Gabe silently followed the black bear through the opulent hallway, ignoring the chill in his feet each time he stepped in the powdery snow that lightly covered the carpet, not stopping until they reached the door to Mr. Big's office. The black bear stepped aside to let Gabe enter alone. Gabe hesitated, thinking that this was a first, before entering the office anyway.
Mr. Big and his tiny swivel chair were already atop his disproportionally large desk. Gabe stopped at the edge of the rug concealing the execution pit when he saw spots of blood staining it. He looked up at Mr. Big and felt the rage emanating from the tiny tuxedoed, elderly rodent even without seeing the ominous yellow glow coming from his collar. In an instant the feline was on edge, paws itching to pull out his hidden kukris or the Mossberg 590 shotgun strapped to his back, wondering what he had done wrong.
"Thank you for coming so quickly." Mr. Big said and held out his paw.
Gabe pointed downward after kissing the shrew's ring. Two bears on the couch nearby. Four more outside. Odds aren't that good, but screw that. "What happened here?"
Mr. Big leaned forward in his chair and looked at the rug. "The sole survivor came at once to inform me of the incident at Viracocha Arcade, with a crude dressing completely soaked through. He's on his way to the hospital now."
"I thought all your enforcers were killed in the shootout?"
"One was in the restroom when the ambush occurred. A stray bullet pierced the door and struck him. Non-fatally, thank Heaven. One is better than none at all."
"I agree." Gabe nodded, thinking of Lance, safe in Honey's bunker while Starlight was still god knows where. When he'd heard the news that their mission to find Starlight and Slothfeld had been delayed, he'd been so angry that he'd thrown something into one of the mirrors in the Overlook's public restroom. Now that he knew Mr. Big's anger wasn't directed at him, he moved his paw away from his kukri. "But what does this have to do with me?"
"Nobody slaughters my finest personnel and gets away with it. It's time you earned your privileges." Mr. Big's eyes glinted beneath his massive eyebrows. Gabe waited for him to explain how. "I know you can find those responsible. You have resources, the mammals who helped you acquire the information on Koslov's car. Find the ones that did this. Make them pay."
Gabe already had a plan forming in his head. "Should I call you once I have their location?"
"They're a pack of nobodies. I don't care about where they're hiding. All I care about is where Koslov is hiding."
"Let me guess. I'm only to contact you if I find Koslov."
Mr. Big nodded. "Do this for me, and you will get a hundred for every mammal you kill. The hunt begins now."
With that he waved Gabe out of his office.
Once he was off the estate, Gabe called Honey on his headset. Honey sounded like she'd gone through the ringer, but was coherent as she confirmed that Sherry was doing just fine with Lance. Then came the bad news.
"They got 'em." Honey moaned. "They got Nick and Fin."
"Who's got Nick and Fin?" Gabe asked.
"Koslov's boys. There was an incident at Viracocha Arcade… then they got 'em."
"Alive or dead?"
Gabe sucked in a short breath. Maybe the news wasn't so bad. Maybe there was still time. "Honey, please tell me you're tracking them through the cameras."
"No, I'm watching Dove Island. Of course I'm tracking them through the cameras!"
"They're heading back to Tundratown. I'll update you when I find where they stopped."
"Got it. I'm already in Tundratown, so I'm just going to sit tight."
"Good. In other news, I know who found the Data Disk. Mansa Bogo, the ZPD captain who kicked ass at the Arctic House."
"That ZPD captain? I thought contrived coincidences only happened on TV."
"Actually there was that time someone just happened to wander onto the road in front of the convoy taking Nick to prison."
"Sorry. Anyway, as soon as we rescue Nick and Fin, the buffalo's apartment should be your next stop."
Gabe already knew where most ZPD officers lived. "Understood. Has Alyssa been informed?"
"Called her a little while ago. She's stuck in the lockdown at the Palm Hotel, so it's just us for now."
"Ok. I'll check on Bogo as soon as I can."
Gabe received his update while nursing a non-alcoholic cocktail in a quiet bar twenty minutes later: the gangsters had taken Nick and Finnick to a near-derelict street twelve blocks from his position, but didn't know which building. The next update came while he was on his way out: Nick had somehow got in contact with Officer Hopps and Sergeant Higgins, and a horde of ZPD officers were making preparations for a raid on an abandoned apartment block called Glacier Heights. That got Gabe running.
He reached the street within ten minutes, relieved to see that the police hadn't arrived yet. He did see the bumper of a cop car in a nearby alley. If he had been on street level rather than his vantage point atop an old pawnshop, they might have spotted him before he spotted them. The apartment block before him was eight floors of pure destitution. He tapped his headset.
"Honey, I need an ETA on that raid."
"Forty minutes. Twenty if they get some extra weapons sharpish."
"Either way it should be enough time. And Alyssa?"
"I'm still trying to find out what's happening in the hotel, but I'm sure she's fine. Did you take my Mag-Ryder before you left? I can't find it anywhere and Sherry insists she never touched it."
Gabe shrugged. "Nope. How're the kids?"
"They're fine. Sherry's worried about Nick and Fin."
"Tell her I'm on my way to get them. I'm going in, Honey, so no distractions unless absolutely necessary."
"Good luck. Also, Sherry says hi."
Gabe smiled. "Tell her I said hi, too. Mossberg out."
He took his finger off the headset and examined the challenge that lay before him. "Forty minutes. Twenty minutes. You got this."
He pulled a toy that he'd procured from an assassin he'd fought during a mission in Mooscow, a high-tech telescope with night vision. He looked over the building for a way in, eventually spotting an open window on the fourth floor. A wide-open window.
That was odd. Koslov must know that Mr. Big had more than enough resources to hire any assassin he wanted, so why would his men allow such a massive breach in one of their headquarters?
Hoping that it was just plain stupidity behind that open window, Gabe started looking for a way to get to it. As luck would have it, a fire escape fixed to the side of a neighboring building less than ten feet from the window. With no way to get to it from above, Gabe slid down a drainpipe back to street level. It took him seven precious minutes to get around the cop car without being seen and make his way up the fire exit. Once he was at the same height as the window, he looked through his telescope to make sure the room within was empty. The lights were bright, but there was no-one there. Gabe threw a grappling hook, getting it caught on the window the second time. In less than a minute, he was in.
"Honey, have you got the plans for the building yet?"
"Yep. According to Hopps' report, they're being held in a small windowless room with one door and a tiny vent in the ceiling."
"Tell me there's only one room with that description."
"Sixth floor, east side. Glacier Heights was built around a concrete square. In that square is a mammalhole leading to the sewer. It's too small for you, but those two foxes should fit just fine."
"Would this place have its own mammalhole key?" Gabe asked.
"The landlord kept one in a metal hatch in the courtyard. If you get Nick out, he should be able to pick the lock."
"That sounds awfully convenient."
"Those goons probably keep it handy in case they need to hide something illegal. Alyssa once busted a drug lord who did the same thing."
"Sounds good to me. What's the quickest way up there?"
"Try the elevators. If the lights are working, maybe they are, too."
Gabe crossed the dingy little apartment, noticing used syringes here and there, and pressed his ear to the door. Hearing nothing, he opened the door by a crack and peeked through.
No-one in the hallway. Not yet, anyway. The feline crept down the hallway and found the elevators at the very end. It was only a matter time before a patrolling goon showed up, so he quickly pressed a button and hid behind a crushed cardboard box.
His instincts were right. When the elevator doors opened, Koslov and two black bears emerged and strode down the hallway past Gabe's hiding place.
"Did you take Anna and Morris to room eight-thirteen like I said?" Koslov asked while glaring straight ahead like a general on his way to declare World War III.
"Yeah, boss." The bear on the left said. "The room with the fire escape least likely to break off, but out of reach of anyone at street level, just like you wanted."
"Good. Let the fox cower for now. We have a more pressing matter to deal with."
"That fancy pants rodent?"
"When he hears that his chief enforcers have all been killed, he will be looking for blood. We must prepare while we still can."
"The armory's right this way, boss."
Once they'd disappeared around the corner, Gabe turned his attention back to the elevator, only to see that the doors were shut, and he could hear the elevator making its way down.
His frustration didn't last long before he got an idea. Why go inside the elevator and risk getting cornered? With a kukri blade he pried the doors open and looked down into the dark abyss that was the dingy elevator shaft. Thick oily cables tightened with a quiver as the elevator began to rise back up. Watching it slide up out the darkness like a bad omen, the shaft echoing with sounds that did not quite sound natural, Gabe felt a sliver of fear for the second time that night. When he was young and still deeply troubled by the death of his mother, he'd taken to thrill seeking to get away from his pain. One of those thrills had been something the teens liked to call elevator surfing. Gabe had surfed an elevator only once, a fast one that went all the way to the top of a twenty-storey skyscraper in Doetroit. The elevator had been fast, much faster than he'd thought it'd be. He'd brought a torch with him, a little one that barely held back the darkness of the shaft as the elevator had rapidly descended. Instead of thrills, the hell-ride had filled Gabe with terror. He'd clutched a block-like thing he couldn't put a name on, frozen solid until the elevator had come to a stop on the second floor. Gabe had proceeded to get the hell out of there, his dumb teenage self thinking that next time he would simply try a slower elevator. Four days later he watched a news report of another teen losing his head doing the exact same stunt and swore off elevator surfing for good.
This elevator was old, noisy and slow in its ascent. Just as he'd preferred all those years ago. Gabe breathed in and breathed out. He'd promised himself he would never do something so stupid again. Two lives were at stake here, so he could make an exception just this once.
Gabe stopped onto the roof and immediately crouched in the middle, taking care not to get too close to the edge or the cables in the center. When he was high enough he stuck his kukri between the doors of the sixth floor and prized them open a crack.
He perked his ears, listening for signs of life on the other side. He heard the heavy breathing of a nearby bear. Patrolling, most likely. Gabe tapped his headset.
"Honey, I'm on the sixth floor. What now?"
"When you exit the elevator, you'll be in a hallway overlooking the courtyard I told you about. Take a left and then open the first door you come too. The storeroom should be the second door down after that."
"Got it." The bear was still outside, so Gabe switched his headset to what he personally liked to call Tele-mode. "Mr. Big?"
There was a lapse in which Mr. Big made his way to answer the phone. "Is that you Gabriel?"
"You said to call you if Koslov showed up, and I have."
"He's in Glacier Heights, an old apartment block in Tundratown. He's preparing to make it his new headquarters." Gabe went on. "I think he's expecting retribution for the deaths of your enforcers."
"Hrm. Where is he now?"
Gabe felt a jolt beneath his feet as someone stepped inside the elevator. "He was on his way to an armory when I saw him, with two bodyguards."
"Is that a problem?"
"On it's own, no, it is not. But my contact warned me that the police found Koslov's location and are on their way to raid the place."
"Meaning it likely will not matter whether you eliminate him or not."
Gabe swallowed and thought of the little polar bear cub two floors above him. When the elevator began to descend, he propped himself on the thin edge of the sixth floor door. "I'll try, sir, but I don't have much time. When the police arrive, I will have to get out whether I've killed Koslov or not."
"Kill him, and I will give you enough money to live comfortably with your new family for the rest of your natural life."
Gabe heard the breathing outside stop suddenly. "I'll do what I can, sir. Wish me luck."
Trying not to think about how far down he would wall in the grimy dark shaft, Gabe forced the doors open the rest of the way, stepped in the hallway, and tripped over the body of the bear outside.
Once he regained his balance, Gabe knelt down and examined the body. The smell coming from the puddle of blood beneath the bear's neck was pungent, but he couldn't see a slit throat. He turned the bear's head, and then he found the slit at the back of the neck. Someone had slammed a blade with enough force to cut through the spine and kill the poor bastard instantly. Unorthodox, but more efficient than a long and messy death that a slit throat would have dealt. It was also something Gabe would have done.
Gabe looked around, noticing a line of grimy windows. He looked through to see another line of windows straight across and two more between that formed a large square. Gabe saw enough to understand that the building was shaped like a ring, with a main hallway for each floor forming a border around the central courtyard. He looked down to see the courtyard below. He found that half the windows had handles to open them with, which would prove useful once he found those foxes.
Other than the unfortunate bear he was alone. So what had happened here? In any case, sticking around would be unwise. Gabe turned left and cracked open the door Honey had directed him to.
One big bear was guarding a simple dirty door midway down the short hall. Gabe had to taken him out, and quietly, before he could sound the alarm. The curve of the kukri would be an inconvenience for his plan. Sheathing it, he pulled out his smallest throwing knife, put it in his best throwing paw, and in his other paw he pulled out a long straight knife. He picked his target, a faded poster covered in frost on the other end of the hallway. He opened the door the rest of the way, took aim, and threw the little knife with all his might.
The knife flew right past the guard's face, startling the bear into unwittingly turning his back on Gabe. Gabe struck swiftly and mercilessly, closing the distance between them and leaping up to slam the straight knife into the back of the bear's neck.
The bear went down the instant the blade slide through his spine, landing with Gabe atop his back with the knife still in his neck. He couldn't take the knife out. Not yet. The minor bloodbath in the other hall was bad enough, and he couldn't afford to spill much more blood, or the smell would be noticed. Gabe checked for a pulse, didn't find any, and decided against wasting precious time trying to pull the knife back out. He climbed down from the body and turned his attention to the locked door. He went through several knifes before finding one thin enough to slide through the lock.
He opened to door to find Nick and Finnick sitting on the floor on the verge of wetting their pants. When they recognized Gabe, they looked like the angel Gabriel had just emerged from a toilet.
"You?" Nick hissed.
Gabe shushed him with a finger. The ass chewing would come later. "Shut up and follow me."
Nick saw the dead bear outside, and his eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets as he cursed.
"I said shut up!" Gabe snarled. He noticed the bigger fox was wearing a headset that didn't look like one of Honey's, but decided to ask about it later. "If you hadn't left the bunker it wouldn't have come to this! Now come on!"
Nick started to follow him from the room but Finnick was more reluctant, likely still recalling what they'd discovered about their feline acquaintance. Gabe chewed the inside of his mouth, grabbed the little fennec and threw him from the room.
They returned to the main hallway without incident, and to Gabe's relief the first body did not appear to have been discovered yet. "Honey, I've got them. You're sure about this place having a mammalhole key?"
"Pretty sure. Remember, it'll be in a metal hatch in a wall in the courtyard."
Gabe looked through the window and spied a rusty metal panel fixed onto the frosty brick. "I think I see it, but it's padlocked."
"I can pick that if you've got a clip."
Gabe handed him a packet containing a lockpick set instead. "Have you used these before?"
To his credit Nick accepted the set with stride. "No, but, well, how hard can it be?"
"Not as hard as it sounds." Gabe agreed. He opened one of the dirty windows, wincing at the icy gust that hit him as it opened, hooked his spare grappling hook and dropped the rope over the edge. The rope stopped two feet above the ground, a height unlikely to break a leg. When he was sure the hook was secure, he indicated for Nick to go first and told him about the sewer that would be their way out. "It's too big for me, but I've got my own way out. Take this headset and Honey will help you from there."
Nick and Finnick looked at each other with mixed expressions of fear and guilt. "I'm sorry, Gabe. We both are."
"I appreciate that you were upset that me and Honey didn't tell you everything." Gabe said patiently. "But can you see now why I wanted to keep that information between me and her?" Both foxes nodded vigorously. "Good. When we get back we're going to have a talk about the necessity of keeping things on a need to know basis, but for now, get moving."
Nick made Finnick grab onto his back and climbed over the windowsill, with Gabe holding his arm in case he slipped. When the foxes were on their way down the rope he tapped his headset. "Honey, they're on their way into the courtyard. I'll update you once they're clear."
"That's great, but I'm listening to the police scanner and they're on their way. You might want to be outgoing in about seven minutes."
"Got it." Gabe heard the beep of an incoming call. "Hang on, I think Mr. Big wants to talk to me." He switched calls while eyeing the windows for any goons that might spot the descending foxes. "Hello?"
"I heard the police are on their way. Have you eliminated Koslov yet?"
"Not yet, sir. I'm still working on a plan to get him that doesn't involve committing suicide." Mr. Big actually chuckled at that. "I did manage to kill one of the bears who took out your boys."
"Good, good. You mentioned an armory before, Gabriel."
"That's where Koslov was going when I saw him, sir. Why do you ask?"
"Two weeks ago, I received word of a black market shipment that we were unable to intercept in time. A cargo of shotguns, assault rifles, grenades and C4, in a volatile mix just waiting for an accident to happen."
Gabe's heart pounded. He looked up at the ring of windows on the top floor above. Killing thugs was no big deal for him, even if he did eventually regret it later, but blowing up a building with who knows how many mammals, including a mother and child inside? How could he do something like that?
He caught movement at the bottom of his vision and looked to the ring of windows on the seventh floor, the one right beneath the top floor. A dark figure about Nick's size dropped from the ceiling in the hall. The figure straightened for a moment, rising into view behind one of the windows, and Gabe saw a black sweater, a black tactical combat helmet, and a very dark purple, featureless mask.
"Gabriel? Are you listening to me?"
Gabe watched as the figure turned around and started doing something to the door behind them, and briefly glimpsed the tip of a thick black tail rising above the distant windowsill. "Sir, there's someone else here."
"They're wearing a disguise, I can't tell. Did you hire someone without telling me?"
"No. Not for this."
Gabe felt the weight on the rope disappear and looked down to see Nick and Finnick running for the metal hatch. When he looked back up, the figure was gone, and the door they'd been working on was open.
"I'm going to check it out. The police will make sure Koslov doesn't go anywhere."
Thankfully Mr. Big understood. "Take this intruder alive if you can. They may be working for a third party."
Gabe switched back to Honey's channel and watched as Nick removed the padlock and rummaged inside the hatch until he pulled out a thin black rod. He and Finnick raced over to the mammalhole, brushed away the snow that covered it, and started struggling to lift it.
Gabe waited until they managed to lift the cover completely, confident that there was no way Koslov's goons could recapture them now, then pulled up his rope. "Honey, they're clear. Did you see another mammal enter this place before I did?"
"Nope. Why, is there someone else there?"
"Don't even think about following them! Those bastards from TUSK are almost there!"
"I have to, Honey. I think I've encountered this guy before. When I was escaping from Founder's Mountain."
"That masked weirdo who almost killed you? For Christ's sake, please be careful."
Gabe swung the hook up and succeeded in latching it to the seventh floor windowsill. He looked down one more time, saw that Nick and Finnick were long gone, and swung across to the opposite wall. He climbed up to the seventh floor, slid the blade of his kukri beneath the window, and raised it enough to climb inside. He retrieved his grappling hook and turned to the open door. Inside was a dimly lit stairwell. Gabe thought of the open window on the fourth floor. The dead bear outside the elevator on the sixth. The open door on the seventh. Whatever this mammal was after, it had to be on the top floor. Gabe climbed the stairs, avoiding the middle of the steps so they wouldn't creak and draw unwanted attention. On the eight floor, he entered the hallway and sniffed the air, hoping to catch a scent of the intruder. He caught it, faint and familiar, and felt his heart jump. He followed the scent to a partially open door; room eight-thirteen.
When he entered, he heard the slightly distorted sound of an old television. The tiny hallway had three doors, and two were open: the door at the end leading to a small bathroom, and another flashing white and grey in the light of the unseen television. On the floor was the motionless form of a female polar bear in a blue sweater and skirt.
Horrible thoughts of a potentially innocent life snuffed out for no good reason filled Gabe's head as he stalked toward the bear that had to be Anna and felt for a pulse. It was strong, thank God, but the poor woman didn't even moan at the touch. Gabe smelled blood and saw the wound on her temple. Depending on how long it had been since she was knocked unconscious, she may need a hospital.
He heard a muffled cry coming from the open, flickering door. He passed Anna and peeked around the doorframe.
The television, currently displaying an old children's problem he'd never seen in Gabe's own childhood, flashed muted colored light over the couch and coffee table on the other side of the living room. Lying on the couch was the polar bear cub, Morris, and holding a gloved paw over his mouth was the purple-masked intruder, her other paw sticking a syringe into his neck.
Gabe took a moment to examine the intruder. He couldn't see any exposed fur, but the figure was definitely vulpine. Female, judging from the thin waist and wide hips. The bushy tail was clothed in black cloth to contain any shed hairs.
Skyefall. It couldn't be. No, it couldn't be. She was still trapped in that hotel. The scent wasn't hers. No, this was someone else.
Morris's struggles weakened as whatever sedative the intruder had injected did its work, and the figure pulled out some kind of strappy harness. Gabe stepped over a floor lamp that had been knocked over, a kukri in one paw and a silenced pistol in the other, and cautiously entered the room. The intruder placed the harness around the little cub and fixed him to her back., Gabe clenched his teeth in paternal anger, raised the pistol and opened his mouth to let the intruder know she wasn't alone.
Distant hurried footsteps stalled whatever he'd been about to say, and the intruder turned their head. They froze for a second or two before throwing a blade in Gabe's direction. He deflected the projectile with the pistol in the nick of time, at the cost at having the firearm knocked from his paw. The intruder started running for the window with Morris on her back, and Gabe raced after her. He couldn't risk using his kukri with Morris in the way, and instead he grabbed at the sleeping cub. The intruder spun around and landed a sharp jab at Gabe's jaw, but the weight on her back ruined her momentum. Barely fazed by the blow, Gabe threw a stronger punch at her, striking her in the side of the tactical helmet and partially dislodging it. The figure swung a large bloodstained knife at his throat, missing when he threw his head back, and used the distraction to kicked his legs from under him. Gabe's shoulder hit the coffee table on the way down and he let out a growl of pain. As he started to push himself up with his better arm, he glared at the back of the intruder as they pulled the window open.
Peeking out from beneath the lop-sided helmet was a thin blond ponytail.
Gabe felt his blood turn to ice. "Starlight?"
The masked vixen did not respond, and in a second she and Morris were gone.
Before he could even begin to process what had just happened he heard a bang as the front door slammed open.
"Mrs. Polarnova, we've gotta go! The fuzz are here, I don't know- what the fuck?!"
Gabe got to his feet as a polar bear rushed to Anna's side back in the hall, and a second bear stormed into the living room and spotted the feline. "You! What did you fucking do?!"
Gabe ran for it, vaulting through the window and slamming it back shut to slow his pursuers. On the fire escape he searched for his wayward wife, but she was nowhere to be found.
A paw through the window interrupted his thoughts and he threw his grappling hook onto the terrace of the neighboring building. When he was on the roof and out of the bears' reach, he tapped his headset and started sprinting. "Honey, you're not going to fucking believe this!"
"Not now! TUSK's just showed up on Koslov's doorstep! Get out of there!"
Gabe stopped running, looked over the edge and saw TUSK vans screeching into the street. "What about Nick and Finnick?"
"They're still in the sewer! I've told them to come out in South Pole Avenue!"
Gabe took a deep breath that shuddered with emotion. "I'll meet them there."
TUSK officers were piling out the vans when Gabe resumed his flight, leaping straight across the next alley onto a six storey building. South Pole Avenue should be straight ahead on the other side. The feline ran to the edge of the building, looked down and saw the mammalhole cover partially buried in snow in a wide alley full of chain link fences. One fence separated the end of the alley from the river that flowed through the district. Gabe started looking for something to attach his hook to. It may be because he was still reeling from what had happened at Glacier Heights, but he couldn't seem to find anything.
There was a grinding sound far below as the mammalhole cover started to rise. Gabe glanced over the edge to see Nick and Finnick emerging. He heard spurts of gunfire coming from where he'd just fled. "Honey, I see them coming out. Is the coast clear?"
"Not in a minute it won't! Some of the TUSKs are fanning out to secure the area! You've got to get them out now!"
Gabe dug his paws into his skull. "I need to get down there first, you know!"
"Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!" Honey was shrieking.
"Language!" Sherry was yelling.
Down below, Nick and Finnick started toward the end of the alley, only for two TUSK razorbacks, one black and one brown, to appear and block their path. "Freeze, chompers! Hey, it's that fox!"
Gabe pulled the Mossberg 590 from his back at the same the razorbacks raised their assault rifles. Nick and Finnick raised their paws in surrender. "Don't shoot! We're unarmed!" The bigger fox begged.
The brown furred razorback looked at his comrade. "See that thing sticking out his pocket?" Gabe saw that Nick was carrying his lockpick set. "We can tell the Commissioner later that we thought he was about to pull out a gun."
The black furred razorback nodded. "Good idea. Aim somewhere random so they'll think we reacted instinctively."
Gabe cursed and took aim as Nick and Finnick shrank back in horror. "No." Nick started to beg. "No, wait!"
The razorbacks snorted and aimed for Nick's gut. "No more waiting, fox. The Mayor's tired of it."
"HOLD YOUR FIRE!" A little grey blur flew over the heads of the razorbacks, throwing off Gabe's aim, and landed in front of Nick and Finnick. Officer Judy Hopps held her paws out, her large purple eyes blazing at the officers. "What the sweet cheese and crackers do you think you're doing?!"
Nick stared down at the bunny. "Carrots? What are you doing?"
"Nice to see you, too, Wilde!" Judy said with a scowl before returning that fierce glare to the surprised razorbacks. "You two! Give me one good reason why I shouldn't report you for police brutality!"
"You're kidding, right, cutie-pie?" The brown razorback said with a scoff.
Judy twisted her mouth. "My partner isn't far behind. When he gets here, we're going to take these foxes in. Alive."
"Get out the way." The brown razorback ordered.
"No!" Judy pulled out her dart gun. "You are not to lay a finger on them without good reason, no matter what the Mayor says!"
The razorbacks traded glances. "Just how much did you hear, bunny rabbit?"
"Enough to write a lengthy report to the Commissioner himself!" Judy answered defiantly. Gabe had a sinking feeling as he aimed for the head of the black razorback. Gunfire echoed like fireworks back at Glacier Heights.
The brown snorted, "Fuck this." and shot Judy in the face.
When Judy fell, Gabe thought that was exactly what had just happened, but then he saw Nick fall to the ground with her, a dark brown paw wrapped around her ears, as the short burst of bullets flew over their heads and caused sparks to fly from the fence behind them. Finnick let out a shriek that didn't match his baritone voice and dropped to the ground next to them as a wide-eyed Judy took aim. She fired twice, one dart striking her would-be killer in the knee, the other hitting the black razorback in his thigh at the same time he fell down screaming from a Mossberg slug striking him in the hoof. The three mammals below looked up at Gabe as he pumped the shotgun that shared his name. He aimed at the megafauna that raced into the alley in response to the gunfire, but restrained himself from pulling the trigger when he saw that it was Sergeant Higgins.
"Hopps?!" He yelled when he saw the fallen razorbacks. "What happened here?! What did you do?!"
"It's not what you think!" Judy pleaded.
"You shot our own people?!" Higgins yelled
"Your own people tried to kill her, you flabby fuck!" Finnick roared.
He and Finnick started to back away while Higgins was preoccupied with grilling Judy for answers. The foxes were almost to the fence overlooking the river when their retreat was noticed. "Hey, wait!" Judy yelled and ran toward them.
Gabe aimed his gun, intending merely to deter her from stopping them, but had to hit the deck when Higgins looked up and immediately opened fire.
"Hey, this thing's flashing again!" Nick pulled down his sleeve to reveal a black plastic gauntlet.
He took the Mag-Ryder?! Honey's going to kill him!
"What were you pointing at?" Finnick asked desperately.
"I dunno, that sign, maybe." Nick pointed up at the thick cable that stretched across the river and the metal sign in the middle advertising the Animalia Arena with. A perfect target for the Mag-Ryder, Gabe realized. Honey said that the Mag-Ryder should beep when the user aimed their hand at an attachable target. To activate it, you had to shoot your arm straight out in a swift motion.
When Judy grabbed Nick around the legs to trip him up, he reflexively did just that.
It happened in a flash of black cable. There was a distant clang as the magnetic grapple struck the sign dead on. The motor within the gauntlet began to reel in the cable with the speed of an angle grinder. Nick and Judy were halfway to the ground when they suddenly found themselves flying.
Gabe's jaw dropped as he watched the two small mammals shoot up over the fence, over the river, then over the sign as the magnetic grapple detached and returned back inside the gauntlet with its cable. It was at the height of their arc that the screaming began. Nick and Judy flailed like toddlers, their screams faded by distance, before gravity took hold and plunged them into the river.
Higgins ran up to the fence and stared through the links in the river, too stunned by what had happened to pay attention to Finnick as he fled back into the relative safety of the sewer.
Gabe's headset beeped and Honey cried into his ear, "Gabe! Did you get to them in time? Please tell me you got to them in time!"
Gabe swallowed. "Not quite. They're fine, I think, but…"
"But what, Gabriel, but what?!"
"No matter what I'm about to tell you, just remember to look on the bright side. We can now safely say that the Mag-Ryder works."