I'm Peter Moosebridge. Tonight on ZNN: an explosion at Zootopia General Hospital left at least three dead and dozens injured…
The news anchor droned on, but Nick barely paid attention to the flickering image on the common room television. Judy fidgeted impatiently next to him while they waited for their turn to speak with Chief Bogo, who was sitting behind a desk in an office adjacent to the nurses station a few paces away. The buffalo was talking to Delgato and a panther from the mayor's office, and Nick wondered if he should move closer to try and hear what they were talking about. A few other ZPD officers hovered around the room, occasionally stealing glances at the television or talking quietly with each other.
Nick's attention returned to the news program when it switched to a live video feed of the front of the hospital, where a large gaping hole filled the space formerly occupied by the front entrance. Several helicopters with searchlights danced in and out of the frame, illuminating a line of the large ZPD officers that had formed a line between the herd of mammals milling around and the front of the damaged building. The ticker scrolling along the bottom of the screen was ominous:
Hostage situation and possible bomb explosion earlier today at Zootopia General Hospital, several mammals still unaccounted for, motive and number of assailants unknown, official statement from mayor forthcoming.
The news anchor spoke again:
And now, here's exclusive footage of the incident obtained by ZNN...
A slow motion replay of the explosion from a security camera at street level filled the screen, followed by footage of the aftermath that appeared to be from a cellphone camera. Several mammals walked out of the hole in the front of the hospital, and Nick recognized the coyote and beaver as two of the older orphans who were currently missing. There was also a wolf carrying a sloth, followed by a polar bear… Nick thought for a moment, before he remembered her name. Miss Blanca, the mammal who ran the group home where the orphans lived.
The coyote stepped up to the curb and stared at oncoming traffic for a moment, before one of the larger vans driving by suddenly stopped. All of the mammals piled in and the van swerved back into the street mere moments before the first ZPD cruiser arrived. He'd already seen the footage a few times, and Nick still couldn't understand how the orphans had managed to arrange for an accomplice to pick them up, or how no one tried to stop them from leaving the building. The source of the explosion was also a mystery.
The fox turned his attention back to Chief Bogo. It was obvious he wasn't the only one eavesdropping when Judy's ears swiveled around to listen after the Chief said something about the orphans. Nick sidled closer to hear the conversation, and Judy followed.
The mayor's aide asked, "How will you be moving the remaining kits?"
Chief Bogo replied, "We're bringing in vehicles to evacuate them to a nearby school gym, until they can be relocated to temporary foster homes."
The panther nodded and said, "You didn't hear it from me, but something big is happening higher up the food chain, and whatever it is will be coming down on this situation like a herd of elephants."
Bogo nodded. "Understood. Of course the ZPD will do everything to co-operate-" The buffalo noticed Nick and Judy listening and paused, before he looked at Delgato and pointed in their direction. "Shut that, please." The lion moved swiftly and closed the door.
Nick dragged Judy over to an empty corner of the room. "We need to talk about Jack."
Judy gave him a puzzled look. "What do you mean?"
"The panther wasn't talking about a Junior Ranger Scouts jamboree just now. Believe me, Carrots, some super secret government agency is about to swoop in."
Nick closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. "And since Jack saw you stretching your fluffy little bunny head around the corner…" He motioned with his paws, trying to get Judy to see where his train of thought was going, but when she still didn't seem to understand he sighed and added in an irritated voice, "What happens when he tells someone?"
"Oh sweet cheese and crackers."
"Carrots, you've really gotta learn how to cuss like a normal mammal." He paused for a moment, before adding, "I think we should offer to take Jack and Violet with us when we leave."
"Nick, they're not just some crickets you can bring home from the pet store!"
"Relax, it's only for one night. We'll tell Bogo we're taking them into protective custody or something, and then figure out what to do next."
Judy looked thoughtful for a moment. "I guess they could stay at my place?"
Nick laughed. "There isn't even enough room for you at your place, much less two other mammals. They can stay with me at my mom's." He hesitated for a moment, before he added, "You're welcome too, of course."
Judy smirked. "What, you can't handle a few little kits on your own?"
A sly grin spread across Nick's face. "Yeah, that must be it."
"I was looking forward to sleeping in my own bed, but I guess we really should sit down and talk to them first. Think your mom would mind?"
"Not at all."
The door opened and the panther walked out, followed by Delgato. The lion spotted them and walked over. "Hopps, Wilde… Chief wants to speak with you next."
Nick followed Judy into the room, and without even looking up from what he was reading on his phone, Chief Bogo said, "I'll keep this short, since I've got a dozen other mammals I need to contact before the mayor's announcement. You're both being released early. Go home and get some rest. It's going to be a long night, and I'll need at least a few of my officers functioning tomorrow. Report to the precinct for morning roll call. Dismissed."
After Nick cleared his throat, Bogo looked up with a scowl, and the tod tentatively said, "Ahh Chief, before we go… two of the kits that Judy and I know really well are terribly upset with everything that's happened. We'd like to keep an eye on them tonight. I realize it's unusual-"
Chief Bogo interrupted with a grunt and waved at him dismissively. "I don't have time for this… fine, that's two less mammals in my fur right now. See Clawhauser tomorrow to find out where you can drop them off. Dismissed."
Afraid that Judy would ask to stay and help, Nick hurried to grab her arm and drag her back out the door. "C'mon, Carrots. You heard the Chief. Let's go."
Out in the common room they ran into Violet, and the annoyed look Judy was giving Nick quickly turned to a smile when she saw the vixen. "Hey Violet. Nick and I are keeping an eye on you and Jack tonight, so how about you go get your things and meet us back here in ten minutes?"
Nick let go of Judy and his heart clenched when he saw the initial glimmer in Violet's eyes quickly change to an all too familiar look of suspicion. Unsure of what exactly the young vixen might be worried about, Nick turned to Judy and said, "Maybe you can go with her, so she doesn't get lost, and I'll go find Jack?"
Judy gave him a long quizzical look, before nodding. "Okay. Right, let's go."
Nick watched them hurry off down the hallway and was about to follow, when he got a text on his phone. He was relieved to see the message was from Finnick:
Hey, where you and da bunny at?
Nick quickly replied:
Nice to know you're not dead. We're about to leave the hospital, where are you?
Almost immediately Nick's phone dinged with the reply:
I'm around. You goin to the bunny's place? We need to talk.
This last message made Nick hesitate, since it was strange for Finnick to ask about meeting at Judy's. As far as he knew, the fennec didn't even know where she lived. Something felt off, so Nick decided to keep things vague and typed:
Yeah, maybe. Tonight's no good. Feral's tomorrow at 7pm?
The last time he and the diminutive fox had been to Feral's bar down near the wharf, Finnick had been tossed out, and vowed never to return, so Nick was surprised when he replied:
Now Nick knew something definitely wasn't right, but before he could think of another message to send, Judy came back with both Violet and Jack in tow. He'd have to figure out what was going on with Finnick later.