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The Savage Dark

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Report:

Case File – The Savage Dark

Reporting Agent: Code Name – Jack “Savage”

Affiliation: Unknown

Current Whereabouts: Unknown

Agent Status: Unknown (Active)

Recording Continues:

 

    “Dealings between The Agency and other branches of law enforcement can be tricky, as you’ve doubtless realized. It is never an acceptable situation when an Agent is forced to end the life of someone who works for the same government, it is to be done with good reason and usually means that the shit has hit the fan on a level that no one is aware of yet. I mean that beyond my own kidnapping, which was a rare enough thing in any century, and any attempts to contain Officer Wilde.

    “Hm. Nick. I supposed I should use their first names at every mention from this point on.

    “What I mean by the previous statement is simple: having a drag race-shoot out that ended in the deployment of military-grade hardware against ZIA agents was a sign that something bigger than the ZIA was going on. Before this point, I already knew that the ZIA Director was involved thanks to Special Agent Skye. What I was starting to get a clear picture of was the fact that, even though the Director was involved, he wasn’t the cause. He was trying to cover something up, to be certain, but he was not the big picture. When speaking of the head of the ZIA – who personally only reports to the highest levels of our government – saying that he was trying to cover something up that was bigger than he could handle is an understatement. Further, I knew that his obsession with covering up what had happened to Nick was a sign of desperation because whatever he was trying to cover up was simply too big.

    “In a very real way, it was like trying to cover up the fact that a house had burned to the ground by painting the door red.”

 


 

    “I’ll expect a full report in two hours,” the Whitetail stag said tersely into his phone before mashing the end call button so hard that the screen very nearly cracked under the pressure of his hoof. “Damn it!”

    The sound of his own voice echoed back at him within the confines of the elevator, causing his ears to twitch once in further annoyance before he reached over to push the button that would take him directly to his office. Once the soundless jolt of motion began, he closed his eyes and released a slow breath through his nose as he attempted to find a calm that was about as far away as it could possibly be. He opened them again a moment later when the elevator chimed its arrival on his floor.

    When the doors opened, he was almost pleasantly surprised to find that there was no gun waiting for him.

    “Good afternoon, Director Rack,” the conservatively dressed doe said upon seeing him, her lovely amber eyes raising to him along with her smile. She was a pretty thing, slender and sweet spirited with a soft but easily heard voice. She was exactly the sort of attractive that was needed to greet mammals coming into the ZIA, simply because she put people at ease. “How was your lunch?”

    “It went well enough,” he said, not meaning a word of it as he paused beside her desk to send her a warm smile. He did like her, found her competent and easy to talk to. If he wasn’t already a happily married buck, he likely would have fired her, so he could properly court her. But he was, so he kept his mind and his hooves to himself, and she kept her job. “I didn’t have much of a chance to eat, as if that’s unusual.”

    “Oh,” she said, looking mildly annoyed by the news. Already he could see the mother hen look coming into her expression, which seemed oddly appropriate despite him being fifteen years her senior. “I’ll have something sent up after your appointment, then. You can’t just skip meals, sir. You’re too busy for that.”

    “I’m not terribly hungry,” he replied simply, though he did give a moment’s thought to having her send up something truly extravagant. Who knew when the next time he would be able to choose his own meal would be, after all? Then he felt a little jolt in his chest, causing his tie to feel tight. It was only his three decades in intelligence work that allowed him to keep his friendly expression as he tilted his antlered head slightly. “Did I have an appointment?”

    “Oh! Yes, sir,” she said, lowering her eyes to the screen built into her desk near her mouse. “You have a meeting on your schedule for five minutes from now. Special Agent Skye and a Mr. Lapin are already waiting for you in your office.”

    “Of course, they are,” he said, keeping his tone pleasant even as he repeated the words with a little more anger and panic in his mind. Still, he managed to smile as he adjusted his tie, wondering how the appointment had ended up on his schedule in the first place. The damned truck had only been taken two hours ago. “I had completely forgotten. Look, why don’t you take the rest of the day off? This meeting will consume the rest of my afternoon and I’m just going to tell you to hold my calls, anyway. Might as well let the operator take a message.”

    “Well,” she said, her expression a mix of pleasant surprise and curious concern. It was an interesting combination, one born because a quick search of his memory reminded him that he wasn’t usually the sort to give anyone half a day off. “If you’re sure there is nothing else you’ll need, then I won’t say no, sir.”

    Ear flicking to show amusement he didn’t really feel at the moment, he gave her a smile and a nod as she gathered her things. After a quick thank you, she beat a hasty exit and cast him a sparkling smile as the doors of the elevator slid closed behind her. He was going to miss that smile.

    Looking at his own reflection in the door for a moment, he studied the aged buck looking back at him for a moment as he adjusted his tie and smoothed the line of his suit. When his hoof brushed over his sidearm, he considered for a moment before he reached into his jacket to draw the 9mm easily. Then he took it to his secretary’s desk and left it resting in the top drawer. With that done, he buttoned his suit again and, with his horned head high, stepped into his office.

    “Director Rack,” the familiar voice said, sounding somewhere between cold and welcoming. “So glad you could join us.”

    Then, of course, there was the soundless press of a barrel against the side of his head.

 


 

    The fox was still angry. There hadn’t been sufficient time for any of them to do more than change clothes into something less torn, blood-splattered, or stinking of gunpowder. Generally, just trying to make it through the building without looking as though they had just returned from a war zone. That hadn’t prevented him from insisting on wearing his tactical vest while everyone else went with less aggressive attire. He wasn’t feeling less aggressive, even though they were out of immediate danger. Or more importantly, she was out of immediate danger. To him, it felt like he was going from being chased by the lower ranking members of a pack to walking into the den of the alpha without expecting a fight.

    Of course, rational thought told him that the Director of the ZIA wasn’t going to be stupid enough to start a war in the middle of his own building, given the illegal nature of his actions recently. But rational thought wasn’t high in his mind, beyond knowing that he should follow Jack’s lead and keep the persistent growl that continued to rumble through his chest on the subvocal level. Everyone in the room knew that this calm was only kept because of his close proximity to his mate, who sat calmly in the chair beside him when the buck walked into the room. She looked no more pleased than he, her eyes narrowed and slightly aloof. Her smile was almost pleased when the silenced barrel of a pistol was pressed against his temple.

    “Please, it is your desk,” Jack said, sitting in the other chair on the visitor side of the Director’s desk. “Have a seat. Once Skye has made sure you aren’t armed, of course.”

    “Empty holster,” the vixen observed, the statement not really needed as all in the room could see it when she ran her paws under his jacket. Then she continued, patting him down from shoulder to ankles before she twitched her own gun towards his chair. “Go on boss. Have a seat.”

    “I’d almost wished the reports were wrong, Special Agent,” Rack said, his voice tense as he moved towards his chair. Nick noted that he still managed to hold his antlers high, maybe something that came naturally to someone who had been in his position for as many years as he had. His eyes locked on Skye, not without a little accusation as he settled into the large chair, placing his hooves on the arm-rests to make sure everyone could see them. “I’ll admit it surprised me to learn that you were spotted heading towards Bunnyburrow without orders. A part of me had hoped that your intention was payback for the thrashing Agent Savage gave you and your team.”

    “As well deserved as that was, it is irrelevant,” the cool voice of the rabbit interrupted, drawing the stag’s gaze and holding his attention. It might have been the gun in his own paw that kept the attention or the simple fact that Jack was the entire reason he found himself in that position. Nick didn’t know, but he did appreciate the look of discomfort, near fear, that came into the mammal’s eyes for a moment before his face turned to stone again. “We are here because you’ve fucked something up, and I want to know what.”

    “Straight to the point,” Rack said, drawing a deep breath that he held for a moment before he released it with a throaty snort. “You’re telling me that you don’t know what’s going on?”

    “I’ve been distracted by an extremely high ranking official breaking pretty much every law in Zootopia, including kidnapping and attempted murder, in an attempt to keep it from me,” Jack said, the tension in his own voice making Nick wonder how he managed to keep from snapping the words. “Successfully, to this point. But frankly, given the day I’ve had – the details of which I’m sure you’ve been briefed on – my patience is at its limit. So, tell me why you’ve obviously lost your mind so we can all get on with our day.”

    It was obvious to Nick that the two were basically pissing on each other’s trees at this point, trying to decide which one was dominant. Savage eyes rolled towards the sky for a moment, his paw moving to rest on the back of Judy’s chair as he finally let the growl vocalize as he focused green eyes on Jack. “Leave me alone with him for five minutes. I’ll get him started.”

    “Nick,” Judy’s voice warned, her tone half soothing, half amused as she reached out to pat his belly with one paw.

    “What?” he grunted, and even if the touch was muted by the tactical vest he wore it still managed to soothe him a little. Not enough to keep an overly toothy grin off his muzzle. “I’m not going to eat him. He’s too big.”

    There was one thing he had learned very quickly since his savagery had seemingly become permanent or at least long-term: no matter how big, civilized mammals were terrified of the idea of a savage mammal of any size. The further they got from their ancestor’s primal ways, the more mortifying the idea of someone acting on those instincts became. A tiger might even be frightened by a fox snarling and slavering, the threat of a bite paramount to one of the most dangerous things one could face on a normal day. Having seen this in action, even with Agents that worked with Jack, the muzzles at the ZPD made a little more sense to him. Even if he still hated them.

    The Director seemed to be no exception to this rule, as his eyes widened slightly at the mention of being eaten. Wide nostrils flared, ears twitched uneasily, and - while his expression hardly changed - there was a sudden shift in the overall tension of his body. He looked very much like prey ready to bolt, though to his credit that tension fled when he reached up to tug his tie and cleared his throat.

    “Obviously that won’t be necessary, Officer Wilde,” Jack said, his tone easier than it had been. There might even have been a touch of amusement in it if he used his imagination. “Director Rack was about to explain everything, weren’t you Director?”

    “I suppose I am out of options at this point,” Rack said, clearing his throat as he slumped back into his chair. His gaze moved to each of them for a moment before settling on Jack, his unreadable expression seeming somewhat… embarrassed, a fact that had Nick’s brow raising. “I lost someone.”

    “You lost someone?” Jack repeated, his eyes narrowing slightly as he tucked the pistol in his paw into his shoulder holster. “I’m assuming you’re not being sentimental and that you mean you lost someone of high value.”

    “I was asked to help someone with a great deal of influence,” he nodded, finally leaning forward and out of his defensive position to rest his elbows on his desk. “Ferris Lobos, to be precise. After meeting with him a few times about a plan he had to improve relations between predators and prey after the Night Howler incident, he managed to convince me that one way he could speed the process would be to rehabilitate those involved.”

    Nick wasn’t familiar with the name, though one look at Jack told him that the rabbit was. The deep frown that dipped his muzzle matched the thunderous expression and for a moment, the fox was certain he would draw his gun again.

    “So, you’re telling me that you lost Bellwether,” he said, his voice coming out in a grate that sounded like his teeth were grinding together.

    “And her associate, Doug Ramses,” the stag added, dipping his head to rub his muzzle between his hooves for a moment before he raised his eyes to Jack again. “They just vanished in transit, and we have no idea how they could have escaped. A few months later, all this business with savage mammals started to happen again, with a different pattern. A different formula, as you all likely know.”

    “Yeah,” Nick muttered, his ears high as he drank in every word. “So, you’ve been kidnapping the victims to hide the fact that you ‘lost’ the crazy sheeps, imprisoned who knows how many innocent mammals to keep the fact that someone is poisoning Zootopia again hidden, and tried to kill my mate because you’re a moron!”

    The last came out in a snarl, his paws clenched tightly enough for him to feel the bite of his claws against his palms as he took a step forward. He stopped when Jack’s voice spoke again, calm with an edge of condescension.

    “No, he’s been trying to cover the fact that Bellwether is the least of what he’s unknowingly caused,” he said, his high ears quivering slightly in restrained fury.

    “What do you mean?” Nick snapped, though he did take his place at Judy’s side again as the growls died down to subvocal again.

    “Neither Bellwether nor Doug Ramses has the sort of expertise required to create the drug we’ve been dealing with,” he explained, waving his paw towards the stag in a gesture that meant for him to continue the train of thought.

    “No, they don’t,” he agreed after a long sigh, turning his eyes to Nick to meet his savage gaze for the first time. “As you’ve no doubt already experienced, this particular toxin is not as easy to cure as pure Night Howler extract. That was Doug’s only real skill in chemistry, come to find out, and we’re not sure he didn’t simply follow a list of instructions for extracting plant toxin. And Bellwether, even though she almost managed to destabilize the city, had no knowledge that would have allowed her to create the refined and truly weaponized toxin that we’re dealing with now.”

    “Making such a refinement would have taken facilities and equipment,” Jack interjected, drawing himself out of the chair to pace to the far side of the room. “And that equipment would have required a great deal of skill, training, and – most importantly – money to acquire and maintain. Tell me Director, who was your biggest backer when you were being considered for the position of ZIA head?”

    “Lobos,” came the low reply, causing Nick to frown slightly as he and Judy both turned their gazes to Jack for clarification.

    “Ferris Lobos is one of those quietly richer-than-god mammals,” Jack explained, examining an empty counter for a moment before pushing against one corner. The top of the counter spun around, revealing a bar with crystal decanters of dark amber liquid and a few glasses. As he picked a glass and picked up a bottle, he continued, “You’ve likely never heard of him in more than financial news, meaning that most mammals in the city wouldn’t be aware of his existence beyond the fact that he owns the largest pharmaceutical corporation in Zootopia.”

    “Oh, that’s not ominous or anything,” Judy said, leaning forward in her chair to rest her elbows on her knees as she focused on Jack when he turned with the drink. One that Nick noted was larger than a rabbit his size could handle. “So, we’ve been unknowingly fighting a super-rich mammal that no one has ever heard of?”

    “No,” Jack corrected, stopping beside the Director and putting the glass in front of him as he looked up at the larger mammal. It was something to see when the large stag looked decidedly uncomfortable when faced with the comparatively tiny bunny, but he still reached out to take the glass as Jack continued to his seat again, “We’ve been fighting the ZIA, because once Rack found out what was going on, he knew that he would have to cover it up or lose his job. Face possible jail time. In effect, he played favorites and secured the release of two dangerous mammals, which in the end turned out to be nothing more than a smokescreen for what was really about to happen.”

    “I don’t get it,” Skye said, tilting her head as she looked between the two of them with a creased brow. “I thought you were covering the loss of Bellwether and company.”

    “I was covering the fact that I made a stupid decision at the request of someone who pretty much ensured that I ended up sitting where I am now,” Rack corrected, taking a small sip from the glass before looking down into it to avoid meeting the eyes in the room. “And then it became about covering up the results of that stupid decision. I had planned to have everything wrapped up before it became obvious. I would find some proof, silently force Lobos to stop whatever he was doing with the Night Howler toxin before things got out of hand.”

    “At what point would things be considered ‘out of hand’?” Judy demanded, her tone sharp as she waved a paw towards Nick. “Was it before or after you tried to kidnap an active member of the ZPD because he had been targeted and infected? Or maybe it should have been when the entire ZPD was involved in a high-speed chase to prevent his kidnapping at the hands of your agents?”

    “Things were out of hand the moment I got involved,” Jack commented, causing the stag to turn an uneasy glance at him before he downed the rest of the drink in one swallow. “But it was too late by that point. You had already broken at least twelve different laws that would have cost you your job and your freedom. And rather than accepting that fact and putting the good of Zootopia ahead of yourself, you decided to take me out in a further attempt to keep this farce from being discovered.”

    “That was the point where I realized you had gone off the deep end, you know,” Skye interjected, the gun still in her paw even though the stag clearly knew he wasn’t getting anywhere in this situation. “In case you were wondering why I decided to side with Agent Savage.”

    “Aside from your pants catching fire every time his name was mentioned?” Rack snorted, almost managing to force a smirk out of Nick when the vixen’s inner ears reddened. “I may have fucked this up, but I was still in this business two decades before any of you. But whatever the cause, you are right. I knew it, but there comes a point when there is nowhere to go but forward.”

    “There should never be a point where the direction cannot be changed, Director,” Jack said, sighing slowly as he leaned back in his chair in a rather sloppy, exhausted droop. “It’s as bad as I expected it to be, though. I never expected that you would be directly responsible for the toxin. You’re not the supervillain type.”

    “Very Bond of you, Jack,” Nick muttered, smirking humorlessly as he moved behind Judy’s chair and placed both paws on it’s back. Restlessness was starting to set in, a desire to be out of the room and alone with Judy again. He wasn’t sure how long it might be before that could actually happen now, but that part of his mind was doing its best to convince him that Jack wouldn’t really need them much longer. “So, what are we going to do now? Rack isn’t the cause of this, he’s just a result. When do we move onto this Lobos?”

    “That will be complicated,” Jack answered, drawing himself up to sit upright in the chair again, his ears perked forward. “I suppose I can count out any hope that you have anything at all that might be helpful, Director?”

    “I’ve been trying to figure out what his intent is since the first savage mammal appeared,” Rack said, shaking his head slowly as he looked sorrowfully at his empty glass. He still didn’t dare stand to refill it, not with Skye’s gun leveled at his chest, so he continued, “but like a lot of mammals with his resources, trying to get something and finding anything are two different things. His network is unbreakable, his security is top notch, and since he hasn’t done anything that can be linked to illegal activity there is nothing we can do that would allow us onto his property.”

    “There is nothing you can do,” Jack said sharply, drawing himself out of the chair. He tilted his head towards Skye, motioning her towards the door as he straightened his jacket. “Aside from the laws broken, the mammals killed, and the number of headaches you’ve given me, one of your biggest mistakes was forgetting that Agents are not limited by the same laws as you. We’re going to get what we need from Lobos and put an end to this. And he should hope that there is a cure that works floating around in one of his labs.”

    “You’re not just going to barge up to his offices and demand…” the stag began, starting to stand, only to stop mid-sentence when Jack leveled a look at him that had him sitting right back down. “Of course you’re not. What are you going to do, then?”

    “I haven’t decided on that, yet,” the bunny replied, turning his eyes to the two of them with a slight grin on his muzzle. “I will have to discuss that with the members of my team. Though I am tempted to just have someone put a bullet in him if that would guarantee an end to it. But that brings me back to the problem that he may be the one who knows how to cure the toxin.”

    “Whatever we need to do,” Judy said, holding Jack’s gaze for a moment before she tilted her head back to look up at Nick. “Not that I don’t enjoy him like this.”

    “No doubt,” the buck snorted softly, turning his full attention to Stag. “And you, Director. We do share one thought in this situation: the public shouldn’t know what’s happened and what’s continuing to happen. The last time there was a surge of savage mammals in Zootopia, the city nearly destroyed itself. If it becomes public that something like the Night Howler Incident can and likely will happen again, it will just increase tension. I am sure most parties involved would rather let mammals believe that it was a one-time scare.”

    “That would be best,” the stag reluctantly agreed, his voice reserved as all in the room waiting to learn exactly what Jack was going to do with him.

    “To keep it a secret, I can’t very well have you arrested and tried, no matter how much damage you’ve caused,” the rabbit continued, holding up one paw when Nick felt a growl rising in his throat. “But you are going to resign, as quietly as possible. The reason for your resignation will be the abuse of ZIA resources, not specifically citing the reason. I will make sure that the story flies under the radar in the media, and anyone who is curious will have a cover story that would take them a decade to disprove.”

    “We’re just going to let him retire?” Nick growled, no longer able to keep his fury in check as he stepped around the chair towards the desk. “He tried to kill all of us to cover up his own mistake!”

    “Not retire,” Jack corrected, his eyes never leaving the now obviously pallid Director. “Resign in disgrace. No pension, no retirement fund, no contacts willing to work with him ever again. I hope you have something saved up, Rack. After this, you’ll be lucky to get a job as a file clerk. But you can be happy that you won’t be in a cage. We’re also going to hand you over to another Agent for a debriefing on all events between the moment Lobos proposed this plan to improve Zootopia and when you walked through that door today. I would do it myself, aggressively, but I need to make sure another madmammal with Night Howlers doesn’t manage to crack an already tender city.”

    “I don’t have much of a choice,” Stag said, drawing himself out of his chair without interference from the bunny this time. He walked towards the counter and took the bottle, pouring himself a very generous triple before he turned back to the bunny. “If it helps, I had no intention of letting him go any further than he has now. I never intended to cause more damage to Zootopia and if there had been even a hint of what I know now, I never would have helped him.”

    “It doesn’t help,” Nick said, his voice low as he kept his growl in check. “Are we finished here, Jack?”

    “Yes,” the buck replied, turning to face the fox with a nod. “I’m going to gather an infiltration team, so we can plan what our next move will be. In the meantime, Rack, drink up. A loose tongue will only help you when they come for you. Which should be within the hour.”

    Once in the elevator to the lobby, Nick found it hard to keep his mad going for more than a few seconds as Judy leaned back against his belly, drawing his arms around her. He knew she did this as much to calm him as to be close to him, though he was hard-pressed to find a reason to be annoyed by it.

    “It is not ideal,” Jack stated, his eyes on the phone in his paw as he tapped away at the screen, “but even if his reasons were misguided and selfish, keeping this from the public is the right choice. If for no other reason than making it public would put Lobos on his guard, making it that much harder to get what we need to end this.”

    “I’m almost in favor of just putting a bullet in him,” Nick muttered, shrugging when Judy frowned up at him. “I said almost. And I’m not feeling particularly peaceful. Sorry, Carrots.”

    “If it was a viable option and would end this without further savage events, I assure you I would do it without hesitation,” Jack confirmed as he looked up from the phone for a moment. “But right now, our primary concern is to find a cure. Once the Agency debriefs Rack, I am sure we will have many more savage mammals on our hands than we had before, and we need a cure for them. And you.”

    “So, what do we do now?” Judy asked, rubbing her head back and forth against his chest, causing him to chuckle lightly. He realized it was a lazy way of petting him, and it caused him to squeeze her tighter as they both looked to Jack for the answer.

    “We learn as much as we can about Lobos,” he replied, sliding his phone into his pocket when the elevator came to a stop. All three followed him as he headed through the lobby at a brisk pace. “We need to know why he took Bellwether and Ramses, if they have anything to do with this, find the lab he is using to produce the toxin, and then shut it down as quietly as possible.”

    “And if it can’t be done quietly?” Nick asked when they reached the waiting car.

    “Then we just have to hope we get the cure before things start exploding,” the buck replied simply, bring a pleased grin to the fox’s muzzle for the first time since leaving Bunnyburrow.