Chapter 1: The World at Stake
45 years before the Movie
Zootopia Year P.E. (Post-Evolution) 2017
Earth Year A.D. (Anno Domini) 1971
Location: Highway Zoot 01, suburb 200 miles away from Zootopia.
Time: 3:25 am
The heavy rain scratched against the column of limousines as they raced against time, their tires screeching along the deserted highway, the only illumination emanating from the terrifyingly bright headlamps, lighting up the otherwise silent and deep dark moor more than 200 miles away from Zootopia. From a distance the convoy would seem as if they were a train of ghosts, an apparition of ghostly and unearthly lights dancing in the darkness for a split moment before disappearing once again. But such was not the case. The limousines knew well where they were going.
The wind howled and screeched at the unwelcome visitors, the line of 3 limousines and heavily-armed police escorts as they continued on their way, the night-black rain splattering all across the windshield, the wipers practically useless in defense against this terrible weather. Perhaps they were a premonition from God, prophesying accurately what exactly was coming next. It wasn't going to be nice. Inside the lead limousine, the bull crossed his legs and stared out of the window, the lonely moor drastically different from his comfy, heated apartment. He was by far the most important mammal the city had ever seen, worshipped and respected throughout the city. The extra-thick windows, the reinforced steel car doors testified to this. But his world was at stake. Soon their only enemies might be from within.
The prominent visitor checked his watch, the hundredth time he had done so in the previous 30-minutes trip. He had specially ordered for the express highway reserved for them, the very reason why the convoy was speeding well beyond the highway limit. There was nobody to apprehend the most powerful mammal on the planet. The face of the wristwatch showed it was Three Thirty in the early morning, supposedly the time when death decided to strike at its strongest. The darkest hour. The mayor smiled at this little thought, before banishing it to the depths of his mind soon to be forgotten. He had more important things to concentrate on.
The driver who manned the wheel, a well-dressed panther donning a chauffeur's cap, whispered something into his mouthpiece and announced something over his shoulder to the important animal. Normally such rudeness against the Leader was intolerable, but road conditions made a special exemption.
"5 minutes to the launch zone, sir."
The mayor nodded and checked his watch for the final time. It was 3:35 am. They still had a few hours before sunrise. When the project he had been working on for more than 2 decades would be forced to be delayed once more, further endangering their world over again. The bull trembled silently, his mighty figure quavering inside his heart. It might be their only chance to succeed, to prove to his city that there was still hope.
The vehicles skidded to a halt outside a gate, the chain-linked fence appearing out of nowhere, the mechanism already rusted from a few decades of use. The mayor hoped it might be his last time entering the facility, the final success which would make his people forget his previous failures. He had failed too many. It was time for his redemption. The electric gate opened, the sentry outside whispering a command to his central command hidden far away in the facility, the destination of the weary convoy.
The narrow twisty road snaked down the slope, almost hidden to but a few. The vehicles bumped and jolted as they passed the long-since maintained track. The driver accelerated. His passenger would not be happy. The limousines continued on their way, spraying up water gathered along the roadsides from under their wheels until their brakes hissed angrily, announcing the final stop of the company. The bright lights shone brightly everywhere, banishing the darkness as if giving the mayor a false impression of daytime. The facility was huge, as if popping out of the ground in the middle of a moor, its original purpose of expanding the city long since forgotten. Huge smokestacks belching out smoke stood so tall that they nearly scratched the sky. Jeeps, cruisers and officers ran around frantically, doing their best to receive the visitor.
The mayor stepped out of his vehicle, the drizzling of the rain a consistent music to the cacophony of the institute. A ZCID officer rushed over, the umbrella held high over the mayor's head. The bull nodded at the officer, who politely handed him a towel to dry himself off with.
"The politeness isn't going to last any longer if this fails," he thought gloomily to himself.
He and the others on his team were ushered into the building, a gigantic mixture of concrete, steel and glass. A sofa was brought out and he gladly planted his body on it, excited to be out of the cold and the rain for a moment, missing the coziness of his distant office. Warm cups of coffee were distributed, and the Bull took a little sip of his as the scientific nerds, as he called them, made final preparations for the presentation. It'd better be interesting. Nothing on earth was going to delay his speculation of the final demonstration, the very last lifeline to his control and power.
A petite armadillo with a hunched back, nearing 50 years of age hobbled onto the platform, and turned on his mic. The other scientists smoothened their white lab coats tensely, combing their fur whilst exchanging nervous glances at the sudden visitor. They all knew the facility, let alone the demonstration, was far from completed.
The armadillo patted his mic almost comically, asking for silence amongst the crowd. The bull lay back, and tried to relax. Unlike the research team, he had every confidence in his mix-match of scientists from all over the region, the finest brains one could find in the Metropolis and beyond. The government officials simmered down, their eyes glued onto the scientist with the hunched back.
"Uhh...a sincere good morning to our dear mayor in the backseat…" the old researcher stuttered hoarsely, his paws fumbling with his reading glasses. The crowd burst into applause. Yet the atmosphere was so tense that it could have been cut with a knife. The cabinet knew it might be their last chance at redemption, their last grasp at a better life.
"As we know," the scientist straightened himself and took a look at his clipboard, "Our city has been facing extreme climatic changes as of late."
The officials nodded their approval, even though the fact was already glued into their minds, the only reason why they were so sleep-deprived from stress. They knew the weather alteration balloons couldn't last for much longer. They knew clearly that the public was already finding out for themselves, lone explorers trekking to the borders and noticing how cold or hot it had suddenly become. The rain for example, was not supposed to happen at all.
"It's been taking too much juice...I mean energy to maintain the climate control operations of our city. We live on an exhausted planet. Records show how the original fossil fuels, the ones we should have inherited were long since vaporized, long since gone for mysterious reasons. We have been forced to rely on other things, hydroelectricity, solar energy...even the nuclear rods we have found contained out west!"
"But it seems as if our fate has been destined. That we shall run the long race no longer. Our solar farms have faced extreme climatic change, dark clouds covering where there should have been light. The hydroelectric facilities are taking far too much risks to maintain and to function." He lowered his voice "We all know well what happened at the Burrows 3 months ago."
The mayor rubbed his forehead vigorously, trying to forget the memories of what had happened to the hydroelectric station. Scientists had no explanation for it. The largest dam ever known to animalkind had actually been built on a tectonic fault. It was no coincidence, no accident that it had collapsed, exposing the industrial centre to the unforgiving waves of the huge reservoir. There was nobody for them to blame but themselves. The mayor knew perfectly he had confirmed the area 30 years ago, one of the first actions he had initiated as leader of the city.
He had responded harshly to the accident. Once the reports started trickling in from the surveillance gondolas and cameras nearby, he forbid any mention of the operation in any of the media, the radio and the newspapers. The death toll was astronomical, almost impossible for him to comprehend. The next thing he did was even worse. He ordered his personal operatives, the ZCID (Zootopia Central Investigations Department) to track down all survivors from the area. Word must never get out. He had ordered them imprisoned in remote locations, never to be released again. The notion of execution had briefly entered his mind, but even for a ruthless mammal like him it was too murderous. It was on his orders that all such news were to be concealed from the public, in fear of public outrage and the blaming of the government. He wasn't the first leader to do this. He simply did it out of fear.
"Nevertheless that resulted in the loss of 50% of our total electricity generation." he concluded, muttering something under his breath about who knew how much water the dam held.
"Dr. Schiff?" Mrs. Johnson, an arctic wolf in her early thirties inquired, "As the Minister of Energy I am extremely concerned with the amount of electricity generated in the weeks after the Incident. I understand, and under my orders I have insisted upon the temporary halting of several climatic change zones in our city, such as Tundra Town or Sahara Square. These, however have led to extremely violent protests that may soon threaten the city's safety. Should we, the government, reveal the true details of the Incident and beg for forgiveness? As well as promote and encourage energy-saving measures?"
The damn woman was out of her mind.
"Are you insane?!" the mayor hollered, "Public security is our first option. Think of all that could happen if we revealed the truth! Riots! Boycotts! Coups! If you really believe they're going to forgive us then you're certifiably out of your mind! Our jobs will be lost! Imprisoned in the call of vengeance!"
"Hiding the truth does not help calm down the protests, sir." Mrs. Johnson replied scornfully.
"We can hush everything down. I will send out the ZPD, even the ZCID. The newspapers can just make something up. A cover story. Sahara Square closed for maintenance! Hasn't anyone told you yet? If everybody's happy, at least happy on the surface, nobody will care! That's what our organization has been doing for the past century!" He slammed his fist on the table in front of him, "They trust in us. They rely on us. They have no reason to leave us now. We provide everything!"
"That further explains why we should no longer deceive our own people!" the Minister was trying her best to conceal her rage.
"Mr. Mayor, Minister Johnson." the doctor cleared his throat and addressed the duo, "That's why I'm putting Operation Dawnbreak into action."
The Bull nodded, and smiled triumphantly towards his subordinate.
"Why...why wasn't I informed of any of this madness?"
"In the past 2 decades, under the instructions of the dear mayor Mr. Julius Bogo, we have successfully located and detected a vast amount of Energy-14 under this very piece of land. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the ground you're stepping on now is home to millions of years of geological development, eventually producing vast amounts of this clean and reliable fuel source, sufficient to power the Earth for centuries...even for millennia!"
The scientist continued, "There has only been one stumbling block. Apart from hiding this event from the public of course…"
"Is concealing this event even necessary?" Mrs. Johnson demanded "The public should be informed! They...they deserve a right to know what is going on!"
"What if it fails, Mrs. Johnson." the mayor's tone was dangerously calm, "It will cause panic, riots, and even destruction. Nobody can protect the citizens any longer. What will become of our ZPD, the ZCID when they too, succumb to the effects of our over-industrialization and over-population. Yes, the public deserves to know but JUST NOT NOW!" he roared the last 3 words.
'Let the poor man finish…" a random voice emanating from the crowd urged.
"Thank you." Doctor Schiff nodded in the direction of the voice in appreciation, "As I said, the only stumbling block appears to be the method of harvesting the energy source. It is extremely prone to the atmosphere in our environment, and tends to escape when in contact with our air, the very atmosphere we are breathing in. Until very, very recently there has been no way to utilize such a powerful fuel, the very source which can solve our energy problems."
"Perhaps stress on our organization was all that was needed. With the problems of over-population looming ahead, it's difficult for us not find a way out. But finally, we have succeeded. There is indeed a way, to harvest the famous Energy-14 and use it without it being evaporated by the atmosphere."
He pointed to a simple blackboard behind me, to some weird-looking diagrams which the mayor had no knowledge of.
For the next 15 minutes the mayor resisted the urge to go to sleep as the scientists droned on and on about their work. It was barely possible, yet indeed true that they had drilled holes into vast pockets of Energy-14 hundreds of meters below the Earth's surface. How they managed to keep it contained was a marvelous feat. The huge pipes made of the strongest steel extended from the pockets to the surface, transporting massive amounts of the extraordinary gas to just below the surface in specially built vaults, ready to be deployed when ready. Then the reactors and generators came next, the brainchild of the team of scientists working hard for the past 5 years. They had hastily finished building the reactors and generators which had specially been adapted to use for the mysterious fuel, according to the hypothetical assumptions and predictions by the research team. On the whole, the project was just a massive gamble. There were numerous risks, the overheating of the generators, the possibilities of vast amounts of gas breaking through the containment chambers...but the desperation they faced was enough to blind them from danger.
The room dimmed and the officials and scientists trooped out of the room and down the hallway lit by dark red emergency lights, heavily guarded by ZCID sentries. Despite his gloomy look Mayor Julius Bogo was excited, his heart beating faster than it had ever before. He was going to witness the greatest feat of modern science, their lone hope of salvation. A heavy iron door slid open, and the guards saluted as the prominent company entered the observation chamber. A dozen scientists stood behind their computer screens, scribbling frantic messages and completing their final checks. The mayor strolled leisurely over to the observation window, the reinforced model designed to deflect explosive impacts. His eyes followed the flurry of movement below the chamber, squads of guards and teams of researchers working under the blinding neon lights, huge stores of the last remaining stocks of petrol in the world standing next to them, apparently feeding the lights and generators.
"Please don your protective goggles, ladies and gentlemen. This is going to be spectacular." Dr. Schiff announced from behind his computer monitor, haggling with several others of the computer team.
The mayor walked beside them and tried to listen to snippets of their conversation. It didn't exactly please him.
"Impossible" one exclaimed.
"Won't surprise me if the damn thing explodes."
"Where's the fastest way out of here?"
And throughout all that Dr. Schiff was trying to calm them down, to assure his inventions would never fail the mayor's expectation. Bogo sure wished that he would live up to his promises.
"Honorable guests!" Dr. Schiff yelled from his seat, "We have finished our final preparations! Please be aware that the next procedure is going to take 10 minutes. We're afraid that the amount of electricity produced by the Facility alone, combined with the others in the area, is sufficient to cause a major blackout in the metropolis if not coordinated properly. In a few minutes, the other power stations scattered around the metropolis will stop generating electricity, and our Facility alone will begin functioning for the first time, the Energy-14 providing enough power to the city on its own."
"You see, ladies and gentlemen. The reason we've chosen this time of day is to reduce the damage caused by a blackout, if one really happens in case of emergency. The city center will be at its quietest in half an hour, which means not many mammals will notice the sudden change in events." He turned to his monitor and whispered a few words to his assistants.
"Ah, guests! We see that the other power stations have done a spectacular job! The lines from the other stations have been cut, and the energy being transmitted is enough to hold the city's need for a few more minutes. So now, turn on the generators! Let the Energy-14 flow from the vaults! Let the fun begin!"
The engines and the mechanisms hidden within the building began to roar, the vibrations so loud that the mayor thought the world was going to end. Over the din of the gas being rushed up the pipes into the reactors he could hear yelling and frantic orders over the radios. What was going on? Several members of his staff also looked confusedly at each other, unsure what to make of it all. Doctor Schiff swore under his breath, and quickened his typing on his computer. A few moments later he picked up the receiver on his desk, and his face turned deadly pale.
"The reactors!" he cried, "They are overheating!"
The rest of the researchers ran to their computers, typing in frantic commands.
"Sir! Reactors 3 and 4 have been damaged! Vast amounts of Energy-14 are leaking out!"
"Seal up the area! Use the containment door! It's not too late!"
"But, sir! The personnel...the guards inside...we cannot close the door, sir!"
And it was true. From the tiny images from the computer he could see dozens of personnel running around blindly, some already collapsing from the effects of the smoke. Mayor Bogo sat on his chair, unable to move or to speak.
"Close the damn containment door!" came the command.
Almost crying, the scientist slammed her paw onto a red button, sealing the fates of those trapped inside. Dr. Schiff, apparently shaken, tried to take control over the chaos.
"Lyson! Datrick! Abort the command! Close off the Energy-14 supply!"
"Sir! None of the other reactors are responding! The generators have been severely damaged! Tons of Energy-14 is leaking out!" he pointed down into the room, separated by the thick layer of glass. Smoke was rising, and Bogo could see huge quantities of gas he presumed to be E14 gushing out from the ground, the pipes long since broken.
"Abort the operation! Seal off the pipes! Turn on the emergency vault isolation system!"
"None of the engines are responding sir!"
The receiver rang again. The news was even worse. The power had been cut off in Zootopia. The ZPD was already calling the government offices. Worse still, the huge amount of energy released had led to a massive destruction of the energy lines, burning out the remaining power supply to the metropolis. It would take weeks to re-open the ones from the old power stations.
"Crap!" the scientist screamed. He checked the screen. The temperature in the room had risen, the reactors 3 and 4 long since burnt out. The vaults had given way, the steel doors holding the gas in buckling under the immense pressure. Reactor 1 was still holding out, the mechanism overheating so much that it was going to…
"OUT! EVERYONE OUT!" his cries had barely reached the mayor's ears before Reactors 1 and 2 exploded, spraying heat, ashes and broken glass into everybody's face. There was darkness in the room for a moment, before the sprinklers and the eerie glow of the emergency lights kicked in. There was the screaming and groaning of those hurt. The mayor opened his eyes to see members of the team lying in pools of blood, their faces cut by the shattered glass. Others were being helped out by the sentries, wiping off their wounds. Bogo could taste blood on his lips, and his arm hurt like hell. Dr. Schiff was whimpering behind his table. It was all his fault. The stupid liar should never have been part of the project!
Mayor Julius Bogo was storming over to the cowering scientist when something in the room below him caught his eye. It was on fire, the personnel still trapped in there screaming and pounding on the doors. The heat was very nearly unbearable, the room already devastated by the explosion. But there was still something else. The storage tanks of petroleum, designed to provide energy to the lights and everything else to keep it moving. They were on fire.
The mayor used his muscular arms to push everyone out of the way, sprinting across the hallway, the emergency lights and klaxons wailing in warning. A few others sentries and officials saw him and joined him, knowing things were soon going to get a lot worse. Julius tried to ignore his wounds and recall which way he came to the facility. He felt faint, but a guard hoisted his arm on to his shoulder and charged the final few meters of the hallway, slamming open the door to the exit just as an enormous explosion rocked his ears. A huge fireball rushed down the hallway, incinerating those still inside. Julius and the few others with him moved out of the way at the last second, the immense heat on his face, the sweat slowly dripping from his forehead. As he stood up woozily he could smell the scent of burning, as well as that of petrol. It was immensely hot, even hotter than the scorchers in August.
Julius looked all around him, the survivors cowering in fear. He could see his old limousine blown onto its side, the car doors detached by the impact. The rain was still falling, the water sizzling in contact with the fire. Mrs. Johnson made her way to him, one of the few who survived the initial explosion. Her face was scarred by the glass, a filthy rag pressed on her face to stop the bleeding. The mayor looked down at her, the bleeding and sorry form of a once proud wolf.
She whispered, "I agree with you. Never, ever reveal this."
He knew where she was going. The project had taken billions of dollars, the sole reason why the taxes had increased by almost 20% in the past 6 months. And the endeavor which all the money was spent on had just been destroyed...it would virtually be too much to take in. Billions of dollars spent on a hopeless experiment, instead of being utilized to help the homeless, the needy…
Julius said nothing as the one dozen remaining members were hurried onto a waiting jeep, the engine already running. He took no notice of the panic around him, the scores of ZCID putting out the fires and dragging out survivors from the debris. Hell, it would take billions to get the facility working again. The pipes were twisted and bent, the reactors blackened and malfunctioned. They would never work again, the surviving scientists already starting their status quo reports.
On the journey back to the city, Julius stared into the rising sun and wondered what his last job in office might be. They needed a cover story. The swearing to secrecy for everyone who witnessed the explosion. He paged his secretary and told her everything needed. She promised that nobody would ever know about what happened. But who was to be trusted anymore? Promises were as easily broken as glass.
The situation report arrived a few days later. The mayor decided that it was the last meeting he was ever going to hold while in office. He was going to resign. The blood of innocents stained his paws red, their forgotten souls screeching in his dreams. He could take it no longer. So he decided to let it go.
The few important officials trickled into the room, Mrs. Johnson taking the seat of the vice-mayor, him having passed away recently in the "gondola crash". Even Bogo was shocked by the gullibility of his own people. Sure, there were investigations into the safety of airship designs, and the "wreckage" found at the site, but nobody ever wondered how the rest of the Cabinet could have survived, having fallen from hundreds of feet above. And rumors didn't count. There were minor protests and demonstrations, but Julius paid them no heed. He knew his people well. No matter young or old, big or small, they all shared one common similarity: Animals were all fickle beings, gifted with a short-term memory designed not to last. He understood just after 3 months, the "gondola crash" would be everything but remembered.
The professor cleared his throat and prepared his report. He was probably the best choice for writing the brief, as he was one of the few lucky ones to have survived the fire and the explosion afterwards, being found alive inside the wreckage. The goat began his presentation. It was going to be short. Julius had ordered for it.
"Ladies and Gentlemen." he began, addressing the tiny crowd. "With the full-out investigations coming to an end, we have concluded that Operation Beacon is literally devastated, with the loss of machinery that cost billions, the money being taken from the people's pockets for the past 10 years. The incident also resulted in a terrible loss of life, both for the ZCID and the Government."
"However, there is still hope. In retrospect to the deployment of E14, a squad from the ZCID, sworn to secrecy of course, has successfully located an abundant amount of uranium, enough to cater to the city for 100 years, just a few miles before the borderline. Entity X45 has also been found, seeming to be an ancient remnant of a onc…"
The mayor held up his paw for silence. The scientist stopped abruptly, awaiting what the bull had to say.
"Is it possible, I mean, under these circumstances….to actually open the border and...I mean...could it be justifiable?"
Everybody remained silent. What their leader had proposed was absurd, the direct violation of the ordinances laid down so many generations ago. It was taboo. Unacceptable. The mayor sank back into his chair, depressed at the reaction.
"Nevertheless," the researcher concluded, "We have successfully blocked the massive flow of Energy 14, and the huge amount of energy seems to be safe for now. The underground pockets have been temporarily sealed off. Our ZCID officers have already closed off the scene. The cover story has concealed everything else."
The mayor nodded and signed the report, the conclusion to a brief yet fatal failure. The meeting was adjourned. His back hunched, the massive bull strode out of the office. He still had much to do to prepare for his resignation.
But what the government didn't know was, the scientist had left out something. A brief sentence at the end of the report, one of great importance that the followers of Dr. Schiff had no intention of anybody else finding out. It had been deliberately concealed, destined to be the greatest secret of Zootopia for the following half century.
Unbeknownst to anybody else, save for the research team, the gigantic amount of E14 released at the facility, under such strenuous pressure, had actually punched a hole into the space-time continuum, a rift in space-time matter. It was the lone secret of the city, shrouded in the darkness only revealed to the few whose only intention was to take advantage of it. The scientists could imagine a whole new world, full of resources somewhere far into the future. Their only job was to decipher the weakness, to release so much energy at once again that the wormhole could be utilized, the tool to send their personnel anywhere they wanted.
Dr. Sturmer surveyed the wreckage from the safety of his gondola, the courtesy of the ZCID. There had already been talk of disbanding, the remaining servicemen banding together to work for his cause. He knew if used correctly the portal could be a terrible weapon, one capable of destroying the city….or saving it. It was all his choice, being the top surviving scientist. He had learnt a lot from Schiff, the gaining of power, retaining it….he had long since possessed those abilities. Finally, the opportunity had come. He didn't care if it took years, decades….he would be the one to complete this endeavor, to deploy the E14 for his own purposes. He just needed the resources.
A stout leopard walked up to him, saluting stiffly.
"The Mayor has approved of ZERB (Zootopia Energy Research Bureau) Do you wish to confirm commencement of the Project?"
The answer was swift.
"Commence Operation Gotterdammerung."
"Why the weird name, sir?"
"It meant the downfall of the gods….in ancient parts of the world."
But what Dr. Sturmer and his people didn't know, were the consequences of their actions. Perhaps he should not be blamed. It came far too late for them to realize, half a century too late.
He also didn't know something else.
And it was the story of Christopher Columbus and the Indians.