Alyssa first started her time in the filthy padded cell by trying to kick down the door, giving up after fifteen minutes and suffering two aching feet. It was a thick door with thick padding, a pothole and a slot near the bottom for dinner trays.
With the door proving too sturdy, she then started searching her padded cell for anything that could be used to pick the lock on the door. She'd run up the wall to grab the security camera high up in the corner, pulling it free and dismantling it in the middle of the floor. There was nothing in the camera that she could use, and even if there were, one peek through the keyhole revealed that her captors had left something stuck in the other side.
The third thing she did after that was kick the door one more time and curse whichever tosser had had the smarts to do that.
The fourth thing she did was sit on the floor next to the ruined camera and start breaking apart the plastic. It wasn't as sharp as glass or metal but it would have to do. She ripped up a sleeve with her teeth and wrapped it around one half of the shiv, and then watched the little pothole in the door. The pothole happened to be directly across from a bigger window giving her a clear view of the sky.
Hours passed. Night turned to morning. Alyssa began on her fifth activity since waking up in the cell; wondering why the hell no-one had shown up to deal with the fact that she'd broken their camera. With the keycard taken from Jack after their capture, the wolves would now be able to access the security room. So where were they now? Surely they'd give a crap if their prisoner broke the camera they were using to watch her?
Remembering the old nocturnal wolf stereotype, Alyssa decided she'd have to wait for night to fall again to see if these particular wolves lived up to the label. This did not bode well for the deadline. Thus began activity number six. With nothing to do but wait, she started thinking. First she thought about the dismal conditions of the cell. Without any open windows, the filth coating the walls seemed out of place. Even with the old bloodstains the rooms she and the others had explored hadn't been nearly as bad as this. Alyssa remembered an old article she'd read while researching the asylum for the mission. The staff hadn't been considered particularly abusive in the fifties, but their director had distrusted the humane treatments being developed during that time and stuck to isolation and starvation, lobotomies and Insulin Coma Therapies. They were only discovered and deinstitutionalized when word got out that the schizophrenic son of a senator had died within the asylum's walls, the result of a Trephination gone hideously wrong.
Feeling a chill, Alyssa started thinking about other things. Thinking about Jack, thinking about Gabe, thinking about the friends they'd left behind in Zootopia. She wondered how many of them were still alive.
Why had Cheryl cured Nick? The question popped in her head like a bubble in glass of soda when she thought about the fox, followed by more . Of all the savage predators that could have been given the antidote, why the owner of Wild Times? It was almost as curious as the mystery of how Wild Times had escaped Swinton's notice for so long?
Then it hit her. It hadn't. Wild Times hadn't escaped Swinton's notice. She and Pottermass had known, perhaps from the very beginning. So why did they eventually send Woolton to expose it?
It was because the original plan wasn't working out.
It all started with the endangered TAME Collar regulations. When City Hall started turning predators, they'd thought it would convince the government to avoid following in the Eweropean Union's footsteps and abolishing collars. Instead the convenient timing of the attacks coinciding with 'Congressional Research Service' Agent Jack Savage's investigation had aroused his suspicion. Instead of being in the clear, Swinton had become Jack's prime suspect. But she had already anticipated the possibility and devised a plan to divert Jack's suspicion elsewhere. That had been Wild Times's true purpose, to be a scapegoat for the source of the savage attacks.
Could Cheryl have given Nick the antidote and orchestrated his escape from ZPD custody to thwart Swinton's backup plan?
When Alyssa took a break from her thoughts, looked through the pothole and the window across the hallway, she saw that the sky was yellow, and the sun was low. She had to have been in this cell at least eighteen hours now, with no way of knowing if Jack and Gabe were okay.
For the seventh activity she decided to get the wolves' attention by other means; shouting. Shouting for food, shouting for water, shouting for answers. She pounded on the door despite the padding giving little in terms of noise compared to the incessant tapping of her finger on the pothole.
Something slammed into the other side, making her jump back from the door. Quickly tucking her plastic shiv in the back of her belt, Alyssa stared at the pothole. A motorcycle helmet rose into view, its visor scratched and marked.
"It's about damn time, too!" Alyssa snapped. "Where's the rest of my team? Answer me!"
The wolf didn't answer. Instead he or she slipped something through the tray slot and walked away. Alyssa warily approached the object, identifying it as a handheld tablet. She picked it up and switched it on. The background was a generic forest and lake, but the handwriting on the frame of the tablet case.
Alyssa pursed her lips and started searching for videos or whatever the wolf wanted her to watch. She searched the files, and raised an eyebrow to see that it consisted almost entirely of videos. First the wolves captured her, then they kept her alive, and now they wanted her to start watching stuff on a tablet? What was going on here?
"Here goes." Alyssa touched on the file marked ARRIVAL OF THE RED QUEEN AND HER COURT.
Said file was twenty-one minutes long turned out to be security footage of the main entrance. The time and date was twenty-two hundred hours, nighttime, more than two years ago. Within a minute a black van drove up to the gates, which slid open almost immediately. The van turned so its rear doors were toward the entrance, and four guards strode out to greet it. They opened the doors and pulled out a gurney.
"Cheryl!" Alyssa gasped when she saw the motionless tiger strapped to it. It was her, she was certain of it! What had those bastards done to her?!
According to the date, she had arrived at the asylum nearly two weeks after she had left to investigate the death of Dr. Cogsworth. "Two years of chasing scraps…" The vixen growled, her claws digging into the tablet's case. "I'll find you if it's the last thing I do."
As she spoke, the footage changed. It was the same camera, but the screen was lighter. The time and date was thirteen hundred hours, three weeks after Cheryl's arrival. Just like the first footage, a black van drove up to the main entrance, dropping off the unconscious, massive form that was Sedor Valentino, dressed in a nice suit. Alyssa recalled reading in Llater's report that Sedor had disappeared while on his way to his godson's birthday party. One by one Alyssa watched the missing predators on the list be brought to the asylum, each time in that unmarked black van. The film ended after the arrival of Gabe and Starlight.
"You trying to make me feel sorry for you?" Alyssa yelled at the door. If the wolf was still out there, he didn't answer. Alyssa sniffed the air, but got nothing but damp.
The metallic knocking was quiet, but made Alyssa's ears stick up on end. "Alice?" Someone whispered.
Cheryl froze at the nickname. "Cheryl?"
"Sorry, wrong kitty." Gabriel Mossberg said. "And I'm not that pitiful."
Alyssa scrambled to her feet and jumped up so she could grab the bottom of the pothole. She pulled herself up so she could look through and see Gabe looking back at her.
The feline ducked down for a minute, and Alyssa heard him fiddling with the lock. "They stuck some kind of clay in the keyhole." Alyssa was about to curse when he added, "Hold on, it's in some kind of plastic bag. If I pull carefully…" Alyssa heard a rustling sound. "There. Now if only I knew how to pick a lock."
"Gabriel, for fuck's sake!"
"Sorry, sorry! I'll just put it back so the wolves won't know I've been here."
"You do that." Alyssa said snidely, leaning against a wall. "How did you get out your cell?"
Gabe's fur looked matted and dirty, like he'd taken a dip into a garbage can. "Funny thing is, I never made it to a cell."
"What do you mean?"
"It was when those wolves ambushed us. I managed to avoid getting zapped, but then one of them cut me with a poison scalpel."
"I fought them off and retreated, with the idea to take them out using stealth mode, but a couple minutes after I took cover in a garbage can, I found that I couldn't move. Whatever was on that scalpel had rendered me almost completely paralyzed."
"Jesus Christ. I'm actually glad I got the Taser."
"Yeah, yeah, lucky you. If it wasn't for all the other crap, those wolves would have smelled me out. The poison only lasted about a day, thank God. I started looking for you two as soon as I was able to move again."
"Where's Jack?" Alyssa insisted.
"In another cell, still immobilized. The wolves must have used the same toxin on him after the initial tazing. It shouldn't last too much longer, so don't worry about it. Wait, what's that you're holding?"
Alyssa held up the tablet. "This? One of the wolves gave it to me before you showed up. I think they're trying to make me sympathetic to their cause."
"Or they want you to know the truth so you can pass it on to your bosses." Gabe said. "It would explain why you and Jack are still alive."
Alyssa gazed down at the tablet and realized that Gabe was right. It always came down to the truth, didn't it?
"I'm going to go look for the key and your gear." Gabe said. "Meanwhile, you should keep watching that tablet. It may have answers as to what happened to Starlight and Slothfeld." Gabe fell quiet after that.
Alyssa put a paw on the door. "Gabriel. Starlight's not acting under her own free will. You know this."
"I just wish I knew where she is now." Gabe said.
"We'll find her, and Koslov's son, I promise. Go find that key."
Alyssa heard no response, and she knew that Gabe was already gone.
She turned her attention back to the tablet in her paws and started scrolling around for any files that could provide the answers she sought. Twelve files, she counted, and decided to start in order. SUBJECT #1 INTERROGATION, the second file was named. There was no audio on this file either, but it showed a bare room that Alyssa hadn't seen yet. What she saw made her breath catch in her throat.
Cheryl was kneeling on the floor, bound and bleeding, with two guards standing over her. A third mammal, a rhino in a TUSK uniform, was standing in front of her, his fists as bloody as her face. There were three other mammals in the room; a bull in a white researcher's coat, Dr. Slothfeld, and the late Assistant Mayor Woolton. Two of those mammals seemed to be enjoying the rhino's interrogation methods a little too much.
Alyssa stabbed the screen with her finger, stopping the film just as the rhino raised his blood-spattered fist. She couldn't watch this. Just watching Cheryl's frozen, bruised and bloody face on the screen made the vixen want to find a ton of C4 and wreck this asylum for what it did to her mentor.
Alyssa was about to watch the third file when she took notice of the name of the last file: FOR ALICE.
Alyssa tapped on the file.
Instead of more security footage, the file had been recorded with an ordinary camera. It started with someone adjusting the camera, their black chest almost completely blocking the lens. Then they backed away and sat down on the desk in the darkened Director's Office, allowing Alyssa to see their face.
"Cheryl." Alyssa whispered.
Cheryl was wearing the black coat worn by the gas-masked killer that had single-handedly wiped out Mr. Big's goons at the Arctic House, the hood pulled over her head. Her eyes glowed red in the glare of an unseen bright light.
"Alice." Cheryl spoke evenly, her calm tone not matching her haggard appearance at all. "Alice. If you are watching this, then you have fallen into our hands. It would have been better if you had never come to Zootopia, but there is nothing I can do about that now. Other than, of course, keeping you here where you can't get yourself killed trying to stop me from going through with my plans."
Alyssa's grip nearly broke the tablet in half. "Why?"
"I know you like starting new things from the beginning. Even the Marmotchef series… all twenty-six of them. That means you will have watched the other eleven videos preceding this one. If you haven't, then what the hell is wrong with you?"
Alyssa laughed quietly.
"Alice, we've been friends for a long time." Cheryl went on. "So I'm hoping that after all this time you still care about what has happened to me. If you've watched the other videos, which you should have, then I hope you got the answers you sought."
Alyssa nodded, her eyes feeling damp. Somehow she knew she wasn't going to like what was on the other videos.
On the screen, Cheryl's expression changed, turning sorrowful. "Alice, listen carefully. I may seem sane now, but the next time we meet I may be a very different mammal than the one you knew. That flat faced cu… Dr. Slothfeld… injected me and the other predators with a serum as part of the experiment. But this serum is different than the one being used in the savage attacks in Zootopia. It-" Cheryl paused, scrunched her eyes shut and rubbed her temple. "The serum is derived from a rare plant known locally as Nighthowlers. It looks like a pretty blue flower with five petals, but anyone who ingests it will become aggressive. Very, very aggressive. On Swinton's orders Slothfeld developed two different types of serum from the flower. One is so potent that a tiny vial can render a lion completely feral. The other invokes a little-known disorder known as the Twilight Phenomenon. What that means is that in very rare cases, a victim of Nighthowler will not go savage. Instead they will lose most if not all their inhibitions, essentially becoming a psychopath. They possess violent tendencies, but still retain their ability to speak, and are capable of things like using weapons, opening doors, and formulating strategies. This makes them, in many ways, far more dangerous that their savage counterparts. It was the second serum Slothfeld used on us." Cheryl looked slightly downward, eyes darkening as they moved out of the light. Alyssa sensed raw violence radiating from the feline, even though she was just an image on a screen.
"I can feel it." Cheryl spoke, gritting her teeth for a moment. She lifted her naked, crimson red paws as she looked down at them. "I can feel Twilight clawing its way back into my brain. Every day it gets harder. Part of me welcomes it. Don't try to save me, Alice. It may already be too late. Just make sure Slothfeld pays. Expose him. Expose Swinton and every other bastard who's a part of this. Find the truth of their legacy, and then burn it to the ground."
Cheryl stood up and reached toward the camera. From Alyssa's perspective it looked like she was reaching out to touch her. The screen went blank, just like the face of the vixen's reflection.
"You're wrong." Alyssa said. "It's not too late. I can't condone what you've done, I will find a way to help you. And if I can't…" She looked again at the file named SUBJECT #1 INTERROGATION. "God help the cocksucker that did this to you."