A developed sense of justice - Dobanochi (2023)

Chapter 1: Back on the road


In a city that brags that anyone can be anything, some are more concerned that they end up being nothing.


Hello everyone, today 8th June 2021 is a happy day: a video game I've been looking forward to for a while,backbone, has finally been published in full. And to celebrate, I've decided to release the first chapter of this crossover fic I've been brainstorming on for a few months. They say crossovers are always a hard sell to readers, and I understand why, but I have to assume that anyone who's a fan of one of those traits would surely enjoy the other as well.*

(*UPDATE 12/20/21: With six months to think about it, I'd like to recommend the following course of action for Zootopia fans with no backbone knowledge (which, as time has proven, most of you will be): Download the *free* playable teaser and play it to see what I saw in it. As I write this it should still be available. If not, there will certainly be YouTube videos of it - in fact I'll link one now: https:/ /www.youtube.com/watch?v=8L60qkF6SeE I want you to see what I saw in it. I'll elaborate on it in the notes of chapter 6. Peace and love.)

I'm not going to bombard you with too many notes above, so just to make a necessary statement: I couldn't resist setting this in the same universe as my other fics, but I made a point of making sure this was on its own. That is, it follows the events of a one-shot I wrote last summer; this fic is NOT required reading, and you can probably find out what it was about in that first or second chapter. As for sparse references to things that don't appear canon, those are references to my main project, don't sweat if you don't understand them. (And I like to deconstruct tropes and concepts anyway, so I won't be a canon purist.)

So, that's enough, let's continue with the show:

Originally published June 8, 2021

(See end of chapter formore notes.)

chapter text

Chapter One: "Back on the Road"





Riiiiii-- Beep!

"...Why, good evening, sir."

"I was starting to think I hadn't set this woman up as the kind who would try to call someone and run off the phone before they could call back."

"Well, you didn't think of me as the kind of woman who would want to work with a raccoon either."

"Because I don't expect anyone to want to work with a raccoon. Keep your expectations low and you can only be pleasantly surprised. And you left me pleasantly surprised.”

"But I had just plugged in my phone and wanted to take a shower before bed. I thought you were a very to the point guy when you tried to call me again and I still didn't answer you would probably leave me a voicemail with whatever you need to tell me."

"If you were someone else, I would have done that the first time."

"I'm just so special, huh?"

"You had a strip work on you, didn't you?"

"Maybe. So tell me, where are you calling me from on this new number?"

"Motel 6 about thirty minutes outside of Portland, in a small town on the edge of civilization."

"Hm, what's the name of the city?"


"...I guess I'm really special to you, huh?"

“The name wasn't the only reason I stopped here. I saw the signs on the freeway saying the exits were getting wider and wider. This was probably the last exit before Redneckistan; I looked at a map in the yellow book in my room, it looks like I was right. But I took the name as a good omen."

"...couldn't help but hear you say 'stopped here' in there.

"Ah, I should have expected nothing less from an experienced investigator than you sniffing out leads I didn't even know I was leaving."

"...do I have to sniff?"

"...Portland just didn't work."

"Howard, you only gave it, huh, three weeks?"

“That was three weeks absolutely without bites in all cases. Believe me, I'm not happy about giving up another city anytime soon, but I've only got four months to play with it before I have to either legally get out of the States or get an extension — and they will don't give me an extension. I've already wasted two months – I really should have cut my losses in Seattle sooner.”

"And I'm glad you're careful, but I really feel like you're playing a little to conservative with your time. You have to give things at least a little time to take root. How sure are you that your stay cannot be extended?"

“Because there's a good chance they'll find out I'm here to look for freelance work without a work visa, which I can't receive because they don't give Work visa for freelancers. You have to be sponsored by a company. And they would probably find out because, it kills me to say that, but the government of an entire country is probably a better detective than I am -- at least if they are attempt be."

"I know you don't want this, but have you ever considered contacting some PI agencies? Just to see if they would hire you if you wanted to? Any agency worth their dicks would take you on as soon as you hit the jackpot here."

"The case We cracked up there."

“No, that only works if you've previously attempted to claim the entire operation I cut in to get my due credit. But I said it was all you tried to boost your confidence.

"...You know what would Really boost my confidence?"

"I know you will tell me."

"...if I had my accomplice down here with me."

"...You know I can't."

"I know you can't pull it off on an emotional level, but on paper you have to admit it would work out quite well. You find a newspaper job somewhere, get sponsorship for your own visa, ask some questions, pull some strings, get me a visa too."

"...Coming home is always an option, Howard."

"Now you know I can not The."

"Hey, sure, some people up here might not like you for exposing the Bloodworths and a whole bunch of their friends, but most people up here don't even know who you are."


"...that...that wasn't meant to be a dig at you."

"No, no, it wasn't, just...hmm...I'm trying to say in a polite way that I think you're just plain wrong about the situation. It's not just a few people, there's a criminal underground across the country who wants me dead up there and when they mess with me the police won't help me because the VPD is still bitter that I'm their job better than them and all the other departments in the country will have their backs so maybe I could still make a living fixing basic stuff, but at The Period, is it even worth the trouble--?"

"Howard. Howard. Calm down."

"...did I just sound really worried?"

"You wouldn't have done that for anyone else, but I've been around you enough. I know the subtle signs that you're starting to panic."


"You're a good man, Howard. You don't deserve to panic."

"...Renee... if I go back to Canada I'll be a dead man.

"If that's what you believe, I can't tell you that you're wrong."

"If they catch me, they'll make a raccoon hat out of me — and you remember what the Bloodworths did to their victims, so you know I'm probably not that far off."

"Well, for what it's worth, I haven't had any problems with thugs or gangsters or anything."

"Because you're smart enough to keep your nose out of this world since we solved the case.

"Um... I mean... maybe? But then you still want revenge on me, don't you?"

"...I don't want to alarm you, but I think there's still a non-zero chance that someone is planning something."

“…And there's a non-zero chance that tomorrow I'll fall down the stairs and break my neck. You could be absolutely right and I will remain cautious, but for my own sanity I cannot live in fear. That wouldn't help anyone."

"...And yes, I might just be being paranoid. But hey… my paranoia saved my ass a few times. I got caught and turned into stew... or whatever they were serving people. Me and my paranoia had such a good time together - I can't turn my back on her now can I?"

"...It wasn't paranoia that saved you, it was common sense."


"How do you feel now?"

"I feel like I've bitten off more than I can chew."

"Well, it isn't The a poignant pun?"



"...Oh! Alright, 'bite' pun..."

"Sorry Howie, I had to lighten the mood somehow."

"And I appreciate it, but...hmm, I could go on for an hour whatever's on my mind, but...I think I can sum it up pretty well like this:..."

"I hear."

"...I asked for it. I distinctly remember thinking I needed a case that would put me on the map. I think I should have been more specific because... well I'm sure some Maps of the people."

"Fame is a blessing and a curse I think."

"Sounds right."

"...Where are you going next?"

"...You know what? I think they gave me a room with a view of the highway. Let the street tell us where I'm going."

"...In order."

"...yes, I can see the sign from my window. 'I-5 South, toward Salem, Eugene...and Zootopia'. Well, like of these three cities sounds promising."

"Yes, I heard Eugene, Oregon is beautiful this time of year."


"But seriously... hey, maybe I'm the one being paranoid now, but if what I've heard about this town is true, I'd feel safer in a town where the mafia was after me or not I would in Zootopia. So I'm telling you now, I won't accompany you there.

"Wait, what's the worst thing you've heard about Zootopia?"

"...This town really hates foxes."

"...Well...if that's really the case...I can definitely see why that would be a deal-breaker for you. But I have to say, I've heard they hate you no more than they hate...any other carnivorous species. That really does include yours, so I have a vested interest in the rumors being exaggerated.”

"Yes, but your people's ancestors didn't specifically hunt and eat other mammals, you boys just sort of...ate what you found—"

"We probably still do."

"--so you're in the gray area."

"Gray with black and white accents."

"Because you're all so fashionable."

"...Well... I can't be put off by a little prejudice, can I?"

"No, but if they give you more trouble than it's worth, no one will call you weak for choosing not to take it."

"Hey, that's exactly the same logic I used to justify my decision to get the fuck out of Vancouver where nobody trusts me anymore."

"...Touché, guter Herr."

"And if it's nothing worse than the 'Trash Panda' comments I got back home, I can handle it."

"...Well...if you must go there to seek your fortune, I will not stop you."

"You can come to me anytime."

"And you can always return to Vancouver."

"...This is true."

"...Oh, Howard... we could have had such a damn good time together."

"You really think so, don't you?"

"...What? No appreciation for Hammingway? Or let me guess, all you ever wanted to do was read Sherlock Holmes."

"Why read fiction when reality is so much more interesting?"

"Because sometimes it can give you ideas to make reality even more interesting."

"...It can…"

"...We really could have had a damn good time if you hadn't felt like fleeing the country."

"...I think we still can."


One of the downsides of knowing everyone is that everyone knows you too. So if you make a mistake, everyone will know about it.

... Okay, maybe that was a bit of a dramatic opening. Because his decision to leave the force was not a mistake in and of itself, but his... way of going about it left something to be desired. It was a hasty decision, made amidst a flood of emotions, and while he still thought it was the right decision overall...yes, he couldn't deny that he could have handled it better.

Like an exit strategy. Any exit strategy. Some mammals in his life told him he should have waited until he had another job in line before quitting; others said he should have stirred up hell within the force demanding change and accountability, and at that point his baiting would have produced one of two true outcomes: either he got someone to listen to him, or they would fire him so he could it at least could accumulate unemployment. But no, pshaw, he'd resigned on the spot with no safety net.

Because what are you supposed to do in a situation like the one he was in? How do you react when confronted with the fact that -- many of the mammals you've spent most of your life with aren't even bad people, they're just people who haven't had the luxury of following them can? the law - how do you deal with the fact that so many of them think you've just joined the oppressor? You can tell yourself that you don't care what other people think, but if everyone has the same opinion about you, you might want to think about it.

Of course… now there were the police loyalists who thought he was brainwashed by anarchists and hated him for leaving the force. Plus the honest anarchists and others of similar social politics who still hated him for joining in the first place and wouldn't forgive him for changing his mind. Okay, now add in the mammals who still thought he was a scumbag out of his life before he even joined the Boys in Blue, and add in half a cup of folks who don't really have strong opinions on modern day ethics had American police work but still thought he was a coward for stopping sprinkling on a bit of mammals that still Foxes just didn't care much... and congratulations, you just maxed out the number of people in this godforsaken town who didn't like him.

But there were those who supported his decision and those who disagreed with it but still accepted it, so not everyone hated him, far from it. But since he knew damn nearly everyone in this town - and those he didn't know certainly knew by this point von him - it seemed like every citizen of this town had a strong and specific opinion of him.

"Hey, I know you!"

And this could now be one of them. A moose with an excited smile on his face stared at him from a few dozen feet below the platform.

Nick returned a friendly smile and hoped for the best. "Ah, you do!"

"Yes!" the moose replied enthusiastically, before his expression gradually turned sour. "You're the guy whose picture is next to the word in the dictionary Pussy!"

Well that solved that mystery.

"Well, just like they say, you are what you eat!" A blatant comeback for sure, but you have to fight vulgarities with vulgarities. It was rule number one of the street: He wouldn't get anywhere with this guy if he didn't speak his language. Hopefully it wouldn't come to the point where he would have to say there must be a reason that moose was a tail.

But despite Nick's best efforts to take the insult, the moose beat him at his own game. "Yes!" he scoffed. "I'm sure you're going to be the closest thing to that cottontail, aren't you, you bloodthirsty little pervert?"

Ooh, great there, dude. But, you know what? That was the remark that made the lightbulb click: Nick remembered who that was. Former Officer Steve Beardsley. Former because he was arrested for stealing from shops both on and off duty after the moose assumed - rightly - that nobody would have the balls to accuse someone in an officer's uniform of shoplifting. The only reason he was ever caught was because after Nick's entourage, about a few dozen other cops across town also resigned -- a small number in a force of hundreds, but a larger number than Nick or anyone else anticipated had - and one of them had the cojones to whistle on his way out. To the credit of the squad, they listened, but nonetheless, that particular moose now had a tangible reason to seek vengeance against that particular fox.

Nick continued to play along; Hostility was best saved as a last resort. "Oh, you know, mate! Thank goodness those bunnies like carrots and not asparagus, don't I?"

However, Beardsley was done trying to be even passive-aggressively joking. He just stared openly down at the little red fox.

Nick considered. This guy just got up and stared at him so he couldn't ignore him. Should he use even bluer material?

"Besides, you know what they say about booty girls," he continued, "they make a better head because their teeth aren't as sharp!"

No Answer. That line almost always got at least a giggle when Nick tried to take control of a situation where someone was screwing up his and her relationship. But they say you can tell when someone really hates you because you can never make them laugh.

"...How are you, Steve?"

"How do you think it's going!? I'm just as unemployed as you!"

"Well, hey man, why don't you start your own business?" Just play nice, if you get angry it will only end badly for everyone. "I can help get the ball rolling if you have an idea!"

Oh, the moose had a good idea.


"Shut up the fuck, yeah!?" Beardsley grumbled. "You really think I would need your help!?"

Nick looked at the sudden dampness on his shirt. Okay fuck it, playing nice didn't work with this guy.

"Come on Steve you were a cop too, you know as well as I do that spitting on people is a misdemeanor!"

"Do you know what else I know?" said the moose as he bent over the fox to belittle him, both literally and figuratively. "Not a single cop in this town will stand behind you! Or--! Heh, you know what? Sorry! ... Like Cop in this town got your back! Like! And none of the others have her back, so that's as good as zero!” Making his point clear, the moose walked away to find a more comfortable place on the platform.

Nick had no reason to seek further conflict, so he let him go. But suffice it to say that the existence of cops like Beardsley was one of many reasons he would never regret his decision to leave the force.

Without disrespect to the boss, of course. Chief Buy-One-Get-One always encouraged and recognized good cops on his force, and as anti-police sentiment spread like wildfire, the Chief did the best he could with what he had. But he struggled when confronted with the fact that he didn't have as much as the thought. He could fire as many shitty cops as he wanted, and he did fire a lot, but that didn't magically create good cops out of the ether. And with vacancies to be filled, especially at a time when police in America had very bad PR, only those who wanted for the wrong reasons seemed interested.

A few columns down on the ZTA platform on Bulley Street, an emaciated old cheetah with his instrument case on the floor played an acoustic guitar for donations. He played a downtempo cover of an already low-energy song.


Hooold me tiiighterrrrr,

I think I'm, sinkiiin, down,

And I'm aaall struuung ouuut onnn herrrrroiiiiin,

Am ouuu-ou-ou-outskiiirts ooof tooown ...

Maybe not the most publicly available song, but Nick would appreciate a good tune.

But honestly, as far as Nick was concerned, he would never say that most of the cops on the squad were bad Cops - it was because most of them didn't try hard enough to be Gut. For so many of them, this was just a job - a customer service job, nothing less. They were the federal government's customer service department, answering the general public asking them to do chores as tedious as law enforcement, and they would do it grudgingly except slack off whenever they could, and just like other services Workers, sometimes one of them would freak out and take out his frustrations on those they were supposed to serve (of course, to say the least The way that makes the comparison sound unfair to service employees). For most in the department, it was neither an opportunity to do good nor an excuse to use power for evil; it was just a paycheck with government benefits.

He forgot that easily because the two of them were routinely paired with the other cops who wanted to be actively good, the ones who tried hard and got promoted to do interesting things and work on interesting cases. He rarely interacted with the silent majority, who were just being entrusted with mundane beats and chores, such "good" work as fining the homeless or buying tickets from drivers who can't yet afford to replace their dead headlights, or cracking down on a family in a depraved neighborhood who lied about their address in order to send their children to a better school.

It really seemed like most cops played the legally neutral role toward a T, and sometimes that came at the expense of those for whom obeying the law was a privilege they couldn't grasp. These officials either didn't know or didn't care that most crimes were committed not out of malice or greed, but out of desperation. And he just didn't want to be involved anymore.

"Excuse me sir," said a voice on the platform, "do you have a permit?" It wasn't a friendly tone.

Well, talk about the devil.

The cheetah looked startled when the zebra officer spoke to him.

"Permission to perform?"

The zebra simply pointed to a poster on an adjacent pillar with a stick figure of an ambiguous two-legged creature playing a guitar, with tiny text underneath explaining that you must have a permit to perform on a ZTA subway platform, and this must be attached in a clearly visible place at all times.

"You didn't see the sign?" asked the policeman.

"Oh, sorry, officer, I didn't know, I'm packing up-"

"A permit is ten dollars at ZTA headquarters, didn't you have ten dollars?"

"This is my first time doing this, I never paid attention to the signs, I just thought people build a business down here and start jamming -!"

"So you decided to do some begging for fun?"

"...do you call that begging?"

"They sang about doing heroin. Do you do heroin, sir?" He asked aggressively, but he still called the cheetah "sir" - which somehow made it sound even more aggressive.

"What!? Oh, no, Officer, I'm too old for this kid stuff..."

"Are you suggesting that you are under the influence of other, more 'mature' drugs?"


"Sir, are you under the influence of narcotics?"

"Excuse me, officer..."

The zebra spun around and looked down to see a grinning fox.

"Can I help you?" The zebra knew exactly who Nick was, but wouldn't give him the ego boost to feel appreciated.

And after consulting the officer's badge for refreshment, he also remembered who this zebra was. Shawn Liner, a guy whose personality was as colorful as his black and white stripes. The few times Nick had met him, Liner had been like one of those guys who was quiet, not because he was shy, but because he didn't think it was worth the energy to be actively friendly.

"Officer… slimmer, is it? Look officer, I just saw him carrying his guitar and I asked him to play a song for me. Completely spontaneous. He was too polite to say no, don't blame him!"

Liner didn't buy it. "I saw you standing forty, fifty feet from him."

Nick scoffed playfully. "Hey, I can't keep all this good music to myself, can I?" he said with a smile and a shrug.

Still nothing. "Then name the song he just played if you wanted to."

"Oh, it's called 'Carmelita' by a little-known musician named John Furlong!" the fox answered confidently. Yes, no, that was a blind guess, he had no idea what the song was called or who sang it, and he hoped Liner didn't either.

Liner shook his head. "I got the title right, not the singer."

"Oh, maybe we just heard different artists performing the same song, you and I..."

Then the cheetah held up a paw. "It's okay, Mr. Wilde," said this man, who Nick was pretty sure he had never met in his life. "He caught me fair and square."

Well it did. acknowledge guilt. Nothing Nick could do to save him now.

...Actually, wait, wait, there was one last thing he could say:

"Come on officer, it's a victimless crime! He's not hurting anyone!"

But the zebra was already scrawling a quote. "Wilder, take care Business, Hm? You're not as helpful as you think you are."

And that's what separated cops like Nick - and so on her -- by a cop like Liner. She and Nick didn't give a damn. But they were vastly outnumbered by cops who were choked up in their sympathy. While the two attempted to serve their audiences, it often seemed as if many of the others wished to serve nothing and no one but their own apathy. It was true what they said: the worst evil was committed not by those who consciously chose to be evil, but by those who never consciously chose to be good.

"It is Wilde, By the way,” said the fox, knowing damn well the zebra knew. 'Like Oscar, not like Laura Ingalls. There is no 'R'."

"There's an 'R' in there 'Delayed'!" a voice scoffed. "Which you Are!"

Nick looked in the direction of the voice. Well, what do you know, it was Beardsley again. Bulley Street Station lived up to its name.

So Nick turned back to Liner. "I can't imagine you're going to use your authority to tell him not to call people that."

The officer didn't even look at him. "Nah, no."

Nick couldn't have protested even if he wanted to; the train pulled into the station and soon the platform was deafeningly loud.

... And for the record, you would be far from the first to tell him that he should have stayed on the job and used his power to not only protect his public, but to help those for whom the following is done of the law was an unattainable luxury. Can't afford a new headlight? Escort them to an AutoZone and buy them one. Stuck in the cycle of homelessness? Take them to a resale store to get them cheap new clothes, then to the unemployment office, then to an emergency shelter. Can't get your kid into a decent school district without forging a few documents? Well, uh, uh... well, shit, shy of personally petitioning the school board for a fairer distribution of resources, at least to help this family cover their tracks better.

And if you told him that he should have done that, he would tell you right away he has. And he did with her. And her specific goal was to inspire other police officers to do the same. It worked a little...but not as much as they'd hoped in half a decade. And he only had so much patience for a goal that wasn't even his.

And that had added to the problem: joining the police just hadn't been his dream. He only borrowed it because he didn't have a dream of his own.

When she handed him that application, he agreed for two reasons: she had convinced him he could do good with his life however he always wanted; and she had convinced him that she would be there to give him the sense of belonging he had always wanted, even when no one else would. And for a while it was pretty cool. But then, at a certain point, it dawned on him: he had shifted gears from a life that society had written for him... to a life she had written for him. A better seat than before, certainly, but eventually he realized he wasn't quite in the driver's seat - if he was, he had been more Autonomy when roaming the streets.

He had done the gender equivalent of a girl falling head over heels in love with a guy and following him wherever he would lead her; he couldn't expect her to do something like that for him, so he couldn't do this to himself.

But still, poor girl. She said at the time of his decision that she accepted it, and she seemed to believe him when he said he'd still support her with the force — and he wasn't lying — but she still clearly accepted it a bit personal. She felt like she had failed to reform him, on top of the feeling of abandonment Nick knew she would go through, but he told himself it was better to deal with than live the wrong life to continue.

And she was probably still pissed about how he'd used one of her proudest moments, unrelated to the Nighthowler case, as proof that cops did bad things for good reasons. When she joined the troupe, they had her working as a meter maid, and to prove she was a go-getter with an admirable work ethic, she doubled her ticket quota in half a day; so she didn't particularly care when he pointed out on the day he quit that she might have screwed a lot of people over a very minor infraction, at least twice as many as they got her to kidding Of all those motorists, at least one must have had trouble paying his bills when that fine adds to his guilt, probably a few mammals; it was a statistical guarantee. And as the saying goes: If the penalty for breaking the law is a flat fine, then in practice the law only applies to those who actually have money to worry about. He remembered her telling him about a little hippo kid who was translating from Swahili or Congolese to French or something and telling her that her mommy wanted her dead; He'd felt bad then for laughing about it, but now he felt bad for... honestly, he'd sided with the Hippo Lady.

But even if she was ambivalent about it, there were still plenty of mammals in his life who clearly told him that it was a mistake on his part to forgive her so quickly after she got all racist at the press conference, and he still had absolutely no idea how it makes you feel. So they were both balanced.

He stayed by her side - emotionally if not physically - even as things got tough. And heaven knows there were still plenty of people who didn't approve of their relationship. Ah, the things he did for love...

"Hey, Hasenficker!"

He jerked his head to the right. He couldn't help it. It was a reflex at that point.

And the throng of teenagers halfway down the subway—a few rams, a few goats, a few pigs—cackled and pointed when he'd taken their baited hook, line, and sinker.

"I told you he would check!"

After that they laughed for what felt like an eternity, but after that they didn't bother him anymore. They got what they wanted and they were happy. The old "get someone to acknowledge an embarrassing nickname" trick, a classic. As far as he knew, these guys didn't even knowingly hate interspecies couples and just wanted to fuck him—but fuck him, they did.

Before everything went to hell, he wanted to propose to her. For example, he hadn't kicked out a specific time or place or anything, but he had brainstormed. He had been looking at rings and devising ways of secretly finding out the circumference of her finger. But then something happened last year and he jumped before he looked and now he hasn't had a steady job since. And you don't propose to a girl when you're a bum with no job and no prospects. And you definitely don't propose to a girl who you can't say loves you like she used to.

He could always go back to his old ways in an emergency, but he was very reluctant to declare a state of emergency lest she think he would relapse. There were many terms for who he once was: cheater was the most common, but there were also Fleeces, scammers, snake oil sellers was old school and so was Huckster, scammer, biller, bridge seller, shark, burglar was a fancy one he had heard once, Schemer, con, con, shyster, sneaky looking motherfucker And twisted son of a bitch. All sorts of ways to say that he had legitimately run (and excelled at) illegitimate businesses because, to his mind, that was all the world had to offer him.

Her personal favorite word for him was hustler, although. She knew all the synonyms and chose not to use any of them. He was her little red hustler. Part of that was his fault, when they first met he'd invariably used the word "hustle" to describe his craft. But as much as she hated him when they first met, she eventually found a certain charm in his survivalist ways, as if he were a lovable villain, and knowing him as the fox that chased it stuck.

It was a happy coincidence that almost immediately after they decided they liked each other, hectic has entered popular vocabulary as a word to describe someone with murderous determination and a commendable work ethic. (Gosh, it's almost like the world forgot Hustler was already the name of a porn magazine, arguably the most graphic out there, but okay, whatever, I guess we do.) And that only made her love that word even more: He'd been pushing so hard for the last few years to be a better man and she was so goddamn proud of him.

Until, of course, he threw it all away. This is of course. But god, luckily she only hit him when she did, because hurling popsicles (or rather his patent-pending Pawpsicles) was by far the greatest thing he'd ever done for money, an idea which he stole years ago from his little brother no less. He started trading these frozen treats shortly after he arrived in this town, but if she had met him when he was, say, her age when they met, there was a good chance she would have met him would be him Also Engaged in more R-rated businesses.

...Hm? Oh yeah, that. That was a different kind of hustle: To make himself more compelling to those he interacted with (because every connection is an important connection), he kind of had a vast majority of the people in this town supporting him knew, under the impression that he had lived here all his life. He had the exact names and addresses of former schools and children's homes ready if anyone should ask. An elaborate lie that had come to him when he realized that people in this town would trust his judgment more if they thought he was a lifesaver from Zootopia and not someone who was once a naïve kid fresh out of the Greyhound bus.

However, depending on your definition of growing up, you could still say that's where he grew up. He spent his childhood on the opposite coast, yes, but after leaving home early and wandering through two dozen towns in a vaguely western direction, he arrived in metropolitan Oregon's southwest corner, and he still did plenty more as he grew up. He's certainly grown up a lot after meeting her.

And one thing was certain: when she became the first person in this town he told about how those psychopathic booty kids had beaten and muzzled him as a boy, there was no lie in it. He hadn't embellished a single detail.

True, this town had far more problems with predator-prey relationships than most other places in the country; Back home (and just about everywhere else he'd been), old-school bigotry about where his people came from was far more common, but not in Zootopia. Oh, no, no, the mammals here were too smart and compassionate to fall for that ignorant prejudice...but because they were smart and educated and knew their history and biology, they had far less qualms about being skeptical of carnivorous species since, hey, there was actual evolutionary precedent for expressing distrust of them and feeling entitled to do so, right? Hell, if anything, at least some of the people in this town seemed to think that avenging the ancient ancestors was morally just hatred. Nick always felt like a right-wing idiot when he called the situation here progressive prejudice, but… was that a misjudgment? (Hey, he was the type of guy people were already calling a far left weirdo, they couldn't Also also accuse him of being a proto-fascist "progressives are the real racists" maniac.)

Suffice it to say that before he came to this town he was concerned with anti-fox racism because each species privately has its own opinion of other species, but here it has been put on eleven. And yet on the streets of this city he had found the best business success of his life; he couldn't give it up so he sucked it up. Thank goodness the people of this town have begun to cool it off with aggression in recent years, thanks in no small part to his efforts and hers.

...wait, did he say "people"? People in this town would give him funny looks for using that word instead of "mammals". He had been in this city for almost twenty years and still forgot that the common language in this city was very eccentric and politically correct. Here they almost always used "mammal" and "mammals" instead of "person" and "people", while the rest of the English-speaking world used these terms more or less interchangeably; The rationale was that "humans" implied some sort of homogeneity in a population, while "mammals" celebrated biodiversity while still acknowledging that we had one thing in common, that we weren't born in eggs. And to be fair, "mammals" made sense as a more gender-neutral term for things like "fire mammal" and "congress mammal" and "vehicle mammal slaughter."

The same goes for "paw" versus "hand". Ignore that some mammals didn't have Paws, but it was the word of choice here to acknowledge that not so long ago we all walked around like beasts on all fours before we evolved -- together. And "predator and prey" was the preferred nomenclature over "carnivore and herbivore" because, Jesus Christ, this city only wanted to bother choosing loaded words and hostile language. That's why he identified himself as a predator — the same word used to describe data rapists and child molesters and Nashville hockey players, but the weird mammals in that town had still gotten themselves into this predator's crappy pawpsicles and the like for over a year decade to buy, so he didn't have much room to complain.

He still made a mistake and used the words they used in the east, but it happened so seldom that no one ever put the pieces together. Frankly, his origin story was a lie that almost anyone could have seen through if he'd just stopped and looked for clues - much like how his driver's license listed his height as four feet, when in reality he was fumbling the number around four or five inches. Hey, in his defense, he was a heck of a lot closer to four feet in shoes - which basically nobody wore in this town because everyone here understood that our feet were made for walking barefoot (er, bare paw ) and that the materials we make shoes from aren't good for the environment anyway. The point is though, he didn't know if he was just that good at lying or if he was just surrounded by idiots, but what worked worked.

"This...is Buckingham," said the robotic voice from the train's PA system. "Doors open to the left...at Buckingham."

Nick got off the train and walked up the escalator to the street. He had some panache in his step, but not because he was excited or eager. All he wanted to do was go home—even though he was constantly reminded that she paid for most of the expenses because he couldn't. He wasn't sure she was making more money than he was in the abstract, but he had to assume her patience with him was running out.

So what was his dream then? Well, in a perfect world, he would have found that out long ago before he felt the need to abandon ship. He'd narrowed it down a bit: he wanted to do something with his life that would in some way make the world a better place - like he thought the police would do, before he got a more nuanced opinion about it - aaand... that was as far as he had come. So he definitely knew he didn't want to quit with a soulless corporate image or go back into sales. Anything beyond that was up in the air.

medicine or care? Not a bad idea in theory, but he'd always been more of an "English and History" kid than a "Science and Math" kid in school, so he didn't necessarily have the scientific acumen to learn biology from scratch mathematical acumen to know how he would ever pay off the student loan debt if he went to college.

fight fire? Oh dear heavens, no. He might be a lovable villain, but he wasn't a bloody action hero like that ridiculously talented British guy he met through his little brother; Nick was a mere mortal and he had every right to say that he wasn't comfortable running into burning buildings for a living. Also, some of the "ACAB" set would probably think he's an idiot for leaving the police force only to go into a profession closely related to the police force.

Okay, how about you ditch any pretense of subtlety and just apply for some sort of mammalian organization? Heck, even a desk job would be bearable if he worked for some charity. Mkay, so about that... he'd tried going down those avenues, but everyone was going Capabilities. And Nick had skills, but he didn't have the skills they were looking for; Given his background, he would only qualify for their "marketing" positions (read: "sitting in a call center or standing on the street bugging people for donations and probably killing any good will people had for the cause out of sheer anger") . Truly a worse fate than unemployment.

And if this begs the question, why didn't he just lie and say he had more skills? Because that was Nick Wilde; Everyone already knew who he was. They might not know everything about him, but they knew enough to fill in the blanks with educated guesses and come up with a strong guess about him. It had occurred to him that maybe he was too famous (or notorious) in this town and maybe he should have just moved out of town and hit the reset button, gone where no one knew his name.

And he had seriously considered joining the Peace Corps directly. Get him as far away from this hellish city as possible. But if he left the entire western hemisphere while she stayed behind, there was no way their relationship would survive. Absolutely no way to heaven or hell. If he did, it could very well prove to be her final goodbye.

If he didn't care about her, he wouldn't have stopped at the Safeway on the way home to buy her some carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, and other vegetables for dinner; She would be working late again that evening and wouldn't have time to rush to the store, so he might as well go get her something. Not like he had anything better to do with his day.

Through his myriad connections he'd gotten many job offers, but they weren't what he was looking for: sell stuff, sell stuff, unarmed security, sell stuff, sell stuff, morgue janitor, sell stuff, sell stuff, armed security, stuff sell, sell stuff, unskilled laborer, restaurant waiter, fast food worker, rideshare/meal delivery/amazon prime driver, male escort, pyramid scheme and sell stuff. Nothing that would make him feel fulfilled and nothing that would make the world a better place. Of course, he was approaching a year of not having a permanent job, and many would say the best way he could make the world a better place was by sucking it up, getting every job he got, and quitting one being leeches to society.

In his defence, he'd briefly had a reasonably fulfilling performance in the fall. It had been an election year and it was high campaigning season, and he got a temp job encouraging people to vote for a new law that would cut taxes for all but the wealthiest 6 percent of Oregon residents. He was supposed to be supervising the people who went door-to-door rather than doing it himself, but as these employees were often worryingly unreliable, he found himself ringing a lot of bells - a particularly interesting situation since he already knew a lot of the people on his list, and he found out the hard way that he had misjudged much of their personal politics.

The tax bill failed miserably on election day, thanks largely to the opposition campaign which openly lied about it in their ads, but guess what? Nick felt good that he had at least tried his hand at something that would help the common people, and was sticking to the establishment he had explicitly turned his back on. He'd had a quick text chat with his brother's British friend about it, and this guy had certainly approved of the stand for class justice.

The experience might not have been a success on paper, but it had given Nick much-needed hope that there was something out there he could do to make the world a tangible, non-moral, better place. Should he go into politics himself? Running for public office? Oh, pfft, of course everyone knows that politics is completely corruption-free. Naturally.

He was scanning his items at the self-service checkout when he couldn't help but hear a woman silence her daughter.

"Kara! Sei still!"

The little coyote girl became very shy very quickly when her mother started scanning her items again - but not all of her items. Groceries, everyday necessities, a good chunk of which weren't even branded. Once again, it was clearly not greed, but desperation.

And in desperation she looked around to see who could see her. She made it bad and obvious; she must have been a beginner at it. Apparently nobody told her that the cameras at the self-checkout stations weren't aimed at the scan point, but at your face, paying attention to the gaze of someone who knew they were breaking the rules; No one had told this female coyote that confidence was the key to sneaky behavior.

She and Nick just looked at each other for a moment; she looked embarrassed.

Then Nick looked at the self-scanner on duty, a buffalo. If that buffalo looked at him, they didn't, because they were heading straight for the coyotes.

Time for quick thinking.

"Oh, excuse me! Excuse me!" he waved to the clerk. "Could you give me a hand here?"

The buffalo looked surprised but had to come over and help the gentleman in green, giving the coyote a sideways glance as he did so.

"Can I help you?" The buffalo's name tag read "GINA".

"I really hope you can! So I'm having trouble scanning these carrots…” Nick wiped the bundle across the scanner a few times to show nothing was registered. "...I just can't believe it!"

"Sir, you must put the carrots on the jar. It doubles as a scale.”

"Oh, but I don't want my carrots to get dirty!"

You could tell from Gina's facial expression that she clearly thought she was dealing with a stupid person.

"Well, there is no other way, sir."

"Don't you have a plastic bag I could put over it? Or you know what! How about you guys start getting little rolls of wax paper for us? Maybe it weighs a little more, but hey! That's worth a few cents more!”

"Honestly, sir, you are only expected to wash your products before using them."

Nick could see around him that the coyote woman was beginning to pack her bags.

"You know what!?" he exclaimed with a little gasp. "I hadn't even thought of that! Wash them! Genius!"

The buffalo looked like she was about to roll her eyes before she realized he could still see her, so she stopped half-rolling them and pretended to see something to her right--exactly where the coyote, still looking scared, tried to pass them.

"Oh, oh!" Nick spoke up again. "They mentioned putting them on the scale but they still don't have any barcodes or anything! How on earth do you scan them like that?”

Gina gestured for Nick to dig up the carrots, he handed them, she put them on the scale and pressed fifty buttons in five seconds; She had probably memorized all the product codes long ago. She threw the carrots into a plastic bag and was about to walk away when Nick stopped her again.

"Well, wait, wait!" he begged. "You did that so fast, I couldn't understand what you did! Can you show me how to do this with my tomatoes?”

When the clerk meticulously called all of Nick's products at what was supposed to be the self-checkout, the coyote and her daughter were nowhere to be seen. All for the best; he couldn't expect her to stay with him and thank him when she had to skedaddle. He was satisfied enough with a job well done.

Now you see, if he were still a cop, that would be just the kind of stuff he couldn't pull. He couldn't play the "stealing essentials from a wealthy company when you really can't afford it is fine" card, and he definitely couldn't just tell employees to their faces that they should let them go. If she were robbing from a small corner shop where the owners and operators might actually suffer from lost sales on stolen goods, or if she were engaging in frivolous things, or taking a ridiculously large and obvious amount of stuff, then he would be wasn't that cool with it. But this female coyote took only the necessities of life and still paid most of it from a big company that in all likelihood would never notice or be disadvantaged in any way - much like his own parents at Food Lion and Harris Teeter, when he was a kid, before finally breaking into the middle class around the time he turned ten. If he were still a police officer, he would not have had the autonomy to act on his developed sense of justice. He should have spoken to the woman and he would have hated every minute of it.

(And the offer to pay for their groceries might fly once or twice, but he couldn't do it one poor person he met because my goodness was groceries expensive, especially here on the west coast. A box of crackers costs about seven bucks in this town, what the hell? Few could afford it The generous.)

So what would he do next? He didn't know yet. He knew he wanted to do something where he had the autonomy to follow his heart and do good through his own personal idea of ​​good; sometimes that is in accordance with the law, sometimes not. (That's not to say he and she fully complied with the SOP in solving the case, which they didn't, and they both knew they'd try their luck to be cops again and again that fast and being easy on the rules.) He definitely didn't want to take it as far as his little brother's older friend, who almost fucking got sent back to England for the mess he made in Delaware; Nick was aware of the chaos it had all turned into. But he certainly would have liked to have had as much freedom as this crazy, lanky fox and his crew.

He carried his bags along the side of the store, past a row of shopping carts and under the concrete ledge. Not keen on making eye contact with passing strangers, he kept his eyes on his surroundings and that's when he saw the flyer.


Private investigator training





And at the bottom of the sheet were paper fingers with a name and phone number on them for mammals to tear off.

Anyone else might have seen this and dismissed it as a scam – and in fact none of the slips had been drawn yet – but as a former ID-card fraudster, Nick knew this was no easy case of a con artist getting sloppy. There was a definite smack of the desperation of a self-employed businessman, another emotion Nick knew all too well. And this Howard guy must have known it all sounded fishy because he was straight out telling people to search it online to see if it was legit (obviously no one had told this new kid on the block that big companies Tax deductions for businesses in town were given under different names that would celebrate mammal diversity, so he should have instructed them to do so Zoogle him) - which, hey, is good for him because he's aware that that was a weird suggestion, but honestly it just came off as a lack of confidence. And as a private detective who must have been sneaking around a lot, old boy Lotor should have known the importance of confidence.

Speaking of confidence...you know, you could pretty much put any intelligent being into one of four categories:

-Group 1: People who had flaws, fears and insecurities that overwhelmed them and everyone else could see them;

- Group 2: People who had flaws, fears and insecurities but were very good at hiding them - and consequently not a single other person knew about them because one of those flaws, fears and insecurities was an insatiable need to make people think they had no;

-Group 3: Individuals who really had no faults, fears or insecurities, often due to clinical sociopathy, narcissism or just crazy delusions (sometimes mammals deep in Group 2 could pass for Group 3); And

-Group 4: Individuals who had flaws, fears, and insecurities but had a healthy relationship with them, which they often hid, not for fear of being discovered, but out of an understanding that the situation rarely requires them to be open shown, then being willing and able to share them with people they trust when the time is right, and having the ability to work on their mistakes, fears and insecurities while still acknowledging that they always did some Mistakes, fears and insecurities because mistakes, fears and insecurities were an inseparable part of the mammalian experience. That was the group you wanted to be in.

Nick had spent the longest time in Group 2 before meeting her, after which he found the strength to move up to Group 4. Now he was afraid that his subconscious was trying to push him back into group 2 when in fact it was putting him in group 1. Because he was still trying to show the same confidence he always had when he was a man of the street, but for one reason or another people just didn't believe him these days. What's the point of believing in yourself when everyone else treats you the way you don't?

And the truth of God he was War concerned. He was afraid he was running out of time to put his life in order. He was far from old, but he had just turned thirty-eight in January; Even with the most generous definitions of the word, he was almost past the time when he could reasonably call himself "young." Heck, in a year he'd be the same age as Homer Simpson, a pop culture portrait of middle-aged mediocrity with no way out. (And he was well aware that as a xennial in a world that was coming to Gen Z's grasp, he was creating a mental analogy to one Simpsons The hint probably only aged him further.) He didn't want to panic because he knew it wouldn't do any good, but the downside of knowing everyone is that you end up knowing a lot of people whose lives happened once and for all never taken a downturn, ever gotten better - and you know damn well it could happen to you.

He would have preferred to have had these revelations sooner than he did that he wanted to be a good person and do it his own way, but he was also grateful they didn't come later. And especially thankful that they had come at all. Some mammals aren't even lucky enough to choose who they want to be, let alone figure out who to be and how to become them.

And for these reasons and more, he pulled off a tab. Maybe he's keeping his options open. Hey, solving mysteries and solving cases was by far the most enjoyable part of his time in the police force, wasn't it? If this were real, this could turn out to be all the cool parts of being a cop without getting in trouble. And if it wasn't real and it turned out to be a serial killer's trap, well, that should at least make an interesting story.

It was a classic dilemma: you know you're not where you're supposed to be, but you don't know where you are Are to be and you know you can't stay but you don't want to move to move lest you move in the wrong direction, further from where you should be. But even though he felt desperately lost, Nick had a hunch that this private investigator's idea could lead him somewhere in the right direction, even if it wasn't the right ultimate destination itself, and he was going to bet on that hunch.

You know, they say that the key tenet of true confidence is an undying belief that even when you fail, you will still be fine. In many ways he wasn't objectively well right now, but hey, he was alive and well, wasn't he? Maybe he just wasn't done with that one long failure, and when he finally found a way to end it, maybe he'd feel good about himself. He wasn't as sure of that as he used to be, but he had a funny feeling he was about to come out the other side. Especially when he had to endure this with the accompaniment of the one police officer whom he supported unconditionally and who – he was pretty sure – also supported him unconditionally.


And we go to the races. One final note: Howard and Renee as seen here were based on what I gleaned from them in the free-to-play demo since that's all I've had to work with to date. Next time we see them, I'll have played the game and made any necessary adjustments accordingly (though I think I've got a pretty good handle on them, if I do say so myself). peace and love. -Dobi

Chapter 2: So much for my happy ending


A lifelong optimist struggles with another frustrating day as she confronts what has become of her dream job. Sometimes it's not about giving up hope - sometimes it feels like you've given up hopeOf.


Originally published June 10, 2021

chapter text

Chapter Two, "So much for my happy ending"

For what it was worth, she believed that Is thought he meant business when he said he'd continue to support her law enforcement career from the sidelines, but he sure had a funny way of showing it. He verbally uttered many words of approval and encouragement, but he was not again very much.

She had never told him that she thought that about him because she fully expected him to reply with something also was may I do? She honestly wouldn't have a straight answer to that - but sweet cheese and crackers, something. Nick was a smart fox; she would have thought he had done magic some way to express their support for her more actively than what came across as just lip service. It was enough to make her wonder if he had really let himself in for the narrative that the police institution itself was irrevocably evil inside and out and he was now only pretending to support them because he needed someone to who paid his bills - and perhaps because he saw them only as living fetish fuel.

"Hey, slow down, slow down, slow it down--!"


The bunny slammed on the brakes just in time to avoid hitting the minivan, but they both still had minor heart attacks when their partner's cell phone flew out of his paws and slammed against the windshield and dashboard. They each took a second to get their lungs working again before arguing.

"...Oh my god, that's me So I'm sorry,” she finally said after catching her breath.

It took him an extra second to catch his breath. "... do you have something on your mind? Like something to distract you?”

“No, no, I… I'm fine.

"Are you sure?"


"You are Secure?"

She turned and purposely met his eyes before answering. "You don't have to keep asking."

Shy as he was, he didn't shy away from her eye contact. "I really feel that way."

She turned away from him. If she couldn't change his mind about her feelings, then it wasn't worth it.

"Light is green."

"I see that," she said flatly as she pressed the accelerator.

Judy wasn't really mad at her partner, and she actually knew he wasn't trying to be an asshole; that there had been a genuine attempt to express concern. But it was just another example of how – and she knew that wasn't fair at all to him, but still – her new partner paled in comparison to Nick.

It was crazy enough when the first rabbit to join the city police department was mated to his first fox; When it turned out that her second partner was a dog, well...in context it seemed like a ridiculous duplication of the first joke, but on its own it seemed like just a lamer version of the first joke. With no disrespect to the German shepherd, Brady Braverman really came across as a poor man's Nick Wilde.

A big part of what disappointed her about partnering with Braverman was how similar he and Nick were on paper, and yet how much... less he was. They both had a sarcastic and cynical sense of humor, they both had a "disappointed optimist" vibe with good hearts beneath tough exteriors, and they both took care of her in their own unique ways. And of all the new officers fresh out of the Academy that they could have assigned her in Nick's place, Brady was a perfect protégé, just as Nick had once been. But this poor pup didn't have even one iota of the fox's charm.

Braverman came across as someone not only aware that he basically lacked charm, but someone desperately trying to acquire it— And He seemed to be someone who was fully aware of the fact that if you have to try to be charming, then so be it are not, but who tried it anyway, because otherwise he would certainly never get better. And that way Judy could respect his efforts, but jeezaloo, it just seemed pathetic. And Brady had been more or less explicit that all of this was the case, after meeting Nick a couple of times and lamenting how incredibly charismatic he was, but in an odd irony, Nick no longer the smug bastard who he used to be would now freely testify that his charm was just an acquired skill he had to learn in order to survive on the streets as he did for so many years, but Brady seemed to Judy to be living proof of that that some mammals just weren't born celebrities.

Like right now. Judy nearly crashes her cruiser. Brady expresses concern about being distracted by intrusive thoughts. He was rightly concerned because he was correct. But even though she knew it was him, his questioning didn't seem like she was personally concerned about her, it just came across as... accusatory? Is that the right word? One way or another the poor boy couldn't control his tone when he got nervous and he was always nervous because he wasn't comfortable in his own fur and everyone on earth could see it and consequently wasn't comfortable Neither did him, and while there was nothing evil about him, he just wasn't an attractive personality to be around. One could only imagine how miserable he would be when he found out that one of the things that annoyed Judy when she lost her focus was the thought that her dream job had become irretrievably less dreamy since that dog was a part of it was.

But don't just take my word for it that Officer Braverman was too clumsy and too insecure to live. Judy and I don't need to tell you when Brady will surely show you in person anytime.

"...child," he suddenly hissed after a few minutes of silence in the car. It was so gruff and monotonous that it sounded not unlike a frightened robot.

Yes, called it. Braverman is involuntarily weird, just like clockwork.

"What?" asked Officer Hopps, who really had no idea what the hell her partner had just said.

"Boy," the dog repeated as he pointed to a creature on the side of the road they passed while he stuttered. As was often the case with him, he knew exactly what he wanted to say, but the words just didn't come out right, and while he wasn't nervous at first, the fact that he wasn't in control of his speech was becoming more and more of a challenge more scared. "Child. Sidewalk. Small. Alone. Stop, stop, car, fuses!"

She got the picture. The bunny dragged the squad car into an open space next to a fire hydrant and they both jumped out.

A black bear cub, probably no older than kindergarten age, stood alone on the sidewalk, frantically turning his head in all directions and looking like he was trying to be a big boy and not cry, but didn't quite succeed.

Judy and Brady ran towards him. Although the child was much larger than she was, the bunny made a point of wrapping her arm around the bear cub as much as possible. The German shepherd, on the other hand, crouched a bit and put his paws on his knees to look less big and scary.

"Hey buddy, what's up?" asked Judy.

"What's up, little one, how are you?" Brady asked, doing his best to appear more empathetic with this boy than he had with his partner five minutes earlier.

Unfortunately, the boy seemed even more nervous in the presence of these adults.

"My mom says I shouldn't talk to strangers!" he whimpered.

Judy just continued to smile at him kindly. "And you know what, young man? Your mother raised you right. But don't worry, we're not just any old strangers! I'm Officer Judy Hopps and this is my friend, Officer Brady Braverman -"

"Nice to meet you, friend," Brady said as he held out a paw for an informal little handshake, hoping the child would appreciate being treated like an adult, but instead the cub just looked horrified on the dog's paw. Judy shook her head gently to tell him he was probably overplaying it, and Braverman tried not to look embarrassed as he backed off.

"... and we're from the Zootopia Police Department!" Hopps ended like nothing weird or awkward had just happened. “We are here to protect you and to make the world a better place! Well, may I ask what is your name my friend?"

After a moment, the bear cub spoke, "...Joshton."

Braverman stood up and stepped back for a second, obviously trying desperately to hold back his laughter.

The bunny just rolled her eyes at her partner and continued with her authenticity. "Well, it's nice to meet you, Joshton. Well, you mentioned your mother; is she there right now? Is there another adult who should be with you?”

"My mum was running down the street and told me to follow her but I tripped and fell and when I looked up she was gone!"

"Oh no! Did you hurt yourself?"

"Um... it hurt a bit..." the boy said while rubbing his knee. "...but...now I just want to know where my mother went."

I'm sorry to say that this boy's misfortune was just what Judy needed. Little things like this were the reminders she needed to reignite her passion for this job. Someone has a problem that anyone can solve, but no one is doing it - so she will rise to the occasion and be the one to do it. Look at all the mammals that walk by on the street and leave this poor kid alone. Terrible people, all of them, but at least they would make them look better in comparison. Who needs intoxicants when you can get high from a sense of importance?

"Well, in that case," she said to Joshton, "we're going to help you find her! You said she was running down the street? Do I understand this in the right manner?"

"Yes, and then I fell down and then she wasn't there anymore!"

"Do you remember which way she ran?"

"This way!" Joshton pointed down the street.

"Okay, let's go in that direction!" the rabbit explained as she took the boy's paw in hers and started walking, soon catching the dog again.

"By the way, mate," Braverman ventured softly, "would you happen to know why or where your mother ran to? That might help us too!”

Hopps gave him a quick smile; She thought that was a very good question and he had asked it very well.

The boy nodded. "Yeah, she ran after a guy!"

„Pff“, Brady could be heard mocking, not quite quietly. "Someone pissed off Mama Bear."

"Brady!" Judy hissed at him; her goodwill towards him from ten seconds ago was gone.

"What?" asked Braverman unapologetically. "You know, bears swear like sailors, I guarantee he's heard that word before." (See? Sounds vaguely like something Nick would say, but while Wilde would have said it with an irresistible grin, Brady just looked annoyed and sounded like he didn't want to be there.)

And that memory of being stuck with A Guy Like Nick, But Like A Version Who Sucks was a factor in contributing to the death stare she gave him.

... Now Braverman looked like he regretted his words. “Okay, um… you want me to run ahead and see if I can sniff them out? Maybe she just walked around the corner.”

Hops nodded. "That would be nice Brady, thanks."

The German shepherd scurried away, leaving the bear cub with the rabbit and following at a pace between leisurely and hurried.

"Will we find my mother?"

"I'm sure of it, Joshton," she said as they rounded the first corner. "Let's walk this way in case she just took a quick turn, which you didn't see. But can I ask you a few questions about her now? It might make them easier to find!”


"Do you know her first name?"


"And does she have the same last name as you?"

"I think so."

It sounded like they could hear a hoarse-voiced woman screaming somewhere nearby. Hopefully nothing too bad.

"What's your last name, Joshton?"

"... Coleman."

"Excellent! Now you see, Joshton, that helps us, because now we have a name to ask for -"

"Found her!"

Well, that hadn't taken long. They saw Braverman peeking around the next corner, now on the other side of the block from where they had started. The rabbit and the bear ran to him and saw that there was indeed a female black bear present. Hey, with a nose like that, the dog was at least objectively better than Nick at something.

But the black bear was actually the woman they had heard screaming.

And she yelled at a cop.

More specifically, a maid.

Judy and Brady recognized the officer as someone new to the force, a member of a rather obscure species called... an Addax? I find? Guy looked like an antelope, but his family was from Mauritania. Much like they did with Judy when she first started, they assigned him a valet job to familiarize him with the city (he was originally from Phoenix), a job he surely felt was beneath his dignity was. So he was doing his best to nonverbally tell this woman that he had no intention of heeding her protests when his colleagues arrived.

The bear quickly noticed her too. "Don't you seriously have nothing better to do than ruin people's lives, you fucking asshole!? What makes you think--!? BECKON!"


Ms. Coleman stopped her diatribe and knelt and hugged her beloved son.

"Joshton, I told you to follow me!"

"I did mom, but I tripped over something and fell and when I looked up, you were gone!"

Judy absolutely beamed at the sight. Her job was well done, she felt good about her career choice. She shared her joy and hoped this moment would never end.

But the meter maid made a point of insuring it. He gave her and Braverman an unimpressed look and nodded slowly to assure them that this wasn't just a case of happy endings.

"So she didn't even realize her child was missing?" the addax grumbled.

"...Forgiveness?" Carla asked as she stood up again.

"Mom, this nice bunny lady helped me find you!" Joshton exclaimed, pointing at Judy.

"Oh, hey, it's the bunny cop!" said the bear woman with sarcastic excitement. "Of course everyone knows Judy Hopps! hey hey You're a good cop, right, ma'am?

The addax hit Judy to the point: "Well guess lady? It's her turn Mein Page! I'm doing exactly what she did when she first started proving herself and now I'm doing the exact same thing! She will not be a hypocrite!"

The bear woman looked at the rabbit with a raised eyebrow. "Is that so? You were more than happy going around giving people tickets for victimless crimes just so the city could squeeze more money out of us!? It's expensive enough to live in this goddamn town, you can sleep at night knowing you're charging us even more!?"

Ah yes. The part of her story most civilians didn't know about. The part of the story where she didn't know what to feel anymore after Nick told her the other side of the story. The part of the story she desperately wanted to forget but couldn't yet.

"Well... look, ma'am..." Hopps stuttered, her confidence slipping fast, "...I didn't want Having parking meter service, I just wanted to join to prove to my bosses that I'm a good worker who can handle more -"

"That's exactly what I'm doing!" said the addax, whose names Judy and Brady still didn't know.

"So you two are one!" growled the boy's mother. "So you not really cares about people! I have bills to pay and a son to support! I don't need another bill! Did you see my car across the block!? It's a '97 Plymouth Voyager! I'm broke as hell! This will pay my other bills heavier!"

"Well, I have bills to pay too, lady, and I intend to keep my job!" At this point, the two were talking around Judy rather than with her. "Your timer had expired and now it's my job to punish you for breaking the rules! Do you know what else is part of my job? Write a ticket for disturbing the peace! So I suggest you calm down and act like a fucking adult!

"HEY! Don't swear in front of the damn kid!"

"I didn't swear lady, YOU did it! Are you fucking hearing yourself!?”

"NOW you swore!"

"Yes now!"

Judy had absolutely no idea how to remedy this situation. So she didn't.

"Um, sorry?"

Both the addax and the bear looked at the dog impatiently.

"What time was she?"

"Huh?" asked the meter girl.

"Like, how long was she past expiry, um... time? How far was she over? The limit?” Once again, Brady's stumbling lack of confidence in speaking became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"Not even two minutes!" Ms. Coleman yelled. "My son had to pee before we left the store!"

"Seven minutes," the Addax replied flatly.

"Okay, that..." Braverman worked up the courage to speak. "...that seems a little unloving."

Uh, seven minutes was in the gray area where it was getting a little long, and this woman seemed to have one few something of a claim to leniency over them. But Judy couldn't help but recall what Nick had argued, and she couldn't remember finding a better point.

"Yes," she finally said. "I would leave that to her. There are many cars in this city, you will fill your quota in other ways."

"THANK YOU VERY MUCH!" Carla said, but her tone was one of desperation and frustration rather than gratitude.

The Addax, however, remained unmoved. He flipped the screen of his handheld device to show them some details. "All right, hops. I know you've done this before, I know you know how this works. The ticket has already gone to the town hall. It's not coming back.

"WHAT!?" Joshton's mother screamed again.

"Mom, please stop screaming, you're scaring me."

"Oh come on!" Judy protested the Addax. "There's definitely an undo button for mistyping license plates and stuff!"

"Hey!" the Addax protested back. "Did your fox infect you with his stupid ideas? we are cops That's what we do. Do you know why everyone in the police hates you now? Are the damn blue! And because it's you Fuck a traitor who is red - apparently in more ways than one!"

"Hey! let him out of there! He has decided that the police are not for him and I have decided to respect that! And you should too!”

"You want me to respect the fact that he directly said my job was -?"

"How much is it?" Brady interrupted.

"...What?" asked the meter girl.

"The ticket. How much--?"

"Hundred damn dollars!" cried Mrs. Coleman. "That's way too goddamn much!"

Braverman just rolled his eyes as everyone watched as he pulled out his wallet and thumbed through it until he pulled out a wad of 20s, 10s, and 5s.

"Here," Brady said as he handed it to the maid. "Consider it paid."

"Do I look like a bloody cashier?" asked the addax. "Braverman, why are you carrying so much cash anyway?"

"Man, why not Of?" growled the German shepherd as he handed the money to the black bear. "There. Even Stevens."

"Brady," Judy said, grasping the dog's free arm, "you don't have to do this, that's a lot of money—"

"Obviously I do, damn it." He didn't even look at her as he spoke.

The bear had a skeptical look on her face as she accepted the money, but she accepted. She made eye contact with all three officers before grabbing her son's arm. "Thank you very much," she said angrily to Braverman.

"Thank you Officer Dog!" Joshton beamed. "You made my mother stop being angry!"

Brady knelt to get closer to the boy's height again. "Don't mention it, little fella. Hey, you're a pretty cool boy, you know that?"

"I am!?" asked the boy excitedly.

"Yes! And you were truly a brave young man when you couldn't find your mother."

"I was!?"

"Yup! Tell me, what's your favorite thing in the whole wide world?"

"I like memes!"

Braverman clearly wasn't ready for that, and his face made it look like his brain had frozen. "Understood…"

Joshton's mother, who wanted a breakup before Braverman tried to butter his kid like a fucking maniac, wouldn't wait for another opportunity to fight back.

"Well, thanks again, Officer Dog," Carla said as she began pulling Joshton away, but not before turning to the Addax - "Fuck you..." - and the rabbit. "... and shit Of."

The three watched the bear walk away, little Joshton looked behind him and waved at Brady and Judy. However, the Addax moved quickly with checking meters.

"What do you want to tell him?" the dog whispered to the hare.

"Honest?" Judy asked while pondering the answer herself. "...Nothing. Let's just leave this guy alone." And she led the way back to the cruiser.

"Really? You don't want to try to inspire this guy to... you know, be less of an asshole? A good cop?”

"We've already tried to lead by example and talk sense into him when that didn't work," she said, trying to sound unimpressed and not completely devastated. “If we haven't reached him yet, we never will. All we can do now is be better than him.”

Braverman couldn't help but feel that this was a totally uncharacteristic response from his partner, but he shrugged with an "Uh... right" and moved on.

Hopps would have completely agreed that this reaction wasn't quite her type - certainly not the cop she wanted to be. But this was an extremely difficult situation on a personal level and she just wasn't ready for it, so she would accept that the scene had a happy ending, forgive herself and wash her paws off the situation. She would try to be ready next time; If she hadn't been able to inspire that Addax guy not to be an idiot, maybe it was a fault of her ability to inspire people, not his ability to be inspired.

Speaking of inspirations...

"By the way," she started again, "that was a really nice thing you did, paying for her parking ticket. I mean… you didn't have to act so drastically, but I think that says something good about you, you were even willing to take such a big step."

And for a brief moment, the German shepherd seemed very pleased with himself. "Huh! Um... thanks!"

"And it was cute how you tried to make the kid feel good." Although Nick would have done much better. "Although... I have to ask, what was that part of what his favorite pastime was...?"

Aaand Brady felt awkward and insecure again. "Man — I don't know, I was just trying to relate to him."

"Well it was a good effort! You're getting better at it, don't worry!" Of course, all the optimism in the world couldn't make it a certainty that she was right.

Brady nodded. "Well, I really hope so...hey, at least we did something good, didn't we?"

"Yes!" Judy beamed. "That's the spirit! A net positive! We stumbled along the way but we learned from our mistakes and won in the end!"

"Damn straight," Braverman said rather listlessly.

"Pity us had but to be the ones who do good,” continued the rabbit. "It's good that we were there. All those mammals just walking past a boy crying in the street like nothing -"

"II mean, to be fair..." ventured the dog, "...if I wasn't wearing an officer's uniform I wouldn't approach a strange kid on the street."

Judy's face was twisted in disgust as she looked up at the dog. "Why not!? You seriously wouldn't feel bad if you left a crying child all alone!?"

Brady didn't look embarrassed, just embarrassed as he leaned forward to whisper to his tiny partner. "I don't want people to think I'm a fucking pedophile!"

"Oh come on!" Hopps mocked at full volume. "Nobody would think that!"

"I guarantee you they would."

"Brady, you're being paranoid again-"

"You want me to call my mom so she can explain why she specifically advised me against getting a job at a swim school?" Braverman whipped out his phone and waved it in Judy's face; he wasn't bluffing. "I'm serious, we can call her. It was supposed to be a summer job in college, and when I told her I got the job, she basically said, 'No, the hell you didn't, when a man like you with half-naked kids all day, people will think you're a weirdo including me, your mother.' She probably won't admit that last part, but she'll gladly admit everything before that."

Braverman seemed pretty adamant that his fear was justified, so Judy just let it go. "No, that's... that's fine, I believe you."

And hey, maybe it was him To the right. Perhaps people today were acutely aware of the danger of strangers, and no one wanted to risk being mistaken for the stranger who posed a threat. And as she and her partner climbed into their squad car, she told herself it was further proof of the importance of her work: This world needed people who weren't afraid to do the right thing...even when it sometimes seemed like the wrong thing .

Unfortunately, she didn't know if her new partner could be someone who could be as willing as she was.

When Nick quit, they pushed her around with a bunch of different officers to try their hand at being their new partners; These were all officers who didn't have partners because everyone else had already refused to work with them, so you can imagine how much crap these hostile characters gave Judy about Nick's decision to leave. They even put her on desk duty for about two weeks just because they were completely out of ideas what to do with her. Then they offered her the chance to take a child fresh out of academy under their wing, and she jumped at the chance.

So she was paired with the ironically named Brady Braverman. The German Shepherd was not technically a college dropout; He had completed community and his associate's with plans to move on to a four-year-old, but he already had enough debt and (in typical Brady Braverman fashion) he didn't have enough confidence in himself to ever be able to paying off his student loans – okay, actually, coming to think of it, that last part might have been a rational matter. But one way or another, he felt the need to pay his community college bills before pursuing a bachelor's degree (not that he knew what he wanted to study anyway), so he went to the police force to get some money to earn. Also, his aunt had been a senior cop in the East (same town Nick was from, btw) and while she eventually quit before Brady could even remember due to her own moral concerns, she was probably his coolest family member, so he could might as well take a few hints from her, right? It was either the police or the armed forces, and he knew he couldn't handle the armed forces.

However, given the political climate at the time he graduated from the academy, he genuinely wished he had just joined the armed forces. Judy was thrilled to have a protégé of her own, someone she could mold into a brilliant lawman who would stand up for peace and justice, and here she was given a puppy who immediately told her he was afraid of him. d made a very bad decision. But that was Brady Braverman; he was too scared to cut his losses and change his mind, so he stuck with it and Judy had time to work on him.

And she'd say she did a... er, decent job. After almost a year with him, she'd successfully convinced this dog that good cops exist and that he could be one... but he just didn't seem too keen. He seemed to play the role of a good cop because it was what he should be doing rather than something he wanted to do. That's better than nothing, it was better than being one of those cops Nick warned about who did more bad not by choosing to be bad but by not choosing to be good his, but it was just a disappointment that he couldn't share her devotion. Brady was a good boy with a good heart and he seemed to be trying to be a good person in life, but it was clear as day that he didn't think he could in any way make the world a better place, concrete, meaningful path as a police officer.

In a way, he was a similar case to the Addax they had just encountered. Judy had done her best over the past year to demonstrate to Brady that they could be forces for good in this town, using moments like helping a lost cub find his parents as proof, and for a good reason He did believe in part, but there seemed to be a ceiling on how inspired he would ever be. He begged the question: was his lack of enthusiasm for his job his failure as a student or her failure as an educator? The former option seemed so dismissive, like absolving herself of responsibility without even thinking about it, but the latter… it scared her. If she wasn't a good teacher now, when would she be? What did she have to do to get better? How do you teach yourself to teach others - especially when you don't know how to teach at all!? Existential fear of the limit of their abilities, you get it.

But at least Brady tried. So many cops in this squad didn't; That was one thing Nick was right about that she couldn't disagree with. She might as well have stayed with one of them rather than Braverman, who had never expressed ill will toward Judy and Nick for their odd situation where their careers intersected with the household and, if anything, seemed to understand them more than most mammals. This German Shepherd may not have believed in the cause (nor himself), but at least he wasn't really difficult to get along with.

To say it was him simply getting along wasn't always true, however. He was of two types, and you've already seen glimpses of both: either he was incredibly confident and awkward and made everyone around him feel awkward, or he completely said fuck it and acted like he was feeling so obsessed , which was common Judy felt uncomfortable because, in an attempt to ease his own discomfort, he stopped caring that she wasn't interested in sophomoric jokes or profane language. He stopped sweating because he didn't know how to be platonic with his partner, and he said whatever came to mind with an amazing amount of candor that he hadn't had two minutes earlier - and things again, the things Brady said openly just didn't have the same charm as the things Nick said openly. It wasn't fair to him, but Braverman had a big pair of shoes to fill, and he probably never would.

Brady had met Nick a few times through Judy, so they had a good understanding of each other's personalities. They always cracked a few jokes about how foxes and hounds shouldn't get along, and they seemed comfortable in each other's company - of course Nick was working on his magic, which could make almost anyone comfortable in his company , something Brady was well aware of. As previously mentioned, Brady had expressed to Judy on several occasions that he had a strange admiration, slash, jealousy of the fox; he admired Nick's intelligence and head strength, his belief in following his heart out of violence and not caring what others thought, his cunning and will to survive nearly two decades as a street businessman, the way he what had improved thereafter had been a heartless conspirator for almost two decades, his evident confidence and his... well, his foxish charm and charisma - and the dog was bitterly and self-loathingly jealous that he himself had none of it and didn't know how to use it receives. But Braverman had also confided in Judy that he also thought a lot about the people he admired and wanted to be like — Nick and many others — and wondered if they would if they could see him trying to be them to emulate and failed to be disappointed in him because he is a failure; Of course, pessimist to the end, Brady always insists that he knows this concern is stupid because the people he admired surely wouldn't even think of a failure like him.

He didn't know that Nick thought about him regularly. He had to; when your friend and former co-worker who lives in the household regularly complains about the odd mix of emotions she gets from her new partner and complains about sitting with a child who doesn't seem to have enough self-esteem to be a buttering piece of toast, but complains The whining because she knew he was doing his best (didn't she?)... quite often when you hear these complaints over and over again, you start thinking about the subject of those complaints. And wouldn't you know, Nick initially disliked Braverman because of all those weird feelings he put Judy through, which made her question her ability to lead and inspire, as if Brady's low self-esteem was kind of contagious , but after hearing Judy's own opinion on the development of her new partner (and Nick himself realizing that he might have forgotten how to empathize with people who weren't quite as socially savvy and self-reliant as he was), now he had just feel sorry for the guy. The German shepherd had all the pity of the fox. So maybe it's in our collective interest that one of the mammals Brady admires didn't feel like a disappointing failure, but more like a poor, pathetic little pup who just wasn't meant to have a chance at greatness.

But hey, opinions can change. Maybe they just needed to get to know each other better. Nick's opinion of Brady had already improved in a few other ways. For one thing, Nick knew and appreciated that Brady respected him as a man and felt no sorrow at Nick's decision to leave ZPD, nor did Nick sense anything other than the dog's approval of the whole "a fox and a rabbit are definitely in" thing. . a "romantic relationship" thing. And while Nick had once privately viewed the German shepherd as just another guy who would join the police force to get a secure government job where they don't have goals or have to put themselves out there, he now understood that Braverman was more complex. Brady still wasn't very striving for greatness, yes, but Nick had shared his philosophy about how much — not all, but a lot — how much policing is less about protecting and serving than it is it's more about punishing people for bullshit and machinations of revenue for the government, and while they agreed on how much that could be changed from the inside...he got it Brady got his point and totally agreed that a significant part of police work is a scam and Nick really respected that about him.

More importantly, Nick respected that Braverman agreed with him on the more important tenet of his philosophy, something most cops would vehemently dismiss as nonsense (and something that took even Judy an alarmingly long time to come to): that laws are. It's not always just moral, and that a significant proportion of crime is committed not out of malice but out of necessity. Not always, not even necessarily most of the time, but often.

Judy reluctantly agreed to that argument, too. Again, this is not always a crime of necessity, but it is often.

But not always.

You could almost see the "oh shit" look on the hyena's face as she sprinted out of the liquor store and across the street with a large glass bottle in hand, only to find a squad car just outside the door.

"RUNNER!" Braverman barked. “Hey, slow down, um –! Shit, what's the name of a famous sprinter?

Hopps wasted no time in replying. She squealed on the brakes and threw the car into park. They quickly unbuckled their seat belts and jumped out of the car in pursuit of the perpetrator as fast as they could. They both knew this was a crime of greed, not a crime of need.

"ZPD! STOP RUNNING!" roared the rabbit.

"USAIN BOLT, I REMEMBER NOW!" the dog roared.

The hyena was fast, almost as fast as the bulls on its fur. They definitely caught up with him within a block, but not by much. Judy tried to calm down as she contemplated how she was going to stop this guy, and Brady - who could run pretty fast but not for very long - was almost on the limit, hoping for luck if he caught the guy soon .

The thief was lucky that there weren't any comedically inconvenient obstacles in his way, but nothing to deter the officers either. When he turned the corner and ran down an alleyway, there wasn't a huge wall or fence enclosing him (has anyone ever happened to see an alleyway with a wall halfway down by any chance? I certainly haven't), but there wasn't either could tip over causing the bulls to trip or slip. Nearing the end of the alley, however, he decided that even a bottle of fancy expensive vodka wasn't a good price for his freedom, so he tossed it behind him and aimed as best he could at the bunny's face.

The bottle was heavier than expected, so it landed right in front of her feet. But the exploding glass wasn't much of a hindrance; Just hop… hopped about it.

Braverman had to stop, however, to tiptoe slowly and carefully around the jagged shards that now littered the alley's asphalt surface. (Suffice it to say that there was an ongoing discussion in the department about perhaps requiring officers to wear shoes at such moments, and this case would be added to the list of cases cited in favor of the rule). If anything, however, this gave the poor pup a chance to catch his breath before sprinting again.

They walked down a main street again. Some passers-by saw the chase and moved out of the way. Judy was a bit irritated that none of these mammals had the guts to arrest a commoner—as if there was a hippopotamus on the sidewalk that could easily have bodyslamed that offender, but only chosen not - but this was another reminder of the importance of her work. Despite society's great fascination with heroic stories, most people really don't want to May be Heroes, they would like to imagine they could be but don't really want to put in the work to become heroes, they just want to be safe and comfortable while someone else takes on the difficult task of playing the hero. And while sometimes she's done better than sometimes, the fact that she even wanted to be a heroine of this town makes her special.

She almost had him. A quick look back showed that Brady wasn't too far behind. There didn't seem to be a less daring option, so they would go with an old classic. It was a tactic she'd used on Nick several times to great effect, but Braverman was quite a bit bigger than Nick so it was even more effective on him. Working with the German shepherd undeniably had some advantages. Kicking her tiny legs into overdrive, she got ready to use herself as a weapon.

The criminal was looking for dangers to be wary of, so instead of looking down, he looked ahead. But "down" quickly became "in front" when he felt himself tripping over something small and furry and the concrete was fast closing in on his eyes. The hyena planted itself in the face hard, but didn't let it stop it and quickly scrambled to get back on its feet. He never made it.


"STAY ON THE GROUND! STAY ON THE FUCKING GROUND...!" The dog gasped for a few moments before he could finish his thought. "...DO NOT STAND UP!"

Judy was right there, ready to mirand him, "You're under arrest for..."

She didn't get very far.

"Well, if it isn't Brady Braverman!"

It was only at that moment that all three realized that they were right in front of a cafe and another trio of mammals were sitting at an outdoor table looking at them. They were a wolverine, a koala, and a European badger, all wearing clothes that would make hipsters call them hipsters and facial expressions that made it clear they had strong opinions about what they were seeing.

"So that's what you're up to these days!" the badger continued, the same female voice from before. "Oppression of the poor and marginalized for a living!"

Braverman's face looked as if a vessel had burst somewhere, causing him to bleed out.

"You know, we really wouldn't have bothered standing up for you against the bullies if we'd known you'd become a bully too," the koala said with the same patronizing coo, her self-important Glasses as round as saucers.

"I guess the people who were most likely to have chosen you to be their marksman were right," the glutton gentleman chimed in, "if out of all the jobs in the world you've chosen one that involves you having a gun and the people you don't deal with!"

"It's like joining the army, but for guys who are too scared of the other person shooting back!" the badger quipped.

And then the hyena did what the hyena did best: he laughed. Loud.

Judy felt like she should do something. But she didn't know how to help Brady, so she just walked up to the crook and said to him, "Sir, please shut up, laughing is not appropriate now. You're under arrest for—”

But he kept laughing. Cackle. Volume up.

"Hey!" said Braverman as he grabbed the hyena's head and pressed it into the ground. "You really think it's a good idea to laugh at a police officer--!?"

"Whoa! Cell phones out! Cell phones out everyone!" said the koala, and she and her two friends all pulled out their phones and started recording the interaction.

"Just look at how angry he is, this man is dangerous!" explained the wolverine. "That dog should be fired immediately!"

"This cop is a broken man who was beaten up as a kid and now he wants to beat up other people!" cried the badger. "You know, you should learn stop surviving bullying and becoming compassionate, not like the people you hate!"

But Braverman was clearly trying to ignore her. "You're under arrest for robbery, resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer," he told the hyena under his hips. "You have the right to-"

"Oh, 'resisting arrest', that is a classic!" remarked the badger. "'How dare you not submit unconditionally to my authority!?'"

"'Attacking a policeman!'" added the wolverine. "I bet he was coughing his way and he felt justified in chasing and attacking him!"

"We'll broadcast it live!" warned the koala. "Arrest this officer immediately for assault! Fuck the ZPD!"

"You have the right... to remain silent..." Braverman struggled and stumbled as he addressed the thief.

"Okay...I have to ask," said the rabbit as she approached the crowd at the cafe. "My name is Officer Judy Hopps, I'm with the Zoot--"

"Yes, thank you for saying your name out loud so we can fire you for your complicity in the violence too!" said the koala.

"Look at how you just let it happen!" said the badger. "Take position and stop him! Or is he another cishet man who would try to hurt you if you tried to tell him he was wrong!?”

"Is that your ID number!?" noticed the wolverine. "Everyone is zooming in on their ID number!"

"Hey!" protested the rabbit. "He's not doing anything wrong! He does not use excessive force, and this man tat running out of a liquor store with a bottle of alcohol that he threw and us!"

"Good!" scoffed the wolverine. "He should have! He was probably scared for his life because he realized that Brady would probably kill him if he caught him! And Illinois vs. Wardlow would have let that dog get away with it!"

"Why would you assume that!?"

"As we said!" replies the badger. "We grew up with him! Everyone always made fun of him and beat him up, from kindergarten to high school and We were some of the good people who hunted down the bullies and put them in their place! But apparently he didn't want to be like us, he was a power hungry little pup who was bitter about it Is wasn't the one who beat people up! And now he's coming!"

"Besides, he stands out!" added the koala. "There aren't many dogs in this town and you could spot a German Shepherd from a mile away!"

Judy couldn't help but be there. "An... Alsatian? What's an Al--?"

"Goddamn," Braverman grumbled, "like Alsace-Lorraine that's in there Deutschland! It's a term for my people from Queen's English or something! Because 'German shepherd' is not politically correct for some mammals!"

"Oh, look at how he complains about political correctness," the wolverine said, shaking his head.

"He just wants to remind people how much his ancestors loved to enslave sheep!" said the Badger.

"I am not responsible for the sins of my ancestors!" the dog barked.

"Then what did you do to undo the permanent damage they caused!?" asked the koala. "Because it really seems like you're deliberately ignoring your ancestors have causes long-lasting damage! Damn, look at you now! You have a hyena under your knee, one of the most oppressed species in the history of the world!"

"I don't have mine Knee on him I am meeting on his return!"

"Yes, you're probably trying to break a vertebrate and paralyze it," the wolverine murmured.

(In case you were curious, the hyena was still laughing.)

"Okay, STOP!" Judy found herself screaming. "Why are you like that … damned mean to him!?"

"Because he's a bad person," the koala said clearly.

"It's okay to be mean to bad people," added the wolverine. "Everyone knows that. That's why people love superhero stories. This is how wars are justified. Gut is not the same Pretty."

"Damn, you should know that good doesn't equal nice!" said the badger. "All of her work is based on the idea that you are the good guys and that makes it okay to beat up the 'bad' guys with bullets and clubs!"

You see, my friend, it's best to point out that mammals like these three were no ordinary sight. Judy and Brady didn't encounter people like this, who vehemently hated the police and hated each of them accordingly, as often as Nick encountered people who vehemently defended the police and hated him accordingly. But from time to time the officers would run into people who really, weren't even trying to be nervous, thought all cops were bad/bullies/sluts/bastards and weren't even afraid to tell those evil, bullying, bastard pigs that to say they were evil tyrannical bastards. When that happened, Judy always did her best to ignore her and Brady always did his best to make it seem like the frustration wasn't poisoning him, and it usually worked. But these three took it to the next level in ways the duo hadn't had to deal with before, and their connection to the dog's past didn't make things any easier; Let's just say that between that and the Addax and Black Bear deal, Hopps and Braverman had a singularly bad day.

And she was absolutely in no mood to just stand there and take it any further.

"Okay, that's enough!" roared the rabbit. "Stop! Let him! You don't know him as well as he knows himself! You don't know him that well I I know him! And believe it or not, that officer is nothing but a good dog!"

"Bold of you to assume that we think you're a much better judge of people," the koala said without hesitation, taking a slow sip of coffee while keeping her half-open eyes on Judy's.

Hopps let out a groan. "You're all from this town, aren't you? Don't you know who I am?"

"A lackey of the ruling class to do the dirty work of oppressing the poor and marginalized mammal groups?" said the badger, her phone still fixed on the officers and the hyena. man, forget Braverman, this three actually had nicks snark without all the charm.

Just shook his head. "You guys really do have smart answers for everything, don't you?"

"You really think you're the first mammals we get into an anti-police debate with, don't you?" the wolverine scoffed.

Judy stopped and forced herself to take a breather. A quick glance at Brady and the hyena showed the dog still muttering the stranger's Miranda rights under his breath. Judy told herself hostility wouldn't convince her.

"Look..." she began again, making a point of considering her words before saying them, "...back in 2015, my boyfriend and I..."

Oh, um. No, sister, you did not In public with strangers, simply refer to Nick as your friend. Yes, everyone knew, but you insisted that it's nobody's business, so you can't make it their business by making it a plot point in a conversation. Sweet cheese and crackers, Judy, come on girl.

"Yeah, the fox you're with?" asked the badger, still glowering. "What about him?"

Well, looks like she just has to own it. "...six years ago he and I -"

"Don't start telling us you saved the town if you're the same person who single-handedly sewed rampant anti-predator sentiment with your racist rhetoric at your press conference," the koala said. "If anything, you've cleaned up a mess you've caused more than anyone else."

"I... didn't mean to say that," Judy squeaked, trying desperately not to snap at her. "Okay, long story short, the experience of solving the case inspired him to try to be a good person, which led him to ZPD --"

"Which was a mistake," said the koala.

"-- but eventually he decided the best way to do this was outside of the police force."

"That still doesn't absolve him of his sins," said the glutton.

"But after that I didn't delete him from my life!" the rabbit insisted. “We agreed to disagree and more importantly we are still debating our differing ideas! We challenge each other! We learn from each other! Uh-- look…” She moved closer to the hyena that Braverman had finally tied up. "I'll be the first to admit it, I grew up in a backyard town! Law and order were there in black and white! But Nick made me realize... hey, it's more complicated than that. Sometimes good people break the rules. Sometimes...... you have to break the rules! And in a society where most people don't seem to care about helping strangers, sometimes people are left behind and see no other option to survive and resort to stealing bread!” She pointed to the hyena. “But this man it was stealing from a Alcohol save on computer! I know what a need Crime is, and it wasn't need crime, that was a games Crime! This are the kinds of crimes I joined the police for!"

"Oh, so you want to stop all petty crime?" the badger sneered. "You say you know there are crimes of desperation, but what the hell do you do to solve them? Despair!? What if this man robbed a liquor store? He was probably born into a cycle of poverty and oppression where it was clear his government didn't give a damn about him, so why should he give a damn about the laws of his government!? You want to solve such crimes? You need universal health coverage, you need universal basic income, you need better access to education, you need better access to mental health care, you need better public housing, you need representatives..."

"I AGREE!" exclaimed Brady suddenly. "I fucking agree! I don't know what this redneck rabbit is thinking, but I do agree we should implement these things! Why would you assume I wouldn't!? I would have fucking voted for any politician that walks on these platforms, but there were not any! But, you know what? It's really damn wrong for poor people to think they're born into despair and poverty powers them to make extremely bad decisions that don't fucking benefit anyone! Nobody forces them to live a full life rein crime because of the crime! Why the hell can't both be true!? Yes, this hyena may have grown up in a bad neighborhood - where are you from?"

"I thought I had the right to remain silent," giggled the hyena.

"Well, let's just say he grew up in, I don't know, Tundra Town -"

"Tundra Town? Man, do I look like a snow cat!? I grew up in Happytown!" After a second, the hyena recognized the trick Braverman had pulled. "...Aw, you mothafucka--!"

"So he grew up in crappy Happytown. He grew up in a place where everyone was desperate and the city, state and federal government didn't give a damn, so everyone around him was committing crimes, and he grew up thinking that's exactly what People tat. Maybe his crappy worldview is because he's a victim of circumstance, not because he was born to be evil! But why can't both be true!? Why can't we acknowledge that this guy was born into a shitty situation that irreparably turned his head and are still saying Hey, Mister Hyena Guy! Nobody broke your arm for you to steal a bottle of Crown Royal from a liquor store!?"

"It was Gray Goose, fool!"

"I thought you were silent!"

The three café visitors looked at each other. Far from looking angry, they somehow looked like they felt sorry for him.

"As much as I'd like to point out, he still doesn't even acknowledge that the worst crimes are committed by the wealthy and the government itself..." the badger told her friends.

"I fucking agree with that," braverman growled, "Why do you assume I don't!?"

"...let's talk about how pathetic it is that he thinks the vote will change anything."

The dog's jaw dropped. "Then what the hell are you doing Of suggest, Patricia!?"

"REVOLUTION!" The three shrieked in unison and leaned in on the officers, eyes burning with anger.

"...Revolution?" Judy asked, not understanding the situation any more than her partner.

"Yes, revolution!" cried the wolverine. "The current system has a legitimate interest in not solve the problems of this country! It's not broken, it works Exactly as it should! And you cannot bring about change while in an industry specifically designed to maintain the status quo!"

Hopps and Braverman were speechless for a moment, the hyena still giggling in between, before the German shepherd realized what they were getting at.

"Oh! For heaven's sake - J-Judy, don't talk to them anymore! They're bloody Separatists!

Ah, yes, Zootopia Separatists. Mammals who actually wanted the city and its environs to seriously break down and become an independent Singapore-like city-state. In a way, they had valid arguments, citing that the city was already so much different than any other city in North America (remember the localized renaming of worldwide corporations, its unique jargon and dialect, which can even be found on official documents and public announcements, and the way it has done arguably more than any other city in the world to accommodate the physical and geometric needs of its diverse citizens). Of course, it wasn't a very popular opinion, and realistically it would never happen, since Separatist advocates are typically those so far left socially that even the most stereotypical modern day college students would cringe at their ideas, as would the officers who served them today encounter an extremely strange stroke of luck.

“Of course we are Separatists! Any thinking citizen of this town would be!” The koala shot back. “It makes no sense that a city founded to be a paragon of civil rights should stay in a fascist country like the United States! Just look! We are being infected by racist American culture as you repress this predator!"


"A lapdog that gives in to racist prey mammals," said the koala confidently.

"Oh fuck you Kelsey! You are racist prey if that's all you fucking think when you see me!"

"You're just mad because you know that when people like us are finally in power, we will have no use for tools of fascism like you."

"I'm not going to take that from someone drinking freaking Starbucks and filming me on their iPhone! Heck, you're probably just calling me a fascist because I'm German, aren't you!? I guess my Jewish last name is an I don't do anything for you, huh!?"

"We went to the CCD together, Brady," said the badger, "I know you're not actually Jewish."

"And you and I had gym class together," added the wolverine, "and I wouldn't have defended you from that guy who used to slap you on the butt and call you a woman every day in the boys' locker room if I did knew who you would become then."

"Damn it, Sam, you're not a good person!"

"My name is Samuel."

"Why should I respect your wishes when you don't respect mine!?"

"Brady, if you had a theme song it would be 'Teenage Dirtbag,'" the koala said, "except without the ending, because there's no way you're going to get the girl."

Now tell me, my friend, does it seem like this argument has gone nowhere for far too long? Don't worry, Judy totally agreed. And as much as it was killing her to give up hope of three more people refusing to see the light, she thought it would be a waste of time to continue this little spit. But don't worry, this conflict would soon reach its climax.

"All right Brady. Just like you said,” Judy insisted as he walked over to the squad car to open the back door for Braverman to put the hyena inside. "Don't bother with them anymore. You just have to accept that some People will just never accept you as a good mammal -"

"If you wanted to be a good mammal, you should have become an activist instead of becoming a damn cop! That's the name of this thing social media now you stupid old ass millennial and anyone who really wants to fight for good should be there spreading their ideas and raising an army to fight for the revolution!" screamed the Badger at the top of his lungs as she stood up , arms in the air and tense vocal cords."Hey, don't get me wrong, I think you're evil and you would be a very dangerous mammal with a platform and a following. But if you. tat concern to be a good mammal, that is This is how you do it in 2021! Not by joining the cops when everyone in our society who is aware now knows that the police literally exist only to keep the repression going!"

Okay, Judy just got through with all this self-righteousness and jargon.

"You just won't stop interrupting me to talk about how good you are, will you?" asked the bunny, looking like she was now agreeing with the German shepherd in frustration.

"If you want me to stop talking about you, then let this man go and get this CRAP GET OUT AT THE MOMENT! AT THE MOMENT!! "

And when Hopps and Braverman didn't disappear in a millisecond, the Badger took their coffee cup and threw it straight at Officer Hopps.

Over the next three seconds, the following things all happened more or less simultaneously:

  • Judy, not expecting physical retribution at all, froze and failed to dodge the cup in time: the cup, almost as tall as her, threw her to the ground.
  • Badger's friends realized they had just live streamed her when she clearly attacked a cop and tried to cut their feeds while stammering things like "Patricia, what the hell is wrong with you!?". and "Jesus Christ, Pat, what did you do that for!?"
  • Patricia also realized she had screwed up, dropping her phone and holding out her arms while stuttering, "Oh my god! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I didn't want that! I didn't think I was actually going to hit you!"
  • Braverman made the executive decision to embrace his inner bad dog and got up from the hyena to attack the badger, growling the whole time.
  • The hyena, hands still tied behind his back, got to his feet and fled.
  • There was a single wail of a police siren, and it didn't come from Hopps and Braverman's squad car.

As Braverman jumped over the low metal railing that separated the cafe's patio area, the charging badger dove out of his way, only to find himself in the arms of a much larger police officer who was a horse.

"Ma'am, I saw the whole thing, you're under arrest for assaulting a cop," Officer Carter said as he turned the badger around and handcuffed her before turning to face her friends. "And you two stay right there," he continued, "we have some disturbance of the peace fines for the three A'yas."

The dog was silent for a few moments as he stepped out of his tantrum and back to the present, absorbing everything that had just happened almost instantly.

Carter tapped Brady's shoulder with the back of his hoofed hand. "Don't worry, Jimmy has your first offender under control."

Braverman turned to look down the street, where he saw that a graphite wolf officer had chased the handcuffed hyena and attacked again. But he only watched for a split second before remembering the incident in the foreground that had prompted him to act in the first place.

"JUDY!" he howled in fear as he ran to his pocket-sized partner.

She wasn't hurt that bad. In fact, not only was she fully conscious, she was propping herself up on her elbow. However, she was in no hurry to get up - not because it hurt too much, but because she simply lacked the energy after more frustration without a satisfying solution. So she stared into space, regarding the world she lived in as unusually apathetic, until the German shepherd appeared next to her and gave her something else to look at.

"Judy! Are you alright!?"

"Yes...yes, I'm fine."

"Are you sure!? Heavens, that mug was almost as tall as you! Are you sure you didn't break your ribs or something!?

"No, no, I..."

"If you think you have a concussion, I can call an ambulance!"

I know you can call an ambulance because I also have the ability to call an ambulance she thought. Man, that was the same dog that an hour ago didn't know how to convey his concerned remarks in a friendly way, and now he's strayed the other way, completely losing his composure and still somehow manages to sound condescending. Gosh, how could all of these faux pas exist in one living thing? It really was almost as if he were a magician at this point who could conjure up all sorts of embarrassments on the fly.

"I'm fine, Brady," she insisted as he waved him off. "Everything is just shaken."

"Here, at least let me help you stand up," Braverman said as he offered Hopps not his paw but his crossbar-held forearm. The dog had been taught that not only was this a more efficient way of helping someone up in terms of physical exertion and exertion, it was also a polite way for a gentleman to help up a woman with whom he was not particularly familiar (and felt not comfortable getting closer). She grabbed his arm almost at the elbow as he wrapped his paw around her small forearm, and it was indeed a much less strenuous way of helping her up, but just as much impersonal.

"Are you good on your feet?" he continued.

The rabbit just kept nodding without looking at him or anyone else.

Braverman understood that she just wasn't in the mood to talk and went back to Officer Carter, who was dealing with the Separatists.

"Yo, Kelly," the dog waved as he approached the horse. "Hey, uh… thanks for the help man. We appreciate that. Um…” He forced a laugh that still sounded nervous. "...Hey, lucky as hell you guys stopped by when this happened, huh?"

Officer Carter wasn't one of the many cops who outwardly despised Judy, Nick, and Judy's new partner in the force, but he didn't want to pretend to enjoy their company either. Let's just say he didn't like how Braverman had just invited himself to address the horse by his unisex first name (whether a confident speaker like Nick could have gotten away with addressing Carter by his first name without his permission, sort of a neurotic like Braverman just couldn't pull through is unknown at this time). So Kelly didn't look too apologetic or callous as he told the hard truth to Braverman and the oncoming Hopps.

"We didn't stop by by accident," he said flatly. "We've had calls from a few different shopkeepers down the street that a bunny cop and a puppy cop got into a really, really loud argument with some college kids. It annoyed them for one, but they figured things might get ugly if you both didn't get support. You both looked like you both just couldn't handle the situation.

Upon hearing this, Brady immediately (and badly and obviously) turned to face his partner. He knew how proud Judy was of her work, and he knew how devastated it must have been to hear that several impartial judges had declared her unable to do her job.

And he knew how bad it was that she was still staring down the street, not looking at anything in particular.


It took over half an hour to sort it all out, while the Badger stormed that their refusal to proceed was a violation of their right to a speedy trial (which surely would never happen in their Zootopia utopia). Hopps and Braverman arranged that they would pick up their original hyena while Carter and Villalobos would transport the badger, and they would simply meet at the train station and fill out the necessary paperwork; Meanwhile, Judy and Brady both wanted to be kept away from this radical madman. Also, it was agreed that none of the four would miss out, that Judy really should have gone to the doctor to be safe, as she was really bruised and in pain from head to toe after that punch.

The problem with seeing a paramedic, of course, was admitting that these maniacs had managed to hurt her in ways beyond words, and any diagnosis of injury would be physical evidence that she had failed. to rid them of their militant cynicism.

Honestly, despite the blow she suffered, Judy was still a lot safer driving than Brady. The good news was that the dog was no longer freaking out about her health; The bad news is that this emotional vacuum gave him a chance to reflect on that frustrating interaction and get angry again. If anything, listening to him seethe through his teeth on the abyss of outright growling did a good job of distracting her from any physical pain she was feeling.

"...Just calm down..." Judy said softly as they hit a red light. "It's okay, she got what she deserved."

Brady didn't answer. His cheeks puffed out as he breathed furiously out of his mouth.

"Hey, that frustrates me too," she continued, "but...I keep reminding myself that Nick meets ten times as many nasty mammals who hate him for leaving the cops when we meet mammals that." hate us for it Be Police officers."

The dog let out a groaning sigh. "I knowledge he does because we also run into these people who fucking hate us for not cutting ties with him! But that's not what really bothers me. It's like, Jesus Christ, a huge chunk of power thinks you and me and Nick are fucking communists... and then this real fucking communists think I'm a goddamn Nazi for not throwing Molotov cocktails in the windows of...of...shit, I don't know! They're just mad because I'm not as cranky and radical as they are!"

"Well, look at her! Now they're in trouble with the law for speaking up. Who cares what they think?”

"I do!" Braverman barked. "And I care because... because... one thing Nick and I can agree on is that these three assholes are definitely more interested in making the world a better place than most cops in this country , probably more than most People Do. They definitely care more than most people. undeniable. you just really Really crazy ideas how to do it. And I still do Again agree with them on about ninety percent of the issues, but they to hate me because of the chubby shit we not agree! They consider me the enemy because I have the courage to tell them that some of their ideas are crazy!"

"It's okay Brady, I understand." And Hopps wasn't just saying that to get him to relax and stop the ranting and raving; she really understood, because this wasn't the first time Braverman had talked about it.

"But there it is We Come in! Because you and I don't give a damn about trying to make the world a better place either, and all these apathetic damn people that make up most of our world think of you, me and Nick are the same as these three dipshits! people like these three make the act of shitting look bad! They leave shit daft, spasmodic, bitchy and... weak. And I think they know it, but they're so hyper with their counterculture aesthetic that they don't care that nobody wants to follow them if their personalities don't have anything appealing!"

The bunny saw no constructive reason to interrupt his monologue, so she just nodded. She didn't contradict anything he said, she just didn't see the point in getting upset about it. Yes, such people would always be an obstacle, but save yourself this energy to avoid this obstacle.

Brady sighed again. "I know I'm probably boring you, but... hey, this is my generation, this is my people, I know them. like...like a Hitler speech about vodocoding Thomas the tank engine Theme song, they would die laughing. Guaran goddamn tea it. They'd probably tell you later that it was just a nervous laugh and that you're horrible for making them laugh at something so horrible... but they'd laugh anyway." There he was again, making an uncomfortably dark joke, you wouldn't think five minutes ago he even had the social confidence to say that but still a joke made out of fear rather than lack of it.

He was silent for a moment as he finally seemed to relax his body for a moment. Maybe he realized he had been talking a lot and turned to his partner to give her a turn.

"How do you feel?"

Judy shrugged. "In order." His presence took a toll on her, of course, but she would never say that.

"No major pain or pain?"

She forced a nasal chuckle. "Hey, I'm a big girl, I'll take it."

"Cool. Just, you know, let me know if I can help."

But how can you help me when you can hardly help yourself Brady? "Are you feeling better now that you... got all of that out of your system?"

Braverman thought for a moment before answering. "Does Nick know he could lead a revolution if he wanted to?"


“Those three dingleberries in the coffee shop. They honestly told us unironically that they advertise themselves as revolutionaries, but they don't have the basic leadership skills to pull it off. But Nick? Ah, Nicky Dubs... Everyone loves Nicky Dubs. He could probably get people to follow him. Heck, he doesn't even have to believe in anything! Honestly, it's almost better if he doesn't! Let him be the figurehead while other people fuck around behind him with the basics of what they stand for. Damn it... the things I would do if I could be like him..."

Judy didn't know what he was getting at, so she glanced at him to see if his expression or body language would give any clues. And strangely, Brady smiled. But it seemed like a smile from someone just remembering that he could never be who he wanted to be; the smile of someone who had just found a reason to give up on himself, a great weight lifted from his shoulders now.

"He knows I'm jealous of him," he continued with a tired, defeated chuckle. "He hit me and I almost said it to his face. But he still won't share his secrets with me. hmm... maybe... Perhaps… he knows it's not just a secret that he can only teach me. Maybe he knows I just can't learn that."

If for no other reason than because she deserves to have a partner who doesn't drown in self-pity, Judy interrupted, "Brady, you're young, he's a lot older than you - he's a lot older than." us. They have plenty of time to catch up on where he is." (Of course, Nick was miles ahead of the dog when Nick was his age, but that detail is probably best kept quiet.) "He'd be the first to tell you that he wasn't born the way he is."

Braverman chuckled, a throatier chuckle. "Oh it's just his social conscience knowing it's not a good idea to tell me straight out that I'm going to be a loser forever. He might need me as a resource one day, so he knows better than to piss me off. And good for him, he's doing a good job of convincing me that he doesn't think I'm a loser!" The German Shepherd wrinkled his tongue. "I'm sure he has his own fears and concerns, but he does is damn good at hiding them, and if I could pretend I wasn't scared of anything...I would Really fear nothing!"

Judy couldn't help but think it was odd that Brady said he could never learn Nick's ways. She thought of the first great piece of life advice the fox had ever given her: Don't ever let them see you reaching out. It was a lesson Braverman clearly needed to learn, but when he said that maybe he just wasn't capable of learning things like that... it killed her saying it, but Judy could certainly see it as a possibility.

"So that is why I care so much what those idiots think,” Braverman said, as if he'd just read her mind. “I'm thinking about the big picture. Honestly, in my head I think it's stupid not cares about what other people think in a world where perception is everything... And yet they will perceive me as less than if they feel that I care about how they perceive me, right? It's a catch 22, isn't it!?"

At least you're aware of yourself, Brady. "I understand what you are saying."

The dog correctly assumed that the rabbit didn't want to talk because she was dealing with her own frustration, but he didn't realize how many of those frustrations he was compounding.

"Do you mind if I listen to music to distract myself?"

"Oh. Sure. Go on."

Judy could see on her edge that there was a two minute pause where Brady just thumbed through his music library before finally making a selection. And when he did, he did something you might not have expected him to have the courage to do:

"FATHER CAN YOU HEAR MEEEE (hear me hear me hear me)...HOW I HAAAVE LET YOU DOWWWN (down, down, down, down)...(born, born, born, born)...AND ALLLLLLLL THE SORRRRROWWW." IIIN THIIIS WOOOORLD!

Oh, sweet cheese and crackers, even this guy's favorite songs started with an apology for his existence. And while others might have said that it would take a certain level of self-esteem to belt out a song regardless of ability, Judy knew this dog too well; she knew he was only able to do that because being loud and being quiet gave him equal but opposite kinds of fear and he simply decided to mix them up for variety.

Perhaps that was the most succinct way of distinguishing Nick and Brady: As mammals, we tend to like people who like ourselves, and Brady clearly disliked himself. Nick had his own issues about himself and his past, but mostly he was okay with who he was. Braverman wasn't a bad dog, and he obviously didn't consciously choose to maintain those self-doubts, but he wasn't making much progress and his constant defeatism wasn't helping — and things were starting to get on her. Some might go so far as to name it poisonous.

Oh, and speaking of biohazard-related stuff, there was one last thing in the "things about Brady Braverman category that wasn't his fault and didn't make him angry, but that still made it incredibly frustrating to deal with to work for him" -- it is a most embarrassing illness.

"...Oh Gott," the dog suddenly said in a low, concerned voice as he fell over, ripping out the earbud wires and clenching his guts. A quick glance over told Judy he looked like his eyes were about to pop out.

"What is wrong?" asked Judy. Judy knew.

"Hold on," he replied tensely. "Find me a bathroom. Now."

"I-I'm looking for a place--"

"There's a McDonald's! There! Exactly there!"

"I would, but I can't cross two lanes that fast--!"

"Then turn on the damn lights and sirens, that's what they're for!"

Judy obeyed, and the sudden jolt must have woken the criminal who had fallen asleep in the back seat.

"Where is he running to?" the hyena asked through the Plexiglas as she watched Braverman run into the establishment. "Dude, you want some chicken nuggets?"

The bunny ignored him and focused inward to simply breathe through the frustrations of her day. She didn't have much time to do so, however, as Brady was back in less than thirty seconds and looked just as desperate. That wasn't a good sign.

"What happened?"

"Big ass They have a restaurant that can easily accommodate many people like Unisex bathroom!” the dog grumbled as he got back in the car like physical fucking toilet in place for at the customers and employees!"

"Was it busy, wasn't it--?"

"Just drive."

And Judy did.

"And if you must know, it wasn't manned, it was just covered in shit," the stooped officer explained. "I tried to spare you the details."

"Understood. I'm sorry I stabbed you."

Well, at least the poor dog had something to take his mind off his discomfort, which was the hyena that started cackling in the back seat.

"Oh, somebody get some rice for the puppy because he has it runs!"

And to be fair, it was a very real thing that German shepherds suffered disproportionately from gastrointestinal issues. But knowing that this was ingrained in his biology was certainly just another thing that made Officer Braverman feel destined by the universe to always be an off-putting weirdo and never be someone as well put together as Nick .

"Have you got your pills with you?" his partner tried to help.

"The pills take a damn half hour to kick in, they won't help me now." he murmured to himself; However fast you imagined him saying that phrase, imagine if he said it twice as fast.

Judy wasn't enjoying it much anymore either. Watching a creature in pain while some madman in the back seat laughed at it was hard enough, but as hard as she tried to help people, she saw her partner squirm in pain, curl up, and whimper like a puppy who'd been kicked...she didn't care forced to be the one to solve this problem.

Braverman could feel the vehicle moving in his gut, and for a split second he felt hopeful as he felt the car slow. Then he looked up and all that hope was washed away.

"What are you doing?"

"You can look for a bathroom in here..."

"You won't have a bathroom there."

"You didn't even look..."

"Have you EVER in your LIFE been in a 7 elephant that HAS A FUCKING BATHROOM!?"

Brady, I'm trying to help you here, don't be snappy with me. But instead of wasting her breath and agreeing that no, she couldn't remember any, she just picked up speed and turned the lights and sirens back on. It happened just often enough that they were both used to it, but just rarely enough that they never seemed to be able to find the same bathroom for him twice.

"I'm sorry to bite your head off, but jeez, I'm an expert on this. 7 elephants never have public toilets – at least not in the city.”

"It's okay, I understand." She managed it all too well.

“Er… hotels. Look for hotels, they usually have unlocked bathrooms in the lobby.”

Honestly, as embarrassing as this condition was, if there was one thing in his life he was unabashedly proud of, it was the bravery with which he fought this bland battle on a regular basis. Seriously, I called this guy on the phone and told him, "Brady, dude, I can just skip that part of the story, it's not that important to the plot," but he insisted I put it in. Because if that extended scene with the dog's agonizing diarrhea strikes you as pointless and childish toilet humor --

"Someone shouldn't let Fido have too many McNuggets!" scoffed the hyena.

-- Braverman would have said that was exactly his point. Moments like this made him seriously wonder if his calling in life was to prove to an average mammal that IBS or Crohn's or Colitis or whatever undiagnosed syndrome he had was not trivial and certainly no laughing matter, and the fact that people thought that was disturbing. It seemed like such a Brady Braverman thing that the best he could hope for in life was to become the Martin Luther King of mammals with chronic gastrointestinal problems, but any march to Washington he could try to lead , could easily be suppressed by simply locking up all the public toilets in the District of Columbia.

The police car pulled into the taxi lane of a Marriott hotel (branded here as "Bearriott" because "Mare-iott" and "Hare-iott" were too confusing to spell, but the business tax credit was still the cost of termination worth all their logos within city limits), and the German Shepherd hopped out and ran in without saying thank you. Judy wasn't offended; she understood that he was in a hurry.

Officer Hopps was no longer enjoying her job. The positive feeling she got about using her power to do good just didn't outweigh all the negativity. Jesus Christ, she hadn't signed up for this job just to spend a significant portion of her day potty training a grown adult. And she knew it, she knew He hadn't chosen this awkward state of health, but it seemed to sum up perfectly the vibe of what her job had become: ridiculous boredom coupled with a mediocre colleague who didn't want (or couldn't) aspire to be anyone bigger than him was. And with a partner whose back she always needed to have while he could rarely have hers, she didn't feel she had the support to adequately deal with the growing number of naysayers.

The dog came back to the car a few minutes later looking not only relieved but also… a little excited? "Man, I have happy in there! I went in the front doors and Only then it randomly dawned on me, wait, hotels have gotten smarter in the last few years, they know people are turning to them for public restrooms, and they started locking their bathrooms in the lobby behind and bolts - and sure enough, you needed a damn key card to get into the men's room! But I decided to go to the door and give it a try anyway and miraculously a guy was on his way out when I got there and he held the door open for me, thanks Good! I was about to shit on her concierge desk, I swear to god. The audacity of them to deny mammals their basic rights."

Judy didn't feel those blatant remarks. "I'm sure they would have allowed you to use one if you just showed them your badge," she said as she threw the car into motion and headed back towards the precinct.

"Not now The would abuse my power as a police officer! Those three weirdos in the cafe could have said it was abuse of power and I wouldn't even disagree! I shouldn't have to be a cop just to squat. Heh… Speaking of those three, should I find them and tell them this hotel didn't have gender neutral bathrooms, they would probably burn it to the ground. And I would let her!"

"Brady," Hopps said sternly. "I understand. I agree. Take your pill so this doesn't happen again."

Braverman looked as clueless as ever, but eventually he started rummaging in his back pocket. "Er... yes, probably a good idea." He pulled out a single blistered blue gel tablet and peeled off the foil; In another classic Brady moment, he dropped the pill on the dirty floor of the cubicle, bent over, picked it up, stared at it for a few seconds while contemplating his fate, and finally allowed himself to dry it to swallow.

"Oh, what, you're not going to wrap that in a slice of cheese first, Rin Tin Tin!?" went the gentleman in the back seat.

And he cackled so loudly that people standing on the sidewalk could hear him, drawing attention to the vehicle. A certain pair of teenagers, a margay and a vicuña, seemed particularly amused when they saw the two officers sitting in the squad car that stopped at a red light.

"Ha! You really thought bringing a dog and rabbit together would be a good idea!?" laughed the Margay.

"No no!" the vicuna insisted, also grinning and pointing. "Dog cop and rabbit cop, it's Sam and Max!"

The two children broke apart laughing as officers drove away.

Brady was confused. "... WHO?"

"I don't know either," Judy replied without the slightest bit of enthusiasm. It was another thing she couldn't blame her partner for - or maybe if you wanted to argue that it was his fault that everyone could smell the fear emanating from him, making him an easy target, and he was. He wasn't doing enough himself to overcome that fear – but Nick had never been Brady's lightning rod for unpredictable ridicule.

Honestly, that wasn't fair to anyone. It wasn't fair to him that he had to be fair to Nick, but it wasn't fair to her either that her job was basically babysitting that puppy while she patrolled the city aimlessly with little motivation. And to remember that he was one of the least disruptive officers to her.

The German shepherd put his earbuds back in and selected another song. It was a tune that anyone interested in '90s punk rock would instantly recognize (the irony of a cop listening to punk is not lost on him at all), but anyone unfamiliar with that particular niche would likely to find obscure, strange and possibly inaudible; Judy certainly thought Brady sang horribly wrong since she had no way of knowing that the song actually sounded like this:

“POSSESSION SESSIONS NEVER HAVE MEAAAAANT AAANYYYTHIIING TO MEEEE! I'm noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo… well, THAT'S NOT TRUE, III GOD AAA BEDDDDD! Correct!"

Judy had to ask herself: Was Braverman even brave enough to be a good cop? Even if he had the courage to try his best to do the right thing, he was competent enough to do it Again it right? His heart really didn't seem to be in it, and many would say it would be in everyone's best interests if he just left the police force, but Judy felt absolutely uncomfortable telling someone who had a good (albeit ineffective) Being a child it seemed that he had no business with the city police. It just went against everything she stood for.

Because Brady had expressed to her and Nick on numerous occasions that he would have liked to be a real hero but just didn't know how to go about it. Leaving aside for a moment he had mixed feelings about whether the life of a cop would be such a path to becoming an everyday hero; Why did Braverman want so badly to be like Wilde? Because the dog firmly believed that if only he had the fox's confidence, he could do great things with him - maybe even heroic Things. Had no plans for what heroic things he would do, but he was beyond a doubt sure he could do them. And with someone who has so much confidence that he might one day become confident, Judy would never have forgiven herself if she gave up such a mammal when she didn't have to.

She was beginning to think she had to do it. They both had a vested interest in believing there was a hero somewhere inside him, but with every incident where Brady blue screened or tripped over himself or just being a Debbie Downer, Judy had to wonder if she was trying to get something great from inside him, that just wasn't there.


If only he always had the guts he had while belting out a song, oblivious to the guy in the background openly mocking his shoddy vocals.


Oh, you were on Judy's mind Brady. Did it seem like much of this snapshot of her day focused on her partner in some way? Because that's how it seemed to her. That's what one The day felt like now to her. For everyone's sake, this dog needed to get his life in order so she could get back to hers. So he didn't yet know what he wanted to do with his life; that's fine, he was twenty-two, he had plenty of time to find out, but he had to get out of the way and find out somewhere else because he was wasting everyone's time here.

Those who knew Judy would say that this negativity and passive hostility was entirely unlike her; You might even have heard of her when she and Nick broke the Night Howl Conspiracy a few years ago, and that doesn't match the impression you got of her. Once again: she would agree. She hadn't felt like herself, like the mammal she wanted to be, and she disliked that. And in a strange irony, that was the key to how she could relate to Brady: She also didn't know how to save her life from her current situation.

Maybe she was a bad teacher, maybe he was a bad student, maybe none of that was one of her faults and they just didn't fit well into each other's personalities, maybe Nick's quitting put her in a bad headroom that she hadn't fully gotten away from recovered, or perhaps his quitting made the world around her more hostile in ways she just wasn't prepared for (which consequently would have put her in a bad mood from which she hadn't fully recovered). Or maybe she had been shot in the head somewhere along the line and the last year had literally been her own personal hell; that would make sense because nothing would be more hellish for her than falling in love out of her passion. But that didn't work the way it was and nobody was happy with it. Something had to change, and soon.

Luckily, there was reason to believe things were about to change for her very, very soon. A long day for her was about to get even longer as the chief had told her beforehand that he would like a private audience with her after her shift. He had been extremely shy about the details and she couldn't even guess what it might have been about. With luck, it might be a change to something more fulfilling for her; with her Luckily, it was probably a reprimand for not sufficiently developing Braverman into a suitable officer after almost a year. Only time would tell.

Chapter 3: Where nobody knows my name


Being a stranger in a strange land is often the only way to truly understand how strange you really are (although sometimes, yes, the country will be strange, not always you).


Originally published July 23, 2021

(See end of chapter formore notes.)

chapter text

Chapter Three, "Where No One Knows My Name"

He didn't want to do this, but he had no choice.

Or, excuse me, let me put it another way: He had a choice, since his other option was to do nothing for the rest of his life but run and hide. Not a big choice, right?

Granted, he was running and hiding here anyway, but at least he was trying to live a reasonably normal life. That way he could at least keep himself busy and try to make some money instead of huddled in a homeless camp — and the only homeless camp he knew of back home probably wouldn't have him back after luring the mob to their location.

But while he had the opportunity to work, he didn't have much of a choice as to what type of work he would do. Working as a private investigator isn't inherently the kind of job that would preclude you from moving on to another career, but after what he would done everything for a case that Is wasn't even qualified? Ah, no chance. It was a miracle he didn't end up in jail after his name was leaked, but an employer giving him a job was out of the question. The fine details of what he had to do weren't necessarily all over the internet, but if anyone wanted to perform their own detective duties, they could find them shortly. Hello, I want to work at Burger King! If you happen to be looking for me online please do not worry that I have committed theft, trespassing, burglary and intrusion, false imprisonment, simple assault, witnessed people being killed and devoured and have withheld this information from the authorities. and depending on how much agency and personality you want to give me and that thing on my back, I guess I murdered a guy myself. So when do I start!?

But despite this employment obstacle, he tried to turn it into an advantage in a career he was stuck in. If you googled his name, you got articles about how he was found unconscious with a massive wound in his back on the industrial south bank of the Fraser River - across from the city, outside of their jurisdiction. So when he woke up in the ER and was visited by suburban Richmond cops, cops who hated the Vancouver Force almost as much as they hated the VPD him, he toyed with giving them some information, telling them about the ring to lure in lowlives at the downtown jazz club and killing them for their meat, and the town's scientific community conducting ridiculously unethical experiments, and he told them no more than that, claiming to be too insane to remember the fine details (and considering his state of health, that wasn't much of an exaggeration). It was enough to get suburban officials to raise the issue with the cops across the river, who were now under pressure to investigate themselves, and indeed they made the same discoveries as he did—but legally. This set in motion a chain of events that landed Clarissa Bloodworth and a number of scientists behind bars, and anyone interested in finding out how this discovery came about could consult their favorite search engine and read how it was pointed out by a raccoon PI who was too mentally and physically traumatized to explain where he was privy to this information, testify in court, or otherwise assist the investigation. Hopefully, now that he was promoting his services to teach other detectives, his prospective students would be impressed at how he'd managed to make such a tremendous discovery while staying safe, and would be satisfied enough with it to close the web forums avoiding where other working private investigators were discussing and speculating about the wildly illegal shit he must have been doing to even discover such things (much of their guesses were spot on).

Of course, this begs the question: why was he advertising his services under his real name when dangerous individuals were looking for him? My friend, do you think he? sought To? He'd tried to market himself through word of mouth in Seattle and Portland, but you'll only get so far if you blindly ask strangers if they know anyone who needs photographic evidence of infidelity for divorce court.

In hindsight, he should have played the long game, but lying in agony in that hospital bed every time a nerve pulsed through his disemboweled back, he just hadn't been thinking straight, and all that went through his mind was was , how much more screwed would he be if they found out how he got the information he dared to share. Some would say he shouldn't have told them in the first place, but he felt a moral obligation to make sure someone stopped the threat since he and Renee couldn't do it on their own anymore – and because he was pretty sure he was going to die in that hospital bed anyway. At that moment, he thought the Richmond cops were protecting him from the wrath of everyone in Vancouver. And he was mostly right; As inept as he was, he played it up even more to make them think he was unreliable well past the point where he'd regained his composure and while they checked him out and gave him a long X-ray to see if he had any other relevant information he didn't tell them, that was it. They would eventually decide that they had cleaned up the mess as much as possible and that anything else he could give them would just make a new mess and they finally stopped bothering him - but since he hadn't testified or anything, they would not give him witness protection. He wanted to be left alone? Good, they left him alone. Discharged from the hospital and left to his own devices, his first instinct was to get out of Dodge.

At least Renee was fine in a similar boat. The authorities didn't even find out that she knew anything, so while she was never involved in the formal investigation, she had even less protection from the law; She's never had to hide in the safety of a hospital. He hadn't encouraged her to flee the country with him just because he wanted his accomplice with him; he had also been deeply concerned for their safety in Canada. But if she'd made it this long without any friction, maybe she knew and so did he and maybe he wasn't worried about anything, although he wasn't entirely sure. Because which of them would they want more, him or her? He'd done all the footwork, but she'd been the brains—hey, maybe they wanted to get her first before they got him, but they couldn't find her because this vixen was just too smart for her...

...Does it make sense? Does any of this make sense? If not, it's probably not your fault, my friend. Doctors told him that despite all the trauma this thing had inflicted on his physical body, the whole ordeal had only caused it very minor brain damage that should have healed in time as long as he didn't injure it again, but he often had to wonder if that prognosis was some sort of placebo just to make sure he didn't freak out even more.

...He should be dead. He absolutely should have been dead. It was a fool that he got out of The Bite without literally becoming a chopped liver, it was a fool that this warehouse worker found him dying on the floor in Richmond, and there were a dozen times between those two events where he should have croaked, but miraculously he didn't. And now here he was, re-entering the life that nearly took his life. You do not do this. You are not given a new life and then make the exact same mistakes that almost led to your downfall the first time. It wasn't him planning doing something too risky this time, but it wasn't the first time either, was it? He had just been on a routine assignment to arrest another cheating husband when he had simply done it stumbled into something much, much more sinister. Now he had no choice but to return to that work and hope he didn't accidentally stumble onto something similar again - and hope he wasn't leading his students down the same perilous path.

Oh, and lest we forget, one more reason he should be dead: it could be strongly argued that killing himself while this dangerous parasite was growing inside him was a moral imperative to erase him from existence, before he could harm others, even if that meant he had to play it out, but he hadn't and now this Ding whatever it was might have been lurking around Vancouver right now; As far as he knew, they never found it. Who, you ask, would argue so sickly and macabre that they were a bad person for not committing suicide when given the opportunity? Well, for one thing, himself.

And before you ask, no, he had no idea how to turn his photography degree into a new career; If he had known how to make a living from his youthful passion for photography, he would have done so years ago and not resorted to photographing unfaithful men just to make ends meet.

Well, sitting in his car feeling sorry for himself wouldn't pay the bills; he wasn't skilled enough as a writer to make depression a viable career option. But he figured that when he finally got a foothold in this city, he should go and get to know this city. What was the motto of this city again? "Where everyone can be anything"? Ridiculously generic and just begging for cynical mockery, but he could appreciate the earnest attempt at optimism; He was certainly on his way to becoming less pessimistic before the world gave him a boatload of very good reasons to be a pessimist again.

He was sitting in the passenger seat of his battered sedan, his car keys deliberately thrown on the floor of the cabin so any cop who might come across him couldn't claim he'd been drinking while driving (they might as well have him with an open bottle hit, but he needed his liquor and had nowhere else to consume it). His drink of choice was… well, he hadn't been paying close attention when he reached for the crate, only vaguely recognizing the logo and packaging and expecting he'd picked Old Milwaukee, which he thought was his favorite cheap American beer , while living in Seattle and Portland, but upon closer inspection the label on the bottle read "Old paw aukee". Was that... was that for a promotion or something? Was it a temporary renaming for a special occasion he didn't know about? It was odd enough that it had been on the shelf next to what appeared to be Natural Light was but was dubbed instead" Cat ty Light"; the same applies to the Beck's brand as " Bucks ', and what he had thought was certainly Icehouse, but was instead billed as ' mice House," in cans big enough for a real mouse to drown in. All he knew was that he was pissed that Molson was hard to find in the States. And speaking of being pissed, the piss weak Beer Really Needed It When the hunch in his head told him to get out of that car and explore, the urge to relieve himself was the impetus for him to do so.

„Aaaah… at, at, Au, Au, Auwei..." There were some of these neurological issues. Such a severe wound never had much of a chance to fully heal, and now with a bunch of exposed nerve endings just sticking out between his shoulder blades where no fur would ever grow again, made even the gentlest contact with any surface like a sting would a bitch—how it would be if he parted his back from such a surface. Sometimes even a loose hair follicle would fall in from his own body, making his arms spasm with pain and discomfort. But hey, at least it was another medical miracle that he had regained most of the control and movement in his arms and legs when there had been ample opportunity for the nerve damage to get much, much worse.

On a related note, he stood in front of his car for a moment seriously considering leaving his trench coat for the day as it was actually quite warm and sunny on this late spring day. But while he wore his coat in Vancouver to suit both the city's drizzly climate and the old-school detective look he so enjoyed, he wore it further the further south he traveled to suit the odd shape of flesh on his upper back a little less obvious - and to hide something, just in case he spontaneously bleeds through his shirt and singlet again.

He'd now parked in an open-air lot for over an hour without paying the parking meter, so he hadn't noticed if someone came by to give him a ticket. Now that he was about to actually exit his vehicle, he figured he might as well pay the fee to avoid being arrested.

As he walked to the ticket booth, he couldn't help but notice how accommodating the crowd seemed to be. There were five different park areas based on size: megafauna, medium-sized species, medium-sized, medium-small where it was parked, and then a tiny multi-level garage in a corner for the smallest rodents. Up in Vancouver, they thought they were progressive because they had huge, regular, and tiny parking lots on the same lot, while most American cities he'd seen were content with just the standard parking lots and was the end of the day , mice and elephants implied staying on their own corners of the city with their own infrastructure anyway. But here they went a step further to let species of all shapes and sizes inhabit the same neighborhoods and park on the same lot. The exit booth even had five separate interface boxes to accommodate the different sizes.

...And no cash was accepted. Okay, fair game, it was known for decades that paper currency was an outdated concept in a mixed-size society, attempts to make physical legal tender that rodents could actually carry and that pachyderms could actually grasp proved more of a nuisance than any ready to put up with it, but while the push to go all-plastic was more than good, situations like his proved the world wasn't ready to give up paper just yet. You'd think that a city that prides itself on being as forward-thinking as Zootopia would be more sensitive to the fact that some very desperate undocumented asylum seekers (like him) wouldn't necessarily have the luxury of opening a bank account or establishment a line of credit.

He technically had a debit card on him, but as far as he could tell Scotiabank didn't operate down here, so he couldn't deposit cash directly into his account, and it wasn't like he had an employer who would give him one could provide an influx of electronic payments so he had no idea how if he spent the small amount of money on his card he would replenish it even if he had a decent amount of cash on him. He avoided the problem in Seattle and Portland, but now he was getting to the point that he had to do something about it, especially when that city was so cash-crazy. Could changing money help him? Did he have to do it the old fashioned way and find someone he trusted to transfer his money to his own bank account and transfer it to his? Oh, he would find out something eventually, but that didn't solve the problem now, like if he paid...at least twenty-five dollars for three hours of parking!? Yes, that might just put his account in “low balance penalty” territory.

He stepped out of the booth for a moment to scan the streetscape, trying to decide what to do. And what a street scene it was. This wasn't the busiest part of town, but there were still plenty of people walking up and down the street and the scene was just as diverse as the parking lot. Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland all boasted accommodating places, but given the attitudes of the citizens and the physical architecture, they weren't nearly as progressive. Giraffe, moose and rhino were courteous not to stumble upon rabbits, porcupines and koalas scurrying by at their feet. Across the street were three tiers of storefronts with doors sized for people his height, all adjacent to a huge clothing store that didn't exaggerate when it advertised itself as "BIG & TALL". And while there didn't seem to be too much going on for the tiny tots, there was a rodent walkway about two feet off the ground, with elevators at either end of the block and drawbridges where larger species had to cross, and a moving walkway, like you see in airports, leading in all directions, for those in a hurry who need to balance their little legs; This walkway looked so pristine it could have been installed yesterday.

That was another thing, this whole town seemed downright eerily clean. He was glad he hadn't thrown his beer bottle out the window like he had been tempted, as he now wondered if this place had stricter litter laws than Singapore. This city was keen to be seen as a utopia and they undoubtedly did a great job on the aesthetic front. Even when he rode the 505 spur, he hadn't even seen any graffiti on the viaducts; Either this city was good at preventing vandalism, they were good at cleaning it up...or the citizens of this city really weren't even cynical enough to mark some overpasses on the freeway because it was just a happy city. A city full of optimists, right? He would never fit in here.

Appearances can be deceiving, of course, and it's quite possible he'd only seen the good, bright, cheered-up neighborhoods so far. Speaking of which, where was he exactly? He pulled a card out of his jacket pocket - not even a real card, just one he'd printed off the internet when he borrowed a computer from his last hotel. From what he could gather, he was somewhere due west of downtown in the Savanna Central neighborhood, near the border of the Rainforest District. He understood that as part of the city's commitment to diversity, they decorated the different neighborhoods after all the different biomes that could be found on Earth. Man, there was a whole neighborhood of town called "Tundra Town," which was The place how? Just artificial snow and Christmas decorations all year round? He could only imagine. I-505 had passed through areas called the Meadowlands (didn't some football team play there?) and the aforementioned Rainforest District before terminating just west of downtown, not far from its current location; From what he could see, the Meadowlands and Savanna Central looked like pretty normal neighborhoods, while the Rainforest District had plenty of trees planted everywhere as you drove over hills and around a big mountain in the center of town. Appropriately, it had been raining when he'd driven through the Rainforest District; If he didn't know better, he'd think it was somehow controlled and orchestrated.

A shadow flitted across his map and he noticed an elephant walking by on the sidewalk. Oh yes, he had to pay a parking fee, didn't he? Well, time to test if these people were as friendly as they seemed.

"Sorry," he reported.

The elephant seemed surprised to hear a voice. "Hm?" She looked around before looking down and saw the raccoon at her feet. "Er... yes?"

"Hello, ma'am, I'm sorry to bother you, but I..."

"I don't have any cash, sorry," she said hastily, sounding almost embarrassed as she started to walk away. Okay, not a good start, but not untenable.

"Oh no, I actually have the opposite problem!"

This caught her attention. She stopped and turned to face him again.

"This parking meter not take cash and only takes a card and me Again Cash on me but I left my card at home. Could you load the ticket onto your card and I'll give you the money back? I'll even give you the money up front if you want, with interest, if you're interested in me.” A light little pun to round off what he was pretty sure was a reasonable offer. Renee had always insisted that he was charming in his own Howard-esque way - or at least had the ability to turn him on and charm people when he needed it - so if she were here, she'd probably expect a yes just as much as he was right Now.

But the stranger looked embarrassed again. "I'm sorry, but I, uh... I have no use for cash."

... Hm. His mind ground itself in half. She wasn't being rude or anything, it just hadn't occurred to him that she would have a reason to tell him no.

"But it is… Box. It's legal tender.” If he did have that charm that Renee saw in him, he didn't have it now. He pulled a wad of bills from his pocket; now that he was more involved with American currencies, he was beginning to understand why a dollar was called a Bock: America had longest followed Mother England's example of having a ruling class of deer, and consequently most dead presidents had antlers on the money, with a few exceptions like Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Hefferson. Howard was consulting a Lincoln. "Isn't that what the money says? 'For all debts, public and private'?"

The woman just pointed gloomily at the cash register. "Apparently not at Debts. No longer. And, uh…” She seemed to glance around before continuing, as if about to say something embarrassing. "...don't take this the wrong way, sir, but I don't think money printed for someone your size would be that useful to someone like me."

... Okay, that made more sense. That was a good reason to decline. Heck, that was the whole reason why this meter didn't accept cash at all, wasn't it? Still didn't help him much. "I see," was all he could say.

But this elephant seemed to have compassion. She saw how dejected the raccoon looked and made a counter offer. "You know… what we could what is… can you just pay me back electronically?”

Howard flinched. "What? Like... transfer money to your bank account?"

She giggled in embarrassment. "Oh no - does anyone else do that? I meant with an app! Do you have PayPaw?”

Howard winced in a completely different way. "Uh… you mean Pay Dude?"

"Pay Paw," she said simply and then looked like she was thinking about something. "...You're not from here, are you?"

He smiled softly. "So obvious?"

She nodded. "It's the same service, but we call it PayPaw here."

"...Huh," he mumbled as he looked around and saw nothing at all. "I didn't know it was an American thing, I assumed PayPal was everywhere."

Now she looked a little less amused; still friendly but increasingly impatient. "Not all of America. Here. Many companies are rebranding here. We do our own thing in this town."

"...Interesting." Howard looked around awkwardly again while processing the inconsistency. Well, that explained the beer shelf in the liquor store. When I think about it, why didn't Molson come down here and try to brand himself like that Moleson? If that PI thing didn't work out, he should try to get a job leading their marketing team.

"So, uh... do you... have PayPal, I guess it would be for you?" the stranger asked.

"Oh sure," said the raccoon as he snapped back to the present. "Would you like to write down your dates so I can send you the difference the next time I'm at the computer?"

Now she was the one giving him a slightly disgusted look. "Don't you have it on your phone?"

Ah, Howard saw where she was going now. As he started rummaging in his pocket, he said, "Oh, well... about..." and pulled out a small cell phone, which he then flipped open to get his point across.

The elephant looked like the most depressing thing she'd ever seen, which matched her tone as she said, "You know what? In order. i take the money I have to go to the bank soon anyway.”

And so they went through with the transaction. She walked around the barrier into the parking lot and started pressing some buttons on the top screen with her suitcase. He thanked her but didn't say much more until she had to ask him a question.

"It needs a license plate, which state is your license plate? Oregon, California or others?”


"In order. Which state?"

"...Is British Columbia an option?"

The elephant turned on Oh! face as if she had just met someone exotic. "Canadian, huh?"

"Guilt as charged. I know how bad you Yanks want to keep us dirty Canucks out, but I found a way in!"

She giggled a little as she continued to push buttons. "Well, what brings you to Zootopia?"

He shrugged, but with a smile. “Oh you know. Work. Opportunity. I guess you could say the American Dream.”

She giggled again; maybe his so-called charm was working. "Well, as long as you behave yourself," she said, "we're lucky to have you."

"Thanks. And that's what I intend to do.” Well, this small talk suddenly went well, might as well continue it. "I have to say...this town doesn't seem like a place I've ever been before." Of course he hadn't been there often because he'd always been broke, but he didn't have to explain that.

"Well, we strive to be unique!" the elephant beamed with civic pride. "Er... tell me, I'm curious, what is that First What makes this place special for you?"

Howard looked around for inspiration. "Well, at first glance, those rodent walkways are a nice touch."

"The? Oh, these are new! Like... literally laid out two summers ago. The rodent community actually has their own little designated precinct near downtown, but they complained that they felt cooped up up there, so they started rolling these out so they can traverse more of the city safely. Much of the city still needs to be covered, but they have many of the main streets. If there's a mouse trail on the street, there's likely a mouse trail along the sidewalk."

Howard looked back down the street. He hadn't even noticed it at first because nobody had ridden it, but what he initially thought was a bike lane turned out to be a rodent car lane.

"Of course, for someone, um, Mein Size, wish they put them a little higher off the ground, they're kind of a trip hazard for me where they are...or they could use those tubes they have downtown but apparently those are a safety hazard so try them to let them run out, I think..."


"Yeah, like... I hope I'm not embarrassing myself by using a cartoon as a reference, but you've seen it before Futurama? Tubes like this I guess, but... only for rodents. intake manifolds."

Howard nodded along, inwardly concentrating as he tried to visualize such a thing. "So we definitive don't have anything like that at home... oh wait, speaking of home! You still need my license plate?"

"So... about that..." The elephant suddenly looked dejected as the counter printed out a ticket - a lot large Ticket. “It turns out, provinces were not an option in the system. They had Alaska and Hawaii, but they didn't have British Columbia, imagine. So you have to put that in your window as they can't just go by license plate."

She handed him the huge piece of paper. Howard was a little short, even for a raccoon, and he was mostly happy with that by now, but he couldn't help but feel emasculated trying to tuck the ticket under his armpit and it still stuck in the ground dragged.

"Um... do you need help carrying it, sir?"

"Er... no, no, I've got it, I'll be fine," he said as he drove off. "Thanks for everything ma'am."

"Oh," she replied with another oddly nervous chuckle, "it's not a problem, uh... I never found out your name, did I?"

Howard stopped and turned to her. He smiled and answered without thinking, "Wallace."

Oh nice Howard he thought Use your fake name even when you're not working because not trusting people is just a knee-jerk reaction.

"Well, it was a pleasure to meet you, Wallace," the elephant said as she waved and exited the parking lot. "I hope you find what you are looking for in this city!" And that wasn't an accident, my friend: she didn't actually tell Howard her name either.

Howard walked back to his car, pondering what to think about having quickly made his choice.

"Um… officer? Sir? Officer! sir!”

He hurried over, trailing the parking receipt, and tried to get the attention of the Addax, who taped a ticket under his car's windshield wipers. Howard didn't realize he absolutely had the officer's attention, the cop just chose to ignore him.

"Officer!" the raccoon repeated, "I just paid for the parking lot!

"And before that, I saw you sitting in your car, no less in the passenger seat, in no hurry to pay for your parking spot," the addax said without looking at him, and proceeded to check the neighboring cars. "And Then I saw you take your time at the checkout before you gave that lady elephant a meter payment. I tried to be lenient, but you were just in no hurry."

It was a friendlier city than most, but it was still a city and it was inevitable to run into people like that. "Well... that's no use, I guess," he said as he began to rip open the giant parking tab.

Now The officer looked at him. "No, you put that in your window anyway or I'll call a tow truck," he said with a pointed finger. "You don't want to be stranded that far from home, do you, British Columbia?"

The way the addax said that made it sound like he didn't pull the old one you are not from here line, he would have chosen something else to "change" him. Hm, was that the kind of town where they'd rather call him a? Stripper or would they just go with a lazier bow like rac? That didn't really seem like one trash panda some kind of city. But the cop had made his point, and Howard really didn't care about being homeless, so he went and unlocked his car and put the ticket on the dash — which wasn't big enough for the ticket, but you could still do it see clearly through the windshield and read.

He watched the cop walk down the line of cars and move on to the next larger section, with not an ounce of remorse for screwing a stranger. Howard also couldn't help but notice that the Addax didn't have a conventional pistol in its holster. Was this one of those cities that banned their cops from carrying deadly weapons without a permit? Sounded about right.

...hey, how much did the ticket even cost? He glanced at it. Fifty dollars. Hope they took cash with them. Time to get out and explore this city.

After further reflection, aesthetics be damned, it was just too warm outside to wear a trench coat. As you'd expect, it was now early June and he'd moved south, so he took off his jacket and left it in his old sedan.

And he just started walking. Didn't know where he was going, pretty sure he was going due east towards downtown, but not much more than that. He was good with maps so as long as he had those in his back pocket he could still do that Finding his way back to his car even after getting as lost as possible. And he welcomed getting lost; This is the only way to really get to know this city.

In many ways it was just like any other major city on the continent. Old brick buildings that looked to be from the 1960s or 1970s sat alongside newer, trendier structures along wide, straight streets. In other ways it almost had a European feel - not that he'd ever been to Europe, but from what he'd heard their towns were much cozier, with lots more local grocery stores and corner cafes, most of which were independent, with intertwined with the neighborhood itself, rather than being separate from it like most American subdivisions. And then there was all the way it just felt unique that was less about the physical architecture and layout and more about the aura about it.

As he passed a small bar, two patrons, a yak and a gazelle, were standing around the corner of an alley, smoking cigarettes. Howard couldn't help but overhear their banter:

"...And this guy, I swear to God, he says, 'Some mammals are born to be successful, but most of us aren't that lucky... and there's nothing wrong with that, it's just that some mammals are are, some mammals are. T!' And I'm just sitting and thinking... you know what kind of mammal I'm thinking Of Are? I think you're the kind of mammal that just wants an excuse to wallow in your misery instead of trying to get on with your life!"

"Sounds like this guy has a victim complex."

"That's exactly what he has! He's got it in his head that he'll always be second paw, and he doesn't even bother to go beyond that. And you know what? Honestly, the thought crossed my mind... maybe he has legitimate reasons for being like that. You do not know Excuses, But Explanations for how it developed. Maybe in his whole life he's been trampled on by everyone, and no mammal has ever stopped to help him up, and I found myself thinking... I might hardly know this guy I was supposed to be the first mammal this negative Nancy ever knew that would actually stop and offer him a paw to pick him up off the ground, but...man I've got my own life to live if this was one Freund That would be another story, but I don't have time to really get to know this guy And solve his problems for him. I refuse to believe that this Debbie Downer has many friends, so I think he must meet a mammal so charitable some Point in his life, but... I'm just not strong enough."

"I do not think so most Mammals would be, Mike, don't worry too much about that."

Howard couldn't help but find her vocabulary choices... odd, to say the least. They didn't use any wrong words, just...eccentric. Was that a them Ding oder a this city Thing? And he couldn't tell what was so absurd about it. And as he thought, he couldn't help but hear roars in the area.

"Hey, your fashion sense is stupid and killing the planet!" yelled a koala from across the street, staring straight at Howard.

"Was all the wasted resources and pollution that went into this artificial material worth looking like you'd just emerged from a time when systemic oppression was balanced? worse than now!?" yelled a wolverine walking with her.

Howard stopped completely and stared at them, rightly having no idea what they were talking about. But then the koala enlightened him:

"Take these shoes and shove them up your ass!"

Howard looked down at his shoes - a cheater of a sort, comfortable casual shoes styled like dress shoes to match his button-down shirt, tie and trousers, all of which indeed are part of a conscious and sophisticated mid-20th century vibe were - - and then looked at what the heck socially conscious shoes She carried.

... They weren't.

This naturally prompted the raccoon to watch everyone's feet in the street. There were about a dozen other people in sight; not a single one of them wore anything on their feet. Okay, that had a larger sample size than the two guys that used weird words, that can't have been a coincidence. Was that just the style in this town? Was everyone as against shoes for moral and ethical reasons as the two people across the street? Were shoes just too hard to sell in a city so big and so diverse that... no one cared? That made no sense. Seriously, what would these people do if they stepped on bird shit?

...Wait. Howard stopped and just listened. He could turn off the hustle and bustle of the street and had his face turned to the sky. This neighborhood, while densely populated, still had a good number of trees.

...There was absolutely no chirping to be heard. Where the hell were all the birds in this town?

He seriously wondered if he had just stumbled into the Twilight Zone. This was starting to feel like a place that couldn't actually exist. But while part of his brain was still fixed on the shoe thing, his eyes lowered back to the ground and he noticed a fox squirrel walking by on the rodent walkway (also barefoot).

"Er, excuse me," Howard pleaded.

"Hey how are you?" asked the squirrel; on his platform, he and Howard were almost at eye level.

"Hey, uh, very weird question, but... I'm new in town and I have to ask... aren't there any birds in this town?" I don't think I've seen or heard any since I drove here.”

The squirrel did not take this question lightly. "... Birds!?" he asked, as if demanding an explanation for an injustice. "You're worried about the fucking birds!? Nah, man, we not Having birds here because they would kill and damn eat a huge chunk of the population! You say you're from out of town? Where the hell are Of birds just let themselves be rushed by it and devour their people!?"

Howard was at a loss for words. "Er... er, not most Cities just have, um... like, regular pest control--?'

"We have Pest control is what the Oregon and California National Guards call working together to make sure no raptors get closer than twenty miles to the city limits!” The squirrel excitedly pointed at the raccoon. "C'mon man, you think really big - ass eagle or something couldn't get you carried away? I've heard stories of bloody foxes and badgers being taken to Kingdom Come you think you are exempt from that!?"

Part of Howard agreed that fox squirrel had made a good point, but... that still didn't address the fact that this town wasn't normal. “I… didn't mean eagles and hawks and vultures, I meant… you know, robins and sparrows and blue jays and stuff. Such harmless little birds that just sit in trees and sing.”

The stranger looked like he was about to jump off that catwalk and scratch Howard's face. "To the right. Harmless Birds still large enough to kidnap a small infant rodent who disappears from their mother's sight for two minutes and carry them back to their nest to chew and vomit to their own babies. what has happened before Harmless. To the right." The fox squirrel hopped onto the conveyor belt and set off. "If you want to hang out with a blue jay, Mister Raccoon, you can hop on the first bus to Bumblefuck."

... Well, in a roundabout way, that answered Howard's questions: yes, this town was deliberately lacking in bird creatures, and no, he wasn't going insane, this town wasn't normal in that regard. All right, fine, no birds. And to be fair, he couldn't expect every city to be like Vancouver, where they basically used geese as carrier pigeons; controversial opinion, but Howard liked Canadian geese, and he'd even met a few of those mean old buggers who'd let him pet them. But either way, he could live without a few flying friends. So Howard moved on.

And nothing too interesting happened for a few blocks. The city he saw was extremely interesting, but nothing really caught his eye. But he must have been getting closer to downtown because he was beginning to encounter something he hadn't encountered in this city before.

"Get up, we have discounted movies ovah heah! DVD! Blu Rays! Wanna give it the old school? We also have VHS tapes! evil low prices, Away below the MSRSVP! How do I make a profit with this? Don't worry! And coming soon! Sidney Plus logins and passwords! I don't have them yet, but buy from me today and you'll be first in line when I have them in stock!"

street vendors.

Howard came across another alley where a small, slender weasel was occupying a ramshackle wooden stall with the aforementioned entertainment. And one wolf appeared to be giving his deal a fair shot, but didn't seem too impressed.

"...These are children's movies," said the browser flatly.

"Hey!" snapped the owner. "They are not kids movies, they are Movies for all ages! These movies were made by adults, do you really think a bunch of adults would spend all their time making a movie full of kid junk they can't even enjoy!? I want you to know that these films pass the test Weil Theyah made Matuah people for us to enjoy too!"

"Okay," the wolf said nonchalantly as he turned and walked away. "Bloody hell ass maniac... oh, sorry sir," he apologized to the raccoon half his size when he realized he almost ran him over.

"Hey, who are you calling a male child!?" roared the weasel. "I want you to know that I am devising a very clever business strategy, heah, by appealing to the Mahket family!"

It wasn't Howard's business, so he continued down the alley.

"Hey you! Come back, I have something for you!"

That probably wasn't directed at Howard, was it? Even if it were, Howard wouldn't stop walking.

"Yes I see you!"

In fact, Howard was out of the raccoon's line of sight at the time.

"Yeah, I'm fully dressed and now I can't walk!

...Okay, The got his attention.

Howard went back to the cinema booth. "I take it that was me you were talking to?"

"Of course I spoke to you!" said the weasel, again wisely pretending to be friendly. "Because listen, Gramps, I can tell from your manner and dress that you're not up to speed with modern technology. So let me help you a little, huh? There's these newfangled things called…” He picked up and held out a tape copy of Meowan. "... Video TAPES! And that right heah is Sidney's biggest animated featchah of 2016! -- Theyah only animated featchah a' 2016 but i digress. And tell you what, Gramps: buy three - no, six a' these Video TAPES, and I'm throwing a free... Video TAPE playah!” True to his word, he pulled out a VCR from under the surface of the booth. And the wolf's comment made sense: most of the films he had were owned by Sidney or PixArts.

Howard obviously wasn't in the market to buy a VCR - he wouldn't have been, even if he had a TV in a house to hook it up to - but he had a funny feeling this guy wasn't there was the mood to hear that. So he threw him a curveball.

"Just for the record, sir, I'm only thirty-two."

The weasel's face became puzzled. "Man, how are you going to tell me you're younger than me when you're dressed up like that The!?"

The raccoon giggled to himself. "Well, if it's that hard to believe, I can see me."

"Oh, no, man, you have to buy some of these things! Are Blu-rays more, yuh bag?”

"You really do have a lot of choices," Howard mused, just to keep the peace.

"Of course he does," quipped a panda walking past Howard on the street, causing the raccoon to spin around in surprise. "He's a smuggler."

"Aw, you're saying that like it's a bad thing!" replied the weasel. "Come on guys Love Bootlegging stuff!"

The panda stopped and spun around to shoot daggers at the vendor. "The Fuck he growled, stepping over to lean over the weasel. "I'd eat you alive in a heartbeat if I were that kind of bear... heh, but you're skinny enough to be a bamboo stick so I'd take care of you if I were you..."

The panda master then left the crime scene and left the raccoon alone with the weasel. And Howard had an odd thought: as sketchy as this guy was, he might be the perfect local to help him get his bearings of the city.

"The guy has nerves! He's probably working a dead end office job and thinks that makes him better than me!” scoffed the weasel before turning back to his potential client. "So what would you like, boss? Can I call you at six one and a half?"

But the raccoon just looked him in the eye and tried to manage a smile that wasn't too shrill or too weak. "You know, I'm kind of a businessman myself."

But this gentleman must really have had the salesman's gene, for he was not in the mood for casual conversation; he just raised an eyebrow, skeptical of where this conversation was going. "Is that so? What are you selling, Rac?"

"Oh, I'm not selling Things as much as I sell my services."

The weasel looked disgusted, like the raccoon had just exposed himself. "Is The why are you dressed like that Rac girls like guys who dress like they just stepped out of a forties movie!?"

"What!?" Howard took a second to realize how this stranger had misinterpreted his words in the most indecent way. Well, so much for Howard being charming. "No, no, no, I... I didn't mean to..."

"I was going to say you're not good enough not to be a gigolo!"

...Oh hard dude. But Howard was used to it. "No, I'm... I'm aware that I'm too ugly for this. In fact... I'm the opposite! I look so plain, I'm careful. -"

"You interfere dressed like one The?"

"...That's why I'm a private detective."

This seemed to elicit a fight-or-flight response from the seller. "Oh, no!” he yelled as he pulled a cardboard box out from under the stand and began shoveling in all the discs and tapes. "I'm not dealing with no cops! You're best off when you know what's good for you!"

Howard just closed his eyes, turned his head down, and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Why does everyone think I'm a Police officer…"

"Because even if you're not working with them, you're working with them!"

"Neither do the cops How Me! They hate me because I'm better at their job than they are!"

"And there you have it!" barked the weasel as he closed his box. "There's this rule that everyone else knows: Spirit greed own affairs! But you and the cops have both made a career out of breaking that rule! You boys need to learn to leave us hardworking mammals alone!"

Howard knew it was hard to argue with that. But not impossible. "But you are doesn't hurt anyone, does it? Well… apart from Hollywood…”

"Exactly!" The weasel had trouble carrying a box almost as tall as he was; it might be more accurate to say he pushed it. “And they make enough money! I steal the decadent from the mouth to get the benefit of people who can't afford to buy a full price movie every time! I'm like a vig-it-ilante, like Adam Bell or sumpthin'! I don't hurt anyone who doesn't deserve to be hurt - how Of it will be if you don't leave me alone and stick to your personal beeswax!"

But Howard was still calm and composed. "Well, there you go. You're not hurting anyone, so I probably wouldn't breathe down your neck anyway. We are on the same page: I Only approach people who are actually hurting someone - just like you."

"I just said I'm not hurting anyone, you bloody deaf!?"

A deep breath, then: "... Just like you Again."

The stranger took a moment to analyze this, then seemed to relax to a degree, but was still more tense than Howard would like. "What kind of mammals are you studying anyway, Rac?"

"Mostly cheating spouses... you don't have a wife or girlfriend you hope you'll never meet, do you?" He tried to half-blink with this line to reinforce the joke.

"What, you're saying I'm too ugly to get a wife!?"

God, was this guy paranoid or just insecure? "All right," the raccoon conceded as he drove off, "then I'll say goodbye -"

"I just want to know why you're telling me all this," the weasel said to stop him. Apparently this guy really wanted to know if he just let Howard go.

So Howard told him. "I'm starting to think it was a bad idea myself, but I was just wondering if you could give me business-to-business advice on how to operate in this city. Or if I even have one Chance no traction here."

From the look that huckster gave him, Howard thought the weasel expected him to admit it was really him War here to sneak up on him – which wouldn't have made any sense since Howard initially wanted to completely ignore this guy before insisting they trade, but this weasel didn't seem the smartest anyway. But whatever this gentleman thought, he gave a sly reply: "Listen, Rac... if it was you Really You're good at the greed business, you should be successful overall, do not you think?"

Howard then had to nod. "At some Level, that's certainly true… but so far in this town I've…” He struggled to put into words the strange gist he'd gotten from the people here. "I've gotten a lot of mixed signals from people so far. In a way, they come across as incredibly friendly and polite, like they don't want to get into a shady deal like hiring someone to get photographic evidence their spouse is cheating, maybe they would be too optimistic to even do it think they cheat...but then the mask comes off and everyone seems secretly angry and cynical, as if they don't trust hiring a stranger to get photographic evidence of their spouse's cheating. Does... does that make sense?"

The weasel's expression hadn't changed at all. “The mammals here are mammals. Did you meet a mammal?

So the mammals I met me do not call each other mammals in everyday language like this. "Let me rephrase this: Could a guy like me make a living in this town, or is it just not that town?"

Apparently, Howard came across as pathetic as this weasel began to relax, adopting a more relaxed pose and stepping a little from his box to give the raccoon a scruffy look. "Listen, mate... you're in Zootopia! Wo anyone may be anything! Do you want to be a private dick? You will be a private dick. Just don't do it around me."

Not the most helpful answer, but Howard didn't know what else to expect. "Well... good to know that people believe in the motto, I guess..."

But then the weasel's look got even scruffy as he walked all the way back to his stall and leaned forward, elbows on the table, head on his paws. "You know what, but? Hm… wait…” He pulled out his phone – even this lowlife had a smartphone, Howard realizing he really should invest in something better – and seemed to consult an app or two before sticking it in his pocket. "Yeah, just like I thought! There's this place just down the road where a bunch of despised women get together to sit around and bitch about their unfaithful husbands! It's supposed to be a yoga spot, but ah, They hardly do any yoga. Maybe you go give them a howler, eh? Nothing gained, nothing gained!"

...Interesting suggestion. A bit random and out of the blue, but if this was legit Howard would take it. You can't miss an opportunity when it's staring you in the face, right?

"Uh… sure! Might be a good idea. Where, uh, where is this place exactly? What's his name and how do I get there?"

"Oh, it's called, uh, yoga pants or just sumpthin like that. You can not miss it! So you see this street ovah She? asked the weasel, pointing to a street that ran parallel to the alley they were in.


"Go away, let's see... six blocks down? Six blocks away! You will see!"

The way this guy smiled, he was either making fun of Howard, or he had magically and suddenly gained respect from another underground businessman. Howard could imagine either way. But, you know what? Fine, he would play along. He had to explore this town anyway, he was sane so he wouldn't fall into an obvious trap, and if he had a bad gut feeling about something he just wouldn't do it. And considering how unpredictable that weasel had been up until now...hell, maybe that was the closest thing to a genuine smile he was capable of.

"Hey, I appreciate it," Howard said with a wave of his hand as he walked toward this yoga studio.

"Hey, no problem!" the odd little weasel waved back. "And welcome to Zootopia!"

Howard turned the corner and began hoofing. After that, it didn't take long for him to realize that this wasn't going to be as easy as the weasel made it seem. He was going north to the Rainforest District and the weasel had told him to cross six streets. The problem was that four blocks away he could clearly see the borough line, where the buildings gave way to a literal jungle of trees that he first thought was a park, and where the street began a steep climb. Which made sense to a degree, given that they were nearing the mountain in the center of town. Howard pulled out his card; There were many very winding roads throughout the Rainforest District, which is indicative of the topography. It couldn't all be a park. But if this was all just a normal neighborhood, he'd have to get used to it at some point.

As he crossed Fourth Street and the bridge over the small canal right next to it, he quickly realized that a "block" here didn't equate to a block in Savanna Central. With the curve of the road and the slope of the hill, he couldn't even see the next intersection from the bottom of the slope. But he kept going, telling himself that he'd probably have to walk up those ridiculous boulevards at some point, so he might as well get used to it. But as he did so, he began to think that maybe this was all a winding up. But why? The stranger had none of it, it made no sense that the weasel would send him on a wild goose hunt just to fuck with him.

By the time Howard reached the next intersection, he knew the weasel had sent him on a wild chase just to fuck. This weirdo probably gave a laugh and a half as he imagined how thoroughly he'd pestered this random raccoon for no constructive reason. And what an inconvenience. Howard's back screamed in pain; He was mostly fine walking upright, but you don't exactly walk perfectly upright when you're walking up a ten degree angle, and leaning forward to give yourself a semblance of momentum just tugged at all those muscles and Nerves in his back that had never healed properly. He was seething through his teeth and trying not to scream - not many people would have heard him as all the houses and businesses in this area were very far from the curb and scattered about. Thank Apes, however, he'd left his trench coat in the car because it was starting to feel like a real jungle there; As soon as he crossed that bridge it had suddenly gotten very muggy and very muggy very quickly and he might have nearly collapsed from exhaustion if he had been weighed down by it.

By the time he got to the next block, he was still almost passed out from sheer exhaustion, and at this point he was so unwell he almost forgot to look for a yoga studio—and another reason he almost forgot to look for a yoga studio because there were no buildings nearby that even remotely resembled a yoga studio. There was a small Chevron gas station and a supermarket on one corner (or, no, wait... sheep Ron?) and that was it. Again, Howard had kind of expected that by now, but that wouldn't have been such a bummer if Howard didn't endure all the physical agony just to discover the deception. Jesus, if the US came the closest thing to a libertarian paradise the modern world would ever see, this weasel certainly embodied this spirit: screwing people just because he enjoyed it and because there was no law telling him that he could not . Or maybe the guy was just stupid and gave him shitty instructions, that was also a possibility.

The poor raccoon just sat on the concrete ledge and gasped through his mouth, trying not to utter a sound but still letting out soft moans and moans of agony. Seattle and Portland hadn't argued that much. He sat alone for a few minutes as the strange resident walked past behind him, the raccoon quietly thinking that if this was his future he'd rather go back to his past.

He saw a pair of capybaras walking across the street. One looked at his watch and immediately pulled out an umbrella and put it on, the other followed suit and both made the movements as if it were as natural as breathing. This struck Howard as odd as it wasn't raining and when he looked up at the sky and what he could see through the trees it seemed perfectly clear anyway.

Then he noticed a perforated pipe running across the canopy.

Then it started raining. First a light drizzle, then a heavy downpour.

"...Oh Gott FUCK AGAIN!" he couldn't help but scream at the top of his lungs as he quickly got soaked. Maybe he should have taken his jacket with him.

"Hey! There's no need for that kind of language, sir!" barked an offended jaguar trailing behind him on the pavement, fully prepared and in a light raincoat. "You have no one to blame but yourself if you get caught in the rain. There's even an app you can download to your phone that will show you the schedule and alert you when the city turns on the water company.”

And in a split second it clicked: oh, this crazy city didn't just design this neighborhood How a rainforest, you built it as a whole artificial rainforest, and those pipes had been the sprinklers. But that burst of revelation came and went, and now he had to deal with this stranger's gross pretensions.

"NO!" Howard shot back, "That's it not an app that I can easily download to my phone! We can't all afford smartphones!" And he started rummaging in his pockets for his stupid phone to demonstrate for the second time that day that modern convenience wasn't necessarily a gift from him.

At no point had the Jaguar stopped running. "Sounds like a personal issue," was all she said without looking at him before walking away.

But Howard couldn't focus his energy on this person. As he sat there on the curb, his clothes getting even more wet, he realized he'd left his phone in his jacket pocket in the car.


It took him over an hour to find the parking lot and get back to where his old Honda Civic was, and by that point he was about forty-five minutes overdue. Luckily there was no second ticket at the window; maybe another maid saw the previous ticket, didn't look too closely, and just assumed it was the current infraction. It seemed like this town was finally going to throw him a bone.

He unlocked his car and slipped back into his trench coat. So...where to next? San Francisco? Sacramento? Hell, Reno? All he knew was that this city was just too strange for him. Too kind and mean at the same time, and stuffed with bizarre jargon and customs he'd never encountered before and might never fully understand; If it weren't for Oregon plates on all vehicles, he'd swear he was in another country. He knew better than to believe that the universe was giving him any kind of sign, but with so much bad luck on his first day, he just had a bad gut feeling about this place that he thought would be unwise to go to to ignore. He knew he could barely fit in Others Places (he mused as he pulled his 30s trench coat over his 50s clothes and put away the 60s-80s beer bottles so he could get in his 90s car and look for his cell phone, that had been out of fashion for at least ten years); he seemed way out of place here. It would take disproportionate luck over the next five minutes to get him to change his mind and keep giving this town a chance — and actually Happiness as the world finally has mercy and is giving him a break, not the kind of "happiness" that would require him to work his ass off to work for it while still not being fairly compensated for the bullshit he did a higher power may or may not have thrown its way and Wait.

A missed call. And a voicemail to boot.

It was from a 624 number, which he was pretty sure wasn't the area code for a big Zootopia city. That had to be a telemarketer, right? Or a robocaller, something trying to steal their identity. Hello, your car's warranty is about to expire! — of course, honey, the damn thing was one of the last cars on the road to be built in a year that started with the number 1. Well, I might as well listen to the voicemail and laugh about it.

"Hello, this message is for Howard...Lotter?" low goals? … This message is for the gentleman named Howard. My name is Nick, I saw your flyer in the Safeway by Barnstable and Furlong..."


*A.N.* Hey everyone, thanks for reading Chapter Three. If I may disturb you for a few more minutes, I have a few announcements I'd like to make.

First of all, kudos to IronicSnap who is (as of this writing) the only other person to have written a backbone fic (hey, call me stupid but I honest to god thought the game would have exploded in popularity under this one community and now it seems she missed her chance). If you don't want to wait to see if and when I'll give Howard and Renee the happy ending we all wanted for them, take a look at his one-shot to find your fix sooner or later. It's a quickie, it only took me about forty-five minutes to read, and I'm a slow reader (hence, guilty as I feel, I don't read as much fiction as I'd like). show him some love I also think he made a few Zootopia/Sly Cooper fans, if that interests you.

Second...shoot my shot in the fucking darkness...this FF is open to collaborators and co-writers. I'd love to work with someone who is fairly knowledgeable not only about Zootopia's source material but also about the fandom and fanfiction culture, like someone I know about the geography of the city, its supporting characters, or if there already is one idea, consult made in some popular fiction I haven't seen, etc. Compared to many authors in this fandom, I know very little about the extended mythos, so I could use some catching up. In my mind, this could be a good opportunity if there's someone out there who wants to be a Zoot writer but hasn't found inspiration to do so yet. Because while I have great ideas for this work, it's still a secondary project to my passion, L'EDgendary, so faster output here would require some sort of ghost writing. I don't expect many takers right away, so this offer will remain open forever; If this sounds like something you or someone you know would be interested, whether you're seeing this in July 2021 or September 2024, get in touch - comment here, PM me on FF or guess mine Gmail and contact me there after you prank me by adding my email address to a bunch of random mailing lists and we'll try to figure something out.

All right, peace and love, everyone. -Dobi

Chapter 4: Sometimes giving up is a second chance


When push comes to shove, the tough start...but even they could use some help figuring out which direction to go.


Originally published August 11, 2021

chapter text

Chapter 4, "Sometimes Giving Up Is a Second Chance"

Riiiiing… riiiiing… riiiiii-- BEEP.

“Please leave your message for… seven. Seven. Eight…"

So no personalized voicemail greeting? Some would call that a red flag, but he knew it was probably a smart move on the other's side. When you're involved in tricky deals and there are bad people trying to find you, you don't want to just reassure them that they have the right number. And Nick knew from his family on his mother's side that 778 was actually a Vancouver area code, so that seemed like a good sign that this was more legitimate than it might seem to an outsider. And just in case that wasn't the case, he used his cheap flip phone with a number from his home in the east, something he used to call numbers he wasn't sure about and which he could easily throw away if he Decided that he did. I didn't want the people he called with it to have a way of calling him back.

"...Please speak your message after the tone. When you're done recording, you can hang up or press 1 for more options!”


"Hello, this message is for Howard..." Nick narrowed his eyes as he tried to decipher how to pronounce this stranger's last name. "Lotter? Low-tore?” He tossed the note on the floor and turned to put his feet cross-legged on the couch. “This message is for the gentleman named Howard. My name is Nick, I saw your flyer in the Safeway by Barnstable and Furlong and...I'm interested in exploring the world of private investigators. Seems interesting and suited to my skills. If you want to call me back and we can talk about it, you can reach me at six-two-four--"

He paused as he thought he heard something. He was right: a key was turning in the bolt on the front door.

“Er – you can just click the call me button and you get the same phone. Alright, have a nice day and hope to speak to you soon--!”

He hung up just in time before the door opened. He didn't know why he was so nervous about phoning this random stranger when she got home, but... wait,Whydid she come home at this time? That was her, right? Has someone mugged her and stolen her keys and erased her address from her driver's license? No… no, she would be able to fight back.

"... Nick?" She sort of groaned as she welcomed herself home.

"Judi!" he beamed as he turned from his reclined position to get off the couch and walk over to her; Lately he'd felt a compulsive need to outwardly show more excitement at seeing her, instead of appearing so cool and stoic as if she would lose interest if he didn't make his admiration for her obvious. "How's my hop hop cop cop!?"

She knew as well as he did that this over-the-top exuberance was just a little wrong, but she understood his reasons for it and respected the effort, so she never commented. Also, although the presentation method was a little forced, the feelings were real and (hopefully) that was what counted.

"I feel like I'm indropsshe murmured as she reached out to accept a hug she knew was coming. As he hugged her, she looked sideways and dropped her eyes to the floor, not avoiding looking at him, avoiding looking at anything at all.

On a day like today, he was glad he wasn't holding back an ounce of affection because she clearly needed some."TheI was able to find out a lot. All right, you're home from work early and you look completehit…so what happened?"

She sighed as she gently took his arms from her and made her way to the kitchen. "No need to worry, just..."

"First things first, is youOkay?"

She stopped to turn and make eye contact for the first time since walking through the door. "I was just saying...nothing to worry about," she repeated, trying not to be too harsh—but actually, she was trying to be a little harsh. She turned her head away from him and walked on. "You know me, you know I'm not afraid to share things with you."

"All right," he replied with a weak, forced chuckle, "...share it with me."

"Just got…slightlyattacked by some kids..."

"Okay, wait, wait!" Suddenly Nick barked as he stalked behind her. "Defineslightly",he said as he put his hands on her shoulders and spun her around to face him. "Actually no, even better: What did he do?

Judy knew there wasn't going to be a fight, so she just spilled the beans."She— and her friends — they were a bunch of college kids, they thought the cops were all bad, this one girl throws a coffee cup at me before she realizes that actions have consequences. Beat me down."

"Jesus Christ!" was all he could say. No one could say they were uncomfortable with anything other than being calm, cool, and collected in private company with her. "What a big cup!?"

She shrugged, seemingly profoundly disinterested. "Big enough to knock me down?" Again she gently lifted his paws from her body. "Nick, I appreciate your concern, but I'm telling you, I'm fine.

The fox looked a little annoyed by the remark. "Well, excuse me, princess, but that was so bad that you got sent home early!" But then something else dawned on him. "...Wait, you shouldn't have stayedlateToday?"

The rabbit nodded as she opened the fridge to get a bottle of water. "Yes, and I still am."

"Well you areHereNow."

"Chief told me to go home for a while and just come back after rush hour. He expects a long night for himself, too.” She sat down at the kitchen table and began to choke.

"So... he wants you to go home... sit around... and still come back later?" he asked as he sat down at her table. "Yeah, just bother someone with commuting to work twice in one day, it's not rude or anything. Can't that really wait until tomorrow?"

"He says it's something that...well, he says if he waited until tomorrow I'd be upset that I'd have to wait an extra day to hear it." She leaned forward and looked at her reflection desperately on the water surface in the bottle. No really poetic reason why; She just wanted to make sure she was still the same mammal with the same drives and passions she thought she had.

He tried to cheer himself up for the two of them. "Ah! Sounds like good news then!” He held out a fist at her.

"Yes, yes, I agree, I think..." She finally noticed the fist and pushed it back. She still wasn't her usual optimistic self, but she didn't look sullen anymore; she was just looking...Okay."I hope it's a good thing... I mean, if it were a good thingbadHe probably wouldn't have waited to tell me, would he?"

He snapped his fingers. "Well, there you go! You've concluded that this can only be a good thing!" Nick then ruined his own happy moment by musing, "...even though after what you went through today, it's kinda...sickto think that if he could have told you before sending you away that he would withhold good news from you."

"I trust he has the best of intentions." Back to staring at the water; another sip. "Believe me, I told him to let me hold out for the rest of the day. Poor Brady is going to have to do all the paperwork himself except what he's doingchickensdo on my behalf, which means I have to do itmorning…"

"How's Rin Tin Tin?"

She caught herself starting to roll her eyes, but thought that would be too mean, so she stopped halfway and pretended to check the time instead. Exactly three o'clock. "Apparently he knew those kids from school, so they gave him grief too - maybe more than me, maybe less, depends on how you balance a whole bunch of personal disparagements against a good cup toss... oh, and another emergency on the Potty. "

Nick clicked his tongue and shook his head as he also half-rolled his eyes. "The poor child. I'm not saying he's letting that hold him back in life, but... the only other interpretation is that heis notcontrol of his life, and that's just...existentially terrifying, to be honest."Would notIknow?

Judy stared intently at her water and seriously considered dumping it on herself just so something fun and exciting could happen. "Yeah...I guess...He was ranting about being jealous of you again."

His brow furrowed. "What inspired me to do this?TheTime?"

She shrugged as she rubbed her temples. "I even remember that. And then he would relax by singing his weird songs... He's so jealous of how charismatic he finds you, but he's doing himself a disservice by shouting the word'Linoleum'out the window of a moving police car. I don't mean to be mean, but he... it's nice to be yourself, but then there's beingtostrange."

Her friend nodded thoughtfully. "Well, if the kid adores me like that, maybe one day I can meet him and talk to him personally. Maybe I'll give him life advice!"

She wasn't in the mood. "I'd actually rather you didn't," she said with a groan as she got up and walked to the counter. "I don't want my job to rotate all the timehimAndbeProblems.” She pulled the step stool to the sink. "Also, he would probably prefer that you don't teach him about life, he'll probably be scared you think he's patheticAndtoo boring to remember.” She turned on the sink and wet her paws."Howis it possible that both could be true? Beats me! But he thinks so little of himself.” The bunny started spattering her face right next to the drying dishes. She didn't care.

Nick was faced with a choice: give her advice or comfort?

... or carelessness? Screw it, foolishness.

"II imagine it would be both!” he joked. "He could be so bad at everything that my subconscious erases him from my memory to keep me from depression! It's funny how the mammalian brain works..."

"You're not helping," she said between splashes.

...Levity was a bad decision. So now he would try consolation. Convenience: Always a safe bet!

"...Well, for what it's worth, I think you're doing a great job looking after him."

"You can say anything you want, the results aren't there."

...Well, fuck you too, Comfort. Good, then advice.

"If you really believe that, maybe the best thing would be to just bite the bullet and... ask to be reassigned? I know you don't want to give him up, but... for both of you."

She turned off the water and ripped off a paper towel to wipe up what she'd spilled on the counter. "Sorry I made a mess, I just needed... I don't know, someSensation."No attempt to comply with his suggestion.

"It's okay," he said, getting up to join her. "I got it."

"No, no, I'm almost done anyway..." She got off the stool and made her way into the bedroom, still barely looking at him or anything else. "I know you're trying to help, and I appreciate it, but... I just don't want to think about work right now. Bogo not only told me to go home and take it easy, he told me to rest. I'll take a nap if... you don't need the bedroom for anything."

"Er... no, no, I don't."

"Alright…" But then, as if remembering something she'd forgotten, she stopped, turned and walked towards him, gently tugging on his tie to pull his head down and surrendering kiss him right on the nose. "You know I love you," she said as she let go and he stood upright again, "you don't have to try that hard to feel like you deserve it. Wake me up for dinner, okay?”


And off she went to hopefully find a happier world in her dreams.

He grabbed a bottle of water and sat down at the table. So… he had been waiting all day for her to come home andthat isall the interactions he gets with her? Ah, there would be more days in the future; he just didn't have it in his cards. And still…TheThere was a lot to unpack. She'd had exhausted days like these before, but while they were rare, they were becoming more frequent. Perhaps more alarming, however, was the notion that nothing he did was working to make her feel better.

I love you, you don't have to try so hard to feel like you deserve it.Actually, Judy, yes he has, because if he just flew along on autopilot, he just wouldn't be a good friend. He would know. He had tried many times before.

So was this Brady boy so deeply jealous of Nick's ability to charm someone for whatever reason? You know, someone should tell this dog that there are actually downsides to being such a magnetic personality who can bond with anyone.

Not too many, but undeniably there are. And one of those downsides was that while you have a greater number of relationships — friends, significant other, business associates, whatever — it inevitably comes with a risk of lower quality. It's not necessarily anyone's fault, it's just a matter of math. If you can dressanyoneYou will inevitably attract someone you wouldn't otherwise date - in fact, you will attract onemuchfrom such people. It might seem like someone like Nick can get along with anyone and keep it up — but no, he's often just been faking it to network. Maybe some mammals out there really could be friends with anyone and everyone in the world, but he wasn't. Nick knew everyone in this town, but while many of those people didn't know, he wouldn't call more than a few of themFriends.

And that brings us to his romantic history. He'd never had too much trouble finding a date; He hadn't hit a thousand for getting girls, but he rarely hit all the way. He didn't know if he was really handsome or if he was helped by the handsome amount of money he had earned since puberty (jobs that required him to learn and excelled at getting people to like and trust him) , but there was definitely something irresistibly attractive about him. He had lost his virginity at fourteen on a warm summer night between the end of middle school and the beginning of high school; It had been a complete disaster, ending with his bedroom being destroyed and uninhabitable (don't ask), but he proved it wasn't a fluke when he got his second a few months later, this time with a vixen in the second year who was old enough to drive him home after they met at her place. For much of his twenties he had toyed with how many different species he could lay in one lifetime (his running tally depends on where one draws the line between species, but it was certainly close to a few dozen ). He even had once as a sideline (beforeatsaid they had a "side job") trying to teach desperate guys how to get women; he still privately maintained that this endeavor failed not because he was a bad teacher but because his students turned out to be more hopeless than he ever imagined (remember this was in his pious cynical days) . Why was he single when Judy met him? Because by the time he was in his early thirties, he was starting to get bored with "the game" — and he hadn't "played" for anything more sincere because he was always clear about whether he even believed in true love.

You know, my friend, Judy was his first relationship that wasn't complete bullshit. There were others he thought were real at the time, but in hindsight it's 20/20, and no, in hindsight if he had to sit down at twenty-five and think about what he really had in common with this beaver chick he used to mostly around because she was into freaky cock play in the bedroom, then this relationship was probably bullshit too, and everyone else likes it.

His relationship with Judy was the first he was really in,Reallytry to get it right.WarDoes he get it right? He was pretty sure it was him, but he couldn't be sure because he didn't have a frame of reference. All those dud relationships in his past weren't just duds because the women weren't up to speed. He'd just been uncompromisingly himself - even when he should have apologized for who he was. He wouldn't pretend to be interested in her hobbies if those hobbies didn't interest him, he wouldn't stop making increasingly scathing remarks about her just because he found it funny, and he never thought of going off his street -Run and get a "real" job, although every girl he's dated for more than a few weeks has told him he had to do it eventually. Whether because they were starting to see through it or because he was getting tired of nurturing it, one way or another, the charm was wearing off.

He didn't want it to wear off on her. But that depended on one thing: had the spell ever been real? You can talk all you want Nick, but have fun charming a woman when you have no goals or aspirations in life. Or aWork.

Was he a good friend? To hell if he knew. But he could probably admit that there was more than one way to be a worthy romantic partner. Now the question arose: if he absolutely had to choose one or the other, he should followherIdea of ​​a perfect partner or his own?

Well, they say you gotta live with yourself the longest, so you might as well placate this mammal — and you know what? Judy seemed like the kind of girl who would rather have her man live by his own code than borrow someone else's and never really think about it, even hers. Because yes, she was a peasant girl, and she had fairly conservative ideas about romance and an ideal man; As much as she was incredibly flattered that he'd followed her lead to the police, he figured she'd just appreciate it more if she could prove he was brave and capable enough to start his own lead.

At least he hoped she would. He didn't have much of a choice, did he? It either had to work that way or it just didn't work. But hey, maybe crawling out of this hole would somehow make his life story even more impressive. yes you see She would understand that he took a positive attitude towards it. He hadn't lost everything he worked for, he wasstarting with a clean slate,AndWith more knowledge and experiencethan the first time through. It wasn't himlost,he wasfind yourself-- the ZPD had caught himcloserabout it, but it hadn't gotten to himThere.They had determined that he wanted to live for good rather than evil or to be chaotically neutral, but this was oneStartand now he set out to seek moreSpecificanswer. This whole messy situation could be a good thing if he made it a good thing.

And as much as we wanted to do this to prove ourselves worthy of her love, no, man, he had to do this for himself first and foremost. He just hoped like hell that when he finally became that person, she would still love who he would have become. And if she didn't… well, it was never really meant to be, and he would just repeat the process of starting from scratch on a romantic level. Piece of cake.

It's a shame that this pup who was with his bunny was so intimidated by the fox's charisma; In a world where so many of his friends weren't really his friends, Nick figured he probably hit it off pretty well with Braverman. After all, they both knew what it was like to be lost in society, wriggling through life and not sure who you are...or who you're meant to become. They could have bonded over it.

... Okay, but seriously, what the heck would he do to achieve any of the above?

Eventually he realized that he had been sitting at this table and thinking about his life for two hours. Between her job and her upbringing, Judy was a combative early riser, and having to leave after traffic had finished meant it was now dinner time. Once again she proved that she loved him and trusted him - trusted him enough not to set her own alarm clock.

He quietly walked into the bedroom and crept inside. The bunny looked catatonic as she lay on the blanket with the light shining through the windows on the back of her head. Cliche, to say the least, but she looked peaceful there, like a model for a classic painting. It would be almost a crime against beauty to wake her.

But that was his duty."Heyyy there, carrots!"he whispered as he slowly lowered a hand to shake her shoulder. "It's time to--"

He never made contact with her shoulder.


The fox flinched as he rang his clamshell phone. Hey, the backup phone must have a unique ringtone, right?


Judy's eyes just flared up, barely bothered as the song played. "Is that your backup phone?" she murmured in an uneasy feeling of confusion.



If you were wondering why Nick chose an old glam metal song as his backup phone ringtone... well, there it is:


Do you understand? And for bonus points, this song was released in the year it was born, so there's one more pertinent detail. Hey, it's his second phone, you might as well have fun with that.

"I'm sorry, I hardly ever get calls on this thing, so I keep forgetting to turn the ringer down!" He fumbled to pull it out of his pocket and open it. "Next time, I promise to keep the Quiet Riot...er, quiet."

Hmm. He didn't need to save the stranger's number. All he had to do was see the 778 area code.

"It's okay, I couldn't sleep anyway. Race of mind, body exhausted, just sitting there like a corpse… you know how it is.

But he had already pressed the answer button and had his free paw on the microphone. "I'm sorry, Judy, but... I have to take this."

Time to look on the bright side. As far as he knew, fate was calling him.

Chapter 5: Be everything you can be


Originally published October 11, 2021

chapter text

Chapter 5, "Be All You Can Be"

Judy wasn't afraid of the Chief, not at all. But she had a healthy, cautious concern about the authority he represented. He was noble enough of a guy to acknowledge (in his own stoic way) the good work of one of his charges, but that also meant he wouldn't hesitate to chide an officer who had made a mistake, regardless of the possibility Gefallen curryed with him before. After all, this was the same guy who had no qualms about firing any officer who behaved remotely inappropriately during last summer's protests, even beyond the point where many people on the force said he might have to calm down a bit -- not for moral reasons, but out of a strict sense of practicality, as some counties were quickly understaffed, a problem "solved" by moving officers from warm-bodied counties to new departments, who they were completely unfamiliar with, and if you don't know why having cops patrolling strange neighborhoods is a problem, then I hope you don't work in law enforcement. Bogo could have been a steel faced pro poker player if it wasn't for the part where pro players are supposed to be a cool, cool kind of detachment while this Cape Ox just stood there like a monolithic pillar of unshakable law and order with an expression that even a street smarter like Nick regularly had trouble reading. When the chief asked her to come back for a private chat later that evening, she just couldn't elicit any clues from him as to what this was about, so it was as good as a coin toss as to whether she'd done anything worth doing, in person being praised, or if she was about to bite her head off calmly and professionally.

The summer sun was setting as she entered the station. Benji had already gone home for the night, so the second-shift guy was there, an older dingo named Bruce, who was perfectly friendly but rarely more than said Hi, probably to conserve his introverted energy if he worked until 11pm. He smiled and wordlessly waved at her as he usually did, but while she appreciated that he made an effort to share some sun with her, it really didn't help calm her nerves. They both knew something was wrong if she returned to the station at that hour. And she had to wonder if Bruce knew what had happened to her before and if he just wasn't asking how she was doing now, because she might actually have felt a little better if he had asked. Perhaps Braverman wasn't the only one in power guilty of moral cowardice.

And on the subject of bravery and shyness, Judy wondered if she might have found herself on that list of disturbingly shy officers if things had been different. Hey, here she was, trying not to be nervous about a visit to her boss's office, something she knew logically shouldn't have frightened her overtly. But she was quick to forgive herself, knowing it could easily have been a lot worse: her people were notorious for dropping dead from panic attacks, she was one of the lucky ones, and for the most part could control her anxiety better than most bunnies It was fortunate that she didn't spend every waking moment hopping on Xanax like many members of her family did. So maybe she wasn't a stalwart heroine alien to the concept of fear, but the ability to overcome fear, which all (well, most) mortal mammals carried around in some way, was good enough for her. That's what she said to herself as she approached the labeled door



Supposedly there were actually some mythical mammals out there that were close to the Chief, and even they just called him "Em" instead of a real name. It took her months to figure out what that initial stood for – and when Nick came on board and she told him it stood for 'Madongo', he laughed himself to death for two full minutes before suddenly stopping and asking if it did his funny-sounding name was a racist joke. But, um, no fret my friend, I looked it up and "Madongo" appears to be an obscure but legitimate name from Luganda culture - whether or not it really means "uncircumcised", or whether it does Internet it's only fuck with me I can not say. And apparently his middle name is just "Joseph" but I can see that "Joe Bogo" is only slightly preferable to "Madongo Bogo". (And if you're curious, yes, Slick Nick once tried to get away with coolly calling the chief by his first name, and Madongo didn't appear to be joking when he threatened to take Wilde's badge if he ever dared again. )

She knocked and a few moments later the door opened.

"Thank you for coming back after hours, Officer Hopps. I apologize if it was a problem, but I've waited a week to find the right time for this conversation."

"It's okay, Chief, if it's part of my duty, then it's part of my duty," she said dutifully as she walked in.

"Please take a seat."

Even in a city full of transplants, his accent gave it away that he Really wasn't from around here. By the time ZPD landed his services, he had been a hot commodity, having gained international acclaim in law enforcement circles for how well he cleaned up London before deciding to settle in the States and their notoriously mismanaged cities to challenge. Someone more familiar with the British Isles than I am could probably hear his gruff, guttural way of speaking and give you a more accurate estimate of where in England he's from (Judy and Nick had actually discussed it before, and the fox giggled when poor red rabbit thought the accent was the chief's Cockney? No, that can't be right, can it? Heck, do Cockney accents still exist or was that just a relic from the Victorian era? Or is it like a stereotypical Valley Girl or Canadian or Blues Brothers/SNL superfans with Chicago accents where nobody ever really spoke like that?) ... but in any case, Judy knew nothing of this mammal's background, apart from the sparse information that was public information, because if Bogo's past wasn't relevant, he knew it just doesn't share it. It was nothing personal that he withheld virtually all of this information from his wards, he was just very strict about sticking to the books and keeping things professional.

And for these reasons and others, as she climbed into the reclining chair with a five-figure weight capacity, she still couldn't make head or tail out of his mood. (Or has Bogo even experienced moods? What if he were a robot? What if his big secret was that he was a machine designed by the British government to be the perfect police chief, and they gave him an odd ethnic Given names to throw everyone Unlikely, but that would be brilliant if that were the case.)

"I'm…ready for the news." She didn't want to sound nervous and stumble over her words, but she didn't want to repeat herself as she tried to get him to spill the big deal.

The chief sat down and breathed deeply through his nose as he formed his words. "Officer Hopps... I've certainly kept you waiting long enough, I won't mince my words.

...Like… Wow, ah… The was certainly a tricky question. Not at all what she expected, but maybe she should have; always like the boss, straight to the point. And yet he seemed to be holding something back; if he would say If you are bored, we can show you the door... he would have just told her to go ahead and go through with it.

"Oh! Uh, um... yes, I... of course I enjoy my work!" she stammered; her testimony was more true at some times than others, but still basically the truth. "It's always been my lifelong dream, it... it was going to take a while much that I'm sick of it - a-a-and I mean a lot, heh, heh...um...why, uh, why do you ask, Chief? I, um... did I do anything to give you the impression that I'm losing my passion for my work? Let me know and I'll fix it! I--"

But the chief only held up one hoof, and Judy took the hint and cut herself off. She didn't typically stutter when speaking to authorities, but this was a very unusual situation, and when she was at a point where she didn't know what was going on and couldn't figure it out quickly because believing in herself she seems one to be a stupid act.

But the boss quickly cleared up the mystery: "I'm asking because Officer Braverman has expressed to me that he thinks you don't enjoy his partnership with him."

...Interesting. She did not expect that. Hadn't expected that at all, hadn't even considered it as an option. There had been some who had told the boss that they refused to work with him her, but... did she understand that correctly...?

"So… he didn't say Is didn't enjoy working with it Mich--"

"He didn't, he said he felt like you were a perfectly good partner and that he wasn't a good enough partner Of."

... That absolutely seemed to be something this dog would say.

"Um...I'm sorry Chief, that's just...it's just kind of weird because he never said anything about it Mich--"

"He also mentioned that he was afraid to tell you about it, at the risk of seeming even more, to use his word, 'pathetic.'"

...The Also totally sounded like something Brady would say. But the question remained, where was the chief going with this and why did it warrant such a special meeting?

"Chief, Chief, Sir, I'm sorry if this is due to Braverman's performance and you think I no longer care about doing my job well..."

"Oops. Hopps, no.” Bogo had his hand up again. "That's not what I want to say at all. You have done nothing wrong. And while Braverman may still have work to do as an officer, he didn't do anything wrong either. Quite the contrary, you remain one of the best Beat Patrol mammals in ZPD, which is why my question was genuine as to whether you're not enjoying your work like you used to. If you are no longer fulfilling your position, and Braverman rightly says, you can stand being reassigned for your own sanity, then I should seek to serve Of."

Well then. Judy definitely had an idea now where this was going, but didn't want to take anything lest she look stupid in front of the big boss mammal. After all, there were other ways to achieve this. So she patiently waited for him to say it himself.

Not to suggest that she wasn't ready to bait him. "...How do you serve me, sir?"

"Officer Hopps, would you like a promotion?"

Either that or a lateral displacement. The rabbit's ears were definitely pricked.

"...What... what promotion?"


And where it used to be a little too fast, now Judy's heart skipped a beat or two altogether.

"Are you interested?" the Chief urged, obviously not wanting to waste any more time.

She didn't know how to answer that question without just sounding awkward, but the Chief wanted an answer, so she dutifully continued. "Um...I...I'm not against it, I'm not, I just, uh...I, I always kind of thought I was a patrolman for my career, you, you know, keep interacting with the ground with the mammals that I." serve, I... I guess I just never imagined myself as one Detective--"

"Honestly, Officer Hopps, that surprises me," the buffalo interrupted, his illegible face a little less stony, but not by much. “One of the very first things you did as a ZPD officer was to get a very high profile case off the street with only the help of an amateur. This was essentially detective work, and you seemed really enjoying it at the time. And if you would still enjoy it and just be humble…” For a very brief pause, his face looked almost rueful. "...in that case, I must apologize for holding back this offer for so long; the thought had occurred to me at the time to put you on the detective trail straight away, but you seemed to not only be enjoying the beat, you're working and learning at the same time the city, you were just too famous. Having you on the street and interacting with the common man, as you said, was just too good for PR to pass up the opportunity."

Now she wasn't even considering whether or not to accept this sudden offer, she was just thinking about how much different her situation could have been if things had been… well, different. And if she would have preferred it, whatever that would have been.

"I hope you don't feel like we took advantage of your popularity with the citizenry, and I sincerely apologize if you do," said the chief, whose face nonetheless looked like he believed she was accurate would have done so, but his expression quickly returned to formality as he continued; "However, rest assured that spending you a few years as Standard Officer was always the way to go before you were offered a promotion and it seems safe to give you an above street level position now, as it seems the The town's love affair with you has abated."

Back to Classic Chief Bogo saying something extremely direct and not knowing or caring if it might be hurtful to hear it. To clarify, it wasn't exactly... hurtful that Judy heard the idea that the inhabitants of Zootopia had overcome their adoration for her and Nick, because of course she already knew that, that was the reality as she lived it - she just didn't want to be reminded of it so casually and callously. But anyway, facts are facts and she had to take that information and use it.

"Of course it still wouldn't be an immediate transfer," the Englishman continued, "as we would need to train you accordingly. Helping out some current detectives with their cases, and of course you could further speed the process if you could take the time to get a criminology degree to expand on your bachelor's degree in criminal justice -- show enough promise and I can probably approve it allow the cost of such a course to be reimbursed if you are not fully compensated for your time -- but all of that assumes you're even interested in such a career path."

this clause. The end of this sentence. Something about it set off alarm bells in her head. She'd given the impression that she wasn't open to the offer, and now the opportunity was disappearing—it wasn't even want an opportunity like that five minutes ago, but now that she knew such an opportunity existed, she didn't want to let it pass. Oh, but she didn't want to commit to it either, if it really wasn't for her...

"If none of this suits you," Bogo continued, sounding like he was concluding, "please just say so, and I apologize for wasting your time..."

"Oh! NO! No, um..." She had to take a second to plan her speech. "I'm not dis interested, i'm just... this is so sudden, i hadn't even thought about being a detective, i... i just need a second to get used to the idea. B-but Chief, you know me, you know I'm true to my sense of duty! If the department needs me to fill a position at the detective agency, I'll do it! Put me where you need me, Chief, I won't let you down!"

But the Chief seemed unperturbed by their enthusiasm. "Where we need you, Hopps, is where you can do your best work. If that's on the road with Braverman, we need you. If this really is in the detective's office, then it is that is where we need you If that's somewhere else, stationed at the front desk or at a public school, or working undercover under the guise of a prostitute, then The would be where we need you But you're no use to anyone working as a detective if you're unhappy. By the same token, if you feel miserable in your current position but are too polite and dutiful to make a fuss about it, you're not doing your best job there either. I'm just offering to help you find a place where you would do your best. Are you interested?"

That was too much. That was just too much. Yes, she wasn't as happy with her current position as she used to be, but she still found the good in it. That's what she was, she always stayed on the sunny side of life. Then again...this current arrangement made it harder to find the sunny parts, as the world in her head began to be clouded with negativity unlike anything she'd ever experienced before — save for one hell of a summer six years ago. Had she really imagined staying on patrol for the rest of her life? Um... sort of? Perhaps? Not really? eh? The truth of God was that she just hadn't thought that far ahead; She had worked so hard to get to this place for so long, and now that she was here, she just wanted to live in the moment and not worry too much about the future for once in her life. Well, she's had a chance to just enjoy the present for half a decade now, maybe it was time to plan ahead again to make sure she wasn't stagnant. And what kind of woman would she be if she didn't challenge herself? Hmm...well, sometimes it's okay to say no to an opportunity when it just isn't Of, Do you know? Maybe it was her old-fashioned, small-town upbringing, but she'd always pictured detectives as cold, stoic guys in trench coats—and I mean that People, She was all about breaking barriers, but even for her, the idea of ​​a woman fulfilling that archetype seemed less impossible than just strange. She had I've always seen myself kind of personally working on patrol for an extended period of time, and if she had to choose a path to advancement...she wouldn't say so out loud, but yes, she would love to be in Chief Bogo's position someday. Could you get there from the detective trail? She hadn't the faintest idea, but she knew you had to go hoch getting there, and… that was certainly a way hoch. Oh, and the mammal that's largely at the root of this conflict: that poor pup, Brady. She still felt bad for thinking so negatively of him, and yet she didn't find it wrong to think many of those things; she didn't want to dismiss it as a pathetic excuse for a cop, but she didn't think she was the kind of mammal that could unlock whatever needed to be unlocked in his brain for him to stop being so very pathetic; She didn't want to let down a young, hopeful dog who clearly needed guidance, but she just didn't know if she could take his weakness another week. And I'm aware, my friend, this paragraph is starting to get a little rambling, but can I explain well why this bunny was so terribly torn as she sat there in the chief's office, feeling the pressure to make a decision? She did it responsibly, weighing her options before speaking, but what should she do now that the scales looked dead?

"What do you think, Officer Hopps?"

Judy looked her boss in the eye. She knew what to say.


"...And so I asked him if I had some time to think about it, and he just said, 'Yes, of course, go ahead, I can't expect you to make such a big decision on the spot. '” She thoughtlessly rearranged some of the rice on her plate with her fork. "And it took everything I had not to just come out and say... 'Boss, you just would called that earlier? It really felt like you were pushing me to make a quick decision here and now!'"

Nick chuckled lightly, making sure not to inhale any of the food in his mouth. "Ah, Classic Madongo Joe Bogo," he said after swallowing and setting his taco down. "To intimidate people like that and then to be like, 'Oh, you've had an opportunity all along not to feel intimidated by me, of course you have.' Stop getting so angry when you might think that he is the one who suffers with his terrible social skills.”

"Yeah, I guess..." Judy sighed as she looked at her plate. The taco meat was tofu, not fish or insects or poultry so they could both enjoy it. Her fox friend wasn't a strict vegetarian, but even before they met he had made a habit of avoiding things that were once alive whenever there was a viable meatless option. It was one of the things that made their odd interspecies relationship a little easier.

However, unbeknownst to them, this new development could make it much, much more difficult.

"So...so far, are you leaning one way or the other?" asked Nick, who was usually supportive of whatever she had up his sleeve, but given a specific meeting he had just scheduled for tomorrow, a meeting she wasn't of knowing it was taking place, and one she most certainly didn't know was taking place on the subject he was really hoping to get away from what could have been the mother of all awkward moments.

Judy simply gave up grabbing her taco and dropped it the last ½ inch onto the plate, using both paws to support her head so she could drop her face without planting herself . "Well, when I said I'd think about it, I meant it..."

"Yes, but that doesn't mean you can't have your early loves!" He had dropped his own food to give her his full attention; she could clearly use some comfort, and in other circumstances he would be happy to give it more generously, but until she confirmed or denied what he so easily feared, all she would get was the comfort that came from his warm smile the other side of the table.

And sure enough, she looked up at that friendly face - not his famous mean grin, but something that looked real - and managed to calm her down just enough to find the courage to make more decisive statements.

“Honestly… I never really wanted to be one Detective of all things Before… Having the option on the table doesn't make me want to do it now for any reason other than...it is a possibility... I mean… sure, like the chief said, what we did before was basically detective work, and it was rewarding, and – I hope that doesn't sound too sick, but it is War kind of funny... under the circumstances you know what I mean... but I don't want that at the time you know It was my pleasure once, but I did it because it was my duty... and, well, it was better than compulsory parking..."

"In order. In order! That's good. That's healthy,” Nick encouraged her. "If you talk about it, you might discover how you really feel!" At first he'd held back from letting her speak frankly without his influence, but now that she was beginning to move toward the answer he wanted, was he doing what he could to get her there faster? He was damn straight. Sneaky? Perhaps. But he had to put those cunning persuasion skills to good use eventually, didn't want them to rust now.

"And maybe I'm thinking in stereotypes," she continued, "but... am I wrong in thinking that detective work would be any more depressing than what we're already doing? Or what I I do, my bastard—”

"It's not a problem."

"But yeah, we're cops, we already clean up crime as part of our job description, but in my head... I guess detectives and i just think about it death, murder, darkness, Only… bald everything. Yeah, well, we had to get involved in murders and deaths and fatal accidents and stuff, but... not at the time. I don't know if I could handle it The lots of negativity without a break. Am... am I stupid? No wait, better question... am I weak? Am I a weak woman, Nick, if I think I can't handle something like this? grim Workspace?"

"No. Absolutely not. You are not weak,” her death said confidently. "In fact, I think it's pretty strong of you to know who you are, know your limitations, not try to force yourself to be someone else, and seek something that's right for you when outer Forces are trying to push you into something that isn't Of." Yes, after a conversation like this, it would still be a few embarrassing if and when that PI gig he was investigating would come to fruition, but at least it wouldn't be as bad as a silly scenario where they basically acted as mutual competition. It wouldn't be anything Nick couldn't make work.

And speaking of Nick making things work, Judy actually managed a tiny smile. "Thanks." She either believed his uplifting words, or she believed that he was doing his best to make her believe his uplifting words, and she could respect the caring that went into that. "And...I have to say...hey, maybe I've just watched too many old movies, but...thinking about it a detective... I don't think of someone like me. I'm not saying I can't imagine it's a bunny or a girl, I mean... I don't think it's me depressed enough to be a detective. I think of a detective and I think of a guy who... sits alone in a room chain smoking until someone knocks on his door and gets him to solve something, a guy just thinking out loud how much he thinks the world stinks, a guy who probably wants to be loved, but someone so cynical and jaded that he's unable to receive let alone give it...I know that they're all just old movie clichés, I know they are, but... hey, there's got to be some truth to them, right? Those clichés had to come from somewhere to be believable, right? Maybe all the darkness they have to deal with makes detectives these... bitter... joyless... closed off Mammals... and I don't want to be that."

...Okay, scratch that if it were very embarrassing Nick taking the job now that he knew how Judy felt about what kind of mammal detective was, but hey, at this point a job was a job and she actually shied away from setting foot on his newly claimed turf .

"I mean, sure, they help mammals," Judy continued, "but... with the kind of mammals that Others Mammals think they are detectives, but they really aren't want the help of a detective unless they are desperate.”

However, Nick was struck by a strange defensiveness for a career he hadn't even entered yet. "Well, hey, how is that other than people not hitting the cops until things go wrong?"

The fox realized immediately that he had made a mistake. For one thing, he'd been so quick to defend detectives that he didn't realize until the words were out of his mouth, that he kind of made it seem like it wasn't that much of a departure from Judy's current profession, ergo somewhat, not to be feared as the great great unknown and possibly compelling them to think about it. More urgently, however, it appeared that this happened along with... its opposite, by making the profession seem unattractive? I don't know, my friend, what I'm trying to say is that the bunny was clearly offended that Nick had just made a valid argument comparing cops and detectives after Judy's best efforts, detectives as creepy loners portray that no one would ever choose to deal with.

"Wait--" he stuttered after seeing the look on her face, "--shit, wait, wait, it's my fault, that wasn't-- that wasn't an anti-cop statement, I'm not saying people do that are right to assume that cops are all assholes and that they should avoid you at all costs until they need you..."

"No, no, you... you're not wrong..." Judy sighed. "No one stops by headquarters just to say hello."

He had upset his honey bunny, but the hoary fox thought he had an easy way out. “Hey… people still stop and say hello Of on the street, right?"

"Yes... but not as much as it used to be..."

"But they still do."

Finally she looked up at him again. "Yes...yes, you're right."

Nick nodded. Went like clockwork.

"But they wouldn't have a chance if they hadn't seen me on the street..." she mused on, her head cocked and her eyes on the ceiling. She was deep in thought; Nick could tell because the entire table was shaking from Judy's hyperkinetic Lapine foot, which was shaking with fear.

"Just think about it," Nick said quietly. "I'm not here to influence you, I'm here to guide you through your own thought process." Oh yes, Nick, we all believe you, hombre.

"...I guess I'm leaning toward no," she finally said as her restless legs syndrome wore off. "It… maybe I'm not challenging myself enough, but Jeez Louise, it just doesn't feel like it Mich."

"And that's perfectly fine," her redhead assured her. Mission accomplished. "You know better than anyone who you are."

"I guess..." If all utterances by I guess weren't enough to give it away, she didn't look entirely confident in her conclusion. But she had to make a choice one way or another, and staying out seemed less likely to make her even more unhappy.

"What's next?" Nick asked to take the conversation elsewhere. “You said Fido thought it was cool that you found another partner; are you staying with him or are you making your exit?”

"So... it was weird, Chief told me he actually told Brady was not I'll talk to myself about it, he said it was because he didn't want to scare Brady while he waited for me to hear about it and make my decision..."

"Which sounds exactly like something that pup would do."

"It does. So when I see him tomorrow, he won't know the chief told me anything. I think I'll just empathize... Aw I've told you a hundred times you know how it is I don't want to give him up cause he's a good dog but I just don't know if I'm the one who can make him what he can be. Not my fault, not his fault, different mammals sometimes go together with different mammals --"

"I understand, I understand completely, I hear you." If a big part of the charm was being a good listener, Nick had that covered. Judy felt really comfortable in his presence. “As before, I just advise you to think about it; I can't make any decisions for you, but I can help you get there.” And feeling like he'd done his job well, Nick picked up his taco and went back to eating it, always eating them still kept an eye on whenever she needed his attention.

Judy just nodded and said "thank you" before picking up her own food; As much as she wanted to keep talking, she was still pretty famished after such an eventful day. Hopefully the next day will be better. Hopefully the next day would make her feel like sticking with the decision she knew was the right one. Hopefully the next day will be good.


The next day was neither good nor bad and, paradoxically, that made it worse. At least one bad day like yesterday would be remarkable. A day like this just felt like a wasted day, a day erased from the final draft of your life's story. And yet this ordinariness seemed to offer a moment of clarity.

It hadn't been a day when Nothing happens; They'd had to deal with a minor car accident, a domestic argument that thankfully seemed overdone, and a call where some Karen dialed 911 after a llama spat on the sidewalk, who then argued that evicting random Loogies Part of his people is culture. And after all these instances of leaving the crime scene while everyone was obviously frustrated and no one seemed to have taken solace from the cops that appeared, they drove aimlessly away again with Judy behind the wheel while the German shepherd switched off and out of the Window stared back into his earbuds and listened to his music.

This time he wasn't listening to his pop punk, he seemed to be listening to something more indie and a little bit more pop. Still, an obscure song that Judy had never heard of. Not to say he played it loud enough for Judy to hear loud and clear, but he was again singing softly to himself, and Judy had to wonder: Did Braverman have a penchant for picking songs that were easy to have seemed? immediately relevant lyrics, or was that her brain just looking for symbolism in everything and finding it?

"I climbed a mountain, and I'll never come back... I won't stop, aaand I always fly back... and from this moment, for my whole life, what can I say? ...I was born to be like this. What can I say? ...liiiiiiiin' for todayyyyyy..."

Brady would certainly quit and not always fight back. Judy wasn't proud to think so, but she couldn't deny it. She could already guess that this would be yet another case of overanalysis of the words Brady muttered lazily to himself as he seemed half asleep in the passenger seat.

»I’m from a little towwwn of hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii{e-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeenen Brookeeeeeeen”

...In order, Now this song was beginning to sound like it was speaking to her personally. She didn't know what to think of the "born rich, go broke" line, but she came from a small town with hard working people and Brady wasn't. And that was all it took to get them to really listen, which made things really weird as Braverman got to the chorus, which he sang with a surge of power:

"Aaand weee aaall knowwww that the sun will shiiiiine! Gotta chase this dream of Miiiiine gooooo! And I know, I know, I can make y'all proud ifnn I, I'm hiiiiigh aaabovvvvve those clouds...ever..." And he proceeded to the next verse, unaware that his partner behind the wheel had an epiphany: "I-I don't siiing gutllll, but I gotta a lottt a' heaaart...!"

He certainly didn't sing well, but she didn't know how much heart she could attribute to him. And as uplifting and inspiring as this song was supposed to be, the idea of ​​a guy like Brady being brave enough to chase his dreams was just so far-fetched to her that the mere thought of it was depressing. But hey... maybe the song was never meant for him.

If she didn't know better, she would think Brady's body is inhabited by an angel playing a slow, torturous long game to convince her to do something in her life. I mean, the lyrics were just too fitting. How many songs can you think of that come right out and tell a story about how you're frustrated with the current place and bravely set out to seek something bigger?

...Okay, when I think about it, there were a lot of songs like that. Like... at least hundreds, possibly thousands. Maybe not exactly the same in tone and structure, but to get the same point across, Judy immediately thought of this Kelly Clarkson song or this Aerosmith song or this Fleetwood Mac song or something Others Fleetwood Mac song...or heck, even that Gazelle song that blew up the charts back during The Crisis might fill the bill. And actually, she hadn't even realized it at the time, but a few tracks earlier Brady had mumbled that signature rap-rock song of the baddest white rabbit in the hip-hop game, but the dog had clearly forgotten half of B-Rabbit's lyrics, so he spent half the song muttering "na na na na mom's spaghetti" every time he bumped into a bar he didn't remember going to, while so half an hour before that the potential for the message of encouragement it got lost in Braverman skipping half the words in his recitation. In fact, whatever song he was singing, it was...really, Really generic, right? Judy wondered if she could have just put her own Spawtify account on Shuffle and gotten a similar song with a similar impact in an hour.

But in any case... the effect had been achieved. She tat must chase this dream of hers. But somehow she already had, and she understood. So what should come next? Well… she wasn't only dream, was it? What else did she dream of?

...Ambitious, for one. And never to stagnate or stop improving. And to be someone who is free from fear, someone who is willing to take on a challenge that she didn't see coming, like the challenge of a whole new fight. And she dreamed of always breaking stigmas and barriers; she might see detectives herself as cold and callous, but it didn't have to be that way, and she had the power to change that. She would redefine the archetype; she was a leader, not a follower.

And she really wanted to be someone who made the world a better place. Nick was right: Mammals didn't seek out cops or detectives unless they had to. Well, that was the nature of her work, but she believed that didn't mean her work wasn't important. It's also not like mammals stopped by the fire station for a howdy-do. So the chief thinks she has the skills to be a detective? Okay, then she would make the world a better place by playing to her strengths. When she said she would remain true to her sense of duty, she meant it.

But just to make sure she didn't see any signs where there weren't...

"Hallo, Brady?"

Her partner pulled the wires out of his ears and pulled up his phone to stop the music, which was already on the next song. "What works?"

"Er...I couldn't help but hear that song you were singing to yourself..."

"What, is that what you mean? Didn't you like it because it has the word 'bitch' in it?”

"No, no, before. Um... it got me thinking about what dreams are Of just after?"

The German shepherd flinched. "To the right Now?"


He shook his head a little. "Were at work right now." He said he saw work at his job as the opposite of having a goal.

"No, I just mean... at this stage of your life. Where do you see yourself in five years?"

He chuckled. "What is that, an interview?"

"You know what, let's pretend it is." She tried not to get impatient with his refusal to give her a straight answer.

But he didn't seem to mess with her; At this point he just looked really confused. "I mean... what do you expect from me?"

"Just tell me what dream you're working toward." Her frustration peeked through just a little. "I just want to get to know you better."

But her partner just stared at her like she wanted to see pictures of a pet iguana he didn't have. "Not really. I mean... what may Am I working towards this? That is… Es, not true? This job?"

"But I know becoming a cop wasn't your first choice, so what Is your dream?"

He just shrugged again. "I mean what may I do in this life? I mean - yes, we can do a lot Also, I know if I stop talking for two seconds you'll probably remind me when you became a cop when no one believed in you, but... you sought The. And I think wanting things like that is honestly a privilege. Because I completely understood your question, Judy; I just didn't understand if Of understood that we are not all fortunate enough to feel a passion for something. Yes, I have dreams: Being please, Feeling Fulfills, always feel that i have done great things... but these are all vague concepts. How do I get there? There are a million options... but they all seem lousy, they all seem to require more work than it's worth. And I really believe that there are more people like me than you: our dream is it find a dream so we have something to live for Of Tun. Hey, just like the song said...we only live for today, because why should we live for the future? Is... do you understand that? Does that make sense as an answer?"

It did. This confirmed that this song, and all others like it, was not for him, it was for a dreamer like her. Was it absurd to think that this was actually an intelligent force in the cosmos, using an obscure piece of pop culture to signal it? Absolutely. Would it have been more absurd if she hadn't taken the opportunity to follow his good advice anyway? Absolutely.

"I just pushed you to death, didn't I?" Brady squeezed.

"Huh? Oh no. No you didn't.” And she meant it. It might have depressed her if she hadn't had that moment of clarity, but she had, so she didn't. She just felt driven.

"...What are Of then work towards it?"


"You asked me what I was working towards, as if everyone's working towards something – it kind of hints at it Of is something going on. Any destinations I should know about?"

Then it hit her. He knew exactly what he was saying. Is had been the one who encouraged the Chief to give her something better to do somewhere else with someone else. Is was the one who thought she would be best with a transfer. But he did not knowing that the Chief ever pitched the idea to her. As far as he knew, this was in his hands, and while he might be a nervous little anxiety patient, he had the guts to challenge her to be her best self. What are Of Working towards it, Judy? Five minutes ago she wouldn't have had an answer. Then Braverman sang his little song and reminded her that she had best set some goals. There had a sentient force that this song used to convince her, and that force was black and beige and brown and blonde. This dog knew exactly what he was doing.

Thanks Brady, Judy thought This is a part of you that you should never change.

... So Officer Braverman tells me he had absolutely no idea his partner got the impression he was feeding her motivational subliminal messages via the lyrics of songs that had actually been randomly shuffled and that he had never been in a million years would have dared such a thing, and besides, when he had told the boss to reassign her, he had literally just meant to reassign her to a different patrol partner because he didn't know she was eligible for promotion and therefore could not goading a jump he hadn't even known was an option. Uh, never mind, that ends well, all's well.

"Are you... are you trying to think of a polite way to tell me this is none of my business?" Brady offered.

This question successfully made Judy realize that there had been a previous question that she hadn't acknowledged at all because she was busy reading into its nonexistent subtext T.

"Oh! Uh... nonono you're fine, sorry, it would be super rude of me to ask you a question and then get defensive if you asked it straight back to me, I just kept my distance for a second, um... "

"So what's your big goal right now?"

The bunny slowed at a yellow light, which she definitely could have done (which wasn't quite as unproblematic as one might have thought after Bogo instituted an anti-corruption policy that had cops penalized by red-light cameras during patrol cars in non-emergency situations to serve, the amount of the fine would be automatically deducted from her paycheck) for wanting to look her partner in the eye for what might be one of the last times.

"You got me into my own trap well, Brady. I not know what I'm working towards. But I've decided…” She fell silent for a moment as a warm smile spread across her muzzle. "...my goal is to take on any challenge that I think could make me a better mammal and make the world a better place!" And all thanks to you.

Braverman blinked at her. "...So you're admitting that the first time you asked me that question was a trap?"

"You can now hear your music again."


And the cruiser was silent for a moment while Judy waited for the light to change and Brady put his earbuds back in and resumed the next song on his playlist, already on the second verse:

"My girlfriend has this boyfriend, man, she haaat DICK!

...Moments like this only reinforced Judy's theory that Brady did this on purpose.

"He wants more diiinerrro just to stay home, well my friend you have to say!"

But maybe she could take this moment of inspiration home to share with Nick and maybe give him some direction in his own life. Yes, Nick, your friend who pays the rent has realized that she always needs to set goals, which are your Goals? Hopefully her happiness would motivate him and not just embitter him.

"I won't pay! I won't payyy ya, no way-ay-ay-ayyy, ya...!"

But while she naturally preferred it to happen sooner rather than later, she truly had the utmost faith that he would eventually find his way. He confessed some cynicism about it, citing that among the myriad of mammals he knew there were many who had been earnestly trying to get their shit together, but she insisted he wasn't like her, he was far too smart and resourceful plus all his life without figuring everything out the way they had. With that belief in mind, she was curious as to which way he would end up. With any luck, maybe his new journey would complement her own new journey as a full-fledged detective, like maybe a journalist or something. As long as it wasn't something that conflicted, competed, or directly competed with her new career. No, that would just be stupid, there's no way that would happen. No matter which path he chose...

"Naaaa, why don't you get aaa job!?"

...she would certainly be glad he had one.

Chapter 6: This charming mammal


The stylistic misery of one of our heroes rests when he meets a stranger he has never met before.


Hi party people. So there are two factions of you: those reading this shortly after it was posted on 12/20/21 (happy Chriskwannukkah btw), and those who started the whole story over after that date. So the latter camp already knows this, but for those of you reading in real time, I've changed the author's note at the very beginning of the story to convey...vaguely how my expectations of this story are relative to you have changed source material. Long story short... I've recommended that new readers unfamiliar with Backbone either play the free prologue or watch someone else play it, just so they can see why it seems so promising. seemed

That was my attempt to get across that after six months, I'm goddamn frustrated at how much this game hasn't delivered without putting people off - because the last thing I want to do is seem like I'm missing something of the Faith in my own work, why the hell would I do such a damn stupid thing? I know and you know it's the source material that I've lost faith in, not myself, but to start a complaint would be marketing suicide. If you've made it this far, hopefully you'll agree that this works well as some sort of backbone-end fix fic, and you're not put off by that now.

Anyone here who is just a Zootopia fan who doesn't know or care about Backbone? Lol tbh you guys are the smart ones but tl;dr the free prologue was frigging BALLER then the actual game comes out two years later and... it just went downhill from there. It's like five hours at most, and it literally changes genres halfway through. Man I swear to god I thought this would be a hit in our goofy little community and I'm mad they made a fool of me. And I still maintain YOU should at least experience the prologue, there were cool ideas and I want you to see what I was hoping for... and then understand why I was bloody heartbroken that it... sucked . Or maybe it wasn't bad at all, it was just so esoteric and weird that I couldn't digest it very well.

But, you know what? I still have a real soft spot for the idea of ​​the game and its two main characters, and I think they'll play well with some other talking animals that we know a lot better. And I got to start a fandom, it was pretty tight.

So to repeat:

- I want to acknowledge that I was tricked into thinking this was good by showing me something that was actually good but was the only good part of the full product

- BUT that doesn't affect this story because it's his own thing now

-As such, I'm going to play fast and loose with Backbone characters and concepts as I see fit - not like there are any Backbone puritans around to be teasing me about it

-And I like what I came up with

-Although Howard, Renee and all other backbone characters are simply treated as OCs when that makes it easiest to enjoy, I can't blame them for that

...Watch this fic randomly take off one day, and it generates a lot of interest in Backbone as I originally hoped. I swear to god... I don't know WHAT I swear to god, but I swear to god...

Screw the game itself, that's better. we good? We good.

(EDIT 12/23: And of course TODAY... I see the announcement that there will actually be a second game next year. That was... fast haha. I'll buy it because I want to be confused inside laugh again. )

Originally published December 20, 2021

(See end of chapter formore notes.)

chapter text

Chapter 6, "This Lovely Mammal"

Granted, he was a little nervous. He wasn't sweating or anything, but he was nervous, and a lot of that was nervousness because he was nervous and making a bad first impression because of it; the rest was that he was nervous, that he had already made a bad first impression by being late for a meeting while staying in his car.

Granted, the other guy wasn't there either, but that begged the question of whether he'd continued chasing or whether he'd gotten there in time and left when the mysterious Howard didn't show up. The raccoon had tried calling his contact several times, the same odd number with the area code 6-2-4, but it always went to voicemail. It rang the whole way instead of jumping straight to the generic robot mailbox greeting, so the guy didn't knowingly reject his calls, but that might have been worse. If you're old enough to read this story, you're old enough to have had a moment like this: when you're upset that someone is late to find out they had a damn good reason for it , their car broke down or they got a bad ankle sprain or their house caught fire or something awful like that, and at that point you feel like a huge asshole for not assuming the worst the whole time. Yep, that was just his luck: Howard trips his ass when he finally finds someone genuinely willing and able to help him settle into this new town, and they get hit by one along the way hit the bus. A sick thought? Ah, totally. But would that fit the tone of his life story? Absolutely.

...Of course, maybe Howard was right the first time and this guy had come and gone while Howard was fumbling around to find a supermarket that sold cigarettes and was curtly cut offWe do not sell tobacco products hereeach time he dared to ask an employee. If he had had just the bare minimum of willpower to ignore his nicotine itch, he would have had an answer to that question. And the desire probably didn't help against his slight but lingering sense of anxiety about the situation.

He had an idea to take his mind off the stressful wait, but it didn't seem to be much less stressful. He would call his favorite vixen. A simple investigation to make sure she hasn't been caught by unsavory characters yet, a chance to speak to one of the few people in the world who genuinely cares about him, and most importantly, a catalyst: everyone knows this when you If you wait for something to happen and then finally say fuck it and start doing something else, that's the first thing that finally happens. It's like a law of thermodynamics or something. But the problem was… what did he actually wantsayto her?

It's funny how often we're afraid to talk to people we know and love. Not even in situations where you have to tell them something horrible that will make them mad at you, like telling your parents to sign a slip letting them know you have an F on your report card, or telling your spouse that you somehow lost your wedding ring. Just as we are sometimes struck by the realization that the people we love, no matter how much they are a part of our lives, are still their own people and we can never know 100% what goes on in their heads; Maybe they think we're stupid or boring or interrupting something important, and then we put them in a position where they have to make the difficult decision of either putting up with us or telling us we're bothering them.

He was a little nervous that calling her just to check on her might come off as overly paranoid at best and a complete waste of time at worst. Yes, he might rather care too much than too little, but to err is still a mistake. In his defense, he was several subnational jurisdictions and an international border away from her, so he had good reason to have a bad image of this person he cared about without knowing if they were in the middle of an uneventful writing session or for her ran her life. And he also had the excuse that they weren't quite as close as other people who love each other.

"Love" wasn't too strong a word at all in the context in which they used it. When she finally saw him in the hospital, it was clear there was love for one another in their eyes, and they were certainly more than just friends — but they weren't what people who are "more than friends" are implied and assumed to be. It was understood by both parties that if their lives had been compatible, they would have tried. But their lives were not compatible. Their relationship and love for one another could best be described as something that vacillated between platonic friends, adult siblings and a romantic couple depending on the situation; On the plus side, they could certainly say they had something unique, but on the other hand, that also meant they had to figure out how to go about it themselves (and if you were a particularly cynical person, you could say that it really scary was that these two felt like brother and sister at times and were hot on each other at other times, but we just trust you won't jump to the most unflattering conclusions).

In the end he chose it because he could just see from the window of his car all the people having fun with other people they loved in Batavia Park: children and parents playing, adults jogging and three-on-three -Playing softball, older friends playing chess here and older couples sitting on benches there. It just made him lonely and he decided that if he was brave enough to flee his homeland for his own safety, he really should be brave enough to seek the company of someone he already knew was himself took care of him.

Riiiiing… riiiiing… riiiiii--


"That's your favorite striper."

"Oh, so that's the Uber Eats driver? hehe…”

He was glad to hear her in a joking mood, but he couldn't pretend to be amused. “Hmm… down here I bet they name it'Zoober'Eat or something.”

Understandably, she sounded confused."Really? I've...I heard it's a weird place down there, or...does Uber really do business there because..."

"Puns. Overall. I'm in the pun twilight zone."


“Established brands are rebranding here to get into the spirit of biodiversity. Products, companies, services... not all, but about two thirds, three quarters of them. For example... I'm at a park right now, but I can see on the other side there's a McDonald's that just calledMC Donalds,but right next to it is a... that's not a 7-Eleven, that's a7-Elephant.”

“That... doesn't even scan properly. The stresses of the syllables don't match..."

"Iknowledge.How could something so cute be so…cynical?”

"HM I dont know."

"Oh, and I can't find a store that sells cigarettes anywhere either."

"Sounds like you're even more dry there than in Seattle and Portland."

"Yes. I swear, this place might as well be its own country. Or its own universe..." He sighed, deciding to get to the point. "I hope I'm not disturbing you."

"Well, I respect you enough to tell you that IWargoing full steam ahead with writing after going through hell with writer's block..."

"Damn it," Howard grumbled as he loudly slapped his own thigh and threw up his hand in disgust.

"...but I care enough about you to put that aside and give you my full attention."

"... You're too good to me."

"You're not good enough to yourself. Someone has to be good to you."

Howard didn't feel like pursuing that line of dialogue any further, so he didn't. "...AreOfOK? Still nobody to mess with you? Nothing...I don't knowlazy?"

"...I'm tempted to joke that this is a maritime town, so there's always something fishy, ​​but I get the feeling you wouldn't be in the mood."

"You would be right. Vulpine wisdom right there.” He tried not to groan too much as he shifted in his seat to keep his jacked back from becoming too stiff. "Please don't make me feel stupid or weak for looking up to you."

"I wouldn't do that because you're neither. But no, Howard, I'm fine, and besides, if anything suspicious happened, you'd be the first person I would tell."

"Okay, but if something happened to yousuddenly,You wouldn't exactly get the chance to tell me, would you?"

"I understand your point, but I counter: If something suddenly happened to me, it wouldn't help much if you called me five minutes later, would it?"

The raccoon grumbled to himself. "So...I have no way of making sure you're okay while I'm all the way down here, is there?"

"Howard, don't worry about me, worry about yourself - no, seriously, if they're after any of us, it's you. Worry about yourself. How are you? Are you doing well so far? How do people treat you down there?”

"...like a raccoon. like a stranger Like a raccoon who is also a stranger.”

"Characters. So no luck so far.”

Well, that couldn't be himatDoom and gloom if he wanted her to continue enjoying his company. "Actually, I'm waiting for a guy who might want to work as a private investigator. under me."

"...Really? Already? Howard, that's great!"

"Yeah, let's just hope it doesn't fail and fizzle out."

"Well, even iftutfizzles out, it's promising you're getting bites—"

"Please don't use that word."

"...Excuse me. But seriously, even if that doesn't work, you're already luckier than on the coast."

"Yeah, but he should be here, uh..." He checked his watch. "...seventeen minutes ago and he's still not here, let's hope he shows... Okay, now I'm wondering if it's a mark against my character that I left you all alone in Vancouver , instead of staying here to make sure you're safe."

"Howard, we're our own people, it's not your job to keep me safe."

"But IwantTo! I'm trying to be a good person here! you savedMich,I should return the favor!”

"...And while I appreciate that...it also sounds like you want to be the kind of person that...the person that people would expect to go out of their way to protect me."

And with that, Howard stopped. Wow, he... he just slipped through that, didn't he? But as much as he was now concentrating on his embarrassment at having let the cat out of the bag… he also had to reflect on the fact that she didn't seem at all upset by this revelation.

Knock knock knock knock knock.

"GAH!"Howard yelled and dropped his phone as he winced. He turned and saw a gentleman standing at his window, a tangerine tot with black highlights on his extremities, wearing a plain purple button-down collar of the kind you'd wear to an interview for a job she was resigning from weren't quite sure if it was real. He also wore a smile that was eighty percent friendly and twenty percent self-impressed, and clearly chuckled a little at how easily he'd startled the ever-loving car occupant's shit. The way he waved his fingers at Howard also straddled the line between genuine and sarcastic.

"Damn it..." Howard cursed to himself as he raised a finger with one hand, telling the fox to wait, and fumbled between the seats with the other to find his phone, which he finally found and clicked held his ear. "Renee!? I'm sorry, I'm, uh... talking about the devil, the guy just showed up."

"Oh, did he? Well that's good to hear. The way you were screaming made it sound like maybe someone stabbed you or something. hey, now you got itMichworry irrationallyOf."

"I would... hesitate to call that concern irrational." He glanced again at the fox in front of his car, who seemed content to give Howard a chance to finish his work and the P.I. a thumbs up, which the raccoon returned. "But... hey, I, I can't keep this guy waiting..."

"No, no, I see. It's okay, we'll talk later. Hope this guy is cool."

Howard tried again to assess this guy in his peripheral vision, hoping he wasn't making it too obvious. "Well, he's one ofyourFriendly, so I'm hoping to get lucky twice."

"Is he? Then, with my vulpine powers of telepathy, I will want him to understand that you are a good man. Much luck."

"Thanks, I'll talk to you later." With that he put his phone in his pocket and started to roll down the window. "I'm sorry to keep you waiting, sir. You must be mister, uh..."

Okay, great, now he's completely blanked out this guy's last name. He remembered the nameNickbut he didn't feel comfortable calling this guy by his first name right off the bat, it seemed unprofessional. All Howard could remember when he heard his last name on voicemail were a few vague clues his brain gave him: something that wasn't species specific, he felt five letters and the letterW,and something reminiscent of a… an old-fashioned English author?

"...Mr. Woolf?" he guessed.Like Virginia Woolf?"Wait, no, um..."No, Howard, you bloody idiot!he blamed himselfDoes he look like a wolf?

But far from being offended, the non-wolf couldn't help but bellow. "Okay, you made me laugh, I think I like you already. You know, it's funny you saying that anyway, because my mother's maiden name is an Old Country wolf name. But hey, we don't. You don't have to do the whole government name thing if you don't want to, and you don't have to call meSir, you arethe boss here!” He held out a paw to shake. "The name is Nick."

The raccoon replied. "... Howard." Gosh, he never thought he'd be as nervous at an interview as he wasconduct,but Howard wanted to make a good first impression on this guy, just like this guy probably wanted to make a good first impression on him. And it certainly wasn't that...formalof sessions.

"AndI amforgivenessI amlate, I was already a few blocks from home when I realized that I should probably wear something dressier than my usual clothes for something like this; Showing up for an interview in street clothes might exude confidence, but... maybe not thatTo the rightkind of confidence you know?"

Well, this guy certainly exuded confidence. "Oh, it's... it's not a problem, I... I'm just wondering how you knew where to find me."

Nick shrugged coolly. "I can't say that you see a B.C. car in town every day!

Howard nodded curtly; So...this guy probably knew something about his background if he actually took the time to research it. Hope he didn't dig too far. "I admit that makes sense."

"And speaking of my mother, she's actually from Vancouver! I thought for a moment when I saw the flyer that you meant Vancouver, Washington, but no, you're a real Canadian! Hey, let's hope that's a good sign! And this fox said it in a way that was... suspiciously funny. "Hey,I havehas canadian bloodyou haveI have Canadian blood... you and I might be related!” he added, punching the raccoon's upper arm gently.

Probably not the case, but between the overly gentle demeanor and the odd sunnyness he switched to when he mentioned the Canada connection, Howard thought that someone from home had summoned that fox to track him down, and now was He calmly hinted at his intentions before pulling a gun and blowing the raccoon's brains out. Howard knew he was probably jumping to conclusions, but if that ever happened, it probably would look like this. In any case, he now blamed himself for putting his name and town of origin on those posters, assuming it was unlikely anyone in that town had connections north of the border.

"Oh, you're... familiar with Vancouver?" Howard had to say something, so he said...The."Uh... well known?" If this guy responded with something like thatI know about that thing that happened up there, where a thug accidentally blew up a crime syndicatebefore wiping Howard's consciousness, Howard just wanted to get it over with.

But instead the fox just grinned and said, "Hmph, two words:Halloween fireworks.”

...Understood. "Hm... you reallyAgainknow this town.” Howard inwardly breathed a sigh of relief. "But, uh... I tried calling you too, to see where you are..."

Nick snapped his fingers. "Oh! That's my bad, you got minefusephone number! Let me get you my real one…” He pulled out his phone and leaned forward and rested his forearms on the windowsill, looking quite content as if he were about to make a new friend.

Howard pulled out his own phone. This fox seemed nice enough, he just didn't seem to have the normal apprehensions one would expect of someone meeting a stranger for some odd reason; call it almost asuspicious trust.Howard opened his Contacts app and wanted to add a new one. "All right, soNik…what's your real last name again?"

"Oh, sure, so it's W, I, L..."


Okay, after infusing him with a sense of danger, the weird little synapses in the raccoon's brain clearly went the other way: red fox, family in Vancouver, last name beginning withW-I-L… Wilson!?Had... did Renee have family down here and hadn't told him? IsTheHow she found out that Zootopia has strange prejudices against foxes? Did Renee call a cousin of hers or something to track down Howard and protect him? Oh, he would never be able to repay her if she did that...

"...D, E. Don't forget the E. Like Oscar. Or Kim if you're an 80's kid like me.”

…She hadn't.Duh, like OSCAR, THAT'S the writer I was thinking of! And it's hisMutterwho's from up there, apparently with a foreign lupine name, so it wouldn't be...Howard did an excellent job typing in Nick's number while continuing to chastise himself for his absurd hypotheses.Howard, again... you're an idiot.

The P.I. saved the fox's number, which I'm not reprinting here because that would be enormously stupid on my part. (Hey, my friend, if you're going to stalk Nick Wilde, you're going to have to try harder.) Nick stood up straight and put his phone back in his pocket before he seemed to realize something. "Wait, did you leave your air conditioning on the whole time?"

Howard didn't see what the big deal was. "Oh yeah? I mean, I was in my car with the windows rolled up and it's June..."

"Oh, come on, it's a beautiful day!" Nick tapped the roof of the midsize Honda Civic to lure the raccoon out. "Do yourself a favor and stop burning all your gas, Mother Nature would probably appreciate it too!"

It's hard to argue against that. Howard rolled up the window, shut off the engine, and now that he was pretty sure it wasn't a trap, allowed himself to get out of the car.

"Come on, let's find a nice little picnic table to sit at," said the fox while leading the raccoon, "there's enough here, there should be at least one our size free. This city is known for its inclusiveness in terms of size.”

"I have noticed."

Speaking of size, Howard hadn't noticed until he walked right next to this guy that the fox was a lot bigger than he thought. Not the most surprising thing in the world, Howard was a small guy even for his species and most foxes were bigger than him (even Renee had a touch of him) but usually not by much. Here Howard found his eyes level with this fox's shoulders and the stranger's chin resting securely on the crown of his head. It wasn't a worrying revelation or anything, it was just another weird detail about this guy that gave the whole scene a surreal auradoes this really happen?

"Man, I'm glad I turned around to change because Istillfeel underdressed!" Nick remarked as he sat down at a wooden table and pointed to Howard's white shirt and black tie. The raccoon, of course, had no idea that this guy's normal attire was another collared shirt (though with one silly Hawaiian pattern not supposed to be worn to a job interview) with a tie of his own, but even if he had one, he'd probably still take that remark as a sneaky compliment mocking his admittedly retro aesthetic I couldn't imagine imagine how real or fake that comment was, it was like this fox's sarcasm somehow made it seem real characterTheone out.

"Er... don't, uh, don't worry," Howard stammered as he sat down, trying not to twist his back. Oh, you want another worry for the worry pile? Now he thought that maybe the reason this situation was so difficult to process had something to do with the neurological damage he had sustained.

And the fox clearly noted that Howard was kind of uncomfortable sitting down, he clearly winced a little and grinned as if to joke about it, but kept his mouth shut - until he used it to say something else:

"I hope I didn't sound like I was making fun of you," he explained, looking a little vulnerable for the first time in this conversation. "I know I have a pretty scathing sense of humor, but I know it can rub people the wrong way sometimes, so..." Nick trailed off and seemed to stare off into the distance for a moment, previously with a weary one smiling and turning his attention back to his future employer. “...Eh, I'm trying to control myself here. It's been tough for a while, I don't want to let this opportunity pass by pissing off the guy who would be responsible for hiring me, you know? If I'm getting a little too hot, but... don't hesitate to ask me to take the gas back. And he ended with a giggle that seemed just a little nervous. "...probably shouldn't have said the words 'fuck off' in a job interview, but eh, you live by your mouth, you die by your mouth."

That was a lot to process and Howard wanted to say different things about different parts of this paragraph, but one thought had precedent:

"Er... well, if we're working together, it's probably for the best if you just... be yourself - I mean... it would probably end badly for both of us if you tried to put a mask on all this time--"

Another laugh from the applicant, again with a hint of concern. It looked like the cracks on this fox's armor were showing. "Ah, I'm just saying, amuchof the people in my life would think you're crazy for assuming that the real me won't bother you any more," he said with a grin and a shrug.

The raccoon just nodded and grunted, not knowing what he was going to say - meaning he knewExactlywhat he wanted to say, a permutation of itso you're implying that you're secretly an asshole?but that somehow felt like a social faux pas to say it out loud, and he needed an "employee" as much as this stranger needed an occupation.

"But enough of me tacitly implying that I'm secretly an asshole," Nick quipped, seeming to have his boast back. "So! How do you want to do that?"

"Uh..." And Howard would have liked to come across as similar, but he just had no idea what he was doing. He hadn't expected to get this far; He didn't even think his interviewee would show up. "...I guess if you're just going to get me started on this, um...what interests you about...well, becoming a private investigator?"

"Welp, seemed like a perfect marriage between being able to help people and doing interesting work at the same time!" But his eyes flashed a little more nervousness that only lasted a moment before he clapped his paws and started saying, to rummage in his pocket. "Oh! Shit, I almost forgot - excuse my French - ... man, I checkedoverallaround my place for a backpack or a man purse orsomethingbut I just couldn't find any…” He pulled out his wallet and pulled out a multi-folded piece of paper, which he quickly opened before handing it to Howard. "...I have to apologize for my lack of professionalism, I just didn't expect to get an interview on such short notice."

The detective took the paper and looked at it. It was the fox's curriculum vitae.

"Oh, don't worry about professionalism here," Howard said as he scanned the document, "I mean... we have an interview in a public park after all. as long as you can still speak intelligently, I don't care if you work a few bad words into it - God knowsIAgain."

"Soshit, piss, cunt, fucking, cocksucker, motherfucker,Andtitsare fine here," Nick joked, "duly noted!"

But the raccoon didn't even see the George Snarlin reference because he was busy processing something he wasn't expecting. "...You were aPolice officer!?"

Nick laughed out loud. "Guilt as charged...pun intended retrospectively."

There isn't much more I can add to this special moment, my friend; Howard just saw that he had someone who was ex-ZPD in his paws and didn't know what to do with this revelation. He was just hoping for someone semi-competent to help him legitimize himself and get out of a sticky situation, he didn't think he would be lucky enough to find someone who might actually be good at the job.

“So… what kind of… cop were you?”

"Oh you know," Nick said with a dismissive smile, "what kind of cop they wanted me on a certain day. All sorts of things. Including…if I may be so bold as to call it that…things that were basically detective work.”

Howard raised an eyebrow. "How... what?"

But while still smiling warmly, Nick clearly looked like he didn't want to say too much. "It's only when there was a case that seemed like a dead end that I've been known to do some, uh...lateral thinking,let's call it. I actually got into police academy for helping this rookie cop solve a case they just couldn't figure out. I would go into more detail, but we would be hereforeverif I got down to business.”

The raccoon had no idea what to say - for real this time. "Ah…Wow."

"I'm actually just a little surprised you haven't heard of it, there was a made-for-TV movie about it a year later."


"Yes. Aired on ABC, decent movie but it clearly suffered because they wasted a large chunk of their budget on the cast and had nothing left for the rest of the project. For me they got the guyArrested development…”


"The same thing. The Academy Award-winning actor "Him!?" People had actually been telling me for years that I looked a damn like this guy, so in a weird way it was like validating my life. But yeah, for something that aired on a Thursday night in March, it was pretty well received and there was a lot of hype about it at the time and I think I heard they're thinking about doing a sequel about me academy and Entry into the Force as opposed to my...Background,but the excitement died down fairly quickly, and I suspect they scrapped the idea for lack of public interest. Eh, art is a business, isn't it? ABC is owned by Sidney I think so I'm pretty sure the movie is on Sidney Plus but I knowIdon't have the disposable income for an account.”

Put simply, Howard was floored. "...HolyCrap."

"Thanks for the swearing, I feel a lot less trashy now," Nick grinned. "...I'm still only at about thirty percent snark capacity, so if I start bugging you, just say so, man."

But that raised a question.

"...Okay, so I have to ask...and I know it's none of my business, but...after all the attention, why aren't you with the police anymore?" Howard's first thought was that maybe this guy had been fired for misconduct , and that worried him. Red flags shot up again and again.

"Since you are the person conducting this interview about my background, I would say that it is very much your business why I left and I would like to tell you." And yet, despite this declared cheerfulness, Nick caught on certainly beginning to fade into a much darker tone, and while his foxy smile remained, it seemed far more sober. "So... I joined thinking this would be a great way to help and serve my community.public servantsand everything you know And... yes, memaySome cops do that in a position like thatAlso,absolutely they do, but… a lotnot,and I was certainly beginning to get the impression that a lotmorenot as do. I… hmmm… let me put it this way…” He paused to ensure his audience made eye contact. "Let's assume you're stopped. Maybe you were speeding, maybe you had a blown taillight, maybe he caught you pressing a text message at a red light... but when that happens, will you be happy to see Officer Johnson? Or will you get angry? Maybe even…scared?"

Howard pondered this question less in search of an answer than in feeling the heaviness of the hypothetical.

"How would you feel, Howard?" Nick squeezed. "Would you be happy?"

"...I definitely wouldn't beHappy--"

"Alright. What do you think is the more common situation that people encounter the police: They show up to help them out of a sticky situation... and then they actually dosucceedto help them instead of just putting a band-aid on the situation...or stopping them to give them a ticket because they didn't know one of their brake lights had gone out?

"...The second."

"Mmmmmm",Nick hummed with a slow nod. "And I'm oversimplifying it massively, there's so much more to it, but long story short, something just clicked in my head that the majority of the people I was trying to help... probably wouldn't feel like I was helping them." by wearing blue . Most people seem to find the cops annoying at best and downright terrifying at worst, and while that itself might be an oversimplification...hey, you know what they're saying, basically, perception is reality. At the end of the day, if I want to help people, this is itMeinResponsibility to be someone the average person can trust. And--” He swiveled his head to speak into space for a moment, his smile fading into an annoyed expression of his own. "--yes, I know there are good guys in power, and I'm not just paying lip service to that, I've met them, IWarone for a while, myGirlfriendis a--"


"Damn tootin'. If she were here, she would probably derail my example and say"Oh what if they stop you because you are a reckless driver and you could kill someone!?"...to that I would sayYeah, no, shit, that happens sometimes, but we're not talking about that..."He shook his head in frustration and looked at Howard. "Suffice it to say I'm not one of those weirdos who think cops are inherently evil ... but so many of them just aren'tgiveshit you know What line is this, the worst evil is committed by those who don't choose to be good? ... And so many audiences don't carePolice officers.So…” And then the atmosphere of trust was completely drained as the fox groaned and put his elbows on the table and buried his temples in his palms. "Sorry, that's just oneReallyAs I have a sensitive and complicated topic, I'm usually a pretty good speaker, but no matter how I've tried to explain it to people in different ways, I just can't find the right words..."

"No, it's... it's okay, I see." The raccoon wanted to say that was the least he could do.

"Okay...I appreciate it..." He lifted his head and returned the eye contact. "Let's just say it's been a tough ... twelve months for me, and as smart as I'd like to imagine, I've had it easynotwas able to get out of it, so... that's why I offered to be milder, less'An'Version of myself: It would be easy for me to be someone other than myself when I don't feel like myself anyway! Because this sprawling mess isn't what I normally am either..."

"It's okay, it's okay. Um...if we're going to work together, we'll probably have to deal with that at some point."

Nick nodded and looked across the park again, lips pursed. "You seem good to me, Howie...can I call you Howie?" You see, Cavalier Nick wouldn't normally ask -"

"I... don't mind." Howard was definitely feeling better about his own fears now.

"Er...cool." And with that, the fox seemed to have regained his composure, sitting up again and smoothing his shirt. "Actually?Here,Here is the long story -very-Summary: It just wasn't for me. I met my current girlfriendshewas a cop, i was inspired for a while so i followed their lead and my tail but eventually I realized i was following their destiny and not my own. There! I didn't even have to do that whole melodramatic meandering rant!” He ended with a self-deprecating chuckle that might have seemed cool and collected if it wasn't for the context of thirty seconds earlier.

"So... in other words..." (Was Howard serious about saying that? He was about to say that seriously.) "...a certain part of your body was pointing at her and you took that as a sign to follow her?"

Nick almost fell off the bench because he started laughing so hard.

“Oh… oh, holyCrap,that was aGutone, Howie! Goddamn. Okay, I think I'll be happy to work for you. And for context, I liked her as a friend at first, but with so much closeness, feelings started to sprout…” But he suddenly put on a crazy smile and pointed at the raccoon."Wait!This has nothing to do with private investigation! Investigate privatelyMich!?Is this your way of teaching me!? You little snooper!Haha!"

Howard chuckled at the silly accusation but maintained a professional demeanor. "I wish I could boast about playing such a long game, but no, no one tricked me into making you spill secrets, Mister, uh..."


"... Nick." Howard nodded, adjusted his tie and cleared his throat before picking up the résumé to look at it again. But he didn't get too far before the fox felt the need to add one more detail:

"Besides, you know... from one guy whose species used to be nocturnal to another... if I never have to wake up at five in the morning again, it's too soon!"

The raccoon laughed in agreement. "Oh, absolutely! But honestly, even six are pushing it.”

"EhrlichHonestly, seven isn't much better!”

"I know I don't even want to get up at eight."

"I swear if I wake up before nine, it's just not gonna be a good day."

"Same for me, but I'd say ten."

"Eleven is fine, but then I feel like I might as well extend it to noon."

"If I have to wake up and it's a single digit hour, then better after twelve!"

"Oh, I'm listeningThe!"Nick giggled along, it seemed as if he had been looking for someone who could identify with him in this matter for a long time and was glad to finally have found one. "Going to bed at night and waking up in the morning feels like a chore, doesn't it? But going to bed in the morning and getting up in the afternoon? NowThefeels like oneLuxury!Hey, tell me boss-man, is this a job that requires a lot of early morning hours?”

Howard replied with a friendly mockery. "Oh god no. Otherwise I wouldn't survive in this industry. Lots of late nights. Lots of work, which is basically second or third shifts."

The fox breathed a sigh of relief, joking. "Oh, Howie, you make my heart sing right now."

And the raccoon chuckled again at that remark, but they still had work to do, so he picked up Nick's résumé again to give it a serious look. And he was glad he had, because he now realized that he had been so distracted by Nick's background in the police force that he hadn't noticed how odd and vague everything regarding his background had been worded beforeThe.

"So..." Howard mumbled as he tried to ask a subtle question, "...what was your job when you decided, uh...to join the police?"

Nick seemed to know exactly how to answer every question thrown at him again. “You could call it sales. Not a bad job, but something I'd rather not go back to if I didn't have to. Just something I did to survive.”

"Er... got it. And, uh... I see you have a GED?”

"Mmmhmm," Nick replied with a proud nod. “I dropped out of school because – once again – I was already busy surviving, but I felt I had to prove to the government that I wasn't stupid. you feel me?"

"I do. I do. Um..."

"And I fully admit that the decision to prioritize work over education at this age may have left some gaps in my book knowledge - I'm quite good at basic math and science, but if we start to get to grips with to deal with analysis or chemistry, you will. You're going to lose me – but I'll more than make up for it with all the things I learned gritting my teeth on the street,” Nick said, looking determined to convince this raccoon of his invaluable big-city wisdom. "Between the cop and all that...ThingsI've done that before, I know this city like the back of my hand and I would like to imagine that if I become a private investigator that will help."

Howard had to admit he was impressed by the show of confidence. "You know this townTheon me?"

"Try it," Nick ventured with a flick of an eyebrow.

"Okay... well, uh..." Admittedly, a question burns in the raccoon's mind. "...You can start by explaining to me why it's so difficult to find a shop that sells cigarettes in this town!" He chuckled just enough to show he was only half joking.

And the fox returned with a giggle of his own. "Oh, you poor, poor darling. They regulate cigarette smoking in this city. The only places you can buy them within the city limits are designated tobacconists, and there aren't just about... three dozen of them across the city? But they're overpowered as hell, and you'd better head to the suburbs to buy some, you'd still be saving money, literally, even when you factor in the gas you're using.

Then he did something unexpected: he got up.

"... shall we go get something right away?"


"Come on, let's go horseback riding!" the fox insisted, curling his fingers to beckon to the raccoon. "Hey, I asked you if you'd like me to answer any questions about the city and the first thing on your mind was to get some cigarettes. They obviously whet your appetite for some, how about we take a trip around town? I'll show you everything along the way!"

"We're… in the middle of an interview, aren't we?"

"Sir, we're having our interview in a park, aren't we?" Nick remarked. "Why don't you put it in your car? And by the way, I can tell you more about my background – and you can tell me more about yours.”

The trouble was, it made sense. Howard could never tell his mother that he had diverted something so important just to get a packet of crab sticks.



"I like that we had exactly the same reaction to each other's backstories."

"Yeah, but it's not every day that you meet someone who goes from...walking down the street knocking over anything you could get your hands on for a buck..."

"My girlfriend is particularly fond of saying I'm ahustler,and while there are a dozen other words you could use, this one is starting to grow on me.”

"...that one is admitted to the police, although one somehow has a petty criminal past--"

"Helping them solve a problem they couldn't solve themselves probably helpedII don't even know if I would have been smart enough to put it on my resume without this great accomplishment - assuming it ever occurred to me that I would do it at allwanttoo, but maybe I could see myself applying for shit and giggles just to see what they would say.

"...probably in a worse position than when you started, now that every cop and cop-supporter in town knows who you are and basically has you in their sights. Plus all the anti-police crowds who didn't forgive you for even joining."

"Howie, if you don't have a pack of haters hating you, you're doing enough right! Nowthat issome street wisdom right there!”

"I'm just saying, this is a really weird... way of life...."

"Well, I appreciate that you find it so cinematic, but I have to say...it doesn't seem like a more exciting story to me than uncovering a cannibalistic conspiracy and trying to get to the bottom of it, just out of a feeling." out of moral duty, the discovery of a... what I understand to be some kind of damn homonculusDingand always freak outexperimentedkeep going, narrowly escaping life and then still manage to bring down the entire mob and have to flee the country.”

"... Yes, but bringing down the mob was basically an accident."

"Hey… you stilltatit, right? Don't sell yourself short, Howie."

"...Well, I definitely can't sell myselflarge,may I now?"

"Ha! Nice to see you at least have a sense of humor. Hm... I need a more creative nickname for you.Howieis basically your government name,stripesfeels like it's getting a little too close to an arch,Sherlockjust doesn't seem creative enough...I'll find something, just give me some time...Like I said, I haven't been on my game for the past few months..."

"Take your time."

"...Oh!" exclaimed Nick suddenly as he leaned towards the center console to adjust the car's temperature control from full load air conditioning to full load heating.

"...Why did you do that?" asked Howard, who immediately had the feeling that the car had become a sauna.

"Now, see that gigantic wall, hundreds of feet high, to our left? Kind of hard to miss.”

"...Yeah? You said it was like a... a climate control barrier or something?"

“‘Climate wall’ is enough, but yes. And in less than a minute, you take that exit onto the shamrock and we're in Tundratown. Guess three times why they call it that.”

Howard didn't feel like saying anything. He simply switched on his signal, looped around the exit ramp and found himself in front of an archway in the wall through which the highway passed and as he watched snowflakes sweep through the hole and instantly dissipate in the heat of Sahara Square, he braced himself for the crazy driving conditions that awaited him.

The raccoon double-checked that his headlights were on as he took her to the next precinct. There wasn't a whiteout blizzard by any means, but the steady mid-June thunderstorm was a sight to behold.

"I swear it doesn't snow like that even in Vancouver."

"You're talking to a guy who is well aware that you're from Canada, which is the closest thing to a tropical paradise."

“So… was it the safest decision to drive through here? I mean if we hit black ice or something?”

"Well, considering the part of the city that's consistently below freezing is also the largest geographically, it would be pretty foolish of the city government not to salt the streets at least halfway decently," Nick said, unconcerned close. "But yeah, snow is still snow and ice is still ice, and when they built the interstate spur downtown, they just went the long way and bypassed that part of town because, despite all the technological developments that we have done in creating this neighborhood, in the first place, westillcan't figure out how to build infrastructure to withstand winter conditions. Honestly, I'd worry more about hitting a pothole the size of France than slipping on ice if I..."


"...you," Nick finished with a smile and a chuckle that contained just a hint of nervousness at the bad timing.

In fact, Howard asked, "... Did youknowledgethis pothole came?”

Nick had to giggle again. "No, but let's say I did it, huh?"

The detective shrugged, feeling it was more important to hold the steering wheel and keep your eyes on the road than cracking witty banter for the sake of witty banter. But he still wanted to clarify one thing:

"Honestly, you seem to know this city so well that I wouldn't be surprised if you had a mental map of all the potholes in the city."

"Oh no, I can't count thatThea lot,” Nick said with a playfully dismissive gesture. "I can tell you where to find every fast food place where the staff will offer to sell you drugs if you sit at a certain table without ordering anything, or any mechanic you should avoid because bolt them to your car and then make you pay to fix it... but i don'tThetalented."

"Hm..." Howard was still thinking about how incredibly lucky he was to have bumped into this guy. "I still can't believe you didn't actually grow up here."

"Yes, and if you can be a doll and don'ttellIf someone knows that I'm actually from the east coast, that would be super-dee-duper," said the fox, a little less cheerfully. "I mean, I don't lie to people about my backgroundmore,but... there's another onemuchby people in this town who still think that I grew up in a crappy neighborhood across the bay and that my mother still lives there in poverty and that my father is a dead guy named John - generic name, folks actually buy this? — and I just don't want to spark a conflict that doesn't need to be sparked, do you understand me?"

The driver nodded. "I get you."

But now Nick was pondering his own answer to that question, staring out the window and pondering his choice of words. "But, you know what? It's not even that much of a lie. I mean - the mother who lives here and the dead father's parts, yes, but... fuck it, metatgrow up here! I dropped out of high school, left home early to seek happiness, zigzagged across the continent to find the damn thing, and finally found this happiness...Here.But I was still basically a kid and had to learn how to get it and learn that I did, and it didn't happen in the East or anywhere else, it happened on the streets of Z-Town. And anyone who says that doesn't count probably needs to grow up."

Howard's eyes might have been busy, but his ears were free and clear to hear, another rare moment when this stranger seemed less than steadfast. "Yes, I can agree to that. The wise among us never stop growing up, do we?”

"Well, if I have a wise old elder to co-sign it, I must saysomethingThat's right!" And one more hilarious nose laugh before he thought it appropriate to ask a slightly personal question: "By the way, Howie, how old are you exactly? I can imagine you being anywhere from my age to... withTheFashion sense, maybe seventy!”

The raccoon had to flinch. "...How old are youOf?"

"Thirty-eight," Nick said flatly, "don't remind me. And you, sir? Wait, let me guess, let me guess! Uhhh… forty – no! Fifty-two!

The driver dared to take his eyes off the icy road so he could look Nick in the eye for a moment to see if he could figure out if this fox was joking; didn't look like he was. "Uh, no, I'm... I'm thirty-one, man."

He took another look at the fox, who had an expression on his face like he just walked in when his parents fathered his little brother.

„Pff“,was all Nick could say at the beginning. "Howie, that's the part where I'd spit something over your windshield if I had a drink! You are seriousThemuch younger than me!? So that means you were born in, huh, eighty-nine!?"


"Nineteen-Ninety?You weren't even born in the same countrydecadelike me? HolyCrap,Age. Jeeper, damn creepers.” The fox was clearly having a moment when he couldn't just glide through smoothly. "I mean, I shouldn't be surprised that there are thirtysomethings walking around who were born in the nineties, my girlfriend turned thirty-something last monthThewas irritating, but... hey, it's notyourBlame you didn't choose your age, but...Mann,I've spent the last year worrying that I'm too old to get my shit together and I heard thatnotHelp. Hehehe…”

A nervous and very forced giggle. The raccoon had to wonder if this fox was letting his guard down around him because he was really getting a good vibe from Howard... or if Nick was allowing the calm demeanor he'd been showing before to slacken because he felt like that they wouldn't train and the two would never see each other again after that, so Howard's perception of him didn't matter.

"Hey, in my defence," Nick added, "...you donotLooks like you're thirty-one. It's not just the clothes, Howie, you've got that, how... old-fashioned, stoic vibe about you. You don't come across as a completely grumpy old man, just that you're kind of... you're kind ofselectiveabout when you show your feelings you don't wear them on your sleeve like someone your age. And you are notboringby all imagination, but...you definitely don't ooze with youthful energy."

Ah, would it have been a bad conversational choice for Howard to say what's on his mind? Oh, to hell with that:

"Well, if that makes you feel any better," said the detective, "hearing that I look so much older than I am makes me worry that the, uh...injuriesI have during my little, uh,adventuremight have aged me prematurely more than my clothes ever could—"

"Oh. Oh, Howard, man, I'm sorry if that sounded like I was making fun of you for being a cripple!" And Nick was instantly nervous again.

"No, I mean, it's okay, I know you didn't mean anything by that—"

"Yeah, but me and my big mouth, I'm just so used to being able to successfully say the right thing on the first try — man, I gotta get my groove back!"

"Well, I hope this new career path will help with that," Howard offered.

"You're a prince, Howie," Nick said before turning to stare thoughtfully out the window again.

But the raccoon didn't want that poor fox feeling stuck in his own head, so he figured the least he could do was change the subject. "So, uh... tell me, oh wise one..." (He almost said "elder" but assumed - probably correctly - that he wouldnotgo over well.) "...is there anything else I should know about this city that you haven't told me?"

That certainly caught the attention of his passenger. “Of course there is. Despite all the exhibition we've already covered, there will always be more! What do you want to know?"

Howard didn't think much about it, asking a classic question: "Well, is that a...dangerousCity? The kind of place where I really have to watch my back no matter where I go?"

"Hey, Howie, it's a pretty big city," Nick said nonchalantly. "Some parts are good, some parts aren't so good, some parts embody the American Dream, some parts prove the American Dream is dead. Like the one neighborhood I was alluding to earlier, this place called Happytown…”

"No, no..." Howard stammered, not wanting to interrupt the native's wisdom but not wanting to waste his breath by not taking the hint either. "--s-s-sorry to interrupt, but I meant more like...well, an, uh...an old colleague of mine...she was a vixen..."

Nick listened.

"... and she said she never wanted to come to this town because there's a lot of species conflicts there, like everyone has a vendetta against foxes -"

"MMMMMMM!"The fox in the car buzzed loudly with a big smile to indicate he was having a moment of clarity.„Hmmm,I think I understand what you're saying. They ask if it's the kind of town thatsomeoneHowOf--"

"My way."

"YourArt,Yes, yes, I forgot you used that word up there. Hmm… so I understand your concern and what I can say is…” He swiveled sideways in the passenger seat to assess the gray, black and white creature at the wheel, trying to focus on it, a large chunk of steering wheel to operate machinery, but desperately wished he could see Nick's expression to find out why he was talking about it so theatrically."Raccoons, raccoons, raccoons..."the fox thought quietly.

But perhaps the most theatrical thing he did was roll back in his seat to face forward with a loud slap of his paws.

"Nope! I'm not going to answer that question!"

"You are not?"

"No sir."

"Why not?"

Nick clicked his tongue. "That's a perfectly reasonable question, Howard, but I think you'd be best off exploring the city yourself, assuming nobody's going to berate you for being a raccoon, and thenOfGet back to me and tell me if you feel someone did it. I don't want to put any ideas in your head or you'll see signsoverall,even where they aren't, and I don't want this to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, you know? confirmation bias and all that.”

After some thought, Howard had mixed feelings about that answer. "I...I see what you're saying, that makes sense, but...the way you said that suggests itIskind of…biasagainst my kind here."

"And you know what? I apologize for that. I said too much. Really, I shouldn't even be answering that question because I'm not a raccoon myself and will never walk in your shoes — and not just because we don't have shoes here If I've implied that mammals have a bone to pick with you here, it's because I was just thinking of the regular same-old-same-old hell that folks throw at you across the rest of the continent. Believe me, I see, from your point of view that would have sounded like a bloody Freudian slip…” As apologetic as he was, Nick felt perfectly comfortable enough to fold his arms behind his head and settle into his seat. "...but when we start working together, Howie, you just have to trust me on these things."

Howard knew he wouldn't get a more specific answer. But one question still burned in his heart:

"Um...I thought 'Freudian slips' only referred to...sexual...Things…"

"I remind you that I am a high school dropout."


Not too long later, after nearly going off the road half a dozen times, Howard and Nick finally found themselves driving over the Beaverdam Bridge and out of town proper, across the bay and into the suburb of Zootopia Heights. The stranger could immediately tell that this place was a transitional zone of Z-Town's distinctive flavor, a much milder version of it but still more zootopic than most places in America. Some of the chain companies still wore the species pun names for biodiversity, others simply did their business as they were known anywhere else in the world. There was still a notable mix of building sizes, but it mostly boiled down to the standard three large, medium, and small buildings you'd see elsewhere, just in much closer proximity than in other, more separated locations. The zebra crossing signals and signs no longer carried a wide variety of silhouette designs; While across the bay one would swear that no two of these signs bore the same species, this one was about the vaguely standard two-legged mammal with two arms, two legs, and a tail. And the most telling indicator that you left a big city: the gas wasSomuch cheaper.

But Howard wasn't here for gas, it was for nicotine. So he ignored the penny price differences at various gas stations along the main street of Zootopia Heights and pulled into the first one he saw, a large 76 not far from the bridge. And as he pulled up in front of the convenience store, Nick finished his presentation on all the things that made Z-Town and its environs unique, such as the way national and international brands were financially motivated to come up with clever names , when doing business in Southwest Oregon and Northwest California.

"Hmph," Nick scoffed, pointing to the gas station sign as Howard parked the car. “They really couldn't come up with a more creative name thanThe?"

The raccoon couldn't tell how much the fox was joking. "It's... but in double digits. It's a number. What kind of pun names can you come up with?The?"

Nick just shrugged as he unbuckled his seat belt. “I don't know, sir; I know it's hard to say because I'm about as hopelessly unemployed as you'd expect, but I'm not an artist; I'm a businessman." He opened his door and stepped out. "Or, as many people in this town would say:Business mammal!Gosh, talking to someone like you who doesn't speak the local dialect makes me relapse into my native speaker. But now let's smoke you something!"

Howard also got out and continued the conversation outside. "Heh, from what you've told me, my educated guess is that the only brand I should expect from them is...Camels?”

Nick scoffed again, more jokingly this time. “Oh, I know you're Canadian, but don't tell me you're forgetting classic AmericanKnurrboro!“He made big comical gestures as he ushered his guest into the store. “Or if you've been in prison, there isdamn Shrewports!And I think Lucky Strike kept her name but stuck a picture of a horseshoe on her box and called it quits; I can't decide if that's lazy or clever - maybe clever lazy!"

At this point, Howard felt he could never add anything to Nick's quips, so he just kept quiet and listened in case the fox stringed together more witty remarks.

Upon entering, the store seemed to exude this vaguely sinister feeling; All the shapes and colors were in the right places, so a blurry snap made it look like any other gas station convenience store in America, but if you focused on the finer details, anyone who didn't grow up in the Zootopia metropolitan area would eventually do realize what was so irritating: a good majority of brand logos were different.

"Hello, folks," said the squirrel who worked the register and stood on the counter high above Nick and Howard's heads. The greeting seemed almost curt, but he didn't come across as rude per se, just very straightforward and reserved.

"High morning for you!" Nick replied as he walked past him, knowing damn well it was two o'clock in the afternoon and he didn't care.

Howard simply responded to the greeting by looking up at him and tipping a hat that he remembered too late he wasn't wearing right now.

He had no idea where Nick went when the tobacconists were behind the counter as usual, but he followed him deeper and deeper into the store and when they were far enough out of earshot the raccoon slapped the fox with its hind paw and pointed a finger at him to signal that he wanted to whisper something. Nick cocked his head as far as possible to bring his ear closer to Howard's mouth, a pose the fox was very used to with his little friend.

"Uh, well..." Howard struggled to put his confusion into words as he spoke without using his vocal cords. "...Can you explain to me how a squirrel is able to run such a big business?"

"Oh, he probably has a forklift/candy picker thing behind the counter to help him reach things and get around," he replied at full volume.

"Yes, but how can they, how... stop shoplifters and such?"

"Security cameras, silent alarms going straight to local police... and I wouldn't be surprised to see someone bigger working in the back room."

"Okay, but how does he physically pick up items like..." and scan them so long as he whispered Nick upstairs he could clearly see the tallest shelves in the background."...The."He pointed to an extremely large bag of not Doritos buttreats,at the top with the rest of the giant sized products.

"It's the honor system that you scan your own stuff as they watch. Otherwise, as I said before … cops get involved.

Howard just nodded, again unsure if he could add anything useful to that.

"Anyway, I know we walked right past your prized crabsticks, but I skipped lunch to meet up with you, so Nicky needs some snacks! Let me know if you want something, I'll buy it. I'll cover the cigarettes too - - unless you buy them by the case, then fuck off."

"I... thought the whole point of this interview was that you were desperate and broke." Howard had switched back to using his voice, but halfway through he realized he probably wouldn't have said that particular sentence so loudly should say.

But Nick wasn't offended. "Yeah, but not 'I can't afford a gas station snack' broke! And hey… let me tell you a little secret…” He stopped and picked up the first thing he saw and showed the raccoon a blue box of chocolate cream-filled sandwich cookies, the iconic logo of which didn't look quite so iconic.„Brüll!Totally meatless, despite the name, and frankly, as long as you've got a voice, you don't have to be a predator to roar, do you? But during this little sabbatical of mine, I made some extra money selling things like these on eBay and passing them off as super rare limited edition varieties of popular items, knowing you can get these anytime, anywhere in town and the Suburbs… but Bobby John Buttfuck in Yazoo City, Mississippi doesn't need to know that!” He finished with a mischievous wink, but looked pretty serious after a moment. "And if you ever meet my girlfriend, don't tell her I did; She knows that I sell random things online, but she doesn't know that I lied about how rare they are. If she caught wind, she'd accuse me of falling back into the rush. And I don't mean disco."

"Notice," Howard said simply, turning to look at all the other different types of junk food on the shelves, tiny versions on the bottom rungs and big ones on the top. Many wore their standard trade names, but many more had odd names showing puns at various skill levels. Others kept their names but added mammal imagery to get into the civilian spirit: Snickers bars had the scribble of a hyena printed on them, while Kit Kats had a happy cartoon fox cub on one side of the badge and a panther cub on the other . And then there were the ones that didn't even look like they were trying too hard:

"Uh, Nick?"

"Yes indeed!"

"How do you pronounce that...The?"Howard pointed to a bag of so-calledcheetahs,Chester, in particular, is drawn much less like a caricature.

The fox found the stranger's helplessness amusing. “Darling, everyone just calls hercheetahsDespite it. So! Do you see everything you want?”

The raccoon was actually quite hungry and after looking around for a moment he found what he was looking for: turkey jerky. Which brand? Why,jack lynx,Naturally!

"We can split this up if you like," the detective offered.

Nick smiled but raised his paws to refuse. "I appreciate generosity, but I try not to eat meat unless it's a special occasion. Now this is going to be salty, are you sure you don't need anything to wash it down?"

Something about the way Nick said it made Howard think the fox wanted the answerAndfor some reason, so he walked over to the fridge. "Er, sure, they have some doctor...?" Ah…"

"DR. Pawprint?" suggested Nick as he opened the cooler and pulled out a bottle with a familiar maroon label. "I'm not a big soda drinker myself, a fox has to look the foxiest, but The Doctor is always a good choice. Not to say I don't have a thing for Mountain Ewe, after all I grew up in the Xtreme Nineties; and having spent much of my childhood in the upper and lower classes, I will always have a soft spot for the coke with the lion wearing the royal crown, even if it tastes like it might as well be generic," he concluded pointed to a bottle of RC. “Note that Coca-Cola thought they were too good to come up with a new name; Indeed it was Pepsiwowfor a while to beat Coke in the lucrative zootopic market, but then Dr. Pepper them so they retreated. But hey...wowwas still a better mammal pun thanbilly goat!”

The raccoon blinked. He didn't get it.

But Nick didn't know if Howard misunderstood him or was judging him for some incredibly lewd joke. "OK!" he said with a slap of his paws."I havecertainly spent too much time on the internet during my free time! Let's stop by!”

"I can cover that by the way," Howard said, "it's no big deal. It's all my stuff anyway.”

"No, listen, I'll be polite and I'll pay for it as a thank you for being interviewed for the job, and you'll like it, will you!?" he asked in a heavy southern accent.

Howard just nodded again.

In the few seconds it took him to move back to the front, the raccoon had to think about how strange it was that this situation was going so incredibly well. Not without bumps, but this fox answers his job ad on day one, turns out to be a pretty cool dude, isn't at all put off by the utter unprofessionalism of the interview, and now it's time to give him a free tour of the city for his troubles. That doesn't happen, does it? That was too incredibly happy a result. Did that red fox wave a red flag? Was Nick's weird fuckin' twilight charm an obvious indication that he was a dangerous sociopath?Was this man here to kill him!?

Unbeknownst to Howard, Nick was having similar thoughts that this series of events was too good to be true. He’d shown up late and with his resume folded up in his pocket, for Christ’s sakes, and the raccoon still went along with it. Nick was desperate for a good opportunity, that’s why he’d decided to go above and beyond and offered to show Howard the city, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that there was an outside chance of that being an enormously stupid decision, because now this oddly-dressed guy who seemed like a loner who may or may not have even been in the country legally had taken him on a joyride far from home and could probably take advantage of this situation if he wanted to. Had Nick accidentally answered the call of an indiscriminate crazy person?Was this man here to kill him!?

The fox and the raccoon climbed onto the step stool at the counter, Howard placed the turkey jerky and pop in front of the squirrel. The cashier took a special look at the Jack Lynx, then at the two gentlemen who bought it... and then back at the beef jerky.

"And, uh...can I get a pack...Shrewports?«Howard asked, figuring if Nick were going to pay for it it would only be polite to get the cheapest they had. "Uh… red ones?"

"Uh... Shrewport red wine? Medium sized I guess? Um... s-sure..." stammered the squirrel as he stepped back onto his forklift from the counter and very slowly steered it towards the back wall while giving the two mammals clear and definite glances every three seconds, nervously glancing at the meat package, that once belonged to a living, breathing creature, and the disreputable cigarettes he had been assigned to recover. He had a special eye on the raccoon, who seemed to be staring at him with a blank expression and cold, dead eyes as the forklift slowly pulled away.Was this man here to kill him!?

When the clerk came back with the cigarettes, he didn't say a word. He just dropped them on the counter and gestured for one of them to take the duty of scanning them. He then wordlessly pointed to the card reader when it was ready without telling them their total and handed them a paper bag without asking if they needed one. It wasn't until Nick put his chip in the machine that Howard realized they had missed a step.

"Wait," said the raccoon, fumbling for his wallet while looking at the squirrel, "don't you need my ID?"

Nick just pouted a smile as he wrapped an arm around the raccoon. "Howie, my man, you can pass for fifty! Nobody will map you in this town. Except maybe for your AARP.”

The machine beeped and Nick pulled out his card and the squirrel very frantically waved them goodbye without even looking at them as they went down the stepladder. It was so quiet in the store that you could hear a few people talking loudly outside.

Once again, Howard didn't get it.

"What wasTheanything about?" he asked as he and Nick swung open the doors and left the store.

"Oh,Looks damn classy, ​​Gramps!”

The duo both turned to see a trio of young men standing in front of the convenience store, smoking cigarettes and wearing devilish grins while towering over our heroes. Despite their tall stature and deep voice, you could tell from their body language that they were teenagers, especially the kind who would confidently smoke in public, knowing they physically passed as adults. A lion, a tiger and a big brown bear. Oh my.

"How are you, gentlemen?" Nick asked coolly, responding to negativity in the only way he knew how.

"Hey, I was speaking to your friend here, Foxy, not you." The former voice has now been determined to be the lion's. "Odd taste going with a guy who dresses like a frigging...mortician or something!"

"Gosh, don't mock a timeless style!" Nick joked back.

But Howard didn't need the fox's help. Getting friction from random people on the street was absolutely nothing new to him. He knew that in moments like this one should speak their language to them and show an air of charm and kindness - he wasn't alwaysGutdoing it, but he knew it was what you were supposed to be doingAgain.

"Hey, if you guys want to swap fashion tips I'd be downstairs!" Howard said as he pulled his pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. "What's a smoke without a talk, eh?"

"Are they damn itShrewports!?”The tiger laughed. "Shit, isThewhy are you dressing like that Have you just been released from prison after fifty years?”

"Man, what else is in there?" asked the bear as he leaned forward and brushed Howard's bag out of his hand.


"Turkey meat?" the bear scoffed before tossing the bag and its contents into the parking lot, with the Dr. Pawprint almost burst before rolling away. "Man, your little asses don'tto deserveEat meat!"

"Nah, I bethe isgonna eat the beef jerky andhe isI'll just eat the plastic bag!” the lion quipped as he pointed to the fox/raccoon, which elicited a hearty laugh from his friends.

"Hey. Hey. Buddy," Nick said as he walked up to the bear to specifically address him. "C'mon man, I thought your people and my people were cool. They thought you guys were big and scary, they thoughtWewere small and sneaky... we teamed up, big and small, brains and brawn, us against the world? What happened to it?"

The bear clearly knew exactly what ancient species alliance Nick was talking about, but didn't seem to care. "Yeah, that's what I believed until my fox pal and I got in trouble with the law.IsI got off scot-free and ditched myself to be convicted of damn bank fraud and now I can't leave the state of Oregon!” He proved this by pulling up a pant leg to reveal an electronic anklet – and then he used the same leg to kick the fox in the chest and knock him down. "Get fucked, Foxy! Your silver tongue doesn't work with me anymore!"

"We know who you are, Will-Dee!" scoffed the tiger. "We know the police don't care what we do to you!"

Howard looked at Nick to see what the sly fox would come up with in reply. But Nick looked as if the bat had just been taken from his hands.

"Well, I think it's time to take the L and get out of here," Nick said as he straightened into a sitting position. "I probably have more ammo, but I don't think it's worth using."

"Alright," Howard agreed, still trying to maintain confidence even as he prepared to withdraw from a fight on principle. "Let me help you--GAHHH!"

Howard's scream and subsequent flinching and stumbling came as he was pushed by a large mass of brown fur with a crevice in between and a stocky little tail up the side of his head.

The bear pulled his pants back up as he and his feline friends laughed a time and a half at the retreating fox and raccoon.

"And don't go too far out of town!" the bear cackled. "An eagle might swoop down and snap your tiny asses!"

Howard followed Nick to the edge of the gas station lot, knowing they were getting further away from his car and correctly assuming they would walk all the way around the edge to get as close to the vehicle as possible , before making a beeline for it. It seemed such a cowardly thing, but Howard had seen the look on Nick's face when the tiger pointed out that no one was coming to help him. This cat was right. Game set victory.

And as they circled the property, Howard kept throwing nervous sidelong glances to see if there really was absolutely no one else to step in for them. But alas… it had been, and he had chosen not to do it. Howard hadn't noticed at first, but there was a small shack in the middle of all the pumps. Oh yes, he remembered now, that condition was weird because most gas stations wouldn't let you pump your own gas; he still wasn't used to that and hadn't even noticed until now how the booth blends into the landscape. And he certainly hadn't noticed the attendant sitting there, a buck who must have been there all along and seen it all, now looking straight up with a blunt expression recognizable from all that distance a good number of words stared back at the raccoons:If you idiots didn't want trouble, you should have walked away without attacking them; Get out of my gas station.

They eventually got back to Howard's car, the three teenagers had been watching them and smirking at them the whole way, and the trio continued to stare at the duo through Howard's windshield with the same self-impressed grins and cheeky grins as he switched on the ignition and drove away . After that, they were both silent for a few blocks until Nick finally made another comment, probably just for his own amusement.

"Man...I'm surprised one of these kids didn't use the old 'Swiper, no swiping!' note on me that used to be common, what happened to that?" But he thought about it for a moment and seemed annoyed, as he answered his own question: "Wait, is this show even still on? Didn't today's teenagers grow up like teenagers ten years ago? Good GodDamned,I'm getting old!"

"Well... for what it's worth, I think you held up better than most people would," Howard said, trying to cheer the guy up a bit. "You just got stuck in an unwinnable situation."

"Eh, I'm not even really worried about that, things like that happen," he said, his speech slowly becoming a murmur about the range of the statement. "But in a weird way, it warms my heart to see that the youth are still dealing with ass faces."

"ass face?"

"Come on Howie, you're a detective, don't tell me you can't figure out whatass directedmeans,” the fox replied with a grin.

"I'm just surprised you have something like thatWortfor."

"It's not a very creative word. I said yes, I'm a businessman--businessman,not an artist.”

"Yes, but how often does it take a word?"

"The fact of someone pulling down their pants and sticking their butt in an unwilling jerk's face? Kids her age do this all the time. Especially the big ones do it to us little ones, because our faces are already at ass level for them. Good clean American fun.”

The Canadian was stunned. "That's meanDing?"

"Not super-duper common, but it happens. This has never happened to me before because I was able to enforce respect before I reached a certain level of, um,Shame,but now it's happened to me about three, four times in the past year. And I distinctly remember it happening to a kid in the library in high school."

“...in the middle of a school library? While the teachers watch?Thereckless?"

“It was a lower-middle class suburban American high school. Nobody gave a damn, Howie.” Nick sounded almost embarrassed at having to explain. "I don't mean disrespect, Big Maple, but you could learn about our country's culture of cynicism, apathy, and directionless hostility."

Howard had the odd feeling that Nick was exaggerating, but he was a stranger in a strange land, and in one specificallyverystrange town so he thought maybe he should just embrace the wisdom in good faith.

"...Red light," Nick remarked. "Last chance to light up before the bridge, and then the road will become a freeway again."

"Good idea," agreed the raccoon as he pulled the cigarette pack out of his pocket and unpacked it. "Do you mind if I smoke in the car?"

"Not at all." Then Nick took something out of his own pocket. "Lighter?"

Howard had one of his own somewhere, but he probably wouldn't have had time to find it before the light turned green, so he took it. "I thought you didn't smoke."

"I don't," Nick said with a wise smile, "but I carry a lighter for people who."Againis a great way to meet people. It used to work even better when people smoked more, then a lot of people quit and carrying a lighter wasn't effective anymore in making you popular... but then more people started smoking itOthersSo, depending on what form they prefer, now people want to reconnect with the guy who lends them a lighter!”

Howard nodded as he listened to the logic, softly agreeing that it made perfect sense as he lit his cigarette and opened the window a crack.

Nick was still smiling as he retrieved the lighter, but soon the smile seemed hard to contain. "So… maybe that's just because I'm a lightning rod for negativity these days, but… I have to say, as I told you, I've been waiting for you to experience the zootopic anti-raccoon vibes firsthand before." I explain it to you, I didn't think you would encounter both extremes of thisimmediately.That's just stupid."

And the raccoon had to actively try not to look annoyed. "...So you could have prepared me for moments like this."

"In my defense, it was unlucky cartoonist - or at least unlucky that they were so crystal clear about how they felt about us. But... yeah, Howie, what you need to understand about Z-Town is that it's a town where people are very aware of our biology and history... and that led to this weird side effect where,Weilwe know so much about each other, a lot of people in -- sorry,mammalsin this town...think they have biological and historical precedent for not liking other species.” He slumped in his seat, obviously not enjoying having to give this lecture. "The long and short of it is that prey species don't trust historical predators because we have hunting and killing in our DNA, predators don't trust prey because it seems like since all our brains are turned on they've used their sheer numbers, to paint us as monsters and squeeze us... andyourFolks, sir... and to a far lesser extent,Mine…find yourself in this odd position where you're on the brink of prey and prey, but because suspicion is a survival instinct you're baked intooneAnimal DNA, nobody sees you as "one of us", everyone sees you as "one of us".them'.I'm sorry mate, but you're the mammal in the middle and you're going to take a lot of heat off youbothsides of the trenches.”

Howard kept his eyes on the road while he thought about it. It all seemed a faintly familiar feeling, but worded in a way that made it seem strange. "Well, that's nothing new, everyone everywhere thinks we're scavengers eating garbage..."

"So'ne Art,Maple. But it goes deeper and for different reasons. There are specifically two warring factions here who hate each other - in this town, Howie, the biggest source of conflict is between predators in general and prey in general, and while for the most part we can maintain harmony...it's really just appearances." A short one Glance at Nick revealed that his jovial and joking gaze had completely disappeared and he was treating this miniature lecture as a matter of national security. "Here people don't - goddamn it,mammalshere won't just joke "ha ha, your people eat garbage." Either they see you as just another bloodthirsty killer who wouldn't hesitate to eat their grandmother's corpse straight out of the coffin and who would treat a morgue like one Old country buffet…orThey'll see you as a pathetic, cute little prick who is in every way someone whose ancestors were hunted down by thereallystrong but in an embarrassing attempt to outclass the other prey species, your people tried to acquire the taste of meat but were too weak to actually kill anything of importance so they ended up eating the leftovers that the big boys didn't want to."

The raccoon thought about this as he looked at the ice coverWelcome to ZootopiaSign above the roadway as the bridge came back to shore. He could somehow see where the fox was going with it.

"Not only will they see you as a lowly, second-class citizen whose people live off junk," Nick continued, "they will either see you as a monster who would rather eat from those who instead are trying to rest in peace having the decency to kill your meals fresh...or some scum of the earth consuming the parts that weren't good enough for themactuallyKings of the food chain in a desperate and cowardly attempt to rise above your station and be someone you are not. As I said, we know our history and our biology here. The mammals in this town don't give a shit where your family is from or what you think will happen after we die—but they domuchabout whether your people were the oppressed or the oppressor in times immemorial. Your people seem like an oppressed race tryingconnectthe oppressor... will do straightathate you." And then Nick finished with a big gesture, let out a comically exaggerated sigh and shook his head violently, suddenly flashing a cheeky grin as he calmed down."Mann,that was a lot of boring serious talk! So how does all of this make you feel?”

Howard knew how he felt but took a second to figure out how to put it into words: "...You sure speak pretty well for a high school dropout."

"What can I say? I was pretty good at English - assuming we were reading something written after the Second World War."

"Okay, fine, but... Jesus, folksReallyyou care so much here about something that literally happened so long ago that...like...something that happened so long ago that we didn't have the ability to speak or think deeply at the time to have those conversations about it respectively?

Nick nodded slowly. “We are too smart here for our own good. Hey, even though it's totally backfiring, this townWarfounded by civil rights activists -- to me it only makes sense that we have a dominant culture of thought amuchabout these things.”

The detective replayed the events at the gas station in his mind, and this new context threw them in a new light. "So... was it the turkey meat that scared the cashier?"

"Absolutely. Although the brand of cigarettes probably didn't help - I'm not even a smartass at this point, I really think he might have got it in his head that Newports slash Shrewports are for dangerous people.II know that's not the case — my dad smokes Newports, they're named after Newport, Rhode Island, he's from Pawtucket, he has his Ocean State allegiance — but a lotOtherspeople don't know that. Looking at the guy's body language, it seems like deep down he feels guilty for being racist towards both meat eaters and smokers of whatever, but... it seems the powers ofbothall of these prejudices together were too big to ignore.”

Thoughtful... thoughtful... "And we happened upon belligerent assholes who think my people are fake predators." It wasn't asked as a question, Howard was just processing the series of incidents aloud.

"We have this! Hey, the best stories always have a ridiculous coincidence at the crux somewhere, right?” Nick joked. “Of course, the fact that they were … not teenagers, but in that age bracket where they're over 18 but not yet 21; Hell, do we have a word for it? Yes they areveryyoung adults didn't help..."

"So we really couldn't have gotten any worse."

"Oh, of course we could have made it worse," Nick replied, again looking like he was trying to hide his embarrassment at having to explain this. "Rocky there could have just gone straight to the Zootopia Heights Police Department if he suspected suspicious individuals were engaging in suspicious activity.suspicious,and it's a wonder Grizzly Adams didn't fart at you and give you a red eye—or he might just have shitted on you right out of the box. Not to mention the possibility of him opening themOthersside of his pants and literally hits you with his D--"

"All right! Okay, I see!" Howard protested to calm the fox, who seemed to enjoy listing all the ways their successive conflicts could have been more absurd. So the raccoon turned it serious again: "So ...this is truly a place that caresThemuch about whose kind a particular person is, huh?”

"You need to stop using 'kind' to refer to 'species' or people might realize you're a filthy canuck and you'll get thrown back over the 48th, butAnd…This is the type of city where hoofed mammals rarely have surgery to have their hands dissected into crude finger parts that allow them a degree of dexterity, as in this city it would be considered an act of species betrayal. Every city has a unique culture, Sherlock," Nick said as he rested his leg on his knee and started wagging his foot, "this one happens to have a lot of pride in species identity."

Howard... had several questions.

"Er... should '48th' refer to the border? 'Cause that's the 49th, dude. And I don't think … is 'treason' a word?”

The fox responded by moaning through his nose and cupping a paw over his eyes. "MyGood,Howie I've told you a dozen times I'm all about being street smart instead of being literal, thank you for validating my fear of being outspoken with people instead of putting up a shield of sarcasm like I usually do .

But aside from the geographic error, everything the fox said made perfect sense in Howard's head, but it all begged up another big question, a question he didn't want to ask because he didn't want to believe there was an easy answer to it There was , but… a question he had to ask anyway.

"So... what do we doAgainabout it?" he ventured to ask.

"Alsoabout it?"

"Yeah, I mean..." Howard didn't really know what he meant. “...I know it sounds like a silly question because there's probably nothing to doAgainabout it, but... this seems to be one of those situations where you can't do anythingNothing,It feels like it's ridiculous not tosomethingjust to...I don't know, to do what you can."

He still kept his eyes on the road, but around him he could see Nick turning his whole head to stare at him as an answer came to him.

"Well..." the fox began cautiously, "I have to say, for someone who's acting like a clinically depressed guy, you've already proven a few times that you're capable of some pretty funny and upbeat moments have."

"...Do you think I'm giving off the vibe that I'm clinically depressed?"

“Oh, absolutely, Quiet Stoic-who-rarely-smiles. But don't worry about it, Sunshine: Seriously... it's a good sign that you see all the injustice in this city and your first thought is how to fix it against all odds instead of just throwing your hands up and shit to say it. My snark just completely freaked out, Howie. Not long ago I would have laughed at you for daring to be such a go-getter…” Nick mysteriously trailed off as his cool smile faded and an eerie silence filled the car for about five seconds. “...But then I grew up. See, I said yes, this is the town where I became a man. Growing up isn't just the domain of children. And hopefully I can get some good out of having a good guy like you in my life.”

The raccoon nodded slowly as he let these words wash over him. "And I appreciate the creed, but ... that still doesn't answer my question about what we can do about the rampant bigotry you tell me is in this town."

"Oh, there's absolutely nothing we can do, Zootopia sucks," Nick replied with a chuckle. "All we can do is do our best, change what we can, and hope that people -mammals- have enough decency to admire us for it and to follow our example. And with a bit of luck… maybe this gig will give us the opportunity to do that.”

Howard didn't object to that; he just kept nodding. "I really hope so," he sighed. "So...I have to prove that I'm better than people think I amWHOI am. OK. Not impossible. No different than what I had to do before. People think I'm a monster now instead of a bum..."

"Oh, and did I mention this town has a big size problem too?"

The detective's eyes almost burst open."Gorgeousness?What do you think,Megalomania?"

"We're in touch with our animal instincts here, remember? That includes our primitive wiring of thinking that physically bigger is better. Even the mayor that we had for over a decade - he wasn't just a lion, he was onelargedamn lion. I don't have a profound explanation for this, but I think it's another way other mammals will think of you and me as pathetic weaklings, even big prey like... deer and stuff."

At that point, it really was a miracle Howard hadn't slid off the road for all the distracted driving he'd been doing. "IsTheWhy didn't the buck that works at the gas station in this little standding help us when those big boys attacked us!?”

"It's possible. Or maybe he was just a coward who was afraid of big, scary predators. Or a third option... he might have recognized me and hated me for quitting the police force. Oh, yeah, remember, that will also be a problem, if you are around me a lot of people will hate you by proxy.

And the driver let out a loud groan. "My God, does this ever stop?"

"Nope!" Nick beamed. "But as I now know... that's no reason to stop."

Howard didn't want to disagree with such a bold statement but still thought this was a lot to digest so he just shook his head, took a drag on his cigarette and blew the smoke out the side of his mouth towards the open window, where the icy air has blown it away. "Well...there's nothing new,either,I told you how the cops hate me back home, right?”

But his passenger felt like changing the subject. "I'm not even trying to make you butter up here, Howie..." Nick remarked, "...you actually look like an asshole when you smoke. Especially in a suit and tie and with the car window rolled down. You kind of make me want to start my own just to look this cool... Damn, are you sure you're not secretly working for Big Tobacco?"

Well, whether the fox was real or not, that compliment actually made the detective feel like he'd found someone who could hold him in high esteem. Damn it, he'd been lucky.


"All right..." Howard said as he parked parallel to Batavia Park,"Thewas a...nice little mini-adventure I think.”

"You could even call it . . . amishap!"Nick changed. "See? Sometimes I know words."

"Yes, I can't disagree with that..." The raccoon fell silent, looking everywhere but at the fox, trying to think of what to say to break the awkward silence. "So what do we do now?"

Little did Howard know Nick had an answer ready: "I suppose this is a good time to ask the magic question..." And with the look of a kid trying to get what he wanted by it looking cute, the fox asked with an innocent smile, "Did I get the job?"

If you've paid attention to how well the two hit it off, my friend, you shouldn't have any trouble predicting Howard's answer to this magical question:


Nick couldn't help but giggle. "What is wrong?" He had an idea.

"...We've spent so much time filming the shit about other things that we don't even know about the actual...work,do we have?"

The guess was correct. "Hey, don't sweat. Now we know we have rapport and chemistry and with that we can do anything! So tell me, Columbo, what does a typical day look like for you?”

The detective felt a little weird about the applicant directing this particular portion of the interview, but Nick was right, he was the best at making up for lost time. "Okay, so...this is the part where I'm a little scared I might lose you because...work can be boring."

"Now you've got me deeply fascinated by how boring it can be to play crime fiction," Nick said, his irresistible grin steady.

"Er...if you say so. But we won't really solve...secrets,Necessary. It's … I mean, there are exceptions, but I swear over ninety percent of the jobs I book are married people trying to find out if their spouses are cheating.”

Nick hadn't lied, he found this deeply interesting. "Really! I feel like I shouldn't be that surprised by this, but I honestly didn't think I would beThea large market share.”

"Yes, even in places where adultery isn't illegal and if you get arrested for infidelity, you don't lose custody of your children — which I learned in Portland, Oregon, is one of those places — people want." just satisfying their S.O. to blow up."

"Hmmm. Makes sense," his charge mused, forefingers to his lips. "That begs the question though... what do you do with itreceivethat kind of evidence?”

"In cases like this, literally just doing a little digging to find out where the unfaithful partner could be found, basically stalking that person, getting hard evidence — most of the time, but not."atthe time, a photo – and the delivery of the goods to the customer.”

"So easy?"

"So simple. In this particular scenario. This is by far the most common scenario you will encounter."

And as much as Nick looked intrigued, he still looked like he had some insecurities about this business model. "But tell me, sensei, how can you...advertisesuch a service? Especially when you try to turn it into a sustainable source of income.”

There it went. Howard was hoping to put off that particular question for as long as possible—he wasn't great at marketing himself back home, and certainly not in Seattle or Portland—but he had to instill confidence in his new student—he was doing his best . "Well there are a few different things you can do... you can, uh... well we're living in the twenty-first century, I had a crappy little website just so I could show up in Google searches..."

"This would beZoogle.“

"...Right. Um... you can put up a sign outside wherever your office is... I guess? Some people still use phone books, so contact whoever publishes the yellow pages..." But then, apparently out of nowhere, something struck him on the subject of publicizing his services in the context of his conflict at home, and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat (particularly uncomfortably due to his spinal injury) when he decided to do it in to include the conversation."...But actually, the bigger the cases get, the less you're going to want to put yourself out there just in case some people who don't want you to find out things are trying to find themOf,you don't want to make it easy for them. It was risky enough for me to put up those flyers in this town, and since I'm trying to start over here, I'll probably try to get as far as I can go by word of mouth before I—"

"Word of mouth?" Nick's eyes lit up at those words. "Hey, if that's the route you want to take, let the businessman here help you!" He shifted in his seat to pull his phone out of his pocket. "Want to get your first Zootopia case now?"

"...To the rightNow?"

"Hey, no time like this, huh?" The fox tapped a few buttons on his device. "Now I know,I know…I already told you that everyone in this town either hates me for joining the police force or for quitting the police force, but what if I told you that when I said it?at…"He leaned forward with an eccentric peddler's expression, a look in his eyes that went well with his last name. “...I actually implemented the literary technique known asHyperbel!There are still some mammals in Zootopia who are completely agnostic to my life choices, and if I say so, I amknowledgeEveryone in this townThe"everyone" is totally literal! And one of those Everbodies is someone I was only thinking of earlier in relation to their marital woes..."

And so he started scrolling through his contact list, and although the raccoon tried to be polite and look away, after a moment Howard noticed Nick tilting his phone so he could see how extensive his contact list was. If Howard noticed that, he wouldn't be rude and decline the invitation to look, and after every slurred name you could clearly make out a few between every movement of Nick's thumb. Some had their real, normal names in them, but a very good proportion had an endearing nickname that wouldn't have meant anything to anyone but the phone's owner:

Ángel Valderrama… Benny the Jet… Big Teddy… Bridgette Hamlin… Carrots… Chief BuyOneGetOne… Dan Cunningham… Duke of Bootlegistan… Flash… Josh Wolfowitz… Not Dead (Dad)… Pipsqueak… Quinn Kraft… Redcoat Rob… Rin Tin Tin… Selma Leonardo… Shark Finn… Top Fox (Mutter)… Will deBeer…until he finally arrived:

"Who is Ziggy Stardust?" Howard had to ask.

"This German I sold coke toAwayback," Nick said casually, his eyes on his phone as he pressed call, "I met him at a bar when he was rocking out to David Cowie."

The fox held the phone to his ear and now looked at his driver, who he just noticed looked horrified by this revelation. And not the David Cowie part.

"...Oh, oh, that was aLolA while ago I was new to town in my early twenties!” Nick stammered, trying to make this guy whose help he desperately needed feel less uncomfortable. "I wasn't like a drugdealeror something, I was just a... a drugCatalyst.A connection! You know, I met people who said they wanted to try controlled substances, but they said, "Oh, I don't know where to find drug dealers" or "I don't have time". ' or 'I can't be seen down a seedy alley when I'm buying a punch', so that's whereIDCome on in, I'd buy it myself, bring it to these people and flip it at a premium! Me, I never got too involved with these things, I was just a... a volunteer pack mule! Don't worry, I left this worldYearswhen one of the guys I bought from, his..."

But then the phone stopped ringing and a voice answered, and Nick immediately flipped a switch to his gentle stance to make his casual acquaintance on the other end comfortable.

"Siegfried! how are you man Hey, do I remember you saying a few months ago that you thought your wife was going to see another badger? are two still together?"

He listened for an answer.

"Oh, well, I'm sorry she's still making you think, but hey! What if I could give you the comfort of a concrete answer?”

Nick continued to listen while Howard raised an eyebrow.

"Actually, I've just started working at a private detective agency, and marital issues are something of our forte," Nick said confidently, though he knew he was mispronouncing itStrengthbut also knowing that no one would know what the hell he was saying if he phrased it correctly as "Fort." "Well, how about this, we can see if she's taking part in any extracurricular activities! And just for you, Ziggy, I'll -! Uh…” He covered the phone and turned to his new boss. "How much do we charge for that?"

The detective blinked and sat still for a second. "Er... one hundred and fifty?"

"I'll give you a special discount on Nick's First Case, only one in one in fifty!" Nick said proudly back to the phone, listening for a moment before continuing. "Okay, and your wife is a flight attendant, right? So she has odd hours? Maybe she's out and having fun on a weekday afternoon? ... Okay, where do you think I could find them? Now?"

The fox shot the raccoon a thumbs up, and the raccoon, daring to trust that somehow this actually worked, immediately returned the gesture.

"Impressively!" Said Nick to that mysterious Ziggy. "And hey… in case anyone asks… you and I haven't spoken in months, does that sound good? … In order! Copacetic. I have a photo for you soon. Toodles!”

With great satisfaction he tapped the end call button and turned to his new partner.

"So... shall we make some money?"


The fox just spread his grin and blew some air out of his nose. "If not now, when?" he said with a wink that might have seemed creepy if someone else had tried.

And the raccoon just shrugged and put his gear back into gear. "It's hard to argue against that. So where are we going?”

"So you're going to want to goTheAway for a few blocks..."


While Nick ran to a jazz club called The Jungle Bomp to find evidence of the infidelity, Howard waited in his car across the street. Thinking he was killing some time, he had the thought that besides Renee, there was another woman in his life who sure cared for him, and while the two didn't have the best relationship he knew he should do more to keep in touch than he has.

Riiiiing… riiiiing… riiii--


"Hi mom, uh... your son is alive."

He could hear a heavy sigh on the other end."Hmm... well, I'm glad to hear that, of course, but it still worries me that Ineedto hear that."

"Well... back home I always knew I should have called you more often, so at least I can give you some good news..."


"JESUS ​​FUCKING CHRIST!" Howard swore as for the second time that day a phone call was cut off by Nick sneaking up on him.

"Howard? Is everything ok?"Even from the phone's new position on the floor of his car, he could hear his mother's concern loud and clear.

"Uh... yeah, um, everything's fine mom, I just..." He stopped fumbling with the phone and stared at the smiling fox outside his window to express his frustration, but not at his cadet to upset. "Sorry, I have to call you back."

"Howard?" BEEP!Look, my friend, that's how you know this story isn't fiction: it would be written shamefully abyssal if I built up an emotional moment with a socio-political dissident and his mother, only to end it as soon as it began , and then again, it would be deplorable journalism on my part to make up shit just to round out the story.

Concluding that the newcomer was lost and that this would require a long talk, the raccoon opened his door and got out of the car to get a little closer at eye level with the fox.

"I got you back, right?" Nick teased.

"But seriously, what are you doing again so soon?" Howard asked, still trying to be friendly but firm. "Did something go wrong?"

The fox winced. "Why would you assume that something went wrong?"

"I don't know, isn't this the right place? Wasn't she in there?"

However, Nick remained silent and only responded by pulling out his phone and pulling up a photo he had taken: a selfie with two European badgers.

"You took a pictureWITHthem!?" Howard shrieked.

But Nick seemed annoyed at Howard's lack of confidence in his methods. "Well, what do you expect from me? Take a picturevonthem?"Hey guys, can I take a picture of you guys just to...have?Maybe hanging over my coat?'"

"No, no, you should, like...to sneaka picture of them-!'

"And it wouldn't be particularly scary if I found outHow?"the fox challenged. “It was much less risky and much, much easier! Plus, not to mention, I got it tooThe,just so there's no ambiguity in the context..."

He wiped away the picture and presented a video with the same couple.

"Hey, look whoIran, that's my favorite badger!"Nick had said.

"Yes, me with a new guy who is aMillionMore fun than that boring old German I married!”The woman sounded like she was on her way to that sweet spot where her inhibitions were compromised, but she could still speak coherently, distressingly."You know, they told me that as I got older I would start to find quiet guys with steady jobs attractive... BULLSHIT! How can a cokehead be so boring - YES, Siegfried, we all know that!"

"Ma'am, can you turn it down?"a suspected employee had asked from the off, and the video ended.

"Now all I have to do is post the photo on social media, tell Ziggy to look for it, and act like I just made a stupid decision by posting it publicly if the woman ever asks me about it." , the new detective declared confidently.

Howard was speechless. "...How did youAgainThe?"

"So if you go to your phone's camera and press thatVideoTaste--"

"No, no, I mean..." Granted, that taste of Nickactually,undiluted, biting sarcasm actually prevented him from finding the words he wanted. "...How did you get her to be like that...openwith you?"

Nick just grinned, shrugged, and put his phone back in his pocket. "Oh you know... say hello, talk to them... you do."Friends,Howie. You know how to make friends, don't you?"

"...Yes?" Because Howard couldn't tellNO.To be honest, he didn't know the answer to that question because he didn't know where to draw the line between friends and casual acquaintances, so he just changed the subject, "So... you did that in... what was that, three minutes!? "

"Was it?" asked the fox. "Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. In that case, my apologies for the dawdling and waste of time, it should have only taken two!”

"O...kay, then..." The raccoon glanced up and down the street for a second, considering what to say next.

"What are you up to, Maple?"

"...Well, you're definitely a valuable person in a field like this..."

"ValuableMammal,"Nick corrected: "You have to tune into the local slang if you want people to trust you around here - shit,mammalshere to trust you! I swear I'll be dating a stranger one day, and I'm already starting to unlearn the lingo."

"...Right. But, um..." Howard wasn't quite ready to release that just yet, but if that were the topic of the dayno time like the presentthen he thought he should try. "...Maybe this is a good time to let you know what the, uh...actuallyAim to get you on board would be.”

"Hm!" Beaming with curiosity, Nick put an elbow on Howard's tiny car. "Do tell!"

"Okay, so..." Man, this was going to suck. "...Remember the poster that said I would help you create your own P.I." Company?"

"I'm very happy to do that!"

"Fine, so...I,um…” The poor little fella was having a lot of trouble making eye contact with his student. "...I'm only allowed to stay in the States on a visitor's visa for...oh so long, and I can't just get a work visa because they don't issue them to self-employed freelancers. So... maybe you can see what I'm getting at with this... I need you to start your own detective agency and hire me as an employee. Ah--officially. ThenI can stay. Perhaps. Hopefully."

And the fox gave him a look of disgust - which quickly turned out to be Nick breaking Howard's balls when the redhead burst out laughing moments later.

"MeinGood,Howie, could you possibly have waited longer to bring this up!?” Nick chuckled. "We have at allneedto do all that detective stuff?”

"...What do you mean?" Howard asked with a twitch.

Nick simply patted the roof of the car twice with one paw and patted the raccoon's back firmly with the other. "Come on. This is thatsimplyPart."

Howard had felt unusually uneloquent all day with this odd character, and this mysterious new turn of events kept him struggling for words. "Oh ok."

But before he could get back in his vehicle, Howard had to stop and acknowledge the sun bear standing on the sidewalk, staring straight at him and... wrinkling his snout?

"Why do you smell like bear ass?" asked the stranger.

"Ohhh, call back!"Nick cheered like a carnivore before instantly becoming quite serious as he grabbed the passenger door handle and lectured the foreigner: "But really, Howie, how's your sense of smell? I know, I know, not everyone is as blessed in this category as our primitive ancestors were, but we're pretty proud of our noses in this town, so if yours isn't working too well, there are medicines you can take to fix it to administer a boost! And I know which pills actually work because I used to sling the pillsnot."

"I still want to know why the striper smells like bear ass," repeated the sun bear.


Taking into account the travel times, it took twenty-seven minutes.

"How did you do that!?"the raccoon demanded as he looked at the documents officially containing the private investigative firm Nicholas P. Wilde and Associates, papers acquired by methods Howard did not fully understand, and which Nick respectfully disclaims to me as I write this .

In response to this exclamation, the sly fox only uttered a joking mockery and a dismissive wave. "Oh, don't be too impressed. I was my own boss for twenty years, I was in a rushLolbefore everyone and their grandmothers started bragging about their 'lever'... if after all this time I couldn't figure out how to legitimize a deal quickly, I'd be embarrassing myself.”

Well, one thing was for sure: this guy was sure of his abilities and Howard couldn't deny him. "I... yeah, being able to fiddle with things like that is actually a pretty good skill."

"Isn't it?" Nick said teasingly. "But I can't do it alone. The downside to knowing everyone is that everyone knowsOf,and some of the people who know me have decided, uh, they don't care about me very much. Like Simba, Tony and Yogi at the gas station. You'll sometimes need to step in where I can't get on with mammals who want nothing to do with me, and I'll back you up when you need a fox's wit and charm to get you out of a sticky situation -- um not to say you'd be helpless without me, don't let me disrespect you after all you've done for me—"

"No, no, it's okay," Howard insisted, "even the most talented people shouldn't have to fight battles alone."

"Attaboy! You don't need my help to befriend the residents of this crazy town..."

And then Nick did something that many who knew him - andmanyMammals knew him - would find him unusually real: he stuck out a paw to shake and said:

"...Because you've already made friendslikefrom them today.”

Howard was startled at first, but forced himself to realize that this was a good thing and replied that...um...

"So... that's onehandshakeor ashake pawin this town?" asked the foreigner.

His tour guide had to let out a single chuckle again."NowYou're asking the right questions!" he said with a clapping of his palms and immediately relaxed back in his seat. "Ah, Howie, Howie, Howie. What a day did we have, huh? Do you mind taking me home? I'll give you instructions."

The raccoon nodded and lit again. "Yeah, I think it's about ending time."

They walked over to Nick and Judy, Howard looking much more relaxed after the day had ended happily, while Nick looked just as relaxed as ever.

"Well, I'll admit," Nick began again, "I've never had to formally hire anyone under me, so you'll need to give me a day or two to check before I formally hire you..."

"Oh, no, Nick, it's fine," Howard said, "I ... I'm just glad it finally looks like I have a chance to stay in this country without the clock running out."

The fox smiled. "You know, I bet a lot of people think you're a bitch, right? Stupid people who don't take the time to get thereknowledgeYou. And admittedly there's something about you that's like you're quiet and reserved and cynical - I mean, for God's sake you're from a dark town -wait noeven yoursFelllooks like a rain cloud!”

"Er... duly noted."

"...But I think deep down there's an optimist somewhere - adisappointedOptimist, but an optimist nonetheless. I can see it a mile away. You have to know one.”

The driver glanced over and saw that his passenger's persistent grin looked particularly goofy and, dare I say it, friendly rather than self-righteous or condescending as it had seemed all day.

"...And you have to throw away those shoes, Howie, we don't wear them here."

“Yeah, I noticed what isTheall about?"

“Wearing shoes goes against our nature and the manufacturing process of shoes is bad for the environment. The only ones here that wear shoes are horses.”

The beautiful moment of brotherhood was now thoroughly interrupted as Howard tried to somehow imagine that this wouldn't be the silliest thing he'd ever heard. "Well, what if I step in a puddle? Or – or bird shit on the floor?”

"Have you tried to grow up and soak it up?" Nick's grin looked self-righteous and condescending again. But he turned away from the raccoon, slumped in his seat, and pulled out his phone to match his phone's contacts. "If you can take my next-level sarcasm, which I use as a coping mechanism for my deep-seated insecurities, you and I will get along like Martha Shrewart and Snoop Dogg. Howie... I think that's the beginning of aSchönFriendship."

Howard would later find out that this was around the time the fox finally found a colorful nickname for him:

First name
Howard .

surname, surname
Lotor .

sunshine .


Hopefully this sucker will make up for the long gap between posts, right? Hey, in my defense, it was the convergence of crossed traits, it had a reason to be a biggun.

And hey, if you like my writing style and want more of it and aren't picky about where your talking animal characters are from, I have another fic that will more than satisfy your desires and will likely be updated more frequently. Just click on my name and lose yourself in the lore. And it's not totally detached from Zootopia, it's set in the same universe and timeline as this story after all, and a certain dumb fox we all love has a few cameo appearances! Join the exclusive club that understands all the references that the two fictions make to each other! And for posterity I also touted THIS fic on THIS one, I love all my kids the same lol.

Enjoy whatever the next upcoming vacation is as you read this. Or just enjoy the normal day itself, normal days deserve more love. Love y'all. -Dobi

Chapter 7: Cha-Cha-Cha-Cha changes


lol this is the dumbest thing i have ever written oh my god lmao


Originally published January 6, 2022

(See end of chapter formore notes.)

chapter text

Chapter Seven, "Cha-Cha-Cha-Cha Shifts"

And it was the strangest thing, but much like he always felt like the scathing cynic when around the peppy Judy, Nick felt bubbly and hopeful by comparison when around this stoic and reserved raccoon . It was as if nature herself had dictated that there must be an upper and a lower shoe in every pair, and without even attempting to change his personality, Nick found that it had compelled him to be in being around a nice but clearly depressed guy like Howard can be a doer for both of them. And so Nick became one, naturally. Hey there were moments in that encounter where the fox had been a little more wrong than at other points, he was certainly aiming to be nicer and less cutting than he might otherwise be if there were absolutely no stakes, but for for the most part, he was genuine, and when he'd said that Mister Sunshine's air of being a disappointed optimist reminded him of himself, that had been totally genuine.

And while Nick sat at his computer researching what he needed to do to legally hire someone while waiting for his bunny to come home from work, his mind wandered on with oddly sunny thoughts. Not only was he relieved that he'd finally found something to hold on to; He was actually active Happy. What a strange feeling. When he got into this situation, he had expected to feel only somewhat tolerant of what was about to happen, but no, that result actually seemed... Gut. Hey, catching cheating spouses might not be quite what he envisioned for a living, but it was an opportunity that didn't totally suck, and to do something that at least some people would find tangibly useful to society, and that is what mattered. Also, Howie had let it slip that his mundane cases had at least once led to something more adventurous, and while that had been an extreme example, it was certainly a sign that this gig couldn't just be mundane forever.

Of course he could now see that Judy didn't agree with this step. He could already hear her trying and failing to hide how offended she would be that he had pledged to do something he could have done just as well, if not easier, in power than as a civilian, and he could absolutely imagine it being a conservative-bred girl criticizing his morals and saying something like it was immoral that he thought being a cop was immoral but breaking marriages to make a living deserve it, and then there would be an argument about whether really good relationships ever end badly, or whether Nick had ever really admitted that being a cop was inherently immoral, and so on and so forth .

But the fox was feeling pretty good about this new path, and he wasn't going to let hypothetical arguments get him down. If anything, he could probably avoid any argument about it by going on a charm offensive, and before long she would be too crushed on him to feel contempt for his disagreement. Has worked every time.

...And speak of the devil, who was that he heard turning the key in the lock?

"Hey, carrot cake!" he said sweetly as he placed his laptop on the coffee table and stood to greet her personally.

As she closed the front door behind her and turned back to him, he could see that she had a very... remarkable look her in the face. Well Nick was better than most at reading faces, he wouldn't have survived this long on the road if he hadn't. But nobody was perfect at it; so did he, he was just one of the least bad at it. So he had no problem recognizing that she was uncomfortable in some way, but he couldn't tell exactly Was. Did she seem... nervous? A little. Contradictory? A little bit. Regret? a touch. Cautiously enforcing trust? Just a touch. But he didn't have enough context to decipher the main factor here, so it was time to sniff it out.

"How was the work?" A simple starting point.

"Hi, Nick," she said in a tone of embarrassment that she forgot to say hello to him the first time. “Work was… work. Nothing great, nothing… terrible.” She made eye contact, but only sporadically between random eye movements around the room—prey-defense instincts, perhaps? Her eyes didn't open, so she didn't seem scared, just... extremely hesitant. Cautious perhaps as much as that word could describe a mammal.

"Well hey, no news is good news in this industry, right?" he asked as he pulled her into a hug she couldn't resist but didn't seem too excited about either.

"...This is true."

Nick noticed that she didn't actually say that this statement applied to her Today Necessary.

"All right," said the fox as he grabbed his bunny by the shoulders and held her at arm's length, "... you're clearly thinking about something. What's on your mind?"

Her completely neutral expression eventually faded, only to be replaced by one of confusion. "What are you talking about?"

"You look lost in thought and your smart little Foxxo could see it from space, Judith," said Smart Foxxo with a mischievous grin. "You should know by now that you can't hide that from me. Come on, you can tell me! That's what sexy, hot, attractive, flawless friends are for!"

She conceded a nasal chuckle but otherwise still looked confused - a benevolent confusion, not a hurt confusion, but still a twitch in her smile. "Well, Nick, you are pretty good at reading mammals and you knowledge it, but maybe that leads you to think that you're perfect at it and that you can't go wrong. I'm sorry, Slick, but nobody beats a thousand.” With that, Judy headed towards the kitchen. "Nothing is eating me up inside, I'm just... tired... and looking bored and lost is the best thing I can do, but it's better than being a jerk, right?"

Nick nodded, a nod she couldn't see as he followed her out of the room. "This is my girl, will not submit to the radiation of negative energy!"

Either she really didn't feel anything significant and that really was a false positive caused by his own overconfidence, or she got good at putting on a fake face - in which case she brazenly lied to him about not being home to something. Hey, as long as she found out about this deception from him, he could only be hurt by such an action.

He suspected she was wondering what to make of possibly disappointing the chief. She said yesterday that she would turn down the opportunity to jump on the detective trail, right? It was clearly a difficult decision for her last night and telling Madongo herself that she would turn down his generous offer couldn't have been easy. But she had come to the conclusion that such a path just wasn't for her and she wasn't the kind of woman who would put up with something that wasn't her Just because it was convenient for everyone else, she was brave and said no, even if it meant others might interpret that bravery as cowardice—which they certainly would. That must have been hard for her.

His sympathy for her was doubly so: she didn't deserve to feel so down after such a show of power - and besides, lest we forget, he owed her his gratitude for not taking up the offer, otherwise that would be it so his new career really would have ended before it even had a chance to take off. A police detective and a private investigator weren't per se incompatible careers for a couple, but given the circumstances and political decisions that would have placed them in such a hypothetical position... yes, no, that would have been a powder keg waiting to burst into flames.

So he decided it would be in everyone's best interest if he put her in a good mood tonight. That way he could reassure her of the frustrating actions she would have to take today, and then get her in a good mood as he broke the news that not only did he get a new job, but he'd also started a legal company. gray methods not unlike him.

"Hey honey," he asked her as they got to the kitchen to get dinner ready, "you've clearly had a long day... Wilde night in?"

You know, there was another way Nick would argue that his little gray redneck girl was kind of socially conservative: she was an absolute sucker for a tall, skinny guy like him. Her masculine tastes fit the female stereotype perfectly, and honestly, as much as she wouldn't like it if he said that, he'd bet that finally finding a death that treated her decently was a major catalyst for her overcoming her anti - vulpine prejudices, Hm, if you know what i mean. For that reason, her attraction to him had proven to be a useful tool at least once before; it might as well be a useful tool again.


My friend, I would like to emphasize that Nick did this primarily for her pleasure; this in particular should not lead to anything else. If he happened to get some of it back, well, that wouldn't have been his primary goal, but he certainly wouldn't say no.

I... have to be very careful how I write this, don't I? oh sir

The mood lighting was set by removing two of the three lightbulbs from the ceiling fan lamp, the remaining one being the one pointing faintly towards his eventual "stage". In addition, an adjustable desk lamp was lit and turned towards him like a spotlight, albeit at an angle so as not to blind him. Don't worry, he would keep his eyes on her and not on the desk while she lay in her bed wearing something much more comfortable when she got home.

He was only wearing his standard clothes. At present. Sorry, am I spoiling the surprise, or did you already know where this was going?

Another thing she was ashamed to admit that she found him attractive was how confidently he could deliver an incredibly stupid joke, to the point where it came across as anti-humor; Again, Nick hypothesized that something primitive in Judy's brain found this odd charm in him as an indication of leadership, and ergo, something a cave hare stag would look for in a mate. To that end, Nick came up with a few ideas for songs to use throughout his routine; his younger self would have pounced on A.D.I.D.A.S. by Kornfed in a jiffy, but he wasn't a nervous young man anymore and he knew this song was too aggressive; then there was this "Ohhh, you touch my tra-la-la, oooh, my ding-ding-dong" song, but that was maybe to stupid, and besides, he didn't know the name or artist of this song and didn't want to destroy his Zoogle search history by looking it up. But eventually he came to a conclusion, a song that was perfectly balanced. Man, late '90s acts really had a knack for silly love songs.

The bunny stifled a giggle as he pressed play on his laptop, the speaker volume cranked all the way up; she already knew this was going to be wonderfully stupid.

"Haha! Alright, we call that the act of mating!"

The fox took his place in the spotlight and secretly thanked the Bloodhound Gang as an ambiguous disco-rock beat took over the room. time for the show.

"...sweat baby sweat baby
Sex is a Texas drought
Me and you do things like that
Only Prince would sing about that.”

First came the tie. Bedroom-eyed, hips swinging, Death untied his accessory and began tugging the long piece of fabric around his neck like cleaning a pole with a rag.

"So take your hands
Down in my pants
And I bet you will feel knots.
Yes, I'm Siskel
Yes, I'm Ebert
And you get two thumbs up.”

He followed, running dental floss between his legs as he subtly stepped just a few inches closer to his audience, who had certainly started to grin as their eyes locked on that region of his body.

"You've had enough
of two-handed touch,
you want it rough
You are out of bounds.
I want to smother you
do you want to be covered
Like my Waffle House Hashbrowns.”

And now it was time for the shirt. The tie slid into his mouth like a predator heroically munching a snake as he began to unbutton his shirt, one sensuously arched eyebrow and a salacious smirk on his muzzle the whole time.

"Come faster than FedEx,
Never reach a climax
Just like Coca-Cola stock
You are inclined
So that I get up an hour earlier
Just like summer time.
(Do it now!)"

Just in time for the chorus, his front was fully open and he held his arms back to show off his tan chest and belly as death took much more definite steps towards his hind.

"You and I, baby, are nothing but mammals,
So let's do it like we did on the Discovery Channel.
(Do it again now!)
You and I baby are nothing but mammals
So let's do it like we did on the Discovery Channel.
(Getting horny now!)"

During the twenty-second instrumental interlude, Nick stripped off his shirt completely and hopped onto the bed, causing Judy to bounce up and down a bit as tremors ran through the mattress — and even a blind mammal could see she was enjoying the little ride. Arms in the air and elbows bent at right angles, the performer shook his hips for a few beats before proceeding to thrust his pelvis back and forth, his crotch comfortably level with his reclining viewer. And the rhythmic squeak of the bed springs as he moved complemented the music's horns and techno-like beats quite well.

The kind you clean up
with mop and bucket,
Like the catacombs of Egypt
God only knows where we put it.”

The old playboy turned around and started shaking his ass and cock in front of Judy's face because apparently straight chicks really like a nice manly butt for reasons that still baffle me. Not to mention his long, thick and opulent hind quarters, which stuck out just a few inches from the rabbit's nose and swayed back and forth with the rest of his body. Hey, you know what they say about a death with a long fat dick...

let me be pacific
I want to be down in your South Seas
But I have this notion that the movement of your ocean
Means 'little handicraft advice'.”

Now it was time to get creative: Nick flopped down chest first on the bed and started worming. A brilliant idea: Not only was this dance suggestive as hell in the context of the music and a great way to make yourself look even more manly by showing off your core strength, but it actually made the entire mattress shake and gave Judy a wild one Rode like she was aboard a ship on the ocean without even having to make physical contact with her. He couldn't tell if she was giggling about her boyfriend seriously making the worm to turn her on (as you can imagine, she won't tell me if it worked or not, but you can probably also guess what Nick pondering its effectiveness) or whether she was laughing at the song's self-deprecating wit at that precise point in the plot.

(Nick Wilde wants me to clarify that while he's perfectly self-aware enough to respond to such a self-deprecating joke, his "craft" isn't really small, adding that it is actually, and I quote, "profound". "; I can neither confirm nor deny that because I have not personally measured Nick's cock, nor have I researched the average Vulpine penis size to compare him to, and I have no interest in doing either. Jesus, this is getting slow weird why? I agree to write this? Oh yes, because Nick sent me a $100 gift card from Raising Cane. I've already used it. God help me.)

"So if I capsize on your thighs,
Flut, B-5,
You sank my battleship
please turn me on
I am Mr Coffee
With automatic drip.”

Plot twist! The shirtless fox leapt into a handstand, his back to his target. Not just another demonstration of what one might call athleticism, but the first contact with the bunny when the fox, head tilted back as far as possible so he could see her, tickled the tips of her ears with the black tip his tail. Her ears were twitching, and contact with such a sensitive part of her body might have set off primitive alarm bells in her brain that she was in danger—but like roller coasters and horror movies, danger is sometimes exciting, and Nick could see that Judy got just the right one Kick it. The fact that Nick's phone, keys and wallet fell out of his pocket as he stood upside down did nothing to kill his swagger.

"So show me your
I'll show you mine
tool time,
You'll lovett just like Lyle
And then we do it doggy style
So we can both watch X files.
(Do it now!)"

He jumped off the end of the bed and landed on his feet, faced her, backed back into the spotlight while still craning his pelvis, arms and paws behind his head to show what his weapons were like - like most Foxes, He was still skinny as a stick, but he still had more meat on his bones than any male hare his hare had ever seen.

"You and I, baby, are nothing but mammals,
So let's do it like we did on the Discovery Channel.
(Do it again now!)
You and I baby are nothing but mammals
So let's do it like we did on the Discovery Channel.
(Getting horny now!)"

There was one lamp in the room that wasn't burning right now, a long, tall, standing one. Nick pulled it out of the dark into the light along with a cowboy hat because you have to. You just have to. It's illegal not to do it. And as the song transitioned into another instrumental section, the fox got to work.

Magic Mike, eat your heart out and get out of the way; It was time for Nimble Nick. He actually had some pretty impressive speed as he spun around, flexing his arms and legs just enough to show his muscles ("muscles") again. And he gave her a sly grin the whole time.

But as he turned, it became more difficult for him to actually see her face, and he could barely notice her excited expression beginning to fade — not because he was doing something wrong, but because her mind was simply drawn elsewhere to something that nagging at her, compelling her attention.

The chorus repeated with heavily muted instruments:

"You and I, baby, are nothing but mammals,
So let's do it like we did on the Discovery Channel.
(Do it again now!)
You and I baby are nothing but mammals
So let's do it like we did on the Discovery Channel.
(Do it now!)"

The instruments came back and somehow Nick not only rolled over but flipped upside down again, arms and legs flipped over and his ledges sticking out as he continued to swing.

"You and I, baby, are nothing but mammals,
So let's do it like we did on the Discovery Channel.
(Do it again now!)
You and I baby are nothing but mammals
So let's do it like we did on the Discovery Channel.
(Getting horny now!)”

However, this position had its drawbacks as his face was close to the ground in this inverted state and he could not see Judy's face looking back at him and became even more alarmed when she watched him barge like a fool danced. Unbeknownst to him, she was beginning to disgust herself for participating in so much fun and games when something very serious needed to be said. And when he kept turning to the instrumental of the song's resolution, she couldn't take it anymore.

"No - I - I can't - I said yes."

Nick stopped spinning.

"Wait, wa--!? Whoa, whoa, WHOA--!“


(What, you didn't think this scene was going to end with them actually doing it, did you? You thought I was putting real smut with real people with their real names on the public internet!? You fucking perverts.)

Judy cried out as she hopped off the bed to help her fox, who had tipped over with the lamp when he lost his momentum and then fell face first.

„NICK! Omigosh, are you alright!?” she asked, bending down to his pained face.

"I landed on my tail," the fox moaned through narrowed eyes. "I landed on my tail..."

The rabbit just stared in the general direction of his underworld, wondering if it made her a bad person that she otherwise did the caring thing and massaged her love's aching body part, but she wouldn't put her hands on it The Part of his body because she thought she was a good Christian girl and also because this is not pornography. you all disgust me

"Just take a few deep breaths and don't think about the pain," she offered instead, "take your mind off it."

Luckily for him, however, he only had the question to distract him from his screeching nerve endings: "You said yes Was?"

"I...I agreed to be a detective." She looked embarrassed to admit it. "I've been thinking about it more and ... I need to change something, and that seemed like an opportunity. I... I'm sorry, I was afraid to tell you earlier because I didn't want you to think I asked you for advice one day and immediately did the opposite the next day, I didn't want that The Mammal--"

"Hey, hey, hey, it's alright," Nick cooed as he forced himself to sit up and pulled his annoyed little bun into his arms, hugging her tightly while rubbing his paws up and down her back. "Don't apologize, you realized that by saying no you would be making a bad decision and you fixed it, you'll always know better than anyone what's best for you."

"Hmm..." Judy murmured as she just let the hug linger. "Thanks, Nick...I'm just glad you're not mad."

...Nick was damned drunk.

Not because she'd moved on and pursued work that conflicted with his, not because she'd done the opposite of what they had agreed to the other day, not because she'd accidentally taken away the opportunity to do him, his own from her safely presenting a new career path without creating drama, she was still her own person with her own priorities, and all of those things were perfectly within her rights - he was pissed that she lied about them. Or if she hadn't lied outright, she had at least kept it from him.

Okay, in fairness he's never had a healthy relationship before this one, so maybe he wasn't the expert on this, but it wasn't the point of a couple for the two of you to be the first ones you would both confide in with new information ? He was pretty sure it was. And their relationship wasn't new or anything, it wasn't like she was still wondering if she could tell him anything and everything. Her reluctance to tell him wasn't intolerable in and of itself, but spending several hours without even trying to mention it seemed tantamount to moral cowardice — yes, that's right, brave heroic action cop Judy Hopps, your beloved fox thinks that In this case, you were a scaredy-cat, to the point where it was a freaking character flaw. God knows if she'd just ripped the band-aid off it would have spared him some physical discomfort down south.

He got up, put his shirt back on, put away his props and replaced the overhead light bulbs. They went into the living room and watched some light TV while Judy explained more details of her promotion; her last day on the beat would be tomorrow before she would start training the Friday after next. He seemed very interested in her new journey and this in turn made her feel less hesitant and more confident about the decision she had made and at this point she started to get quite excited about what adventures awaited her. And Nick did it so well to pretend he was happy for her that Judy was finding happiness herself, and she didn't even realize he never said anything like that Congratulations.

She went to bed early, as always, and he stayed up in the living room, as always, well after midnight; after 10pm was Nick Time. But he didn't use this time to further plan his new business strategy or even indulge in his favorite hobbies; He was only half spending his energy watching horrible late night shows and concentrating on his thoughts and feelings about Judy's decision and the way she had told him - and hadn't told him.

Perhaps he would have been more accepting of her accidentally putting him in an irretrievably awkward position if she had said so openly, but she wasn't, so we'll never know now. And yes, her hesitation was probably a combination of fear that he would be frustrated that she had changed her mind and a personal inner conflict about whether she made the right choice, but the former suggested that something inside her still didn't fully trust that he wouldn't hurt her, the latter was something she honestly had to work out earlier to avoid creating the illusion of the former, and goddamn her choices had caused him to felt bad and he couldn't like that she had made him feel bad.

You know what? He would take the time to consider how he would break the news that he had started work that could be construed as direct competition to hers. Maybe he'd tell her tomorrow, maybe he'd tell her next week, maybe the whole operation would fall apart before it even got started, and none of that would be an issue. He already had a plan if she found out and confronted him about it, he would just say he was waiting to settle into this new career before making it official on LinkedIn and save it as a surprise for her, a pleasant surprise that he had finally found what felt like his calling in life - or at least something closer to it. And when push came to shove, he could always play his newfound trump card: you didn't want to tell me about it your no new job either.

But it would probably never come to that; he knew she was a good girl and she would probably understand that he had been just as nervous about telling her as she had been telling him. Overall things were still looking good for the two and as long as they didn't step on each other's toes on the journey they would both soon end up in a better place for themselves and with any luck they would arrive together in their separate places .

... Although he was still pretty sure he'd never be able to hear that stupid Bloodhound Gang song again without physically recalling the feeling when his "wooden" "vehicle" crashed into the "land."


Never explain, never apologize.

I'll explain a little though: I have a Zootopia fanfiction expert on good authority that this extremely obvious joke has actually never been made. So it was my duty to make it happen and not make it any less plot relevant.

And if somehow you didn't automatically know what song Nick danced to then you better show me proof it never charted in your country because otherwise I don't know what kind of barn you grew up in https: //www.youtube.com/watch?v=6f7pgA0riU8

peace and love everyone.

Chapter 8: The young and the hopeless


You never know when a significant historical event will intrude into your otherwise unremarkable life.


Originally published February 3, 2022

chapter text

Chapter Eight, "The Young and the Hopeless"

…COUGH! ACK, ACK, ACK!"...god, why are people smoking this?"

"Because someone who was a trendsetter did it once and everyone wanted to be like them, because our animal brains strive to follow a leader and blend in with the crowd."

"Oh, God, that's enough for a lifetime."

"What, you take a hit and quit?"

"I mean, it's like... seriously?Theis the plant we enslaved cheetahs and lions and elephants and shit for? It tastes like shit and it's not even edible. Smoking that is not like green smoking.”

"Hey no judgement, pussy ass bitch, I don't fuck with squares either."

"I just wish I'd tried it before when I turned eighteen, then I could say"Yeah, I smoked cigarettes before they put the age on me, and then magically I was too young to buy them again, and then I had to get them illegally like a fucking rebel, 'til I was twenty-one became!"NowTheI was cool."

"Er... maybe, I think."

"Maaan, can't you just support me when I'm trying to look like a badass?"

"Dude… you know I do. Happy big two-one, bruh."

"Aw, I appreciate that man."

"I'm glad you're finally old enough to buy beer, kid."

"Oh, don't talk down to me, you antenna-eared midget! Being older is not good! Hell - weren't you technically born in a different century than I was?"

"Damn, it was me."

"You damn old man."

"Kiss my cottontail ass, I've lived the 20th century and that's somethingOfnever will!”

"Yes, for about nine hours! Bitch you're only jealous 'cause youWishYour birthday was at six nine!”

"If you were born at 6:20 a.m. at 6:9 a.m. I might be jealous."

"...I'm too shitty for that argument."

"Dude, right."


"So what do you do with the rest of the pack then?"

"Well… I'm sure we could find a homeless guy somewhere who would appreciate them."

"Oh, right really right, instead of giving them food and shelter, give them lung cancer."

"Well, if they die of lung cancer, that would probably solve the food and shelter problems, wouldn't it?"

"My god, what else am I supposed to expect from the boy who got kicked out of a friggin' daycare at the age of five because you kept saying incredibly nervous shit?"

"I did not get itkicked out,You fucking idiot, I happened to have a bad relationship with the lady who ran it when my mom got out of this shit town when it became a fucking war zone. Also, this racist bunny bitch projected her hatred of a certain fox onto me."

"Brave of you to call this lady a racist when you were the one who called a Lybica Arabian cat a bloody terrorist."

"Hey! I was damnedfive,and my mother had recently tried to explain to me what 9/11 was. Do you really want to throw it at a kid who just finished preschool because they don't know why it's so bad to say that?"

"Fine, I'll blame your mother. How dare she explain international acts of political violence to a preschooler? Your mom is a fucking idiot.”

"Hey, don't talk shit about my mom!"

"Your mother is so stupid she thinks hyenas are dogs."

"...YourMom is so stupid she doesn't know when to take it Ainfluenceagainst eEffect."

"Your mother is so stupid she doesn't know when to take itto thein one sentence."

"Your mom is so stupid she doesn't know that pedestrians have the right-of-way at crosswalks."

"Your mom is so stupid she thinks adding lanes to a road would relieve traffic."

"Your mother is so stupid she doesn't realize Timbuktu is a real place."

"Your mother is so stupid that she doesn't realize that summer is daylight saving time and that the sun is outallegedlyat 4:30 a.m. in December.”

"Uhhh...your mom is so stupid she thinks Left Twix and Right Twix actually taste different and doesn't realize it's just a marketing ploy."

"...That's a bit too unbelievable."

"Well, shit,my mother actually thinks so!”

"Oh, Jesus, no shit?"

"Swear to God."

"...Wow…Your mother is so stupid she gave you a frigging maiden name too.”

"Hey! Only because the remaining bloody Klawdashians decided thatKendallwas a girl's name doesn't mean itIs! YourMom is so stupid she thought naming her son was somehow unique or interestingRyan!“

"Your mother is so stupid that she actually thinks everyone can be anything in Zootopia, so she moved you here under the false impression that you really did have a chance at a decent future."

"... That's bloody stupid!"

"Hey, I know, right?"

"Ah... I think the fact that we had this conversation like that...coherentmeans we've been up long enough to sober up."

"Nah man I'm just good at staying sharp when I'm faded, you never got finished 'cause you hardly smoked or drank you pussy."

"Fuck you,I amgood to deal with because my people arenocturnal,you jealous bitch!”

"Why should I be jealous of a freak who sees the earth's magnetism floating in the bloody air, you...er..."

"Hey, that's not how it works, and half of us don't even have that ability anymore--!"

"Uh, wait...wait a second, someone's calling me."

"Now?Is it your mother?"

"No, she knows I'm over here... Jesus Christ, it's Angela."


"Should I--!?"

"Don't answer!"

"Okay, I sent it to voicemail..."

"No, you bloody idiot!"


"If the doorbell didn't ring, she knows you're awake now!"



"...Aaand she calls again."

"Do not answer -"


"Damn, Ryan..."

"...You want us to come to work!?"

"Alter wasanderswould she call to ask us--!?"

"Uhhh, no, I don't think either of us are, uh, fit to come to work today."

"Bro, just be honest with her and tell her we're faded out of our minds—"

"I know because I'm with him right now, we were up all night, it was his birthday — yesterday."

"Tell her we've been awake for twenty-four hours straight."

"Yes, we partied all night because we had a reasonable expectation that we wouldn't get a last-minute call to work this morning!"

"What happened to Ishaan?"

"Yeah, Kenny is asking why Ishaan isn't coming today."


"Well, that sucks, butWecan't work either! We've been up since yesterday at this time, we can't stay up for… ten more?”


"Well that isOf!Normal mammals aren't okay with staying up that late, and any doctor worth their salt will tell you not to! If you're such a paragon of work ethic, why notOfrun the shop today!?"

"...What is she saying?"

"She says we must be quite awake if I can argue that hard -It's called AngelaAdrenalin!"

"Oh dear God…"

"Wait dude, I got this...OK. angela I'll make you a deal: we'll work if you pay us double!"

"Dude, Ryan, no, she won't--"

"Time and a half."


"Time and a quarter."


"Time and a tenth."


"Then let's at least get some ENERGY DRINKS out of the cooler, for Christ's sake!"

"...What does she think?"

"She said she'll be watching the security cameras to charge us for what we take -Angela, if you can do that, why don't you just work in the shop yourself!?"


"She said she needed two people and she'll look at the footage later."

"Of course she is."

"Well you can't fire us if we don't get in today! You can't afford it, then you would do ithaveto work the store itself-- Oh, what theCrap,Dame!?"

"What is she saying now?"

"She did mention that if we quit, she knows both of our families would throw us out of the house."

"What sucks is there are people in this world who think this is good leadership."


There are people in this world who still read physical newspapers - mainly the older generation. This screaming hairy armadillo (description of them) was one of those elders still searching for the printed page. So, in his quest for the written word in Savannah Central, far from his home in Sahara Square, he headed to the mid-size supermarket, which was probably still a bit big for him, but damn convenient.

He didn't even look at the clerk as he entered the Little Medium Mart, but just made a beeline for the newsstand. The two major publications were right next to each other: theZootopia Daily Journalcarried a headline criticizing the new mayor for being too forward-thinking, while theZootopia timescriticized him for not being progressive enough. The armadillo grabbed themPHOTOwithout much thought; he had always found thatMalfar too liberally biased.

He walked over to the counter and now saw young Death standing at the cash register. The fox didn't seem too aware of his customer either. Of course, the armadillo had no idea that the boy, who was rocking in space with wide-eyed and completely unfocused gaze, was struggling with the consequences of copious amounts of alcohol, cannabis, Red Bull and twenty-eight hours of fatigue raging inside him, and being of the older generation, the armadillo simply assumed that the young man was being rude.

"Forgiveness,"said the patron sharply as he laid the newspaper firmly on the counter.

The fox flinched as his trance was broken, but it took him another second before he registered in his head that he had a tiny customer he needed to call. In fact, the clerk hadn't ignored the armadillo; he had just struggled to stay on this level of reality.

"Oh! Uh, hi. Um... did you find everything alright?"

The customer couldn't help but notice that the cashier was looking at him one by one, back and forth, his eyes darting ever so slightly as they took turns assessing the armadillo.

Said armadillo just grunted and pointed to the newspaper.

"Cool. I have this," said the fox as he picked up the magazine and flipped the pages over and over over and over again. "Sorry, just looking for the barcode..."

"It's on the back, as always."

The fox turned the paper over again.

"Thereturnside,” repeated the armadillo.

The fox opened the newspaper to the center fold.

"Back,"the customer repeated sternly.

The clerk nervously closed the newspaper and turned the page again before staring at it blankly. The armadillo pointed to a corner, and the fox made a small sound with its tongue as it picked up the scanner and rang the item.

"All right, that'll be a dollar, and, uh... that'll be a dollar." Thank goodness Oregon didn't have a sales tax, otherwise he probably really would've run away. "You can put your card in the, uh...the...um..."The cashier began tapping the counter with the palm of his paw, then began tapping much faster and more aggressively as he turned his head toward the ceiling and squinted as he desperately tried to think of the word. "...Crap,READER!" One final hard smack to signal victory. "You may insert your card into the reader."

"Mind your language, young man."

"Uh, sorry."

And then, in deep confusion, the fox stared at the armadillo, which stared at him without a trace of fear.

"...Is everything ok?" asked the clerk.

Angrily, the customer shoved a standard-size one-dollar bill in the clerk's face.

"...What the hell is that?"

"It's legal tender! For all debts, public and private!”

The synapses in the young dead man's brain switched back on as he swiped the bill from the armadillo's hands and opened the register. "Right, right, right, right. To the right. To the right. Um... just... just, you know, I don't see much paper money in this city as it's a, uh... concept of size in a multi-sized city, um...” He trailed off with no plan to speak further.

Now completely frustrated with this cashier, the old armadillo decided to let go of his inhibitions and tell the boy how he really felt. "And should you wear that hat to work?"

The fox stopped fiddling with the dollar bill to grab his purple and black flat-brimmed Sacramento Kings hat, flip it back like he usually wore it, and slightly longer head fur from the hole above the snapback strap to stick. "Er... yeah, it's, it's part of my religion, um... Christ-Hut-ity. I converted from… Hood-aism.” The fox wasn't even trying to be snappy, he was just too scared to tell this manNO.Man, there had been a reason he'd turned his hat on today, but he couldn't remember why, for the life of him. "Er, well, this store is for medium-sized mammals, sir, and that's a...regular medium-sized buck, it's too big for our tray, and I don't know if I have room for it..."

"Young man, you're getting on my last nerve! I already told you, you must accept my dollar whether it fits in your coffers or not! can you at allreadThat!?" grumbled the customer as he held up the newspaper. But, standing on the step stool at the counter, without the best vantage point for a wide field of view, he just noticed something to the right and decided to call attention to it. "And what abouthim!?IsIsshould wear a hat?”

Oh yes, seeing the fainted rabbit on the counter with his eyes and ears flattened reminded the fox of why he had carried his hat forward; The idea had been that if they fell asleep and collapsed face first, the brims of their hats would catch them. But Ryan, in his navy and teal Mariners cap closed at the back, had shrunk so slowly and gradually that the brim simply pushed up while his head sank lower and lower until the cap was basically not levelAnhis head more as much ason topEs.

"Hey, uh, Ryan," Kenny asked hesitantly while nudging his bunny friend a few times, "what should we do if we get a dollar bill that doesn't fit in the till?"

Ryan showed no signs of intelligent thinking.

"He sleeps at work, doesn't he!?" the old man accused.

"Oh no, he's notSleep,he's just... medically unconscious."

The armadillo raised an eyebrow. "If that's true, you don't seem overly concerned about it."

Notice that the fox's ambiguous, frightened expression hadn't left his face. "I mean... what can I do?" he asked with an uncertain shrug. "He'll wake up... when his body realizes he's not... dying."

But the armadillo's patience was exhausted, and in an effort to obtain the excellent service to which it was entitled it did what some would call bold; others, stupid.

"Young,awaken!"he roared as he grabbed the rabbit's limp ear to speak directly into it. This is an example of what is commonly referred to asa mistake.

Now you see, my friend, if at this point you expected Ryan's prey instincts to inclineflightinstead ofStreitNormally if a sensitive part of his body was touched you'd be right, but, uh... I explained pretty decently that these guys weren't in a good mental state, right? Okay, well, just checking.

So yes, anyway, the rabbit woke up immediately and jumped at the armadillo's throat. Rabbits are good at jumping. Ryan also screamed like a banshee as he leaped over the counter and knocked the old man off the stepladder onto the floor, which was a lot less rabbity, but he felt obsessed with it.

"WAHADUHTTHAH!?"he bellowed in the old mammal's face("Why did you do that?")

"BOY, WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU!?" protested the armadillo.

"DUHFUNTUTCHMUHLUHTHAH!" ("Don't fucking touch me like that.")


"Coooool",all the fox had to say as he leaned over the counter to watch was utterly enchanted.

The armadillo had no trouble squeezing out from under the exhausted rabbit and quickly rose to address the Vulpen clerk. "I'm calling the police!"

But Kenny didn't seem worried - he still looked like his head was about to explode, but it wasn'tnervous,per se. "Er, there's a...camera showing you touched and startled him first," Death said as he pointed to the camera.

"And,that isTo the right!"added the buck as he staggered to his feet. "Ya fuckin'... armored... ball...Female dog!"

Amazingly...these threats actually worked. Oldhead here seemed to realize that he had indeed made contact and, sensing that he was in an unwinnable situation, he climbed back onto the stepladder, grabbed his newspaper and made his way towards the exit.

"Did you want your receipt?" asked the fox.

But the armadillo stormed out the door without answering.

"Okay, because I...threw it already..." Kenny trailed off as he turned to see Ryan stumble back and stumble up to the counter. "Here's your hat back."

"Thank you," the bunny murmured as he placed it between his ears, fashionably backwards like his friend, but tilted much further back on his crown.

"...Has anyone ever told you that when you wear it like that it looks like you're wearing a kippah?" Kenny asked. (He himself had said this to Ryan twice in the previous night alone.)

However, Ryan had a question of his own: "Man, did I really just jump across the table like a crackhead and try to brain this guy or did this thing happen where I fell out of bed but fell asleep and that is everything still part of the dream?”

"I mean, I wouldn't say 'like a crackhead,' because you definitely fell asleep before he touched your ear, and I'm ... eighty percent sure crackheads don't sleep, but yeah, that happened."

The rabbit groaned and laid his head on the counter, just like before, his paws on his temples. "Bloody hell, why did we let our boss pressure us into coming into work today?"

"Because she sniffed out our desperation in the working class and used it as a weapon against us," the fox grumbled through his own lifeless daze before suddenly bursting into a burst of energy:"The Prowletariat will RISE!"he exclaimed, with a gesture that his confused brain thought was appropriate for the remark.

His confused brain was wrong; the gesture was inappropriate. "Why did you just make the Hitler sign?" Ryan asked.

Kenny shyly pulled his paw back from the air. "Wait... isThewhat did I just do?"

"You did."

"AAARGH!"Now it was Kenny's turn to put his head in his paws. "Dude, the energy drinks donotDamn work, I'm losing my goddamn mind here. So wait, what's the communism gesture again?” And when he heard the bell ring to indicate a new customer had entered the store, the fox leaned over the counter and pointed accusingly at them with a puzzled expression on his face."I'M NOT A NAZI!"

"Ohhhhh, eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee from woww thaaaaat, Kennnnnaaaaall," said the elderly sloth on her mobility scooter, smiling softly at the two college-age wannabe Dingleberries who occupied the store. "Duuuuu wouuuuldn't suuuuurviiiiive verrrrryyyyy lonnnng innnnn thiiiiis ciiiityyyyy iiiiif youuuu werrrrre!"

"Hello, Mrs. Slowey," Ryan calmly greeted their regular customer, who knew the duo very well and found their antics amusing.

"Helllllllllloooooo, Ryyyyyaaaaan," she replied to the rabbit, before dashing through the store to do her shopping, leaving the clerks to panic again about how they were going to survive this shift.

"Okay, fuck it," the fox grumbled as he left the counter for a moment.

"Where are you going?" asked the rabbit.

Kenny came back barely a second later with a pastry he had pulled from the shelf. "New strategy to stay awake: junk food." He held up a MexicanShell,a savory piece of veal sweetbread covered in a thick layer of cream-colored hardened icing that resembles a seashell (although the packaging claimed it was French for some reason). "We'll get by with a sugar high. Living with diabetes is better than OD on consuming caffeine that doesn't even work for us. And I amDO NOT pay for it!”He spun around to reveal the plastic packaging of the security camera mentioned above. "Do you see that Angela?five seventeen twenty one,this has expiredLast month,we shouldnotsell this, i do itOfDamn favor if you're taking that off the shelves, lady!” And with that he turned back to Ryan, unwrapped the roll and offered it to him.

"...I don't eat that."

"Fine, more for me." The fox took a big bite, raining powdered sugar all over his clothes and the counter. "I bet you won't eat it because it's Mexican," he said, mouth full, "damn racist."

"Okay, first of all, I'm not taking that shit from a guy who just did the Nazi salute without realizing it," Rabbit protested. "Secondly, you know what, stupid? While the sugar doesn't make you crash harder than the caffeine, all those carbs will probably knock you out even faster."

Kenny stopped chewing and stared blankly at Ryan for a moment before swallowing and narrowing his eyes. "Why do you say things that you know will hurt me?"


Something came through the doors - literallythroughthe doors, the glass shatters and the steel frames creak as they flex, and I'm withholding no information when I say sosome Ding. What was it? What shape, what color? Was it a mammal or was it a monster? Ryan and Kenny sure couldn't tell, andIShit sure wasn't there. All they knew was that it was something bigger than them and vaguely black and… burnt orange?

But whatever that...blurwas, it didn't seem to have much more motivation than to destroy. The fox and rabbit stood perfectly still, eyes wide open, and followed the creature through the store as it crashed onto the counter, slipping and knocking everything off before hitting the back counter on the nearest wall and the coffee maker and icee smashed machine with the surfing polar bear on it, then slammed straight through the first door of the fridges on the opposite wall, scavenging left to right through the shelves of beer and sodas and almond milk, shoving the doors open frequently as the debris pushed them out until the Anomaly the glass of the door at the opposite end broke out, then bounced through the interior of the store, knocking over every single shelf in the process. And when he finally ran out of things to destroy, he just made his way, perhaps predictably seeing himself out by crashing through the window.

The two clerks understandably took a second to process what they had just seen before they could speak again:

"Oh dear God!"

"What was that!?"

"Oh my damn god!"

"What the hell was that!?"

"Oh my damn god!"


"How was that for real!?"

"Holy SHIT dude!"

"How the hell was that real!?"

"Jesus shits on CHRIST!"

"How did that actually happen!?"

"I'm fucking freaking out out here, man!"

"Shall we call the police?"

"Don't call the police!"

"Shall we call the police?"

"Don't call the police!"

"We have to call the police!"

"DO NOT call the police!"

"I'm calling the police!"

"Ryan, DO NOT call the police, are you FUCKING HIGH!?"




Kenny just blinked at his friend, but it wasn't the astonished look of someone whose argument had been debunked, it was the look of someone who misunderstood as someone else misunderstood him.

"I mean... sort of," Ryan continued. "Brother, it isin front of the camera,we clearly didn't do it ourselves, they won't find out we used drugs like... eight hours ago. What are you afraid of?"

But with a serious look, Kenny leaned down to rest his paws on Ryan's shoulders and looked his friend in the eye, "Dude...remember...I ate that clam thing and now there's powdery white stuff on the counter." .” And to get his point across, he added in a harsh whisper:"...You'll think it's punch!"

"Ken, that's youPolice officers,Do you really think they can't tell the difference between powdered sugar and cocaine!?"

The fox's only answer was to peer his thousand-yard gaze into the rabbit's soul.

And then the rabbit caught it."...Oh my god, you're right."

"That's why we can't get the police involved!" Kenny screamed.

"And if they look at the security cameras they might see you doing the Hitler-esque thing, which, um, isn't illegal I guess, but you don't want any branch of the government to think you're a skinhead!" "

"Holy shit, I didn't even think of that--!"

"Hölllllllllloooooo?"interrupted a weak and distant voice."Hellllp!"

"Miss Slowey!" The boys yelped in unison as they made their way through the rubble to find the sloth amidst the rubble, she and her scooter both fell onto their sides.

„Iiii soaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!She groaned in pain."IIIIII thiiiink myyyyy aaaaarm iiiiiis broooookennnnn.

The employees looked at each other.

"We've got to call 9-1-1, dude," said the rabbit.

"If I end up on an FBI watch list, I'll take Angela to court for making me come in today," the fox said.


The paramedics entered first to take Mrs. Slowey to the hospital, followed by the two police officers who were dispatched to the scene: First, the police officer who noticed everywhere she went, who had no trouble entering the Little Medium Mart , which raises the question of how the ZPD was able to operate without officers of its size until about six years ago.

"Wait a minute," the fox scribe murmured to his colleague as the striped mammal entered, "is that... who I think it is?"

"Nice to know we don't all look the same to you," his rabbit friend joked.

"I'm serious! Didn't they... make a TV movie about her?"

She didn't hear any of her remarks, however, as she stayed at the door to help her patrol partner through the door as he was too tall for the small building.

"Okay, this is just getting weirder," Ryan said, "I've lived in this town my whole life and I can count on two paws how many dogs I've seen here, now we have oneDogcop too?”

"I know right?" adds Kenny. "You'd think a dog cop would do the news or something."

“Do other cities treat cops like celebrities like Zootopia? I have a feeling this is not normal.”

The German shepherd finally came through the entrance and he and the rabbit police officer approached the two officers on duty.

"Good morning boys," Judy greeted fairly warmly, but not quite as warmly as those who knew her would expect. "My name is Officer Judy Hopps of the Zootopia Police Department, this is my partner, Officer Brady Braverman..."

"Hello, folks," the dog said rather formally, raising a paw in a wave.

"So we understand that..."

"I thought dogs weren't allowed in Zootopia because that city was founded on the idea of ​​equality among mammals and wolves found the existence of dogs offensive because you guys are a bunch of breed traitors who let a super predatory species domesticate you who attempted to subjugate the entire rest of the mammalian class before they froze to death, so their very existence is now viewed as a remnant of species imperialism and dominance,” Ryan interrupted without a trace of inhibition.

Judy heard this statement and just had no idea how to react to it. She looked confused and embarrassed at the same time - not embarrassed for herself, but embarrassed for her canine partner, who was understandably furious at the unmusical remark.

Enough of Kenny's brain was working for him to realize that his friend had just said something totally inappropriate and incredibly rude, so he decided to remedy the situation by taking one of Ryan's ears and stuffing it into the rabbit's mouth. "Oh don't bother with him," the fox said nervously, "he's just, uh, clinically, uh... dumb."

Officer Braverman wasn't too lenient, however. "Well, if youmustknow that so many mammals in this city think like thatIsThe fall makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that's why so few of us move to this town: because we feel unwelcome. Same reason you almost never see primates in this town—what's worse than being the oppressor's lapdog? The existenceCousinsof the oppressor.” His short explanatory speech was over, he turned to his partner. “Let the record show that I triedReallyhard to be in a good mood beforehandThehappens. Let me show you the record, I want it in writing. I was trying to be a fun partner on your last day on patrol..."

"It's your last day!?" Kenny intervened. "B-but aren't you that famous bunny cop they made a whole ass movie about, about the time you and your fox friend broke the whole night howler thing and they've been using you as an ad character ever since!? You leave the police!?Of!?Is it because your boyfriend convinced you to quit after he quit?”

Now it was Judy looking deeply agitated and Brady at a loss for words.

"I... don't remember him being my boyfriend," Judy said.

"Yes, but everyone knows that you shit..."

Ryan's brain worked enough to realize that his friend was about to say something totally inappropriate and incredibly rude, so he decided to fix the situation by taking Kenny's tail and stuffing it in the fox's mouth. "Ignore him," said the harebuck, "he... he sucks. Just like... in life. Generally."

As you might imagine, Judy was so embarrassed by the fox's remark that she began to feel her grip on her feelings loosen a little. Her personal and intimate life was none of this child's business, and many would have refrained from blaming her if she had decided to go after Kenny for saying something so inappropriate. But as much as she had the right to remain excited, Officer Hopps understood that she was in the presence of two young men who weren't very good at talking to people and an inexperienced police officer who was making a real effort to understand his Controlling feelings, but it wasn't. She wasn't very good at that, so she had to be the mature adult in this situation. So she took a deep breath and - not because they deserved it, but because they would remain curious if she didn't give them anything - she decided to give them an explanation.

"No, that has nothing to do with mine – it has nothing to do with ithim,"she said very carefully, "he is a separate individual with his own life and so am I. And Officer Braverman here never said it was megive up;I'm promoted to detective."

The staff's mouths dropped slightly as they gave her a pair of bug eyes and tried to politely pretend the actual truth wasn't much less interesting.

Brady suddenly clapped his paws hard. "M'kay. Last time I checked we were here to ask you guys why this place looks like a bomb went off."

The staff suddenly perked up and murmured nervously in agreement:

"Oh! Oh yes, that sounds… right.”

“Ah, yes, coolcoolcool.

In fairness, the boys' high from last night was likely to have worn off by this point, and even then the substances they had been ingesting were legal in that jurisdiction and they were of legal age to use them. But their fear now was that their extreme relegation fatigue and the way they simultaneously tweaked sugar and caffeine made it seem like they sucked in public anyway, and they especially didn't want to look bad in public in front of you few cops.

That fear was 100% justified as both Hopps and Braverman were adamant that Ryan and Kenny had come to workAnsomething. Luckily for the shopkeepers, however, Judy tried to ignore this hunch because it didn't seem relevant to the task at hand, and Brady just wanted to hurry up and get the hell out of here lest he do something rash when she said badly about his species spoke again.

"Okay, so first things first," the officer said as she pulled out her pen and notepad, "can I get your names and phone numbers?"

The cops didn't think it was possible, but the staff now looked balancedmorefrightened.

"Er..." Ryan stuttered, "why - why do you need ours -?"

"NO,she's not asking you out," the German shepherd bluntly interrupted, "that's just so we can contact you and contact you when we find out what happened."

"Oh myWort,"Hopps moaned with a paw over his eyes, "Brady,Pleasejust be a pro in that regard.”

"Hey, you saw the same facial expressions as me."

But the staff hadn't thought at all that the Rabbit Officer meant it; They figured this was just a detour to catch them and mistakenly book them for being high on controlled substances. And you just know that the fox in particular tried really hard not to look at the suspicious white crumbs on the counter lest he seem to incriminate himself.

"Names and numbers, boys?" Judy repeated.

„Äh … Ryan Gray,[number redacted]...like,Grauwhat A."

"And - um, Kendall Clay,[number redacted]...but you can just call me... Ken or Kenny or... 'Hey, you,' I'll probably reply."

"GrauAndTon?"asked Braverman while Hopps wrote down the information. "Man, you two should really start with names like that, like... a folk band or something."

"And it's always nice to see a fox and a bunny getting along," Judy said just to be nice, before immediately kicking back for calling herself and Nick again.

"Oh yeah, uh... me and Ken are way behind," Ryan mumbled just to keep the topic to something other than her confused states of mind. "We... knew each other since he moved to the city in kindergarten."

"Yeah, um..." Kenny tried to add something to the conversation for the same reason. "Hey, it's working out fine, he knows I can always eat him if he's pissing me off," he quipped with a nervous chuckle.

You could tell by the look on Officer Hopps' face that she didn't care about the joke.

Her colleague Lapine tried to limit the damage: "Yeah, a-a-and ifIspissMichout, it's easy for me to just smack that big motherfucker in the crotch!"

From the look on Officer Braverman's face you could tell he didn't care about the joke.

Okay,doubleDamage control now, as I see Kenny walk in with a sane remark, "Yeah, just, uh...a,uh...a regular Ebony and Ivory that we are!"

The dog winced. "I thought the song was about a zebra with multiple personality disorder."

Ryan winced too and looked at his friend."Ithought the song was about a skunk that sometimes wishes it wasn't a skunk."

Kenny winced at both of them. "Man,II thought the song was about a panther and an elephant wagging it!”

Judy just took another deep breath while checking her notepad and finishing what she was writing. “All three of you guys are something else. But… back on topic. So what happened?"

"Er... what do you mean?" Kenny asked.

"...How was the store destroyed?" She triedSohard to be patient, but she was only mortal. "All you told the dispatcher was thatsomethingcame in here and ruined everything.”

"Um...how should we...explain it?" Ryan asked.

"People, literally, just... game by game!" Brady didn't try quite as hard to be patient. "Don't even think about it too much, just...speak.List details and everything will come back to you.”

The employees looked at each other.

"Uhhh...can we have a minute to...talk about this privately?" asked the harebuck.

Officer Hopps tried to reply professionally, "We'd prefer that you didn't..."

"NO,because that's going to make it seem like you're conspiring to make up a story,” Officer Braverman interrupted. "What… I don't know how you two could possibly be responsible for such a big mess, so I don't know why you two are so nervous. Except for youAreTo hide something--"

"Brady, just calm down..."

"Judy, at this point I think I've earned the right to assume that if I'm not calm, I have a damn good reason not to be."

In the employees' defense, they rightly didn't know much more about the entity that destroyed the store than the cops did, so on top of their ongoing paranoia, they knew to appear suspicious by not just spitting it out, but... them didn't know what they werecouldsay to describe whatStrictly speakingalso happened. The truth offered them no refuge.

But they had to try. Kenny tried it first:

"So, um..." He decided to walk to a spot directly in front of the counter to get the strange substance out of their sight. "We were just standing around minding our own business and talking to Mrs. Slowey while we were shopping when, uh..."

OH SHIT!Suddenly his head snapped: if he got their sightlines anywhere near that area, they might as well see the non-bum sugar in the background and think it was bum sugar. Thinking quickly, he threw himself straight across the aisle, causing all three viewers to turn their heads.

"...when this THING walked in and started destroying our shit!"

"...Why did you just do a somersault?" asked the German Shepherd.

His comrade blinked at him blankly. "...Dramatic effect?"

"Well, we appreciate the dedication to your art," Judy said, an aura of desperation surrounding her, "but we don't need drama, we just need a direct account of what happened. So that...Ding--"

"Yes!" the other bunny answered. "So it came in here and then it went...There,"he said, pointing to the opposite wall, "...thenThere,ThenThere…and thenThere…and thenThere…and thenThere,and thenThere…and thenThere- no wait,There… there thereHere,there... there, there, there, there, there,and then he left.” Ryan had pointed to pretty much every spot in the store except the counter.

"How did it go?"

Ryan pointed to the broken window. "Through this."

The dog pinched the bridge of his nose. "Oh my god, that's like pulling teeth..."

Judy patted her frustrated partner on the back. "There There…"

Brady just turned and glared at her.

"Er... sorry, wrong choice of words..." Addressing the employees again: "So, what exactly did that...Dinglook? I guess it wasn't a mammal if we call it a... "thing"? was it aVogel,was it a... I don't know, aMissile…?"

"It, uh, seemed like something alive because it was moving, uh... not... totally randomly," Kenny said as he tried to shimmy even further away from the counter, "well, uh... maybesomeLevel of intelligent thinking..."

"Yes, but what did it bringseehow?" Braverman squeezed.

"Oh, it was touchingAwaytoo fast for us to see but, uh... it was bigger than everyone elseus,that's for sure,” Ryan said. “And it was, um… black? And...orange? Or maybe yellow?"

"Black and yellow!" adds Kenny.

"Black and yellow, black and yellow, black and yellow, black and yellow!"They sang in unison, conjuring up a song from their childhood that was about as archaic as their sense of dress.

"I... see..." Hopps mumbled as she wrote it down.And,this testimony came to nothing.

Well, anyone who knew her knew that Judy was never one to do anything sloppy. If she were to do something, she would do it with dutiful diligence all the way. But seeing that these two dorks weren't going to make it any easier and having the prospect of realizing that she wouldn't personally be investigating this case further after this shift ended, she couldn't help but feel so strange and the intrusive Imagining that trying to do her job here to the best of my ability would just be a waste of time. She didn't like that feeling, it made her feel dirty and it made her feel like she was being rude to anyone who had to pick up those pieces in her place, but she just couldn't let the feeling go.

It didn't help that she heard Nick whisper in her ear that she should work smarter than harder - not to say she wouldn't heed that advice if she remembered that there was a simple answer to all of this .

"So how can we see the security footage?"

The staff's silly smiles from their impromptu singing session vanished immediately.

"The… security stuff?" asked the fox.

"Yeah," Brady said, "or is this place like that sandwich shop that was burgled a few weeks ago, where the cameras were just there as a deterrent and not actually plugged in?"

Knowing they couldn't communicate much with each other without looking incredibly suspicious, the fox and rabbit had to settle for a quick glance to make sure they were on the same page. They did, they were, and the message was clear: although the footage would likely rip the cops out of their fur, it would likely result in police seeing the brain-fried Death making the Nazi gesture, when he jokingly attempted to make a communist gesture instead (which could be an even worse explanation depending on these cops' personal politics). So they all understood what they had to do: destroy the evidence and make it look like an accident. Hey, these two weren't jerks, they just acted like jerks because it was more fun than acting smart (and they were too broke to get college education in America, too).

"In order!" said Ryan with a spring in his step. "Kenny, help me get the camera!"

"I am working on it!"

"Uh..." Judy started to say something to express her confusion, but the unusual oddness of the situation made her struggle for words.

"Throw me,THROW ME!"

Kenny gave a kind of war cry as he tried to throw his rabbit friend like a soccer ball at the security camera near the ceiling, but the fox didn'tThemuch taller than him, so Ryan didn't get very far.

"No, no, let's do physics!" Ryan roared as he got off the floor and crawled onto a loose piece of shelving that was sticking up like a seesaw. "Simple machines and pivots and shit!"

"HI-YAH!"Kenny threw his whole body shoulder first onto the top of the shelf and sent the bunny to the ceiling where Ryan managed to grab him and stand on his head (phone, keys and wallet fell out of his pockets in the process) . ) and used his disproportionately strong rabbit legs to push off the ceiling and detach the camera, only to "accidentally" slip it out of his paws on the way down, and as Ryan himself flopped his stomach on Kenny's stomach and the wind knocked out of both, the coveted camera landed in a vacant spot on the ground and shattered.

Officer Braverman glanced at Officer Hopps. "Okay, I'll admit I missed a few days of training because I was sick...I missed the part about how the heck drugs behave in mammalsThe?"

"I'm...starting to think maybe they're just...quirky," she replied, wincing at the squirming staff.

"...Shall we call the paramedics?"

"No, just give them a few minutes." Judy was a tomboy, she knew temporary diaphragmatic paralysis when she saw it. "It will resolve itself."

A moment of silence passed while they waited for them to recover before Brady decided to capitalize on the break in the action.

"So, uh... as long as they're incapacitated for a moment..."

„Ach, Brady,PleaseDon't tell me--"

"I have to meet the men whether you like it or not." He was used to having this inherently awkward conversation with her by now, so he played it completely cool since he was well past the point of caring. He even took the initiative to make his way to the marked doorEmployees only,behind which the plants were probably located.

Judy groaned. "Is it an emergency?"

"It isbecomesWhat if I don't put out this fire before it burns down the house.” He tried the doorknob, but it didn't move. "Oh yesCarTell me it's under lock and key!"

"Are you sure it can't wait?"

"Not now that I amThinkabout…” He looked at the staff, who were still gasping for air. "Do you think they have the keys?"

"I mean, I could imagine—"

"Goddamn..." the poor dog grumbled as his lower belly grumbled almost as loudly. He seemed to ponder his fate for a moment before throwing up his paws and making his way towards the exit. "Fuck it! Give me a second, I'll crouch down in the alley."

"EWWW,Brady, that's disgusting!"

"MeinLifehe retorted rather aggressively as he ducked under the low doorOfuncomfortable, butIgotta live with it! Jesus, this shit is ruining my life, thisLITERAL SHIT!"

And off he went to relieve himself outdoors, as our ancient ancestors did. Judy was left alone with the shopkeepers, but luckily it wasn't long before they could breathe and talk again.

"Is... is this a bad time for both of you?" Ryan asked as he staggered to his feet. "Because if there's something going on between you that you need to work out, it's okay, you can come back later..."

"No, no, let's get this sorted out sooner rather than later," Officer Hopps said wearily. "Where is the footage stored?"

The boys gave her a horrified look for the tenth time that day.

"Rescued…To?"Kenny asked.

"Yes, is it digital, or are you still on VHS tapes, aren't you...?"

For about the tenth time that day, they shared a horrified look.

"Is it...I'll probably just have to get in touch with your boss to get access to it, right?"

The boys' mouths dropped open, but words did not come out immediately.

"I mean, it's the twenty-first century, I'm guessing the footage is remotely storing itself..."

"Uh... p-probably?" Ryan said as he turned to Kenny, who nodded his head sadly. "Probably."

"Yes, we...we don't have it ourselves, one way or another," the fox added before turning back to his bunny friend. "Shit, so if Angela doesn't already know, shehas notbeen watching the cameras all day, right? She fucking lied to us!”

The rabbit officer just nodded as she flipped to a new page in her notebook to jot down the owner's contact information. You know, an earlier version of her would have been a lot harder on those two trying to figure out why they were acting so strangely, not out of spite but out of a sense of duty that told her something was wrong when these two were nervous in the presence of a cop seemed to be. But she let Nick be his guide here: look around, observe the scene, realize that it was very unlikely that these two guys had actually done this, and come to the reasonable conclusion that these two probably committed a victimless crime by getting drunk at work. Yes, part of her still wanted to be alert and say that something worse could happen as a direct result of these two not being in their right mind, and at this point it could happen retrospectivelybecomea victimless crime, but in reality these two would probably have the rest of the day off to sober up, and such an opportunity for another catastrophe was unlikely to come. And if the security tapes showed otherwise, then she would cross that bridge when she got to it. Her fox had always made fun of her for working harder rather than smarter, and while her conservative upbringing meant she'd probably always thought of herself as a hardworking simpleton rather than a wily slacker... gosh, she just did don't have the energy right now to work harder than smarter. Good Nick, you win this round.

That didn't feel like her. Doing it halfheartedly didn't feel like itshewould do it. But assessing the situation, it seemed like the way she was going to do it just wasn't the best way to do it. She tried not to think about the idea that the person she really was might not be cut out to beat police work; Instead, she tried to grapple with the hope that the first question was irrelevant and that the next step in her career would be where she really belonged.


After she was done with Misters Gray and Clay, Judy left the Little Medium Mart in search of Brady, who never returned to the store. She rounded the corner into the adjacent alley (paw holding its nose preemptively in case it encountered any of the many possible off-putting smells there, including anything that might be particularly fresh), only to find Officer Braverman behind the store around the next corner staggered . He explained that it took him so long because he was nervous about finding a place to go in that really couldn't be seen by anyone who didn't bother to look for him and himself Concerned about how safe each place was because he once heard a story about a polar bear who had committed a crime somewhere and had to register as a sex offender for urinating in an alley without noticing a homeless mouse was sleeping by his feet. And when Judy asked why his uniform shirt was dirty for some reason, he shyly admitted that he lost his balance while defecating and fell on the dirty floor. Oh, Brady, Brady, Brady, you poor poor darling, maybe one day you can make it more than ten minutes without humiliating yourself. (Again, I don't know why he told me this, I don't know why this guy admits half the embarrassing shit that happens to him.)

"And how did things go in there with Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum?" asked the dog as he and the rabbit drove back to the station. They would probably have to spend the rest of the day doing the paperwork while headquarters sent a bunch of other cops to find this mysterious Angela and get the footage off her computer.

"It was... fine," she said, unenthusiastic. "Actually, nothing worth mentioning happened."

Brady just nodded so subtly that without her excellent peripheral vision, Judy probably wouldn't have even noticed. Neither of them wanted to talk about the strange encounter anymore, and that was okay. Not even wanting to speculate as to what the anomalous entity had been, they decided to just patiently wait for the footage to give them a straight answer, it's not like the staff gave them a reliable report anyway, on which they could build a hypothesis.

"... Has the Chief told you who he will be putting you with in the future?" asked Judy. Not only did this serve to fill in the dead air, she was genuinely curious and a little concerned as to where and how the dog would fare without her guidance.

"Legitimate question. He actually hasn't,” Braverman replied, not coldly, but definitely outright. "He did, however, allude to a few other ideas, most notably the idea that we're losing so many people that it might be beneficial to just let me patrol aimlessly on my own and just... be."oneif they need me."

Sure enough, that worried her. "Are you... sure you're ready for this?"

He did not do itseeready, but he looked like he was passively accepting his fate. “Well, many mammals in this world have to do much harder things to survive; I'll manage."

That… was actually an unexpectedly mature thing for him to say. Well, hell, it looks like their partnership would end on a high note after all if a bit of a can-do attitude rubbed off on him. Too bad she wouldn't be there to see his continued progress (or to make sure it would beMay beno further progress), and he still looked more bored and distant than anything rather than looking forward to the challenge, but she told herself to take that as a W.

"And you?" he asked. "Chief gives you any specific details as to how your training will go?"

"Not too much, but he did mention that I'd probably be tailing some detectives for the first few days to make sure I got an overview, you know...the day-to-day work and stuff."

"Hm, got it." There was another positive aspect: she would get over her amazing lack of chemistry. “...How about Nick? How did he take the news?”

Okay, you see, the way he phrased that struck her as very... odd. "What do you mean 'how did he take it'? It's not like it's bad news or anything."

"Yes, but he's still a mortal like the rest of us, and he's not as incapable of feeling insecure as he'd like people to think him. The fact of the matter is that your life is progressing while his isn't and... you know some might call it a sexism thing he might not like that his wife is more successful than him; from man to man,IDon't get the sentiment that it's a masculinity issue, but I definitely don't think he would want thatanyoneescape to Cockaigne in his life while he is left behind...because who would do that?"

… To be honest, that hadn't even crossed her mind. Er… yeah, no, she'd been bouncing around in Nick's aura of being someone who wasn't going to get himselfTheway down, capable of losing her confidence, just like the rest of us, yes, but notTheExtent. And while she'd thought a lot about how his stagnation must have been eating him inside, she hadn't even realized that her own small victory might have exacerbated his problems. Gosh, she didn't know what would have been worse, the idea that Brady here was even more woeful at reading mammals than he realized and that he was dead wrong here...or if hewas notas bad at reading others as Judy would have thought, and he was right about that. Perhaps there was more of her fox in this dog than she had given him credit for.

"Oh, he agreed," she explained. "He was happy for me, he said congratulations..." But wait, wait,hadHe said the word "Congratulations"? Or was her brain now inventing memories to fabricate its own narrative and keep her quiet? Stupid Brady and his valid points and questions made her suddenly reconsider how last night had gone. He seemed in a good enough mood after the news broke... but then again, this was a guy who was a career expert at grinning and bearing it when needed, and seemed a lot less enthusiastic in general afterwards ...that, uh, little "appearance" he made last night (that narrator's report that Nick read and saw how uncomfortable I was putting that on the internet, which inspired him to make amends by he sent me a $200 Wingstop gift certificate my problems on top of what he already gave me for writing this because this guy knows I'm a fried chicken bitch).

But, you know what? Even if Braverman was right, so what? Should Judy allow Nick's insecurities to prevent her from being successful and moving forward in her own life? No, just like she had told the employees before, they were separate individuals with separate goals and that was fine. If anything, she felt inspired to use her luck to more effectively help Nick get on with his own life. Because if someone is feeling insecure about something about themselves that isn't actually measurably good, like being totally disoriented in life in their late thirties, you can either try to stop them from feeling bad about it...or you can help fix this bad thing so they no longer have a reason to be insecure about it.

"Well, that's good to hear," said her partner. "But either way you seem to know what you're doing, you seem to know what you want out of life, maybe you can use that power to help him get his shit together so he doesn't feel inadequate around."

...Gosh, Louise, Brady, your space data has gotten frighteningly accurate.

"I mean, you're not obligated to, you don't just exist to serve him," he continued, "just...you know you seem very interested in helping people and you know and I love this one." Guys especially, so... shit, maybe use a clearer head and help him brainstorm? For example, there are mammalsMeinDude who's already filthy rich in real estate, why doesn't he giveTheone try? It only sells shit, that isExactlyWhat's his background, isn't it? Seems to be right up his alley.”

"...I could talk to him about it, that might be a good idea..." she replied, a little above murmuring but not quite speaking. "...Thanks, Brady."

Well, Nick, if you politely pretended to be cool about Judy's promotion the night before, that puts you both on the same footing, because Judy obviously lied through her teeth when she said she didn't think of anything last night . She was absolutely thinking about whether she made the right decision and couldn't make up her mind to save her life. But it seemed like today had shown crystal clear that it was indeed the right move, because not only did she need to help herself get out of a rut, but her beloved Foxxo needed some help, and she needed to be strong for that both. He was lost in a fog and needed someone to lead him to the light. So she would be his leader. She had done it once, she could do it again.

Don't worry Nicky. Your bun comes to save you from yourself.

Chapter 9: You'll never Walk Alone


Surgery gets her wheels turning and seems promising, both as a business venture and as a source of personal fulfillment.


Originally published March 6, 2022

chapter text

Chapter 9, "You'll Never Walk Alone"

He wanted to be happy that things seemed to be going in the right direction. He really did. But just as it is unhelpful to dwell on the past, it is equally unhelpful to dwell on a future that has not yet happened. All we have is the gift, and right now, Howard Lotor was still sitting in his car, which was the closest thing to home in this town, with nothing better to do than twiddle his thumbs and wait for his new business partner to call Look at him and tell him what his next idea for legitimizing your business would be.

The raccoon resisted the urge to start drinking at eleven in the morning — yes, he was a night owl, but he had gone to bed early last night because he had nothing else to do, and now he was tempted to get some Alcohol only for the same time-wasting purposes. He didn't like spending his mornings sitting on his bum waiting for someone to come and hold his hand to help him move his life forward, but Howard just didn't know what he was doing here and now doing could noticeably improve his situation.

Also, you know, same as yesterday: as soon as he started doing something else, Nick would probably call him. I swear the worst boredom is when you know exactly what you want to do but just don't have the time or resources to actually do it. So that boredom had once again turned into existential angst; He wanted to do somethinganything,but couldn't.

Well, hell, one way Howard stave off booze cravings was to realize how tight he was on cash. That was another matter, he would have to see if this fox could work his magic to get him an American bank account so he could actually survive in this cashless city. And when thenThehas been sorted out, try to find accommodation…

hey you know what Well, let the clueless newbie take the reins of this detective operation; Howard had to use his mental energy to focus on his personal needs. He had little food and shelter, what should he do now for food and--

"Oh, why are you acting so damn reckless!?"

"Because you refuse to come to mature and socially conscious decisions yourself! This is BAD for the ENVIRONMENT!"


A pair of pronghorns (don't call them antelopes), presumably a couple, burst out the back door of the apartment building where Howard was parked. One of them was carrying a 24-pack of mineral water and didn't look too happy about it.

"So what, you just throw them away!?"


"And what the hell is going to happenTheto reach!?"

"It will pierce your damn head that ignorance will not be tolerated!" He threw the crate of water into a dumpster a few yards from Howard's parked car.

"And now you are fairwasteclean water! How does that help the environment!? They don't even give it away to a food bank or anything!? Explain to me why that makes you a good mammal!"

"The last thing the mammals at the bottom of our society need is to give happier mammals a valid reason to hate them — like using plastic," this one said with a hoof in the other pronghorn's face as they walked back in the building went . "Even the little ones deserve to be reminded that change begins with us all making better choices."

"It's not because of thatus,It's up to the corporations to stop this…!” But their conversation was cut short as the door closed behind them.

Well... that was... an event.

The raccoon took a good look at the house from which the pronghorns had just come. Yes, these two probably weren't fighting for money, they could probably put their ethics ahead of their wallets. However, Howard had no such luxury. He could seriously get some clean, free water — and after the water ran out, some new bottles to relieve himself so he wouldn't have to risk public indecency charges as often. The soda bottle he'd kept under the seat since Seattle was getting pretty rotten.

Trouble was, it was broad daylight, and humans—mammals? Absolutely, strangers - strangers walked the streets all over the place. Well, as a striped-tailed individual, Howard had been conditioned to stay away from any garbage receptors unless he wanted to be personally responsible for aggravating someone's anti-raccoon bigotry. But he took a moment to reflect on Nick's inside wisdom from yesterday: The residents of Zootopia did have problems with raccoons, but none related to, say, trashy stereotypes (rimshot!). And who could forget the old adage:You'll stop worrying about what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.In all likelihood, nothing negative would happen if he retrieved that wasted water.

Totally in the mood to give him a fuck, he pulled a backpack out of the back seat and immediately stripped off his nice white shirt in favor of some junkie and if anyone decided to invade his privacy and peek out his car window to see him judge for getting half-naked where they could see him and then fuck it, that said more about them than him. He'd have to be resourceful if he was going to cut it in this weird metropolis, and right there was a dumpster full of resources. Now sporting a tattered old t-shirt and a dark orange hoodie he rarely wore, he jumped out of his car and boldly made his way to the trash, not caring what clichés he upheld or not.

First obstacle: He was a real raccoon, not a cartoon character magically drawn five to six feet tall; Climbing into this gigantic barrel would be a challenge. The lip was way above his head and it was a sheer surface to scale. And that might otherwise seem like a good thing, but that alley was unusually clean, so there wasn't any other debris he could use for an impromptu platforming adventure.

But he had options. Emergency exit! He had used a fire escape before for purposes other than escaping a fire. And because this was a city of such varied sizes, it was easy to reach the bottom rung of the ladder (which begs the question of why the dumpster was inaccessible to smaller species, but if we were to collapse all the ways this city didn't so was inclusive as it wanted to be, we would be here all day). To the landing and across to the ledge closest to the Dumpster, onto the railing and cling to the wall to jump as best you can...

... Yes, no, at the risk of sounding like a pussy, a basic understanding of physics would tell anyone not to make that jump. He would save himself from playing Action Hero until he thought he actually had a chance.

Okay, so down the ladder again, right back to square one. Okay, what else could he do? It's a shame he couldn't just climb the brick wall like his primitive ancestors probably could andWait.

...time to take birth. He took off his shoes and socks. Maybe these wacky zootopians didn't mind going around barefoot (barefoot?) everywhere. And he'd lost his nail clippers somewhere along the journey, so his claws were ready for that.

He probably couldn't climb the vertical surface all the way to the top, that would be absurd, but he didn't have to. He only had to climb high enough to grab the edge of the dumpster. Back up to get a run up, take off,jump, climb climb climb climb, scratch scratch scratch scratch scratch, JUMP…

...made it. He still wasn't an athlete, so just pulling himself up using his arms wouldn't be the easiest thing in the world, but he had just enough traction off the sides of the trash can for his feet to give him lift.Kick-Kick-Kick-Kick,back and forth …

He'd found what he wanted, although it wasn't exactly comfortable for his damaged back to land on. But it wasn't paralyzing, and after getting a few moans out of his body, he turned around and rested his paws on his prey. He had won.

...Now to really get out of there.

It probably took a full five minutes, but he rearranged the bags of trash until they formed a slope he could climb while pushing a treasure chest almost as tall as he was. NowThewas murder on his back; He knew you had to strain your legs, but that wasn't easy when the ground was shaky. And with every step he felt the hill crumble beneath him as he crushed it with his feet, and felt like he was in an action movie walking across a bridge as it collapsed behind him. But he brought the water box up and over the edge, and as it fell out of sight his gaze was filled with the glorious light of day...

He hooked his arm, dropped, tried to land on his feet but fell on his tail, and as he lay on his back staring at the sky he was in no hurry to get up. That wasAwaytoo much bitch just for a little dumpster diving, and now he wanted a second to rest. But hey, now no one can say they didn't fight to survive. Nobody worth a damn could criticize what he had just done.

"Hey!"someone yelled from somewhere"You can't dig in the trash!"

Howard looked up to see a ram glaring at him from a window in the building across the street.

"Why is it important?" he asked sheepishly, not afraid, just confused. Seriously, how did this busybody get away with telling a desperate guy not to pull life-giving water out of the trash?

...Oh yes, it's because nobody in this town acted like a normal person, he reminded himself now.

"You're probably looking for the flies on the bags, aren't you!?" the ram blames. "Or fish carcasses, or...or half-eaten fried chicken, you disgusting necrophage!"

"HOW DID YOU CALL ME!?"asked the shocked raccoon. (To be fair, it sounded like the ram said otherwise.)

"I'm calling the police!"

Howard didn't yet know if this was the kind of town where the cops would find it worth their time harassing dumpster divers, but it wasn't worth one's time to stay here and find out. It all came back to him, Nick's warning that zootopians didn't hate Howard's kind for hanging out in garbage cans, they hated what they thought his kind was searching for in the garbage cansfor.The raccoon craned his poor back to pick up the water box and scurried out of the alley.

"Hey!"the stranger shouted after him. "Don't steal the water! Someone else might need it!”

Howard stowed the water bottles in his car and drove off, driving a few blocks before stopping and removing his dirty clothes. And while he was trying to unobtrusively put on a fresh pair of trousers at the worst possible moment...

You have three guesses as to what happened, my friend.


"...Er, hey Nick, what's up?" (All winning players will collect their prize from Guest Services.)

"Good morning, Suuuuunshiiiiine...!"his new crime-fighting partner was singing on the phone."...Is...is that a song? I swear I've heard this line from someone before, but I have no idea how the rest of the song would end. Do the kids call this the Manedela Effect?”

"Uh, Nick, I don't mean to be curt or anything, but... you kinda caught me with my pants down here..." Howard didn't want to sound constantly stuttering and nervous around this guy, but Nick just had a thing for him found in the worst moments. "...Literally."

"Awww, are you Nakie?"

"Can I call you back in literally sixty seconds?" He groaned as he tried to pull his pants on with a paw while sitting in his car seat.

"Then I'll do it quickly. I got us our first customer!"

Howard paused his fight for a moment. "You have you!?"

"I wouldn't tease you for something that big, mate."

For a moment, the detective was so distracted by the good news that he didn't care that passersby could see him in his underwear if they wanted to. "That's…holy shit, that's great! How did you get a lead so quickly!?”

"This is how I get everything in life: I have connections"explained the fox.“I posted it on social media and immediately got a bite. On the downside though... this guy was desperate, and I... sort of took the job for a five dollar payment. Sorry man I had to, he was begging. "

... Her reaction to this was probably not much different from Howard's.

"Um... well... hey, hey, I'm glad that... it's good that you gave him a discount when he was desperate, it's good that you're so merciful, but... five bucks? What's the point? for five dollars? Then why not just do it for free?"

Nick had an answer ready:"And I honestly considered doing it on the house, but I felt like this guy would really appreciate it if we took itsomePay him and treat him like a big boy."

Howard had reached a level of confusion he never thought possible.


The PIs looked up at the fifteen-foot-tall apartment door, expecting the footsteps—hoofsteps—to come closer. It opened and they were greeted by a face glaring at them.

"Soyou arethe 'detectives' my son posted from my Facebook account without my permission," the giraffe said.

"Nice to see you again, Sidney," Nick greeted with his signature grin, "although I wish it were under better circumstances. This is my investigative partner, Howard..."

"Didn't you get my message from the same account asking you to ignore the case? And that Everett lost his iPad privileges?”

But there was no time for a snappy comeback.

"The detectives are here, the detectives are here!"Six-year-old Everett ran into the doorway alongside his mother and beamed as he smiled down at the odd adults who couldn't be half his size.

"Everett, go back inside..."his mother grumbled softly.

"Nice to meet you, Everett," Nick greeted the calf surprisingly warmly. "My name is Mister Nick and this is my friend, Mister Howard.

"EVERETT, GET BACK INTO THE HOUSE BEFORE IHITYOUR ASS!"a decidedly male voice roared from deep inside the apartment.

"DARREN!"Sidney yelled back."Stop making us look cheesy in front of strangers! Do you want them to take this at face value and bring CPS in here!?”


"Oh my bloody god..."said the mother, narrowing her eyes and laying a hoof over her face.

This opened the door for the son to explain his situation:

"Someone stole a cookie and blamed me for it and now my parents are saying I can't have any more cookies because I lied about stealing one, butI didn't steal one!"

"Oh yes you did!" said Sidney sternly. "And the more you insist you didn't, the longer you'll go without cookies!"

But Detective Wilde paid no attention to her; she wasn't his client. "Ah, a tale as old as time:Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar!?"he thought with a sly grin and a chin pat. "The Crunchy Cookie Caper! That sounds like a job for the Wilde and Friends Detective Agency, LLC! … Or … whatever I called us, I’ve already forgotten …”

But as he pulled out the papers legitimizing their venture to refresh his memory, Sidney interrupted him. "You know whatI amforget? The part where I gave you permission to come into my house."

"Oh, that could be ityou arethe culprit and that's your way of throwing us off course?" the fox asked mischievously.

Tense silence for a beat before the mother giraffe gestured down the hall. "Get out of my building."

"Mom, don't let her go!" asked Everett. "You can prove I'm not lying about the cookie!"

"Everett, go to your room or I'll--!"

"What if we prove him wrong?"

Everyone was surprised when Howard first spoke up.

"I mean… he seems determined that we investigate," he continued. "If you know he's wrong, let's prove it and teach him not to expect strangers to corroborate his lies."

"But I'm not fibbing!" shouted Everett.

However, Sidney seemed annoyed at being convinced. "You have five minutes," she said sharply as she welcomed the men.


As detectives entered the towering tenement, the fox gave the raccoon a shove."Sunshine, really, nice with the support there."Nick whispered as he offered a discreet low five, which Howard returned.

"You let her in our damn house!?"Darren yelled from somewhere.

“You're here to teach Everett a lessonlying,Darren! Don't question my parenting skills!” After yelling at her husband, Sidney flashed an obnoxious fake smile as she turned to her guests. "Well, as you can see, the only ones here are me, Everett, and his father. There were only five cookies left here, a number that's easy to remember...” She held up a Ziploc bag containing four treebud cookies. His father and I didn't take one, so it must have been him. Make sense?"

"But I didn't!" Everett insisted.

"But tell me, Sidney," said Nick, looking as smart and confident as Sherlock Hound, "could you prove that beyond a reasonable doubt? Do you want to teach your son to believe things that could never stand up in court? "

"What are you, a bloody judge!?"Well, the partial mystery of how Darren knew the guests' species without them seeing him had been solved: he craned his long neck to see a doorway out of his cave before swinging back inside.

"TatIsEver actually said he didn't take it?" Howard asked, trying desperately not to be distracted by the enormous size of the property. There weren't many giraffes in Vancouver and he'd certainly never been in a home designed for one, so in his mind he might as well have been in a surreal carnival mystery house.

"That's a good point, Howard!" said Nick.

Sidney snorted. "I want to imagine my husband not overhearing me wrongly punishing our son and just sitting there without saying anything."

"It's... not very reassuring, to be honest," Howard said. Normally he'd try to be less homely blunt, but here they were on the clock.

"And Howard..." said Nick, still playing the role of the eccentric private investigator, "if I may be brazen, I think I sense a clue coming my way..." He craned his neck at Sidney. "Isn't it suspicious that two adults are home so early on a Thursday?"

"Forgiveness!?"asked the offended mother giraffe. “My husband and I areLehrer!"

"My mom and dad are on summer break, just like me!" Everett explained.

The fox wore a knowing grin, but he didn't want to reveal exactly what he knew. "Ah, but what grade do you both teach? Could it be…elementary,My darling?Elementary?"

A moment of silence passed before a chorus of dissent:

"You're having fun, aren't you, Nick?" Howard asked.

"Mom, I don't get it," Everett said.

"You have three minutes," Sidney said.

"What the hell did you bring into my house for a weirdo!?"demanded Darren.

“I had already decided that I wanted to say that line in any way that made some semblance of sense; I'm not sorry,” Nick said sternly. "Like you said,never explain, never apologize.And besides, I would argue that my crime against comedy..."

"This is supposed to be FUN!?"

"-- is by no means the most disgusting thing being done in this apartment today." The fox tapped the confused raccoon as a sign to follow him into the room where the giraffe father lived. "Darren, just the man I wanted to see."

"Get out of my cave!"

"The scene paints itself..." Nick mused as he strolled in and blocked the TV playing old sitcom reruns, "You've just spent the last nine, ten months being a good tutor for the five to twelve year olds other people's , but these undisciplined little buggers misbehave in a way they just didn't when you were a boy and you cannotFind an effective strategy in your life to get those boys, boys and calves to stop attacking each other or destroying school property. Now your vacation has finally started and you need to relaxhart,and after all that time of inevitably being exposed to juvenile foods, now you really just want... a goddamn oneCookie.Does that all sound right?"

But the giant remained unmoved. "We teachUniversity,you fucking idiot! This is the last of our three free weeks before the summer semester! we doseelike we're living in poverty like a bunch of elementary school teachers!?"

The inexperienced detective kept his pensive gaze for a moment before breaking character."...hell again.Sorry boss, I tried my best. Really thought I was on to it," he said to his experienced partner, only to find Howard was looking at something, horrified. "...What about itOf?"

Darren saw what he was staring at. "Got a problem with my hooves, stripper?"

Howard turned to Nick without taking his eyes off the giraffe's hands. "I...I know you warned me about this, but...it still doesn't look right."

"You've never seen a pair of hooves!?"

"How do you open...glasses?"

"Probably, probablyhas notI've seen hooves like yours,” Nick helpfully explained to the giraffe. "He's from out of town - Canada, to be precise! I'd bet the government up therepaysfor the surgery!"

"How are you doing …Pick a phone!?"the shocked foreigner stammered on. "W-how do you undo your pants to go to the bathroom!?"

"Hey, just because I don't have flexible clawsOfDoesn't that mean I'm a bloody invalid!” Darren protested and to get his point across he put his hands right in front of the raccoon's face. “You want to see what those hooves can doOf!?"

Howard was understandably nervous at the direct threat, but Nick's eyes lit up at the sight.

"Oh, Howie... you clever little sneak, you!" the fox applauded.

"Hm?" Darren didn't understand what was so praiseworthy until he turned to look at his hooves and remembered a pile of crumbs stuck in the cracks running down their midsection. "...Oh Godhell!"

"Do you see!?" Everett cheered from the door. "It wasn't me who took the cookie!"

"DARREN!"Sydney screamed. "Was there anything you wanted to say to stop me from blaming your son for something you did before it took an impartial fucking referee to find out!?"

"WIFE, YOU FUCKING LEAVE ME ALONE!?"replied Darren. (The detectives didn't even know giraffes could scream that loud.) "Maybe I'd be more willing to communicate if you didn't rip your head off at every little inconvenience!"

Everett smiled down at the detectives. "My parents told me that for my birthday they were going to see a doctor who would teach them how to stop fighting!"

"When is your birthday?" asked Howard.

"7. December!” the boy beamed.

A quick glance at the digital clock on the wall confirmed it was June 10th.

"Well Mister Everett," Nick said warmly as he slipped an arm around his partner's shoulders to address their customer together, "as McDonald's no longer uses that slogan, Mister Howard and I are pleased to say ... we're glad to see you smile."

"Er... yeah, glad we could help, Everett," said the raccoon, well aware that he had hardly done anything, still not sure where he was or what had just happened - or what would still happen.

"I'M A FUCKING ADULT"Darren walked on behind them,"I CAN LIE IF I FUCK WANT!"

"Good gracious …"Sidney grumbled to herself before turning to private eyes. "Uh, thanks for, uh,clean things up,Guys," she said, forcing a faint smile, "but I think we'd better get the rest sorted out before thenourselves… um.”

"And we cracked the case in five minutes!" Nick pointed this out. "If we could ask you a small favor, ma'am, could you give our business a boost by promoting our services?"

"Uh, when it comes up in conversation..." she murmured disinterestedly before starting to shoo them away. "But - seriously, I need to talk to this idiot."

"Wait!"Everett wailed, getting to the door before the detectives he hired could leave. "I still have to give you thisThe!"

When the PIs saw the calf holding up a crumpled Lincoln, they realized they had completely forgotten about the special prices they had offered their young client.

Howard raised his paws, looking disgusted at the very idea of ​​taking money from this kid. "Oh - no, don't worry, little one, we can't accept that. It's on the house. Use the money to...I don't know, start saving for college...no seriously, if I understand the situation, start saving hereNow."

"Oh, forget itThe!"Nick scoffed with a chuckle. "If youReallyIf you want to advance in this world, use that as capital to start a business! Look how far Mister Nick has come without even graduating high school!"

"I'm sorry, what?" the boy's mother stared at him from above. "Should I say good things about your company or not?"

One smack, and then Nick clasped his paws together. "Come to think of it, stay in school, mate! Mister Howard and I will say our goodbyes ourselves!”

And they did, their first case together is now in the books.


"And her right nowthrown awaya bunch of water bottles because they're bad for the environment!? are theysecureYou understand the concept ofWaste?"

"Well, they lived in a luxury apartment building," Howard said matter-of-factly, tossing his cigarette out the open window.

„Pff.You've got to love sedan liberals," Nick quipped from the passenger seat, "giving the impression that he cared about all progressive issues... except class justice.Thenthey suddenly go silent…” He shook his head suddenly, as if trying to banish intrusive thoughts.

"Oh, no problem," the raccoon murmured. "Besides, not all of them are bad. Your ignorance stands me in good stead.” Just to make conversation.

The fox winced. "What makes you think that?"

Oh. Hell. Howard hadn't even considered that he might have to explain that remark. Maybe he'd gotten too comfortable around this guy. "Well... free water for me."

The fox flinched harder. "You got the water out of the dumpster?"

The raccoon didn't have the courage to look at him. "It's on my back seat as we speak." His idea was to say it as confidently as possible, and Nick might not try to taunt him for it.

Whether his strategy worked or whether Nick just didn't feel like belittling this guy in any particular way, we may never know. "Hmm...that's right," the newcomer said flatly as he peered into the back of the limousine, then turned back and shrugged. "Hey no judgement, I dug stuff out of the junkyard and flipped it when I started my career on the road."

Howard just nodded, and then they were silent for a while.

"So...where do you actually live these days?" Nick suddenly spoke up again.

...did Nick know? And was this necessarily a key question? There's only one way to find out. The raccoon had wanted to try to appear less neurotic and insecure in front of this fox, so if there had ever been an opportunity to play an awkward moment cool, it might as well have been this one.

"Well... you're looking at it!" Howard said with obviously false pride as he cruised around the cabin of his old budget sedan. "...El Casa Lotor."

But would Nick react to such an embarrassing revelation?

With a grin and a little nose giggle. "I think you meanTheHouse Lotor there, man."

... Not even remotely the answer Howard had in mind, but he was flexible.

"Well..." he began, forcing himself an awkward chuckle, "remember, up there they teach us French in the schools, not Spanish."

"Oh, I see.Actually, I took Italian classes at school to charm the ladies and I've forgotten a lot because I've never used it, but it's helping me learn Spanish on the streets of cities across the country. Now I speak Spanish - like a stupid gringo, but I speak it! It's very useful in street business!"

The Canadian was silent for a moment. "...No comprende."

"I knew you wouldn't do it," the ex-Hustler quipped.

But wait, the problem here has not been solved yet. "So… aren't you crazy that I lived out of my car?"

"You are joking!?" Nick laughed. "You're not the first homeless guy I've hung out with... heck, you're not even the first homeless guy I've been inBusinesswith! And they really lived the transient lifestyle too for a time as I zigzagged across the country trying to seek my fortune and even after settling here I may or may not have had the reputation, until relatively ago hanging around under bridges for a short time.

Howard wasn't bothered by this information or anything, he just found it irritating that this fox seemed to know exactly what he was going through. What incredible luck. "Really?"

Nick scoffed. "Sunshine. My friend. Come on. Why do you think my everyday attire is a collared shirt and tie? Because I haven't done it in a long timehavelots of clothes so I had to be careful what I boughttathave was presentable! If you live likeIyou have to look at every moment as a potential business meeting!"

...Okay, Howard couldn't bite his tongue much longer. "I wouldn't necessarily call a Hawaiian vacation shirt 'business casual'—"

"It cost seven dollars at Goodwill, and it has served me well for so long that how the colors have barely faded in the wash after all this time is a mystery to modern science. I'm counting on you, Howie, but when I tell you something's a good buy, do you believe me, m'kay, honey? But after becoming oddly stern for a moment there, Nick relaxed in his seat, crossed his leg over his knee and returned to his usual gentle self. "But speaking of money..." he mused again as he absentmindedly began to wrap the seat belt around his finger and claw, "...I guess the question that remains is...do you?"wantlive in your car?"

The vagrant raccoon flinched again. "...No? What... why do you ask?"

"Well, hey," the resident business mam shrugged, "as a resident business mam, I can't say it would be the worst financial decision, renting in this city makes San Francisco look like Timbuktu. But if you don't want to live that 'brushing your teeth in a Walmart bathroom' life..." He trailed off as he seemed to weigh his options. "...I probably can't get you an apartment of your ownImmediately,but i can probably bring you closer Should I ask my network if Randos need a roommate? Or shall I help you find a place to call your own?”

As much as Howard wanted to see what other tricks this fox had up his sleeve, he felt the need to bring up the reality of the situation. "Well, I don't know how much an option that is because..." He blew some air out of his mouth before continuing. "...I need to somehow stabilize my cash situation first because my Canadian bank doesn't exist down here, so I can't put cash into my account, and this town apparently hates paper money, and... I havetriedI just went into a local bank and asked if they could put money into my account back home, but they said, 'No, that's how mammals cheat, we can't do that for you,' so..."

"Okay, wait, hold that thought," Nick said flatly, holding up a finger and staring at the windshield before turning to his driver. "...Why didn't you bring that up yesterday when I left and legally incorporated Nicky Wilde's Mystery Gang Incorporated?"

The raccoon didn't know what to say. "...Because it...didn't...seem relevant?"

Nick grinned, scoffed and rolled his eyes. "Okay, round two, to get you some documents quick!"


Forty-seven minutes later

When Nick returned to the car for the second time, after coming out of one of the most boring buildings in Zootopia, with almost nothing to see inside, Howard was busy reading the leaves in his hands and confirming that he and Nick had a common Business account with a national bank had been approved and that his physical debit card would be mailed to Nick's address the next day. Nick had deposited his own money as a deposit and at no time had Howard entered the bank or provided any personal information or documents towards the end of the account opening. (And Howard and Nick both choose not to tell me which bank it was, lest those in power find out that the account was opened under conditions that may have been less than legitimate, and given the circumstances, I understand.)

"I feel like I should ask you more questions about how you can get all these things so quickly," said the raccoon as the fox came back to the passenger side.

Nick just gave him his signature grin. "Ah, but a wizard never reveals his secrets!" he chuckled, but quickly went back to a more sardonic tone. "But seriously, Sunshine, nobody twisted your arm to take your smoke break while I went to the bank. You could have seen me in action, you just had other priorities!”

"Hey, in my defence, I didn't think you'd open a bank account for me in the time I smoked a cigarette!"

"You also didn't have to sit in the car and read the account terms and conditions while I walked inHere,now you have?" he giggled grimly. "Damn nerd."

"What is this place anyway?" asked the raccoon, pointing to the plain, low-rise brick office building.

"It doesn't matter! ButThe…"The fox held up a colorful plastic rectangle."…Theis important! Here we go!"

The Canadian accepted it and watched, noting in particular the image of his own face staring at him, an image Nick had snapped of him on his cell phone ten seconds before he entered the building alone. This snapshot was below the banner on the left:


"...There's...there's no way a picture you took of me on your phone could be allowed on this card."

„Howard.Cool,"Nick instructed. “Nobody will look that closely. I guarantee it.Nobodycares so much.” Then he broke into a big smile and threw up his paws. "Congratulations! You're legal! You can stay here as my employee and nobody can throw your poutine-eating ass across the border again!"

Howard's eyelids got a great workout from all the confused squinting he was doing. "Er... Poutine is more like... in Quebec, Ontario..."

"Honey, you're inAmerica,We don't know and we don't care,” beamed Nick. "AndNow…You are in the holy land of blissful ignorance in a way that is right for God. Congratulations, compadre.”

The fox held out a paw in handshake, which the raccoon accepted; Howard was shaking at how badly Nick was shaking, but just told himself to go with the car. For one reason or another, this guy seemed to like him and was genuinely helping him, so he was beginning to protest. So instead he just started the engine, threw the car into motion, and decided to ask why that was:

"I know you said you were desperate for a good opportunity, Nick, but... you really go above and beyond for me. How …Reallyover and beyond. I can't help but think that many people in this world -"


"--many mammals in this world would tell me to be suspicious of this over-kindness."

A chuckle came in response. "Don't thank metomuch. I absolutely gain by helping you, possibly more than you! I learned my lesson the first time, it's incumbent on me not to have a business partner whose head is out of the picture because he's distractedly thinking about how he's going to pay his bills. I'm doing this for completely selfish reasons, I'm aterribleIndividual!" He looked rather smug for a moment before his face sagged and he rubbed his chin."'Look out'Hell I should have used that word in the house of the giraffes! Sunshine, remind me next time we meet some forked critters to bring up that word obnoxiously and embarrass everyone. Remember to force an awkward moment and make yourself look cool by being the only one not feeling awkwardveryeffective social power movementIfyou know how to do it right! But this is a big oneIf!If it backfires, everyone will think you're weird."

Howard hadn't retained the second half of that monologue; he was trying to decode whether the first half was real or not. He knew the old sayingWhen someone shows you who they are, believe them...but he just hasn't been with Nick long enough to tell when he's been fucking around or not.

"Oh...I see," said the raccoon, "...you put your own money in the bank account for me...so I owe you one." still had no idea if the fox was joking too.

"Maybe," Nick replied, "and maybe I did it to get into debtI myselfand force myself to go through with this business instead of giving up and even wasting itmoreof my life. You know, light a fire under my cock."

Howard sniffed some air out of his nose with a crooked smile, not sure how to react to that. "Well then! Um…yeah, I guess that explains why you're doing all these nice things for me when, um…it…otherwise wouldn't be in your best interest…um…” He trailed off as he slowed at an empty intersection at one stop red light.

The fox was still grinning and it didn't look fake. "Yeah... and maybe - just - maybe I realized that the way I embodied the 'guy who knows everyone but gets along well with few' archetype wasn't the most personally fulfilling, and combined with the fact that I did recentlylosta bunch of these casual acquaintances because of, shall we say, disagreements in personal politics, I might have a - what's the word? -- aepiphanythat maybe I shouldn't miss the chance to have real, legitimate onesFriendsIf I have the opportunity to make themWowBecause of the shame I associate with vulnerability, I can't directly say I want to be close with someone who isn't a chick I want to fuck, and eventhat issometimes a challenge!” With that, he folded his arms behind his head and leaned back against the pillow he had made for himself. "ButThecan't be right, can it? The firstRuleof business isnotBreak it up with your friends, I'm too good a business mam to make such a rookie mistake, aren't I?

... So says the guy who just said yesterday he thought we'd be good friends,the raccoon replied in the privacy of his head. Yes, that's when Howard realized thinly veiled, over-the-top sarcasm was the next thing he was going to bring Nick, stating loud and clear that he needed to expand his support network while going through some ambiguous shit and that he got enough vibes from that raccoon and was willing to do unconditionally nice things for him in hopes of quickly getting him onto the highly selective people/mammal list that Nick really trusts. Well, Nick showed who he really was; now it was Howard's duty to believe him.

The fox spoke again to break the silence. "Uh, by the way," he said coolly, still waving his arm behind his head at the windshield, "...you can get through this."

...Well, if these twotatbecoming good friends, Howard sincerely hoped his role in their dynamic wouldn't be that of the guy who was constantly confused by the words falling out of Nick's head like he was again now. "I... go straight ahead, I'm not turning."

"Yeah, I know, just... you know, look both ways first and you're good."

"...But the traffic light is red."

“Which, interestingly, some in this town find problematic since we canids have oneveryhigh rate of color blindness, especially the red-green variety -- as my excellent fashion sense shows you, I've been lucky with that gene -- but no one bothers to do anything about it. There's more anti-predator vibes for you! But yes, you can carry on."

...Howard should havesoughtto be friends with such a crazy mammal? "...Nick, it's aRed light--"

"The whole stays red for four minutes." Nick's grin seemed strained. "I counted. It's in your best interest to just go.”


"Howard, that's usalone."

„Nick –“

"There is no oneHere."

"But you're not addressing the fact that--!"

"No one can see us here, Sunshine."

"You do not haveRed light cameras--!?"


"I probably shouldn't haveMay bein this country right now—”

"Howard, calm down."

"Please don't talk to me like I'm not freaking out about anything when I have valid complaints..."

"Look me in the eye."

"I shouldn't play like that, Nick, the last thing I need is to be deported for a red light ticket -"

"Look me in the eye, Howie."

…He has.

"Who among us is an ex-cop?" Nick asked, mostly calm, but a little excitement shimmered through.

Howard said nothing.

“Who among us knows this city like the back of their hand? Who among us has a mental map of all the red light cameras in the county?”

The raccoon just nodded.

And the fox lit up. "There's no camera here, I guarantee it. And youArelegal in this country," he said, sounding stern again as he took Howard's work permit card from the dirty little indentation in the center console that was an ashtray."IMade sure of that, because on the rare occasions when I really trust someone, I'll take care of them.” He put the card back in the dingy little hole.

Howard didn't know what to say, so he just nodded again. "Yes, you're… probably right.

Nick blew some air out of his mouth and seemed to stop clenching his facial muscles. "Thanks... a-and I'm sorry for teasing you like that, I was just...ReallyI haven't felt it lately."

"It's okay, man, you mentioned that, um... and besides, you were right."

The fox relaxed in his seat, but he was still facing his business partner. After a moment, he tapped the clock on the dashboard. "And even after all that, westillwait a minute and a half for the traffic light to turn green. You're fine, Howie. Nobody will stop you. shoot it. Don't let the law enforcement officer stop you!Become ungovernable!"

The detective looked both ways and moments later he hit the gas pedal and as much as I'm tempted to give you a gas and tell you you got a T-Bone just to get a reaction from you...I am notTheunreliable of a narrator. They got through the crossing well.

But then both occupants of the car saw a flash of light in the sedan's three rear-view mirrors. While the raccoon froze as if he had seen a phantom, the fox turned as far as he could to look out the rear window.

"...what the hell wasThe,Nick?" Howard asked, really nervous this time.

"Er… well, shit, I guess they put that in recently," Nick muttered as he swiveled in his seat. "I'll, uh... I'll pay for the ticket when it comes. And I will… understand if that affects your faith in my wisdom.”

Howard just kept driving, his face expressionless.

But then Nick realized something. "Wait your car has British Columbia license plates, can they even ship a ticket internationally?"


"DOUBLE WAIT!you are homeless Not youhavean address! HaHa!"the fox cackled as he folded his paws together and gave Howard a side hug with a pat on the chest. "They can't get you! The system works!"

The detective was skeptical. "Is that… actually how it works?"

"Eh, probably," Nick shrugged, his famous grin back.

"...where are we going?"

Nick stopped grinning. "Hmm… leave it to the detective to ask the important questions. Um…” He looked around as if the answer was written on a billboard outside. "...Actually, if you could take me home, I think it's about there. I love hanging out with you, Howie, but at some point I need to show my girlfriend some love."

"No, I understand that," Howard replied unoffended. "... How does she feel about your new job?"

The fox stared straight ahead down the road and grinned again, but rather faintly. "Haven't told her yet... waited for the right moment. I tried to put her in a good mood last night but, uh... didn't work."

Now Howard was concerned that he had ventured into something he shouldn't have done. "Are you waiting to surprise her with good news? Or… do you think she wouldn't approve?”

Nick faked a laugh. "I think a little bit of both... I don't think she, uh... I don't think she would see it that waylegitimateWork, let's put it that way."

"...I thought you said she was a cop?"

The fox slowly nodded his tired smile, still not looking at his colleague. "My pointExactly."

...And then Howard got it.

"Oh--! Nick, man, if this job interferes with your personal life, don't worry about me, you don't have to stick with it..."

But the fox raised only one paw. "Sunshine. I'll remind you I just deposited three hundred dollars into a commercial bank account for us. I'm committed, don't worry."

"I worry aboutOf,although."

"And I appreciate it, but I insist you back off the gas. I'll make it work, I've changed her mind on bigger issues than this.” Nick sighed out of his nose as he seemed to lose the strength to keep smiling. "...She'll take care of it eventually."

Chapter 10: I wanted to be who I wanted to be


You can go your own way, but when you're lost, that's easier said than done.


Originally published April 14, 2022

chapter text

Chapter 10: "I Wanted to Be Who I Wanted to Be"

That night had been largely uneventful for Nick. He'd gotten home and found Judy already there and told her he'd spent the day looking for work again (technically not a lie). They'd had dinner, relaxing while watching TV together, she'd gotten to bed early before her day off to keep her sleep schedule up, and he'd stayed up past midnight for a bit of Nick Time, hitting the occasional fluke on social Media-DM to someone they thought might use the services of a P.I. when they came to mind. Nothing special, but that was fine. That was fine. Sometimes no news is good news.

The next day he woke up late and she was already gone; okay, nothing too unusual. She was a workaholic and had probably run errands before daring to enjoy her one day off before starting her detective training. He texted her good morning and she replied to confirm she was alive, and Nick left it at that. She was still her own mammal and didn't need him breathing down her neck.

Howard picked him up some time later, and they rode around in the raccoon's car, driving around aimlessly, looking for something that might help them: cheap office space to rent for their new agency, an apartment for Howard and with good luck, another client who needed a secret demystified. And they actually got lucky with the last one, spending much of the day having a downright hilarious adventure involving a donkey contortionist and a washing machine and a vole priest who was also a trapeze artist and a ten-gallon keg of chocolate pudding and one of these singing wall-mounted robotic fish that everyone had in their homes twenty years ago that were said to be making death threats in ancient Greek, and I swear to God I nearly peed my pants laughing when Nick and Howard told me this story on our conference call told, but unfortunately it has nothing to do with the rest of our story here, and it would take about sixty pages to put it all here, and I have too much self-respect as an amateur writer to waste my readers' time like that. All you need to know is that although the physical property search has proven to be an unsuccessful endeavor, they made a solid hundred bucks on the case and put the experience on their past. But that was okay for the moment. That was fine. They had all the time in the world to pull themselves together.

Howard dropped Nick off sometime towards the end of rush hour. Nick got a text message walking up the steps to their triplex townhouse and it was Judy asking where he was so late; this had been the first communication they had since he woke up. He didn't bother to answer but rang the doorbell to give her a nice little surprise.

It didn't take long for her to answer, but he had enough time to be alone with his thoughts and to think about this and that. And what he thought was...that's fine.That was fine. After a few days to think about it, he wasn't so frustrated at the ridiculous bad luck that she and he had ended up in conflicting workspaces; Hey, give her some time to settle into her new role and she'd probably be receptive to hearing it. He wasn't too upset that she'd hesitated to tell him about her promotion, either; he understood now, she was nervous about telling him about her happiness just as he was wary about telling her about his and she had only had his feelings in her heart. He felt better now. That was fine. Everything would be fine.

Eventually their footsteps drew near, and the door was unbolted and shortly after opened. She wore that playful, fake-seductive smile he loved; Yes, she had peeked through the peephole and ruined his surprise, but hey, she was still happy to see him.

"Nice of you to finally grace me with your presence," she said in a tone that matched her gaze, but her nose soon started twitching and she had to give in to a confused look.Sniff, sniff..."...Why do you smell like chocolate pudding?"

He gave her a grin of his own. "This is classified information, ma'am."

And realizing she wasn't going to get a straight answer from him, she started grinning again herself as she opened the door to welcome him home. "As long as it doesn't spoil your dinner – which I'm cooking right now without your help." She still used a teasing tone, but she was clearly at least a little annoyed.

"Ah, but I know that a country girl like you probablyLoveCook dinner to await your husband when he gets home from a long day at work!” Pushing her buttons: probably not the best strategy for everyone else, but he would seem suspicious of him if he weren't at every opportunity would joke.

In fact, she rolled her eyes but kept smiling anyway. "Well then, tell me," she asked as they entered the kitchen, "wherewaryou all day?"

And he timed his reply perfectly, not too fast, not too slow, just right to sound natural: "Went to go see Finnick."

She stopped to turn and face him, her smile softening.

"Wanted to make sure the poor little guy doesn't feel lonely again," he continued.

Judy broke eye contact and just looked somewhere else in the room. "Oh… well, that was nice of you."

hook, cord and sinker. He knew that line could get him out of interrogation with no questions asked. "What can I say? That's exactly who I am."

"And I wouldn't have you any other way either," the rabbit replied, obviously embarrassed at having asked her question.

"So what about you?" Nick asked back, still beaming to keep the mood bright. “How did you spend your last day before starting your Columbo training? Let me guess you've been to the gym all day training to become an action hero detective? No no, wait, wait, wait, wait! I know, I know! You've been in the library all day reading detective stories to practice getting into that detective mentality because you're only being fairnotenough high flyers already! So, am I right or am I right?"

"Uh, you're half right, meWarProactive today.” She turned from what she was cooking on the stove to give him a new smile that looked happy again and nodded her head towards the kitchen table. "See for yourself."

Nick did. There were a few pieces of paper on the table. He picked them up to give them a look.

His heart almost stopped.

"...Judy, what is that?" Yes, my friend: Nick was so startled that he used her real name.

"A gift," she said sweetly, still looking at the stove.

It was specifically a receipt.

"It was the least I could do," she explained.

Nick just shook his head slowly, amazed. "...N-no, carrots, you didn'thaveto... sign me upReal estate school!?”

"Nick," the rabbit began as she turned away from the stove, "I wouldn't be a good partner if I didn't do everything I could for my..."

"Five hundred damn dollars!?"The fox howled, turned the papers over and slapped them. "You spentfive hundred dollarsof your own money to sign me up for something I didn't even agree to!?”

„Nick.Nick. Calm down,” Judy insisted, and responsibly she turned off the burner before walking over to him. "Okay, first things first... I had the money, it isFine.Second, you and I both know how important it is to play on ourselves.Also,that isMichplay onOf,and I am confident that it will pay off. It is aInvestment,Nick – and honestly you've got a year of unemployment ahead of you with no sign of anything in sight and as I've been paying most of the bills in this house for a while now I really think I'm going to get a good oneto returnAninvestment, umI don't mean to be vindictive Nick so I'm assuming you have the best of intentions and I guess you'd love to finally start paying your fair share again so here's your chance. Like you said, you're a good guy."

Nick had several objections. “Okay, in a vacuum this all sounds fair, but whyproperty!?I swore I wouldneverto make a living selling shit unless I was starving! It's too sneaky!"


"And don't say that without your support I would be starving right now!" the fox snapped.

But the rabbit kept her cool. "I... didn't mean to say that," she sneered cheekily. "I was going to say... like it or not, we both know you have a talent for selling stuff, Nick. Face the facts, you would be great as a real estate agent. Thanks Brady, he gave me the idea. It makes almost too much sense that this is going to get you back on your feet…”

"But this time I wanted to do something with my life that would make the world a better place!" Nick protested, slamming the papers back on the table. "We talked about it! They agreed it was a noble endeavor!”

She nodded slowly as she turned back to her kitchen. "Well then,makeIt's a way to make the world a better place. You are a smart fox, get creative. What about…” She tapped the rim of the pot with a wooden spoon while she thought. “...Don't I remember you telling me about your brother's friend back home who is really passionate about fighting poverty? And that you regret that when you first met this guy you were a stupid twenty-something who only liked him because you thought he was the perfect example of a sly fox being a sneak, and it It didn't take you until you met him again a few years ago to make you realize that he wasn't the lovable rogue villain you first thought, butStrictly speakinga good mammal?” (Ooh, I helped make that! I was the one who put him and Nick back in touch a few years ago when I had to interview Nick for the story of his brother and the other guy, then Nick decided that he was an egomaniac and wanted to be the star of his own story, aaand here we are.)

"What does he have to do with it!? What does he have to do with fucking real estate!?”

She gave him a sideways glance. She stopped smiling. "Well, assuming it wasn't himAlsoa factor that contributed to your leaving the police force..."

"He wasn't!… Okay, maybe a little …”

"Take a page from his playbook," said the rabbit, turning back to him. "Here's an idea: Use this to help financially strapped mammals find a place to live." Find them decent, affordable housing in this overpriced city, and maybe use your expert haggling skills to help them buy a home at a not-crazy price... maybe a startus,"she said, pointing to their humble abode. "Then you can say you made it up to him for completely missing who he was the first time," she said, then turned back to the food before thinking, "...and for giving him a big." stole part of his personality, if I understand correctly--"

"Oh,I did notsteal his whole damn personality!” the fox barked. "Iborrowedsome damnHintsby him,forgivenessfor being twenty-two and suggestible, for goodness sake!'

Judy hissed softly as she prepared the food. "Ah, Nick, you and your potty mouth. Do you remember when we first met you never cursed? Because you wanted to stay stylish? And you had that scold jar that you stopped using not long ago because you ran out of loose change to put it in?

„Oh, Jesus Christus …“

"Yes, you werecompletedifferent than when I met you! You didn't even tell mehada brother,TheIt took a year to get out of you. And it took you almost as long to admit that you lied to everyone in this town by telling them you grew up here..."

"Why are you so vengeful!?Wodoes that come from!?”

"WeilIwent outMeinway of doing somethinglargefor a guyI am in loveand in return heclosesme the helldownAndthrowsit in my goshforsakenFace!"She'd spun back off the counter to tell him that, and somewhere in line she'd thrown the wooden spoon on the floor and smashed it.

Nick was calm now, the anger drained from his face and replaced by an expression close to fear.

But Judy soon closed her eyes, took a deep breath through her nose, and began counting to ten silently. When she was done, she looked up at him and walked closer. "I'm sorry…I'm sorry.But... yeah, that's how I feel. I feel like I just did something big for you and you...well, don't appreciate it.” She broke eye contact to look around and see nothing in particular. "But I see, I mean... you're your own mammal," she shrugged, "it's your life, I can't tell you what to do. If you don't want it, that's fine, just…” A sigh. "...I'll probably get my money back if I call them by tomorrow."

It seems that sadness is most often a more effective way to evoke compassion than anger, and so was the fox looking at his injured little hop-hop. He was a predator, but he wasn't a monster, and he just couldn't stay angry with that face.

... Not to say that she had completely changed his mind. Far from it; There had been many reasons Nick had left the Force, but one of them was that he wanted to make his own way and help the world in his own way, rather than just following where it led him. Her idea of ​​using this as a method to level the housing market wasn't actually a bad idea, but getting into a profession she had chosen for him would literally be the same problem of independence and autonomy all over again. Suffice it to say that the main reason he felt bad was that he couldn't force himself to adore her proposal.

"Come here," he finally said, arms wide open and a warm smile fresh on his face. "Come here, carrot cake."

She came and hugged him tightly and buried her face in his chest as he wrapped his arms around her.

"Hey," he said softly, "if it means that much to you... I'll at least go to class and try, does that sound fair? And if I don't like them, I'll pay you back..."

"No, no," she insisted, "it's a gift."

"A gift? What's the occasion?" he asked jokingly. “Did we commit blasphemy against nature and somehow got pregnant? Hey, Father's Day is coming up, is that your way of telling me I got you pregnant?"

"Oh--!Of!"The rabbit giggled as she poked her death in the stomach, a little harder than intended.

Nick managed a practiced chuckle of his own as he checked the papers again. "...It beginsMontag?"

"Yes sir! There's no use waiting around!"

"And it's... nine to six o'clock," he remarked, trying not to sound dejected. "Monday to Friday."

"Mmm! They had an option for four hour courses, but that would last four weeks, these only last two. But I know you're up for it, you're a hard worker! You coughed before hustle culture was cool!”

He smiled. "That was me!"

…Crap!he thought. That would eat up a lot of his time, so he'd really have to hurry if he was going to fake these courses while he was still running his and Howard's new agency. Assuming he was actually going to do both at the same time… which he hadn't decided to do yet. But hey, if he had to choose one or the other, the choice was clear: either disappoint the bunny he loved, or disappoint a random Canadian he'd only met a few days ago.

…As well as disappointing yourself.

Hell, I should have just told her I opened a private detective business the other night instead of trying to cheer her up by pole dancing for her. But that was good practice, I should do it again at some point.


Nick made a point of eating quickly because he wanted to get out of the house. He told Judy that it was a beautiful summer night and he just wanted to take a walk to enjoy it and have a few thoughts about where his life was going. She'd responded by joking that she shouldn't have too much of a wild Friday night without her - and it seemed like she was only half-joking and didn't really think he was just going for an innocent stroll in the twilight, but it was was so clear she was resigned to letting Nick do whatever he wanted while she went to bed early.

The fox called his new raccoon pal for a ride, assuming (correctly) that the vagabond would do nothing at the time and would happily take the time to be his taxi service. Nick had decided retrospectively not to make what he had previously told Judy a lie.

The sun was setting, but the looming darkness was no foe to the fox's eyes. He saw the one he was looking for right out there in the open. Poor stupid juice. Just standing in the middle of the green meadow, completely defenseless. Time to switch to predator mode.

Nick snuck up and hid behind his target's neighbors as he took aim. When he got close enough, it was time to implement the soundtrack. keywordKieferTheme:

„…Duh-well...!Duh-nope…!” the hunter sang to himself as he approached.„Duh-noduh-noDUH-NoDUH-NoDUH-NO!"

The red fox fell. The fennec would never know what hit him.

"SHARK FIN!"Nick called as he jumped up behind his old pal, then giggled as he slapped him on the back. "Sorry Finnick, I couldn't resist! How are you man?”

No Answer.

"Oh, I know you're annoyed that I sneaked up on you, but hey, calm down! I'm here, aren't I? Wait…"

Only then did Nick pause to actually read the face of the tombstone.



"OH!Oh sorry ma'am, uh..." Nick stammered as he backed away and threw up his paws, feeling bad for grabbing a stranger like that. “...II thought you were a friend of mine. You look just like him from behind! Um…” He glanced at the next marker to his left:



"Thereyou are!" Nick laughed as he patted that other stone tablet on the back. He then braced himself with his elbow on the stone; Finnick always hated being used as a pillar. "Hey, you got me good, you mixed in with the crowd and made fun of me! I guess you've always been the fox among us, haven't you, Finn?"

The only reply he received was aggressive silence.

Nick straightened up and detached his elbow from Finnick's metaphorical head. "Hey, I'm just trying to lighten the mood!" he protested, raising his paws defensively.

"Fine,I'm sorry I used you as a support beam.Once again."

"Jesus,Every time I come hereI'm saying the same thing, I would have nailed it with the short jokes if you had made all the damn comorbidities that come with dwarfism transparent to me! If you weren't too proud to be direct and say soYes I have a compromised immune system along with a bunch of other things that will probably send me to an early grave,I probably would have backed down! I havestandards,Finnick, but you had to make me realize I was crossing lines I couldn't even see!"

Nick sighed and decided to sit down on the grass. "Well, in that case I must ask you to have mercy on me, for I need your help." He stared at the constellations of light from the setting sun flashing through the gaps in the branches. "I... know you had mixed feelings when I went to the police... I know secretly you were glad I seemed to have found my way, but you were too manly to show it and - understandably - feeling the way i left you behind... and then you got mad again when i stopped because it waswhat, Nick, you screwed me for nothing!?So I understand if you don't-"

"I'm notexhibit!There is no one here who could give me that statementTo!I say it all so loudOfknow thatIknow these things! Gee, what kind of hack do you think I am?”

"Well, I can talk and you can't, soI win.Anyway, back on track: I…” Nick twirled his paw in the air as he searched for the words. "...I'm at such a... crossroads? Like... yeah, yeah, I know that sounds cheesy, but shut up. I...hmmm...okay so here's the situation: Judy...she...she's a little too helpful, she moved on and tried to get my life togetherforI even withouttellme and... it's actually not such a bad plan but, you know, itwasn't my ideayou justdictatesit for meNick, you're going to do that now..."

"Hm? Oh, it would go into real estate. Which is ironic! If I followed the lawwoman's lead, I would go backinthe slimy world of shit selling. Granted she wants me to do it to help desperate people find housing, which is fair, but it's like... what's next, Judy? Become a damn used car salesman like my old man and do it somehowThemorally just?Oh, find her a good deal!...Nah you stupid bunny, the world of sales will never be like this...Pretty."

"Oh no Finn, the other option is not to just stay unemployed, I actually had something in mind that she didn't know about when she signed me up for real estate school! Actually, I just co-founded a private detective agency, so to speak..."

"Yes, I know, it's perfect, exactly my thoughts! All the cool bits about being a cop without pissing off citizens and feeling like you're following my girlfriend blindly! And I admit, I just got lucky, I happened upon a Canadian who needed help getting his P.I. Company in the States so he doesn't get deported, and I know you shouldn't be doing business with your friends, but hey, I-"

"Oh, don'tOfBegin! I'm notsubstituteyou, me... hell,warare we actually friends, Finn? Or was that just us, business partners? BecauseIwas safe enough to call you a friend, butOfwould have always said it was, and I quote,"some gay shit."Hey! hey Finn. It's 2021, you can't say vaguely homophobic shit like that anymore! Just because you're dead doesn't mean they can't cancel you!"

"Yes IknowledgeYou don't actually say anything and I only answer what I saythinkyou would say but do you think that makes it less real to me!? Come on, Finn, I…” Nick looked around to make sure the two were alone. "...For better or for worse, Finn, longest there, youwarthe next thing i had was someone to confide in and if i had known how things were going to end up for you i would have made up my mind to have more time for you after i met judy and... damn it me againmissyou, dude And I feel like an asshole for leaving you behind when I finally found a significant other, and that's why I amHere,I want your wisdom because I'm in a situation where I need to screw one or more people, and I want to be as little asshole as I can be!” The fox let out a long groan, refusing to believe he was saying it all out loud in a public place.

"...Okay, well, so maybe meBintry to replace you... somehow. Hey, I got way too comfortable with Judy being my ride-or-thief for a while, but...recent events have made me realize I need more than one person to confide in. Becauseshe isyour own bunny,shecan't always be the person i need, no matter how close we are, andyou arebusy being dead and all, well..."

"Well if that makes you feel any better... I'll treat this new guy better, I learned my lesson with you. I will not beTheGuy leaving his male friends now that he has a woman in his life."

"But that's the problem. It's not just that I have this weird choice of doing cop shit like a hustler or doing hustler shit on the straight and narrow, it's more that…” Nick paused to readjust his position, sitting at the tombstone . "...I can do what makes me tickGirlfriendhappy... or I can do what makes a random guy I just met happy. Well, at this point you live –livedIn the same world as me, Finn, everyone would say put your romantic partner above your platonic friend, we both know that. But here's the catch! What's good for my boyfriend is good for me just because it isMichdo mineownDecisions! I want to make her happy, but I refuse to believe that it's healthy to just go along with whatever she comes up with for me."

"...Well, this oneIsI'll do it my way. If I go with this new…”

"Also,And,when you put itTheBloody hell! The world is a big place and the story is a long time Finn, anyone could argue that everything anyone does copies someone else whether they realize it or not!"

"Oh… okay, that makes sense…" The fox blew some air out of his snout as he shook his head and looked around the graveyard. Nick really missed birds; This moment really could have used the chirping of birds in the background to add a soundtrack to it. And it was too early in the season to even have cicadas setting the tone for this summer evening sunset, not that Zootopia had many cicadas either. He could only imagine a flock of finches or robins or sparrows perching a stone's throw away on the elephant statue, chirping and singing together, making Nick feel less alone as he sat there with the remains of his old friend. "...I think,wouldshould I just copy Howard instead of copying Judy?"

"Oh, uh, Howard is the name of the, uh, Canadian, I... guess I didn't mention that..." He paused for a moment before cupping his head in his paws. "God,WhyCan't I come up with ideas for my own destiny?” Another contemplative pause. "...Oh yeah, metatDo it once, I did it for themthe longesttime, and it turned me into an asshole! Heck, maybe I have such a ingrained self-image of being an asshole that I lack the confidence to make a big decision on my own that doesn't hurt anyone! And my inner little kit that wanted to be a good guy is so disgusted that IWarthis asshole for twenty years that now it feels like I need an adult to guide me because I can't be trusted to guide myself!"

"No, no, that's not the problem, I'm not afraid to ask for help, nobody's really independent in this life, that's just an American wet dream myth, god knows I wouldn't have gotten as far as." me in this city if I hadn't met herOf.What bothers me about it is…”

His animal instincts demanded that he keep looking around for danger, and his social instincts demanded that he keep looking around for someone who could hear him pouring his guts onto a chunk of marble.

"...So tonight Judy actually accused me of stealing my personality from, um, that guy I met when... you remember that one summer I went home for a while?" He stayed standing and counting something with his claws. "No wait, 2005, that was before I met you. Anyway, there was this guy I met there who had befriended my family while I was away and...atloved this guy and you know i was twenty twoIwas basically just a kidIwas still figuring out who the hellIwas, so yeah, maybe I took inspiration from him, but just a little, you know? I didn't mean to be a photocopy of the guy, god knows I would have sounded like a fucking tool trying to copy his accent... but heavens, if she needs proof that I'm still very different from that guy... man , Finnick, don't tell anyone I said that."

Finnick wouldn't.

"...There is amuchThings I could point out to prove that he and I are different foxes, but what's going through my mind right now is... everyone thought this guy was a badass and a big part of it was because he was a good guy who did things his own way. ItriedDoing shit my way, and on paper I've succeeded! But I wasnota good guy. I only became one because I followed the lead of someone better than me and IstillI can't figure out how to be a good mammal on my own! Heck, one of the reasons my little brother was so jealous of the guy was that everyone saw him as a righteous leader - no one can blame himMichto be that! I can barely manage my goddamn self, and when I do, so be itnotwill be fair!"

He paused when he found himself raising his voice and looked around again to make sure no one was there - ironically making the scene alarming in a whole different way.

"I'm screaming to myself in an empty graveyard"Nick mumbled to himself, one paw over his eyes,"I should be killed."

"Yes, yes, I know you would like to kill me and take my life, Finn, but that option is not up for discussion at the moment." Another moan of a sigh. "Well, I guess... that's the most important thing - huh!? No, Finnick, that was itnota joke aboutOf!they donothave copyright on the word'kurz'!God!” He rolled his eyes and got back on track. "So part of that is just a ... karma thing, I made my own decision that was bad and now the decision I make to balance it has to be my own. But in general, man, just... shit, if I don't make my own choices in life, what kind of mammal am I? Am I even a man? Am I even grown up?"

And that was around the time Finnick asked his most poignant question of the night.

"...what would little Nick in his Junior Ranger Scouts uniform want me to do?" He had to stop and actually think about it. "…Honest? He would probably want me to build a time machine and stop my life from going wrong in the first place. Little Nick was a sweet kid, but I don't know if I'm supposed to make big decisions on a kid's whims." He shrugged. "That was a good point, Finn... I can't let that poor boy down permit.

Nick wrapped an arm around his friend's gravestone and rested it on his shoulder. "I'm glad I had you in my life, Finn. I may know everyone in this town, but there aren't many that I knowchooseto share this stuff. I just hope I was good at being that guy for you, too."

"No, Jesus, Finn, I didn't tell anyone about your quirks! What do you think we just sit around and talk about you when you're not around? You little motherfucker, are you a narcissist or are you just paranoid? "

"Is this how you spend your Friday nights?" asked the first other voice the fox had heard in a while. "Are you talking to yourself about kinks in a graveyard?"

Nick almost broke his own neck when he spun his head around and saw a police officer walking towards him. He recognized this guy, of course: Brandon Lyons, nine-year ZPD, two youngsters and a third on the way, really hated ranch dressing, really loved ZSU basketball, and was mildly opposed to Nick's decision to leave the Force, but he lost no sleep It.

And when Officer Lyons recognized Nick too, he stopped and lowered his scowl, instead he just looked embarrassed. Knowing what was coming, Nick stood up.

"I spend my weekends hanging out with my friends, yes," he said simply, pointing to the grave.

Lyons carefully walked around to see the face of the tombstone; He looked startled when he read the name and remembered hearing about it through the rumor mill. “Oh, I'm, uh… sorry, Nick. But, uh…” The lion raised a paw to the sky, now a deep purple. "... It had gotten legally dark five minutes ago, the cemetery is closed. I won't arrest you, but you have to get out of here."

"All right," the fox shrugged and walked away without saying anything to the officer, just looking back at the marker and saying, "See you soon Finn."

Howard was waiting at the gate when Nick came to the exit, standing under a street lamp that had just come on for the night.

“Was everything ok in there?” asked the raccoon while throwing his cigarette butt into a drain grate – the holes of which were very small to prevent rodents from falling in. "I, uh...I heard screams."

Nick just nodded, lips pursed and a stoic expression on his face, before deciding to propose. “Hey, Sunshine… it's Friday night. Do you want to go somewhere for a drink? I owe you a bunch of gas money, I'll buy it."

While the fox didn't seem all that excited about his own suggestion, the raccoon couldn't say no to some free alcohol.


Nick tried to be as quiet as possible when he got home, and he mostly succeeded. Good hunting instinct and all. He also had no trouble moving around the room in the dark, although the digital clock on the kitchen microwave reading "12:31" almost blinded him. He wasn't even that drunk; He'd spent most of the night chatting with other bar patrons, hoping to find clues to a gig, and asking Howard how much of that detective stuff he could do on his own if Nick was hypothetically unavailable.

He didn't bother to shower or slip into any junk sleepwear, he just stripped off his clothes and slid as gently as he could under the covers next to his beloved bunny, who was perfectly still and probably fast asleep. Allegedly.

"...But seriously, Nick, why do you smell like chocolate pudding?" she asked groggily, her body not moving except for her mouth.

The fox wondered if he should try to take a shower. But in the meantime he could only think of one answer to his girlfriend's question. "Because I lost control of my life."

And the sleepy rabbit giggled at the millennial pop culture reference, not even realizing that her death wasn't kidding.


"... Sheee Haaad the siiiiiiiightlessssss

Officer Dean Hudson sang to himself to pass the time. While the rest of Zootopia enjoyed their Friday night, he was the one busy with the task of reviewing the security footage of the Little Medium Mart incident, which, as of ZPD's current state, has only been seen by someone over the age of twenty was. four hours after it occurred. It was assumed that whatever had happened was something not worth tracking down and the company would simply fall back on their force majeure insurance, but someone had to check, just in case that there was evidence that it was a act of God's willful malice, and Hudson had pulled the short stick.

"All right..." the polar bear mumbled as he saw the antics of the two young employees, "so the fox is a Nazi, good to know..." He didn't know the exact time of the incident, so he couldn't just jump them just go there and get it over with, but he had an idea that maybe he could play the video at one and a half time speed to get there quicker. And no sooner had he switched the playback settings than the strange creature stormed onto the stage.

"...What the hell?" asked Hudson audibly. He quickly paused, rewound, reset the player to real-time speed and watched it all unfold from the beginning. Then he looked at it again. Then he looked at it again. Then he looked at it again, and he continued to watch until his face ached from squinting.

The fact that the grocery store had been using a surveillance camera that might have been older than the two clerks at the checkout certainly didn't help it decipher what the anomaly was. To say this was filmed with a potato would be an insult to the absorbency of tubers. A Bush administration flip phone could probably have painted a clearer picture. All Officer Hudson could see was a speck of black and orange-yellow pixels.

And yet...when he rewound a little further and looked at the events just before the disturbance, he could see everything else more clearly. Image fidelity was still horrendous by modern standards, but he could still make out all other shapes on the screen fairly well. When the fox child absentmindedly did thatSieg HeilGreetings, it hadn't been a problem seeing it with enough definition. It was just like that...Dingthat seemed to defy technology and could not be filmed. It was almost as if whatever this creature was was something from outside the realm of nature.

Well time to break out the reinforcementsThis time Dean thought to himself as he minimized the program and opened a new one, software that analyzed photos and videos to determine what at first glance might appear to be an undetermined species, be it an intelligent individual or a random insect the sidewalk. It wasn't entirely error-free, but it could be counted on for a paw or two of misidentifying a species in the hundreds of times it's had to be used. And the grainy footage shouldn't be a problem either; They had used this baby on videotapes for cold cases in the eighties and it had still worked like a charm.

He uploaded the video file and jumped to the appropriate section, scrolling frame by frame to try and find the best image to work with. Just to be sure, as a control variable, he first had everyone else in the scene scanned and highlighted by drawing a box around them; in fact it recognized the fox as a fox and the rabbit as a rabbit and the sloth as a sloth. Confident that this would not pose a challenge to the computer, he clicked and dragged his mouse pointer diagonally to separate the creature of interest. Right click to run the program and the software started to think.

And it took its sweet time, but Hudson wasn't concerned. He knew the quality of the footage would take a second so he waited patiently. He pulled out his phone to give Zoogle the lyrics he had forgotten from the song he was singing above to pass the time and while he reflected that he had always believed the words weremade a man out of mewere actuallymade me a mealand that the lyrics were far dirtier than he remembered, his peripherals picked up a notification that popped up on the screen. The computer had its final answer, and what it said almost made the polar bear's eyes pop out.

Species could not be determined.

Dean threw his paws in the air. "Oh, that's bloody cheating!"

Chapter 11: A new chapter


Ok, I know I gave this chapter a generic ass name, but trust me as to how it makes sense in the context


i'm back baby

Originally published October 10, 2022.

(See end of chapter formore notes.)

chapter text

Chapter Eleven, "A New Chapter"

It may have been a Saturday, but officer Judy Hopps was bright and early that morning in the downtown area of ​​ZPD, ready to begin her new path as a police detective.

The hippopotamus, who worked the weekend reception shift, promptly told her that she was there two hours early and that the people she was supposed to train under wouldn't even be there before nine. Even Chief Bogo wasn't there yet; He shouldn't even have come that day anyway, he just forced himself to be present to catalyze Judy's transition to a new department, thinking that was the professional thing. Well, the rabbit now had some time to kill.

She spent them wandering the familiar parts of the building, with a fondness for places she expected she wouldn't see as often anymore. As the squad's weekend warriors left the bullpen, she settled in one last time to sit at one of those tables and just think back to all her time as a patrol officer; Hey, if there's a downside to being a high achiever who got promoted early, it's that she didn't have as many memories to comb through as some might. But she was still grateful for the time she'd spent on the beat. Her only real regret was that she had spent so little of it with her fox.

...And just like that, she came back to reality and found it was 9:07. Perfect. gorgeous. Start your first day in Investigations with a blemish. you go girl

Embarrassed that she was letting her mind wander so far, she hopped out of her chair to confront her new reality.


As part of ZPD's reorganization over the past decade, the Force's detectives now reported directly to a dedicated police chief, who in turn directed these detectives exclusively. Judy had heard this guy's name before but couldn't place his face when Bogo told her; maybe she had seen him before, but couldn't easily recall it. And when the chief took her to this mammal's office to introduce them, the old ox was as stoic and reserved as ever and gave her no clues as to what this new guy was like.

At first, Judy thought the reason for Bogo's thoroughly annoyed look today was because she was late and made him look bad for nominating her as a good candidate for a new detective. But then she thought maybe he was just mad about losing one of his biggest striped mammals.Thenshe thought it was probably a bit of both. Yes, that sounded right.

They reached the stranger's door and the buffalo knocked hard and the bunny did her best to look friendly but determined.

"Come in!"offered a voice that rivaled Bogos in depth.

The chief opened the door and motioned for Judy to come in first. A black bear awaited them, sitting patiently at his desk with a gentle smile on his face.

"Hey how are you?" he asked.

Bogo was also doing his best to appear... well, if notfreundlich,at least professionally sincerely. "Captain Honeycutt, this is Ju--" But then he noticed something and immediately dropped the cordiality. "Carson, button your uniform all the way up."

Captain Honeycutt actually wore his tie loose and the top button undone. "Ah, yes, sir, you got me fair and square," he said as he redeemed his faux pas, shaking his head a bit and wearing the toothy grin of someone caught breaking the rules, but not like it wanted to appear let them affect their confidence. "Okay," he continued, looking up, his collar now pinching his thick neck, "so this is the super cop you were telling me about?"

"That's her," said the chief, still sounding disinterested. "Officer Judy Hoops has done everything possible to meet any challenge she faces with ZPD, and as much as I'd like to keep her informed, I would be doing this city a disservice if I didn't back up her efforts He looked down at the rabbit. "Hops, this is Captain Carson Honeycutt. He will be your direct report in the future. If you need my audience in the future, you know where to find me. Until then, I wish you the best of luck in your new journey."

"Yes, gentlemen, gentlemen!" Judy said with a salute, turning her head to address them both. "I will not let you down -!"

"All right," Bogo grumbled as he walked out.

"Are you going out for the day, M.J.?" Honeycutt asked with a cheeky grin.

"It's me. And I would tell you not to address me like that, but I have to leave you both alone so you can get to know each other better.” And then he closed the door tightly and he was gone.

Judy just blinked, trying not to look embarrassed. She really hoped that being a few minutes late wasn't the only reason the Chief seemed to be in a worse mood than usual.

"So, hops, huh?" asked the bear before pointing to a chair across from him. "Come in. Have a seat, have a seat."

The bunny hopped onto the chair and used its hydraulic function to raise it to a convenient height, where she found Honeycutt paw outstretched, waiting for a handshake, which she returned. Seeing him up close now… something about him didn't seem right.

"Nice to meet you, Captain."

"Oh, you don't have to call meCaptain!"he said with a soft chuckle. "I'm not the chief, I won't demand undue respect as long as you don't exaggerate meDisrespect.And I don't see that's going to be a problem for you!"

He wore only a soft smile, but... it seemed like he was trying hard to pull it off. And when I think about it, himtatSeems familiar…

"I mean no disrespect to him," the bear continued. "Hetutcares a lot, he just doesn't show it because he's so old fashioned, he doesn't find it manly to smile and stuff. But he's a good guy."

That's when it clicked for her. She and Nick had actually encountered this guy before in the hallways, and now she remembered how Nick, the face-reading master that he was, had only given those guys a few glances before concluding that this bear was the perfect match for the buffalo: while Bogo cared but didn't show it, according to the fox's assessment, Honeycutt showed that he cared for him but clearly didn't.

And she respected Nick's judgment so much that this old assumption about this guy now colored her own perception of him. She couldn't yet tell if this guy was basically just apathetic or actually mean – or, third option, maybe her worry about being late caused her anxiety, which made her see everything in a negative light, and was actually Honeycutt as kindly as he wanted her to think him. But she would look for clues to discover what reality was real. (Hey, might as well start playing the detective game right now, right?) She didn't get a vibe that Carson was evil here, just...fake.Admittedly, what some would say was as good as evil.

"Uh, sorry for my, um...Lateness,Cap – äh … Honeycutt?“

He raised his paws to signal that this was not an issue for him. "Wouldn't have noticed if you hadn't said anything. If anything, I'm sorry I kept itOfwait 'cause the detectives I'm training you under are evenlater!They got a call at two-thirty this morning to look at some new leads on a case, and they're on their way back now. It's a mess, some alpaca got beaten to death with his own prosthetic leg.”

...Judy was trying really hard not to look horrified at what Honeycutt had just described so casually. Man talk about being thrown in the fire, she knew she was going to be dealing with very dark stuff now that she was in this department but she didn't think it would be barely a few minutes that she had to face a reality so cruel.

"Oh, I, uh... I totally understand, sir, that takes precedence! Let them focus on finding the guy who did it, my training can wait..."

"Oh, there's...no urgency," he interrupted, waving her off, sounding almost embarrassed to her. "We're... uh, ninety percent sure we know who did it? The guy in question is already in custody for an attempted armed robbery the next day, he's not going anywhere. But hey, good transition to your introduction as a detective! So yes, the detectives you'll be training with have been up for an ungodly hour. I know you're already used to being on call as a striped mammal, but you will be on callmuchnow more. Do you drink coffee?"

Judy winced at the strange question. "I...sometimes if need be, but I don't try if I don't, so I don't depend on it-"

“Oh, in this industry you get addicted to caffeine. There are no two ways. I don't really drink coffee either, I find it disgusting, I prefer cola ---a-Cola,not the other, although that would probably work too, heh heh – but if you're not a coffee mammal either, well…” He trailed off to rummage through his desk drawers to find a small black and yellow box, which he presented to her her before. "Caffeine pills! Have you tried this before?"

"...I haven't."

“Oh I recommend these for long unexpected shifts. This is Vivarin, there are other brands… I would offer you some now, but these are for a manMeinsize, they would probably kill you. But yes, this stuff is a marvel of modern medicine, it's like speed, butlegal.“

Cool, now her new boss was blatantly encouraging her to take amphetamines to get her basic jobs done. But no matter: the cavalry had arrived.

knock knock knock

"Come in!" Carson called."Therethey are!"

And then the door opened to reveal a smoky gray wolf opening the door for a tan deer to enter. Everyone gave their boss a smile, but their faces really lit up when they saw who else was in the room.

"Oh, you must be Judy Hopps!" said the doe, almost squeaking in awe as she laced her hooves under her chin. "It's so nice to finally meet you! Justine O'Doherty!"

Well, if there was a cure for Judy's awkwardness, it was to meet a fan. "Oh, the pleasure is all mine, Detective O'Doherty! I look forward to learning from you both!” She beamed as she shook the deer's hoof, then did the same to the wolf.

"Henry Ulvestad," he introduced himself with a noble smile. "And the pleasure isourhaving the privilege of coaching someone who has had a whole movie made about it! You know, Justine and I always joke that they should do a sequel to this...but that would mean more horrible things would have to happen first!"

"That's why it's a curse to tell anyoneMay you live in interesting times!”said Captain Honeycutt as he rose from his seat. "Fine Hopps, you've met Ulvestad and O'Doherty, they'll be coaching you for the next few weeks; Henry, Justine, I trust you both, train them as you see fit; as for me? It's a Saturday, I'm getting the hellout ofHere!" And with that, he wasted no time in unbuttoning the top button, which he had just buttoned up less than five minutes ago.

"Oh, that's... that's it?" Judy asked. She didn't want to seem overwhelmed, but her head was spinning with how fast this was moving again. She hadn't expected that during her trainingslowas much as she expected it to be... well, more thorough than detectives should be.

"I mean, why beat around the bush?" asked the captain with a glee that still straddled the line of ringing hoax. He grabbed his jacket and pulled out a bunch of keys. "You two take her to your office, I'll lock it!"

"All right! Sounds good!" said O'Doherty.

"Come on Hopps, let's show you around!" said Ulvestad and held the door open for everyone.

"Oh yes! Yes, let's get right to it!" She jumped off the chair without letting it down and made her way out of the office.

The deer and wolf led the way to their own office, appearing just as cheerful as Honeycutt, but without the semblance of authority figures attempting to manipulate their wards with false charisma.

"Okay, first day!" remarked Henry. "Do you think you are ready?"

"Oh, I think you two will teach me to be ready before I know it!" replied the rabbit.

"Oh, she's so polite!" Justine giggled at her partner. "So, Judy – may I call you Judy? -- do you have any questions at the beginning?"

Well, this is Judy Hopps, so she understood her duty and didn't want small talk to get in the way of her work, but it still didJudy Hopps,So we know for sure that she always had a burning question on her mind whenever she met colleagues from the police force. And I have to admit...it's a pretty relevant icebreaker.

"Uh, I hope this isn't too personal a question, but... what inspired you to want to be a cop?"

The wolf and the deer exchanged a few knowing smiles.

"Want to go first?" Justine asked Henry.

"Eh, I could too," said Ulvestad with a mischievous shrug and a smile. "Well... at a certain point it dawned on me that I wanted to be... agood guy."

Judy nodded. she listened. She already liked where this was going.

"The reason for that is," he continued, "I have this cousin down in L.A. and ... he's kind of the family embarrassment. He always wanted to be explicitly onebadGuy. Like, he was kind of a madman. Like, uh…” He paused for a second. "Apologies if this seems like an inappropriate detail, but I think it's relevant to the story: this guy was a looker and a charmer, and any woman who wasn't lesbian and wasn't racist towards predators could get one." Date me if he wanted to. But he could never get onesecondDating because every single one of those women realized he was crazy.”

Judy nodded but stopped smiling. She was admittedly less eager to hear that story now.

"For example, he pulled one offsignificantHeist, I think he stole the identity of a tech billionaire... and he spent the money on a bunch of dangerous exotic animals and called them his "villain team." Like a shark and a snake and a tarantula and stuff. Everyone in the family knew, but we didn't want to report him because he has blood, you know? But then… so my mother is the youngest, her older brother isbeDad, and then the middle sibling is our aunt, and she married this Silicon Valley guy. This guy was loaded too, he was another perfect target. My cousin shows up dressed in death clothes and acts cool at first, but then as they exchange vows, this weirdo runs down the aisle with a fish in a Tupperware container and yells,„HERR PIRANHA, THE!“and I guess he was expecting it to cling to this guy with its teeth, but it just bounced off him and landed on the ground.”

"I understand."

"Yes, and we all just watched this poor creature gasp in pain - or,Water,I guess either way it was stifling — and just as my cousin starts pulling a python out of his pant leg, a couple of guys in my family finally grab a hold of him. Yes I think in addition to the attempted assault they tried to charge him with cruelty to a non-intelligent animal but that didn't matter because they just declared him insane and now he's in a mental institution forever.

"Oh, I'm… so sorry to hear that happened to him."

Ulvestad didn't get it. "I mean don't worry, he was just my cousin. It's not like he's my boyfriend or anything."

"Uh, um, Henry."O'Doherty whispered to him:"I think maybe she's from one of those families in the country where they really care about their extended family."

The wolf looked like a lightbulb had gone out in his head."Oh! Oh, you're right, you're right"he whispered back, before continuing at full volume, "But yeah, I was in my early twenties at the time and actually played minor league ball in the Twins organization, but I was just good enough to recognize thatwas notgood enough to make the majors so when that happened I knew I needed a new career anyway and I said fuck it I have to be the opposite ofTheGuy. It was a cop. The end!"

The bunny continued to nod awkwardly, hoping it didn't look disinterested and rude. "Well, um… at least it had a happy ending with you on the good guys! Heh heh, um… well, how about you?” she asked the doe.

"Oh, my story isn't nearly as interesting as his," Justine said with mock shyness. "Policing just runs in the family, especially on my mother's side, on the Italian side."

"Oh, that's nice," Judy said, feeling a little better. "Just a... family tradition of wanting to be good boys?"

“Yes, but it's a relatively new tradition. So my... grandfather? great grandfather? One of them saw his mother shot in a drive-by when he was a kid..."

"OH MYGOOD!"Judy gasped, then covered her mouth as she realized she'd just used the Lord's name meaninglessly. She would privately pray for forgiveness that night.

"Yeah, they think it was totally random, and they never found the guy who did it," said the deer, unperturbed by the rabbit's apparent discomfort. "It inspired him to join the police force in hopes of one day finding out who it was ... He never did, but it has given future generations of his family a sense of purpose — and a viable fallback plan for ours."OthersDreams didn't come true.”

"Well, um..." Judy already knew this was going to be a strange day. "...Never too late to solve a cold case!"

"Oh, it's way too late to solve this case," Justine replied dismissively, but jovially without getting upset about it. "Everyone who knew my great-grandmother is dead. Besides, she would probably want us to focus on solving the crimes that are still worth solving!"

"Nowthat isgood attitude!” added Henry, and the two partners shared a soft laugh while Judy struggled to figure out just what was so funny. On her first day as a detective, the world certainly threw her many unexpected secrets.

It was around this time that they stopped in front of a certain door, room 422.

"Ah, but enough of us and our silly origin stories," mused Detective O'Doherty as Ulvestad pulled a bunch of keys from his pocket.

"Well, there is...likemore details about us that I think she should know,” the wolf said as he selected the key he needed, and gave the hind a knowing smile he hoped she would return.

But instead she scoffed at him. "Oh, Henry, don't embarrass the poor girl!" If anything, she looked embarrassed herself.

"Oh,Come on,"Henry pushed as he unlocked the door, his grin never faltering. "That isJudy HoppWe're talking about she wouldLoveknowing that she was helping some mammals with something important and didn't even realize it!"

"I...I have?" Judy asked; she had to admit, her curiosity was piqued.

Justine rolled her eyes but found herself smiling again. "Well, we can tell her," she told her partner, "but let's go to the office first so we can have some privacy."

"Sounds like a fair arrangement," agreed Ulvestad with a nod, opening the door inward and holding it open with outstretched arm to let the other two in first. "After you, ladies."

"Oh, stop trying so hard to impress her!" O'Doherty chuckled on her way in.

"Thanks, Detective," said the rabbit as she passed the wolf. "But, uh… who exactly have I been helping without realizing it? Concerns itOftwo?"

"Oh, it ever does!" Henry chuckled to himself before stepping inside and closing the door behind him.

In the center of the office were two large desks pushed together face to face, with a third, empty desk, presumably for guests; Across this island, three of the walls were lined with at least a dozen filing cabinets, shelves full of plastic containers with pending evidence, Judy suspected, and a dartboard with the printed image of a tiny sheep in the center, the bespectacled ewe made a dart there that permanently right between her eyes. The fourth wall was all glass, a huge window that looked out over the city, and although the office was only on the fourth floor, it was just high enough to offer a fairly gorgeous view of the collage of buildings in the foreground, stretching into Direction spread the mountains on the horizon.

"Wow, that's a... wonderful office!" Judy couldn't help but remark.

"And we're honored that you like it," Justine replied, "but don't get the impression that you doperfect;When we get direct sunlight, it's a sauna here!”

"And in the spirit of having a slightly awkward moment now by disclosing something mood-busting to avoid a more awkward moment in the future..." Henry began, "...when Justine and I found out we were going to be the ones who train you, we had a discussion about bringing this to you, but what prompted us to do so was the realization that if you spend any length of time around us, you'll probably find out eventually. ”

"So what is it?" asked the trainee. Hey, when these two intentionally tried to create drama and suspense, they succeeded because the anticipation was killing them. Part of her was excited to hear how she'd helped, part of her worried about what it might be that they even had to discuss sharing it with her... and part of her was relieved that she wasn't the only one that burned the watch by sharing irrelevant information.

The wolf and the deer exchanged another look, one that could almost be described as cautious optimism, knowing that this probably wasn't a good idea but hoping it would be well received anyway.

"So..." O'Doherty began softly, "which is what I meant when I said I didn't want us to embarrass you..."

"So it was the worst kept secret at ZPD that you and Wilde were a couple," Ulvestad chimed in, as kindly as he could say something so blunt.

And indeed, while she didn't use any other body language to show it... Judy's cheeks began to burn beneath her fur. "I... okay?"

"Jesus, Henry,Really?"Justine asked.

"Hey, I don't want to keep you waiting for an answer, I don't want to be inappropriateAndrude!" Henry responded with a defensive shrug before making a friendly face to her trainee again. "But again, we're not bringing this up to embarrass you! Because you know what? Again...you were inspirational , just because you were yourself!”

“And what really gotusactually everything was…” The deer fell silent as she searched for the right words. "... In the best sense of the word, no one bothered about it. I mean, it was an open secret, but in a city that's admittedly a bit regressive in terms of interspecies relationships,particularlybetween Preds and Prey… nobody cared!”

"I mean, I'm suresomeMammals have given you a shit,” added the wolf.

"But even then, as both me and Henry realized, screw that--ExcuseMich,forgetthem!" Justine smiled like she'd just had that beautiful revelation again. "And it was just seeing you two just confidently...waryou…"

"...this got us thinking..." Henry paused just as he had started signaling his partner with two fingers to come over to him, which she did, leaning into him while he slipped an arm around her shoulder . "... Why notWebe like her? And… we did!”

Judy slowly nodded as she began to understand.

"I mean, we don't go aroundAdvertisingthat we're in a relationship," O'Doherty interjected, "but...ah",She shrugged, "if anyone asks, we won't lie about it."

And Judy looked up at the two mammals and smiled warmly at them, finding that she was giving them a smile that was about ninety percent real."Oh,well... that... that... well, I don't know what to say! I... I'm honored that I could help you both stop being ashamed of your love!” Yes, this conversation was a bit too much information for her liking, and Henry and Justine wereveryRight to be worried that this wasn't an appropriate work meeting, but... for the most part, the bunny was happy to hear that she had helped them in such a personal way - happy for them that they had found the strength to be themselves be than happy for herself, proud that she had once again successfully encouraged some mammals to live their truth and not care what the world might tell them.

"And, you know, we still have to be onefewDiscreetly," Ulvestad continued while squeezing his partner closer, "workplace relationship rules and such, but...hell, there's no way Honeycutt doesn't know at this point. But he cannot separate us. The ZPD cannot separate us. We just work too well together as a unit and they know it!”

Judy just couldn't stop beaming at her as the partners turned to look at each other through soul mate eyes. They had found true love, something so few of us are fortunate to find in our lives, and it was all because of her. And yet, as she simply took in the moment and stared in awe at this living testament to her hard work, there was still ten percent of her who weren't entirely happy with the scene. But it wasn't just her slight discomfort with face-to-face conversations in a work environment.

The ZPD cannot separate us. We just work too well together.

A pang of sadness ran through her as she looked at her. She hadn't let those ideas into her head, but intrusive thoughts rarely rang the doorbell; As she stood in silence, part of her couldn't shake the idea:

It could have been me and Nick.

The joy of the detectives' reality outweighed the sadness of what would never be now, but the poor bunny couldn't deny that there was an itch in the back of her mind, stirred with thoughts of what might have been.

But don't worry, Judy: you wouldn't feel heartbroken for too long because the two people in charge of your workout will distract you by making you do itSomuch more uncomfortable than you already are.

"Of course," Justine said, "the trade-off for us being allowed to work as partners is that they let us do the weekend shifts that nobody wants. So here we are!"

"Damn it, let's give her the shift no one else will take!" Henry scoffed and addressed his partner, their faces barely a few inches apart. “Give us two days where we have huge parts of the building to ourselves!That gives us time for ourselves!”

And with that, the wolf leaned in for his first kiss, a quick cuddle right between the deer's eyes. The Lovey Dovey locks had been opened.

Judy felt a pang of fear as she witnessed the first of many plots that had always been drilled into her head taking place in private company. She had no idea.

Justine giggled like a schoolgirl. "Oh youDog,You!" she joked before kissing him straight back, placing her lips on his and quickly rubbing behind his ears as well.

"Er..." was all her trainee managed.

“Oh you want me to be aDog?"Henry asked his partner before beginning to lick her cheeks up and down.

"Oh,Shot!"Justine remarked before returning the favor and planting some wild kisses on his neck.

"Should I go?" the rabbit squeaked. You know, it was funny: Aside from the usual awkwardness of standing there and watching these two go to town ... she was also reluctant to break up a romance that she herself had fostered.

"Oh, nowyou area puppy?" Henry joked before finally pulling Justine over to hug her with both arms and kissing her very slowly on the lips. "It's not even your favorite style!"

"Am I making you cry, pup?" Justine asked with an amorous bite.Kiss.

"Well, you're my moon pie."Crap."And you're as tasty as a moon pie, too!"

"Do you think if the spirit of my Ur-Gramma Bambinelli had visited me..."Kiiiiss."...she would have consented to being shot at random if she knew it led to my meetingOf?"

"Tell her to tell the ghost of Kirby Puckett it's mejoyfulI never got through the majors..."Kiiiiiiiss."...for the same reason!"

"Baby…"Kiiiiiiiss."I thought your cousin was the most charming, I thought you said you didn't want to be like him!"Shiiiiiiiiiisss.

"Honig…"Siiiiiiiiisss."...some things just run in the family!"Siiiiiiiiiiiisss.

My friend, I'm sorry I didn't keep you up to date on what Judy was doing through all of this, but she mostly just stood there gaping and amazed, and as a writer, that really doesn't give me much material to work with . I've said it before, I'll say it again: I have no idea how Truman Coyote made this "nonfiction" stuff and made it work.

"Oh,Henry…"cooed the deer as she gave her lover some obvious bedroom eyes.

"Hey, you know I can't eat chocolate!" the wolf shot back, looking dead serious for a split second before the two just went hunting and started making out hard.

And Judy let it go like this for about a minute before deciding that she just had to accept that it would be even more embarrassing to end this.


But it didn't work right away.


How... ever.


He did it. The detectives stopped kissing like teenagers and turned their attention back to the rabbit.

"Oh! I'm sorry," O'Doherty said. "I think we got a little carried away!"

"Yes, well, now you know for sure that our love is real!" added Ulvestad. "We were so excited we completely forgot you were there!"

Judy was just trying to find the balance of looking friendly but determined. "And I understand that, and I'm glad you both get to have those moments, but, uh... it's not really appropriate here and now, you know?"

But the wolf and the deer didn't look embarrassed when she said that.

"...Oh," Justine murmured.

They just looked disappointed. And annoyed.

"...All right," Henry murmured with a shrug, releasing his grip on his more-than-one partner. "I guess it wouldn't be nice of us to do that...I guess."

They looked at her like she'd just done something very uncool, something not very cool, something unlit, non-Gucci and no cash at all, as the kids would say, Fam, and she was really trying, it was hard not to show to let the disapproval of these authority figures trouble her. On the contrary, she certainly didn't relish the idea that she'd lost her status as an inspirational figure in her eyes.

"...So,"O'Doherty said bitterly, "What to doOfdo you want to do?"

"Ah…Again?"Hopps was confused.

"Yes, since you seem to think we shouldn't...The,"Ulvestad grumbled.

"Erm... teach me how to be a... detective?" She herself couldn't believe how nervous they had made her asking that incredibly basic question.

"Oh!" Henry suddenly beamed as he folded his paws together and then made his way to one of the many filing cabinets. "School yourself!GreatIdea! I mean, hey, that's what we're here for, right?"

"Look at us!" Justine giggled. "We were so smitten that we forgot the whole reason why our guest is here!"

Okay, that was confusing: you'd think the wolf and the deer were speaking to each other with overt sarcasm, but their tones sounded just as cheerful as they had when they first introduced themselves to Judy. That meant either their attitude really did flip like a switch, or they were so good at feigning hilarity that the bunny didn't even notice it the first time. Part of Judy was excited about her future as a detective, being able to spot those two true results instantly, but another part of her was upset because she spent her life unable to decipher which one was correct.

"So as a detective, if your boss doesn't tell you exactly which cases you should work on,OfYou can choose which cases you work on!” Ulvestad began to open one file drawer after another. "Come on, come on, where is shejuicyones?"

"Ever read an adventure novel where you can choose yourself?" asked O'Doherty. “It's a bit like that – except the stories aredefinitivenot suitable for elementary school!”

"Would you like to flip through these, or do you want to pick one at random and see what we get?" offered the wolf, not waiting for an answer before flipping through the Manila folders himself. "Let's see, let's see, we havemurder, homicide, arson, homicide, baby abandoned in a church, robbery, theft car, murder, making illegal children's films, murder, homicide, bullying on the phone, attempted kidnapping, the mystery, whoever took officer lyon's lunch out of the fridge, Murder, robbery, theft, theft, flute that kills you if you play it, murder, missing mammal, murder– hey, Honeycutt informed you about the guy who was beaten to death with his own prosthetic leg, right?”

"Oh, Henry, stop overwhelming the poor girl with decisions!" the deer scolded her partner before turning back to her trainee and giving her a sweet smile. "Judy, maybe you'd like a nice cold case to practice with? It gives you a great opportunity to practice the detective deduction process without expecting that you will actually solve anything, so no pressure!”

„Oh,IHowthis idea!” said Heinrich. "Also, it will give her a chance to get used to the feeling of not being able to solve a case — andTheis a feeling of youWilleneeds getting used to!"

She would never admit it, but Detective-in-Training Hopps was actually feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment, although that had less to do with a lack of confidence in her own abilities and more to do with her utter shock at how disorganized her training was regiment was. Oh, and sure, it was also a bit unsettling to hear Ulvestad casually going through a bunch of crimes she'd never been told about.

“Er… well, I guess it would be best if, er… ifOftwo demonstrated the process, howOfdecide which cases you want to take on!” said the rabbit. "You know... uh, show me howOfdecide what is important—!«

But she was suddenly interrupted by music playing at oddly low fidelity. The sound seemed to come from Ulvestad patting himself to find the source of the instruments.

O'Doherty chuckled to himself. "You need topardonHenry here, he still thinks it's cool to have songs for his ringtone."

"Say, say, my playmate...
Won't you lay your hands on me...?"

"EswouldStill be cool when you're straighttoldit was you!” the wolf grumbled as he pulled out his phone, sounding like he was genuinely upset with his partner for not being able to bring herself to think his ringtone was bad. "But anyway, it looks like we've made our choice... What's up, Cap?" he asked as he took the call.

The ladies stood for a moment watching him as he settled comfortably, placing an elbow on the filing cabinet and leaning on it.

"All right, hey, do you mind if I put you on speakerphone?"

Obviously Captain Honeycutt didn't do that because Henry did just that.

"All right, tell them what you just told me."

"'Kay, so I'm...seeminglyturned to go back to the station,"said the black bear on the phone."The damn Bogo is on my tail because we just got another goddamn mammal that's been missing for forty-eight hours, it's... some damn grizzly this time. Go and--"

"Uh, Captain?" Justine answered shyly. “Just a reminder… Hopps is here with us. Maybe, uh… watch your vocabulary better?”

The line was silent for a moment."...Oh, um - Detective Hopps, I'm so sorry, that was unprofessional of me, forgive me for that."

But while the sudden harsh language in the rabbit's ears wasn't exactly welcome, it wasn't what Carson had said that bothered her the most. Far from it.

"...Others…Missing mammal?” she murmured to herself.

Honeycutt didn't hear that."...whoops? Judy? …Did you hear that?

Judy spoke louder. "Er... yes, we are... we are good."

"Okay, good to hear"said the captain and sounded relieved."Well yes Henry, Justine: we'll have to make this a house call, the woman is in hysterics. I'll text you the address, come as soon as possible."

"You have it, Captain!" said the wolf as he ended the call.

"Now, talk about the baptism of fire!" said the deer to the bunny with a chuckle that sounded just a little forced. "Go straight to a new investigation!"

And to be honest, a little Judy was nervous that she was actually thrown right in. But she was raised to believe that being nervous is far from a bad thing: it means you care. Losing your nerve means you don't care. And, okay, sure, you could be cynical and say that was nonsenseCoursea species with astronomical rates of clinical anxiety problems and stress-induced fatal heart attackshadto tell posterity that these were features and not bugs. But one way or another, Detective-in-Training Hopps knew how to turn that nervous energy into excitement and adrenaline.

"Oh, well, that's mereadyshe exclaimed. "And besides... missing mammals are kind of my area of ​​expertise!"

Henry and Justine looked at each other like parents about to send their child to his first day of school.

"Well, at least good to seelikeMammal is happy with this situation,” Ulvestad said.

"You know what they say," O'Doherty added, "There's no substitute for passion!"


Every big city has these neighborhoods that aren't official neighborhoods. In Zootopia, one might notice that most maps haven't even bothered to delineate where the Rainforest District ends and where the Meadowlands begin. That's because the locals have referred to this area asThe forest areas:the tree geography of the rainforest with the climate of the meadowlands, with the official district boundaries seemingly arbitrarily curling through the middle.

This was not the only example of aAs a matter of factBonus neighborhood in town, but it was perhaps the most prominent. If your ancestors crawled out of a forest that wasn't primeval - and amuchof us did -- this is where Zootopia thought you belonged. But between the fact that many of the species that would logically live there were better suited to the Nocturnal District, the fact that it was literally a mix of two neighboring districts, and the fact that it was the most "boring" environment — in fact, it was the closest thing to Southwest Oregon's natural biome anyway — it wasn't particularly loved by the city's tourism marketing department. The Woodlands weren't anything special, but they weren't to the mammals that lived therewantbe it; it just felt like home. It was all the more disturbing when something bad happened on their street.

Even with the lighter weekend traffic, it took our three detectives almost an hour to get to the worried woman's house, a fairly modest apartment but with a very high and wide front door, probably to accommodate the stature and size of the intended occupants. That made it a little surprising when the bell was answered by a rather petite brown bear, probably smaller than Captain Honeycutt and not much bigger than Detective Ulvestad.

"Are you the detectives?" asked the bear, a bespectacled woman who looked like she was at the end of what might be called "middle age." She sounded like she was trying very hard to be polite and patient when she really, really didn't want to be.

"Yes ma'am," Henry said with a gentle smile along with his partner and their trainee.

"Detectives Justine O'Doherty and Henry Ulvestad, Zootopia Police," introduced the deer as she and the wolf displayed their badges.

The bear saw something very small standing behind them. "And who is this?"

"This is detective-in-training Judy Hopps," Ulvestad said as he stepped out of the way and gestured with both paws at the bunny like it was an award-winning pumpkin.

"Hello!" greeted Judy, waving one paw and showing her own tag with the other. "Nice to meet you, ma'am, but of course we wish it might be..."

"Why do we need three people to investigate this?" the bear interrupted, her impatience beginning to show.

But Henry and Justine were professionals. "Well, ma'am," Justine began, "itIsStandard procedure to have a pair of detectives on a case of this nature and Hopps has had to be trained on the ground ever sinceIsYour first day—”

"I don't think I'm comfortable having three people knowing my family's business."

Ulvestad and O'Doherty kept their professional smiles, but it was clear that maintaining them was getting exhausting.

"Well, ma'am," said Henry, "during the course of the investigation, the details of this case would eventually be shared with much of the department in order to impart as much mammalian power as possible..."

"Why do we need so many mammals in case?"

"...Better chances of solving the case," the stag said rather bluntly. "More heads put together..."

"So there's no way just one person is investigating this?"

The wolf blinked. "To be honest, ma'am, that would never have been a possibility. There would always be a large number of mammals involved.”

The bear looked very unhappy about this, but like many of her generation, she didn't fight back because she knew it wasn't a good idea to risk upsetting the bulls.

'By the way,' continued Ulvestad, 'we were so involved in all these formalities that we completely forgot to confirm that we were in the right house! Would you be Missus - er..."

Henry fell silent when he noticed that there were two surnames written on the mailbox by the door, one he was looking for and another that frightened him just to look at it:


"I-sorry, I... guess I shouldn't have assumed," the wolf stammered. "Ah…Areyou Michelle Cavey?”

"Hm? Yes, why?" The bear noticed that he was looking at the label on the mailbox. "Oh,The.Yes, that's my maiden name, it's Polish. Sometimes I still get mail addressed to 'Michelle Niedzwiecki' so I have to put it there...' She shrugged, forcing a tremendously awkward laugh. "Let's just say it was meveryexcited to marry a man with a last name mammals could actually pronounce!”

The others forced themselves to giggle with her. Everyone felt uncomfortable now.

"...May we come in, Missus Cavey?" O'Doherty asked.

Michelle seemed hesitant, but accepted her fate. "I guess we should get this over with," she murmured while holding the door open for everyone to come in.

The Bear Home was almost remarkably unremarkable in a way that screamed "lower middle class"; There were many things, but there weren't any very nice things. From the living room you could see into the kitchen; This was a household where the groceries were branded but the electronics were not. There wasn't much decoration: a framed scene of a rustic cabin in the woods that looked like it had been bought from a major retailer for no more than twenty dollars; a tiny crucifix above the front door covered in dust, as if the belief at the time was more of a cultural relic than something the residents actually believed in; a family photo that appeared to be at least a decade old, featuring a younger Michelle sitting with her tired looking husband and embarrassed looking teenage son, along with a parrot perched on the son's shoulders, all looking as if they would force a smile to keep up appearances, somehow even the bird. All of this gave investigators the impression that while this house wasn't exactly a miserable place, the mammals that lived here couldn't be too happy either.

Sensing this, Judy felt compelled to do whatever she could to lighten the mood in a way that acknowledged the grim circumstances while also making it less depressing than it needed to be.

"What an adorable bird!" she mentioned as she walked past the family photo.

Michelle turned to see what had inspired the comment. "Yes...she was." And she turned to face forward again.

War.The bunny's ears dropped as she kicked herself for not reading the room sufficiently before saying that — which, come to think of it, actually wasn't a parrot and birdcage in that living room.

As for Henry and Justine, they both turned and gave Judy a quick look to convey that while they didn't mean to be too mean, it was their duty as the people they were training to convey thatNO,this comment was not a good idea.

They reached a small table in what must have been the dining room, a small nook connecting the living room and kitchen. The table was littered with old magazines and newspapers and other junk, suggesting that this family did not eat together very often. Michelle pulled out two of the chairs for the detectives before pulling out the third.

"I'm sorry, we have a small family, so we only have three chairs here," explained the bear, "I didn't expect...threeInvestigators are coming, but I can stand while you all sit..."

"No, no, that's okay," the wolf insisted, waving a paw away before turning to Justine and Judy. “You ladies can have a seat; I'll probably be moving anyway."

"Thanks, Henry," the deer said as she motioned for the bunny to choose a chair first before sitting herself in the other while Michelle took the chair across from them.

"All right, Missus Cavey," Detective Ulvestad began, pulling out a small pen and legal pad while O'Doherty did the same, "just to make sure we've got all our facts right, we'd like to hear it."Of…the missing mammal is…?”

"My husband," said Mrs. Cavey bluntly.

Justine squeezed gently, "And what's hisName,I have?"

"Duncan Cavey."

"And how old is this gentleman?" Heinrich asked.

"Sixty..." The bear seemed to squirm with anxious impatience. "I'm sorry, but I told the operator all this over the phone..."

"So we're checking the information we've received before we proceed," the deer explained with the utmost professionalism, before giving his partner a kind of knowing smile.

"We want to ask the mammal that knows best!" added the wolf, trying to add some light to the dark discussion. "And so it behooves me to ask: when and where was the last place you saw your husband?"

"Right in this house when I went to work, so...Thursday morning at six o'clock," the woman replied. "He was only half asleep in his room watching TV, nothing, uh...nothing to suggest he ran away that day or anything. When my son woke up – he works irregular hours so he wakes up … very late – Duncan was gone.”

"I see," Henry murmured while scribbling in his notepad.

"How old is your son?" Justine asked, with the intent of her question to ascertain if the son was a minor, whose word the state could not necessarily trust.

Michelle suddenly looked very nervous. "Er, he's... he'll be thirty-two later this month, um... he's not a reta--! Uh - how do you say that politely these days? - uh, he's notDisabled people,he's just, uh... having trouble launching his career and starting his own business! Um... it's my, uh, understanding that many of his, uh, generation are having similar issues."

This bear woman seemed more ashamed of her son than her husband. Mrs. Cavey really did have an uncanny ability to make all these detectives incredibly uncomfortable in the blink of an eye.

"We... didn't mean to ask that," O'Doherty said as politely as possible, with a slight smile to appear reassuring and not patronizing. Hopps had to commend the professional way these two acted towards such an odd client - especially after seeing how unprofessional they could be behind closed doors.

"I-I'm sorry," the distraught wife and mother suddenly stuttered, "I told my son he had to be here for this, but he..."

"No, no, it's okay, you're okay," Ulvestad insisted, trying to calm her down. "But back to your husband, what does he do for a living? Where doesIswork?"

"My husband... doesn't work," Michelle replied, sounding just as embarrassed, but for entirely new reasons. "HeIsDisabled people --physicallySpeaking of! He, uh… he was hit by a car, he was in a bad motorcycle accident just before our son was born, he was beaten up by muggers because he couldn't run away, because… well, he couldn'trun…"She just looked around and shrugged. "He was my son's entire life on disability. For the same reason he is not allowed to drive.”

"Hmm. Got it," Justine murmured, taking notes. "Well, did he have any...hobbiesthat would take him out of the house?”

"No," Mrs. Cavey said dejectedly. "He just watches TV all day and smokes cigarettes on the back porch ... He can't even drink anymore, he's out of AA but he can't physically handle alcohol anyway as his bowels are all messed up."

'Got it, got it...' said Henry. "What about friends?"

"No longer."

"Any other family he can visit?"

"Not personally."

"Any nurses or healthcare providers stopping by the house?"


"Does he visit the neighbors?"


"Does he go to community centers?"


"Does he do volunteer work?"


"Is he involved in the community in any way?"


"Does he go to the doctor himself?"


"Does he go to the store himself to buy his cigarettes?"


"Does he generally go for walks?"


"...Does he have any reason to leave the house?" the wolf finally asked.

It seemed like the bear had to think about it. "... Will check the mail. That's all."

"...and the post office...is that mailbox we saw right next to your front door attached to your house?" asked the deer.


The two detectives just nodded tensely while their trainee watched their every move, trying to keep the step where their heads needed to be.

"But your husband...maygo, right?” asked Heinrich. "They have not clarified the extent of his disability."

"He can walk, yes, but... not for very long. He can't bend his knee very much with all those metal bars and stuff in them. He is said to have a walker or cane, but he never uses them.”

"And if he was... that obsessed," Justine urged, "does he have his own money to, I don't know, hail a cab somewhere or catch a bus?"

"He does ... but not much of it, and God knows where he ever wants to go when he does."everythingI could make it available right here," Michelle grumbled, making it clear to everyone that she was very bitter about how her life had turned out.

Judy was certainly forming her own conclusions as to what was going on, but she kept quiet, leaving it to the veterans.

Above her, Ulvestad was still scribbling in his notepad. “Okay, and… just so we have a physical profile of the guy, what does this gentleman look like? Height and weight?"

Mrs Cavey seemed uncertain. "Er... well, himWarseven-five at one point, but between his poor posture and his deteriorating spine, maybe not more... weight? Um...I'm sorry officers, but I don't have an exact number for you. But I can tell you he's...probably underweight, especially forourGuys, he doesn't even try to move and he hardly eats, and when he does it's all junk food with no protein... Is that helpful?"

Henry honestly looked almost disappointed as he kept his pen on the paper, but he nodded and looked up at Michelle. "Yes ma'am. May I... go back into the living room to look at the family photo? Just to get an idea of ​​him?”

The bear still had that embarrassed look on her face. "You can, but...um, just be aware, that's a pretty old photo. Fifteen years or something?”

"Understood," the wolf said with a small smile as he walked back into the actual living room.

"And that's actually a good point," added Detective O'Doherty, "in order to get the best results in locating your husband, we need a recent photograph of him."

"Oh,well…” Another nervous chuckle from Mrs. Cavey. "...that couldMay bethe latest photo of him - haven't really had a reason to photograph him... in the last few years -"

The deer nodded with a gentle smile. "It's okay ma'am, we understand you didn't exactly prepare for something like this; we say just for posters with missing mammals and stuff..."

"Oh, no, no, I see! I see!" stammered the bear. "Not an inappropriate question! Just, uh...heh, not many Kodiak moments in the last few years, you know? No, uh - no pun intended, we're not Kodiaks."

"We understand," Justine continued to nod. "Just try to find a relatively recent photo if you have time."

Meanwhile, Henry came back in, and the wolf pulled out what appeared to be an ID card. "All right, Missus Cavey, this card certifies that I have passed all the required tests to use the sense of smell to search and gather evidence for the City of Zootopia Police Department. May I have your permission to snoop around to see if I can pick up anything...let's say,foreignscents?"

Michelle seemed confused. "Foreign in... how?"

"Smells of someone who doesn't fit into your family, smells of objects or substances that might have started a fight... things like that."

She flinched. “Don't you have to… sniffusto get a sense of how we smell..."

"Oh, no, no, the certificate means I can see that without getting that close, but forpreferablyResults...!" He rummaged in his pocket and pulled out a small, slim pouch and held it to his nose while sniffing deeply; Judy would later find out that it was smelling salts.„...OOOH,And,Therewe go,THEREwe go! Yes, I already smell three different Ursides... and there's the tobacco!JESUS,that's strong! Yes, I was about to say that you guys usually have a better sense of smell than we do, but withThea lot of tobacco dulls your senses…” Henry calmed down for a moment. "May I have a look around? I'm not going to open drawers or anything, I honestly don't have to."

Michelle just looked dejected. "Uh... alright, go ahead."

"Sure. And hops..." The wolf turned over a new page of his pad and handed it to the bunny along with his pen. "Feel free to add more notes while I'm gone!" And he was gone, half the flight of stairs up the split level.

Judy gladly accepted the honor, but now she didn't want to let the opportunity pass. Now that she was an investigator, she felt she should investigate how investigators investigated so that she could investigate as well as they investigated. As such, she picked up the legal pad and looked at the last page, the one Henry had just written on.

Much to her surprise, she found a doodle: two bears, one a head taller than the other (and roughly scrawled to make it thinner than in his first draft), arms raised and a stick in one paw as he gestures the yelling at the terrified - smaller looking, conspicuously much darker in color and apparently wearing... a police officer cap?

Suddenly a deer hoof came down on the notebook and squeezed it shut. Judy looked up and saw Justine slowly shaking his head. It worked as intended and the bunny shyly took her paws off the paper, embarrassed at having been caught sniffing around.

"So... what else do you need from me?" asked the bear sitting across from them, still squirming. "What will you do to help find my husband?"

Now Judy knew she was there to be seen, not heard, but she was already practicing her deductive reasoning skills. In her mind, the answer seemed obvious here: Michelle Niedzwiecki Cavey must certainly be behind her own husband's disappearance. I mean look at her, she wasn't even heartbroken, she just seemed scared, and she seemed to be doing her best to explain that she wasn't that happy with her marriage. It wasn't normal for an innocent person to be so nervous; this seemed to be a clear sign of a guilty conscience. But Detective-in-Training Hopps knew it wasn't her job to make that call, so she patiently waited for Detective O'Doherty to crack it:

Calm as ever, the deer put their hooves together and gave the bear a professional smile. "Well, Missus Cavey, with the information you've given us, we're going to file a missing mammal report."

…And that was it.

"That's it!?" Michelle almost shrieked. And let's just say Judy was surprised too.

"Well, ma'am, based on what you've told us, it sounds like your husband, despite his disability, is mentally and physically healthy enough to still make his own decisions while he's still young enough to not qualify as a senior citizen, in which case…” You could tell by her body language that Justine knew she was going to get a bad reaction for what she had to say. "...if he was able to leave the house, he is free to do so."

Again Judy was stunned, but all eyes were on Michelle, whose mouth dropped open as the words refused to come out.

"...So you won't do anything!?"

"Well, ma'am, if we find him, we'll be sure to get in touch with you..."

"But will you do it?seefor him!?"

The deer's smile was clearly strained. “You see, Missus Cavey, it is saidthe right to disappear:Adults over the age of eighteen are not legally required to return home. It's nothing against your husband, it's standard practice in police departments across the country: that in missing mammal cases, priority is given to missing children, the elderly and the mentally disabled, all of whom probably wouldn't be able to go away on their own will. For everyone else…” A tentative shrug. "...we can't assume thatwas notof their own free will, if they had all their mental faculties with them.”

Michelle winced in shock. "Well - himIsalso mentally handicapped!”

O'Doherty put her hoofed hands together. "...HeIs,"she repeated skeptically.

"YES!He... he, uh... he's diagnosed with bipolar!"


"He is, yes!"

A deep breath through the deer's nose. "It would have been helpful to tell us sooner, Missus Cavey. When we were discussing why your husband was unable to work.”

"Yeah, but, uh... heh heh, I didn't want to just keep rattling off a list of things wrong with my husband. That might have sounded bad!”

Judy turned her head up to have a look at Justinecome on, she's definitely in!,but the deer just looked up and called to its partner:


"And?"answered the wolf from above.

"I tried to explain to her the right to disappear and now she's telling us her husband has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder."

Ulvestad came back down the steps looking confused. "Well...I think bipolar is on the cusp of where we can still grant them their autonomy, it's not like...an intellectual disability or anything..." He turned his gaze to the bear. "By the way, I smelled... amuchof opioid painkillers up there. OxyContin or Vicodin or... both? He was--?"

"This is for himphysicallyDisability!" Mrs. Cavey explained anxiously. "But... my God, the effect they had on his head, maybe heIsnow mentally retarded! I understand your reasons for prioritizing some cases over others, but I assure you, he isis notable to make informed decisions!”

Henry just blinked at her. "Okay, but I wanted to ask if there's a chance he...transferthem and whether some unsavory characters might have dropped by for them. Because otherwise I didn't smell anyone on the whole upper floor."

"Um...no, he doesn't sell his - at least he doesbetterNot be! FirstIDwill hear about it! Heh heh…” She broke off and her forced giggle into a very overtly pleading look. "Please, Officers... believe me, my husband cannot be trusted out there alone."

Judy sat begging for eye contact with one of the detectives to tip them off that the answer was right under their noses. But the deer and the wolf only exchanged a look that seemed to say:welp, I think wehavein order to do this.

"We're going to file a report with everything you've told us so far," O'Doherty said as she got up from the table and gathered her notes. “We will definitely update the department on your husband's various conditions. We'll get back to you if there's anything else we need from you, and in the meantime try to find a suitable photo of your husband."

"You can reach us on this number," Ulvestad said as he handed the woman a card with their names handwritten. "We have your contact information and will have a case reference number for you by tonight once it's in our system."

Michelle accepted the card and just stared at it in amazement. "...And that's it?"

"It's all usmaydo now,” Henry explained.

"But we'll get in touch," assured Justine. "Well, let's see each other, don't we...?"

"Er... no, no," said the bear as she stood by them. "I'll let you out."

Mrs. Cavey obviously couldn't believe the investigation of a real missing mammal was going to be like this. And for what it was worth, neither could Judy.



Ulvestad and O'Doherty physically flinched as the trainee detective's deafening scream rang out from the back seat of the squad car.

"I said wewere notgo to”, the wolf replied and grumbled behind the steering wheel. "But I guess now wehavebecause apparently this guy is... bipolar and... insane or something.” Judy could see his eyes rolling in the rearview mirror.

"In the end, we'll leave it to Honeycutt to decide whether or not to pursue it," the deer added, making no attempt to hide her irritation at her trainee. "But we've known him longer than you, Hopps, and we're pretty sure he'll agree that looking for this guy would be a tremendous waste of time."

There were so many things the bunny wanted to say about it because she felt the urge to say them all but was unable to say any of them as they got stuck trying to get everything out of her at once mouth to squeeze. Still, her moral compass demanded that she say something while she had her attention, and what she finally got to say was pretty simple:

"How can you twosayThe!?"

Henry and Justine glanced at each other and both tried to see if the other was ready to accept this and found that wasn't the case.

"We can say that..." Justine began cautiously, "...as professionals who have been doing this for a while.That isHow."

You probably aren't surprised, my friend, to hear that Judy Hopps wasn't happy with that answer.

"But this is aCreature!That is athe life of a mammal!Not youCare!?"

"I'm sorry," Henry said in a tone that didn't sound too regretful, "did we say something that suggests we doHappythat this guy disappeared?” A smack. "I'm not being sarcastic Hopps, if we gave you that impression tell us now so we can make it clear we're not. We only used our judgment to determine this guy is itprobablynot a high priority.”

"Every missing mammalshould be a top priority!” Judy felt like she was arguing with people who thought the world was flat.

"Oops..." O'Doherty began, sounding almost pitying the poor stupid bunny, "... youtatSee how much we've got on our plate, right? That huge filing cabinet full of cases? We literally don't have the time or mammalian power to deal with every single one of them.”

"SO!?Are you going to let a little hard work slow you down?” asked the angry workaholic. "You should feelhonoredthat you have the privilege of playing the hero and finding out what happened to that bear, that's someone's loved one!"

"'Someone'slovedone'?" repeated Ulvestad with a skeptical grin."'Lover'?Oops, I'm not trying to be mean: weren't you paying attention in there!? It is clear as day that this woman has fallen completely out of love with her husband!”

Part of Judy wanted to say that surely someone out there loved Duncan Cavey, surely loved that invisible son of his...but she had to admit that she couldn't prove that empirically. So instead, she went ahead with a talking point that she believed had a lot more evidence to support:

"And you know what!? What about that!? Do you both just want to ignore like this woman who is clearnotlove her husbandapparentlymust have been behind his disappearance!?"

Immediately, a horrified expression could be seen on the detectives' faces.

"Wait, isTheWhat do you think happened!?” asked the wolf.

"Oh myGood!"went the deer. “And I thought you were the happy, upbeat type; IsTheWhat has a few years on the beat done to you!?”

... No, my friend, it had never occurred to Judy that they might not have drawn the same conclusions as she did. It literally never crossed her mind. "Uhhh..."

"You know what?" said Henry with a finger in the air. "I'll say, I'll say ... that makes more sense now as to why Hopps is so mad at us.Ithought thatshethought we were just being lazy but now that I know she thought we were ignoring what like a...apparentlyMurder cover-up on her..."

"Yeah, I thought so too," Justine said. Then she turned in her seat to face her trainee directly. "What made you so...optimisticthat it must have been...The?I mean I can see howPerhapsone could conclude from this..."

"Didn't you see how she acted!?" Judy sounded like she was asking. "Her husband is missing and she isn't evensad,she is easynervous--"

"Yes, that isAngst,"interrupted the wolf. "My mother was like that. Someone who was raised to follow the rules at all costs, so she's nervous about speaking to authorities even if she hasn't done anything wrong because she knows the authoritieshavethe power to punish them anyway if they are wrong in their judgment or just...bored.My grandfather was a bully for my mother and her siblings and knew bears especially wellTheGeneration of women, I wouldn't be surprised if their upbringing went the same way."

That actually caused the trainee to stumble for a moment. "Uh... I mean, yeah, I can understand that, I... dammit, I'm aHase,Fear runs in my family, I know mammals all too well who fear punishment even when they have done nothing wrong, but..."

"So you agree that this is likely to happen."

"--but her husband left anywaymiss!Even if itIsOnly…Angst,You would think she would be morescaredthan… fidgety and awkward…”

"Maybe she's reconciled to that already," said the deer. “It's been forty-eight hours; It's funny how quickly you can make peace with something when you realize it's never been too far-fetched ... and from hearing her describe her husband's poor health, it honestly sounds like she is basically ready for this guy to die any day now. ”

"Which would make it even more ridiculous if she decided to kill him, although it sounds like she wanted him gone, all she had to do was wait," Henry said, much calmer now. "It would just be stupid and impatient of her. And you know what? The fact thatyou didconcluding that she did it, when she may not have done it... fully justifies her reason for being nervous about exactly that. Even though it was a self-fulfilling prophecy, the fear of fear itself weighed on her.”

"I know it sounds...sick,Judy," Justine continued, "but we're just being honest. And to be honest, we expected that with your police experience, you'd be a little more... oh, Jesus, what's the word?"

"'Janted'?"suggested her partner.

"No, notjaded, jadedsounds bad! um... well,realistic,straight forward Knowing that there are some dark things in this world that you must face, Hopps.”

Judy was a bit depressed that this had taken such a cynical turn, but she was even more offended that they thought she was a naïve novice, just like everyone thought on their first day in power. She wouldn't allow them to treat her like that again. "IBinrealistic about the dark things i will encounter in this industry! That isWhyI assumed a woman was behind it! If youtatwouldn't it make sense for her to report him missing and pretend she doesn't know about it to throw us off her trail!?”

"Maybe, but we won'tassumethat," O'Doherty said. "Especially when Occam's razor says it probably wasn't artificial."

"Then whattutOccam's razor sharp thought happened?”

Ulvestad had an answer ready: "That this bear realized that his life was shit, staying in the house day after day, decided to go for a walk outside without telling anyone because he realized that nobody cared about him, probably went into the forest and did this thing where mammals roam in nature to get back to our wild roots, grossly overestimated his physical abilities, maybe passed out and cracked his skull on a rock, or fell into a creek and drowned or stumbled into a ravine and broke his leg or neck or something and if he didn't die immediately then he probably died or is about to die from exposure as we speak, beyond the point, where we can save him.

Judy was silent. And actually, Justine was, too.

"...I...would have just said normal suicide," the stag finally said, "but...yes, that's a good possibility too. I definitely agree that he probably ended up in the woods one way or another.”

Well, as long as these two already considered her immature, the rabbit saw no reason not to protest further. "Well, if you both say that detectives pick their own cases, then once I'm done with the training, I'll take Duncan Cavey's case myself..."

"Oh, well what is thatPoint,Then!?" O'Doherty snapped suddenly, hooves in the air. "Why bother bothering to fucking train you when you seem to already know everything there is to know about being a detective!?"

"Hey, Justine, Justine..." Ulvestad cooed as he put a paw on her shoulder. "Relax yourself -"

"Oh, don't tell me to relax! Hopps, are you even considering how to do itusfeel like we're doing our best to train you and you're telling us to our faces that you think you have our moral superiority!?"

And again... Judy went silent. Checkmate, she'd been so sure she was right that she really hadn't considered her feelings in the argument. And while she still thought she was more right than wrong now that she thought about how she'd spoken to them... it probably didn't feel any different to her than it did when she was trying to get Nick help with a new career to offer, and he just didn't take it. Justine certainly had no idea how hard that question had hit.

'Go to her gently,' said Henry, trying again. "She just...well, she alluded to that earlier when she said we should want to play the hero, she just has the main character syndrome."

Okay fuck it, Judy was excited again. "Well...if I may be so brazen..." the rabbit began cautiously, "...I've always thought that...yes, it could be obnoxious for someone to think they're a hero, but ifnobody triesto be a hero...we won'thaveall Heroes.”

Now it was the wolf and the deer's turn to be quiet. They had to think about that for a moment. Each of them still felt that was a bit too idealistic for a worldview, but they also found Judy's doer attitude difficult to poke fun at.

"...I can admit that," Ulvestad said simply, eyes just on the road. "That makes sense...er, counterpoint, but: Hitler thought he was a hero, too."

“Or to use aless dramaticExample,Hm…"O'Doherty said, "...all these mammals who try to be social media activists without ever doing anything in the real world probably think of themselves as heroes too. We are not afraid that your hero complex will inadvertently spawn a fascist dictatorship,Hm,but weAreconcerned that you might be wasting all your energy doing a whole lot of nothing if you don't knowExactlywhat you are doing."

Judy just nodded softly; They had all scored fair points. "Well, I appreciate your concern. And I will remember that.”

"Good to hear."

But that doesn't mean I'll stop fighting.

They were all silent for a moment as they drove on. Henry had his left paw stuck out of the open window and was pacing the waves of the wind.

"...You know, this was probably all a tremendous waste of time, Honeycutt will have the last word on all of this."

"Damn it, Henry, don't ruin the moment."


As it turns out, if anyone in Investigations was really lazy, it might have been Captain Honeycutt himself. After returning to the train station, he never left, especially because he didn't want to come back easily. In his defense, however, he was quite right: he needed to be back in person to speak to the detectives and their new trainee.

"...All right," the black bear said with a gentle smile as he folded his paws together on his desk, having just heard Ulvestad and O'Doherty recap everything they learned during the visit. “Sounds like a successful intelligence gathering operation. Did you write down your report while you were there?”

The deer and the wolf just gave him a few fake-shy smiles while the bunny looked up at her sneakers, wondering if they hadn't even gotten their own job right.

"Well, based on what you told us, we didn't think we would need that," Henry said.

"We're loyal to the fault, aren't we?" added Justine.

Nobody noticed how the little bunny's face twisted. They had broken protocol because they werefaithful?Something Honeycutt hadcalled?

Carson just giggled and waved a paw at them. "Oh,you both!But if not then, then it must be now."

The detectives just nodded.

"That's totally fair!" agreed the hind.

"You know, we saw itTheone is coming a mile away!" added the wolf.

"Alright, alright, you two," Honeycutt said as he got up and made his way to the door. "You guys are going crazy while me and Hopps are here powwowing about how your first day has gone so far!"

"You don't have to ask us twice!" said O'Doherty sweetly as she walked out.

"We are our duty to the end!" said Ulvestad as he followed her.

And as they left, Judy had the sense to get the disgusted look off her face at being left alone with Captain Honeycutt.

"So!" said the bear as the door slammed shut. "How's it going so far? Is it how you imagined it?”

It hadn't been, and now Judy was in a bind. She was smart enough to know that a complaint about Henry and Justine's lack of diligence and professionalism wouldn't go down well in a thousand cases, but she was strong-willed enough not to be able to live with herself unless she protested the Divisions investigation careless and careless attitude when given the opportunity. Ah, at times like these, the rabbit wishes she wasn't so great at being the intelligent and sensitive heroine Ulvestad and O'Doherty accused her of playing.

But that's when she realized she had a way out: This bear didn't know.

He didn't know she thought that. Honeycutt didn't know who she was. And he wouldn't know if she didn't act like herself. Oh, Nick would be proud of her for that: it was time to play dumb.

"Well, Captain, it was even better than I thought it would be!" she beamed; At least her enthusiasm wasn't fake. "I can't wait to get to work and help this poor bear woman find her missing husband!"

And just as Judy expected, Carson just kept smiling at her in his feigned caring way as he sat down and folded his paws to give it to heroh, you sweet summer childlooked like he knew he had to gently deliver some hard truths to her.

"Ah, hops, hops, hops... you're exactly as Bogo advertised," he said, shaking his head while still smiling softly. "And let me start by saying it's just a good thing that you care so much. But – and I was hoping Ulvestad and O'Doherty would have told you this by now, but I think they had other priorities given the circumstances – the hardest part of this work is confronting the fact that there are just so many problems and so little gives time to fix them...we must be picky and choosy about who we spend our limited time with. And so… based on what Missus Cavey herself first reported to the department, and what Henry and Justine have just confirmed…” He threw up his paws without lifting his elbows from the table while shrugging and giving her a growing gave an awkward smile. “...I don't think it would be in our best interest as a department to pursue this case. At least not now.”

No part of her was surprised by that answer. But she still had her skills as an amateur actress about her.

"...Oh!" Judy gasped. "Oh dear, that... that sounds so tragic, but I see what you mean!"

"Yes, yes..." the bear nodded regretfully. "It's never easy, but it's a necessary part of what we do."

"Although... I have to say..." The rabbit tried not to sound too clever. "...I am surprised that the mentally ill are not given priority when they are missing!"

This managed to blend the captain's smile into a look that seemed confused and a little worried. "Uh... the, uh, mentally ill, uh...ArePriority...if they are missing."

Judy once again acted very surprised when she heard that. "SheAre!Interesting! Because Michelle Cavey mentioned that her husbandhatwas diagnosed with bipolar disorder!"

You could tell from Carson's expression that he was starting to see where his trainee was going with this, but he kept playing along:"Also,then... interesting that Henry and Justine didn't mention that..."

"Oh, I wouldn't blame you, Missus Cavey herself almost treated it as an afterthought and didn't mention it until we were on our way out!"

Honeycutt was terribly intrigued. "Did she now? And what inspired you to throw that in at the last second?”

She pretended to giggle awkwardly, like she was embarrassed about her wife. "Oh, she panicked when O'Doherty told her his physical disability wasn't enough to make her husband a special case — whatAlsoI'm surprised we don't treat the physically challenged as priority cases, but I trust the judgment of the authorities -"

"So youwarWe recognize that we prioritize some cases over others.”

The bunny stopped dead. "...I'm sorry?"

"OftatHeard at the Cavy house that some missing mammals are being given priority over others," the bear said bluntly. 'From Justine. You just acted like I was the first to let you know."

Now it was Judy who wore oneYou got me, but I won't look embarrassedFacial expressions like those worn by Carson when Bogo called him earlier. She was still smiling, but she knew she'd gotten too confident. "Hmm… yes, now that I think about it, ittutring a bell--!"

"Hop",the captain said firmly: "You know, as head of the investigative department,Iwas a long-time investigator herself. I can tell when you're kidding me."

She just nodded to that and forced a smile to appear fearless. "I don't mean disrespect, Captain Honeycutt, but I felt...forcedto see how you...explainit yourself if you had to explain it from scratch. As a boss and such!"

And to do this, the black bear simply put its paws together, closed its eyes, took a deep breath through its nose and immediately sighed out again. "I mean...ifOfI think a good detective would do that.”

...All right, nowTheshe had not expected. And fair game to Honeycutt, if he wanted to win this conflict decisively, challenging Judy to think about her own moral code was a pretty good strategy. It was like a parent's I'm not mad I'm just disappointed routine, butbetter.Hopps wasn't ashamed... but she felt something similar. she feltreceive,maybe that's a good way of putting it.

"Listen, Hopps," said the bear bluntly, "between everything you three have heard about this guy, between everything his wife told us on the phone, between the public records we have on this guy - ortheir absence,The guy doesn't have a career history in the last quarter century, but we doAgainWe have an old incident report from 1994 of him stealing his wife's car when he didn't have a driver's license. She eventually decided not to press charges and we never called him about the no license thing because we never caught him driving the vehicle…” A groan, as if frustrated himself at the bleakness of what he was about to say : “…This bear doesn't make the world a better place just by existing. He just doesn't, there's no evidence he does. If anything, he's making it worse. Just listen to this woman talk about him and tell me she sounds like she is living happily ever after with the love of her life, I disagree. Argggh, I'm just going to rip the bandaid here, hops...this is quite possibly the most worthless missing mammal we've ever reported, and there's absolutely no way we could justify wasting our time looking for it. We have many other missing mammals to search for, spend your time searchingthemif you insist."

Judy's head was spinning as she tried to say a million things at once. "...Wait--Othersmissing mammals--!?”

But she was cut off anyway. “I can say with a clear conscience and absolute certainty that we will not miss this bear. Finding him would be a waste of time, end of story.”

The bunny's eyes widened as she felt like she had just run out of blood. She knew as she began this journey that she would encounter some grim things, but...certainly not this cold and calculated disregard for mammalian life. And as such...her mind and body internally rejected it, and she questioned his claim even when she knew she couldn't win because she knew she would become physically ill if she didn't try.

“B-but… but you don'tknowledgeThat!" she replied, her tone as if she were pleading. "T-that bear… he stillIspart of her family! How sick do you think this family must be if they want him gone!?” She tried her best not to scream outright. "He has aSohn!The bond beyond parent and child, it's... it's, it'sorganic! Hardwiredin U.S!atloves her parents deep down --THERE!Someone who misses him! His son!case study!”

The expression on the police captain's face was now an unreadable blank. "...is that what they teach you in science class at Bunnyburrow? Because that's just not true.”

Once again, Judy was disarmed. She can now look back on that moment with a clear head and fully admit that in her fit of fiery passion she had become quite over the top in the arguments she was making. But she still thought she was more right than wrong.

"...Okay," Judy said. "Fine. Not everyone. ButmostMammals doStandard,It's an evolutionary mechanism we inherited from our most primitive ancestors, prey and prey alike! yes sure goodsomeindividual mammals here and there may not have it, but they are..."

"Malfunction?"Honeycutt asked with a raised eyebrow. "... Or did you just want to use a vague term likestrangeor onlynot normal?"

The bunny backed away for a moment to try to figure out if her boss was offended personally or just on behalf of the authority he represented, which she now disregarded. Now, a year later, she still doesn't know what it was.

“Yes, Hopps, lots of mammalsAreprivileged to have a family that isn't totally screwed," the black bear continued, "but not all are because some families are really awful. Hating your parents isn't just for wayward teenagers and the adults who never do itstoppedbeing headstrong teenagers, even if they areIswhat you were taught in your little redneck family..."


"You are not excused. My point, Hopps, is that while I don't know this family, I do know onemuchof men who have problems with their fathers, and I know onemuch,AMUCHmy fellow Tursins who come from rough households. My folks are notoriously crappy parents, to the point that sharing stories about our crappy families is something we bond over since we know damn well we're too crappybecause ofour families to break the cycle. Maybe the Caveys' son isn't Danny Daddy-Issues, maybe the missing person is actually a kindhearted guy who's just in too much pain to do anything to better his family. But based on what I haveknowledge- because being a detective, Hopps, is about synthesizing the information gathered and coming to an informed conclusion - in my opinion it isprobablythat the cavey's son probably hates his father's guts. Maybe for valid reasons, maybe not, but he probably does, I'd bank it.” He clapped his paws together gently. “So let's summarize: the son in all likelihood doesn't like his father; the woman for sureCrapcan't stand her husband anymore; and there's nobody else in this guy's life. Ergo ... nobody cares if he's there or not."

Poor bunny felt like a boxer watching the world go round and knowing that she was about to faint but also knew she couldn't give up the fight until she couldn't fight anymore. And so she threw a final punch:

"...Okay, well..." She searched for the words before continuing. "...I don't disagree. But you really don't believe that...despite what might happen between family members...love is still there deep down? That you can accept that a relative... wouldn't otherwise be lovable, but... that there's still a spark, a little bitLichtDeep inside that always lets you knowHey, this is your flesh and blood and they will always mean something to you?”

Carson just looked unimpressed. "Now sinceseeminglyYou don't put the pieces together that IBinone of those bears who grew up with abusive parents - which makes me concerned about your detective skills, but we can talk about that later -NO,If a family member sucks enough and deserves it, it's to completely separate you emotionally from them..." He started counting on his fingers, "...thattiresdecision...thespiritually liberatingDecision... and just overall thatcorrectDecision. So honestly, meexpectthis brownie son, who I hear is well into adulthood, has already decided that his father is a stupid asshole who deserves to be robbed of his love, and..."

He trailed off, realizing that his new detective looked like she'd just seen someone get hit by a truck.

"...What?" he asked.

Judy ventured cautiously, "Um...I'm sorry, Captain, it just sounded like you used, uh...a specific oneWort,that, uh…” She stopped talking, just hoping he could play where the rest would come from.

It took a second but he got it. "...Oh.Oh! Maul--! TheWort,TheWord! Um…” He considered his options for a moment before forcing a smile. "Okay, you're right, that was terribly unprofessional of me! But, uh... hey, take comfort in knowing that... IBina bear! IAgainhave M-word privileges!”

The rabbit still looked squeamish. "Yeah, but, uh... itmaystill make other species uncomfortable..."

The fake smile was gone. "...Well, hops, I'd argue that it's not really yoursOrtfeel uncomfortable with that word.”

She said nothing. She was out of ammo.

Honeycutt broke the tense silence by patting the desk firmly with both paws. "Well, would you watch that!? What should have been a 2-minute conversation about enjoying the job became a 20-minute conversation about how you...clearlyhave the passion for it, but maybe not the sanity to make it work in an actually plausible way. Well, if the question is, is this all you had in mind...obviously it isn't."

She could only give him a dejected look.

"...Am I wrong?" he pressed.

She slowly shook her head.

"And you know what? That's okay,” he said, brightening a little. "No dream job ever turns out as dreamy as we imagine, reality gets in the way — wait damn, there's already a whole movie about who you areveryfamiliar with the feeling! hehehe. But... hey, we're adults, we understand, we adapt."

Judy relaxed now that her boss had relaxed. She didn't know how real it was, but any sense of danger actually seemed to have vanished - not to be speciesist against the angry bear, but... oh, you know what I mean.

"And so the question arises... are Justine and Henry doing a good job of training you?" Carson continued. "Make everything clear to you? Don't leave any questions unanswered? Because they're a hell of a pairing, but they'll also likely...turnd from time to time.”

Diverted.What a strange choice of words. Such a polite way of referring to exactly what Hopps was referring to. Such a stunningly brilliant way of conveying the idea that her eyes just popped open and she didn't know what to say in response.

Captain Honeycutt suddenly looked worried. “...You look like you know exactly what I meandiverted."

Oh. Great, now the bunny was worried that he had accidentally ratted on two mammals that he would be spending a lot of time with over the next few days and weeks. "...uhhh--"

"Have they been making out at work again!?"

Judy bit her tongue, trying to think of anything to say to diffuse the tension.

So the fuse went out:"SOHNFROM AN F--!” the bear growled as he suddenly shot up from his seat, but just as quickly restrained himself and regained his composure. "...Excuse me for a moment, I want to talk to you."

The Captain walked out of the office and closed the door behind him, leaving her there alone with her thoughts - and with as many thoughts as she had, this room might as well have been a party. But among the ideas and imaginations that gathered in her head at this little hoopla -Will Honeycutt be an idiot boss more times than a cool boss? Will Henry and Justine earn my living? H-E double carrot sticks for bothering the boss? Am I really the only mammal here that really cares?,et cetera – there was a thought that seemed –

“WILL YOU TWO ACT LIKE FUCK ADULT FOR TWO GODDAMN PROTOCOL!?!?" she could hear her new boss yelling down the hall.

-- get all the attention:What did he say about there being many other missing mammals?

"You know you can't fire us!"shouted Ulvestad.

"You're just jealous we HAVE each other!"shouted O'Doherty.

These three would clearly be busy for a while. And since Honeycutt had gone so far as to emphasize that a good detective is smart about how they spend their time, Judy couldn't help but think she'd be better off using this downtime to find a mammal It may or may not have been in the building that could answer a question that now burned inside her, burned even more than the questions of finding Duncan Cavey ever did.


She felt stupid for thinking he'd ever left. No, Madongo J. Bogo was still in his office, working, dutifully as ever. Well, he'd said if she ever needed him, she'd know where to find him; in her mind it was an open invitation. But she still proceeds cautiously:

"...Come in."He sounded more surprised than anything.

The rabbit opened the door slowly enough to express his regret at having disturbed him, but quickly enough to show that she didn't want to waste his time; after all these years she knew exactly how to approach him in moments like this. And maybe by then he knew she knew, because when she walked in, his gaze was at just the right angle to greet someone her size.

"...Hops," the Cape Buffalo stated matter-of-factly, as if answering an obvious trivia question.

"... You were expecting me."

"Hmph… not so muchexpects youas not much reason to expect anyoneanders,"he clarified. He took off his glasses and pushed his computer's keyboard aside. "But I told you my door was open, and I meant it.

She completed the first task but hesitated with the second. "Oh, uh...thanks, Chief, but it doesn't have to be long..."

"Anything worth doing is worth taking the time it takes to do it right," he interjected as he put his hooves together. "I gifted one of my best officers to Honeycutt and I want to make sure it wasn't a waste. Please, I insist:sit."

Well, that's hard to argue with. Bunny finally did as she was told, hopped onto the seat and pulled the lever to raise it. Bogo wore that "frustrated but not at her" look on his face again and he seemed aware of it, trying to look less annoyed but not trying too hard.

He got straight to the point: "Has Honeycutt treated you well, Hopps?" he asked, obviously expecting the answer to be some sort ofNO.

"Oh yes, sure he did!" Judy insisted. "Just... you know, it takes time to get used to a new boss..."

"If not him, then what brings you here?" He stopped trying to appear patient. And she knew he wasn't mad at her, but she knew thatIsknew something was wrong with her, that she was here, and it still affected the mood of the room. "Is it whoever trained you? Who did he put you together with anyway? It's not O'Doherty and Ulvestad, is it?"

Her conscious mind knew not to feel intimidated, but her heart didn't. "Er... no, they have - I mean,And,They train me, but it's not something they've done..."

"Did he let the two of them act like teenagers again at work!?"asked the chief and banged his fists on the table.

Judy didn't say a word; Her big eyes did all the talking.

Then the buffalo relaxed. "...My apologies, Hopps, that outburst was...inappropriate. Captain Honeycutt is effective at his job, although I disagree with his methods of leadership, and if he were running a looser ship there would be flotsam across the bay. So when you walked in here, I must confess, I assumed either he or his charges were being unprofessional.” He put his hooves together. "I…Trustthat now you can understand why I was so reluctant to lose you to him."

And she did. And she hoped this appreciation of her service would help the question she wanted to ask come across better.

"...But please, Hopps, to whom do I owe the pleasure?" he continued. "The anticipation is killing me"

No more fumbling, time to do business: "It's... something he told me. nothing, uhinappropriate,just… something I wasn'texpect,Herr."

The boss raised an eyebrow. "Go on."

Confident but not defiant,That was the tone she shot at: "Chief Bogo... what's that, I hear there's been another...shotCases of missing mammals?"

And he just nodded his head slowly.„Hmmm…“

"Because I...I'll be honest, Chief, with my track record, I have to...I have to ask, did I do anything wrong in not being assigned to these cases?"

Bogo remained composed. "...On the contrary, Hopps... I had a feeling that you would do this town more good if you kept the beat a while longer."

Then she had to flinch. "...How come?"

He looked a little disappointed that she had asked that. "I thought the obvious thing to do was train Braverman and mold him into a competent cop."

...Oh, sweet cheese and crackers with carrot sticks on the side. Really? Was it Braverman's fault? After all, his clumsiness and clumsiness had really hurt her tangibly when they thought she'd be better off babysitting him than handling the important cases. Ah, she felt bad kicking that poor pup, she knew he wanted so badly to be more than he was, but if his general lameness and utter lack of heroic qualities had cost her what she rightly deserved , she would have trouble controlling herself. But of course she couldn't just do itsayThe:

"Oh,Well, uh... I'm honored that you think I was the best officer forTheJob, Chief, but, um... I just thought that if there was a need like that, I could use my talents on cases like, well, you know,the greata few years ago, and that Brady would train well under someone else..."

"To the?"

Judy blinked. "I... I'm sorry?"

"Who would he be better served with than training?Of?"Bogo closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath through his nose. "...Remember how many new officers joined the force after that silly movie came out about us?"

"...I do."

"How many of them stayed, Hopps?"

She looked like a deer caught in headlights. "I... don't remember, sir."

He nodded tightly and firmly. “The correct answer, Hopps, isnot many.So many of them quit quickly after finding out the job wasn't what they had in mind - which certainly meant for some of them that the day-to-day work wasn't what they expected, but like me, slowly guess hops... I suppose a lot of them were put off when they met oursOthersZPD officers and realized that they were not like thatOf."

Bogo's reference to the film… Judy was beginning to see where he was going with this.

"WhyHave I fired that many officers in the last few years? For when I saw so many bright-eyed and bushy-tailed new applicants make an about-face as soon as they arrived, I confronted myself with something I had long suspected: Far too many of my officers didn't really care about serving their public or were actively antagonistic mammals that I should never have given a modicum of power.” A low grunt sounded deep in his throat. "And I'm deeply ashamed that I ever let them into our department in the first place, not just because they scared off all the recruits who had your heart but not your determination, Hopps, but because they fooled me into thinking they could." ever stand for the values ​​that the ZPD stands for, when in reality they would only ever embody those diametrically opposed."

Judy just shut up and nodded in embarrassment.

"Our attempts to use you as a recruiting face backfired, Hopps.Bad.It showed how uninspiring and frankly unsympathetic many of our officers were that new trainees were leaving, even after having devoted themselves to the Academy for so long. And so... like yousurelyThey've made up their own minds by now... this leaves a majority of our officers either lazy looking for a government job with government job perks or outright bullies looking for a position of power - and that isafterI did everything I could to weed out as many of these guys as possible without the department becoming unstable from a lack of members! I don't want to vent my frustrationOf,Hopps, but you remind me of a major failure of mine as a leader, a failure I'm still struggling to fix. Surely…surelyYou can understand why that hits a nerve."

She nodded again. "I do." And she regretted ever saying a word.

He was silent for a second before speaking again."...Therewith…I wanted to keep my best officers on patrol, not only to increase the likelihood that they would be the ones a particular civilian might encounter, but also to act as mentors to the few new officers who stayed around to stand. That's why I kept Braverman with you, Hopps: I don't know if it's drive or determination, but the fact that he hasn't quit was enough to make him stand out. This dog may not have the natural talents needed to be a good officer, but I can tell he at least desires it - and I was hoping that maybe you could find a way to get greatness out of him, eh another officer might. TThat iswhy i kept you on the street and off the bigger falls: i needed youTheremore. It was that easy.”

The rabbit kept nodding shyly. She got what she was getting at and now all she could do was hope that her boss would stop talking so she could get away. But the way it was all worded hinted at something and prompted a question in her mind that she was hesitant to ask –

"In any case," Bogo continued, "take comfort in the knowledge that this new promotion will right the injustice of not getting what you rightly deserve."

--ButTheStatement inspired her to ask it anyway:

"...does that mean you give up on Braverman!?"

The buffalo looked confused.

"You... you promoted me and separated me from Braverman because you are giving up on him?" she elaborated; Two minutes ago she was mad at Brady, and now here she was sorry that she had ever thought so badly of him. "Because – because if you think he doesn't get along well with anyone else... he's not that bad! He has a good heart!”

The chief seemed to be trying to be patient while his officer ranted and ranted. "I don't... disagree-"

"If... if I'm not with him, does that mean you fired him!?"

He put up a hoof. "Oops, I didn't do anything like that..."

"Didn't you!?Oh that is good! Okay, um, how about this: take me back to him! My detective career can wait, you've already shown me that you trust me enough to be a detective, I can be patient and pick it up when the moment comes! I'm gonna make a good cop out of Braverman and--and you know what? WhychickensWe follow the missing mammal cases together as ordinary cops? That's whatItat what aciviliana few years ago! Two beat cops on it shouldn't be a problem, right!? And hey, experience made Nick a great officer, so why shouldn't Brady make a great officer!? boss Bogo,Thanksso much for the opportunity to become a detective, but if the goal is to get Braverman in shape then I won't let you down -!

"Stop, HOP!"

That certainly slowed her down. "Er... I'm sorry, Chief, what did... you...?"

The buffalo just stared at her for a moment before repeating:"Stops, h--Oh,nonsense..."he murmured as he laid a hoof across his face for a moment."Whoops, STOP.abstain. You and Braverman were both moved to positions that I believe better suited your abilities, and that's it. I could appreciate the zeal, Hopps, but the fact is, I'm yoursSuperior,and by nature my choices and judgments are more important than yours; I don't need you in the back seat to tell me what to do. We had this conversation a few years ago, Hopps; I didn't think we would need it again. We must?"

And you know, in another time and place she might not have liked everything, but Chief Bogo assured her that she hadn't let Brady down, so that was all well and good, and besides... she just would have it done privy to something that is really eating away at her boss, more than she ever realized. For those two reasons, Judy was able to persuade herself to give her boss some leniency and not take his frustration too personally.

"No, sir..." she said softly but clearly, "...no, we...we don't have to."

He took another conscious breath through his nose. "...Very good, then. I'll let you get back to your training, after which you can contact Honeycutt to track any missing mammal cases you can get your paws on."

Appell an Honeycutt.Yes, been there, tried it. But this wasn't the right moment to continue the conversation and ask if Bogo co-signed the black bear's decision not to even try to find Duncan Cavey.

Besides, she didn't have to. As she left the chief's office, she felt determined: she would find the missing grizzly if it was the last thing on her mind. She needed neither Honeycutt's permission nor training from Ulvestad and O'Doherty; Just call it an extracurricular activity that engages in a self-taught hobby.

Don't worry DuncanShe found herself thinkingSomewhere out there is a mammal that loves you... and I will bring you back to them.


Judy barely remembers how the rest of the day went after that. She, Ulvestad and O'Doherty had certainly been poking around in a few other open cases, mostly to give the budding detective some extra practice with her reasoning skills. And with some of them they even made progress; Turns out, The Flute That Kills You When You Play It smelled like it was both lead and coated in lead paint, so thanks to the wolf's nose, the thing was sent to the lab for testing so they could prove it wasn't just haunted .

But for the most part, it really felt like they were all just killing time. Henry and Justine knew that with minimal help from the department, Judy had already cracked an enormous case, and as much as it seemed like they weren't having as much fun with her as they had hoped, it was clear that they were only having the utmost Respect for her intellect and problem solving skills and would not rush to give her unsolicited and unnecessary advice. As such, it felt like the three of them were just hanging around and playing Clue with no dice and letting time tick away before Judy could start working on her own...whenever that would be.

Their shift was over and they said goodbye for the night; Nothing too cheesy, they would meet again the next day. Of course, Ulvestad and O'Doherty had driven to work together, so they would also drive off together and let Judy walk around the station alone while she gave them some "debriefing time" alone in her office. (...Wait, Jesus, I didn't even realize that was going to sound so dirty until I wrote it. Anyway, I'm rolling with it.)

Anyway, if being the third wheel for an obsessed couple all day wasn't enough to make them feel lonely, walking the station's deserted corridors probably would be enough. She'd rarely been in the building on a weekend evening, and it never got less unnerving how deserted it felt during those hours. Every other fluorescent light on the ceiling was extinguished, and you could walk around for a few minutes without hearing another mammal breathe—and youwouldhear her breathing if someone were there to hear her 'cause it would be so quiet in there. It really didn't feel like the same place at night, the hustle and bustle that she had come to think was the precinct just wasn't there. It wasn't even like thatscary,per se; just so damn lonely and depressing, like the building she knew was her boyfriend herself, and now she was looking at it, lying in a coma in a hospital bed.

…Wow,it got dark! But no problem; Soon at least something familiar would be added to make the rabbit feel less alienated.

"…Hey, what's up? ...No, I have to work right now. ...oh dude don't worry this place is as quiet as a graveyard no one around um-- ...I mean it's a police station they probably have cameras with microphones so I shouldn't say anything, it would be enormously stupid to say so, but even then they probably won't check it unless they have a reason to. We're fine, dude..."

The rabbit went to the reception with the Powerwalk. My goodness, when just a few hours ago she thought she'd never hear that voice again...


The German shepherd hadn't even seen the little bunny below his line of sight, obscured by the desk itself. When I heard her voice and realized her ears were sticking out over the ledge, it might as well have been a jumpscare.

"GOOD--!"The poor dog howled as he half fell out of his seat, dropping his phone in the process. "Uh, e-excuse me for a moment," he mumbled as he went under the desk to get his device."Hey, listen, uh... someoneWarHere, I have to call you back. In order? …Okay cool."And a moment later he was leaning across the desk, smiling down at Judy and, oddly enough, considering him, didn't look embarrassed at all. "Judy, how are you!?"

She couldn't help but grin at how well he played this mini-comedy of mistakes. "Hmm...you shouldn't be taking personal calls at work, Brady."

He grinned right back. "What are you, a cop?" he chuckled.

Judy found herself giggling again. Wow, that was... oddly slick from Braverman. "Well, I... heh, I wanted to ask what you're doing here, but... I guess that question answers itself!"

The dog nodded gently. "Yes, the older guy who usually works at the bedside table will now work part-time. Chief wanted to keep me on the books in some capacity, so that seemed like a perfect arrangement! At least as a makeshift; he mentioned that as long as i have days off now i should go see a doctor to see if there is anything they can do about my condition and until if and when that happens i can shit that way IF EVER i MUST .FREE--!!"

"All right then,Okay…” the rabbit interrupted, physically flinching as she pulled her ears over her eyes. "You didn't have to say all that..."

"Oh, I know I didn't do itneedto ... but meSOUGHTthe dog giggled. "But seriously, Judy, I don't apologize for that. This is a serious issue in my life and for the first time since I started this job, I don't live in fear of being in excruciating pain with no way to stop it. I won'tNothingKill my vibe today."

And he just kept smiling at her, and it didn't even seem fake. Braverman seemed a lot more confident than she'd known him, and while she was tempted for a moment to say that Brady was acting like Nick usually did tonight...no, upon closer inspection, Brady didn't seem to be wearing a mask, as it now seemed so obvious that Nick usually did. For the first time since Judy had met this dog, he seemed genuinely happy for more than a fleeting moment.

And honestly, that made her happy too. I mean how could it not be her? This was the bunny who wanted to help everyone she met. Sure, she'd briefly annoyed earlier that his lackluster skills might have delayed her promotion, but afterwards she was scaredThethat he had been promoted to the rank of civilian, she was delighted to see that not only was he still employed, but he seemed very, very happy in his new role. And she couldn't help but feel bubbly just looking at it.

"So!" He continued with a glee she never thought possible, "How was your first day of detective training?"

He seemed genuinely interested, so she happily replied, "Uh... you know, pretty good, actually! Training with a couple of detectives who are fans of mine...had to deal with a few missing mammal cases, and, y'know what it's like, I'm glad to be able to help them, although I wish it was under better circumstances... oh, and we might have a breakthrough with the case of The Flute That Kills You When You -"

"TRYING IT!?"Braverman interrupted.

Only then did Judy stop smiling. "...It is not haunted." To be honest, she looked disinterested. "If anything, it's probably lead poisoning."

The German shepherd scoffed. "Oh, that's basically the same as being followed!" he laughed. "Ah, but I'm glad there's a logical explanation for this. Life in Zootopia doesn't need a Halloween special. And inJune,not less!"

Somehow that made her smile again. "So thatyourfirst shift as a desk jockey?"

"Yes ma'am! For twelve minutes. And I have onewildnight planned! I'm basically going to be alone and unsupervised all night, so I'm going to dive into the crazy world ofFan fiction!Let me tell you it isnuttyhow much depth adults can gain from children's cartoons - and youknowledgeThey are for kids because all the characters are human so the animators don't get in trouble because of species imbalance! I mean, I'm not skinny myself - not, uh, not that there's anything wrong with that, but I just admire the creativity, you know? Although it's an interesting insight into the whole idea of ​​art and inspiration itself, because at a certain point it becomes obvious that... well, notatof those skinnies, but a decent number of those mammals areclearlygetting a lot of inspirational miles from being insatiablehornyfor these people--!"

"Once again,again..." Judy squeaked nervously, putting two paws up to stop him, "you don't have to... well, the hell yousoughtto, right?"

"Ah,someone starts! But yeah, I spend my free time thinking about cartoon characters," he said with the tonal equivalent of a knowing wink. "...Just when you thought I could get any more pathetic."

And Judy just felt ashamed. "Oh, Brady, Brady,NO,"she insisted apologetically, "I don't think you..."

But she trailed off when she realized he didn't look as embarrassed as he said he did. If anything - when Judy realized that he had fully caught her unimpressed opinion of him but had now forgiven her because he had found his own peace - he seemed more at ease with himself than she did at that moment. And she realized that she shouldn't bother apologizing because even if it was the right thing to do after it broke, he had no use for her apology. He didn't need it; Finally he was satisfied, maybe more than she.

Sensing that she had better switch to a more appropriate tone, she started over, "Well, uh...I don't knowtoa lot about skinnies, but I get that... heh, you're a dog! Are notatAre you skinnies to some degree?"

He looked confused for a moment, but soon smiled: "...meBin,he mused while laughing through his nose. “Yes… we miss our old friends. It's a damn shame that the wolves will ensure that history never remembers the people fondly,WowThis is neither the time nor the place to start a race war.However…!"He clapped his paws and pounded on the desk as he got up from his seat. "ItIsTime for me to take advantage of one of these perks of my new job now!…Ifyou recognize my importance.”

She did, and just nodded as Brady set up a reading standI'LL BE RIGHT BACKwith a clock that the dog set the hand at five minutes from then on—before he reconsidered and made it twenty.

"Oh! Uh… by the way,” thought Judy, would it be nice to add, “thanks for the idea of ​​putting Nick in real estate.As much as he didn't want to...

"Hmmm! Good to hear! Glad I could help!” But Braverman had already emerged from behind the desk and didn't seem to be slowing down too much. "Hope he's enjoying it! Hey send him my regards, would you please? And hey, if you need me, you know where to find me! Nice to see you Judy!Toodles!"

The rabbit only waved meekly; she knew better than to try and stop that dog when he was walking that brisk, determined stride toward a certain room in a building. But there was also the fact that he had stolen the show from her and anyway she didn't know what to say about his new attitude.

And that was perfectly fine with her. Whoever this reinvented Brady was didn't have to cater to her tastes; this version of him seemed to like himself more than his old self.

And as she turned and left the territory to return to her fox, she smiled. Sure, her new department seemed disturbingly derelict, her boss seemed secretly going insane, and her boyfriend seemed unenthusiastic about joining a new job he didn't really care about; but at least one mammal was happier than before in this strange new status quo, and the others had plenty of time to prove themselves to them as well. No one was doing much worse than before, and one person was doing so much better that they single-handedly conjured up the mean of the data set.That iswhat was important to her: that things went up overall. And as she began her journey home that evening, she was cautiously confident that the next day would show even more hope.


Officers Carter and Villalobos were already frustrated when they pulled up in front of the Little Medium Mart, and anyone who knew the situation would say they had every right to be. The horse and the wolf got out of their cruiser and craned their necks at the officers they had been sent to babysit, while the moose and the polar bear stopped their argument to look at them. The responding officers had to wonder how long it would be before one of these two dorks went out of their way to disregard them.

As soon as their car doors opened, Officer Gordon Kitchener knew why they were there and found that reason ridiculous. "Kelly, Jesús... how are you, gentlemen?" the elk sneered, knowing full well that Carter and Villalobos hated being called by their government names.

Kel and Jimmy looked at each other unperturbed; They had their answer, and it was "two seconds flat".

"Why do you call us by names you know we don't like to be called, Kitch?" Carter asked as diplomatically as possible, annoyed.

"Because he's an asshole who doesn't care about anyone but himself," grumbled Officer Dean Hudson.

"Oh, shoo, you stupid snowbreaker!" Kitchener fired back at the polar bear, leaned forward for emphasis, then turned to the horse and wolf. "Yes IBintry to get angry! Maybe then you'll leave us alone! It's between me and him, it's none of your business nowFuck off.We don't need outsiders telling us how to work this shit out between us.Once again."

Once again.This wasn't the first time headquarters had sent in reinforcements just to settle a dispute between Kitchener and Hudson. Their rivalry was well known across the department, in this district and elsewhere. And yet you'll find that not only were they still busy, even after Bogo had purged any cops he deemed unfit, but they teamed up. Here's the thing: Neither of these two had any history of bad behavior towards anyone else on the force, and especially not towards civilians. No violations of any kind; Aside from their arguments, their records were impeccable. And weirdly, their desire to tell each other to eat shit brought out the best in them, leading them to go above and beyond at their jobs in a one-upmanship match — most of the time. But every once in a while, something like this would happen that required intervention, but in the Chief's eyes, it was usually worth dealing with. Normally.

"The dispatch told us that you two should do a smell test in that supermarket," Villalobos said, "but you two haven't even gone inside."

"Did you hear that, Hud?" the moose snorted. "You're inMichon this one!"

"People,seein that damn store!" protested the polar bear, pointing to the entrance and the boarded up window that someone had spray-painted"I assure you that we are open!""This door isn't even half my size! Draw me a diagram of how I fit in there!”

"Like I told him," Gordon told Kelly and Jimmy, "it's time to grow up and get on all fours to get your job done, Deano."

"That's not enough, idiot!"Dean shot back. But to prove his point, he sat down with his paws on the ground. "We're the same size, you idiot! You should know how great we are when we walk like primitives!"

So Gordon, with his shorter torso and longer legs, got himself on all fours. "Hm, I don't know, looks like you're amuchsmaller than me now!"

"MutterFUCKER--!"growled the bear as he leaned forward to wrestle the moose. The two got a few good punches against each other as the horse and wolf (usually the horse) parted it.

"Boys, boys!" exclaimed Carter. "Let's not behave like children!"

"You think sowantHudson demanded, now sitting on the floor."Igot the impression they called you guys in because Jimmy also has the sniff cert and he'd probably fit in there if he ducked."

Everyone looked questioningly at Villalobos.

"You mentioned that we might have to do your work for you," he replied flatly.

"Yeah, and they were vague about it because they were embarrassed they sent the wrong people for the job in the first place!" said Dean.

"What do we smell like?"

"Hell,anythingtrusted. Security footage showed a...creature or something that ran through here that even the computer didn't recognize."

"I'm sure it was just thatsucha mysterious force," Gordon scoffed.

"You would have seen the footage too if you hadn't sat in the men's room for forty-five minutes watching ZooTube videos about making hockey pucks or whatever!"

"People!"The wolf barked, catching the attention of the bear and moose. "...Are the owners here?"

"No, but some employees are," Kitchener said.

Villalobos just nodded and walked towards the entrance.

Inside, the two cashiers on duty sat at the counter in the midst of an intriguing debate:

"All right..." the fox said to his rabbit friend as he held out two bottles of soda pop from the fridge, "...so Dr. Pawper and Mr. Pibb a Spicy Cherry Coke and the other is said to be heavy on spice and cherries." He held them together for emphasis, "My theory is that they're a gay couple."

"Well, what if Dr. Pawper is a woman?" asked Ryan.

… Did I mention that they were completely sober this time?

Kenny spottete. „Mann, Dr. Pawperappearlike a woman?"

"Oh, what, you say a woman can't be a doctor? That's pretty problematic, Kenny. I have to report you to Antifa.”

And also rested.

"Ryan, I'm not saying a woman can't be a doctor, I'm saying itThedoctor isclearlyno woman! It doesn't suit Dr. Pawper's personality! Also, it's more awake to believe they're a gay couple than to believe either of them is a woman!"

"Oh no it's not!"

“PathsCrapis not it!"


The duo turned to see the wolf officer approach, the back of his head propped against the low ceiling as he navigated the war zone. The broken glass had been swept away (for the most part), but not much else was cleaned or repaired: shelving units were still misaligned, half the shelves themselves were collapsed or crooked, and produce seemed haphazardly stacked and tucked wherever it fit . So far, however, he hasn't smelled anything unusual.

"Oh shit, a cop!" cried the fox. "Hey officer, we need a tiebreaker.

Jimmy gave them a perplexed look.

"Don't worry officer," said the rabbit, "we're not actually too fixated on the answer, we're just practicing in case we're ever called out." He turned to his friend. "Remember, Kenny, we need to get this straightwarnot Antifa, because since he's a cop, statistically there's a good chance he's a neo-Nazi.

"Well..." replied the confused wolf, "...I'll tell you straight away, I'm not a neo-Nazi -"

"A classic Nazi back then..."

"I'm not a nazi. It would be pretty stupid if it was me, since I'm Mexican..."

"OfAre?"Kenny asked. “Then arrest Ryan, he wouldn't eatshellbecause it was mexican! AndThenhe said the powdered sugar looked like cocaine!TheIsUltraproblematic!"

"No, arrest Kenny for being a witch!" Ryan protested. "His people can seemagnetismwhile fuckingLuft!"

"Ryan, for the millionth time, most of us have lost that--!"

"He's a witch!"the rabbit continued. "He can see magnetism! No creature loved by God should be able to do that!Burn him!"

Villalobos looked uncomfortable. "I'm not going to burn him..."


"HERREN!"repeated the officer. "...I'm here for a reason. The other day your workplace was destroyed by a...mysterious...Ding.Does that sound right?"

"Yes," replied the fox, "that's how we would describe it."

The wolf raised an eyebrow. "You saw it? You were on duty?"

"Mmhmm," said the rabbit.

"...IDs, let's go. Let's see if the names match."

The cashiers looked nervous, but they showed their driver's licenses.

"I told you they thought the sugar was coke," Ryan murmured to Kenny, who rolled his eyes.

The officer paid no attention, instead analyzing the IDs. "Ryan Gray and Kendall Clay?"

"Yuh-huh," the rabbit replied. "Isn't it funny that Kenny has a maiden name? Let's make fun of him for it and destroy his self-esteem.”

"Uh..." Jimmy just shrugged. "Well my partner is a guy named Kelly and my dad is aeustachianwho answersStacy,sooo... not too weird for me."

"Whoa Kenny! You can start a club with these guys! You three and that rich kangaroo dude we met the other day named Ashley!”

"That would be an admissionKendallsa girl's name!” growled the fox. "What the hellis not!"

"Wait a minute," said the wolf. “...How long have you guys been working here? More specifically you, Mr. Clay.”

"Er... since last fall?" Kenny scratched his head. "September I think? So does Ryan.”

The officer frowned. “Well, according to your ID, you only turned twenty-one three days ago. AndOf,Mr. Gray turned twenty-one on New Year's Eve. None of you should have worked to sell alcohol and tobacco."

The boys looked defensively nervous, as one does when blaming them for someone else's mistake.

"Well..." Ryan murmured, "we weren't, like,consumethese things, just because we worked here -"

"Never mind," Villalobos said bluntly as he handed them back their licenses. "Your boss isn't here, I understand? Can you call her

"Sure," said the fox as he pulled out his phone. "By the way, officer, you never gave usyourName."

He thought about it, then nodded firmly. "Fair point, you're right. I am …"

"JIMMY, GET OUT OF THEM!"his partner yelled from outside.

Well, that couldn't be good. "Sorry," he said as he apologized.

Meanwhile, Kenny took this as an opportunity to continue their debate. "See Ryan?" he said as he pointed to the ringing phone in his paw."I amwoke up more thanOfare becauseI amMake sure there's a female presence in this scene!"

"It already happenedMay bea female presence in this scene if you just agreed that Dr. Pawper was a woman, you damn caveman!"

Outside the wolf found the horse trying again to break the moose and the polar bear doing that thing where two guys get into a push fight and retaliate by attacking each other to push back stronger which is paradoxically different closer brings harder they tried to push the other away. Carter couldn't separate them on his own, so Villalobos threw himself into the scuffle and the two pushed the two nine-foot torsos apart.

"What now!?" Jimmy demanded clarification.

"TheAsshole calls me a slacker for not just sticking my nose in the door and taking a smell testTheWise!” Dean explained. "As ifthat isin any way effective and thorough!"

"But it would be nice of you to at least do what you wantmayHell, instead of refusing, even try to do your job!” Gordon shot back.

"Man, at least mehaveA nose that can do this job, you useless--!"

"BOYS!"Kelly barked before turning to his partner. "How aboutOf,But what's taking so long?"

Villalobos looked a little nervous. “These guys won'tunkooperativso much so that they just can't stay on topic and now I have to call the owner and ask why she hired two kids who weren't old enough to work here..."

"Hey, officer," Kenny said as he and Ryan emerged from the small door, each holding a soda bottle. "We have our boss on the line."

"Oh. Thanks,” the wolf said unenthusiastically as he picked up the phone and walked a few feet away for some privacy. "Hello, this is Jesús Villalobos from the Zootopia Police Department, am I speaking to the owner of the Little Medium Mart...?"

Meanwhile, the bunny looked at the soft drink he was holding and seemed to have an epiphany. "Wait, crap, you might be right. I don't think dr. pawpermaybe a woman. Remember the ad campaign when we were kids for their shitty new version of the diet?'DR. Pawper Ten: This is NOT for WOMEN!'A female lemonade wouldn't say that."

"Oh dude," replied the fox, "mecompleteforget that--!"

"What thehellare you two talking?" the horse interrupted.

"Whether it's more awake having two gay guys or a straight woman," Ryan replied simply.

All three police officers looked stunned.

"Well, shit, I think that's the kind of question I'd expect some kids to ask when they're wearing stupid, upside-down hats with stickers!" Carter scoffed.

"Hey!"Kenny protested as he and Ryan took off their hats to show the teams they represented. "Ken Gruffey, Jr. and Jason 'White Chocolate Bear' Williams are two of the coolest motherfuckers in American esports canon and we will benotwill not be respected if you try to call them!"

"Well, speaking of stuff from ten years ago," Hudson quipped,"Thehat style withTheHoodie's style makes it look like you're living in 2011."

The employees looked at each other for a moment before shrugging in confusion.

"Things weren'tbetterin 2011?" asked the fox.

"They call our generationZoomingbecause our life rushes by, having certainly been constrained by the mistakes of previous generations," added the rabbit, "so we already have nostalgia for our youth in our early twenties."

"So," Villalobos continued on the phone with Angela, "are we going to use whatever scents I can find as evidence to find out what ruined your business... cashier before you were twenty-one?...ma'am?…I have.”He took the phone from his ear and looked at the screen. "... She hang up."

"WasII just want to know," Kitchener said to the other cops, "why do we need a wolf or a bear to do a scent test when we have a fox here?"

"Kenny's mom used to smoke indoors, so now he has no sense of smell," Ryan said bluntly.

"Oh, don't listen to him!" said Kenny. "Ryan has brain damage from his mother who bunny hopped so much when she was pregnant with him. It was like prenatal Shaken Baby Syndrome. In all honesty, that's probably why rabbits are so dumb in general, their heads get messed up in the womb from all the hopping."

"Well, the owner allowed us to do the smell test," said the wolf when he came back and gave the fox his cell phone. "...I don't like your boss."

"That's the right reaction to meeting Angela."

"Okay," Jimmy mumbled as he pulled a smelling salt from his breast pocket and headed for the door. "Let's get this over with. Come on, Beaver and Butt-Head, you're coming with me."

"Hey, we're not Beaver and Butt-Head!" Ryan testified as they followed the officer inside.

“I always thought we were more of a cross between clerksEmployeeand the two guys outregular show"adds Kenny.

Once inside, the wolf ripped open the salt packet and sniffed it, shaking his head vigorously as he got used to his sense of smell being used to its fullest potential. He immediately started sniffing the air, but didn't seem satisfied.

"Okay, so I'm going to pick all sorts right away - I guess all the employees and customers that come by."

"Er... maybe the fridge?" Ryan guessed.

Villalobos nodded and went to check.

"...Wait," said the rabbit suddenly, pointing to the bottle his friend was holding. "...It's not Mr. Pibb anymore, it's PibbExtra!"

"Yes?" asked the fox. "It's been like this since we were kids. Everyone still calls it Mr. Pibb.”

"Yes, but where was sheHerr.go!? It has to be on purpose."

Jimmy opened the fridge door and started sniffing. And once he forced his nose to detach itself from the smells of plastic bottles and almond milk...

"…Jesus,WasIsThat!?" the officer asked a higher power and himself.How could something smell so foreign and yet so…familiar?"Hello folks?" He called the staff back. "Where else should I try?"

"Uhhh, it all went up and down along that counter in the back," Kenny suggested. "Maybe try there?"

And he did so, hoping that another location would provide some aromatic clarity.

"So I found out," Ryan stated. "Dr. Pawper is indeed a guy, but Pibb is either transgender or non-binary.”

"Oh, just because Pibb dropped thoseHerr.means they're automatically non-binary!?" Kenny scoffed.

"Age ofCoursePibb Xtra has some gender identity issues. Why do you think it is given so much importance?X!?"

The wolf found the back counter with the soda fountain and coffee maker chipped and being put back in place at random, cups and lids in piles rather than piles. Already too big for this place, he just leaned over the Icee machine and sniffed the back - nobody else would ever touch that part, right? He could smell traces of Vulpine and Lapine, probably the employees putting the machine back on the table, but then...

"...Wasthe hellIsThe!?"

He went outside and found the moose holding the polar bear in a headlock, but Hudson countered by shaking Kitchener's antlers. The horse stood to one side, smoking a cigarette and boredly watching the giants tackle it.

"HUD",said Villalobos sharply. "Hud. Hudson. Come here."

Gordon gave in and Dean walked over.

"What works?" asked the bear.

"Have some smelling salts," the wolf instructed, followed by him holding up the lid of a coffee mug. "I found the smell of the thing,Thethe thing has itverystrong. And meneedsomeone else with the sniff cert to co-sign this so the department doesn't think I'm crazy."

"Er... okay?" Despite his skepticism, Hudson went ahead and pulled out a smelling salts, sniffed it, sneezed into the crook of his arm as his senses were amplified beyond comfort, and then picked up the coffee lid and began investigating.Sniff sniff sniff…"Well, except smellOf,I..." At that moment his face twisted. "...Oh, Jesus Christ."Sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff."It's like…"Sniff."...I swear it feels like I've smelled this before, but I know I've never smelled this before in my life."

"Iknowledge,Right!?" Villalobos exclaimed, feeling vindicated. "It's not even like it's on the tip of my tongue, it's more like my brain screaming out a million words andnoneof them sound right!"

"Also wastuthow does it smell?" Carter asked a little impatiently. "What are all those words making me think of?"

"That is the thing! I... I can safely say it was a mammal, but beyond that? Man... I can't decide which one... for sureadjectivelet alone a certain kind."

"Yeah, it's almost like..." Dean sniffed again. "...like it's every species I've ever met, and none of them."

Kelly flinched. "...Well, how canTheMay be!?"

"You think we know and we just don't say it?" grumbled Jimmy. "Man,Crap…WasIsthis thing!?"


"We found out!"

The four police officers turned and saw the fox and rabbit leaving the store, still holding their drink bottles.

"We found out!" Repeated Kenny. "Dr. Pawper is indeed a dude, but he lost his medical license when he accidentally killed Tab Cola during a botched liposuction. Meanwhile, Pibb Xtra has embraced their new identity as genderqueer and follows the MuPaul philosophy where they don't care what pronoun you call them as long as you think they're pretty. After fleeing the United States when arrested for tax fraud, they relocated to Thailand, where the former doctor illegally runs discount surgeries, while Pibb runs an all-gender strip club where you can see every combination of genitalia known to nature, and they have an adopted son whom they named Telemachus Aloysius Hermenegild Bonaventure Horatio Bob, who is from Burundi and has neither arms nor legs." He stopped and looked at the soda bottle in his paw." ...which they don't have either, when I think about it."

"Yes, if you could do us a favour, don't tell anyone that in our efforts to practice our wakefulness, we completely forgot that disabled people exist," Ryan added. "...Wait, are we racist if we assume these sodas are addictive just because they taste the same?"

The four cops all blinked at her. They had nothing to add to that.

"So," Gordon said, "let's get back to the point that this was all a waste of time because you two predators suck at doing what you were sent here to do."

The polar bear didn't care for words, he just turned around and punched the moose in the nose. Wasting no time escalating into violent fisticuffs, and the horse and wolf tried to break them up (but not too much) while the Canadian-American cops bled each other. And while the fox and rabbit began debating who would win in a fight between Colonel Sanders and Captain Crunch, it really seemed that Officer Kitchener was right about one thing: the only conclusion they could draw about the mysterious being, was that it was hell-bent on keeping its secrets undecided.


I look forward to seeing you all again.

I've been away for a while, but for good reason. I was exploring. I found some places. I found places that were cool like Portland, Maine. And I found some places that weren't as cool as Portland, Oregon. Some places have disappointed me (Sault Ste. Marie, Austin, Charleston SC) while others have pleasantly surprised me (Atlanta, Philadelphia, and oddly enough, Cleveland). I found places that were so cool they got me depressed because I didn't feel cool enough to enjoy them (LA, Asheville, NC, New York) and places that were so depressing that they cycled around to be cool again (Fargo, Sacramento, ElPaso). I feel like I know this country better now. Did you know that people in New Orleans are really mean and they party so hard because they gave up? Or that half the men in Manchester, New Hampshire, go shirtless and look like crackheads because they probably are crackheads? I know that now.

Don't be jealous though, I'm broke and unemployed now lol.

But I'm back in the writing and publishing momentum and this one's been a long time coming, I swear to god the Bad Guys reference was fresh and timely when I first wrote it. I usually try to write smaller chapters for this than my other big story, but hopefully the scope will make up for what's missing.

Oh, and I should mention... it's season! In case you don't know, I've started a Halloween Zootopia miniseries fic, BOOtopia (a name that's kind of not used yet!?). Just in time for October, you can check it out here: https://archiveofourown.org/works/41897712/chapters/105149142 But my favorite part about it? It comes with an audio book version! Check out the links in there and let me scare the hell out of you personally. It will be released in full before the 31st.

Alright... I guess that's all I have to say for now. Take care, ever.

- times

Chapter 12: *A.N.* That's all, folks


An explanation.

chapter text

Hello folks. It's me. Dob, Dobe, Doba, Doby, Green-Shirted Bear, Bear With a Stick... some even call me by my government name, Dōbănōchî. I wrote this thing and I'm saying it in the past tense.

I don't want to waste any more of your time; This story will probably not finish. It's not just that I don't feel it - it's that and the fact that it feels like an irresponsible investment of time on the edge when I could and should actually be writing original literature that I can show the world and make a living from when I play my cards right I know I'm a good writer, I can count on one hand the number of people who disagree with this opinion, and while getting published (let alone getting credit) is a hell of a job, I might have one such goal now achieved I was working towards it more than writing this nonsense. As I write this, at the same time as attempting to draft a novel, I'm planning on sporadically updating my ultra-cult classic, mega-furry-fic L'Edgendary, and maybe releasing that BOOtopia sequel that I've been poring over — though Honestly, I feel like I should sort those out as well. But I can't yet - it's going to hurt too much to break up with the characters of the former and the promise of the latter. But of my three current projects, this is the one where I lost the flame the most.

And let's keep it very real here, I think anyone reading this can see in comparison to my other work that sometimes I just don't feel like they're me. People who have read this, and Ledge in turn, seem a lot less impressed with this one, and I think that might be a case of "the author doesn't seem so much, so neither do we". And hell, I don't even know if I started this fic for the right reasons. Some of the reasons related to Backbone, both to say I opened a fandom's fanfic and to promote a game that I was sure was full of promise - and still is War full of promises because it never missed that promise lol. But Backbone now has its own sane fanfic community - god, the one FF that's still only one chapter long but is hailed as one of the best pieces of literature ever written? Hey good for you, I'm just amazed that a story that's barely begun can receive such devotion.

Then there is the Zootopia site. Yes, I wanted my story to be considered a classic, which is why I made it my mission to write for a much larger fandom than I would have otherwise attempted. I wanted what others had in a legitimate fan base, and a large one -- and anyone who has read my writing extensively probably already knows that I use this medium to find something that I keep trying and failing in my real life. But I got down on my knees in the same way Ledge did: too confident that my good writing would overcome the inherent problem that most people don't care about crossovers. For goodness sake, backbone fandom still doesn't even acknowledge that this story exists - is this the anti-Zootopia faction of furry fandom? Damn maybe. They say don't write for others, write for yourself...well I don't enjoy writing that anymore sooo yeah that sounds like the right decision.

Of course, that begs the magical question: What would happen in this story and how did it end? Well, here's the gist:

Backbone's instance is used to change the type of subjects -- voluntarily Subjects. The blur we see at the Little Medium Mart was a certain Casper McKnight, a skunk hated by his own community because he loathes his species. He wanted to be a cheetah, and when the opportunity presented itself, he jumped at it. This is also where Duncan Cavey went and a slew of other missing mammals being kept (again voluntarily) in a lab in an abandoned Toys R Us occupied by eccentric formerly homeschooled siblings Andrea and Theodore - or , as they like to be called, And and The (Only to One-Up Berserker88 and JackofMinds for "Up and Down" haha). Funding the entire operation was... well, a character who has the distinction of being the second character to be name dropped in AESoJ before being named dropped in Ledge, despite appearing in Ledge first (see AESoJ Chapter 11) . Suffice it to say, someone who could benefit from regenerative stem cell research after something happened to them in the other story haha.

In all of this, Judy, Henry, Justine, Brady and the cops find out WHO And Why knowing who's missing while Nick, Howard, Shane Cavey (an embarrassingly open spy of mine who should be introduced in the next chapter), Abby Rivers (an otter who was also inspired by Judy to join the police force... and inspired by Nick to quit), and hilariously Ryan and Kenny all figure out where the mammals are but have no idea what the heck is going on or what their M.O. Is. Meanwhile, Nick finds out that Judy is on the same case, but since he can't reveal that he's now her direct rival, he tries to outdo her by stealing information she's gathered for his and Howard's investigations. Judy eventually finds out, gets mad and tries to steal information from her them, and it's all a big mess and a drain on their relationship, which ultimately ends with them reconciling by the sea while Beach Bunny's "Cloud 9" plays.

Oh! And my favorite part... Brady Braverman was supposed to work with the scientists and provide them with invaluable inside information to stay one step ahead of the cops. That call in Chapter 11 and his newfound confidence? Yes, because he found his calling in life. In a confrontation scene where Judy realizes he's involved, he says bluntly: He's not Bellwether, he's not going to fight back, he's not here to hurt anyone, he's just here to do it Help Mammals - this is the city where everyone can be anything, It is not? He makes this statement truer; Your turn, Judy. This isn't the climax, more like the half or two-thirds where Nick and Howard feel compelled to help Brady on his mission and Judy has no idea what to do.

…Okay, but how does it actually work? End? So: Another reason I'm pulling the plug here is that after almost two years of planning... Shit, I still I can't think of a satisfying or reasonable way to sum this all up. Just couldn't. Other things I didn't think would go over well were the "Twist" "bad guy," Nick burrowing into lies, and Judy being particularly bossy (did I mention Nick would be playing Hooky , instead of paying for real estate tuition with the intent (I still maintain that makes sense for their characters, but I know others might not like that decision). And what the hell did Howard have to be there for anyway? I can't stress enough how much I stopped caring about Backbone, I just did NO idea what to do with him. I wanted to 100% bring Renee to Zootopia and join Judy's side of the rift (kinda never figured that out) and hint that he and Larry still think about each other often, as well as show that Clarissa Bloodworth was also in the experiments and has connections to Mr. Big on the Canadian mafia (in a chapter titled "Worst Case Ontario," Nick would finally realize something about his mysterious former boss: arctic shrews are unlikely to be ethnic Italians). But other than that, heck, I realized the story was falling apart and it just doesn't seem worth my time to fix things and follow up. And how do you even write film noir in prose form? Is that even possible??? I know I gave up pretty quickly.

There's more, like Officers Hudson and Kitchener would have their own connections to the Canadian mob, but if I listed all the discarded ideas I'd be here all week. But here are a few of my favorite scenes and ideas that I wanted to make a reality:

  • Nick and Howard attempted to spy on a gathering of the skunk community where they were debating whether it was worth looking for the breed traitor Casper; Nick falls through the ceiling from the air vent he's in, gets totally skunked...then spends a chapter in a bubble like a zorb, where crazy frolics ensue, kicking him all over town like a beach ball. A scene of aAn outdoor anger management meeting saw a rhino repeatedly say it would kick the next round thing it saw... only to make a kid's soccer ball fall over, and his therapist commends the rhino for kicking the kids in the back. Then Nick comes in and knocks them both out.
  • Judy finds out that Nick has become a private investigator, and in the tone one might accuse a partner of skipping work in order to cheat on her, Judy accuses Nick, who is said to be unemployed... of going to work. ("No, no, I'm going out to get drunk, I swear!")
  • Nick tries to reconcile with Judy by playing a song on a boombox outside her window... but he chooses "The Reason" by Hoobastank, a song that brings back fond memories of his early twenties. Neighbors start yelling at him, babies start crying, car alarms go off, a guy throws a stick of butter at him (Nick tells him that's crazy, to which the guy replies he just got back from a tough business trip to a refrigerator is full of expired groceries, and now that he's trying to sleep in his own bed, Nick is playing shitty music)... but then Nick remembers, Judy's a redneck, and Nick knows a half-dozen country songs that don't piss him off out, one of which looks like it might suffice; Lonestar's "Amazed" (one of only two country songs to hit #1 in the US since 2000!) successfully soothes the neighbors and gets Judy's attention; He didn't even know she loved that song, he just guessed right. (UPDATE: I'm writing this at work, where the station is tuned to country music against my will and "Amazed" started playing just a minute after I finished this paragraph. Lordy.)
  • Before Brady is known to be working with the experimenters, the police side finds out what's going on with mammals that voluntarily switch species, and during a group chat, Braverman seems to absentmindedly mutter, "Huh, so it's like when would transgender people have surgery." -- and then immediately chides herself because such a statement would make "her" side look wrong for trying to stop them,Hint, hint, wink, wink.Several other officers agreed that he couldn't have phrased it worse for their purposes.
  • A scene from Abby the Otter's job as a children's swimming teacher, borrowed heavily from a job I had before.
  • Every time And and The wanted to talk to each other. They all kind of talked like that guy, half remembering everything and saying the craziest non-sequiturs, even though they clearly had a legitimate intelligence in them that they just couldn't use:https://youtu.be/lFaINH8LIhU
  • Appearances of other Ledge characters, such as B. Stand-up comedian Kellen Huffman, who hosts a show that Nick and Howard attend.
  • Judy's progress is sidelined by jury duty.
  • One of the species switching volunteers (or possibly Brady himself) who wants to become a woolly mammoth.
  • A "support document" chapter, which is a transcript of a true crime podcast that Nick and Howard attempt to start before realizing they're going to publicize their findings before the case is closed, is probably not a wise decision.
  • Nick brings back the Pawpsicle hoopla to get bail money at Howard's apartment, which he succeeds with flying colors but ends up in Howard getting a nasty splinter trying to attach the massive original Jumbeaux's popsicle to his to carry a wooden stick
  • The new mayor turns out to be a bipartisan parody of Joe Biden. As Nick puts it: “Actually, nobodysoughtthis guy to get elected. The conservatives see him as a crazy socialist, the progressives see him as a limo-liberal career politician who actually believes in nothing, and the non-partisan see him as the personality of a teacup. But after thatlastMayor was basically a Nazi?Also…Yes, this guy is a step up, to be sure. He was basically appointed by the city council just to sit there and not break anything until someone better comes along. I swear I believe they chose him to unite the people across the aisle in our shared dissatisfaction with him, but if unityWarthe goal, then this is a level of political incompetence like I haveneverEver seen that before.” Open the door to his office and meet Mayor Emil DeLay, a sloth who's clearly not quite there and only babbles incoherent sentences like, “Hey kid, isn'tThesomething!" After a very unproductive chat with the PIs, he falls off his chair but keeps talking ("Hey, how about this?"); Nick simply remarks that this was a great chat.
  • After the feedback from the scene where Nick monologues at Finnick's grave, I wanted Judy to tell Nick he should go to therapy, to which Nick (who doesn't have health insurance) replies, "Where can I get therapy, The Therapy Store! ?” Jumpcut to Nick, who hesitantly enters The Therapy Store somewhere in a mall; the clerk inside explains that no matter what's on his mind, they have pre-recorded therapeutic talks that he can buy as an audio book, among other highly impersonal solutions; all they have to do is fill out a survey to determine the best solution for them. When he remarks, "Wow, you...you guys have really streamlined and commercialized the whole concept of psychoanalysis, haven't you?" to which the saleswoman replies, kindly and confidently, "Oh yeah! With the sheer number of mammals in the world and the advancement of modern psychology, it has been determined that it is statistically impossible for mental anguish of any kind to occur in just one person on earth, presently or historically, and that every single person believes that their problems totally unique to them are an act of unfathomable narcissism!" You know, pretty typical dork about American health care and capitalism gone mad and how if you don't play along you're considered the madman, standard fare.
  • Oh man, Ryan and Kenny would be fun. I originally added them to give me characters to look forward to writing on. They would end up sharing a flat with Howard - which later also housed Abby, Shane and Nick as they were all similarly homeless. Laughter followed. Scenes featuring the best fox and bunny duo include:
  • Howard has a dark moment of introspection, which is interrupted by the staff playing Scrabble With Swear Words, asking him to sort out if the word is spelledbeotchorbitch.("Ryan, if you spell it I-A, it just looks like you spelled it wrongFemale dog!")
  • The rest of the gang approach the clerks with vital information and go pretty deep into the exhibit before having to stop for this exchange: (Shane:) "...Kenny, what the hell are you doing?" "I'm trying to set the world record for longest continuous time playing jazz hands." "...Why?"(Kenny rolls his eyes)"What areOfto do withyourLife?" "...That's fair."
  • The boys invent a religion called Jizzlam, where you worship by masturbating.
  • At a certain point in both Ledge and this story, Kenny was stated to have a phobia of dinosaurs as a result of sightJurassic Parkon cable TV when he was far too young for it. Fast forward when the PI gang are all at a Best Buy looking for gear, a camera or something, and on a flat screen TV, Barney the Dinosaur appears. Kenny immediately freaks out: "YOU CAN'T SCARE ME, YOU REPTILE BITCH!YOU ARE EXTINCT!!"And then he knocks out the TV, killing the picture and leaving a huge tear in the spider web. As the gang remain stunned, a sales rep coyly asks, "Sir, did you just...did you just smack that TV?" …Sir?” The gang keep running away. Cut to the gang who are all crammed into a car and grumbling about having to go to oneandersBest Buy half an hour away, to which Kenny protests:"Hey!When someone is confronted with their fear, you should do soapplaudher, notadmonishthem! Yes, I know it sounds like I'm being narcissistic right now, but I wouldn't have had to if you all gave me the compliment I deserved!"
  • In perhaps my favorite planned scene, the PI gang find themselves with a little wolf girl whose mother has impulsively accepted the opportunity to be a test subject for species switching (which immediately shows that some willing participants may have made an irresponsible personal choice, all reinventing themselves and their right to disappear might be invalidated... goddammit, it's telling that there is such a demand for something like this that otherwise sane mammals abandon their families for it). Although she's initially scared, like any young child would be, she feels oddly comfortable around the staff, who feel the same way... and one day, Nick and Howard return to the apartment to find Ryan and Kenny lecturing them wrong : (Ryan holds up soda can) "In Spanish, you say hello by sayingDiet Pepsi.Can you tellDiet-Pepsi?“ „DIÄT-PEPSI!“(Kenny holds up a Dorito) "Do you know what that shape is called?""Triangle!""Finally, but no! This form is called anIlluminati!"Nick asks what the heck they're doing, and Ryan matter-of-factly replies that they're "trying to make them retarded." Howard notes that this sounds borderline insulting, but Kenny confidently argues that statistically she'll probably probably grow up with a job she hates and one that doesn't support her much anyway (especially now, with kids whose mothers are abandoning her , are rarely well-adjusted), so they're doing her a favor by making her so dumb that she'll live off a disability, thereby saving her from having to participate in capitalism, which Ryan, to add that ignorance to, really does anyway Happiness is how they demonstrate because they showed all the signs of intelligence in school but never saw the appeal of applying. The scene ends like this as the duo celebrate their success: "What do you want to be when you grow up!?""I want to be a shovel!""What is your favorite color!?""SQUARE!" "God,I amSoproud of you.” (The three hug.) I also tried to figure out a way to later do a scene where the little girl shrieks her head off and points insistently as she says"Enlightened! Enlightened!"just for the audience to realize she was pointing to a triangle that was some kind of important clue.

God, I'm glad the last scene that got released was those nitwits arguing about lemonade's gender identity.

So... I think that's it. That's the part where I would say, "Hey, if someone has fallen in love with this and wants to continue it for me, yell at me and we can work something out!" But I honestly didn't get the mood that anyone was that in love with this story. That said if someone wants to borrow characters or jokes for his own work... well yell at me and we can work something out lol. And I won't orphan or mark this work as complete - because it isn't, and who knows, for all I know, I might return to this work in the years to come if I have brilliant new ideas for it. But right now I don't think there's enough fuel in the tank to take that to the finish line.

But that doesn't have to be a bad thing. That means I make time for better things to come in the long run. peace and love everyone. -D


What is a sense of distributive justice? ›

Distributive justice is concerned with the fair allocation of resources among diverse members of a community. Fair allocation typically takes into account the total amount of goods to be distributed, the distributing procedure, and the pattern of distribution that results.

What is the main idea of Rawls theory of justice? ›

That means every person should be treated with fairness and recommends equal basic liberties, equal opportunities to similar individuals, and offering the highest possible benefits to the less advantaged members of society. This theory of justice, as believed by Rawls, helps in the functioning of a just society.

What is sense of justice by Aristotle? ›

Aristotle divides justice – understood as fairness in individuals' shares – into two forms, distributive and corrective. These forms are based on two distinct variations of the concept of reciprocity.

What is justice answers? ›

Justice, in its broadest sense, is the principle that people receive that which they deserve, with the interpretation of what then constitutes "deserving" being impacted upon by numerous fields, with many differing viewpoints and perspectives, including the concepts of moral correctness based on ethics, rationality, ...

What is an example of distributive justice? ›

Examples of distributive justice include workers receiving equal pay for equal work, people having access to high quality education and health care, and much more. While most would agree that efforts at distributive justice can help a lot of people, it is a subject that is still at the heart of many debates.

What is meant by distributive justice quizlet? ›

What is distributive Justice? A term that refers to the just distribution of goods. What is the goal of distributive justice philosophers? To work out what constitutes a just distribution of goods among members of a society.

What is Rawls's summary of distributive justice? ›

This view is summarized in Rawls's “general conception of justice”, which is that “all social values – liberty and opportunity, income and wealth, and the social bases of self-respect – are to be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution of any, or all, of these values is to everyone's advantage”: injustice “ ...

What is the conclusion of Rawls theory of justice? ›

Conclusion. John Rawls gives account of a system which benefits all sections of the society, equally. He, through his theory, proposed a system where laws and principles of justice are made by the conscious effort of the people who would be governed by those laws and principles.

What are the 2 principles of justice for Rawls? ›

First, they must guarantee fair equality of opportunities for competition to positions of public office and employment. Second, social and economic inequalities must be arranged in a manner that they work to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged members of society.

What are the three 3 types of justice? ›

Justice can be boiled down into three types: distributive, retributive, and restorative.

What are the 4 elements of justice? ›

The elements Schmidtz identifies are desert, reciprocity, equality, and need. These elements help us to establish what justice requires.

How do you define the idea of justice? ›

Justice means giving each person what he or she deserves or, in more traditional terms, giving each person his or her due. Justice and fairness are closely related terms that are often today used interchangeably.

What is sense of justice in philosophy? ›

justice, In philosophy, the concept of a proper proportion between a person's deserts (what is merited) and the good and bad things that befall or are allotted to him or her. Aristotle's discussion of the virtue of justice has been the starting point for almost all Western accounts.

What do philosophers say about justice? ›

Western philosophers generally regard justice as the most fundamental of all virtues for ordering interpersonal relations and establishing and maintaining a stable political society.

What is the meaning of justice and fairness? ›

Fairness is a quality of being fair, showing no bias towards some people or individuals. Justice, in broader terms, is giving a person his due. • We want fair treatment in all situations as we believe that we are all equals and deserve impartiality. •

What are the 4 types of justice in ethics? ›

This article points out that there are four different types of justice: distributive (determining who gets what), procedural (determining how fairly people are treated), retributive (based on punishment for wrong-doing) and restorative (which tries to restore relationships to "rightness.") All four of these are ...

What are 3 forms of distributive justice? ›

The major tenets of distributive justice are equality, proportionality and fairness.

What are the five types of justice? ›

Types of justice
  • Social justice. ...
  • Political justice. ...
  • Economic justice. ...
  • Legal justice.

What are the two types of distributive justice? ›

As the subject of extensive study in philosophy and the social sciences, several theories of distributive justice have inevitably evolved. While the three theories presented here—fairness, utilitarianism, and egalitarianism—are far from all of these, they are considered to be the most prominent.

What is distributive vs redistributive justice? ›

In social and political philosophy, there are traditionally two major types of justice: distributive justice describes how the status, wealth, and goods in society will be portioned out from the beginning, and retributive justice describes punishments, penalties, and restitution for situations where someone wrongs ...

What is the difference between justice and distributive justice? ›

While distributive justice concerns itself with the welfare of an individual, social justice concern itself with the welfare of a social group. Sometimes they both come in conflict.

What is right John Rawls theory of justice distribution? ›

It provides that in case of an unequal distribution of wealth and income, the inequality must be such that those that are worst off are still better off than they would be under any other distribution. So, in one way, Rawls opines that no society can exist without economic disparity.

What is the main idea of the theory of justice summary? ›

Rawls proposes that the most reasonable principles of justice for society are those that individuals would themselves agree to behind the “veil of ignorance”, in circumstances in which each is represented as a moral person, endowed with the basic moral powers.

What is fairness in Rawls justice and fairness ethical theory? ›

The theory of justice as fairness must provide both the “fair terms of cooperation” and the “suitable benchmark of comparison.” This emphasis on the sense of justice helps to distinguish Rawls's approach from other efforts to develop conceptions of justice.

What is the difference principle in Rawls theory of justice? ›

The Difference Principle is the second principle which states that any inequality that is permitted in society should only be permitted on the basis that it benefits the least favoured in society.

What are some of the elements of Rawls theory of justice? ›

Rawls identifies the following equal basic liberties: "political liberty (the right to vote and hold public office) and freedom of speech and assembly; liberty of conscience and freedom of thought; freedom of the person, which includes freedom from psychological oppression and physical assault and dismemberment ( ...

What are the 3 principles of justice as fairness? ›

The principles of equity, equality, and need are most relevant in the context of distributive justice, but might play a role in a variety of social justice issues. [4] These principles all appeal to the notion of desert, the idea that fair treatment is a matter of giving people what they deserve.

What are the principles of justice? ›

The principles or justice are fairness, equality, and entitlement. The principle of fairness means that someone is treated impartially without regard to who they are. In a society, justice demands that all people live under the same laws and none is above the law or exempt from it.

What are the three key ideas in the theory of justice? ›

Rawls's justice theory contains three principles and five procedural steps for achieving fairness. The principles are (1) an “original position,” (2) a “veil of ignorance,” and (3) unanimity of acceptance of the original position.

What are the two basic element of justice? ›

Distributive justice signifies that all people who are similarly situated have the right to expect equal benefits. Retributive justice declares that those who cause harm to others will be punished for their transgressions.

What is a good sentence for justice? ›

He has a good overall sense of justice and fairness. He only wants freedom, justice and equality. There is no justice in this world! We are a minority and must win people round to the justice of our cause.

What is justice in Bible? ›

Biblical references to the word “justice” mean “to make right.” Justice is, first and foremost, a relational term — people living in right relationship with God, one another, and the natural creation.

What are examples of justice? ›

Justice is public, collective actions. Examples of charity: homeless shelters, food shelves, clothing drives, emergency services. Examples of justice: legislative advocacy, changing policies and practices, political action.

What are the 4 types of distributive justice? ›

Four theories of justice are discussed: Rawlsian egalitarianism, or justice as fairness; Dworkinian egalitarianism, or equality of resources; Steiner-Vallentyne libertarianism, or common ownership; and Nozickian libertarianism, or entitlements.

What is an example of distributive justice in healthcare? ›

Examples include patients requiring urgent coronary artery bypass surgery or those with a 'window of opportunity' for cancer resection after neoadjuvant therapy.

What is important about distributive justice? ›

Distributive Justice in a workplace is about fair allocation of available resources to all the employees in a corporation, so that every employee has a fair share of resources to bring beneficial outcomes; this establishes a positive sense of competition among the employees.

What are the 4 types of justice? ›

This article points out that there are four different types of justice: distributive (determining who gets what), procedural (determining how fairly people are treated), retributive (based on punishment for wrong-doing) and restorative (which tries to restore relationships to "rightness.") All four of these are ...

What are the 3 principles of distributive justice? ›

The theory consists of three core components: the equality of people in rights and liberties; the equality of opportunities for all; and. an arrangement of economic inequalities focused on benefit maximisation for those who are least advantaged.

What is an example of justice in patient care? ›

One example of social justice in health care is training nurses to advocate for patients. The role of nurses revolves around intervening on behalf of patients, providing efficient, compassionate medical care. Nurses carry out the ethics and values of the medical facilities they work for.

What are the types of justice in healthcare? ›

Justice may be seen as having two types: distributive and comparative. Distributive justice addresses the degree to which healthcare services are distributed equitably throughout society.

What is an example of justice ethical principle in healthcare? ›

Justice. This ethical principle of care requires that all patients are treated in an equal way without prejudice or social discrimination. In the sense of justice, patients in similar situations should have access to the same care options.

What is the best distributive justice? ›

The principle of distributive justice is most commonly justified on the grounds that people are morally equal and that equality in material goods and services is the best way to realize this moral ideal.

What are the 5 principles of justice? ›

Five Principles of Social Justice. There are five main principles of social justice that are paramount to understanding the concept better. Namely, these are access to resources, equity, participation, diversity, and human rights.

Who is concerned with distributive justice? ›

According to Aristotle, distributive justice implies that the state should divide or distribute goods and wealth among citizens according to merit.

What is the role of justice in human behavior? ›

This evolutionary approach provides insight into understanding our own behavior. In humans, the concept of fairness is closely related to that of justice. Distinguishing the two, fairness involves voluntary interactions with other individuals, whereas justice is meted out by an impartial third party (Wilson, 2012).

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