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Watching as the remaining Tirgis brothers drove off in their SUV to rescue their brother, Nick Wilde couldn't help but sigh softly. Things were becoming more and more complicated, he knew they would; it would be impossible for them not to. But still… he'd hoped for a certain level of ease with his plan. He'd had 10 years to think it up, to account for every possible counter and contingency TAME or the city might throw at him. That was one thing he'd always been good at, planning, preparing for what others would do and figuring out ways to get around them. Now thou-

"Is everything alright deary?" 

The sound of a familiar voice made him blink, pulling him from his thoughts as he turned to see a familiar late aged female badger looking at him with a sweet expression. Turning to face her he nodded. "Yes Honey, I'm fine."

The sweet smile didn't leave Honey's face as she continued to look him up and down. "Are you sure? Forgive me for saying it, but you look rather… forlorn…" as she spoke honey reached out to grip his paw in a tender almost loving touch. "Come come, I'll make you some nice tea. That will help sooth you and we can talk about anything you want, anything at all."

For a moment he considered turning her down, there were other things he should be doing at the moment. He needed to make sure the next batch of collars were ready. He needed to check up on the teams that were awaiting instructions in the city, he needed to-

"Come along dear, I promise you'll feel better after a nice cup of tea."

Sighing to himself Nick allowed her tugging to win, guiding him from the large open room of the warehouse and through a set of slightly rusted metal doors into what his little group had fashioned into a makeshift lab and workshop for Honey and Marcus to work. As he stepped through the doors Nick paused to look around. When they'd first setup the room it had been dominated by a large stack of boxes and crates against the far wall, each of them stuffed full of components and parts that they'd gotten from the blackmarkets. Now though most of the crates were gone, a sign that they needed to acquire more parts if they were going to continue with their plans. Several workbenches and stations had been setup, some for specific purposes like soldering metal or wiring components together while others were simply covered in parts and pieces of TAME collars. The entire area was clean, at least compared to the rest of the hideout; something Marcus Dawson had been almost fanatacal about to ensure none of the more sensitive pieces of their collars became damaged or contaminated in any way.

"Ignore the mess deary." Honey a voice again pulled him from his thoughts, making him turn and watch as the elderly badger carefully maneuvered her way through the lab and workshop. Under her breath Nick heard her mutter. "Darn that fiance of mine, always leaving his doodads and gizmos lying about. Even after I asked him to pick them up." Those words made his heart clench, as they reminded him of Honey's delicate mental state. Sometimes it was hard to believe that others had suffered and lost as much as he had because of TAME's agenda and yet Honey was just one of many such mammals that the city swept aside and conveniently ignored or labeled as crazy. Nevermind that she was a genius, with a once in a lifetime mind that could do so much good were she just given the chance. She'd been born a badger and therefore she'd been labeled a predator and tossed aside or ignored by the very programs and groups that might have helped her reach her full potential; all because of her species. And yet time and time again Nick had seen the elderly badger prove she was easily one of if not the smartest mind in the city. "Have a seat dear, I'll have that tea ready in a moment."

Biting his lip, Nick instead remained silent, moving towards Her before sitting in an old metal backed chair that looked like it had been pulled from another part of the hideout. In front of him he watched as Honey busied herself with a battered, dented and rusty kettle; using an equally derelict hot plate to warm up the water inside before pouring it into a set of mismatched metal tin metal cups. As steam rose from the cups Honey bent down, rummaging through the cupboards around her legs for the tags of tea which she quickly dropped into the steaming cups before-

It happened when she turned around, her body freezing as she found him sitting there the oft loving smile on her face faltering for a moment before returning but with a sadness to it. "Oh… hello nick. I… uh… I..."

He smiled sadly back at her, nodding in response to her unspoken words. "Hello Honey. It's nice to see you again."

The elderly badger didn't respond right away, instead her eyes darted and flickered around the lab as if looking for something or someone. After several moments she sighed softly, her shoulders slumping as she did so. "I… I suppose… this tea is for you?"

He nodded in response. "It is. You were rather insistent that I have some with you."

Honey nodded, smiling sheepishly as she did so. "S-sorry. I… I thought… I mean..."

He spoke over her, holding out his hand to take one of the hot cups of tea from her. "It's ok Honey. I know. I'm... Sorry I'm not him."

An awkward silence fell between them as he brought the cup of tea to his lips; sipping it softly before closing his eyes as the faint tastes of lemon, orange and jinsang filled his mouth. Across from him he watched as Honey brought the cup to her lips but didn't drink, her eyes instead focused on the dark colored liquid. "He… " her voice was soft and sad, a tone he knew all too well. "He loved tea." 

He nodded, taking another sip, "I'm sure he did."

Honey gently held the tin cup in her paws, slowly spinning it and running her fingers along the dented and dinged metal side. "He would have liked you." She spoke softly her eyes flickering up to glance at him for a moment. "Well… he did… like you, back then… you know?" He nodded slowly. He knew what she meant. "We used to listen to that ballad you sang, the one you helped write."

Again he nodded, taking a sip of tea to help soothe his throat which had suddenly become tight and dry, finally managing to choke out, "Blow us all away."

Honey nodded, again chancing a glance up at him "Y-yeah. W-we… we used to dance to it and… we used to imagine…"

Honey's voice trailed off as tears began to well up in her eyes. Taking another sip of tea Nick sighed. He knew the song Honey was talking about. It had been one of his first publicly released songs, and by far one of his most popular songs amongst predators. It had been a favorite of his too, written at a time in his life when he'd still had hopes and dreams that maybe the world would change on its-

Across from him reached up, wiping her tears on the back of her paws. Taking a deep breath he spoke softly, he tone calm and soothing. "It's ok Honey. It's ok to go back. Let go, drift back." As he spoke he leaned forward, holding the cup of tea gingerly between his fingers. "Drift back Honey. He's waiting for you there. Go back and see him Honey."

In front of him he watched as honey shuddered, a violent shaking overtaking her body so harshly that the cup of tea she held fell from her paws and banged loudly as it clattered to the floor. Citrus scented liquid spilled everything, running in small trickles and streams across the floor. The shaking lasted another minute or so, coming to an end after several moments. For a few seconds there was silence between them before-

"Oh dear, clumsy me." Honey's tone had returned to it's previous inflection, a bright, cheerful tone that made her sound as if she were someone's doting grandma. Even as he sat there watching her Honey stood up, quickly hurrying to a cupboard before producing a rag cloth which she quickly used to soak up the spilled tea. "Ug. I'm such a butter fingers, I dropped the frying pan the other day too."

Biting his lip, Nick remained silent but moved; slowly getting to knees before reaching out to take the rag from her. "It's ok. Let me."

She looked at him, her gaze unsure and slightly confused. "I'm… I'm sorry… who… who are you?"

Holding the wet rag in his paw Nick inhaled slowly, pushing away the feelings of guilt and shame that welled up in his gut. "I'm a friend of Gregory's from work. He asked me to come keep you company since… he has to work late tonight."

Slowly honey blinked at him, her eyes looking him up and down before-

"Awwww, that's so sweet of him. What a swell guy, to worry about me while he's stuck at work. That's so like him, I'll have to thank him when he comes home. I know I'll make his favorite-"

Biting his lip Nick nodded, doing his best to conceal the storm of emotions raging inside him. It was wrong what he was doing. It was wrong of him to lie to honey, to let her think that there was still a chance that her fiance would come home like he always had. It was wrong of him to lie and use her knowledge of TAME tech like he was doing, to keep her in a fantasy world that could implode at any moment and bring with it the soul crushing realization that things had changed and nothing was going to go back to how it had been. And yet… without her, without the knowledge her brain contained… his plan would fail. And then truly nothing would change. And so he forced himself to stay, to make conversation and play pretend with the elderly addled badger. He told her made up stories about work, about how their manager was a bitch and breathing down their neck to get their work done. About how the pay was lousy and the work was tedious and hard. About how much her fiance talked about her and about how he was a lucky mammal to have found her.

For her part Honey beamed and smiled, playing the part of the doting loving housewife without flaw. Which in some ways made what he was saying and doing that much harder. He'd known her for years, they'd actually grown up together. Back then the badger had been three years older than him but lived less than a block away from the small apartment Nick and his mom had called home. He could recall playing in the streets with her, splashing in puddles after it rained, sharing a seemingly endless supply of choco-pawcicle together during the hot summers. She'd been his best friend, actually his only friend. The night his father had been arrested and dragged away… he'd run to her and her family for help, not understanding that the sight of TAME security forces filled everyone with fear and not just him.

He'd fallen out of touch with the badger after that, angry and bitter at something he hadn't understood wasn't her or her family's fault. And while he'd been gone she'd continued on, making a life for herself. She'd gone to school, one of the few predators to do so, she'd worked dozens of side and under the table jobs all while going to the local predator college to study mechanical and electrical engineering. And while doing so she'd met a mammal one who shared her passion for such things. The two had fallen madly in love and soon enough were engaged. It had been about that time that he'd seen the announcement on a predator website and remembered the laughing and smiling badger he'd grown up with. He'd reached out to her, so nervous and afraid to talk to her after so many years that his collar had beeped threateningly at him several times as he'd listened to the phone ring and ring and ring. They'd talked for almost three hours, catching up and discussing everything that had happened to them. His fame had just started to grow around that time, so of course he'd offered to perform at her wedding, even agreed to do it for free because of their old friendship. But then… then everything had fallen apart, broken and smashed into a 1000 tiny pieces by TAME all because of an idea, some curiosity on honey's part and her fiance's kind heart and gentle nature. N-

The sound of approaching engines broke him from his thoughts, making his ears perk and flick in the direction of the deep rumbles. Setting the cup of tea he'd been sipping on, down on a small rickety card table. "I think I hear your fiance. Lemme go check." He was grateful for the excuse to leave, and didn't wait to for her respond; instead getting up and hurriedly leaving the makeshift lab. As he did so he tried to push down the lump of guilt and shame that had been growing in his throat and stomach, managing to do so just as the returning dark and dripping wet SUV came to a stop and shut off it's engine. For a few seconds he held his breath, unsure of what would happen when the doors opened, unsure if his plan had worked. Around the space others stopped, turning to watch as the doors of the SUV opened, followed a split second by several whoops and hollers that told him his plan had indeed worked, confirmed when four large tigers emerged from the vehicle, three of them talking loudly and clearly celebrating while the fourth…

The moment Anthony's eyes met his nick felt something ripple through him. Something had happened, the look of fear and shame in those eyes told him so. "What is it?"

The large Bengal tiger opened and closed his mouth wordlessly for a moment. Then-

"I'll tell you what happened!" Toni the youngest tiger's voice was loud and elated, early still riding the adrenaline of their mission. "We did just like you said, got up on top of the ZPD headquarters, tossed the cans of knockout gas in the AC and-

"Shut up Toni."

Ed's voice growled low and dangerous, making the youngest tiger fall silent almost immediately. Still his head turned to look at his oldest brother with confusion. "W-what? What's going on?"

Still Anthony's eyes were locked with Nick's, tears having formed in the corners of them. "I… they… I… I said… I said… your… name. When they… I'm sorry." Closing his eyes, Nick inhaled slowly. Allowing the news of what Anthony had said to wash over him even as the tiger keeps speaking, the words now tumbling out of his mouth. "I'm sorry. They were interrogating me and using this… this thing on me.  My collar triggered and was shocking me and… and…" 

Anthony fell silent as Nick opened his eyes open, shaking his head as the wheels inside started to spin and come up with a new plan. "It's done, stop apologizing." Raising his voice he spoke so everyone in the space could hear him. "The plan has changed. I no longer have the advantage of anonymity, which means our enemies will change their tactics."

Toni looked at him, clearly still confused. "How does knowing your name change anything? They still have no idea where we are or what our plans are."

He nodded. "That is true. But knowing my name gives the ZPD a thread to follow. TAME's influence is not so great that they can erase all references of me from the internet. If anyone stumbles onto those traces they'll be able to follow the trail and see what happened. And since TAME lied about what happened then any scrutiny scares them. As such, they'll stop being so aloof about things. They need to keep things hidden, if one lie is exposed then so are a thousand others and TAME can't survive that. We no longer have months to carry out our plans. We have days… maybe a few weeks at best. And while we do, TAME is going to make their own bold, even reckless steps to ensure they're in control and can squash the truth when it comes out."



-----*-----



Judy Hopps groaned softly, a sickly bitter and pungent smell reaching through the inky black Darkness that swirled around her, dragging her back to land of the living and conscious. Wrinkling her nose Judy moved automatically, her paw coming up to push away the smelling salts being waved under her nose which itched and tingled unpleasantly as a result. Opening her eyes she blinked several times, each time bringing the world into slightly sharper focus. She was on her back looking up at the ceiling. Above her a yellow and black blob slowly became Clawhauser as her vision cleared. "Judy," Clawhauser's voice was filled with relief. "You're awake."

Grumbling weakly she nodded, her paw going to the side of her head as a small lance of pain shot through her temple. "Y-y-yeah. W-what happened?" As she spoke she moved to sit up, feeling Clawhauser shift to help her as she did so. "The whole precinct got knocked out. Those psychos managed to dump a dozen or so canisters of their knockout gas into the HVAC system; it carried the stuff through the whole precinct."

Grumbling again Judy blinked again, slowly looking around. She wasn't in the interrogation room anymore, she'd been moved to what looked like a conference room along with several other smaller prey officers who were in various states of recovery. "W-what about-" another lance of pain rippled through her head making her wince and hiss softly. In front of her Clawhauser shook his he'd and moved to stop her from moving again.

"Hey hey, the medics said you need to-"

But she growled at him, her teeth grinding together in anger as more of the fog left her brain, making her thoughts sharper and clearer. "Where jack?" Her tone was short and cold.

Clawhauser blinked at her, clearly startled by the sudden change in her voice. "He… uh… he's in your office, he said-"

She didn't stick around to hear the rest, instead pushing her way past the large cheetah and getting to her feet. Her legs wobbled for a moment at first, her head swimming a bit as if she'd stood up to fast; but she pushed past it. Anger fueled her body, making her out one foot In front of the other as stormed from the room she'd been brought to. Her heart hammered in her chest as she matched, adrenaline making her skin itch and burn as her paws clenched into fists. Turning the corner in the hallway she found a dozen or so other officers lining the hallways, most of them in their own process of shaking off the effects of knockout gas. She ignored them, not responding even when a few officers called out to her. Walking to the end of the hallway she turned, her eyes focusing on the door to her office which she grabbed and yanked open as she drew closer.

Sure enough Jack Savage was right here Clawhauser had said he'd be. The grey and black striped rabbit was standing with his back to her, cellphone to his ear in mid conversation. Suppressing the urge to lunge at him she instead stalked forward, her paw going to the gun holstered in her belt. Drawing her weapon she stepped forward, pressing the barrel of the pistol against the back of jacks head making his break off mid word. At the same time she reached forward, grabbing his cellphone and snatching it away, ending the call he'd been on. "You bastard." Her voice shook with anger and rage, and for a moment she was tempted to pull the trigger and end the lying conniving TAME agent's life right then and there. "Turn around. Slowly."

She watched as he did as he'd been told, slowly turning around until they were looking at each other. Once they were eye to eye however, he spoke. "What do you think you're doing Hopps?"

Judy growled in response, tightening her grip on her weapon. "I knew you couldn't be trusted. I FUCKING KNEW IT! But I gave you a chance, I thought maybe just MAYBE there was some shred of decency in you."

Jack frowned at her, shaking his head. "What on earth are you talking abo-"

"I'M TALKING ABOUT WHAT YOU DID IN THAT INTERROGATION ROOM! I'M TALKING ABOUT HOW YOU PUT A GUN TO A SUSPECT'S HEAD AND THREATENED TO KILL HIM TO TRY AND SAVE YOUR OWN ASS!"

Again Jack frowned. "I don't see what the prob-"

"FUCK YOU!" Her voice echoed off the walls of her office, the rage almost palpable in her words. It had been a long time since she'd been this mad; and again the split second fleeting thought of pulling the trigger flashed through her mind. 

In front of her jack leaned back against her desk, his expression more annoyed than fearful. "Look hopps, you may not like it; but whatever is going on is bigger than you or me or the ZPD. There's a madman on the loose who's collaring prey! He's already hit three city districts and you guys are no closer to catching him than you were when he started. I get it, you want to do things by the book and follow the rules, but the rules don't apply to predators like this fox or that Tiger. They're too dangerous to be treated the same as other predator on the street. Believe me I'm showing as much restraint as I can. If I'd have had my way we would have had the answers in under a minute."

Judy's grip on her gun tightened. "And how many laws would you have broken? Unlawful detainment, manhandling a citizen, impersonating an officer, TORTURE!" She spat the last word as if it was laced with poison.

Again Jack's response was cold and calm, as if he was more bored with the situation than anything else. "I would have detained a person of interest to TAME. The ZPD seems to forget that TAME has the right to question anyone who we feel is a threat to the continued running of the TAME Network. And as for torture… there are ways of getting information from mammals that don't leave marks… usually." Jack's expression changed to a smirk. "But you already know that, don't you, Officer Hopps?" Her eyes widened slightly at that, and her iron grip on her gun loosened for a fraction of a second. ' Does he know about…' In front of her jack nodded almost casually. "Yeah Judy, I know. I know how you got the information that led to the arrest of the City Central Mauler."

A hard cold rock formed in the bit of her stomach, making her insides squirm and clench with a sickening feeling of guilt and revulsion. "H-how…"

Jack shrugged, his smirk turning into a smile. "I'm good at my job Judy. Did you really think my bosses would assign me to work with you without giving me access to your ZPD files and dossier? Before I met you I knew everything about you, at least all the important things anyways. TAME wanted me to work with you."

Her eyes narrowed a bit further. "And why is that?"

Jack smiled, on the outside a warm and friendly smile; but one that also made Judy's skin crawl. As if old Scratch himself were standing here smiling at her. "Because Judy, my bosses wanted me to make you an offer to come work for us." That caught her off guard, making her grip on her gun loosen a little as she stared at him in surprise. Jack seemed to take her stunned silence as an invitation to keep talking. "As you so rightly pointed out Judy, TAME is not the police. We can detain mammals of interest, yes; but we cannot arrest them. And by law we must notify the ZPD of all citizens we detail. Of which we can only hold for 72 hours before turning them over to the ZPD." Jack rolled his eyes as he spoke, clearly not a fan of these rules. "My bosses have grown… tired of this arrangement; it's a lot of questions and paperwork that no one wants to do and frankly just gets in the way. So they started looking through the ZPD, trying to find officers who might be willing to join our ranks but maintain their positions here in the ZPD."

Judy's surprise turned to pure shock. Was Jack really… had he really just admitted that TAME was seeking to infiltrate the ZPD for their own goals? That thought made a rock of fear and horror weigh in her gut, making her insides twist and writhe around it as another thought occurred to her; they'd thought she'd join them. That thought made her blood run cold, and made the sickening stone of fear and horror feel even heavier in her stomach. If TAME thought she would join them… then they truly must have known what she'd done. Her nose twitched unconsciously, her brain rapidly firing off the old arguments and justifications she'd told herself so many times. Someone would have died if she hadn't. She was trying to save a life. She was a police officer doing her duty. She-

But no matter how many times she told herself those arguments they never made her feel better, not even a little. They made her feel worse, made her feel no better than most of the criminals she locked up. She'd sworn to do better. She'd promised herself she would. And now-

"Get out."

Across from her, Jack blinked. "What?"

Gripping her gun tighter Judy repeated herself. "I said GET OUT. Get out of my office, get out of this precinct just get out."

Jack's expression frowned, looking confused. "Judy we don't have ti-" Shifting her sim Judy pulled the trigger of her gun, the echoing retort making her ears ring as her sidearm jerked in her paws and struck the bookshelf next to her desk; making several of the books she had jump from the force of the impact. In response to the shot Jack visibly jumped, his expression changing from confusion to shock and then to fear. "JUDY WHAT THE HE-"

leveling her gun at him again Judy repeated herself. "GET OUT OR THE NEXT SHOT GOES INTO YOUR SHOULDER."

Jack stared at her, his eyes wide. "ARE YOU INSANE?! WE DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THIS! WE HAVE TO-"

stepping forward Judy drew her arm back, backing the butt of her gun against the side of Jack's face; not hard enough to draw blood but enough to cut him off and stagger him. Grabbing the grey and black rabbit by the front of his jacket she yanked him away from her desk before spinning him around and pressing the barrel of her gun against his back. "MARCH," she pressed the gun forcibly into his back, "NOW." She pressed the gun harder against his back to prove she wasn't joking.

Jack did as he was told, fumbling momentarily with handle of the office door before managing to open it and step through. Barely three steps out of the office and Judy found that several officers were running towards her, with expressions of concern and alarm. "Judy what's going on? We heard a shot fire and then-"

She cut off Fangmeyer's words, gesturing for them to move out of the way before again pressing her gun to jacks back. "Yeah I'm fine just helping out TAME liaison here understand he's no longer welcome in our precinct."

Jack growled as she again dug her gun into his back. "You're making a mistake. You need me to help you find this Wilde fox. Without me you'll never catch him."

Ignoring his words Judy marched him down the hall and into the main lobby before exiting the building and marching him to the edges of the steps. "Now turn and look at me."

He did as she said, turning to look at her with an expression of anger, frustration and… was that fear? "This is a mistake. You can't-"

But whatever he'd been about to tell her she couldn't do came to an abrupt halt as he lashed out with her foot, kicking him backwards and away from her; sending him tumbling down the steps of the precinct. "Tell your bosses the ZPD is off limits. And don't ever come back here."

He ignored whatever he opened his mouth to say next, turning on her heel to storm back into the precinct. As she did so she found a dozen or so officers had followed her into the lobby and watched what had just happened. "if he tries to come back in here, shoot him."

A dull rumble of nervous laughter swept through the gathered officers. A second later the crowd tensed and began to part as chief Bogo appeared, looking somehow his usual stern self but also curious and confirmed. "Hopps, you better have a good reason for discharging your weapon at our TAME liaison."

She nodded. "I do sir. He was trying to recruit me as a spy inside the ZPD."

The sternness in Bogo's expression vanished, leaving only the confusion. "He what?"

She nodded and repeated herself. "He said TAME has been looking for ways to get around the arrangement they and the ZPD have and he wanted me to help them do it by joining them but staying here in the ZPD."

Bogo's gaze hardened and under his breath he muttered. "What are you up to Dawn?" When he saw that everyone was looking at him he shook his head. "Nevermind that, we still have some crazed fox to catch. Did you get any leads while questioning the Tigris brother?"

Judy nodded. "A name… well a last name I think; Wilde."

Bogo raised an eyebrow. "Wilde? That's all you got?"

Again Judy nodded. "Yes sir, but it's more than we had before. I'll start searching the city registry and see if I can find him."

Bogo sighed before nodding. "Alright, do it. The rest of you," he turned to face the gathered crowd. "Get yourselves checked out by the docs and then get back to work, the city is still on lockdown." As he spoke Bogo turned and walked back through the crowd heading for his office.

The crowd began to disperse, mumbling and talking amongst each other as they did so. Moving to head back to her office Judy stopped as she noted that Benjamin Clawhauser hadn't moved from where he stood and instead had his face contorted in the expression of someone who was trying to remember something. Frowning slightly Judy spoke, "Clawhauser? You ok?"

Clawhauser blinked, looking up at her before speaking in a slightly unsure tone. "Yeah… I… you said the guy said the fox's name was Wilde?"

She nodded. "Yeah. Heard him say it clear as day. He said Wilde. Why?" Clawhauser frowned and shifted, his tail flicking nervously behind him. "Clawhauser, Do you know something?" She kept her tone calm and polite. Clawhauser and her were not truly friends, but they were at least friendly with each other so there was no need to start making accusations… yet. Instead she watched as Clawhauser shifted again before speaking slowly. 

"I think… I think I might know who this mystery fox is."