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 tyres screeching along the deserted highway. The only illumination emanated from their blinding headlamps, lighting up the otherwise silent and deep dark moor more than 200 miles away from Zootopia. To the untrained eye, the convoy would seem as if they were a train of ghosts at a distance, an apparition of 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 clawed at the unwelcome visitors, raindrops the size of golfballs unceasingly splattering all across the windshield-even the wipers were practically useless in defense against this terrible weather. If one hadn't known better, they would almost have thought the sign was a premonition from God Himself.
Inside the lead limousine, the buffalo crossed his legs and stared out of the window, the lonely moor contrasting drastically from his comfy, heated apartment. He was by far the most important mammal the city had ever seen, worshipped and respected wherever he went.
But his world was at stake-panels of bulletproof windows and the bulwark-like doors on his limousine testified to this.
Soon even his friends might become deadly enemies.
The prominent visitor checked his watch, the hundredth time he had done so during the 30-minute trip. Bogo 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 on the wristwatch showed it was two minutes to three in the early morning, supposedly the time when death decided to strike at its strongest. It was truly the darkest hour.
The mayor grimaced 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 3:05 am. They still had a few hours before sunrise-their last opportunity of redeeming the ever-imminent crisis. 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 in the future.
A chain-linked fence appeared out of nowhere, and the lengthy convoy skidded to a halt. On better days there might have been a steady electric current running through the barbed wire, but at the moment it only stood haplessly silent. Somewhere high above in a sentry tower looming over the barrier, a guard flicked a switch as the gates slid open, its rusted hinges screeching deafeningly. As his vehicle jolted towards, the mayor vainly hoped it might be his final time entering the facility. He had failed too many-it was time for his redemption.
The narrow twisted road snaked down the slope, completely hidden to but a few. The vehicles bumped and jolted as they passed the dilapidated track, spraying up water gathered along the roadsides until their brakes hissed angrily, announcing the final stop of the company. As they approached, they could gradually make out the ghostly silhouettes of smokestacks and steel beams, emerging almost unrealistically from the mist.
A mighty compound rose eerily from the wasteland, ubiquitously enveloped by a fog that unceasingly plagued the moor-even with the fantastic glare of the searchlights, penetrating the smog was still a nearly impossible feat.
The mayor stood out of his vehicle, the drizzling of the rain a consistent music to the cacophony of the institute. A bodyguard hurried over, an umbrella held high over the mayor's head. The buffalo nodded at the officer, who politely handed him a towel to dry himself off with.
"The politeness isn't going to last much longer it this fails," he thought gloomily to himself.
He and the others on his team were ushered into the building, a gargantuan mixture of concrete, steel and glass. Lukewarm cups of coffee were distributed, and the Buffalo took a little sip of his as government scientists finalized their preparations for the presentation. It'd better be interesting-the demonstration was what everyone only wanted to see.
A petite armadillo with a hunched back hobbled onto the platform, comically clearing his throat to attract attention. The other scientists smoothened their lab suits tensely whilst exchanging nervous glances-they all knew very well the facility, let alone the demonstration, had never been successfully tested..
"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, vainly disguising how pathetic the attempt seemed. The atmosphere was so tense that it could have been cut with a knife.
"As we know," the scientist straightened himself and took a look at his clipboard, "Our city has been facing extreme climatic changes of late."
The officials nodded in approval, even though the fact was already glued into their minds. They knew clearly how close the public was to 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 energy to maintain the climate walls of our city. We live on an exhausted planet. Records show how the original fossil fuels, the ones we should have inherited, have long since been vaporized for unclear 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. Our solar farms have faced extreme climatic changes, impenetrable dark clouds covering where there should have been light. It is far too risky for us to expand and maintain our existing hydroelectric facilities," He lowered his voice "We all know well what happened at the Burrows 10 years ago."
The mayor rubbed his forehead vigorously, trying to forget the memories of what had happened to the hydroelectric station. Even after a decade, his scientists had no explanation for why the largest dam ever known to animalkind had been constructed on an unstable tectonic fault. It was no coincidence, no accident that it had collapsed, exposing the industrial centre to the unforgiving waves of the huge reservoir. The casualties had been astronomical, so staggering that even Bogo himself had had trouble comprehending the numbers.
The death of one is a tragedy-the death of a million is a statistic.
"That incident alone resulted in the loss of 50% of our total electricity generation." he concluded, muttering something unintelligible under his breath.
"There, however, is a saving grace."
"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 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 the very air 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 all our energy shortages."
"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."
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 metres below the Earth's surface. How they managed to keep it contained was a marvellous 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, their sole motivation towards.
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 gentlemammals. 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 checking! 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."
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 yell 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, and the ZPD was already calling the government offices, demanding an immediate explanation. 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.
"Shit!" 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 barely 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 omnipresent screaming and groaning of those wounded. The mayor opened his eyes to see members of the team lying in pools of blood, their faces badly 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. 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, had caught fire.
The mayor used his muscular arms to push everyone out of the way, sprinting across the hallway. The emergency lights and klaxons wailed in warning. A few other sentries and officials saw him and joined the chase, not daring to stay behind for any longer. Julius tried to ignore his wounds and recall which way he had come to the facility. His legs buckled under him, but a guard hoisted his arm onto his shoulder and charged over the final few metres of the hallway, slamming open the door to the exit just as a huge 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 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. Everything had been destroyed-the only thing unchanged was the rain, the water sizzling in contact with the fire.
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. Heck, it would take billions to get the facility working again. The pipes were twisted and bent, the reactors blackened and malfunctioned. But he knew 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. But who was to be trusted anymore? In this new era, promises were as easily broken as glass.
The situation report arrived a few days later, and a meeting of the leadership was summoned.
Enough was enough.
The mayor decided that it was to be the last meeting he was ever going to hold while in office. It was time to step down.
The few important officials trickled into the room, a recently-promoted wolf 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 announced his report. It was going to be brief.
"Ladies and gentlemammals." he began, addressing the tiny crowd. "With the full-out investigations coming to an end, we have concluded that Operation Dawnbreak has been totally devastated. The loss of machinery has run into the 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 confined the scene. The cover story has concealed everything else. Everything is tightly under our control."
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.
The scientist had left out something, something that the government had no inkling of whatsoever. It had been deliberately concealed, destined to be the greatest secret of Zootopia for the following half century.
Unbeknownst to anybody else, the gigantic amount of E14 released at the facility, under such strenuous pressure, had actually punched a hole into the space-time continuum. A few of the scientists even suggested the exciting possibility it could lead to another time, another dimension. It was the lone secret of the city shrouded in 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 endeavour, to deploy the E14 for his own purposes. He just needed the resources.
A stout leopard walked up to him, saluting stiffly.
"The new 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 unusual name, sir?" the guard couldn't resist his curiosity.
"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, almost half a century too late.
He also didn't know something else.
It was the story of Christopher Columbus and the Indians.