooden base and throwing it to one side. 

Brooke’s eyes began to fade. Her body was beginning to show signs of failing. Her breath was laboured from the kick, right eye was swollen shut and blood began to run down her legs from the fresh puncture points in her knees. But that was paper cuts compared to what she was in store for next.. 

Abernine stripped the plastic coating back from the copper cables and wrapped them around the tops of both nails. “This has to be my favourite torture method... seen it in a film a few years back and decided to give it a try... turns out... it works wonders!” he said as he took the other end of the plug and connected it to a wall socket, hovering his finger over the power switch.

“Please...” Brooke whispered. She may have been in bad shape but she knew exactly what the wolf had planned... and all she could do is sit and take it.

With a devilish grin, the Wolf flicked the switch on. Power was sent coursing through the cables and into the nails. Brooke’s body went rigid as the electricity flowed into her. Her teeth were bare and clenched, unable to make a sound or even breath. Her toes and fingers flexed involuntarily as the muscles seized up. This torture went on for 10 seconds, but it felt to her like much, much longer.

After just 10 seconds Abernine turned the power off and crept slowly over to the bound Vixen.

Brooke’s head hung low, taking deep breaths as she tried to regain her bearings after the excruciating pain that coursed through her body. Her good eye was wide open as a mixture of blood and saliva drooled from her open mouth. Her heartrate was elevated and her body was unresponsive to her actions. She wanted to cry out in pain but was unable to.

“Oh my god, I am so sorry my dear...” Abernine pulled her head back so she could look up and see his face. The Wolf feigned concern before letting her head go again. “I didn’t mean to let it go on that long! It was supposed to be just a second but it got stuck and... ahh who am I kidding... did you enjoy that? Want another go? Or do you want to tell me who sent you?”

Brooke regained a little motion in her paw, briefly she could feel her fingers again and decided her next move there and then. She raised her middle finger on her left paw and spoke as clear as she could in her situation. “Go... Fuck yourself...” 

“Meh okay then” Abernine replied without even a hint of remorse or compassion. He walked back to the plug and flicked the switch once more, sending a massive surge of electricity back into Brooke’s tiny body.

The Vixen’s body began to convulse but was held back in place by the ropes. A few seconds into this session she began to involuntarily scream at the top of her lungs. Both of her eyes shot open as every bit of air left her lungs and she began to suffocate, her lungs temporarily paralyzed by the current. This session lasted 30 seconds... she didn’t know how much more she could handle...

Abernine turned the power off once more but remained in position, ready to turn it on once more. “Yaknow, I’ve had a better idea...” he said as he knelt down and began to rummage through the Vixen’s clothes until... “AHA! You drove here...” he said as he held up the car keys high enough for Brooke to see.

She was barely conscious but she knew enough to know what that meant. “Wait...” she muttered, barely legible from across the room.

“I find your car then I find your name. I find your name I find your address. I find your address and I find whatever family and friends you have... perhaps they may be a bit more cooperative than you have... oh and don’t worry, while I’m out il leave this on for you, keep you nice and toasty!” Abernine reached over for the switch once more but was stopped by a sudden outburst from the Vixen.

“Wait... I’ll... I’ll tell you... whatever... you need to... to know...” Brooke spoke up, in between breaths as she struggled to draw air into her weakened lungs. She knew that once she had told him what he needed to know that he would kill her... but to her that was better than watching him kill her kits first.

“Now was that so hard” Abernine smiled as he stood up and walked over to the battered and broken Canine.

Minutes later Abernine walked outside into the back garden and lit up a cigarette, the only source of light in the darkened garden. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone, wasting no time in getting in contact with his master War.

After just a few rings the Rhino answered, fully expecting to have the results he wanted. “Abernine? Were you successful?”

“Indeed I was... You wont like what I have to say tho...”

“Spill it, who tried to kill you?”

“...Ghost” he said, his hazel eyes glowing in the darkness and a hint of rage building in his voice.

“I see... I will call you back within the hour... oh and is the Vixen still alive?”

“Yes sir?” Abernine dropped the finished cigarette butt to the ground and hovered his foot over the barely flickering ember.

“Dispose of her... but you may have a little fun with her before you do...”

“Thank you sir” he said as he stomped the last bit of life left in the flame out underfoot. 

--- War’s Warehouse ----------

War hung up his phone and placed it gently on the desk. The giant was known for his short temper and violent outburst so this act was extremely out of character for him. He reached across his desk and pressed one of 4 speed dial buttons on his desk phone. Before long a young male voice came across the line. “Sir?”

“Bring The Ghost to my quarters immediately”

“Yes sir” came from the other line as the other mammal hung up and presumably scurried off to find the assassin before he got on the wrong side of another.

10 minutes had past and War was stirring in his quarters, staring blankly at the far wall and playing with two glass stress balls in his right paw. His impatience was building, almost coming to a head when...

*knock knock*

“Come in...” he spoke loud enough for the guests to hear and not felt shouted at. 

Through the door came a young male Jackal, a new recruit to War’s army at only 16 years old. His name was Benny. War had taken a particular liking to this Jackal and had him run his personal errands into the City for him in exchange for greater freedoms such as the ability to visit the city on his own accord.

“Sir? Ghost as requested” Benny spoke up as he stepped aside and let the Lapin walk past him. The jackal was wearing a olive green shirt and camo pants to match, his favourite colour infact.

Ghost sensed a danger in the urgent summons and thus prepared his gear. He was wearing his vest and had both pistols strapped and ready for action. His bright blue eyes shone through his mask, almost piercing in the darkened conditions of the office.

“Thank you Benny... you may leave us ..” War said as he raised himself from his desk and placed the glass balls back in a small wooden case.

The Jackal swiftly about faced and marched himself out of the tense situation with which he wanted no part of. Leaving two of the worlds most dangerous mammals alone against each other.

Ghost stood his ground as War made the first move.

“I bet you wonder why I summoned you here yes?”

Ghost nodded as he looked over at the doorknob to make sure his exit wasn’t blocked. 

“I told you... not long ago infact... that If you ever made a move against me or disobeyed a direct order from me... I would have your family thrown from this roof as you watched on... Did I not say this?”

The Rabbit knew exactly where this conversation was heading. He stretched his fingers and made ready for his pistols just in case.

“So tell me...” War said as he unlocked his tablet and opened a recent photo of Brooke Millar, nails still embedded in her legs and her face beaten and bloody along with various other injuries. “Who is this Vixen?”

Ghost's eyes lit up, he knew he had been caught. He knew that War was onto him... and he knew that he just signed that Foxes death certificate. The Lapin shrugged, trying to play off the situation as if someone else was up to something that he had no knowledge of.

“Huh... funny...” War said as he placed his paw on the edge of his desk, using his fingers to grip the underside edge of the surface. “...Because she mentioned you by name!” He shouted as he used his immense strength to flip the table and immediately dashed forward towards the Rabbit.

Ghost foreseen this charge and pulled both of his pistols, aiming for the Rhino’s chest and firing off a few rounds in an effort to stop him. Unfortunately the bullets bounced off his armour and embedded themselves in the walls surrounding.

War closed the distance within a second and grabbed both of Ghost’s pistols with just 1 paw. The sheer speed of the goliath caught him off guard and was unable to block. War took hold of his paws and raised him off the ground, guns pointing towards the roof and pinned him to the back wall using just 1 of his massive paws.

Ghost winced in pain as War’s grip tightened around his paws. He was trapped with very little options left, cursing himself for getting into a situation like this. He was better than this and he knew it.

“You’ve tried my patience for too long cottontail... time to enter the real world...” War got right up into his face and spoke, all the while retrieving his cell phone from a pocket and dialling a number with his free paw.

Abernine answered almost immediately. “Sir?”

“As you suspected... Ghost is being a problem child... Kill them... Leave 2 as leverage”

“As you wish sir...” Abernine said coldly as he hung up the phone.

War too closed over his phone and pocketed it once more. He looked over to the Rabbit still struggling silently against his captor. “I gave you every chance to save them... but you rebelled against me... remember that this is on you!” he said as he clenched his fist and drove his fist into Ghost’s stomach, gentle enough not to kill him but hard enough to cause a very painful injury. War used his finger to slip Ghost’s mask off and drop it to the ground.

Ghost was visibly hurt. His eyes were closed, tears streaming from both eyes, a mixture of pain and sorrow. Blood began to leak from his mouth caused by his recent blunt force to the gut. He opened his eyes enough to see War’s half mask, cursing silently towards him.

“Now now, no need for that... You still have 2 Siblings left alive... If you wish to keep them that way then you will heed my every word. I point, you shoot. I ask you to bring me a cold drink, you make damn sure there’s ice in it!... Do I make myself clear?”

Ghost opened his eyes wider, his sorrow replaced by rage but his sense of survival kicked in and he looked away from the Rhino.

“I SAID DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR!?”

Ghost looked back to War and reluctantly nodded, tears still streaming down his face, unable to save his family from a violent end. It was all his fault... and the worst part was he knew he sealed his families death warrant...

“Good... Next time you slip up I will make sure your bloodline ends forever... the last Ghost...”

War unpinned him from the wall but maintained a grip on his paws. “Oh and one last thing...” War whispered before he spun around on the balls of his feet, using his strength and threw the petit Lapin through a single pane window leading to a small storage area full of wooden crates below. Ghost broke through the glass with little effort and crashed to the floor below, hitting a flimsy wooden crate and causing it to collapse in on itself. The fall was only 10 feet but the force of the impact knocked Ghost out cold. A few more cuts and bruises to add to his collection.

War watched from above, staring down upon the Rabbit laying in a pile of wood and packing peanuts. “Maybe next time you will listen to my instructions... Pathetic...” he spoke to himself before turning around and back to his desk.

Chapter Text

“Jonathan...”

Bixby’s ear perked up at the sound of his birth name. His eyes went wide as he tried to place the voice but was unable to, until he seen their faces. The Hare peeked around his mate, letting his ears extend skywards and his nose twitching. “Mira?... Jaz?...”

Both the Hares dropped their home made baskets at the same moment, the one with the pink bow, Mirabelle, dropped to her knees as her eyes filled with tears. All the while Jasmine covered her mouth to suppress her shock. “It can’t... You can’t...”

Bixby stepped out from behind the Coyote, his ears beginning to droop as he set his sights on the twins. His eyes began to water just like theirs as he smiled. “I’ve missed you guys so much!”

Jaz began to move in closer to the Hare, one foot at a time as if it were a trap. But this was no trap. “Jonathan... is it is it really you?!...”

Tristan kept his distance, not wanting to ruin the moment, being the only large predator in the area could cause quite a stir amongst the Lapin. The Coyote did however take note of his mate’s emotional state. Never before had he seen him lost for words,. The genius was stumped for what to say.

“I-It’s me...” Bixby muttered as his nose twitched harder, fighting back the tears to no avail. 

Jaz couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Mirabelle on the other paw...

“BIXBY!!” Mira shouted as she raised herself from the grass and leapt towards the Officer with open arms.

Bixby just about caught onto his sister as she fell into his arms and hugged him tight. He could feel her tears running from her cheeks down onto his shirt... or maybe it was his own tears.

Tristan let out a hearty giggle at the pair’s embrace, accidently getting their attention.

“Oh!” Bixby let go of his sister and took her by the paw. He walked over to Jaz and extended his other paw for her to take. 

Jaz stood there, still in disbelief before taking her brother’s paw and moving in closer, hugging him tight without saying a word.

“Oh Jaz... I’ve missed the both of you so much! It broke my heart leaving you two behind”

“Then don’t do it again...” Jaz muttered, her muzzle buried deep into Bixby’s chest as she sobbed and gripped him tighter. Bixby heard this and embraced her tighter as well.

Mira smiled at them both. It had been 6 years since they had last seen each other. 6 long years and yet the trio recognised each other instantly. 

“Oh yeah! There’s someone i’d like you to meet!” Bixby said as he reluctantly released his grip on the girls and turned towards his mate, the Coyote standing awkwardly to one side with his eyes welling up. The Hare took his sisters paws and lead them over to the Canine. 

Tristan noticed this and lowered himself onto one knee, making himself more accommodating to the mixture of heights in the party. Bixby walked over and pecked him gently on the cheek as he turned back to Mira and Jaz. “This is Tristan Hunter, a Lawyer from Animalia and...” he looked up into Tristan’s golden eyes once more. “... My mate”

Jaz looked a little perplexed by this. It had completely slipped her mind that Bixby was gay and an inter. She stood looking up at the Coyote with a confused look on her face before opening her mouth. “But-...”

“AWWWWWWW!!!” Jaz was cut off from her conversation as Mira jumped up on Tristan’s knee and tackle-hugged him to the ground. “THAT IS SOOOOO CUUUUTTEEE! WOLFIEEE”

Tristan lay there, his perfectly ironed waistcoat and shirt getting covered in dirt and leaves. He cared little however, more concerned with how the sisters perceived him but still, he felt the need to correct the Hare. “Coyote, actually” he smiled.

Bixby was at a lose for words. Not out of confusion but from excitement. He was happy that Mira approved of his mate and that she was getting on so well with such a large predator for a future brother-in-law. Jaz on the other paw Bixby was having concerns about.

“Jasmine?...” Bixby whispered.

Jaz broke out of her daze and looked over at her brother with the same look of confusion. Fortunately, and much to Bixby’s relief, her expression slowly morphed from confusion to acceptance. A smile crept over her face as she looked back over to the Coy. “Your mate huh. You always did like them a little taller dontcha” she teased her brother.

Bixby smiled and walked over to her. “For a second there I was worried you wouldn’t approve”

“Of course I approve... We finally have someone that can scare the shit outta those Brady brothers down the road!... And a Lawyer to boot!” 

“You should come back to the house! Everyone will be dead excited to meet you!” Mira spoke up, releasing the Canine and making her way back over to her brother, taking Bixby by the paw.

“I... Don’t think ‘everyone’ will be too excited...” Bixby muttered as his ears drooped low across his back. “You guys know Mom will have a few choice words to say about my presence”

“Mom isn’t home right now... she’s out inspecting a new client’s family for a job... it’ll be near nightfall before she comes home” Jaz spoke up before Bixby could rebuff the Hare any further.

“Bix... come on... you know this is the best chance you will have... don’t wuss out now dear” Tristan placed his massive canine paw on his mate’s shoulder for encouragement.

Bixby looked up once more towards his sisters and smiled. “Well... I guess its 3 against one”

“YAY!” Mira shouted as she threw her arms in the air before bending over to pick up her basket of berries followed more reservedly by her sister. Jaz walked over and took the boys by the paw. “Well... time to git goin!”

Mira led the way, skipping through the grass towards the O’Hare residence. 

Nothing particularly special about the property. Not like the Bradys or the Hopps land but for a small working family, the house was substantial enough. The house itself was 3 floors high, large, high quality kitchen and living spaces with 4 bathrooms for those who cant hold it. The O’Hares family wasnt particularly big, not quite the size of other families in the area but with over 40 mouths to feed and a few new faces every year it can be quite the pawful. Most of the older offspring had taken the top 2 floors with their parents while the younger were bunked in converted bedrooms on the ground floor and a few in the basement.

The house itself had a very rustic feel about it. It was made in the style of a cabin with exposed wood and trim on display. Ample amount of sunlight gets in from the front of the house as it faces north and has a gratuitous amount of glasswork out front and back.

The home that Bixby had grew up in hadnt changed one bit. Not to him atleast.

“We’ve had to make a few adjustments to the house Bixby, mostly to give more room to the younger siblings to play in during the day. Nothing has changed with the work rota tho, still gotta pull our own weight. Especially after you left...”

“Huh? Why?”

“When Mom gave you the boot, alot of our older brothers and sisters rebelled against her, coming to your aide after the fact. It was actually kinda sweet... until she tossed them out aswell... including you... 11 Hares were cast outta the family for sticking up for you and your...” Jaz looked over at Tristan and gave him a wink. “...Preferences”

Tristan gave a toothy grin at the younger Hare. “Can’t help who you fall in love with right?”

“They... stood up for me? Great now I feel bad” Bixby pouted, peering towards the house while trying to distinguish any figures inside.

“Ohh don’t be sad B... they all started families of their own! And we still keep in touch, they don’t live too far away”

“Yeah, we still see them... which is more than can be said for Mr. Big City over here right Mira?”

“Mhmm... you better be staying for a while this time!”

“Sorry... we only have leave for another day” Bixby said with a heavy heart. He wanted to stay, to rekindle lost connections with the Burrow but it would seem this future would elude him at least for now.

Jaz was the first to reach the house, checking to see if one of her brothers had locked the door like he had been told to do. Luckily, it went in one ear and out the other, the door swung open freely.

“Well? Come on in! I’ll put some tea on for you two” Mira spoke up, sliding past her sister and into the kitchen while Jaz directed the lovers into the sitting room.

The room was spacious, bunny sized furniture scattered everywhere, along with children’s toys. It had been decorated eerily similar to Rockford’s cabin back in the Woodlands, with wooden accents and exposed beams running throughout the structure. Space however was limited and a few wardrobes filled with clothes were standing in the corner to make way room in the bedrooms.

“This place hasn’t changed much has it?” Bixby said as he craned his neck skyward, getting a good view of the room he and his sisters grew up in, soaking in the nostalgia.

“Not really B, a few new additions to the family, some marriages, a death or two... sorry, Dad’s parents passed away last winter... we couldn’t reach out to tell you...” Jaz hung her head low, feeling sorry for not trying. It wasn’t her fault tho, their Mother wouldn’t let them make contact.

“It’s okay... they might have had heart failure anyway when they heard I was joining the ZPD” Bixby joked to lighten the mood, visibly happy that he found out but hurting inside where only Tristan could see it.

Tristan laid a paw on the Buck’s shoulder as he sat on the floor cross-legged, being too big for any of the chairs and too tired to stand any longer.

“Wooooooow hold the phone... You always said you wanted to be a cop but... I didn’t think you could actually DO it?!...”

“What did you think I was doing running around with this?!” Bixby swung his hip around slightly, exposing his .22 Hornet and his ZPD Badge in the process.

Jaz looked down on the pistol with disbelief, she hadn’t been this close to anything smaller than a shotgun on one of the other larger farms. “I dunno... thought maybe you were into some mob enforcement or somethin’. Hence your Canine bodyguard”

“PFFTTHAHAHAHA...MY BODYGUARD HA!” Bixby doubled over laughing  as he placed his paw on his mate’s knee. “Oh sorry dear, that was just too good!!”

“Laugh it up Bunnyboy...” Tristan was not amused at being ‘the hired help’. But eventually he seen the funny side of it and cracked a smile.

“Heh... but seriously... did you hear anything about a killer in the City?” Bixby looked up with a slightly more serious expression.

“We heard something about a serial killer on the loose”

“That’s ‘Ghost’... Chief Bogo of Precinct 1 put together a team to hunt him... I’m on that team” Bixby smiled up at his sister, feeling proud of his achievement at such an early stage in his career.

The feeling of pride was not reciprocated tho, Jaz was worried for her brother. “Bixby... I hope you aren’t doing anything dangerous...”

“No no, its safe enough, were just trying to catch him is all” he lied. Just talking about the dangers caused his burns on his back to itch a little, something the Coy noticed and was equally worried about.

“I’l be there to rescue him anyway, you have my word” Tristan spoke up, breaking his attention away from his wounds and back to their host.

"TEA IS READYYY” Mira came bursting back into the room with 3 cups of tea and one bowl as there was nothing Coyote sized  that would be more than a shot to the Canine. She carefully passed them out amongst the guests.

“Soooooo B, what ya been up to?” Mira quizzed.

“Same old I guess, kickin ass, takin names... the usual” he replied with a cheeky grin.

Tristan felt the need to interfere with Bixby’s answer. “I’ve seen you with Howlett, it’s more like kissin ass”

“And you can kiss my ass dear!” 

“Do more than that if you aren’t careful” Tristan replied as the lovers exchanged frisky eyes back at each other, forgetting the company they were in.

“Ahem...” Jaz cleared her throat out if awkwardness. 

“Ha sorry sis, bad habit and all that...”

“Hmm?...” Triatan’s ears perked up at the sound of a small car pulling into the driveway to the side of the house.

“Tris? Something wrong? Bixby asked, before he too heard the unmistakable sound of a vehicle approaching the house.

“Oh crap... She isn’t meant to be back for hours!!” Mira stood up and finished her cup of tea in one gulp before rushing back into the kitchen.

“It’s Mom and Dad... the client must have cancelled... shit...uh...” Jaz stood up, trying to find a suitable place to hide the pair before their parents came.

“Don’t worry... I wanna talk to her anyway... it’s about time we settled things anyway” Bixby stood up and set his empty cup on a side table, defiantly setting it beside a coaster instead of on it.

It wasn’t long before the sound of keys being rattled around outside echoed through the downstairs before being forced into the lock.

“Huh... Billy left the door open again... there’s no talkin to that kid is there...” one voice came from the front hall as the door swung open, the keys still in the lock hitting against the wood finish. The voice was female and assertive. Defiantly the matriarch of the family, Bixby’s mother...

“What ya expect, hes only 12 after all” came a second voice following along behind. This one sounded older, male and with a hint of an Irish accent covered up by decades of living in the States.

“Well, they gotta learn now don’t they... he’ll be getting a smacked botto-...” Mrs Julia O’Hare spoke but ended her sentence abruptly upon turning towards the living room, seeing the young Bixby standing in the middle of the room, arms folded and tapping his foot anxiously on the ground. “What are you...”

“Doing here?... I didn’t come for pleasantries with you... I came to see the rest if the family...” Bixby spoke up defiantly with a grim expression, like he was ready for war.

“I told you never to come here...” Julia muttered, loud enough for Bixby and Tristan to hear but noone else.

“Bixby?!...” the father, Scott O’Hare said as he rushed past his wife and embraced his son in what the Hare considered to be the most satisfying hug he had ever felt, actually catching the Officer off guard for a split second as he nearly toppled. “Ohhh it’s been too long kiddo! Why didn’t you call sooner?! How have you been? And...” Scott looked up towards the Coyote smiling on the floor while holding his rather amusing bowl of tea. “Who is this?”

“Dad, oh it’s so good to see you!” he said, embracing the older Hare tight. “Iv’e been busy with work lately and didn’t get the chance to pop round... OH, this is Tristan Hunter... my mate”
 
“Your mate huh?...” his father let go of his embrace and stepped back slightly, not expecting the answer he got.

“Dad...” Jaz spoke on behalf of Bixby but was silenced by the patriarch momentarily with just a single finger.

Scott looked back towards Bixby and smiled. “If this is what makes you happy then I’m grand with it”

Bixby felt his heart skip a beat at hearing his father accept his sexuality and immediately come to terms with him having a male partner. “Dad...” Bixby whispered as tears began to fill his eyes and he slunk back over to his waiting arms.

“Completely unnatural...” Shouted a voice from the hallway. Julia wasn’t about to welcome the young Hare back into the family, not by a long shot.

The statement made the fur on the back of Bixby’s and Scott’s neck stand on end. Neither of them could believe what they had just heard but both knew that it wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

Tristan overheard the comment along with Jaz and Mira, the latter two sitting down beside their future brother-in-law for comfort. Tristan took it as a personal attack and slightly bared his teeth. Mira took hold of the Canine’s paw gently to comfort him.

“Come on Julia, we talked about this...” Scott let go of Bixby and turned to his wife. 

“No you talked, I ignored you... you know how I feel about this perverse way of life... No son of mine will lay with another male and expect to be welcomed in MY house with open arms!”

Scott sighed as he put his paw to the bridge of his nose. “Julia..”

“I don’t expect you of all mammals to know about love anyway, I have a family that loves me for who I am. I have a mate that would take a bullet for me. I HAVE A BETTER ‘WAY OF LIFE’ THAN YOU EVER HAD!” Bixby snapped. He was hoping he could hold his emotions back longer than this but her bigoted speech hit harder than he expected. He felt he needed to hit back harder.

“I don’t give a damn about your life...” she said as she took the keys out of the door and slammed it shut. “...I told you you weren’t welcome back here and yet here you stand! You worthless sack of bones! You and your ‘mate’ can leave whenever you like!”

“Julia enough!” Scott shouted towards his wife, he was becoming increasingly agitated by her hurtful words.

The sound of laughing outside caught the groups attention, with the exception of Julia who continued to stare daggers towards her wayward son. The noise was coming from 2 of the younger members of the family coming home from a play park just up the street. The communal play park was erected by the 3 main families in that particular area, somewhere for the younger mammals to play safely. 

The door clicked open as one of the small Hares fell through it, always missing the slight step as he ran through the threshold. The second simply stepped over him as if she knew he was gonna trip. 

“Hey you two, did you have fun at the park?” Jaz stood up and ran over to her younger sibling. The Hares were only about 8 years old and still a little clumsy, as evident by the entrance. The older Doe scooped both of them up and ushered them into the kitchen away from the battle zone. The young girl however caught a glimpse of Bixby, standing in the room with his badge shining in the sunlight.

Scott knew he had to defuse the situation before more of the family came home and made things more difficult. “Can we take this outside please...”

“You can do what you like, I will have nothin to do with this faggot waste of space...” Julia said as she turned and placed one foot on the first step up to the second floor.

“...You still have them believing that I was disowned for being gay?... you really are pathetic...” Bixby shot back, knowing full well that this sentence would cause a chain reaction that noone could stop now.

“Bixby? What do you mean by that?” Mira looked confused as she gripped Tristan’s paw tighter. The Coy noted her discomfort and pulled her close, whispering in her ear. “Miss Mira... whatever happens stick close to me please”

Upon hearing Bixby’s sentence, Julia froze in place. She knew exactly what that dig meant... but only her and her son knew the true meaning behind the sentence. “Don’t you dare...”

“Don’t I dare what?...Don’t I dare tell everyone what a snake you really are? Tell them that while Dad was in the hospital...” Bixby started as he walked towards his mother while placing a paw on his father’s shoulder and pulling him gently behind him out of the way. “... You went behind his back and FUCKED OTHER GUYS?!... tell them that Jasmine, Mirabelle and myself were products of your infidelity?!...”. Tears began to fall down Bixby’s cheeks and onto the wooden floor as he was within a few feet of his mother. “... Or tell them that you threw out your own flesh and blood to cover your own arse?... you are the waste of space here, not -...”

Bixby’s speech was cut short at the end as Julia turned around and slapped Bixby on the cheek with enough force to knock him to the ground. The young Hare’s nose began to bleed a little and the skin under his fur started to turn a little red from the impact. 

Tristan immediately stood up and began to walk towards Julia, teeth bare and claws extended but was held back by Mira still clinging to his paw. He came to his senses quickly as he seen Bixby look towards him and shake his head slightly.

“I want you out of my house... right now... all of you... get out!”

Scott stood with his mouth hanging open, not at the sudden realisation that his spouse had been cheating but that she dared lay a finger on Bixby. 

“... That all you got?” Bixby stood up and wiped the blood away from his nose, smearing it into his light grey fur. “...Which one of them is my real father anyway? Do you even know?”

“I said get OUT!” Julia shouted as she once again slapped Bixby across the cheek. The young Lapin took it better this time, knowing that it was coming but still hurt.

“JULIA! Stop this!...” Scott shouted. “Enough of this... Is it true?...”

Julia looked over to her husband with tears forming in her eyes. She knew that she had been found out and there was no way out of this situation. “I...I...”

“Tell them... tell them how you abandoned your 14 year old son to hide your affairs...” Bixby turned back towards Julia, his nose still trickling blood and his eyes pouring tears down his fur. “Tell them how you ditched your mate for a bit on the side...”

Julia grabbed Bixby by the shirt with both paws and pulled him close to her. “I said... Get. Out.” She said as she threw him against the wall with all her strength, her claws grabbing the fabric of his shirt and ripping it right off his body, exposing his still healing yet heavily scarred body from the blast.

Mira and Scott caught their first glimpse of Bixby’s injuries from War’s terror attack on the group. His back still healing from the burns and his stitches still held strong from various other injuries coupled with heavy bruising. He was on the mend, it looked worse than it was but to those who didn’t know... it was shocking.

“Oh my god Bixby...” Mira said before putting her paws to her mouth and turning away from the stomach churning sight of burnt and scarred flesh.

“Don’t worry... It’s nothing I can’t handle” he said without taking his eyes off the matriarch of the family, who too had a look of disgust on her face. At least this time it was a disgust at the wounds instead of Bixby’s lifestyle choices.

“Yeah... I got hurt trying to save my friends... a car bomb exploded beside both me and Alex...” Bixby said as he glanced over to his mate, noticing he was wincing at the finer details of his mate and his brothers close brush with death. “... We barely survived... but hell, sure what do you care?!... you are only my mother after all... I sure as shit don’t care who my father is... YOU... you are my biological mother... and you cant even bare to look at me...”

Scott grabbed a blanket and carefully wrapped his son into it, embracing him once more in a heart felt hug and a kiss on the cheek. “ Bixby... you will always be my son... I promise...”

“And you will *sniff* ...always be my Dad!” Bixby let go of the tears he was holding back as he stood in the hallway, bawling like a kid again.

“...And Julia... I don’t care that ya found comfort elsewhere...” Scott said as he looked upstairs towards his wife, who by now was welling up herself as she began to come clean about her affairs. “...Ive known for a while now... ya used to come home smelling different than usual and immediately hop into the shower... how ya insisted that we do it constantly when I get home... I knew something was up, I’m not the dumb farmer that ya thought I was when ya married me... I love you regardless!”

Julia, now streaming tears herself, could only look away in shame. Shame that she had broken a sacred trust between them when they promised each other to be faithful on their wedding day. Shame that she had cast out her own Son to hide her devious antics. Shame that she had let this game be played out for way too long.

“Jonathan...” She brought herself to look Bixby in the eyes for the first time without a heavy heart. “...I am so sorry...” she muttered as she grabbed her basket and made her way upstairs, audibly crying as she did so.

Scott ruffled Bixby’s hair as he stood up from his son and gave him another kiss on the forehead. “Thank you...” he smiled back towards Tristan before he too made his way upstairs to try and salvage his marriage

--- 20 minutes later ----------

“You think there gonna break up?” Mira asked in her typical cheery manner.

The group was sitting outside in the sun on a grassy embankment overlooking the house. None of them wanted to stay in the house any longer than needed and decided a bit of fresh air would do them good.

“Nah, there a hardy couple... they’ll bounce back... maybe with a new lease of life... maybe we can have a proper family dinner again like the good old days!” Jas replied, a chipper tone in her voice matching her sister’s optimistic aura.

“Whatever happens... I’m happy that I got to speak to you guys again” Bixby spoke up as he placed a small ice pack against his cheek. “OUCH!...damn I didn’t miss her beatings that’s for sure!”

“The woman hits like a freight train, maybe you should go back to the gym hon, could do with... ‘Pumping Some ‘Ron’ hehe” Tristan said as he lay back into the grass, soaking up the sun’s rays.

“Il pump more than ron if your not careful...” Bixby threatened with a hint of cuteness as his nose wiggled while speaking.

“Ohh... promise?” 

“Tristan... company...”

The girls giggled to themselves at the thought of their brother being the ‘Big Spoon’ in the relationship.

“Hey!... not funny...” Bixby blushed, getting a little uncomfortable discussing such topics with his sisters present.

“Heh... hey shouldn’t we be getting back soon? Rockford asked us if we could bring those boxes out if the attic... yaknow, the baby clothes and stuff” Tristan swiftly changed the subject, noting his mate’s changing skin tone from peachy to red.

“Yeah... I guess...” the Hare muttered, a little sad to be leaving Mira and Jas so soon after reuniting, but he knew that this would not be the last time they would see each other. “Guess this is where we say good bye... we will definitely be sending you letters and stuff when we get back to the City!”

“Or...” Mira looked over at her sister with a devilish grin on her face... “I have a better idea...”

--- 1pm, August 3rd, Rockford’s Cabin ----------

“Huh... Hey Chief? Did you know this family?” Lucy was exploring the cabin one final time before the team was due back to the Precinct. Bogo had called Howlett earlier that morning and requested him and his rookies back to the City as soon as possible, shouting something about a new case for them.

“Which family?” Rockford replied as he set down an old box that he had brought down from the attic minutes before and headed over to the Lynx, curious as to what the young Officer had spotted.

“This one” she pointed up to an old newspaper article framed on the back wall next to a number of other important articles from around the globe.

Martin removed a small pair of reading glasses from the chest pocket of his shirt and placed them on the bridge of his nose. “Huh... I don’t know the family personally... but I was in the district during the search. The Mayor of the Burrow at the time requested my assistance along with any officers I could spare from the City to aide in the search and rescue operation”

Alex popped his head into the living room where the Lynx and Lion were examining the news paper clipping thoroughly. “Chief? Where do you want these things?” he said, struggling to maintain a grip on a pair of large cardboard boxes that the old Lion asked be brought from upstairs. “Oh is that the Frost Case?”

“It is... to this day it remains unsolved... and one of the most haunting cases in Bunny Burrow history”

Alex set the boxes down carefully on a side table and made his way over to the pair and cleared his throat.

“December 27th, 2003. The disappearance and subsequent discovery of a body in the Malik Forest of three young members of the Frost family have left the community in mourning. The body of Samuel Frost has been recovered from a clearing a few miles into the area. Police are appealing for information regarding the whereabouts of 2 other Hares that have gone missing in the same area. A male and female, both 10 years old and respond to the names ‘Blue’ and ‘Issy’. They were last seen with their older brother on the 16th. If any fresh information is available please contact the BPD on the emergency number below”

“Their bodies were never recovered. Detective Malahyde was in charge of missing mammals at the time, he believes foul play was involved but that was omitted from the papers for obvious reasons. Because of the way Samuel was discovered there was little hope in finding the other 2 alive even if they could have stuck the temperatures... it’s sad really” Martin dusted off the picture frame and straightened it on the wall. With a mournful look plastered across his face he looked over to his God-son. “...You would have been about 6 years old at the time, still settling in to a life without your mother... It shouldn’t have been her...”

“Martin... “ Alex spoke softly towards the elderly Lion, knowing that he still feels sorrow for her loss.

“Sorry Alex...” he said as he wiped away the makings of a tear from his eye and placed his glasses back in place. “Wont happen again”

Lucy couldn’t help but smile as the Chief reminisced about the past. She too wished that her past had been different but nothing could change that now. All that was left was to carve out a new life for herself... and a special someone.

*Click*

The sound of the door opening got the trio’s attention as Howlett and Savage made their way downstairs carrying yet more boxes. 

“Guys?” Bixby popped his nose around the corner of the door to see who was around. And with a smile he pushed open the door further. “Oh hey!”

“Hey Bix” Lucy smiled as she made her way over to the door. “Soooooo.... howd it go?” she asked timidly, wanting the gossip but bashful about prying into someone else’s life.

“It went... about as well as it could have gone I guess... My Dad loves Tristan... so do my Sisters” Bixby proclaimed with glee. One thing he forgot about until he had met the others face to face was the shiner that was becoming more and more apparent under his eye.

“Bixby what happened?!” Jack asked, concerned about his fellow Lapin.

“Huh? Oh this? Nah its nothing, just tripped and fell over a tree root as we went to the farm house”

Bixby made his way into the cabin, followed closely behind by his mate.

“Heyyy” Tristan shouted as he carried a hefty suitcase into the sitting room and placed it down beside the front door.

“Wanna explain that? Or do we pretend it isn’t there?” Howlett asked, his usual sarcastic charm shining through.

“Guess I should tell you... guys... meet Mirabelle and Jasmine” Bixby stood out of the way of the door, revealing two female Hares, blue eyes shining in the sun and all geared up for a lengthy road trip.

“Uh hey” Jasmine spoke first, followed by Mira. “Hello!”

“Hey! Been a long time!” Alex broke the ice between the group, having met them before many years ago.

“Alex!” Mira shouted as she slipped past her sister and greeted the Canine with a hug.

“Heh, must be a Coyote thing” Tristan joked as he ushered Jas into the sitting room to meet the team. “Jas, this is Lucy, Jack, Jenson and... hey... where’s Nikola?”

The team greeted the Doe casually and friendly before Jack spoke up on behalf of the Jackal. “She’s outside with Addison..."

“Oh... maybe you can meet her later” Tristan smiled, looking a little awkward at the exchange.

“Hope so!” Mira chimed in as she spotted Chief Rockford. “Sir!...” she saluted. “Please take care of our big Brother Sir!...”

“Oh?... heh I will do my best Milady” Rockford saluted back with the cheesiest grin on his face, putting both the sisters hearts at ease.

“Hehe...” Mira giggled as she went back over to her Canine Brother-In-Law.

“Sorry if I come across as rude but... what’s with the bags?” Lucy pondered out loud, prompting Bixby to finish his sentence from before.

“OH!... If it’s okay with you guys, they wish to accompany us back to the big City... the family isn’t in a great place right now and they didn’t wanna be in that environment any longer so I miiiiiiight have suggested they find a new apartment in Zootopia"

The group looked at one another in silence for a few seconds, something Bixby took note of and felt an awkward stand off approaching. One that ultimately would never come.

“Sounds good to me” Howlett answered, breaking the silence closely followed by Savage.

“Yeah... I mean the Prey to Predator ratio was all screwed up... we need more bunny power!” Jack added his two cents, happy that there was more mammals of his stature to make him feel a little less... short.

“Sounds cool! Il make room in the vehicles... hey Tristan can I get a helping paw?” Lucy smiled as she walked up to the Hares and shook both of their paws formally greeting them and welcoming them to the fold.

“Of course!” Tristan lead the way outside, followed closely by the Lynx and Hares.

“You have no idea how happy I am that you guys get along with them... they seriously needed away from that place. My father is a perfect gentlemammal... but my mother is toxic to the lot of them...”

“Bixby... you should know by now that we can accommodate for just about anyone that needs help” Martin spoke for the group, with all members in agreement.

“Seriously... thank you all!” Bixby closed out his appreciation speech with a heart warming smile, and a hankering for some carrot sandwiches.

--- 1am, August 3rd, War’s Warehouse ----------

Ghost was sitting atop the large structure, tears streaming down his face as he sobbed heavily into his paws. His mask was removed and thrown asunder, the feeling of it only pronounced his sorrow as he mourned the loss of his family. The Rabbit couldn’t definitively confirm that War and Abernine had killed them but knowing the Rhino’s track record, it was an almost certainty.

Ghost had pledged his undying service to War in exchange for the remaining members of his family to be spared death as the paws of a crazed Wolf. His latest plan of rescuing them from the clutches of the Canine having failed spectacularly because a certain Vixen was not experienced or skilled enough to assassinate War’s personal assistant. 

Something he could only blame on himself. He knew he should have acted himself and with a bit more planning and research before sending an unknown such as Brooke into the fray unprepared. Her death was on his paws as well.

In summary... Ghost felt like utter shit... he felt like a failure for the first time since he was just 10 years old...

--- December, 2003 ----------

Blue couldn’t stand being alone any longer. Ghost had left him only 30 minutes and already the young Hare grew restless.  He spent some time searching the abandoned cabin for anything he could use to escape after discovering that the elderly Canine had locked the door behind himself. 

With a little patience and a keen eye for the small details, Blue found a small hammer and a few nails in one of the drawers, from there a plan hatched in his head. The Hare took a single nail and the hammer to the door and placed the point directly below the hinge pin, lightly tapping it until it started to wiggle freely. It took only a few minutes for Blue to gently hammer both hinges loose and remove the pins. 

“YES!” he shouted to himself, a grin from ear to ear pronounced across. “Okay... Where did he go?...”

It wasn’t long before the frigid cold got to the young Hares skin and sent a chill up his spine. He turned back into the cabin and decided to better prepare. He cut up the blanket from the bed and made a makeshift coat and poncho, broke the leg off one if the wooden chairs, fashioning himself a shiv and a few boards strapped to his feet for snow shoes. Blue took a peek underneath the bed and pulled out a small wooden box with the initials R.J.B scratched into the top. With the hammer from before he managed to crack open the lock on the front and opened the top.

“What the-...” he muttered, his eyes open wide as he stared at the contents within. The box belonged to a kid that must have lived here with his parents some time ago. Perhaps 10 years or more had passed since this place was used and yet the items in the box seemed relatively untouched. Within was a small sack containing small marbles, some jacks, 2 ping-pong paddles, 3 ping-pong balls, a small pocket knife and several thick rubber bands.

“Whoever was here... they left in a hurry... whoever you were kid... thank you” Blue said to himself as he picked up the two paddles and strapped the handles together with the bands. He then used the knife to cut the paddles into a ‘V’ shape and fastened them together with 2 more bands before using the last, strongest band to form a slingshot. “Nice” he said as he cut out a small rectangle of cardboard and pressed it between the bands to form a cradle for the marbles. 

“Okay... Ghost, Im on my way!” he said as he stepped outside, the bedsheets doing their job keeping him warm with his knife and slingshot hanging out of his pocket. The Hare stepped out into the snow and found that his snowshoes were working perfectly. Happy enough with the results he proceeded in the direction of the faint footprints in the snow.

A number of hours had passed. Blue had been following both the large faint prints in the snow very carefully coupled with using his nose and keen sense of hearing to look out for anything of interest. Unfortunately to no avail. It would appear that Ghost had a major head start on the Lapin and made some considerable ground between them. But that didn’t deter Blue, he pressed on through the cold aided by his makeshift clothing which to his surprise held up in the sub-zero temperatures. 

It was close to midday now, the sun high in the sky lighting up the eerie forest and giving it a sort of macabre beauty in the winter wonderland. Blue was close to giving up hope, he was starting to get tired from treading through the snow. His snow shoes were helping but they were still clumping up snow with every step adding to the weight. But still the Hare continued on. Desperate for answers. For someone to look up to. And then...

His ears perked up before he even realised the sound. In the distance he heard a faint gun shot echo in the distance. “Ghost?...” he muttered to himself as his body burst with a new found sense of urgency and energy. “That has to be him!” 

--- Elsewhere ----------

“AHHHHHHHH.... leave....alone!” The tiger shouted as he crawled in the snow, clutching his knee as blood poured from a fresh wound perfectly placed right in the cap. He struggled hard away from the source of the shot, the pain preventing him from standing up. 

A cloaked figure with a large hat stepped out from behind one of the many pine trees in the forest, scoped rifle in paw as he chambered a fresh round and closed the bolt. 

“Ya’know... most mammals I cut down blend in with their surrounding. Mob bosses often travel in groups. Serial killers are just like everyone else... unless you know what to look for... and other snipers are the hardest, there trained to be invisible” Ghost spoke as he walked towards the wounded Tiger, taking note of how serious his injury is incase he needed to administer medical aid. “...You however... are none of these really. You decided to take refuge in a forest in the winter... snow everywhere... and you have your stripes on display for everyone to see... your no sniper... no mob boss... I would stretch to even call you a serial killer... you are just a monster”

The Tiger stopped struggling and sobbing abruptly, catching Ghost off guard slightly. He turned around onto his back still holding onto his disabled leg, gathering the squirting blood into the palm of his paw. “M-monster?.... Yes!” he shouted back at the Wolf just as he realised that Ghost was wearing a pale white expressionless mask. He then looked down at his paws covered in blood and did something quite unexpected, something that Ghost hadn’t seen before. He brought his paws to his face and covered his fur in his own blood, forming his own crimson mask, dripping some to the bright snow below. “Monster... Like... me!”

“You are sick... I am sorry but I cannot allow you to remain in this life. I hope you find some kind of peace in the afterlife” Ghost spoke softly as he raised his rifle, aiming between the Tigers eyes and placing his finger on the trigger.

“WAAAITTTT!!” a voice echoed through the forest as a multi-coloured blur whizzed through the trees, kicking up snow as it moved. “DON’T SHOOT!”

Ghost was prepared to turn his rifle on the new addition to the situation just incase there was some kind if threat. “Scarface?...”

“Ghost... wait...” Blue shouted as he finally caught up with him. He took a few seconds to catch him breath as he jumped in between the Wolf and the Tiger, unsure himself why he was defending the bastard that killed his brother.

“Kid what are you...”

“Please don’t shoot him... he deserves a fair trial... my parents deserve closure...” 

“Kid... It’s my job to rid the world of this filth...” Ghost spoke up over the Hare as he trained his sight back onto the Tiger who was still playing with his own blood.

“He killed my brother... he was the one my sister and I were running from... but he doesn’t deserve to be murdered like he did to them and left to rot out here... please...” Blue began to cry, his paws shaking and clenched as he spoke, refusing to even glance towards the predator.

“He killed more than just your brother kid... this feline is a monster... and its my job to stop him so move!” Ghost demanded, his finger hovering over the trigger. 

Blue stepped in front of the barrel and pressed it against his own forehead, stunning Ghost as his golden eyes shone through the darkness of his mask’s eyeholes. 

“Listen short stuff... This ‘thing’ has killed dozens if innocent children... some younger than you are... and he will do it again if he isnt stopped here now!”

“Yeah... kid... listen to daddy!...”
The third party member finally spoke his piece. A disturbing groan in his voice was unsettling, especially to Blue. This tone of voice reminded him of the moments Sam was pinned by the neck right before he...

“The girl was... delicious... both before... and after... death...” the Tiger laughed as he spoke, all of this was just a game to him. All he wanted was to get up and go back to his activities. To his victims. The crazed look in his eye was more pronounced than ever.

There was silence in the forest. The wind had died, the trees were hushed and the birds ceased to sing. You could hear a metaphorical pin drop. Atleast... to Blue this was the case...

To Ghost, all he could hear was the psycho laughing just behind the Hare. He couldn’t help but to look over Blue’s shoulder at the sight of the Feline smeared in blood, laughing maniacally to himself as he remembered his latest kills.

“I PLUCKED HER... FROM THE RIVER... shame she... was dead... but... SHE STILL TASTED GOOD!!AAAAHAHAHAH... a little... chewy... but... savoury...” The Tiger laughed to himself as he went into detail about what had happened in the hours after their escape. 

“Dammit...” Ghost muttered as he glanced down at the young Hare with his head hung low. Ghost couldn’t see his eyes but he knew what was happening. Every so often a few droplets hit the snow just below him. 

“I couldn’t... find... the other one... but I bet... he tasted... good... too!! HA!...”

Blue clenched his fist and ground his teeth, loud enough for the Wolf to hear. Ghost knew he was hurting and decided enough was enough as he looked back towards the Tiger and flicked the safety switch off.

“And the... best... part was what... happened between... eating!... I couldn’t resist... her body... SO I FU-...” the Tiger began but was cut short, just in time too...

Ghost had no time to react as Blue retrieved his slingshot and a single marble from his pocket and loaded it into his makeshift weapon. He stretched the elastic back as far as it would go and took aim at the Feline as he lay bleeding into the snow. The last time he would ever have to stare into the monster’s eyes. He only needed them as a target... Blue let go of the marble as it shot forth and impacted the Tiger right in the eyeball, burying itself deep within his skull and brain. 

The Tiger fell backwards into the snow without saying a word. His body began to convulse violently as blood started to pour out of his right eye and pool in the snow below. His breathing became laboured as he struggled to breath but it was too late. He was clinically braindead within seconds, his body trying to stay alive out of instinct.

Blue had a fire in his eyes as tears streamed down his cheeks. He wasn’t the scared little 10 year old Hare he was a few days ago. He had just taken his first life. And he felt good.

The Hare walked over to the body as the convulsions began to subside. He retrieved his knife from another pocket and extended the blade, not taking his eyes off the Feline’s throat as he did.

“Kid...” Ghost muttered as he watched on. Deep down he knew that there was no going back from this. He knew that if word gets out about what happened here then the kid would be taken away. He had little choice but to watch on and come up with a plan later.

Blue jumped onto the Tiger’s mid-section and grabbed him by the chest fur for support. He raised his knife high above his head as a smile appeared on his face and his blue eyes shone in the snowy kingdom around him. He felt at peace for the first time as he plunged his knife into the deceased Feline’s chest. And again. And again...

Blood spurted out of each wound as the knife was removed and covered the Hare in blood and chipped bone. 

67... 67 stab wounds before Blue’s arm got tired and he was forced to drop his weapon...

The silence that he was experiencing was coming to an end as he could hear the wind once again. He could hear the trees creek in the surroundings... and the birds chirping high above. Blue was back in reality... but would never be the same again.

“Kid?... are you okay?” Ghost couldn’t help but ask as he flicked the safety on and removed the bullet from the chamber, laying his rifle against a snow covered tree stump next to him.

Blue heard the Wolf and glanced back towards him, turning just enough for his eyes to meet Ghost’s. “I’m fine...”

Ghost made his way slowly over to the young one and carefully lifted him up by the under-arms and carried him like an infant around his shoulder. “Come on Snowflake... you did good...”

Blue looked back at the mess he had made to the Tiger as his eyes grew heavy. “I’m sorry...” he muttered just before the tiredness got the better of him and he drifted off into a slumber.

“It’s okay Blue... It will all be okay...” Ghost replied as he ploughed through the snow back to the direction of town.

--- 4 Days Later ----------

A funeral in Bunny Burrow was a large scale event. Hundreds of family members, neighbours and distant relations from across the country descended on the graveyard at any given time to pay their respects to the lost souls.

Blue’s family was no exception. The family may have been small but the community as a whole was gathered to pay their respects to the three young Hares tragically taken too early. 

Three days before the funerals, the body of Samuel had been discovered preserved almost intact by the cold temperatures and brought back to the county morgue for examination. The results were definitely not what the family wanted to hear. Sam had been murdered by an unknown party, and coupled with the disappearances of his younger brother and sister, the local police quickly opened an investigation while declaring Blue and Issy ‘missing presumed deceased’. The final straw that broke the family.

The funerals of the three siblings took place at sundown on December 23rd, only 2 days before Christmas. Many of the younger Hares had no idea what was going on and just went along with what their parents were doing. A queue of tearful mourners and police officers that helped in the search and recovery of bodies shook paws with Anna and Elias, patted their children on the heads and melted back into the crowds. It was shortly before the sun fell behind the mountains that the coffins were lowered into the ground, two of which empty in hopes that they would return some day.

Two members of the funeral service however stood away from the crowd. A young Hare and an old Wolf stood atop an adjoining hillside next to a mighty oak as they looked down into the crowd.

“Last chance kid. You could make like Lazarus and come back to life before your parents and astonished onlookers...” Ghost spoke up as he removed a pair of dark sunglasses revealing his golden eye and scarred face.

“I can’t... I couldn’t live with myself... knowing there are monsters out there... monsters like that Tiger that hunt childr-.....I can’t go back” Blue replied with tears cascading down his cheeks and onto the lightly dusted snowy hillside.

“Suit yourself... but if you come with me... you will be tested... you will be broken and rebuilt... and broken again... my life... my way of life isn’t for everyone kid...”

“I understand...”

“But by the end of it... when I am gone... You will be known as ‘The Ghost’”

Chapter Text

--- 11am, August 3rd, War’s Warehouse ----------

The morning was hot, humidity high and chance of rain... zero. A typical summer morning in the grand city of Zootopia. At 103oF this early in the morning you can bet your bottom zollar that the day will only get warmer from here. 

One mammal in particular wasn’t fazed by the extreme heat. She actually enjoyed the hotter temperature, unlike her twin sister.

“Faaaaaammm... can we at least go get some ice-cream?!... I’m sweating my balls off here!... if I had any!” Q shouted as she lay on top of her bunk bed on the upper floor of War’s newest base of operations. Wearing little more than a pair of underwear and a thin vest to try and dissipate the heat, to no avail.

“You can go if you like Q, you know I have to finish this for War... it was meant to be done days ago but its taking longer than usual... he wants it to be perfect...” Fam replied, hunched over a laptop with 2 other personal PCs running right beside her. Contrast to her sister, Fam wore a black hoodie and matching skirt and stockings, with the fans of the computers pointing directly at her.

“How aren’t you melting in this heat?!... never understood how you could stick this” 

“Sweating helps me... it makes me feel better... much like peace and quiet” Fam quipped back at the Ocelot. She pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose.

Both Felines were momentarily interrupted by a knock on their door. Usually from a well dressed Jackal seeking their presence with the Rhino.
“Come in!” Fam shouted without breaking eye contact with her screen.

The door swung open and lightly impacted the wall it was connected to. “My apologies...” a voice from the other side spoke up, a familiar, deep voice. This was no Jackal.

Q craned her neck into an odd position, remaining on her back with her arms flailed over the edge. “Hey War, what’s up?”

“Just a check up, to see how your sister is progressing” War ducked under the door frame and stepped inside the small room, barely big enough for him to comfortably stand upright. 

Fam held her paw up to the Rhino, signalling to him to give her a few moments before closing down her laptop screen and removing her glasses. “Its coming... just... real slow. What you want hasn’t been created before and requires a lot of guess work to see what operations work well together. If you want it to be any kind of effective then I have to remove each and every bug and glitch from its programming otherwise... all this is for nothing”

“I understand Famine, but you do understand that we are on a tight deadline yes? My Employer requests updates on progress every day... and every day I have to tell him ‘soon’... so you understand my impatience?” War tried his best to stay calm, especially after the insubordination and treachery that Ghost had shown him in recent days, not to mention the loss of Nikola and his clash with Charon.

“I understand Sir, but you need to realise that this is highly complex... I can’t just make something from nothing... It’s not like I can press a button an-...” Fam started but was interrupted when her laptop pinged into life once more with a green bar popping up in the lower left corner. “Oh... Phase 3 completed... just one more and it should be ready to go!”

“Good, you have two weeks to perfect it and then release it... good work Fam” War patted the young Ocelot on the head gently as she became engrossed with her laptop once more, barely acknowledging the assassin’s praises.

“Ugh... 2 more weeks?!....boooooring!” Q tutted as she placed a pillow over her face and let her arms hang over the edge once more.

“Oh Quinn, relax, it’ll all be over soon enough”

--- 3pm, August 3rd, Rockford Cabin----------

It had only been an hour since the team left Nikola in the capable paws of Chief Rockford but she was already pulling her hair out with the feeling of uselessness. The Chief had remained behind and would stay with the Canine an extra night to help her settle in to her new surroundings.

“There we go...” Martin was unpacking a few old boxes that contained useful equipment and gadgets for taking care of a newborn. The Chief had 1 son from a previous marrage that didn’t exactly end how he had hoped it would. His son however remained in touch with him, developing a strong relationship in the following years and continuing to stay in touch.

“Theres so much stuff!” Nikola shouted as she plundered the boxes, searching for items that she knew would come in handy for her future child. “Ohhh! Cub monitors! Bottles... sterilizers... a CRIB?... oh Martin, this is too much,I cant take all this stuff!”

“Oh hush, it’s not like I will be using any of this stuff haha... better going to some use that gathering further dust bunnies am I right... besides, I’m hoping that you will stay here for a while anyway, theres no need for this stuff to even leave the house if you feel that strongly about it”

“Well yeah I sup-... Wait... I thought this was temporary until War was captured... you mean I can... can stay here?!” Niki dropped an unopened pack of bibs onto the floor, looking up to the Lion in disbelief. She was still under the assumption that once the case was closed then she would have to vacate the residence and fend for herself.

“Well of course, I’m hardly going to kick an expecting mother out onto the streets... you can stay here as long as you like... be it few months, a year... a decade... or until you find your footing” Martin picked up the package and gave it back to the astonished Jackal, her jaw still hanging open in shock and on the verge of tears. Never before had someone shown so much care and charity towards the Canine, with the exception of Addison that is. She was stunned by the elderly Lion’s generocity.

“But... We will need to do a little more shopping first, this stuff will do nicely but there are a few modern bits and bobs you still need” Martin said as he cleared a tear away from Niki’s eye and patted her on the head as she smiled back up at him, still clearly speechless. “So go grab your jacket and lets get going shall we?”

“Yes Sir!” she saluted as she stood up slowly, placing the items back into one of the boxes and sliding it over towards the wall with her foot. The Jackal ran upstairs with a new spring in her step, as if someone had just changed her batteries. It took no time at all for her to find a jacket her size that once belonged to Alex and slipped it on.

The Jackal bounced back downstairs, her tail swishing side to side, almost knocking over a tableside lamp in the process, and presented herself to the Chief. “How do I look Sir?” she said as she saluted once more and stood to attention.

“You look divine my dear, now come along, its 20 miles to town and schools will be getting out soon” Martin beaconed Nikola out the door and towards a large garage. The lion took out a small set of keys and unlocked a metal shutter, pulling it up and folding it into the roofspace. He then ushered her into the passenger seat of a bright red, convertable, lion sized 1965 Ford Mustang.

“WOAH... Alex didn’t mention anything about this?!...” Niki stroked the interior lining of the car carefully in awe of how perfect it was. The vehicle was old and yet had been perfectly restored, true to factory options right down to the original tool kit in the rear. 

There were a few slight modifications however to the original specs. The exhaust had been upgraded to stainless steel and a slightly bigger diameter, giving it a roar worthy of the Lion driving it. A small medical bag was added to the trunk lid, a pull down tab fitted to give it easy access. And finally the brakes had been upgraded for better performance.

“You like? It was a present from my wife, it was in real rough shape when she got it... we nicknamed it the ‘Rustang’... But! With a little love and attention... and some elbow grease from Bixby and Alex... we got it looking the part... you like?”

“I love it! I may have pretended to be a boy for most of my life... but cars have always been an interesting subject” she smiled as she diverted her attention to the emaculate chrome work on the instrument panel.

“Good!, perhaps I’l let you drive it on the way back”

“Seriously!?...” Niki looked the Chief dead in the eyes, a twinkle appearing in them for the first time since she arrived at the cabin.

“Most deffinatly”

--- 20 Minutes Later ----------

“The countryside is beautiful... I can see why you decided to settle way out here... By the way, where is your Wife? Does she live in Zootopia with you?” Niki hung her arm out of the passenger window, letting the air flow up the sleeve of her loose fitting jacket.

“She...” Martin focused on the road, sticking to the speed limit of 45 on the open stretch of road. “... She died a few years back...”

Niki pulled her arm back in the window and looked up to the Lion, a little taken back by his answer. “Ah geez, Sorry Chief... I didn’t mean to sound so insensitive”

“It’s okay... you weren’t to know” he smiled back at her, unfazed by the question. It had been 3 years since her passing, leaving hom alone to look after Alex and Bixby... but at times it felt more like they were looking after him. For a few months after the funeral the Chief wasn’t himself, locking himself in his study for hours, sometimes days at a time. It was Bixby who finally broke through to him, feigning an illness to persuade him to come to the Hare’s aid. A cheap trick but ultimately it snapped him out of his personal pit of dispair and showed him what he still had left to fight for, his boys. “... Cancer can be a real bitch some times. But shes in a better place now, somewhere that nobody can hurt her”

Niki looked out again at the countryside, the Chief’s words resonating with her aswell. “I feel ya...”

“Heyyyy cheer up! Wouldn’t want your little one see you cry now would you? You have a name picked out yet?”

“Michael if its a boy, Emma for a girl” Niki said with glee, continuing to scan the horizon but with a hearty smile on her face.

“Beautiful names, classic and easy to remember” Martin checked his mirrors and then his guages as he signalled to turn left just up ahead, onto a small double lane road that ran adjacent to the highway. The lion favoured these roads as most of the time they were quiet, barely any traffic visited them so in theory he could plant his foot a little more. Much to Niki’s delight.

The Jackal smiled as the car grunted into life, gears changing flawlessly and the stainless exhaust giving out one hell of a note. The engine vibrating through the car sent chills up the Canine’s spine, itching at the chance to take the classic out for a spin on the way home...

Home... the thought had only just crossed her mind. She had been living there for only a few days with permission from Rockford, but this was the first she had refered to the cabin as home. It felt... kinda nice.

“You okay?” Martin asked, noting her blank expression as she thought about the prospect of a home.

“Huh? Oh... yeah, sorry, I was miles away” she bit her tongue with the cutest ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ expression.

“Sorry, just seemed like you had spaced out a little there... something on your mind dear?”

“Oh no its just... something silly...”

“Do tell, I love silly” The Chief probed, curious about getting to know the Jackal a little better before he was called back to the Big City once more.

“Its just... iv’e never really had a proper home before... not one that I remember all that well anyway. Feels nice to... to have an address... see told you it was silly” Niki replied, rather bashful and shy at first but as the car’s mighty V8 roared, she became more willing to open up.

“That isn’t silly at all. You have every right to live the life you want, and let nobody tell you otherwise... deal?....Nikola?”

Niki hadn’t heard anything that the Lion had just said. Her mind was elsewhere, but this time it was a little closer than just a ‘home’. “Chief pull over...” she muttered as her eyes were fixed to the side of the road just off the tarmac in the distance.

“What?” Martin sounded confused as he let off the accelerator and pressed gently on the brakes, checking his mirrors as he did.

“STOP!...stopstopstop!!...” Niki shouted back at the Lion as she hung out of the window, craning her neck as the pair drove past the point of interest in the road.

“Niki what is it?” Rockford slowed the car to a halt about 80 feet away from the disturbance in the grass and dirt.

Niki wasted no time in undoing her safety belt and unlocking her side, throwing open the door and hopping out of the mustang. The Jackal tripped and fell, scraping her knees as she did but swiftly and urgently she rose back up and continued sprinting towards what she had seen, hoping her eyes were playing tricks on her...

They weren’t...

“MARTIN CALL AN AMBULANCE! NOW!” Niki shouted back at the Chief as she came to a skidding stop right next to a mess of bed fabric with a few bloody stains on the outside, partially buried in the dirt. Using her powerful canine claws she dug around the buried section and carefully excavated the dirt to the surface, throwing it to one side.

Martin arrived, panting as he too came to a sudden skidded stop and kneeled down to the Jackal. “What is it? What have you fo-...oh god... “The Chief immediately clambered back to his feet and ran as fast as his body would allow as such an advanced age.

He reached his car and opened the glove compartment, retrieving a small radio off a charger and setting it to the bandwidth for the BBPD. “Operator, connect me to the paramedics urgently, this is Chief Rockford of the ZPD, Fifth Precinct, serial number 231293... please send immediately to Dixons Road, mile marker uh...” the Lion pivoted his head up and down the stretch of road for a marker, just about finding one in the distance. “Mile marker 2.2... please hurry”

“This is dispatch, an ambulance is on its way to your location, remain on scene” a female voice spoke softly and calm over the radio in response with a hint of urgency.

Niki continued removing dirt from the shallow ditch and gently pulling on the blankets to pry them from the earth. Finally the sheets came loose as she used all her strength to drag the fabric to the surface. A paw fall out from between the sheets, bloody with matted fur and dried dirt. “CHIEF!”
Rockford rushed back over to the Jackal and helped pull the remaining sheets onto the softer grass. 

“Quick, get it away from their face!” Martin said as he frantically but very carefully used his razor sharp claws to cut apart the fabric around what appeared to be the victims face. In just a few seconds the Chief cut enough away to reveal the face of a young Vixen, beaten bloody with deep slashes across her face and some pretty extensive swelling around her eyes.

Martin checked her pulse and held a paw up to her nose. To his astonishment, there was slight signs of life! She was breathing if but barely and a faint pulse could be felt but time was still critical.

Niki tried her best but it was all too much for her. Despite the gruesome things she had seen in the employment of War, this ranked amongst the most troubling and violent display of... Torture...

At the thought of torture, Nikola remembered one mammal in particular that derived great pleasure in inflicting the maximum amount of pain while keeping his victims alive and alert. One mammal that she knew was in the area keeping an eye on Ghost’s family... One mammal that liked to... Niki unwrapped the sheets that bound the Canine’s legs and pulled the fabric back enough to see 2 small holes about an inch above her kneecaps that appeared to have some burnt flesh around the edges of the wounds.

“Abernine...” Niki whispered to herself as she backed off from the Vixen and stood by the roadside.

“Hmm? Did you say something Niki?” Rockford asked as he overheard the Jackal mutter something to herself but didn’t quite catch what was spoken.

“N-no nothing sir...”

“Okay... go to the car and get the medical bag from the trunk if you would be so kind”

With that, Niki rushed back to the Mustang and retrieved the bag using the pull tag while grabbing a small rolled up blanket before running back over to the Lion.

“Thank you dear... ohh that’ll do nicely” Rockford patted her in the head before gently lifting the Vixens head and sliding the rolled up blanket under he neck to support her head. “We don’t know what injuries she has so don’t remove any more of the binding just yet, just in case they are preventing her from bleeding out”

Niki nodded in agreement as she opened the medical bag and slipped on a pair of latex gloves, her paws shaking noticeably at the thought of what Abernine had done...

“Niki...” Martin noticed that she was visibly shaken at the sight of the Vixen and decided that the best course of action was to remove her from the situation. “My dear, please stand by the road and flag down the ambulance, I can take it from here” he said as he took hold of her paw and squeezed gently to calm her nerves.

The Jackal smiled up at the Lion, she knew that he wanted to help the best he could so she took him up on his offer without protest. “Yes sir, thank you...”

The ambulance took another 8 minutes to arrive. The medics, an Antelope and a Boar emerged from the cab and immediately got to work stabilizing the Vixen and loading her gently onto a stretcher. The Boar tried to hook her up to a heart rate monitor using her finger as the source, but to his horror each and every finger was broken and twisted in unnatural positions, forcing him to find an alternative, using a spot on her inner thigh that allowed the femoral artery to be read.

Niki was sitting quietly in the passenger seat of the Mustang, using a wet wipe to clean a few drops of blood off Alex’s jacket with little success. She was trying to hold a strong presence but images of the unknown Fox were circulating in her mind. The iron smell of her blood, the feel of her matted fur between her fingers and most worryingly... the marks on her knees that spoke volumes about her attacker... it couldn’t just be a coincidence.

“Nikola, you okay?” Martin leaned in the driver side window and spoke perhaps a little too loud, the adrenaline still flowing through him, startling the Jackal in the process.

“Ah..uh... yeah... sorry sir...”

“What is there to be sorry for?” Martin moved around the front of the car and kneeled down beside the passenger door, eye level with the canine in the seat.

“Nothing I guess, its just... a feeling” Niki looked down at her feet, fearing to make eye contact with the Chief in case she said too much about the Wolf. She didn’t want the elderly Lion to worry about a possible assassin on his doorstep... or what that could mean for herself.

“A feeling? Like... fear? Did you know the Vixen or something?”

“No, I didn’t... I just... wasn’t expecting to see this kinda violence way out here in the country” she half lied. True she wasn’t expecting to find one of Abernine’s victims in the middle of nowhere, but she did know that the psychopath was lurking somewhere in the Burrow thanks to War’s token Bunny.

“You would be surprised at the acts certain mammals can do when provoked... It would honestly shock you but...” the Chief changed the subject, trying to add a little happiness and thought of the future to this horrible situation. “... How about you drive the rest of the way” he said as he unrolled a set of car keys from his massive paw and held them in front of the Jackals face.

Niki looked up in surprise, he eyes strangly attracted to how the keys shone in the sunlight, or perhaps it was just that they were the keys to one of the most beautifully restored classics she had seen. Without hesitation she grabbed the keys and carefully shimmied over onto the driver seat, giving Martin room to adjust the seat and climb in as the car roared into life.

Niki adjusted her own seat a little and fixed the mirrors to suit her height. As she moved the driver side door mirror she caught a glimpse of the vixen being loaded into the back of the ambulance, a sight she had hoped not to see.

The Chief noticed her looking and took hold of her paw, placing it onto the steering wheel. “It’s okay kiddo, the police will want to speak with us later, to give our statements and such... but until then, what do you say we find you a new jacket? My treat”

Niki looked back to the Lion. “Seriously? Thank you!” she smiled as she put her belt on and put the beast into gear.

Before the duo left the scene, both of them inadvertently took a glance back towards the ambulance as the doors closed and the paramedics climbed into the cab.

“She will survive... all thanks to you kiddo, good job” the Chief smiled at the canine, as the vehicle took off from the lay by and picked up speed towards the town.

--- 7:12pm, August 3rd, TF-Howlett, Zootopia ----------

Team Howlett had safely and discreetly made it back into the City to avoid any unwanted attention. 

Mira and Jas had requested to be dropped off in downtown as they both had a few friends in the area that had previously migrated to the bustling city from the Burrow. They had called ahead and got accommodation all sorted out for themselves. Howlett protested, stating that the girls were more than welcome to stay with them temporarily until they found jobs but the sisters insisted they wanted to make it on their own, much like their brother had done for himself. Something that made Bixby feel warm inside. His sisters admired his determination and perseverance and wanted to emulate it themselves and prove that they could make it on their own.

Howlett admired their courage and determination, honouring their request and letting them out in the downtown area after exchanging contact information and goodbyes, at least just for now.

Afterwards the team immediately headed towards their new apartment, deciding unanimously to stop for food after they get set up in their new rooms.

“Apparently this place has been ready for a few days already. The Chief allowed Atreyu to move in ahead of us to get the place ready. Ha, he even let the Cheetah on the front desk help, what’s his name... Ben?” Howlett pressed the button to call an elevator as the rest of the team stood by with a few bags of clothes, whatever could be salvaged from their previous apartment after the explosion.

“Benjamin Clawhauser, he’s actually a really nice fella” Lucy spoke on behalf of the Cheetah. She dragged behind her a suitcase filled with smoke damaged clothes from all team members in hopes that they could be salvaged in some way.

“Still rather Ironic that the fastest mammal on the planet can get to the size he is... I’m not saying theres anything wrong with his weight but... you have to see the funny side of it right?” Bixby chimed in as he too brought 2 smaller cases along with him.

“Oh hun, if you were stuck behind a desk all day, eating to pass the time and unable to get exercise from chasing bad guys... you would plump up nicely as well” Tristan followed his mate into the building and stood next to the elevator before removing his glasses and cleaning them with a micro fibre cloth he kept in his back pocket.

“I meant no harm by it, I was just saying!” Bix defended as his sensitive ears picked up on the mechanical brakes of the elevator as it approached the ground floor.

The door to the elevator pinged open and the Hare was the first to make a b-line for the door, his path blocked by the Lynx as she pushed her case in front of him. “Oof..” 

“Ladies first” Lucy smiled back at him as she proceeded into the elevator and parked her large case towards the back.

“hmpf... I see no ladies here” Bixby stuck his tongue out at his partner as she scrunched her face into an unusual expression to lighten the mood.

“Oh come on you two... do I have to get Bogo involved with these childish games you play?” Howlett was the next to step onto the elevator, his metal leg making a pronounced thud on the hollow floor below. “Besides...” Jay gently bumped Bixby out of the way. “... Age before beauty”

Tristan was next to enter the elevator as Bixby was still getting his bearings, following closely behind his mate. “Cheap shot Detective...”

“No... this is a cheap shot... watch...” Jay pressed the button for the 10th floor and the metal doors slowly began to close, a voice came onto a small set of speakers. “Doors Closing”

“WAAAAITTT!” Alex ran as fast as his legs could carry him towards the doors, just in time to see the Wolf smiling through a small gap as he shouted “TENTH FLOOR, SLOWPOKE”

The doors closed just as the Coy reached them, kicking the bottom in frustration. “Dammit...” he muttered to himself as he looked around for the stairs. Through a small doors he found the emergency staircase that snaked its way around the elevator shaft, reaching all the way to the 12th floor and roof access. He pushed open the assisted door and peered up the hundreds of steps that he was about to ascend. 

“Aww...”

On the tenth floor, the metallic doors flew open and the officers emerged followed by Tristan who took it upon himself to relieve Lucy of her heavy burden.

The gang followed Howlett down the red carpeted corridor to room number 1010. The Wolf Hybrid couldn’t contain his excitement but tried anyway, he had not told the team about Arti’s pregnancy just yet as they wanted it to be a surprise for when they got the keys to the apartment.

Lucy seen right through this however, she immediately noticed the detectives impatience. Why else wouldn’t he wait for a member of his own team to board the elevator.

“Shouldn’t we wait for Alex?” Tristan voiced his opinion which fell on deaf ears as the other mammals eyes up the freshly painted, brilliant white door frame with brass lever handle. 

Howlett stepped forward, unable to wait any longer. He placed his paw on the handle and pressed gently as the door clicked open and swung on a lightly assisted hinge. Each member looked into the apartment in awe, a shine in their eye as if it were Christmas morning.

They each took turns walking across the threshold of their new accommodation, the Detective leading the way of course.

Back towards the elevator, Alex had finally managed to ascend the staircase, dragging his large suitcase behind himself. “Ugh damn those guys...” he moaned as he pushed open the fire door to the floor and wheeled his case out in front of him. “1010... 1010...ah that one!” Alex made his way down the red carpet corridor towards the apartment, the door still ajar from its previous visitors. He checked the address to make sure it was correct and gently pushed the door open enough to get his case inside.

Upon entering the room he was immediately hit but an almost overwhelming scent of fresh paint and wood cuttings. Something that unfortunately he would have to get used to for now. Otherwise the Coyote was star struck with the beauty of the interior as he stood with his mouth hanging open and eyes shining in the sunlight of the late evening.

The front door opened into a massive open plan living room dining room combination with a moderate sized kitchen just off sight. The living area was partially furnished with arm chairs and 2 large couches angled towards a 40 inch LCD television mounted on an adjacent wall. Walls painted in a half and half fashion, light blue on the upper half and a brilliant white on the bottom. A large dinning table took up the majority of the room by the wall to wall window overlooking the cityscape of downtown Zootopia. The walls were bare at the moment but before long he suspected that Lucy and Ru would have the walls plastered with photos and inspirational quotes in frames. 

The bedrooms were huge, much bigger than the ones back in the temporary apartment before the explosion. Each room had a built in wardrobe and a large window with a view into the city. There were 4 bedroom altogether, provided some of the inhabitants were willing to share that is. Not like Alex was complaining... Each bedroom had a connection to one of the 2 bathrooms positioned on either side of the complex, effectively turning them into en suites. Just past the table in the dining room was a sliding door that lead out onto a spacious balcony, with room to comfortably accommodate each of the residents with room to spare.

“Holy crap...” Alex let slip from his gaping mouth, which was quickly followed up by his partner.

“You can say that again!... this place is huge... and we have it all to ourselves” Lucy popped her head around the corner from the kitchen area as she was inspecting the cupboards. She was impressed with the workers attention to detail. “This kitchen reminds me of the one my Mom had... this place is so cool! Ohh and wait till you see the bedrooms!”

Bixby and Tristan had already laid claim to the bedroom on the right side at the end of the hallway. Lucy was hoping to take the room right next door... with Alex’s permission of course.

“So uh... there are 4 bedrooms to this place and uh... well if you do the math and... uh...” Lucy tried to explain her situation to the Coy, who had broken out of his daze at this point.

“And uh... You think there aren’t enough rooms for the team members huh? And that perhaps some of the team should sleep in the same room huh... the same bed perhaps...” Alex gave a typical canine grin towards the feline, noting the subtle hint of pink that the exposed skin on her ears was turning and taking some pleasure in the fluster she always seems to put herself into.
But Lucy decided it was time to turn the tables on the over confidant Canine.

“Well... if we do share a room then there wont be any privacy... you are okay with this right? I mean my underwear will be on show for whom ever might be in here at the time... and when I’m finished with the shower I usually get changed in the bedroom...”

Alex lost his collected composure almost immediately at the thought of Lucy strutting around in not but her fur. He eyed the Lynx up and down, imagining her in this situation just fresh from a shower and wondering where her clothes had gone.

“Yo loverboy... eyes up here” Lucy giggled to herself as she extended the travel handle on her suitcase and began leading it towards the bedroom.

“T-that was not funny!” Alex too did the same, taking his luggage with him into the room adjacent.

---

“What the hell do you mean work late tonight?!... but I...well yeah I su... now?” Tristan looked over to his mate as he lay in bed watching the phone conversation with his boss unfold. “I understand...” He said as he hung up the phone with force, severely pissed off that the one night the Coyote was promised off had been taken from him.

“It’s okay dear... really” Bixby smiled back at his Canine lover, somewhat frazzled that Tristan’s boss wouldn’t allow him even one nights break but understanding that justice never really takes a break. His services were needed as the Hare was okay with that.

“It shouldn’t have to be just okay... I was promised this night for us...”

“Hey... don’t sweat it, there will be plenty of nights where I am required to stay out late...” Bixby said as he rolled over onto his back on top of the new mattress and duvet set provided by the ZPD. “... just... picture this when you get bored”. Bixby lifted his shirt just a little to expose his fuzzy stomach and pulled on his pants, exposing his neon pink underwear ever so slightly. “And just remember I am thinking of you!”

“You make it really hard to actually concentrate on work sometimes...”

“Well while I’m alone you just make it really hard...” Bixby responded with a wink and a devil grin, inviting to the Canine.

Just as Bixby made his quip, a noise came from the hallway just outside the bedroom, clearly directed towards at the star struck lovers.

“Ahem...” 

This instantly got the attention of both mammals as Bixby hurriedly pulled up his pants and Tristan tried to hide his own excitement.

“If I may have your audience in the living area... I have an announcement to make” Howlett spoke up from the other side of the door before walking off, leaving the two confused and flustered.

Only a few minutes had passed and the entire team, Atreyu included had gathered on the sofas and armchairs in front if the open skyline of Zootopia.

Jack was the first to ask what the sudden urgency was about. “So... What’s up Jay? This seems highly irregular given your usually laid back attitude”

“Yes well this is something that...” The detective began as his eyes trained on his mate sitting with a huge smile plastered across her face. “...Something that I feel you all should know... something that I just found out a short time ago in fact... Something that both myself and Atreyu have wanted for a very long time...”

Bixby was the first to catch on. It didn’t take long for his unique mind to come to the conclusion. Jay’s tell was both his eye contact with his wife and a conversation he and Alex had on their first meeting, about how him and his mate had been trying for a cub. It was easy really, but he was the only one to figure it out.

“...Ru? Would you like to give our friends the news?” the hybrid said as he walked over to the Lynx and crouched down in front of her with a tear in his eye. He outstretched his paw and took hold of her own before carefully placing a gentle kiss on the back of her paw.

“Heh...” Atreyu poured over the confused and worried looks on each of their faces, with the exception of the over excitable Hare smiling back at her. “We... We are pregnant!”

The group let out a collective gasp, a mixture of disbelief and excitement.

“Oh...my...GOSH!” Lucy broke the silence first as she jumped from the couch beside Alex and immediatly went to the feline, embracing her in a tight but gentle hug. “That is amazing! Awww you two will be amazing parents!”

“Congratulations Detective!” Jack jumped up onto the arm rest of the couch and extended his paw to Jay, who in turn shook it.

“Thank you Savage” he smiled back all the while maintaining a hold on Arti’s paw, not wanting to let her go, not yet.

Alex, Tristan and Bixby each took turns in congratulating and embracing the new parents. The next little while consisted of the group exchanging information about kids that they each believed that Atreyu needed, not knowing that the Lynx knew exactly what to do, given that she works in a hospital. Tristan was the first asking about names, if either of them had decided upon any or if they were gonna keep it a secret. Much to his delight, Arti announced that if it is a girl, she would be called Lilian, or Lily for short, after Jensen’s mother. If it’s a boy, then Dean. Lily or Dean Howlett.

“Have you told anyone else?” Tristan asked next, curious if perhaps Bogo was aware just yet of the impending situation.

“Nope, just you guys... its the way we want to keep it for a while... at least until we know the baby is healthy and we are better prepared” Atreyu responded, gently rubbing her belly, an ever so slight bump already forming due to an advanced development period.

“Probably best if you guys keep it on the down low just for now... its not that I don’t trust any of you but... if our enemies catch wind of this then she’s a walking target... yaknow... there’s a mole somewhere in the ZPD... after the fountain incident..."

“What fountain incident....” Atreyu picked up on her mates words sharply, still under the impression that the attack a few days ago had nothing to do with his team.

“Uh....”

“I think the word you are looking for is ‘Oh Bollocks” Jack smiled over at the Detective with a hint of joy in his words, joy that the over confident officer was in a fluster.

“Oh shut up Jack...” Howlett smirked back.

--- 11:34pm, August 3rd, Zootopia Docks ----------

The night was calm, just like the night the infamous assassin Charon visited Mrs Big in her mansion. No wind, no rain, barely a cloud in the sky. His mission started on a night just like this, it was only fitting that it should end on such a beautiful night.

The master killer sprinted from rooftop to rooftop, navigating the city like a gentle breeze through a meadow. The mammals athletic ability rivalled only his ability to kill, his resilience to injury and his heightened strength obtained from years of hardcore physical training.

Charon had been doing his research on his target, Reese Rigby, better known in the underworld simply as ‘The Mask’. Rigby was a Raccoon, approximately 35 years old and was under investigation by the ZPD a number of times, nothing sticking with any kind of success unfortunately. Unbeknownst to the police, Rigby was responsible for the deaths or disappearances of roughly 80 individuals in the past 10 years. But again, the ZPD couldn’t link him with any of the bodies anything more than suspicion. Charon knew better than that however.

Charon knew The Mask, not personally, but he knew how he operated, how he conducts business. The assassin also knew which kind of mammals the Raccoon like to target. Rigby was also heavily into mammal trafficking, abducting children as they slept to be sold off to the highest bidder... once or twice that bidder may have been War... the knowledge that the Rhino was involved even loosely put Charon on edge. He knew that another encounter with War might not go his way. Not without Howlett and his team anyway.

Charon leapt between buildings as if he could fly. The weight of his sword and gear barely making an impact on his stamina. Building after building, he made short work of them all until...

“There...” he said to himself as he skidded to a stop on the rooftop of a residential building in the outskirts of Zootopia Pier. Not far, in fact, from Team Howlett’s first case and their first meeting between them and Officers Hopps and Wilde. “That’s the place... wonder if the bastard is home...”

Charon peered over the edge of the brickwork down into a smaller warehouse-like building used mostly for storage. The name Virgo-Tech was plastered on the walls and gate leading into the compound and a number of well armed mammals stalked the courtyard, wearing tactical gear and wielding full auto assault rifles.

“Huh... security might be a bitch...” he thought to himself as he continued to scope the place out. Charon focused mainly on ground floor points of entry, often stating that rooftop entry is the first place most intruders would be likely to try. Walking in the main entrance is something that the target wouldn’t expect from anyone less than an expert... such as himself.

“1...2... 3, 4, 5....7...9... 13... 13 patrolling outside... I dare say just as many inside...” Charon spoke out loud as his glowing LED eyes darted between the security personnel below, imagining various scenarios in which he would combat them, planning for the worst case scenario that an alarm is triggered. “Should be easy enough...” Charon slowly began to unsheath his blade from its holder on his back.

The blade was only half out of its holder when he spotted his target, surrounded by 3 security guards, exit through the main entrance and march towards the main gates. One of the guards reached into a small wooden booth and pressed a switch, opening the chain link fence. “What are you doing Rigby...”

No sooner had the fence been opened, a medium sized limo pulled up the same street, catching the assassin’s attention and halting his planned assault in its tracks. “Now who are you?...”

Charon watched on as the vehicle pulled up along side the courtyard and waited patiently a few more seconds for the electronic fence to part before the driver pulled sharp on the steering and effortlessly slid the long vehicle into the courtyard. As the limo came to a stop, the driver, a Ram dressed in his finest suit, tailored to perfection, stepped out of the front and rushed around to the passenger rear door. He opened it as 2 of the three guards split from their protection detail and walks up alongside the vehicle like bouncers, checking their surroundings with their rifles ready for action.

The Ram opened the door and offered his paw to the passenger. A female Raccoon of similar age took hold of his paw and carefully stepped out, taking heed not to step on her custom made ruby dress and matching heels. Charon could make out their conversation relatively clearly from his vantage point high above.

“Thank you Doug” the female Raccoon spoke softly towards her driver, a familiar face in the underworld, having found himself a new job as a chauffer to stay under the ZPD radar for the past 2 years.

“My pleasure ma’am” Doug replied as he gently closed the door behind her and proceeded around the other side.

“Hello beautiful, are you ready to see the new products?” Reese took hold of her paw and gently kissed it before pulling her in close and placing a paw on her lower back.

“Ohh more than ready my love!” 

“Love?!...” Charon scoffed at the idea of this guy having a mate, and a little angry that this female appeared to be in on his criminal dealings with vetted interest. “Hmph... two for one I gues-...” he was cut off as Doug opened the door on the opposite side of the vehicle.

As the door swung open, 2 kids jumped out of the seats. Both Raccoons with similar markings to each other and Reese. They appeared to be only about 6 to 8 years old and very excitable. 

“Ohhh! My little munchkins!” Reese broke his grip on his mate and knelt down with open arms ready for the little ones to run into his arms. He didn’t have to wait long.

“DAAAD!” both screamed in unison as they tackled Rigby to the ground, much to his security teams amusement. A few chuckles could be heard through the hired guns, which actually helped Charon by informing him that the security were undisciplined and therefore more liable to make mistakes.

Rigby pulled the both of them into a tight cuddle while still on the ground. “Haha... did you two have a nice day in school? Learn anything new?”

One of them, the older brother wearing a Meadowlands Primary uniform and a baseball cap, spoke up first. “We learned fractions today!”

The second younger brother spoke next, immediately after his brother. “They were hard... I can’t understand them real well...”

“Aww it’s okay, you’ll get it! Hey... how about we get some ice cream and ill teach you a fun way to figure out fractions, how does that sound?” Rigby sat up, still in the dirt, and brought the younger one over and began to tickle his stomach.

“Hehe... I like ice cream... but not fractions!”

“Ha oh don’t worry, its simple, you will get the hang of it no problem, both of you, I’m so proud of you two!”

Both siblings wrapped their arms around their dad, their mother watching on smiling. “Okay you two, time to get off your dad, he has work to do!”

“Dammit... “ Charon sighed as he sheathed his sword and clipped it into place. “Looks like you get a stay of execution for now... but they wont be around all the time...” he said as he stood up from his crouched position and peered back down into the courtyard, his red eyes piercing through the dark.

Rigby felt a cold chill up his spine, as if someone were watching him. He broke his embrace with his kids and took a quick look around, particularly scanning the rooftops for any hidden stalker, and rightly so... but could find nothing. Charon was long gone.

--- 1pm, August 4th, ZPD Precinct 1 ----------

“This is “The Mask”. Very little is known about him other than he is as elusive as the Ghost. This miserable excuse of a mammal kitnaps the young, primarily predators, and sells them on the black market overseas. Most will never be heard from again... other will turn up dead in a ditch somewhere if there of no value...” Bogo assembled TF- Howlett the following morning for a special briefing that he thought that Howlett and his team would be best suited to handle. 

Lucy and Alex were the first to arrive, eager not to get on the Chief’s bad side. Bixby, Jack and Jay arrived shortly after with fresh coffee, choosing to appease the Buffalo rather than ask forgiveness for something they haven’t done yet. All members sat around the Chief’s desk, Howlett in the middle taking notes while Bixby booted up his custom tablet PC.

“No value... that’s disgusting...” Lucy muttered under her breath, unfortunately loud enough for Bogo to hear.

“Indeed Benson... now Officer Grizzoli has uncovered credible intel that this mammal has once again entered the City limits. I’m tasking you with uncovering this mammals identity and tracking him down”

“And what exactly do we have to go on sir? A codename isn’t exactly a lot to crack this case...” Alex questioned the Chief. He was right in doing so, the Mask had left little to no physical evidence at any of the abduction sites or... disposal sites...

“I am afraid that is all we know...” Bogo spoke up as he moved his attention to the Hare sitting off to one side engrossed in his tablet. “Officer Bixby? Would you like to join us?”

Bixby’s nose twitched at his name as he lifted his head from the tablet screen. “Huh...oh sorry sir I was working on something...”

“Well? Would you like to share with the rest of the class?” Bogo rolled his eyes as he motioned his paw towards the rest of the team.

“Its uh... an algorithm I’ve been working on... since the bank robbery. It allows me to add multiple fields into a search such as entry into the city, crime timelines, known associates and so on... I was hoping that on this case I might be able to finally give it a whirl... i-if that’s okay with you, Sir...” 

Bogo placed his paws over his eyes and rubbed them. “I wish you would stop playing about on that tablet and start acting like a junior detective of the ZPD... fine... I will allow it this once but if you find no res-....” The buffalo was cut off mid sentence as Bixby’s tablet pinged into life.

“That was fast... I used the time and location of abductions and body disposals and cross referenced them with arrivals into the city using facial recognition tech from the traffic cams” Bixby was undoubtedly elated that his program had worked... if only it hadn’t had a few drawbacks...

“And how exactly did you get access to the traffic camera feeds? They are secured in the city hall...” Bogo snapped back at the Hare, who had just realised his mistake and put on the charm offensive to try and combat it.

“Uhhh sir? Permission to use the private feeds from the traffic cameras around the city to plug into my program?” He gave the Chief the cheesiest Lapin smile he could muster.

Bogo sighed once more, knowing full well his officers would have done it anyway. “Permission granted...”

“There are three results... Anatoli Belkernoski, 32, visited the city during 3 out of 4 of the crimes... Reese Rigby, 35, investigated 3 times for abduction with no convictions, in the city during 3 out of 4 of the crimes... and Andrew Snarlov, no relation heh... convicted of Possessing indecent images of minors and 1 count of kitnapping, served 6 years for it, visited the city 2 out of 4 of the crimes...”

“So its settled, we stake each of the targets out, Lucy I want you and Jack to take Anatoli... Bix, you and Alex sit on Rigby...and I will take Snarlov”

“What alone?...” Jack voiced his concern at Howlett taking a suspect on his own.

“Yes “Agent”... think I can handle one suspect if the need arises” Jay felt smug at his own reply, putting Jack down even in jest was a favourite of his.

“Okay, okay, Howlett have your team ready to engage the target if needed, vehicles will be provided to you by the precinct motor pool... and watch out for one another... last thing this department needs is another dead cop!” Bogo gave his orders and motioned the team towards the door of his office.

TF Howlett truly believed this stake out would be an easy bust for one of the three suspects, little did they know that this night would change their lives forever, especially for young Bixby O’Hare.