"You're going to BelRev?" Bogo's voice crackled slightly with concern through the radio in her car as she drove.
She nodded, more to herself than anyone else. "Yes sir. The mayor has ordered that Wilde be made available for the next two hours but that's it. This is my only chance to question him."
As she spoke Judy stepped on the gas, the engine of the police cruiser growling throatily in response as it sped up. She was almost to the city wall now, the towering ten story defensive structures loomed so far above her that they blocked the sunlight. "Be careful Hopps, that's an order. You know my feelings on BelRev. I don't like the idea of one of my officers going there without a second to watch their back."
Again Judy nodded. "I will sir. I'll debrief you the moment I'm done talking to Wilde."
"Good. Though… I question if you'll be able to get anything out of him..foxes are usually very social creatures. If he's been stuck in solitary confinement for the last 15 years… he might not be mentally stable anymore."
Judy remained silent for a moment. She knew first hand what the chief was saying was true. Social isolation was an interrogation technique the ZPD was legally allowed to use on mammals that have strong pack or herd mentalities. But in their case they were only allowed to isolate the subjects for up to six hours before questioning them. 15 years… she could only imagine the damage such isolation might have had on the fox. "I'm nearing the checkpoint out of the city. I'll be in touch once I know more. Hopps out " hanging the handheld part of the radio back up Judy turned her attention to the road, coming to a slow stop at the checkpoint that led out of the city. As she watched a group of four wolves dressed in military apparel emerged from a small building. Two of them moved to stand In front of her cruiser to block her path forward; their paws resting casually but firmly on the M16 assault rifles slung across their shoulders. The third wolf, armed with a compact tactical shotgun moved to stand behind her cruiser while the final wolf armed only with a pistol slowly approached the driver's side window as she rolled it down. "Turn off the vehicle and presented you Identification… officer?"
Nodding Judy did as she was told, shutting off the engine before moving to hand the wolf her ID card as well as the documents proving her identity as a ZPD officer. The wolf looked at them for several moments before reaching up to his shoulder and triggering a small radio. "Central command I got an officer Judy Hopps here at the southern entrance to the city. Can anyone confirm that she has clearance to leave?"
As the wolf waited for a response he handed Judy back her paperwork and ID. As he did so Judy glanced at the area outside the large security gate that had been setup to keep mammals from freely coming and going as they usually did. "So… how's it been here?"
The wolf shrugged casually. "Fine. Every day or so we gotta turn away a few truckers. They yell and make all kinds of noise and threats but flash em your piece," as he spoke the wolf indicated the pistol strapped to his hip. "And they back down real fucking quick. Bet the outlier towns are loving this. All the supplies and cargo we have to turn away is probably being sold to them for half of what we'd get it for."
Judy remained silent. When she'd lived in Bunnyburrow most of the town's supplies had been produced locally, but some things still had to be bought and shipped there, something that usually took a week or more as the item first had to be shipped to Zootopia and then brought by truck to the smaller towns usually with a light military escort to ensure the supplies reached their destination. Sometimes though on the rare occasion that something went wrong, an order was cancelled or a merchant didn't accept a shipment the truckers would drive directly to Bunnyburrow or one of the other small towns and sell their goods on their own; cutting out the middleman in an attempt to make some quick cash to makeup for their lost sale. In front of her Judy watched as the two wolves looked at each other apprehensively, clearly on edge.
"Southern checkpoint; this is HQ. Judy Hopps has permission from the mayor's office to leave the city. Let her through."
The wolf nodded to himself, tapping his radio again and speaking. "Affirmative HQ." A moment later he motioned for the other wolves to stand down, making the three of them scurry around her car on their way back to the little guard station they'd been in. At the same time the leader wolf tapped a small remote on his belt which caused the security gate to slowly sink down into the ground and allow her to continue. "Drive safe and hurry back before dark. The gate stays closed after sundown no matter what, you don't wanna be stuck out there at night."
Nodding Judy restarted her cruiser's engine before putting her foot to the gas and driving forward. The city walls slowly fell away in the mirror as she drove, the open road stretching forward seemingly forever as she turned off the city road and merged onto the interstate highway. BelRev Prison was a good half hour drive from the city, built into a small island in the middle of the Atlantica River which flowed from the ocean, through the badlands and into Zootopia before leaving the city and continuing in a long winding curve before reconnecting to the ocean once more. The river itself was fast and cold, nearly impossible to swim across even for the more amphibious species. The prison itself was an old wartime military outpost that had been repurposed after the war had ended. It had quickly gained the reputation of being impossible to escape from and as such was the ideal place to put the worst of the worst kinds of offenders. She'd only been to the prison once in her career, the day the City Central Mauler had been sentenced and incarcerated there; led to his cell and locked in with absolutely no hope of escape.
She tried to imagine Wilde surviving in such a place. Even if he wasn't in the general population… solitary could be equally as devastating if not more so to some species. She'd seen a hyena reduced to a nearly incoherent babbling and giggling psycho after accidentally being left in an isolation room overnight. It made her wonder just what kind of state Wilde would be in. Against her will her mind flashed back to the video Clawhauser had shown her. There had been a fire in the fox's eyes; a smoldering rage that had made them flash and glint as he'd played his guitar. Was it possible that that smoldering had been fanned and become an outright burn as a result of Wilde's success as a musician? Eddy had said Nick had been angry about the state of predator treatment in the city. And she'd seen first hand what angry predators could do if given the chance. Still though… it was hard for her to imagine being in love with someone and then setting them up in such a way that they died. And for what? To make them a martyr? Pressing her foot down on the gas Judy sped up, anxious to hear what if anything the fox had to say.
Arriving at BelRev was an ordeal in and of itself. First she had to pass through another checkpoint before driving across the narrow concrete bridge that led to the prison. As she carefully made her way across Judy couldn't help but grip the steering wheel a little tighter as the sound of the rushing water below her reached her ears. She knew how to swim of course, well enough to pass the course in the academy. But rabbits naturally disliked large bodies of water; an instinctive holdout from their days as wild animals. At the other end of the bridge was another checkpoint that demanded her identification once more before allowing her to finally enter the prison and park her cruiser in a small parking spot labeled 'visitor'. As she got out of the vehicle she looked around, noting the two story high wall that encircled the entire facility and the various guards patrolling it. Making her way to the front entrance Judy found a small group of mammals waiting for her.
"You the cop?" An older grey goat spoke, his tone gruff and annoyed. Next to him two wolves stood watching her.
She nodded. "I'm officer Judy Hopps, yes."
The goat waved a hand dismissively. "Not in here you ain't. Let's get one thing straight little missy, this ain't Zootopia. You may be the law in the city, but not here. This here," the old goat tapped his cloven foot against the stone floor. "Is BelRev. I'm the warden which means I'M in charge. My word is the law. Got it?" She chose to nod, worried that she'd let slip her actual thoughts if she opened her mouth. The goat smirked down at her in response. "Good. Glad we settled who's in charge." The warden gestured to one of the wolves that accompanied him. "Before you go any further you'll need to surrender your gun and badge at the security check in."
Judy raised an eyebrow. "My gun and badge? Why?"
The goat sighed, his smirk leaving his face. "Because I said so rabbit. I don't care what strings you pulled back in the city to get one of my prisoners pulled from solitary; but if you want to set foot in my prison then you Will follow the rules. And rule #3 is no one other than my guards is to be armed."
Judy nodded slowly. "Ok… but why my badge?"
The warden snorted. "Because I don't need you riling up the inmates. If they find out there's a cop here they might get excited. There hasn't been a riot in BelRev in 27 years, and I ain't about to see that change. Your things will be returned to you once your visit is done but until then, hand em over."
As the warden spoke he held out a hand, clearly expecting her to do as she'd been told. Biting her lip Judy weighed her options. Technically what the warden had said was true. She was a police officer in the city, and yes she had SOME jurisdiction in the smaller outlying towns that relied on Zootopia for protection, but here her authority only extended as far as the warden said it did. If she'd been a marshal that would be different but for now…
Reluctantly Judy dug into her pocket, producing and handing over her badge to the old goat before unholstering her gun and handing that over too. She watched as the warden handed her possessions to one of the wolves standing beside him before turning back to look at her. "Enjoy your time in BelRev officer."
The warden turned and slowly moved away from her, along with the wolf who had taken her gun and badge leaving her with the one remaining wolf who gestured for her to follow him before turning and heading towards the main building and inside. They passed through a lobby waiting area, then an intake room and finally a security checkpoint guarded by a wolf, a ram and a hippo, all of whom looked at them with a mixture of curiosity and suspicious before pressing a button which caused a set of steel bars to retract into the floor and allow them to open a security door which led into the prison itself.
The moment the door opened a wall of sound and cacophony hit Judy like a truck, her ears flattening as firmly against her skull as they could in an attempt to block out the defining roar. She kept moving though, keeping up with the wolf as he led her forward into a 15 foot wide corridor. On either side of her cells lined the walls, each of them the same. A 10 foot by 9 foot room with a bed, toilet and sink. The front of the cell was covered in what Judy guessed to be bullet proof glass with the only way in or out being a metal door on the side which was locked by a series of thick steel bars like the ones they'd had to pass through to get in here. Inside the cells the inmates watched then, some of them calmly reading, while others shouted and roared, throwing themselves violently against the glass as they walked by. A few of the prisoners were prey, but the majority of them seemed to be predators; who's eyes made her shudder involuntarily. Every one of them, even the prey species wore TAME collars who's lights would occasionally flash and who's warning beeps only added to the chaos of sounds.
The wolf's sharp instruction made her jump, and speed up her walk as she realized a gap had formed between her and her escort.
Following the guard down the corridor they turned, walking. Through another cell block before coming to a set of security doors marked 'infirmary' and locked again by a set of steel bars. Coming to a stop Judy watched as the wolf thumbed the radio on his shoulder, shouting to be heard over the roar of voices around them. "Open the infirmary doors." A moment later the steel bars unhinged and retracted, allowing the wolf to open the door and motion her inside. Doing as she'd been told Judy found herself in a moderately sized room. In the middle of the room was a large plexiglass wall, which went from floor to ceiling and both walls, dividing the room in half. On the side she was on were several cabinets marked as containing medications, an office desk and chair, a computer and a side door marked as a private bathroom. On the other side of the plexiglass wall there was only one object, a metal examination table with thick leather straps to tie the patients down. On the far wall another security door which she deduced was where the prisoners would enter from. Behind her the wolf closed the door sharply, cutting off the sound of the outside area and plunging them into an almost equally painful silence for several seconds before speaking. "Wait here." Biting her lip Judy nodded before moving, grabbing the office chair from behind the desk and wheeling it out so she could sit a few feet from the plexiglass wall. As she did so she heard the wolf use his radio again. "Bring out the prisoner. Remember, he doesn't talk to ANYONE. If he tries to, zap him. If he tries to run, shoot to kill."
Biting back a comment Judy waited uncomfortably. She wasn't used to this kind of silence. Even when she was alone in her office at the precinct, there was always noise. The sounds of chairs scraping against the floor in the surrounding conference and briefing rooms. The snatches of chatter and conversation of officers, civilians or lawyers as they walked by. The dull thundering boom the chief made when he yelled. There was always something making noise in her life, but now, now she sat in total silence; so quiet that she could almost hear her own heartbeat. It made her feel antsy and anxious, as if she had to get up and move to settle herself back down. But before she could do so the door on the other side of the plexiglass wall opened. Focusing herself Judy watched as first a guard entered the room, a large hulking elephant with only one tusk and a scowl covering his face. As he stepped into the room the elephant did a quick visual sweep of the early empty space before gesturing to those behind him and stepping out of the way.
Still silent, Judy watched as the door opened again, giving her her first view of the so-called 'most dangerous prisoner in BelRev, Nick Wilde.' his appearance had changed from the video of him she'd seen. His fur was no longer shiny and slick but dull and lackluster, no doubt a result of an inadequate diet and never seeing the sunlight. Despite this his stomach had grown giving him a bit of a pounch, probably from a lack of exercise while sitting in solitary all day. His moments were sluggish and slow, and she could see that just the walk from his cell to the infirmary was exhausting him. As he walked Judy noted that his feet made no sound, and a quick focus on his paws revealed he'd been declawed at some point during his incarceration. His eyes looked sunken and tired and contained none of the sparkle and fire they had in the videos and his tail dragged limply along the floor behind him, as if he couldn't be bothered to lift it up. As she watched another guard stepped into the room, this one a tall and lean deer who guided Wilde to the examination table. It took Wilde three tries to hoist himself up onto the table, before turning to face her and sit with his legs hanging off the table like he was a little kid at the doctor's office all while giving off the air of a fox who was broken and defeated with a TAME collar around his neck. He looked so broken and beaten that for a moment Judy found herself feeling bad for the fox. As she watched the two guards who had escorted Wilde into the room slowly backed out, relocking the door behind them as they went.
Taking a deep breath Judy spoke. "My name is Judy Hopps, I'm an officer with the ZPD."
Wilde didn't respond, instead he looked at her with a tired and almost bored expression that made her wonder if he'd actually heard what she'd said. Raising her voice a little she tried again. "MY NAME-"
"I heard what you said, officer."
She blinked, slightly surprised that he'd cut her off. His voice was hoarse and raspy, as if this was the first time in a long time he was speaking; which for all she knew it might be. "Can you tell me your name, for the record."
Wilde nodded. "My name is Nicholas Piberius Wilde. My friend call me… well… they used to call me Nick."
She nodded. That fact that he was talking at all was a good sign. "Can you tell me why you're in prison Nick?"
Wilde shifted, his expression flicking to that of annoyance. "Is that why you're here officer? To ask me why I'm in prison?"
She shook her head. "No… but it's part of it."
Wilde sighed and shrugged. "I'm here because I tried to overthrow the government of Zootopia." After a moment Wilde gestured vaguely in the direction of the guards standing behind him. "Clearly I failed."
Judy nodded. "And why did you try to overthrow the government?"
Again Wilde sighed and waved his paw. "What does it matter anymore? I failed and I've been in here ever since. Maybe it was cause my dad beat me or because my mom didn't love me enough. Or maybe cause I'd had enough with the way the city was run. Who cares anymore?"
There was something about his tone. About the way he read off his list of reasons. It wrankled her and left her feeling as if it was something he'd practiced or rehearsed. Still she continued with her questions. "I know about Gazelle Nick."
Wilde looked at her almost bored. "So? What about her?"
Again there was something in his voice. She couldn't quite put her finger on it but the way he was speaking; son detached and cold. It sounded off, not at all what she'd expected from him. "Several days ago a TAME employee was kidnapped. After apprehending and questioning one of the kidnappers the name Wilde came up. Why do you think that is?"
Wilde shrugged. "How should I know? Not like I can pull up insta-giraffe and see what's happening in the world."
She'd been about to continue when something occurred to her, making her narrow her eyes in suspicion. Wilde had been arrested 15 years ago, and supposedly had been in isolation ever since… how then could he know about insta-giraffe when the social media platform was only 10 years old? Slowly in her mind, a thought started to form. "TAME says you know how to remove collars without triggering their systems. Is that true?"
Across from her Wilde shrugged. "Maybe it is and maybe it isn't."
She frowned. "If it's not true, why not just say so?"
At that Nick chuckled, a cold laugh that sounded forced. "Who'd believe me?"
Judy nodded, doing her best to seem casual. "And it doesn't help that you were caught removing your bandmate's collar with a knife during your last show."
Wilde sighed and nodded. "Try to help a fellow pred out and look where it got me."
Doing her best to remain calm as her suspicions were all but confirmed, Judy nodded. ' One more. If he's the real nick… he can't get this wrong.' "Well Gazelle appreciated it. He was her brother after all. When I spoke to her yesterday she said you probably saved his life."
Again Wilde shrugged. "Small consolation I gue-"
She cut him off as he spoke, leaning back in the office chair while folding her arms and narrowing her eyes. "Gazelle is dead."
On the other side of the plexiglass Wilde froze mid word. He looked at her, an expression of confusion flickering across his face. "D-dead? B-but you said-"
Judy shook her head, her suspicions about the fox confirmed by the responses he'd given. "Gazelle died years ago. The REAL Wilde would know that she died before he was arrested. But you didn't. Just like how you didn't know that Wilde didn't cut his bandmate's collar but his own. And how he was arrested and supposedly thrown into isolation before the invention of insta-giraffe. All of which leads me to believe that you're not the real Wilde but an imposter."
For several moments the infirmary was dead silent. She stared at the imposter, glaring him down and watching as he squirmed under her gaze. She'd seen a lot of mammals react when caught in lies. Some doubled down on the lies, others simply confessed the truth, others acted ashamed and still others-
In an instant the imposter's demeanor changed, becoming fearful and frantic. He threw himself at the plexiglass wall, his paws half pounding and scratching at the clear material as he shouted. "PLEASE THEY GRABBED ME YEARS AGO! I'M JUST A PIE MAKER! MY NAME IS GIDEON GR-LOOK OUT!"
The look of fear in his eyes told her this wasn't a joke or an act. she dove out of the chair, just in time to narrowly avoid the twin darts from the stun gun of the wolf who had escorted her here. Rolling and jumping to her feet Judy planted her back against the clear wall and watched as the lupine guard snarled and threw his Taser away in disgust. "Piece of crap!" As he spoke the wolf advanced on her, drawing nightstick from his belt before lunging forward and swinging wildly at her. Her training from the academy kicked in, and she dodged the strike which clattered loudly against the wall. Dodging and darting to the right Judy rushed forward, closing the distance between her and the guard.
Rule number three of fighting a bigger mammal was to use your smaller size to your advantage. She dropped low, darting behind the wolf who half turned to try and keep her in his sights; meaning his body wasn't properly stanced to protect itself. She seized that advantage, suddenly backstepping and lashing out with a low heelkick to the back of the wolf's knee. The strike did as she'd hoped, knocking the wolf off balance and making him stagger and fall to one knee while he tried to recover. Pressing her advantage she drew her arm back, cupping one paw in the other both driving her elbow back as hard as she could, slamming it into the side of the wolf's head making him yelp in pain as his head bounced off her elbow and struck the wall with a loud dull thud. Spinning around, Judy kicked out with her opposite leg, putting her whole body into the kick as she'd been taught and driving the wolf's head as hard as she could back against the plexiglass wall. The wolf helped in pain as she attacked, his head again slamming into the wall only for him to slump limply against it as he lost consciousness.
Breathing hard Judy jumped slightly as the imposter Wilde pounded against the clear wall. "YOU HAVE TO GET ME OUT OF HERE! PLEASE! I DIDN'T DO ANYTHI-"
The sound of the fox's voice was drowned out a moment later by the door to his side of the room bursting open. The deer guard had returned, his eyes wild and manic and his gun drawn and at the ready. The imposter Wilde turned to look at him, fear covering the fox's face. "PLEASE! I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING! I'M INNOCENT! I-"
It happened in slow motion, the kind of agonizing slowness that a person only experiences when something is happening and they're powerless to stop it. She watched as the deer surveyed the scene before him, his eyes narrowing as he focused on the imposter Wilde. The deer swung his arms around leveling his weapon at the fox before-
"ZPD, STOP! D-"
Three shots rang out, each of them striking their target and making the imposter stagger backwards from the force of the impacts. His back hit the clear wall with a full thud before leaving a smeared trail of red against the clear material as slumped limply to the floor where he didn't move anymore. For several heartbeats Judy froze, her eyes wide with a combination of shock and horror at what she had just witnessed. She'd seen predators and others mammals killed of course, it was impossible not to, in her line of wor-
The sound of the deer shouting into his radio snapped her out of her head. "ITS THATS COP! SHES WORKING WITH WILDE TRYING TO HELP HIM ESCAPE!"
Her eyes widened again at his words. How could anyone thi-
"CAPTURE HER! INMATE HOPPS DOES NOT LEAVE BELREV! IS THAT CLEAR?!"
if possible her eyes went wider, recognizing the voice of the warden as the one who had responded. The deer responded by firing a shot in her direction, but found the round fired stopped by the clear plexiglass wall between them. Her training kicked back in and she forced herself to look away from the dead fox and instead to focus on her situation. Rushing towards the door from the infirmary Judy yanked the door open and had taken barely a step out of the room before a loud blaring siren began to wait and screech.
"WARNING! WARNING! EMERGENCY CELL RELEASE ACTIVATED ON ALL CELLS. WARNING! WARNING!"
In the time it took her brain to understand those words a new sound reached her; one that made a cold rock of dread and fear appear in her stomach. The sound of dozens of steel bars moving and retracting as the prisoner cells unlocked. As if to confirm her fears on the door side of the corridor Judy watched horrified as from one of the cells a hyena emerged, giggling and rubbing his paws together at his new found freedom. She reversed course, slamming the door to the infirmary shut. ' Fuck. Fuck! FUCK!' behind her she could hear more prisoners entering the corridor, all of them whooping, roaring, crying and growling creating a chorus of sounds that tugged at nearly every instinctive fear she still had in her. She needed to get as far away from them as she could, or at least buy herself some time and find a place to figure out what to do next. Scanning the infirmary her eyes fell on the door to the private bathroom. It wasn't ideal but… it probably had a lock… and she could maybe hide in there for a time.
She scampered into the small bathroom, closing the door and locking the deadbolt before looking around wildly for something, anything that she could use to defend herself or get herself out of this situation. A toilet, a sink, a lightswitch and a small cabinet of toiletries met her scanning and frantic gaze. ' Great. Fucking gre-'
The metal grate to an air duct caught her gaze. The grate itself was made of thin sheet metal and slightly weathered already; and if the duct beyond it was the same size… it would be a tight fit… but it might just be her only way out of here. Behind her she tensed as the sound of the infirmary door opening reached her, then a deep looming voice spoke. "Where are you little rabbit? I know you're in here. Come out come out. I won't hurt you, I just wanna be friends." A shiver of fear raced up her spine at the voice and it's cruel almost mocking tone. She threw herself at the metal grate, drawing her foot back to kick at it desperately and making a loud rattling clanging sound as she did so. She kept kicking, slamming the heel of her foot over and over into the metal grate as the sounds of loud thundering footsteps grew closer and closer and closer. As the door handle began to jiggle and rattle Metal grating finally gave way, one corner of the grate peeling away from the wall enough for her to get her paws behind it and start to pry the rest of it away from the wall. The door to the bathroom shook and rattled violently as whoever was on the other side tried to break it down and get to here. "YOU'RE PISSING ME OFF RABBIT!"
With a loud metal straining sound the grate peeled away from the wall, clattering loudly to the ground as it fell. She threw herself at the ventilation shaft just barely managing to squeeze into the dark and claustrophobic metal chute as the door to the bathroom burst open. She scrambled as quickly as she could, inhaling as much as she could to make herself thinner as she scurried through the vent away from the opening she'd crawled through. She could barely see the way forward, and the vent was so tight that she could barely take a breath, still she dragged and pulled herself forward, her heart hammering as she did so.
"WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU'RE GOING?!"
She felt the duct shake and tremble as something else entered it, and a moment later felt the faintest sensations of someone or something trying to grab her by the ankle. Instinctively she let out a shriek of fear and scurried away, managing to worm her way deeper into the chute and out of reach of the prisoner. The air was thick and dusty, making her cough and wheeze as she squirmed and wriggled her way down the duct before managing to turn right. Here she found herself in a kind of junction, with a slightly larger cavity of space to breathe, while several ducts branched off in different directions and angles.
From the different ducts she could hear the sounds of the riot going on around the prison. Shouts and roars from the inmates as they escaped their cells and flooded the facility. A small part of her worried for the safety of the guards, then again another part of her was fairly sure if they spotted her they'd try to kill her just the same as any prisoner. Looking around her she tried to figure out what to do next. She could hide in the vents for a time. But sooner or later the smaller prisoners would probably have the same idea she did, and she didn't fancy the idea of being shanked to death.
Suddenly a loud electronic tone chimed through the ducts, followed by a vibrating coming from her hips which made her jump. She fumbled awkwardly for her cellphone in the confined space, struggling to bring the device up so she could see the screen. The caller ID displayed the number as 'UNKNOWN' and coming from an area code she didn't recognize. Growling at the device she'd been about to hang up when on its own the accept call button pinged and a slightly familiar male voice began to speak, echoing slightly in the space she was in. "Hello detective. So nice to finally meet you, though I seem to have caught you at a bad time. If you want to get out of there alive, get to the roof. I'll contact you again once you're there."
Her eyes widened. "W-wait… W-Wilde? How did you-"
The cool male voice cut her off. "Wiretaps are such useful tools detective. Set one up and you can hear any number of interest conversations, like say the one Warden Shackleford and Dawn Bellwether are having right now. Have a listen."
A moment later there was a loud click then a popping sound and a pair of new voices filled the ducts.
"WHAT THE HELL DID YOUR MEN DO BELLWETHER!?"
"Do not take that tone with me Shackleford, my agents are cleaning up your mess."
"MY MESS?! HOW IS THIS MY FAULT?! THAT DAMN REPLACEMENT OF YOURS BLEW IT!"
"The fox is inconsequential. His death will be blamed on the escape attempt. And no one will question that it is Nick Wilde."
"EXCEPT THAT COP IF SHE GETS AWAY! IF SHE GETS OUT AND TELLS PEOPLE WHAT HAPPENED SHE'LL RUIN US BOTH!"
"Which is precisely why my agents started the riot. She's an unarmed rabbit trapped in a building with Zootopia's worst of the worst. And even if she does manage to make it out of the building, your guards will gun her down just like all the other prisoners who attempt to escape. Judy Hopps will not leave BelRev Prison alive."
"This plan had better work Bellwether, otherwise you just wrecked my prison's reputation for nothing."
"There's that tone again Shackleford. I would suggest you show some gratitude the next time we speak. Otherwise the ZPD might receive an anonymous tip and start investigating just how many predators have gone missing from your so-called 'inescapable' prison."
A moment later the line went dead leaving Judy in a stunned silence. It was a setup, TAME had set her up. Suddenly the imposter's words made sense. He'd shouted that 'they'd' grabbed him years ago; by they he'd meant TAME. TAME had also infiltrated and guards here at the prison and had started the riot… all to kill her and the imposter. She was so shocked by what she'd just learned that she didn't immediately realize the male voice had returned and was speaking again. "Keep going up detective. Get to the roof."
She shook her head instinctively. "No, that's suicide! Call the ZPD! Tell them-"
But Wilde spoke over her. "That is not an option at this time, detective. Get to the roof, and I'll instruct you from there. GO NOW."
Her phone beeped as the call disconnected leaving her alone once more in the ducts. Doing her best to remain calm she weighed her options. She had no real reason to trust Wilde and his word. At the same time… she had very little in the way of other options. She could call for help, but there was no guarantee the ZPD could reach her in time. For that matter with the riot going on around her there was a very real chance the ZPD wouldn't even be allowed onto the island to try and rescue her. Biting her lip Judy turned her attention upward, finding that a shaft led straight up and seemed to connect with the ductwork for the second level of the prison. "Ok Judy… just like in the academy."
Spreading her legs and arms as best she could she began to slowly work her way upwards, just as the academy had trained her to do. First pressing both hands against either side of the duct before doing the same with her feet and slowly stretching herself upward before securing herself with her hands and repeating the process. It was slow going, made harder by the fact that she could barely draw breath due to the narrowness of the ducts. Still she managed, pulling herself up and over the ledge of the vent and starting to work and inch way down the narrow shaft. She did her best to move quickly but quietly, being as careful as she could not to make a lot of noise as she moved. All around her she could hear the sounds of predators shouting, snarling, fighting and bellowing; no doubt eager to enjoy their newfound if only temporary freedom. Then a new sound reached her, one that made her freeze where she was; her ears twitching as best they could in the direction it had come from as more distinctive cracks and pops of gunfire reached her ears.
Mentally she flashed back to when she'd arrived at the prison, and the dozen or so guards that had patrolled along the wall; each of them armed and no doubt ready to use lethal force. In her mind's eye she could almost picture it, prisoners spilling out of the building to try and make a break for it, only to be met by the hail of bullets and gunfire she was not hearing. She felt no sadness for any of the prisoners, yet she felt a slight twinge of guilt as she began to move again, the knowledge that mammals were dying because of her; needling at her insides. Still she forced herself to keep going, squirming and worming and shuffling her way down one chute after another and another. Slowly she started to recognize patterns in the ductwork, and in her head she began to build a kind of mental map of where she might possibly be in the building. thankfully she seemed to be the only one in there, encountering no one else although occasionally she'd find the odd random object that had gotten lost or had been tossed in; a packet of cigarettes, a shiv, a porno mag featuring Busty Brazilian Black Panthers. Sweat covered her brow, forming little droplet on her nose. Her ears wrung slightly from all the sounds and echos around her. Her arms and legs shook with the effort to move and she felt lightheaded from her reduced ability to breath and her fur was coated in dust, link and grit; still she forced herself to go on.
As she dragged herself up and onto what was the the fifth level by her count the smell of the air in the vents changed. Becoming less stagnant and dusty and instead fresh and crisp as she hurried along. Indeed ad she reached a corner in the vent she found that beyond the bend she could see daylight, with only 20 feet of duct and a metal grate between her and it. She scurried forward, greatful that the grate covering the vent seemed to be even older and more worn out than the one she'd kicked in earlier. All it took was a few forceful shoves against it with her shoulder for it to pop out of place and clatter loudly to the ground, allowing her to drag herself out of the ducts and into the bright sunlight of the outside world. She paused for a moment, taking several long deep breath, realizing just how good it felt to be able to just breath normally. But the sound of gunshots broke her from her revery, making her turn in the direction of the sound while scurrying forward and staying low.
Around the edges of the prison a walkway had been setup to look down into the entrance area, no doubt a vantage point for the guards to patrol. Luckily it seemed to be empty, allowing her to peer over the edge of the building. A few dozen or so bodies lay limply in the entrance area; each of them wearing the bright orange jumpsuits that marked them as inmates. The guards on the wall had taken up overlapping positions, covering each other in their cones of fire so no one was left defenseless when it came time for them to reload. Begrudgingly Judy approved. The ZPD we're trained to do the same thing in the case of prolonged shootouts and gun fire. Below her a new surge of inmates burst from a doorway, several lions and a bear rushing out only to be met with a hail of gunfire and lead cutting them down where they stood.
The sudden vibrating of her phone made her jump as she again fumbled for the device, this time answering it on her own. "I made it to the roof. Now what?!"
"On the north side of the roof there is a drainage pipe that goes from the roof to the ground. From there, find a place with a view of the front gate, I'll be there shortly."
She had barely registered his words 'I'll be there shortly' before the line went dead, leaving her once again alone. Grumbling to herself Judy moved, doing her best to stay low so as not to be seen while looking for the drainage pipe Nick had told her about. She found it was relative ease, a rusty dark brown pipe that indeed ran from the floor to the ground and was secured to the wall of the prison. Taking a deep breath she again fell back on her academy training, quickly getting into position so she could grip the pipe while pushing against the wall with her feet which allowed her some measure of control as she descended and made her way down to the ground. She landed hard, her knees aching painfully and her back popping slightly as she landed. But his plan was working, so she did as he'd instructed, scurrying to take cover in some bushes as several more rounds of gunfire split through the air. Following the bushes as best she could Judy quickly but quietly moved as far as she could, finding that the very last bush offered her a view of the front gate. For a moment she was tempted to make a mad dash to her car, it was only 50 or so feet away and it would have been easy to get in, peel out and ram the gate of the facility to get away.
That train of thinking however came to an end as a new sound reached her, a low deep rumbling revving sound followed shouting and then-
The ground shook as a new vehicle appeared on the bridge, a large dark black SUV with tinted black windows and a large metal front bumper. The SUV's engine roared and revved, sounding more like the engine of a semi truck or bigrig than an standard SUV as it hurtled towards the front gate. The guards on the wall shouted, several of them fired shots at the vehicle which didn't deter or change course. As the vehicle collided with the gate the sound twisting bending sheering breaking metal filled the air, like nails on a chalkboard. The entire facility seam to shake as the vehicle won it's encounter, ripping the gate off it's contacts and shoving it out of the way as the SUV roared loudly and drove into the central space of the prison entrance before coming to a stop.
A second later all four doors opened for a split second; long enough for the mammals inside to drop-
Four billowing clouds of silvery grey smoke erupted around the SUV, quickly growing and spreading to blanket the entire space in swirling disorienting smoke.
"RUN FOR IT HOPPS! GET YOUR ASS IN HERE NOW!"
She didn't need to be told twice, bursting from her hiding spot and slipping into the ceiling smoky haze that had appeared. She moved as fast as she ever had, her heart hammering and thumping in her chest as the sound of more gunshots filled the air. Any second she expected to feel white hot pain hit her as one of the shots miraculously found its mark; but no pain came. Through the billowing haze she found she could just make out the large dark form of the SUV, which she charged forward. The two back doors had opened, and it was there that she jumped, throwing herself forward the last foot or so so she landed inside the SUV.
"SHE'S IN GET US THE HELL OUTTA HERE!"
She felt the vehicle rumble and vibrate as it began to move, half throwing her to one side as it spun around; and allowing her to see one side of the cab. The back of the SUV had a conference style cab, that was to say a set of back seats that were turned so they faced each other allowing those inside to speak easily. Right now that consisted of Anthony Tigris who was looking nervously out the window as the outside world streaked by.
"You may wish to buckle up detective, things are about to get very dangerous."
The sound of Wilde's voice made her turn, finding the red and brown fox sitting in the seat she had been thrown against. At Wilde's words Anthony reached out a paw, half helping half pulling her up into the seat next to him before mammalhandling her into a kind of seatbelt harness. As he clicked the buckles together Anthony shouted. "Ok, she's secure!"
From the front of the SUV Ed called back. "Great! Everyone hold on!"
Judy felt the SUV surge forward, no doubt in response to Ed putting his foot down on the gas. Out the front windshield Judy watched as the SUV drove over the mangled and broken gate and headed back down the bridge. "everyone hold on!"
A second later the SUV swerved sharply, it's bumper turning away from the road and instead swerving to slam into the thin metal guardrails that lined the bridge's sides. For a split second a sickening feeling of weightlessness washed over her, making Judy feel as if she was about to be sick. A heartbeat later every bone in her body shook as the front of the SUV slammed into the waters of the Atlantica River. Almost instantly the entire front of the car vanished into the water. From one of the front seats Judy heard Jasper yell out. "Ballast tanks are open and flooding, we'll be under in-" but the rest of his words were drowned out by the sudden sound of rushing water. Unwillingly Judy felt herself start to tremble and shake as she tugged and pulled at the harness she'd been strapped into; fearful that at any second she'd feel cold icy water welling up to drown her.
But the water never came, instead the car groaned and sank; the river quickly swallowed and engulfed them in its grip. Frantically she tore at the harness, every instinct in her brain screaming at her to get out of the vehicle before it sank to the bottom of the river.
Across from her Wilde spoke, his tone slightly battered but still calm. "Relax detective."
"RELAX?!" Her voice cracked and broke as she yelled. "WE'RE GONNA DROWN YOU CRAZY ASSHOLE!"
The fox shook his head and next to her Judy felt Anthony chuckle. "No, we won't detective."
She opened her mouth to respond only to feel the vehicle shudder and suddenly level out as it hit the bottom of the river. From the front Jasper spoke aloud so they could all hear. "Ballast tanks are full. Seals are holding and treads are engaged."
From his seat Wilde nodded. "Good. Ed, take us down the river to the runoff, slow and steady. It would be a shame if after all that we blew our rescue now."
Judy's heart hammered in her ears, even as she forced herself to breath. Outside the windows she could see the swirling cloudy bubbling sweater of the Atlantica River rushing past them and yet-
"Like is said detective, relax. This vehicle belonged to Ivan Koslov. The ZPD always wondered how he conducted his business when it seemed like he never left tundra town " Wilde gestured to the vehicle around them. "this is how. A completely submersible automobile, that can trawl along the bottom of Zootopia's rivers and canals without anyone knowing it's there."
She blinked, turning her attention to the red fox who was looking at her. "Ivan Koslov is dead."
The fox nodded. "Yes, I was there. But I didn't rescue you from BelRev Prison to discuss that."
Again she blinked, "Then why-"
"Because detective, I wish to tell you a story."