Change starts with You

by Winerp

For Notes regarding this work and myself, refer to the bottom of this Chapter.


Chapter 1 – A matter of trust

Two years. Two years of work at the ZPD (three if he counted the time at the Academy) and getting a summons for a meeting with the Chief still felt like going to the Principal's office after a prank gone wrong… Not that such feelings weren't at least somewhat justified: this was Chief Bogo we're talking about: not only was he a towering one ton cape buffalo with a gaze that many thought could melt steel, he was also the head of Zootopia's Precinct 1. This effectively made him second in command as far as the ZPD went, only answering to Commissioner Quinn and the Mayor's Office.

And yet, this imposing tower of authority was someone Nicholas Wilde would gladly consider a close ally and even a friend. Not at first, but in said two years a mutual respect and admiration had seeped into the relationship between the two mammals.

Still, the fact that the first fox officer of the ZPD was being summoned alone, without his partner to rely on, did leave him feeling somewhat uneasy… or was it curious? Nope, definitely uneasy. Especially considering the "incident" with the coffee maker the previous week.

He was removed from his thoughts at the site of the door to the Chief's Office. Adjusting his slightly slack tie he rapped on the door and announced himself. "It's Officer Wilde sir."

"Come in."

Taking a deeper breath than he'd ever admit he pushed open the door and let himself into the office. It never ceased to amaze him how the mountains of paperwork that went through the Chief's hooves went from the seemingly unorganized stacks strewn about his desk to the neatly filed and ordered cases and folders in the closets and cabinets around them. When Nick first joined the Force he thought his own paperwork was bad. He hadn't seen anything… Just another reason why he didn't really look forward to climbing too high up the ZPD's ranks.

"I knew you loved me Chief, but summoning me alone just like this is going to get people talking… What will your wife think?" the tod mused, his signature smirk adorning his face, hiding the apprehension he was actually feeling.

"Not in the mood Wilde." Bogo's face was stern, not his usual uninterested expression, he meant it. Nick had always been good at reading people, and given that his first impressions of the buffalo weren't the best he had been extra careful learning his tells and ticks. And in this case he could tell there would be no messing about.

The Chief motioned towards one of the chairs opposite from his own, which the reynard got into, albeit not without some struggle… As with most of the rest of Precinct 1 said chairs were meant to accommodate much larger animals than a fox. Judy could at least hop onto them, while he had to do some less than graceful climbing.

Steeling himself for the chewing out he thought was coming the younger officer coughed awkwardly. "If this is about last week's coffee debacle I…" he was cut off by a loud sigh followed by an even louder smack as the Chief brought his hoof up to his face and started so massage his forehead.

"I should have known you had a paw in that… but that's not what this is about, and I need you to get serious Wilde."

Well that was unexpected.

"How much do you trust me?"

That even more so.

"Sir?…" was all the fox could get out before the buffalo cut him off again.

"You have been working under my command for the last two years. I know what you thought of me when you started, and given the way I treated Hopps and later you during the Nighthowler case I can't say I hold it against you."

"To be truthful, I didn't expect much of you even after you helped our bunny cop. But, as she did before you, you proved my expectations – or lack of them in your case – wrong."

It was true, he didn't hold Bogo in any higher regard than him being his boss for the first couple of months at the ZPD, and why should he? First time he met him, he, a Chief of Police of all people, dismissed any testimony he had based on his species and belittled an officer in front of him, a civilian, and half a dozen of their co-workers, all the while breaking a promise with said officer. Second time he met him he sent the same officer, with less than a week on the job and no prior training on public speaking to address an excited/bloodthirsty mob of reporters. Not exactly the best of first impressions…

And yet he had eventually found out that while yes, Bogo's no-nonsense view on the world combined with a lack of patience could make him misjudge both animals and situations alike, he had the most hardened sense of morality and duty he had ever seen on anyone other than Judy, coupled with a deep care for those under his command. It should be pointed out that he only found this to be true because said bunny convinced him to give the gruff Chief a second chance, even though she was the one he saw being mistreated those years ago. If she trusted him, the tod should at least give him a chance he reasoned.

"I'll never admit this to anyone outside of this office, but I do like you Wilde. Your antics can be exasperating but your records together with your partner's show both a good cop and a good mammal. And, to be honest, things were pretty boring around the station before you showed up…" The Chief let out a weak chuckle before his grave expression returned and he continued.

"So I'll ask again. How much do you trust me Of… No. How much do you trust me, Nick."

Any remains of the daze that Nick was in were pushed away by the Chief addressing him in such a familial tone. So he brought out 'serious Nick' and answered truthfully.

"After everything I've seen since joining the Force, all the crap you have to put up with from both below and above your paygrade Chief… I pretty much trust you as much as I trust Ju… Officer Hopps: completely."

A small sigh, this time somewhat relieved in tone, escaped the buffalo's maw as he continued. "Thank you… Nick. Now as for having you come alone, while what I have to say concerns your partner as well, I know what her reaction would be and we can't have that." A single eyebrow found it's way up Nick's forehead. "Regardless of your decision on this matter, what I'm about to share with you must not leave the confines of this office. You may, and should, discuss it with your partner later, but in private, and I'll brief you both myself more completely should you both decide to go with it."

Okay, this was NOT how Nick envisioned his day going. It had gone from an expected berating session, to a feel filled discussion with the Chief of all people, and he was now going into secrets! But, he had rarely seen him show that he cared about anyone or anything this much, and whenever that happened things were guaranteed to be serious. As such the tod limited himself to a nod and gave the buffalo his full attention.

"How much do you know about organized crime in this city Wilde?"

Oh boy…

"Well, I'm aware that the major Districts have some sort of Boss that controls most of the illegal activities in the area. I'm only really familiar with two operations though: Mama's here in Savannah Central, since we pretty much deal with her handiwork every other week, and Mr Big's in Tundratown because of… well, my past…"

That last part was not easy to admit. Regardless of his new self and the two years now spent proudly serving with the ZPD, Nick would never be able to fully escape his past and the mistakes and compromises that it had entailed. Bogo was actually one of the few people other than Judy who knew exactly what had happened to him after high school.

His superior nodded. "Indeed. There are at least 3 more that we know of operating within the city limits: Buck Ramses in the Meadowlands, Alphonse Clawpone in the Rainforest District and Terry Humpson in Sahara Square. The Nocturnal district has a few smaller outfits, but they're more interested in gutting each other than making a profit out of the city."

"Now, all five main crime lords' operations are completely distinct and they rarely ever work together themselves. To summarize, Mamma's a drug baroness, Mr. Big's a smuggler, Ramses deals in counterfeit goods, Clawpone owns the liquor and nightlife businesses and Humpson has money laundering casinos."

With an unamused snort Bogo continued. "Though I guess I should actually say they used to rarely work together." That was definitely news for Nick. Last time he spoke to Mr. Big in amiable terms (and before his pardon courtesy of a certain bunny's actions) half the conversation had been about how the other Boss' businesses hampered his own and how he wanted to see them hang by their guts. And he had seen first-hand how Mama treated any rival enforcers that strayed into her 'turf'.

"Since the last election, following Lionheart's fall…" Wait, was that sorrow in the Chief's tone? "Something happened that made the Syndicates start cooperating. Not only that but we started having much more trouble disrupting their activities. You probably didn't really notice a change, since it happened when you were here for only a couple of months."

Honestly, Nick had just put the trouble the ZPD was having as a result of increased precautions by the mob following the Bellwether case. The Police had been on high alert for any form of organized crime to try and shut down the entirety of the former Assistant Mayor's operation.

"In the past, if we caught one of their guys, there'd always be trouble getting a conviction. They could always afford good lawyers and they would sometimes attempt to mess with the judge. Now though, it seems we can't even get the scumbags indicted!"

The sudden change of the Chief's demeanour from frustrated to enraged caught Nick by surprise, making him sink deeper into his already oversized chair.

"Something always happens: either a vital piece of evidence goes missing or never gets to the station in the first place, a witness gets cold feet even when under police protection, the prosecutor opts for awkward deals… always something!"

The buffalo huffed, exasperated, and got up from his desk, turning around now facing the wall with the ZPD's coat of arms and pictures of it's Officers.

He closed his eyes, sighed and continued, now with a disheartened tone to his voice.

"A lot of people call me cynical, or pessimist. They say I always expect the worst, in both people and situations alike. I hear we're a bit similar in that regard."

Nick could only let out a brief chuckle, as his boss' attitude was still weighing heavily on him. The tod was starting to see what the Chief was getting at, and it wasn't good. Not. One. Bit.

"But I'm not stupid. And as much as it pains me to say this, the only way this can keep methodically happening is them having help from the inside."

There it was.

"Now, corruption on the Force is something my predecessors, sadly, also had to deal with, though, as far as I'm aware, never quite like this."

Nick's eyes suddenly lost some of their shine. As the Chief had said, he was kind of cynical, but even so, he had still had hope that he'd finally found one part of the City's 'machine' that was still clean and whose workers still gladly upheld their own values… Apparently not even the ZPD was above greed…

"What do you mean Chief?"

"It's inevitable that over time the odd officer might get tempted by a sweet sounding deal, usually coupled with some frustration or sense of debt. That would result in random setbacks to completely unrelated cases, all dependant on whom the officer struck a deal with. Also, since it would be a spur of the moment type of thing, half of them would get caught with their pants down during or after the fact."

"But that's not what's been happening, is it sir…"

"No." Bogo turned back to face the fox and continued, putting his hooves one the desk and leaning forward. "The only affected investigations for the last year and a half have been the ones from Internal Affairs and Organized Crime."

The tod gulped as he too was starting to connect all the dots.

"We must conclude that a new syndicate has emerged, only this one did so inside our own Home…" The buffalo's brow began to scrunch as he was visibly disgusted by the idea. "They almost certainly have the backing of someone inside City Hall, since they would need it to influence the prosecutors, and also the timing of this whole thing is a bit too convenient."

This was getting more serious by the second. Nick was not expecting or prepared for this, but he had to admit it all sounded logical. There was one thing that was bugging him though.

"Okay look, Chief. Everything you said makes sense, but it's still speculation. And while I do trust you, and you evidently trust me, I don't think you'd call me like this if you didn't have something more solid you'd want to discuss. We're talking about distrusting our co-workers, the people who are supposed to have our backs."

The buffalo looked up at the fox from his desk. The younger officer was clearly unsettled by the proposition, eyes wide, mouth slightly open, he could even catch a glimpse of grit teeth. If he hadn't known Nick better, he'd probably call him out on a very convincing show of concern. Only he did know better.

"I don't like this any more than you Wilde. And you're right, I do have more."

"Do you remember that dingo we brought in the other day for illegal drug possession?"

With an eyebrow raised Nick replied. "Yeah… wasn't he one of Mama's runners?"

"Correct. After Wolford brought him in he came to me saying he'd heard the dingo mumbling something about someone 'breaking their deal' and how 'there weren't supposed to be cops at the mall then', and concluding with 'god damn MR'."

This time both of the fox's eyebrows went up. "Wow, so he was expecting our patrol routes?"

"Bingo. Wolford and Fangmeyer were on patrol nearby and got called because some kids thought it'd be funny to see if they could sneak clothes out of the mall…"

Seriously? Couldn't they just sell watered down lemonade or something? Not that he was any example to follow with his forged baseball cards but still…

"…Anyway, he was interrogated and booked normally. But the next day I asked Higgins to go interrogate him about this 'MR'. After that the perp conveniently fell down a flight of stairs on the way back down to booking and ended up in the hospital, in a coma. I should also mention that, conveniently again, the cameras were malfunctioning on the interrogation room at the time, so we don't know what went on in there."

Nick's brow began to scrunch as his shoulders slouched: this whole thing smelled worse than Tundratwon's Fish Market. But he still didn't know what he had to do with any of it, the Chief still wouldn't have called him just to vent. He didn't get a chance to bring it up though, as the buffalo continued.

"I brought this up to the Commissioner – in private obviously – and his instructions were for me to keep this under wraps, saying the last thing we needed right now was another PR debacle for City Hall, this time with the ZPD in tow."

"When I protested saying that we couldn't just let this keep going he simply said that even if we were to do something, if this syndicate is as well established as it seems we'd never get anything on them. He then told me to focus on cases I can actually close."

Nick's mouth had gone from slightly open to fully agape in awe, together with his eyes.

"I left that meeting fuming." Bogo concluded with a grunt. With that he sat back down and looked expectantly at the younger officer, waiting for him to process the fact that the leader of the entire ZPD had, in a way, brushed off a potential ring of corrupt cops and city officials.

"So that's it? You're just going to leave it at that Chief?" The fox was still a bit incredulous, but hoped his boss had something good to add, a silver lining of sorts.

He did have something. But Nick was NOT going to like it.

"Of course not! Even though we can't launch a full investigation on all Precincts without the Commissioner's backing I'm still Chief of Precinct 1, and as far as my Precinct goes I will NOT be tolerating corrupt cops tainting our image."

"We're going to need to find out more about how this 'MR' operates, and the best way to do that will be to try and get someone into their ranks while undercover. They would hopefully be able to provide enough information to hamper their dealings and to bring down at least their local hierarchy. With a bit of luck we might even learn who's really behind this."

Nick had to agree that would be pretty much the only way to get reliable information, as MR had already proven it wasn't a stranger to covering its tracks. It would however be a ridiculously dangerous assignment for the poor sap that the Chief chose.

"That's where you'd come in Wilde."

Wait, what.

"WHAT."

The buffalo sighed and looked away from the fox who was now standing on his chair, fur on end and tail straight as an arrow. "You already have the experience from your time with Mr. Big, and out of all the admittedly few cops I fully trust now, you're the one who'd look the least suspicious going rogue, given…"

"… given my past right Chief?" the fox completed, shoulders now slumped, paws hanging aimlessly, ears laid back against his skull and tail wrapped around his legs, as if hugging himself.

"I'm sorry Nick, I know escaping your past was one of the main reasons you became a cop in the first place, and now I'm asking you to embrace it. But you really are my best shot at this."

"Should you decide to do it, you'd still be working with Hopps, as you'll need someone on the Force to trust other than me and she'd be investigating any leads you might provide."

Unable to look straight at his superior Nick sighed and answered. "I'll… think about it Chief. Mind if I give you a final answer in the next few days?"

"Not at all Wilde. I'm asking a lot of you, take your time."

"In fact, take the rest of the day off. And take Hopps with you, talk with her about this, I know she helps you see things more clearly sometimes."

"Thanks Chief."

"Dismissed."

Without another word, the fox stepped down from his chair and padded straight for the door, opening and closing it gently. He then proceeded towards the exit, mindlessly waving back as Clawhauser greeted him.

Once outside, Nick took a deep breath and started massaging his temples.

"Why… why now… everything was going so…"

Sighing heavily he took out his phone and stared at the wallpaper: a selfie with Judy, both in their uniforms in front of the Precinct. Bogo was right, he needed to talk to her.

Searching for her number he hit the call button.

He pushed the device away from his ear to minimize the damage from her ensuing complaint barrage and spoke once she was done.

"Hey Carrots? We need to talk."


A/N

Hello and welcome to my first published fanfiction. Please be gentle D:

Just kidding, I have no idea how well this will do, so any and all reviews/PMs are welcome and I'll answer them to the best of my abilities.

As for how this fic is going to work in terms of updates and stuff, I'll most likely post once a week after this. I think regular uploads are more important than fast and unpredictable ones so I'll try to guarantee one chapter per week, and anything else will be a bonus :) They'll most likely come out on Saturdays.

The story will stay rated T for now, and I doubt it will change much, but if it does I'll give a heads up in the previous chapter.

The story will probably be littered with pop culture references, usually to other movies or TV shows, so feel free to point them out.

As far as OCs go, save for a couple of them with more developed backstories, they'll be mostly fillers, to make my vision of the story make sense and be more interesting. One or two characters won't be OCs per se but rather unused or rehashed characters from older versions of the movie.

The ZPD I envision here works like this (it's important to establish how their ranks work for later in the story):

- - there are different departments that deal with specific crimes, and officers are assigned to their departments after 5 years on the force and according to their service record until then.

- - there are ranks (like cadet, officer, sergeant, lieutenant…) but no special assignments like detectives or traffic cops. That is entirely dependent on the case/assignment their superior hands them.

Now, before I give a call out to my inspirations, I need to make something clear: this is NOT a comedy. There will be banter and there will be funny moments or witty humour, just like in the movie. But the tone will more often than not stay serious and going will get heavy at points. The WildeHopps ship is a part of the story but not its main focus. Given the update schedule I'll try to implement I will try to keep cliff-hangers to a minimum, but I can't promise there won't be some.

With that out of the way, time for a very important part of these Notes: Shoutout time!

As I said, this is my first published fic and there are a bunch of authors and works that both inspired and helped me create my own story. I'm going to list the main sources of inspiration and help, though some more specific contributions may be reserved for later when they no longer count as spoilers. Regardless of the way I say they helped, their stories are absolute gems and deserve your attention.

Cimar of Turalis WildeHopps

For giving me the confidence to actually go through with this and actually reviewing the original concept for the story. Also, the antics Zootopia's dynamic duo get into in his fics are too good.

ReverendArchangel and Upplet

For showing me how an author should behave regarding fans and critics alike and for discussing and (somewhat inadvertedly) helping me create the personas I wanted to imbue some of my characters with. Also, both of their stories (Prejudice Dies Hard and Instinct Falls, respectively) helped me set the tone I wanted for this fic.

Icka M Chif (from AO3)

Her/His take on how Nick would view the Chief was just too on point to ignore.

See you next week!