AN: Did you know that I am a big fan of Kittah4's/ Variable Mammals' story, Familiar Fire?
Did you know that I came up with a sequel idea, pitched it to him, and he said that I could write it?
Did you know that you're reading that story now?
On a serious note, it was an interesting talk with the fantastic Kittah, given that he was working on (and has started to publish) his own sequel, 'The Appointed Time'. He said that there were good bits that he was also doing in a similar or different way, plus other ideas he really liked. As he goes on and publishes The Appointed Time (which you should check out, over on A03) it'll be interesting to see where he goes, and how our stories tackle this world and its characters. Overall, this story will have the same relation to his work as his story 'Vixen's mark' (which took another writers plot concept, creating an alternate story to the official sequel) does to SophieWitches' universe.
I'll be posting the prologue and chapter 1 first, then it'll be a little while as I finish up another story before I carry on with chap 2 and onwards. Minimum wait will be just less than two weeks. Alternatively, the max would likely be five. After that though I hope to have a regular schedule down.
Cover art on Fan-fic is a commission done for Familiar Fire by RoahmMythril.
Proofing for the prologue, and a lot of help, came from the ever fantastic Cimar.
Finally, the prologue is stylistically different from much of the fic, for reasons which I believe will become clear at its end. It can be skipped though if you so wish. If you're feeling sceptical about the story after reading it, chap 1 is there for you to go through as well.
Feel free to leave a comment, I'll be answering questions over on A03, and I hope you enjoy.
The shining city.
Even before the second great awakening it was one of the finest jewels of mammal civilization. Tall, proud, rich and host to a greater diversity of species than any other city. The wealth of the United Mammal States flowed through it on its way to far off lands, shipped down the mighty Kula river, while rich spices and innumerable treasures flowed back in return. Said to be founded where the first great awakening, the truce between predators and prey, occurred, it would have been rich even before the second one.
But after that mysterious event, in which flashes filled the sky as comets and meteors fell to earth, it became richer for a whole other reason.
Even now, after over a century of superpowers, Zootopia had more gifted mammals than any other place on earth. It was home of the Zootopia empowered division, or the ZED, the most respected task force of them to have ever existed. It was home to the best researchers and the most advanced technology, ready to learn more about these abilities and harness them for good.
It was also home to those who would misuse their gifts…
Finally, last and least, were the forgotten majority.
Those with no powers at all…
10 years previously.
A light drizzle was pouring down the back alley as three mammals exited a building. Closing the door behind them, the light and music fading, they pulled on their poncho's and put up their umbrellas before heading off. They stood shoulder to shoulder, one large and round, one tall and slender
and one small, nestled in the middle.
The large one smiled as he walked, turning down to the smaller one. "Well, my favourite child," he chuckled warmly, leaning down to rub the little figure's head. "I think I understand now why you wanted us here to help get you out of that…" he said, nodding back towards the door. "Though given what you've done, surely you could have tried to enjoy it!?" He let out a hearty laugh, hoof to his chest as his other one pulled his daughter in tight.
"Father," she sighed, "you know I tried. But you know those kind of parties aren't my thing. Too loud… too exciting…"
"He knows," the third figure, her mother, interrupted. She spoke warmly, before giving her husband a dark look. "He just had too much of the free prosecco… As always…"
Shaking his head, he tutted as he looked over at his mate. "Eva, dearest, you can take the mammal out of student life, but not student life out of the mammal. I can never let a free meal slide, yet alone a free drink!"
"It seems I must have higher standards then," the couple's daughter noted, rolling her eyes a bit. "That, or I never embraced that whole student life thing entirely..."
Her voice trailed off, its sound replaced by the background noise of the city and the clop of their hooves on the pavement.
"Hey, Darling," her father spoke, leaning in closer to his small, but very much adult, daughter. "You know how proud we are, don't you?"
"Of course she does, dear," the mother replied, before squealing slightly with joy. "Our little girl passed the Bar! She's a lawyer!" Her paws came up her mouth as she barely contained her excitement, her feet
tippy-tapping on the ground as she walked. Her daughter was less enthusiastic about the display though, shying away from the embarrassment.
Thankfully, it soon passed, and she returned a hug as they carried on. Having passed the back exits of the kinds of clubs where the rest of the students were loudly partying, they moved into an area that backed onto tenement buildings as they worked their way over to where the car was parked. The sky was black, while the glow from the overlooking windows coloured the falling rain a sultry orange. Carefully looking where they were going, they weaved through bits of rubbish that had been dumped onto the cobbles, along with overflowing bins that had been left out.
A new sound filled the air, recognisable as the evening news report being played out on a radio.
'-new information on the perpetrator of the Tundra Town bank robbery. An empowered red fox, Nicholas Wilde, has been identified as the prime suspect. ZED officer Jack Savage reported that the vibration attack that broke down the vault walls matched his super speed power exactly, and he can think of
no-one else capable of doing such a deed…."
Turning a corner, the three mammals spotted the source of the sound, a little radio resting on a covered stoop. Next to it stood a massive grizzly bear, slowly taking the time to enjoy a cigarette.
'-A ZED taskforce has already tried and failed to apprehend Wilde, who used his powers to escape. Witnesses state that he seemed confused when standard police officers started to read his rights, denying any wrongdoing. Reportedly he panicked and began to flee, doing more-so once enforcers arrived to assist. The last time he was seen, he was apparently screaming that he 'hasn't been to TundraTown in month's', before speeding off into the distance. Civilians are reminded that he could be incredibly dangerous, and if they see him they should call 888 for the ZED immediately."
The news carried on, slowly moving onto other headlines. As the trio approached the bear he finished his cigarette, grinding the butt into a flooded ashtray, before picking up his radio and opening his door, heading inside. The daughter of the group watched as he did so, noting how large he was and how he could easily kill her by pure accident.
A number of cases that she might soon be defending would be along those lines…
Her father's voice pulled her from her train of thought and she looked up as he spoke.
"Didn't do it…" he said, shaking his head. "If he didn't do it, why did he run, huh?"
"I know," the mother agreed. "Stand at a trial and prove your innocence, rather than running away like a thief. I mean, doesn't that sound like guilty to you dear?"
"He's innocent until proven guilty," the youngest of the three stated firmly. "But it's a pretty big mark against him, plus a potential resisting arrest charge even if it turns out he isn't guilty."
"He probably thinks he can get away scot-free," her father chided, shaking his head. "Just another power hungry empowered thinking they're above everyone else…"
"What's that you cotton buds were saying about us empowered, huh?"
The words were sneered out, but in the quiet of the alley they could have just as well as been shouted. The three paused mid-step, their ears going up, alert, as they slowly turned around. There, barely more than a silhouette in an alcove, was a porcupine.
"I said, what's yer beef against us!?"
The younger of the three looked up to see her father walk forwards, shielding her and her mother, before bowing his head slightly.
"I was just making a comment about this mammal on the news. I meant no offence…"
"I don't care what you meant," he sneered again, one side of his mouth grinning open angrily, his teeth catching a glint of light. "I care 'bout what I heard…"
She watched as her father's hands, tucked behind his back, made a shooing motion, and she began to put one foot behind the other as she and her mother retreated.
"I…. I said 'another' empowered…" her father stammered out. "Just this fox joining the last bunch of empowered criminals… I'm sure you're a fine law-abiding citizen… So, if we can be on our way…"
"How about no."
He raised a paw and clicked his fingers, before three flashes emerged from his back. Faster than a blink of an eye, a quill was at her father's neck...
...One was on the nape of her mother's.
...and one was on her… pricking down to her skin, a cold and terrifying sense of dread flowing out from the point and down, spreading through her body.
She felt herself begin to tremble, and gulped as she thought she felt it press deeper…
"The thing is," the porcupine continued, taking the time to summon another quill from his neck, which he deftly put into his mouth to chew. "Thin' is…. I'm a criminal empowered… So you were insultin' me… Weren't you?"
"I… I can give you all we have…" her father stammered, beginning to visibly tremble. She felt her hammering heart begin to break at the sight, the strongest mammal she knew afraid…
"Tha's a start…"
"What… what else do you want," he begged.
The porcupine laughed.
"I don't think so."
The new voice cut through the air, old, weak, and raspy, yet suddenly powerful and strong. There was a creak as a door opened and the bear from earlier walked out, lumbering step after lumbering step.
Back where she was, she felt a wave of relief as the huge mammal stepped into the light, towering over her attacker. His huge paws out, he weaved his fingers together and cracked his knuckles, showing off the powerful claws he had.
He turned down to the empowered mammal and shook his head.
"Leave these fella's here alone. Now… And you won't get hurt."
The porcupine spat out the quill he was chewing and looked up, shrugging. "And if I don't."
"You'll get hurt."
The porcupine laughed, before his back exploded.
Not far away, a rhino in a police car got a call over his radio. Pulling up his receiver her put it to his ear. "Officer Greyhide," he answered.
"We've got a suspected mugging in an alley off of Inga street. A civilian, brown bear, called it in. Copy?"
"Ten-four," the officer replied, placing down his radio and turning on the engine.
"One last call for tonight then?"
Greyhide turned to see his partner, a large hippo called Higgins, and nodded.
He shrugged. "Piece of cake then."
They set off, quickly making their way over to the area.
They were like a swarm of hornets, hundreds of quills suddenly pulled from his back and flying around the bear. Her saviour, tall and strong and proud and ready to rescue them, fell and screamed as he was covered. She closed her eyes and looked away, but she had already seen too much.
While her world was black, she couldn't get the image of a pin cushion out of her mind.
Outside the entrances to several nightclubs, thronging with celebrating students now that the term was out, two wolf officers walked back and forth.
"No vodka witches yet," one of them observed, chuckling. He had a brown pelt, young and fresh.
"I'm beginning to think Isaac made that up, Gus," the other noted, pausing to scratch his chin.
"Still," the first one pondered, "if you're going to get one, here's the place."
"At least it's staying calm for your first finals patrol," the second said. He was an older wolf, covered in black fur and with dark amber eyes. Flecks of grey were in both though, showing his age as a veteran of the force.
"Any stories from the good old days," Gus asked with a little smile.
The black wolf scratched the underside of his chin before dropping his paw back to his holster, a tranq gun secured inside and loaded. "Bar a very angry goat five years ago who, by my paws, may have done a General Wasabi, I can't think of much."
"Tchhh…" The brown wolf's response was accompanied by a smile, and he shook his head. "Guess all the crazy stuff is reserved between those empowered now, isn't it?"
"I know, I…." The older wolf trailed off, his ears rising suddenly. The other wolf's ears joined them and, together, they focussed past the roar of the partying crowd and listened.
There was quiet then, off in the distance, a scream that chilled them to the bone.
"ARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH! ARGHHH! ARGHHHHHH! ARGHHHHHHHH!"
They turned to each other and nodded, before racing off.
She had never felt complete soul shattering pain but, in that moment, she heard it.
She heard it and she could feel the terror and pain and the wish to end it. The only thing that she felt from herself was the urge to run…
She stepped backwards, only to feel a dozen needles pricked her back…
"You're not going anywhere," The porcupine hissed, before turning back to his victim. His arms, outstretched like a preacher, rose up, and the thousands of swords at his command pulled out again.
"Third time's the charm," the attacker called, a hideous look of glee on his face.
She felt the worst on this attack as there was no scream.
Just a whimper…
The whimper of a broken mammal that couldn't be beaten anymore. His fighting had ended, and he lay twitching and crying on the floor. She felt like a kangaroo had kicked in her stomach and winded her…
Too shocked to feel anything.
They'd been off duty when they'd smelt it, the scent of blood hanging in the air. It was a little point of pride for polar bears like Officer Piermont, but they had the best sense of smell in Zootopia. Well, maybe not the most precise or the one that could best tell between two very similar scents, but in terms of range there was none that could beat hers. She ran forwards, hauling on some of her gear as she went, before handing her bag to a large tiger. Daniel had been a friend ever since the academy and, even when they were celebrating a little bonus that they'd received, she knew that he'd always be with her to enforce the law.
The stench of blood was coming up rapidly, as was the sound of a siren. She paused as a cruiser pulled up, a rhino and a hippo jumping out.
"Here for the homicide," she grunted.
"We were told it was an assault," the hippo called, joining her as they raced forwards. "Not a homicide."
"Well, it is now…"
"Dumb normy. Why is it me that has to teach your kind your place," the empowered mammal noted, shaking his head. He turned up to face the three he'd originally come for, all of them trembling in fear. He looked at the father of the group, still in front of his wife and daughter, despite the blade on his neck. "Say," he began, a macabre sickness at the edge of his voice. "Do you want him to see no evil, hear no evil, or speak no evil?"
"Do you want me to tear up his eyes, ear drums, or voicebox…?"
Her father just stood there, almost blurred as he shook and shook and shook. His mouth couldn't stop moving and he barely managed one word.
From behind, she watched as the porcupine stepped forwards, observing the quivering bear.
"Wrong answer," he said.
"I smell more blood now," Gus called, the brown wolf sniffing the air more and more.
"Behind me then," the older wolf ordered. His underling nodded and stepped back to let him past.
Now," the attacker spoke, flicking the word up at the end with a bit of sadistic glee. "You should know better than to say no to an empowered, scrub. Time for your punishment."
Had she blinked she would have missed it.
The quill at her father's neck dove in and pulled out again, and he fell to the floor.
Higgins jolted to a halt, his arms out, as he almost ran into the pair of wolves.
"Fancy seeing you here Matt," the tigress panted, looking over at the older of the two. The brief moment of levity was cut short though as a scream pierced the night. The scream of a small, frightened girl. Who was screaming as there was no hope left. No way that the pain just inflicted could be undone. No way that she could go back after what had happened. The cops looked at each other and nodded, racing off.
They were close now.
"Now the real fun begins," he intoned, only to pause as a shout came from behind him.
"ZPD, stop where you are!"
Turning around, the porcupine noted half a dozen officers. A rhino, a tiger, a polar bear, two timber wolves and a very angry looking hippo.
They all had their weapons up, ready to fire.
She watched with dread as his fingers got into position.
All the loose quills shot at them.
She closed her eyes but still heard the sound.
Like a million darts hitting a board at the same time….
The tiger saw them coming…
The rhino did…
As did one wolf…
And the other, instinct driving him to leap into action.
The polar bear felt a wave of fear and, in that last second, flinched and shielded herself.
The Hippo realised what was going on just a second too late…
There was the sound of bodies hitting the floor and she sunk to her knees…
Her scream tore out of her mouth as she broke down, feeling dead inside. Just a few minutes ago she had her whole life before her and now it, and so many others, were over. She curled down into a foetal position and cried into herself, desperately hoping that it would be quick.
Her mother's voice woke her up and she felt herself being pulled into her grip. Tentatively she opened her eyes and looked on at the site.
Her father lay there, dead.
The bear that had tried to save them lay there, dead.
The tiger and the polar bear that had tried to save them lay there, dead.
The Hippo lay there, trembling, holding one of his eyes closed and whimpering.
One of the wolves, almost untouched by the quills, cradled the other, rocking him backwards and forwards, crying as he did so. He let out an agonisingly mournful howl, filled with pain and sorrow, and she noticed a tranquiliser pistol slip from the dead wolf's black and grey paw.
It clattered onto the ground before coming to a rest.
The rhino, pricked with quill after quill after quill, walked forwards.
Every step was pained.
Every grunt sent a shiver down her spine.
He stopped by the mammal who'd done this, and she turned to look at him. He lay there, a tranquiliser dart in his side, alive…
The rhino walked forwards and knelt down, opening a hoof. "I'm officer Greyhide…" he said. "It's over…"
"E… Eva…" her mother managed, before stumbling to her feet, trying to make her way to her husband.
A large hand blocked her.
"I'm sorry…" he said.
She just stepped around him regardless, kneeling down to cradle her beloved's body.
The officer just stood there, staring at them for a moment or two, before turning to look at the last remaining survivor. "May I have your name…?" he asked.
"D…Dawn…" she stuttered, pushing through the tears. "Dawn Bellwether…"
AN: Dark, but in my view necessary given what I have planned. As I said at the top, if you're sceptical as to whether this story will be your sort of thing, chapter 1 is a good deal different and may well be your thing, so I advise checking it out.