Chief Bogo entered Precinct One's bullpen to the usual whooping, howling and cheer of the gathered officers. Raising his massive hand, silence engulfed the small room."Alright, everybody sit," he commanded. His brown eyes scanned the room, inspecting the cornucopia of mammals gathered before him. All were present, save for the current rookie, Nick Wilde.
"Officer Hopps. Any word on Officer Wildes location?"
Judy fidgeted in her seat, a small bead of sweat appearing on her gray face. "No sir. I'm sure he had a good reason-"
He interrupted her, his hooves gripping the podium. "A good reason to delay my time, and your fellow officers time? Unless he bought the entire squad breakfast, I fail to see a good reason to delay the morning meeting by twenty-five minutes!" Judy shrunk back into her chair, a blush appearing on her face.
Bogo lifted his clipboard, his face reverting to his normal annoyed expression. "Now then, back to business. Since today is the first day of the month, I got five items on my docket. First off, I would like to congratulate Sergeant Anderson for his fourth year of service. " The group turned around, addressing the massive polar bear sitting in the last row. Howls and roars echoed around the pen.
"Quiet, quiet! Sergeant Anderson, report to my office later today for your…complimentary tote and wine bag? Huh, didn't know we gave those out. Moving on, we have several new applicants pending, but until they're physically sitting in front of me, I don't really care. Thirdly, Officer Hopps!" Judy's already red face turned a brilliant shade of crimson as everyone turned to face the nervous rabbit. Panicked thoughts flashed through the rabbit's mind.
The Chiefs hard expression softened. "Congratulations on winning this month's travel sweepstakes." A slight grin formed on Bogo's mouth as the rabbits panicked expression evaporated into her usual cheery grin."Your ZTA card will be arriving sometime between today, and whenever you get it." Several groans of disappointment escaped from other officers, but the traditional cheer emerged from the pen as usual. It had taken several weeks, but Judy had finally been accepted into the fellowship of Precinct One.
"Now, onto the important things. Cases! First off, you all know of the current hunt for the identity of the individual funding various smuggling groups throughout downtown. Normally this case would be assigned to Precinct Three, but thanks to the efforts of Detectives Forrest, Lawrence ,and Claws, we've deducted that whomever this mastermind is has strong connections to City Hall. Due to this revelation, the mayor has assigned us to the case." Judy's ears peeked at this, her attention fully directed towards Bogo. In the last couple of months, the smuggling of luxury goods and other contraband had exploded into a city-wide epidemic. All the signs pointed towards a single mammal orchestrating the entire plot, and the revelation of ties to City Hall had just escalated the situation tenfold.
"Officers Link, Grizzoli, Fangmeyer and Delgato, your jobs are to work directly with local contacts to try and capture one of these smugglers. Officers Francine and Higgins will work with detectives from the Precinct Three. Assist them in any way you can, but keep this quiet. The last thing we need is the media getting involved. Now then, Officer's-." The door to the pen creaked open, turning everyone's attention away from Bogo. Emerging from the door in his usual strut was the disaster named Nick Wilde. A collective gasp emerged from the officers, including the rare expression of genuine shock from Bogo.
"Morning everyone," Nick stated in his cocky tone, paying no attention to the wide-eyed looks from his co-workers. In one fail swoop, Nick had silenced the entire bullpen. The quiet tack, tack, tack of his nails clicking against the floor beneath him echoed around the room. Judy's purple eyes winded as she processed the ruined uniform of her partner. Nick climbed into her chair, depositing his aviators on the table in front of him. Judy could smell the coffee spewing from the stain on his chest, mixing with his cologne to form an unholy aroma.
"Apologies for being late Chief," Nick said calmly.
Bogo had recovered from the shock, his default annoyed expression reappearing on his face. "Would you mind sharing with me, and your fellow officers why you're almost thirty minutes late to a mandatory meeting?"
"Well Chief, it certainly wasn't my intention to be late." His tone changed, a mischievous twinkle appearing in his eyes. "After all, your smile is what pushes all of us here to be the best darn ZPD officers we can!" Snickers erupted from every corner of the room, with several bits of genuine laughter floating to the top. "If not your amazing, gentle teachings, I'm afraid Precinct One would dissolve into glorified mall cops!" By this time, his grin stretched practically from ear to ear. The room exploded into laughter, including a belly laugh or two. Nick quickly turned towards her partner, his tone dropping to a whisper. "Carrots. Thanks for saving my tail." Before Judy could respond, the look of pure hatred emitting from Chief Bogo caught her attention.
"Was that supposed to be funny?" There was no emotion in his voice, but the entire room just stopped. Laughing, breathing, and all other bodily functions froze in the Chiefs gaze. Nicks emerald eyes met the Chiefs own brown; the foxes smirk unflinching in the face of overwhelming terror.
"No, sir. Your smile truly inspires everyone here." The two continued to stare, each refusing to back down. Judy slowly scooted towards the edge of the chair. Someone had to break, for the sake of everyone else in the room.
Bogo's face slowly morphed; an extremely unfitting grin filled his face. A small, but noticed chuckle escaped his body. "Shut up Wilde." The entire room breathed a sigh of relief. "Clean yourself up, and meet me in my office in thirty minutes. You too Hopps." Nick turned towards Judy, before winking at her and turning to face the Chief once again.
"Anyway, back to business. Besides the smuggling case, we have one other major case." He grabbed a plain manila envelope from behind him. "This came down directly from the Mayor today. Anyone I did not assign a case to today will meet in conference room three at 10:00AM for a briefing. Dismissed!" Chairs scraped against the floor as the officers stood up and moved towards their respective locations. Nick attempted to stand up, but only for Judy to latch on to his ruined sleeve. Her purple eyes conveyed the message 'stand up and die', and Nick smartly remained in his chair. As soon as the last officer left the room, Judy punched the fox in his arm. Hard.
"Ow! The hell was that for?" Judy ignored him and promptly punched him again. Harder. Nick swatted her hand away, before grabbing her left arm. "Iz the wittle wabbit angrey?" The fox reached his free arm towards her head, planning on delivering an annoying pat on the head as payback. However, he seemed to have forgotten about her other arm, which pinched a pressure point just bellow his elbow. Nick yelped in sudden pain, almost falling out of the chair. "Chill Carrots! That one hurt!"
"What were you thinking?! I manage to convince Bogo to give you some extra time, and what do you do?"
"I tell a wise, funny joke?"
"You called us mall cops! Mall Cops! You could have gotten yourself killed!"
"Ah, but I didn't!" He raised his finger, pointing it towards Judy. "Relax Carrots," Nick teased as he hopped out of the chair, grabbing his aviators. Judy rolled her amethyst eyes, before hopping down too. The pair walked towards the door and into the quiet hallway beyond.
Judy turned and face the fox, a concerned look appearing on her gray face. "What happened to you anyway?"
"ZTA tried to kill me," he said nonchalantly, almost as if this was a daily occurrence.
"The ZTA tried to kill you?" Judy raised an eyebrow at this. Most of the officers, including herself, took the Zootopia Transit Authority to work and home. The ZTA was mostly fast, usually on time, and depending on what line you took, safe during the day.
"Yeah. Got my tail stuck in a door too. Not the best ride I've ever had on the ZTA. " Nick took a slight whiff of his uniform. The fox gagged comically, drawing a slight giggle from his rabbit partner. "Hey, no offense meant, but I gotta clean myself up. I look like a hobo here." The pair laughed, before assuming the closest thing to a professional attitude they could get. "I'll meet you at Bogo's in twenty. Ciao."
"Alright, cya soon Nick." The fox waved mockingly, before strutting away towards the male locker rooms. Judy found herself standing still as if someone had pressed a paused button on time itself. Recovering, she turned and made her way towards her and Nick's small desk in the corner, a slight spring in her step.
Poking his white head out of an office, Sergeant Anderson smirked as Judy and Nick went their separate ways. Shaking his head, the polar bear closed the door to the office. Corporal Claws, his tiger partner, snickered as Anderson sat in his massive chair.
"I think this is the week Claws. That pool is mine for the taking, " Anderson stated, shuffling some paperwork. Claws turned towards his partner, a tooth-filled smile appearing on his face.
"Hopefully not. I got $50 on next week, and Christy is bugging me about remodeling the bathroom." His tone dropped, knowing that Judy's infamous hearing was not to be underestimated. The bunny catching wind of the massive betting pool would not end well for both sides. "I didn't get a clear look at them this morning. Was it that obvious?"
Anderson reached for his phone. "Yup. The two were practically hugging each other this morning." Anderson looked back up from his phone, a constrained look appearing on his face.
"Man... It's just weird." Claws looked up from his paperwork. "I mean, I'm all for prey and predator relationships. Hell, thanks to those two I've never seen the city more at peace." This was the truth. Ever since the Night Howler Incident, crime had dropped in the city, even in the hardest neighborhoods. Predator and prey relations had slowly warmed in the last couple of months. Hopps and Wilde had denied they were the source of this miracle, but everyone within the department knew the truth.
"But... It's just weird to see one in person," Anderson continued. His voice strained a bit, "Do you get what I mean? I'm not trying to be a bigot, but it just feels weird to see one forming. I'm happy for them, though."
"No, I get what you mean," Claws said in agreement. Anderson breathed a deep sigh of relief. "Personally, I'm only interested in it for the money, but I get what you mean. I'm happy for them too, and once I win the pool, I'll be even happier."
"Yeah, if you win it. I still have four days left. Besides, those two are practically made for each other." A smile formed on his massive muzzle. "Hopps has to be one of the hardest working mammals I've ever met, and watching Wilde and the Chief this morning was hilarious."
Claws nodded in agreement, before reaching for his phone. "Romance is such a mystery."
"Ain't that the truth."
Nick arrived exactly ten minutes before the meeting with Bogo was supposed to start. The fox looked far more professional than the mess that had walked in this morning. His backup uniform was a bit smaller than the usual one, but retained his lean figure well enough. The other uniform was completely ruined, but thankfully Nick had others. His tail was acceptable, but would need a thorough cleaning once he got home. The silver aviators covered his eyes, and steam rose from the fresh cup of coffee occupying his Snarlbucks mug.
Nick heard small thumps echoing from the staircase to his left. Judy's ears, then her body appeared at the top of the stairs. She had an orange drink in her left paw, and a manila folder in her right. A friendly smile filled her cheery face. She waved at Nick, who lazily lifted his Snarlbucks mug to her. Judy sat next to Nick, inspecting the fox from head to toe.
"You smell better." Nick raised an eyebrow under his glasses, taking a quick sip of his coffee.
"Taking a shower usually takes care of that. Any idea why we're sitting here right now?"
Judy took a sip of her drink. "No idea. Probably something to do with the Smuggling case." Nick nodded his head in agreement. The pair sat in silence for several minutes, each preoccupied with their phones. The clock above ticked on, but soon enough the door to Bogo's office opened. The buffalo appeared in the doorway, his massive body barely fitting through the archway.
"Get in here," he grunted. The pair stared at each other nervously, before entering Bogo's office. The Buffaloes office was well lit and organized, with medals and other awards filling the entire back wall. Bogo pointed towards the two seats in front of his desk, as the Chief sat in his own gargantuan chair. The pair sat, this time in different chairs.
"Now then. I called you both in here today for several reasons. First off, Officer Wilde. As funny as you, and your fellow officers thought the little statement you made this morning was." Bogo leaned towards Nick, his tone dropping to one just above a whisper. "If you ever do something like that to me again, I will throw you into records and leave you there. Do I make myself clear?" Nick nodded, a cold sweat appearing on his face.
Bogo leaned back, a grin appearing on his face. "Glad to hear. Now, to get down to business. For the next month, both of you are assigned to standard patrol in Downtown." Judy raised her voice in protest, only for Bogo to raise his muscled arm. "I know, I know. If it was up to me, you both would be working the Smuggler case." Bogo flicked his tail in annoyance. "However, the City Council has been strongly pushing me for more interspecies patrols. They told me it helps 'promote a better image for the force' And since you two are best example of this I have Precinct One, you two got the short end of the stick." Nick and Judy exchanged an 'are you kidding me' expression.
"This arrangement shouldn't last for more than a month. Anyhow, both of you are dismissed. That means leave." The pair stood up, saluting Bogo before walking out into the hallway. The door closed behind them with a satisfying click, leaving the duo alone in the hallway.
Judy's foot thumped madly against the carpeted floor beneath her, her nose twitching in annoyance "Are you kidding me?! This is the third week in a row! The THIRD WEEK! THE THIRD!" Nick took a small sip of his coffee, his claws removing the aviators from his head. His emerald eyes twinkled in the fluorescent light.
"You heard the Chief," Nick said in a dull tone. "The Council wants to improve the image of the police. And image means a lot to people. You and I may not like it, but it does make sense from a certain point of view." Judy grunted back, Nicks words falling on deaf ears.
"I know it makes sense, but that doesn't mean I have to like it," Judy countered. The bunny covered her face with her paws, groaning loudly into them. Nick rolled his eyes, before reaching behind and patting her on the back.
"It's alright Carrots. You'll get to catch the bad guys soon enough," Nick said as he gripped her shoulder.
"Sorry for getting so emotional on you, but this stuff just stresses me out," Judy muttered as she leaned into Nick. A feeling of pity filled the fox. As strong as Judy tried to make herself out to be, she still had trouble dealing with the stress that came with being a ZPD officer. Sure, any textbook could tell you how to deal with it, but actually dealing with it was another matter altogether. Normally, Nick would have responded with some sort of inspirational quote or joke to make light of the situation, but not this time. This time, for a reason he couldn't explain, nothing came to mind.
Nick felt something stir deep inside of him, an emotion the fox hadn't felt in decades creeping up his spine. His blood had turned to ice, and gut-dropping feeling occupied his stomach. What the hell is happening to me? Did someone poison me? Am I having a stroke? His entire mind had gone blank; his thoughts replaced with static.
Judy lowered her paws, her head turning towards Nick. The Fox had a curious expression adorning his face; one that Judy couldn't really put a name on. His confident expression had faltered, and she could almost see the gears turning in his head. "Nick, are you alright?" The Fox failed to respond for a second, before regaining his senses after a moment of silence. He shook his head, before making eye contact with her.
"Whoa," Nick whispered. His emerald eyes had widened. "Hopps, do I look okay?
"Uhhhh... I guess so. You did just kinda stare into space for a couple of seconds. Are you okay?"
"Yeah. Just felt really weird there for a second." The two stood in silence for several seconds. An uneasy feeling had crept into Judy's mind. That wasn't normal, she repeated to herself. "We should probably get moving soon," Nick said, trying desperately to change the subject.
Nick broke the silence first, glancing up at the clock above them. "We should probably get moving soon," Nick said, trying desperately to change the subject. His heart was pounding in his chest, and the same gut-dropping feeling had refused to leave him. Judy stared at him with a skeptical look, before sighing.
"Yeah. I'll meet you down in the car, but I need to drop these papers back off with Clawhauser. Cya in a bit partner." Judy smiled at Nick, before walking down towards the same staircase she had entered less than ten minutes ago, leaving the fox alone.
Those ten minutes had felt like an eternity to Nick. As Judy's long ears disappeared from sight, the foxes face turned white underneath his coat. Nick may not have known right then and there what the emotion filling him was, but deep inside his mind, he knew exactly what it was.
Life is not orderly. Life is a chaotic, messy maze where one single decision by one single entity could change an entire cities destiny. And for Zootopia, today was that day.
Just nobody knew it yet.