It was late at night when Judy woke up again. Tired and aching, she looked around before her ears rose, honing in on the light rapping from her door. It sounded urgent so, stepping out of her bed, she wandered over to the door, softly opening it. "Hello?" she asked, pausing before looking down. There stood the owner of the farm, the grey squirrel looking a bit nervous for himself.
"I need you!" he urged, fumbling around slightly.
Judy paused for a second, still confused, before replying. "What's wrong?"
He sighed, shaking his head, before looking up with a new urgency. "I think I heard an intruder in one of the barns. I… I need you to come help me."
The bunny nodded, before hopping over and grabbing her coat and a tracksuit, putting them on quickly. "Sure," she said, dressing herself up. "Have you called the police?"
"Yes," he said, shaking his head. "Though they're so far away, and it's so late, they'll take a while to get here. I was worried about…"
"Don't worry," Judy said firmly, walking over to him and giving a smile. She knelt down, putting a reassuring paw around his back, a new look of compassion on her face. She gave a warm smile and spoke out, chuckling as he did so. "Back at my family's farm, we had the same problem," she said, stepping out into the corridor and then jumping out of the van. "Have to sort things out yourself. Though I'm happy to help."
Nate Bushel jumped out next to her, nodding. "Yeah… I was kind of worried at first, you seemed a bit hesitant and…"
"Sorry about that," the bunny replied. She paused for a few seconds, before sighing. "Something felt a bit wrong, and I…" She shook her head. "It was probably just me being a dumb bunny, I went through a little thing earlier in the night and…" Stopping, she looked at the squirrel and cleared her throat. "Where are we off to?"
"The barn," he said, pointing over to a building a small distance away.
"I can sneak up and listen out for them," she offered, pointing to her ears.
The squirrel shook his head. "Honestly, I'd prefer it if they just left. Maybe fly around a bit to spook them."
He nodded, before bringing out a small tranquiliser gun from his pocket. "Maybe we could knock them out," he said, letting out a nervous laugh. "Tie them up with some string and a bow, give them straight to the police."
A coy smirk grew on the bunny's face, and she looked over at him and winked, two fingers up to her eyebrow before rising out in a quick salute. "Sounds like a plan," she said, bending her legs and launching herself up.
Nate watched as she jumped up, in an average bunny hop, and smiled as he saw the shocked look on her face. She kicked again, shouting out. "KU-Chaaaaa!?"
Her feet and arms scrambled, trying to kick out again and push her forwards, barely managing to be there for her to land on. She hit the ground on all fours, her mouth open and trembling as she looked around in panic, almost hyperventilating. "Wha…wha…whaa..?" She gasped, standing up again and trembling. Something was wrong. Horribly wrong. The tension and power in her legs was gone, as if a limb of hers had been cut off. It just felt wrong and she couldn't process it, how could she? It was like a part of her had been torn away, a complete absence left behind, nothing where something should be, and she didn't know what was going on. Was it a bad dream or…
Her thought process was cut off as she felt something sharp hit the side of her head. Like a performer whipping away a tablecloth, she felt the panic and adrenaline get swept from out and under her, replace with a cloying calm. Even that was leaving, replacing with a throbbing drowsiness, closing in on her eyes. Stumbling about, she remembered that in all her bad dreams, she had never considered the possibility that it wasn't reality she was experiencing, before the impact of the dirt floor hit the side of her face like a mocking reminder.
"You were right," Nate said, walking around in front of her. "Something was wrong."
She looked up but didn't feel anything. There was no capacity left in her mind for that kind of thing. Instead her eyelids drooped, closing and opening a few times before closing for good, the bunny drifting off into a black tranquilised slumber.
The squirrel prodded her a few times, before pulling out the dart he'd fired into her. Good practice and all. Drawing out a radio, he spoke into it. "We're good to go on phase two," he spoke. "I need assistance at both sites."
Putting the radio away, he walked back into the service coach, down to the room with the other enforcer. Holstering his tranquiliser gun, he hammered on the door, his panicked act growing. Growing even more. He hit harder and harder, worried that he might wake one of the cooks or butlers sleeping nearby. In the end he stopped, before choosing a new tactic. There was a small plastic grill nearby, which he quickly grabbed, tearing out the bits of plastic and making a small hole that he crawled through. Entering, he jumped up, gaining a vantage on the bed of the other enforcer.
She wasn't there.
His radio squawked. "We're outside and got the bunny."
"The vixen is missing," he said, a nervous streak in his voice. "Wait where you are, we'll check the other camp together."
He put the radio down, making his way out only to pause. A mobile phone, left on the dresser in the room, was ringing. He ignored it, exiting out and spotting a group of mammals hovering over the bunny. Their leader, a rhino with scars over his hands and face, looked at her and up. "How did she react?"
"Panic," Nate noted. "Terror."
The rhino nodded, before picking Judy up and handing her to one of his underlings. "Sorry girl," he said, before looking over to a few of the other mammals. "You two go down near the river, get the three there. I'll handle the staff here before grabbing their boss."
With a set of rapid nods, all the mammals in question ran off to where they needed to go. All were dressed in combat gear, all with tranquilisers, and most had the same insignia stitched to their arm. A shield, made in the shaped of a rhino's horn.
The rhino in question made his way into the coach again, the squirrel following. "It's finally happening," the smaller mammal remarked, as the larger one smashed through a door. There was a yell from inside before a tranquiliser dart silenced it. The process was repeated twice more as Lanhoff's staff were detained.
"Now the mammal himself," Nate commented, as they walked out into the open. He was cut off by the sound of a massive diesel engine roaring to life, blinded by the lights coming on, and they watched helplessly as the coach, Edmund at the wheel, drove off. The rhino screamed into his radio, ordering some of his crew to get in a car and try and stop it, but even as he did so his target was getting away. There was a crunching of the gears, and snaps and bangs and screeches as it smashed the metal gate down and hit trees and hedges on its way out, before it carried off down the road. The metallic shriek of the gate went quiet, and the crunches and snaps as it decimated the hedge faded off into the distance. A jeep followed quickly in pursuit, leaving the remaining mammals looking around nervously.
"What if we don't get him?" Nate asked, a strong hint of worry in his voice.
"We'll put the staff in the coach behind us and I'll dump it somewhere across in Zootopia regardless," the rhino said. "I know from experience that the bureaucracy will stop the cops here from doing anything over there. We'll keep the empowered here, in secret, as planned. You tell the police that they tried to abduct Piper and Lanhoff, making off with the staff as a distraction. That'll be our story regardless of whether we catch him or not."
The nervous squirrel nodded, before his ears flicked up as his radio sprung to life. He held it up to him and grimaced. "They've got the foxes, who were sleeping together, but not Piper. They went for him first, but he gave them the slip into the forest."
The rhino winced, cursing under his breath. "That means we might not be able to use either as a 'hostage'. The empowered letting one go is understandable, but with their super speed a failure for both makes no sense." He paused, thinking, before shaking his head. "In that case, it was the bunny trying to silence the two foxes."
"What…? How would that even work?"
"The ZED hates the tod, and one of their own was caught sleeping with him," he said. "Let's say that the plan was for the bunny to frame the pair for a kitnapping but it failed, the two targets getting away. The foxes fled, scared, and the bunny ordered the team to dump the coach and disperse. She then went into hiding."
"What should I say if questioned?"
"You were woken by noises, saw a terrified and furious bunny ordering her mercs to drive off this coach, before she fled off into the distance. You heard her say 'we can still pin it on those pelts'. You went down to the other camp and saw the signs of an attack and no-one there." The rhino paused. "Of course, if we catch Lanhoff, you keep him here and simply say that the ZED abducted him if the police come. Hopefully they won't."
Nate shook his head. "All these cover stories, they won't hold for long."
"They won't have to," the rhino said, looking over to a group just turning up, Nick and Skye, both darted, being carried over their shoulders. "We'll be running on a worst case though," he said, "so I'll have to be off sooner than I'd like. But don't let this upset worry you."
There was a scoffing laugh. "Easy for you to say."
The rhino nodded gravely, before carrying on giving orders. Nate, meanwhile, headed over to the barn, alongside the mammals carrying the two foxes. His heart beat fast in his chest, and his fingers trembled, but he looked forwards firm and determined. There was no going back now.
Not far away, Brittany sailed through the sky. She'd been going for around two hours, and her legs were tired and aching. Her brow focussed, she kept focussing on keeping her powers ever burning and her body in the right position. She'd never flown for further and longer and, were it not for her flying wand, she'd have never gotten close.
A check on her GPS, she realised she was almost there. Leaning forwards and letting go of her powers, she turned to the side a bit, planning to slowly circle down and land in a field. The wind picked up in her face and she then leant back, taking a steep angle of attack to slow herself down. But she began dropping faster though, so she pushed some more heat out of her wand to try and steady her descent.
She felt it slow down…
But not by much.
Grunting, she pushed harder and harder, feeling the heat begin to build up. But something was wrong, very wrong. It wasn't pushing or heating nearly as much as it should, and she began to panic. She leant forwards again, still pushing out some more, but the thrust she'd previously got in flight wasn't coming. Even her rising panic didn't help and, as she looked down, she realised she was going to hit the ground hard. Her eyes were wide, and they darted around, desperately trying to find a solution.
Through her night vision, she saw it. A nearby river, wide and lazy, and she turned and banked towards it. More gliding than anything, she pushed as much as she could with her powers, feeling one last push of blessed thrust.
It barely carried her over the trees on the bank. She managed to fit through a gap, though both her wings and feet were whipped at by higher branches. Getting some leaves in her face and feeling her balance thrown off, she tried and failed to pull up. The last thing she saw was the water coming up fast, before she smashed into it.
It felt like the time she'd jumped off of the highest diving board on the cruise, but instead of the pressure being on her feet it was all over her body, feeling more like a slam. Her eyes closed, the air blasted out of her, she lost her grip on her flying wand and sank down, back first, into the freezing cold.
That in itself was a shock.
Her mind recovering, she shivered before panicking, suddenly kicking up and out. Desperately trying to get a grip on anything, her lungs burned as the air inside began to run out. The goggles she wore weren't watertight, being for wind protection only, and she was blind to everything. Her one attempt at opening them revealed nothing, all while the burning inside her lungs grew and grew.
Suddenly she burst into the air, kicking and splashing as she took in a deep breath of glorious air. Another followed, and then another, as she tried to recover her breath. Her eyes blinked, the water draining from in front of them, and she regained her vision. In her panicked state, she was just about keeping her head out of the water, though it was still a struggle and she was getting tired already.
Closing her eyes and trying to focus, she controlled her paw movements. Making sure to open them out on the down movement and streamline them on the up, her kicking reduced but got more powerful. Glancing around, she saw that she was about to be carried around a curve in the river, and up in front of her was a steep bank on the right-hand side. Even where she was, she was a good deal closer to the right and, leaning forwards, she began doggy paddling towards it. Despite kicking hard and doing her best she was still a very weak swimmer and it showed, as the shore only got closer at a tauntingly slow pace. Feeling a cramp in her legs and arms, and a stinging stitch burning across her chest, she began to worry that she wouldn't make it. She was starting to go around the curve though, and the river did most of the work from there. With one last push, Brittany splashed and swam and finally made it to the shore. Her feet hit the mud and her claws gripped it, and in one mad dash she clambered up the steep bank and hauled herself up and over the bluff.
Her deep breathes rang harshly across the quiet as she tried to recover. Feeling better, she unzipped her ZED uniform and took it off. Quickly removing her vest and underwear, ringing them out, she gave herself a vigorous shake down, removing most of the damp. On with her clothes again, she channelled her warmth into her and her clothes. It didn't seem to do much at first but, doubling down, she watched as steam began to rise and felt as she warmed up.
A minute or so later, she was still moist and a bit chilly, but she could live with it.
Ready to take stock of everything.
Phone: Dead. The water had ruined it.
Flying wand: Gone. She'd been thrown from it when it hit the water and it was lost. Maybe it sunk, maybe it was on the bank somewhere.
Mark four: Still on her. A quick check showed that it was working. Good.
Looking around, Brittany rubbed her temples. She didn't know where to go, while someone might have seen her crash and be on their way now. Her paw trembling, she held her wand, just in case. Closing her eyes, she turned on her heat vision. Her shock must have been affecting it, given that she had to push a good deal harder to use it. She sailed up, seeing herself below, and doing a quick scan around. No-one was nearby. Things weren't that clear either. She gave a quick look down the river, wondering if she could see the flame in her flying wand but finding nothing. It was probably drowned out, or sunk, or run out of fuel. After all, she mused, why else did she crash? Maybe she burned a lot more fuel than expected, or Karen got the fuel measurements wrong… Opening her eyes, Brittany turned around and thought. It wasn't like the arctic hare to do that. Maybe someone else made the mistake? Like that plane that ran out of fuel, or that episode of that old kid's show where two sides had to build half a bridge each, but one used feet and the others meters…
Shaking her head, Brittany stroke her fingers across her muzzle and closed her eyes again, this time seeking out cold. Again, she had to focus a lot more, even if she was feeling better. Lifting up, she saw the path of the river carved out in front of her. Turning herself around, remembering what the sat-nav had shown before, she looked over to where the farm was and cursed.
She was on the wrong side of the river and there were no bridges.
Heat vision again, and she pushed over into the farm. Not only were things harder, but they were fuzzy for some reason. Some sort of distortion. She managed to make out the warm points of four mammals, though she couldn't make their species out. She gulped though as she saw three of them together, one in what looked like a pose of despair and the other banging on a door.
Her heat vision broke down as a shiver of cold despair grew over her, hardening the dampness in her clothes and making them crack and crinkle as she moved. She was too late.
Another focus through her heat vision, and she looked around, trying to see something or anything that might help. Then, she saw it. Really not that far away, albeit on the other bank, was a small figure. Maybe a weasel? Wasn't one of the mammals that was being guarded one of those… Looking a bit further away, she saw something else. Something so large she was amazed she missed it before. A large coach and a jeep seemed to have had a meeting in a country lane, or rather the drainage ditch by its side. The former, its engine still warm and a large occupant still inside, was wedged and at an angle. The jeep was in an even sorrier state, almost overturned, the coach on top of it. She glanced at the occupants before grimacing away, her eyes opening in shock.
The way the car had been crushed and the angle of their necks told her they were dead.
She didn't know what was going on, and she knew that these two mammals might not be friends, but there was nothing better to go on. Unhooking her new wand, she held it and pointed it down, launching herself up and over to the other side. She almost went in the water at first, her wand producing not nearly the same power as it usually did, though in her panic she was able to channel her powers heavily and just about make it. By the end of the flight her knees did get wet, as she landed on the gentle beach of the inside loop of the river. Wading out, she reoriented herself and made her way to meet the smaller figure.
There was a nervous feeling in the pit of her stomach though, taunting and worrying her. Teasing and nagging her. Something was wrong, very wrong, and she didn't know what. All her powers seemed to be acting up but…
Holding up her wand, she shook it. Had water gotten in? Was that it?
Never mind. She carried on forwards, using her heat vision to look for this figure.
Something definitely was wrong. Her heat vision was getting harder to call up, and poorer in focus.
She was close to this small mammal though. Close enough to try and call him.
"I'm with the ZED!"
"Listen, something's not right. I think my friends are captured! There's something really bad going on!"
She shook her head, putting one foot forwards to carry on walking when she halted. A voice was calling back. "Put yer paws up, you hear?" Brittany froze still. Not even bothering to check if she'd let her powers slip, she closed her eyes and seeked out the heat, spotting the small figure hiding behind a tree, ready to run. "I said…"
"I know," she replied, raising her paws in surrender. "I'm not here to harm you."
"We'll see 'bout that," he muttered, Brittany noting that his accent reminded him of the fire chief on her forest mission. Looking over to where he was, she spotted him peak around the corner with her night vision. He was a ferret or polecat of some kind, tense and ready to flee, though he relaxed as soon as he saw her. "Yer a lil' Kit."
"I'm eighteen," she replied, a little indignantly. Slowly lowering her arms, she knelt down, meeting him as he walked out.
"You that lil' Sorceress?"
"Yes. Brittany Voxen."
A thin smile grew across his muzzle. "The name's Jeb Piper. My 'bodyguard' talked a lot about you, so I'm pretty sure you're on our side."
She nodded slowly. "They… they have my friends locked up in a barn," she said. "So I'm on your side."
"Right," he agreed, before pausing. "Do you know who the heck these mammals are? I was minding my own business gaming when I heard this commotion. Saw some mobsters come down, dart my bodyguard and… -well I tried to fight back, but… -But well my powers weren't working! So I did what I could and ran!"
Brittany gulped. "Yours too, huh?"
He looked shocked. "Yours went?"
"I wasn't sure if it was the case, but mine started playing up when I got close to here. I thought I'd knocked myself or…" She trailed off, crouching down and cradling her head in her paws. Even though they were badly dulled down, she spotted her fur go white with frost as the cold dread spread through her. Her powers had always been a constant. A third limb. And now, experiencing that constant fade was like waking up and finding she could barely hear… Deep down, it terrified her, digging a vast chasm of a pit in her stomach.
She was jolted to attention by a loud noise, similar to the one Judy's shockwave made. Looking up, she saw a small divot in the ground, Jeb looking at it. "Well I be damned, they're sort of working." He let out an odd chuckle, shaking his head. "I always figured that the gods gave us the powers one day, they could snap their fingers the next and take it all away… -I thought that was what happened here, but this…" He trailed off, whistling. "I'm guessing some mammals thought they'd take us hostage, and somehow got a power dampening field to get rid of our guards. Explains how my one went down so easily, I... " He paused, and Brittany noticed a fearful look on his face as he stared up into hers. "I guess they've gone and got Eddy…"
"My business partner. Half the reason I'm so filthy rich. Big old stag. Bit of a boring old guy, but…."
"I don't think they have," Brittany said, closing her eyes and bringing her heat vision up again. "Using my heat vision, I saw this bug coach that had crashed, a deer at the… -Yes, he's alive!"
"Then lets get him out of there now!" Jeb urged, racing up to her. "You lead the way, but they could still be after him!"
Brittany nodded, and together they set off. Her powers were too weak to let her fly, and it would be too conspicuous regardless. In any case, they soon arrived at the crash site, both pausing as they took it in. It was a narrow country road between two tall hedges, and with a drainage ditch either side. The coach had ended up half in it, with the broken Jeep underneath, crushed. Holding back, she watched as Jeb ran up and in, speaking out.
"Oh thank god! You're a sight for sore eyes, and… -Is it safe?"
"Yes," came the reply, and Brittany watched as Jeb and a much older buck stepped out. She noticed the latter was shaking as he came over, weakly offering a hoof.
"Edmund Lanhoff, Mrs…"
"Brittany Voxen," she replied, shaking on it. He nodded, trembling slightly, before glancing over at the jeep.
"They're going to be okay, right?"
"Oh no…" He choked out out, and Brittany went forwards to hold his hooves as he collapsed onto his knees, shaking violently. "I… -I just…"
"You did what you had to do," she said, closing her eyes and holding back her own pain. "They came and forced your paw… -they made you do it… -they…"
"-Tried to pull a stupid manoeuvre," Jeb cried out, as he ran over and jumped into the ruined jeep. "It was their own dumb fault for ending up in there." He came out and walked back up to them, carrying something in either paw. "Eddy, let's be honest, you couldn't hurt a fly. They screwed themselves over all by themselves." He looked over at Brittany and threw her something, and then did the same to Edmund. Looking down, she realised that it was a high level tranquiliser dart. "They had a smaller one I could sort of use," he said, holding a pocket tranq that was bulky in his paws. "And those two are now under new management. Give us a fighting chance while we get to the police…"
Looking up, Brittany saw Edmund look at the dart gun blankly. "I forgot about calling them… Can't use your phone while driving, I…"
"Can you use it now?" she asked.
He shook his head. "I stepped on it, by mistake, after the crash. Do you have your phone?"
"Right… Okay…" He turned to Jeb, who shook his head.
"I just ran. The good news is though, they wanted us, didn't they? We're safe."
"Skye, Judy and Nick aren't," Brittany replied tensely.
"-Oh… -I forgot about them too… -I… -I guess they couldn't use their powers, mine… -Mine weren't working until I got here, and…" Edmund trailed off, taking a few calming breaths.
Brittany meanwhile turned, closing her eyes and trying to concentrate. Trying to think. "This doesn't make sense. Why would Bellwether want to take you hostages? There's something missing."
"Who now?" Jeb asked, Edmund answering.
"She's the mayor of Zootopia. I thought you knew that."
"Well, yer thought wrong."
"I think we all are," Brittany said tensely, looking up. "Listen, I was here because she had some crazy connections between this farm, and the mammals who led the terrorist attack in Zootopia. I only just found out, and I came here to warn everyone, but I was too late. Maybe this is another attempt to get Nick and Skye, maybe she just wants to get you all as well but… -but I don't know!" She almost growled, gritting her eyes and stomping on the ground. She was scared and tired and angry and frustrated, and her powers were slipping but she didn't care. Taking a calming breath, she looked up at them. "Listen, my heat vision still sort of works. The farm… the mammals who attacked you are gone. I don't know why, but it's just the other enforcers and this squirrel. We could march right in their and get them out."
"'Cept if he's armed to the teeth," Jeb pointed out. "Though a sneak attack…"
Brittany nodded, though she couldn't help but feel scared as well. Terrified, even. "Let's… let's get them out of there…"
Edmund nodded. "My staff too… Did you see them?"
"I don't think so."
He closed his eyes and took a calming breath, though she felt he was as scared as she was. "I… -maybe we could find out where they are… -Or what his plan is…" He looked at Jeb, then at her. "Go on then… -I… -I don't think we have much choice."
Brittany didn't either and, however much she hated it, she felt that she had to save her friends. Without their powers, Nick and Skye were as vulnerable as anyone, and Judy couldn't be there to cover their backs. Taking stock of which way to go, they head off, she leading the way. Foxes could tell which way was north from the earth's magnetic field, a little sense developed to help hunting in the savage ages and using it kept them on track. Cutting through fields, laying down low at every odd sound, they slowly made their way back into the acorn orchard. They darted from tree to tree, ever on the lookout for any patrols. There were none. It was less clear where they needed to go now, especially as they approached a large barn. However, as they did a final check for lookouts, she caught a sniff of a familiar scent. "Skye," she whispered, tearing up a bit. Racing on, she reached the old wooden panels of the barn, looking for a way in. Nudging around the barn, she held back as she saw a farmhouse with the lights on, but relaxed when she noticed a nearby barn door. Waving her crew on, they entered. It was sparse inside, but going down on all fours and using her nose, Brittany soon found a trap door, weighed down by some farming equipment. Straining and groaning, Edmund pushed it off and lifted up the trap door, and down they went.
Brittany's eyes widened, and she rushed forwards. "Judy!"
"Bree! What are you doing here?"
"Rescuing you," she said, already scanning the metal door for a lock or something. "Listen, Bellwether and this farm are connected to the guys who attacked us at the restaurant, that's why I came to warn you. -They already attacked, but we can all get out and go back to the ZED…"
"Our powers aren't working, but we still might have the car," Judy said.
"Good," Nick added. "As I'm tired of normal walking already!"
Brittany felt a slight wave of relief cut through the razor thin tension she was feeling, even managing to smile a little. "Whatever power dampening field they've got, the range does die down. If we could find it, we could…"
"You won't be going anywhere…"
Brittany jolted, her muscles locking, as a new voice rang out.
"Paws where I can see them."
Raising them up, she trembled as she turned around. Both she, Edmund and Jeb were standing, helpless, held hostage by a…
"Oh great," Nick commented. "The squirrel is evil."
"Nothing personal," Nate Bushel said, breathing in and out. He seemed scared too, even if he held a recoilless rifle under his arm. It was bulky, and thick, and wasn't rapid fire or anything, but it could still kill any of them easily.
"Oh god…" Edmund was whispering. "Oh god, oh god…."
"Calm down!" he half barked. "Now, there's only one cell, got put in at short notice and not much room… But it does have room for a deer. Now, Mr Lanhoff, could you put the gun down…"
"He won't, I won't either!" Jeb spat out, his small tranq gun aimed dead on the squirrel. "There's three of us armed, one of you! Now, you're going to let everyone out, go in there, and that's that!"
"My gun can kill you," he said, raising his voice. "You will do as I say!"
"I'm sorry Mr Bushel," Edmund said, raising his gun up again, even as it shook and trembled. "But this doesn't end well for you."
"Doesn't e-end well for one of you, ei-either," Nate warned, beginning to stutter. The shaking of his gun did little to allay Brittany's mood. Spotting Jeb slowly trying to edge his way to one side, flanking him, did so. She hated where she was now, hated that life and death was on the line now, but it was that of her friends, old and new. Sometimes, she thought, as she gritted her teeth and eyes, you had to run towards that cliff.
"I know why you're doing this," she said.
"No you don't, you…"
"I know about your brother…"
There was a pause, Brittany using it to raise her arms slightly and move herself forwards and past Edmund, keeping Nate's eyes off Jeb. The ferret's pace was glacial, but he was getting there. She just needed to keep him distracted, so he could fire his dart.
"So you know what an empowered mammal did to him," he said, his tone changing. Sadness, tinged with anger, filled his voice. "That little witch destroyed his life… He lost his career and his kits and everything because of her, and it drove him to end it all! And she got away with it!"
"What happened to her, in the end?" Brittany asked. "Where is Sandra Steepler now?"
He scoffed, shaking his head. "Vanished. Left Zootopia rather than face the music, I don't know. Why would you even ask?"
"You like attacking empowered mammals, sent your goons after me and a load of other students who were just having a nice meal. You tried to kill us? Is that what your brother wanted?"
She paused as he stepped back a bit, gathering himself up almost pridefully. "We had nothing to do with that. When those monsters are caught, they'll pay, but we plan no harm against empowered…"
He was cut off as Brittany barked out a scoff. "Really? One of the guys who helped you build this place led the charge! Bi…"
"-STOP!" he cried, and Brittany slammed herself against the wall, weapon out, as he wheeled to face Jeb. "Pretty clever, huh, trying to get behind me. Isn't going to work. Gun down now, get in line, before I kill you."
"Why, so you can take me hostage?" Jeb asked. "Steal my powers…"
"Fix you," the squirrel said.
"Yes," he said. "Cure you of that sickness. Don't you secretly hate it? Not being normal? Being a freak."
The black footed ferret shrugged. "I think my first billion dollars disagrees quite a bit, the rest quite a bit more."
"Tch…" Nate scoffed. "Greedy one, aren't you? Where are the mammals like me, who are normal joes, but who actually like their powers if they have them. They don't exist!"
"Some are in the ZED," Brittany said, trying to get his attention. It didn't work. "Mammals like your nephew."
Nate wheeled around, turning to face her. "My who?"
She opened her mouth to speak, but before she could the world went mad. It was all over in seconds, but played out before her as if in slow motion. Seeing a chance, Jeb raised his gun to fire, but Nate spotted it. The squirrel turned around to fire, only for a large tranquiliser dart to hit him right in the chest. Were it injected, the dose would have killed him.
It never was injected.
The large dart tore straight through his tiny body, pinning him to the floor. His own weapon dropped, he twitched around a bit and trembled, his eyes rising up to rest on those of his killer.
Edmund shook slightly, staring into the squirrels eyes as they closed for the last time, before dropping his gun and sinking to his knees.
"I'm safe Skye," she urged, racing forwards to the door again. Looking up, she spotted a lock and finally undid it, watching as the door opened. She was hit my a wall of cream fur, and she held on to her sister tight as they cried into each other.
It didn't take Nick and Judy to take long to find the field generator, a massive collection of equipment and machinery they didn't really understand, but were able to quickly shut down. The fox took the bit of metal at its centre out and looked at it intently, an odd feeling running through him. Brittany, using her heat vision, quickly checked that everything was still safe before stepping out. She was tired and hungry, and on seeing a bag of snacks went to grab them. Looking closer she realised they were acorns, though she pocketed them anyway. Judy and Skye had lost their phones with the support trailer, and while Nick retrieved his and Jeb's in a flash, calling the police, they couldn't remember the secure line for the ZED.
"I might have to run," Nick said, offering to help.
Judy nodded. "Or we could try the car," she said, waving everyone around her. "The jeep's got a backup phone system we all use. It's still there, isn't it Bree?"
She nodded. "Fangmeyer sent me here, she needs to know everything."
"I'll go over and call her," Skye agreed, turning and racing off…
-Only to just jog.
She paused, closing her eyes and straining, before a panicked look came on her face. "They're not working again!"
Brittany closed her eyes. Her heat vision didn't work. She tried to conjure flames, none came…
"I don't understand!" Nick cried, holding up the piece of metal. "I shut down their generator! I have the bit here."
"Could there be another?" Skye asked.
"The stuff's super rare," Judy pointed out. "The mayor, if it is her, getting a piece makes sense. But two is pushing it… -Anyway, let's get back to the Jeep and get going. We can have the ZED deal with the cops here later, we need to get back and report in."
Jeb, who'd been leading out a catatonic Edmund, agreed. "A ton of mercs could come back in before the cops. Holding out with powers, cool. No powers, count me out."
Judy nodded, and together the six empowered made their way over to where the ZED jeep was parked. As they did so, Brittany filled them all in on everything that happened, the others sharing what they knew too.
"I still don't get it," Brittany said, as they approached the car. "Why go to all this trouble, placing fake treasure and all, to capture a few empowered. What are we missing?"
"You mean the treasure was fake?" Jeb exclaimed. He scoffed, shaking his head. "Waste of time, us being here… -Real waste of our time…"
"She's right though," Nick noted. "Something doesn't…" he trailed off, his eyes widening. "Oh crap," he said, grabbing the bit of meteor fragment out of his pocket. "Oh crap, OH CRAP!"
"Nick?" Skye asked, running over next to him.
"You know I said that she wouldn't be able to get much of this stuff?"
"I think…" he began, choking up and having to restart. A shiver of dread and fear ran through him, as his realisation hit home. "I think we just supplied her with a good few tonnes of it."
The sense of dread and shock in all the mammals was palpable, and they looked at each other like the end of the world had been announced. "This suppression field might not be on this site," Nick said. "For all we know, it's coming from the city with that amount or rock…"
"I don't think it works…" Brittany began before breaking off. She shook her head, trying to make sense of it all. "-Forget about that. We have to get back to the ZED NOW!"
"For once," Nick agreed, "I agree with that sentiment." Together, they all raced off to the car. "I can't drive? Who here can?"
"I can," Judy said as she opened it.
"As can I," Jeb added, as he leapt in. Judy took the driver's seat, Nick and Skye riding shotgun together, holding paws and their tails around each other. In the back, Edmund took up much of the room, sitting awkwardly due to his large antler rack. He didn't complain about it, though he wasn't doing much of anything anyway. In the remaining room in the back, Jeb sat next to Brittany. In the front, Skye managed to log on to the backup phone, using her own details. Her contacts and reminders popped up on the touch screen, only to then be covered in a wave of missed messages and alerts from all members of the ZED, alongside some news reports.
"Oh god," she whispered, glancing at them. "Things are bad. Really bad!"
"How bad?" Brittany asked, looking over. A look of horror overtook her face.
"The ZED's fallen," was all Judy could say, her voice trailing off into nothing.
Skye looked on, frozen, until a paw gripped hers. She looked up to see Nick, a determined look on his face, a look that gave her hope that this would all be okay in the end. "We'll see about that!" he said. Fishing around in his pocket, he managed to grab a pair of sunglasses and slip them on. "Its one-hundred and six miles to Zootopia," he said, his voice hardening. "We've got a full car of ex-empowered, half a tank of gas, it's dark, and I'm wearing sunglasses."
Skye, sitting next to him, felt his confidence and turned to Judy. Defiant, ready to fight, and even feeling better thanks to Nick's joke, she nodded. "Hit it!"
Judy was all too happy to comply, and, together, they roared out of Bushel Orchard, racing back home to Zootopia.
AN: Suffice to say I was looking forwards to writing that last bit.