Case File – The Savage Dark
Reporting Agent: Code Name – Jack “Savage”
Current Whereabouts: Unknown
Agent Status: Unknown (Active)
“No, up until that point I had never seen a savage mammal engaged with another savage mammal. I have seen fights in the wild. I think we all have, especially now that there is the Discovery Channel and Reptile Planet for kits to watch. But seeing something on video, where it is disconnected by a screen that allows the mind to understand that what you’re seeing is distant and not dangerous, is completely different from seeing the real thing. Even seeing the bloody aftermath, because I have seen mammals torn apart on murder scenes involving large predators and even one who was stepped on multiple times by an angry elephant, doesn’t really compare.
“Adrenaline, for one thing. It sharpens the mind. Did you know that even color is more vivid when your adrenaline is up? Reaction time improves, your eyes dilate to allow in the light needed to see every detail of the scene before you, you breathe more quickly to saturate your blood in glucose to prepare you to fight or flee. It also sharpens the mind, recalling previous conversations in this recording, in regions that we normally don’t even use anymore in our day to day lives. Which is important to remember, because that is what caused Wilde’s rather spectacular relapse.
“Don’t get me wrong. Our scientists, Doctor Velox in particular, are more than capable. They tested the same antidote given to Wilde in various situations on other patients. Exposed them to fear, stress, sorrow, mild pain. Even things as positive as laughter, reunions with loved one and even sexual pleasure in one case. In none of the many, many tests did the subjects revert to their savage state. Wilde’s return was not exactly an anomaly but the situation he was placed in was significantly more intense than any lab test could duplicate. Had the mission gone as planned? We likely would never have known until much further down the road. In that single respect, it was beneficial because it halted our plans to release the other patients into the population of Zootopia again.
“It was all because Muste’s tastes in small females turned out to be anything but sexual. Frankly, I doubt there was a better way in all creation to reach those deeply buried instincts in Nick’s mind. I don’t blame him a bit for going savage.”
He was moving so fast that the asphalt scratched his paw pads when he turned the final corner leading to Wallabies, though he didn’t feel the sting. He knew that something was following him - he could see the ripples in the shadowy ring around his vision as clearly as he could see the bar in front of him - but he didn’t care. The pursuer was not a threat. The figure of the massive bear baring his way was the threat. He understood that a fox charging headfirst into the waiting paws of a bear was insane on pretty much every level. Jack and Wolford could have backed him up with guns and authority if he had waited a few more seconds. But he didn’t care. Understanding these things didn’t stop him when he heard Jack’s voice in his ear, calling urgently for someone to update what he was doing.
All he heard was the sound of tables being overturned and the snarls of a savage predator intent on killing what was his. His mate. His Judy. These past few days of perceived threats causing his instincts to rise had been nothing compared to this and even if the desire to stop existed, he couldn’t have. Driving forward, the blood screaming in his ears loud enough to drown out the voices on the radio. Sprinting on all fours towards the grizzly that outweighed him by close to five hundred pounds, he pushed his muscles until they should have been burning. But he felt nothing but the intense need to get into the bar and protect her.
The wolf who had stepped out just before Judy was attacked was already going down, knocked out by the dart sticking out of his neck. The bear noticed but was quickly distracted from any attempt to help by the sight of the charging fox. The look of perplexed amusement at the sight of the much smaller predator charging the front door was short lived when he seemed to realize that the luminescent eyes were sent into the face of a savage.
No matter their size, sensible mammals were never prepared to face a savage. They didn’t expect the chaos of the wild. The bear, massive as he was, took a surprised step back before seeming to decide that he could easily handle such a tiny threat. Every motion of the massive male was a ripple in the shadowy ring when he braced himself, lowered his stance and raised his arms a bit to receive the incoming charge. But he wasn’t ready when Nick, slowing only slightly from his charge as his sprint changed to a three-limbed lope, whipped the tranquilizer pistol from its holster at his hip. The bear froze, blinking down at the spread of seven tiny darts that appeared on his chest one after the other. That moment of lost eye contact was all Nick needed to finish his advance, flinging the gun to the side as he crossed the few yards remaining and launched himself into the bear.
Even with his massive size, the unexpected impact of an insane fox on his chest staggered the bear enough to allow the fox time to dig his claws into cloth and scramble up and over one shoulder. By the time the bear seemed to realize what was happening, it was already too late to stop the arms that looped around his wide muzzle. Already half-drunk from the potent overdose of tranquilizers, the grizzly could only swing wild and weak as he stumbled further back and slammed into the double doors of the bar with a roar of pain.
Focused on staying on top of the bear as he was, Nick was still aware of every scent once the doors caved and they went crashing through. Her scent was faint, new, tiny compared to the rest. But the stink of predator was all around him. Pungent and thick, enough to overpower the noses of most mammals. This was marked territory, rank with the scent of badger and wolf and the fainter scent of blood coming from the kitchen. A den of killers and flesh eaters.
And he had let her walk into it.
Fear and protective rage became pure fury. Leaping from the shoulders of the bear as the massive mammal finally dropped, rolling onto all fours to face his mate when he saw her. There was no time to feel the comfort of seeing her unhurt because of the beast chasing her. His lips peeled back as a snarl of challenge escaped him, the sound enough to distract the badger from his pursuit of the rabbit. Even as undecided and unprepared as he was, the badger was quicker to recover than the bear had been. The instinct to protect his territory and claim his prey clashed with fox’s need to protect his mate. So, when Nick’s lashing tail broadcasted his attack, the badger met him head first, their bodies collided in an ugly mass of lashing limbs and snapping teeth.
The fact that the badger had a weight advantage over him was quickly obvious. Even as teeth snapped no more than an inch from his paw when he smacked it soundly across the blunt muzzle of the other male, pain flared in his ribs as he was knocked onto his tail with one solid blow. The claw resistant weave of the tactical shirt prevented him from feeling the bite of claws but the impact alone left him winded with aching ribs. Growling low in his throat, he struggled upright only to have the badger attack again before he could gather himself. A quick pull of his hind legs under the heavy predator’s belly was all that prevented gnashing teeth from snapping down on his neck. It took repeated panicked kicks, his foot claws ripping through the fabric before the badger yelped in pain and writhed away with pinned ears and a line of bleeding cuts on his belly.
Rolling away and onto all fours, the fox knew he wouldn’t be able to handle this more durable adversary head on. His mate was no longer in direct danger because the badger was no longer after her. While that did not dim his need to protect or the rage of the very existence of the other predator near her, but it did allow survival instinct and his remaining intellect to guide him when the badger rushed forward again. Rather than meet the charge, he scampered back and out of range. His lithe frame and quick paws easily outpaced the enraged badger, who tore across the bar in short bursts that always ended with the fox just out of reach.
He waited for an opening until another furious charge left the badger panting and unbalanced only a foot away from him. Taking the advantage, hind legs bunching, he jumped up nearly vertical and came crashing down on the badger’s back with his teeth fastened into the back of the thick neck. The hissing snarl of the suddenly very active and thrashing badger only increased the tension of his bite as he twisted and yanked his muzzle from side to side viciously. The coppery flavor of blood filled his muzzle as the metallic tang of it filled the air thickly. Desperate and violent as the grip was, he was only dislodged when the larger mammal rolled onto his back, forcing a release and roll away.
He pushed the advantage as the wounded male shook his head and staggered unsteadily sideways on all four paws, darting forward to snap his bloody into one stubby leg. He wrenched and yanked it as he bored down to drag Muste until the badger stumbled and dropped onto his belly. But Nick didn’t release. He bit down until he felt the grind of bone against his canines along with a fresh gush of hot blood on his tongue. The hissing yowl of pain from the badger was satisfying on a primal level, but in his anger, Nick held on longer than he should have. The slap of a paw and the rake of claws down the length of his muzzle blinded him for a moment as pain flared in the side of his face and caused his world to go white for a moment. Stumbling away, he barely managed to get away before the now limping badger tried to advance with another snap of his own powerful jaws, forcing him to scramble under the legs of a chair to escape. Even that didn’t get him far as the stocky predator barreled under the chair after him, sending it crashing across the bar as they began the chase all over again.
Once the pain fueled rage began to pass, the state of the badger became clear when he slowed to a stop. Blood dripped from the ravaged back of his neck and pooled on the once clean floor with every laborious step he took on his mangled leg. He was weakened, seriously wounded compared to the mostly unhurt fox. Panting heavily now, knowing that the fight was not going to turn in his favor, the badger turned and waddled quickly toward the bar in search of a possible means of escape.
Nick, while there were bloody stripes on his muzzle and pain from his bruised ribs, readied himself to press the attack and made to block the escape. He wouldn’t stop until the threat was dead. He would bleed the badger, ripping one limb and chunk of flesh at a time until there was nothing left but glassy eyes and cold…
The sudden, rapid ‘thwip thwip thwip’ that accompanied the appearance of three darts in Muste’s rump caused his head to snap towards the door. A striped male bunny and gray wolf stood at the door, tranquilizer rifles at the swaying badger before he dropped to the floor in a graceless sprawl. It wasn’t clear even to him if it was that he had been denied the pleasure of slowly slaughtering Muste or the weapons themselves, but his rage bubbled all over again.
“Nick, you have to stop.”
Softly spoken words in the only voice that he wanted to hear. A voice that soothed his anger and directed his attention away from the two males as they lowered their guns and put up their paws to show that they were no threat. There was no need to doubt or wonder if she was afraid of the things she had seen. Not beyond his own injuries, anyway. But it was still important to him when he turned and saw her standing beside him. Had it not been for Muste, he never would have lost track of where she was and he was more than happy to let her scent drown out his need to alert to every sound or motion in the room. When tiny paws reached up to cup both sides of his bloodied muzzle, he hesitated as he became aware of the taste of blood in his mouth. Blood that was not his own. The roll of his stomach was the first sign to him that his sanity was returning, though the desire to retch was staved off by the slow slide of her fingers over his cheeks.
“Judy,” he said, his voice raw as he felt all four limbs weaken and want to give out.
“It’s okay, Nick,” she murmured as he dropped down onto his rear, his harsh panting slowing as nausea battled with relief that she seemed uninjured. “I’m safe. It’s going to be fine. Jack, what the hell happened?”
“That should be fairly obvious,” the other bunny replied coolly as he carefully made his way around the two of them towards the unmoving Muste. Nick ignored him and instead reached up to swipe the back of his paw over his muzzle to try to get the taste of meat and metal out of his mouth. “The antidote failed. Thankfully, even though he was forced into actual violence this time, your ability to calm him doesn’t seem affected. Nightingale, we’re going to need a medical team on site to stabilize the target. Superficial wounds but noticeable bleeding. And I have no idea what effect Feral Blue will have when he wakes up, so make sure they have the proper restraints.”
“Two wolves in flight through the back,” Swift’s voice said calmly through the ear pieces. “Containment in progress.”
“There is one more,” Judy said, even as she wrapped her arms around his head to draw his head down to her chest. He closed his eyes and breathed in the scent of her, letting it drown out the smell of blood as the sound of her heartbeat ease the lingering fear and anger. “The kitchen.”
“Wolford,” Jack said simply, followed by the sound of two sets of footfalls shuffling past and into the kitchen. A few seconds later, he winced and jumped against Judy at the eruption of shouting and live gunfire following by the softer hiss of tranquilizers being fired.
“Clear. He’s down,” came Wolford’s voice, adding to the slow calm spreading through him at the gentle stroke of paws over the back of his neck.
“Alpha, we have a situation.”
“Report,” the striped rabbit replied as he returned from the kitchen, Nick lifting his eyes to check the buck and wolf for any sign of injury. Finding none, he relaxed marginally.
“Incoming vehicles,” came the curt reply. “Two large class vans, three cars, and an armored car. Heading your way.”
All eyes in the room turned to Jack as he paused his forward motion and stood with a frown turning down the corners of his muzzle. Nick caught his eyes when they moved to him, the frown deepening as his ears radared towards the front entrance as the glare of headlights swung through the bar. He could feel the tension radiating from the rabbit, hear the grinding of his teeth as he set his jaw and flexed the paw holding the grip on his rifle. His felt his hackles rise again as that tension bled into the air, his muscles tensing as he turned his attention to the sound of van doors sliding open and the thump of many heavy, booted feet on the asphalt.
“Ten unknowns on the ground,” came the whispered words from one of the sniper team. “Tactical vests, submachine guns, breaching gear loaded for bear. Three medium mammals moving to the rear to cover the exit. Swift, better ghost.”
“Already gone,” the cheetah replied, his own voice low. “Half a block down, waiting for your word, Alpha.”
“Weapons off,” Jack said suddenly, dropping his paws away from the rifle and letting it hang free from the chest strap. “Sniper team, go silent. Nightingale, stay high and dark. I feel like I’ll be needing you in one piece soon. I want no engagement until I give the word and know who we’re dealing with. Hopps, can you keep him calm?”
“I’ll do my best,” she murmured, keeping her arms wrapped around his neck. The words were not comforting to Nick. The uncertainty in the room and all of those within it had his lips wanting to pull back from his teeth, but staying close to Judy was his primary goal now. He would find a way to defend her, he didn’t care how many of them there were.
Whatever restraint he had left in him was lost when he saw the mammals charge through the front door with weapons raised. The shouts of ‘Don’t move! ZIA!’ in all of their cliché glory grated on him. It was the pair of rhinos, the largest of the mammals in the formation, that snapped his control when they swung their weapons around and leveled them on Judy. It never occurred to him that they were targeting him because of the vicious, blood-soaked state he was in. All he knew was that the weapons were a threat.
She clearly didn’t expect the sudden twist of his body as he pulled backward and out of her arms. Hearing her cry for him to stop came too late this time as red ringed the corners of his vision instead of gray and he rushed forward.
“Tasers and tranqs only!” came a feline command less than a second before something snagged in his fur as he readied himself to attack the nearest rhino.
Every muscle on his body convulsed once before they seized like iron as the pulses of electricity rolled through him from the barbs lodged in his arm. He couldn’t move but to fall forward, the forward motion of his charge carrying him forward until he slammed into hoof of the rhino who held the Taser gun. He couldn’t struggle, though he tried as the pain blanked his ability to do more than panic further. He snarled and barked at his attackers, or at least tried to. The sounds never reached his own ears as he twitched and shuttered on the ground, only able to watch helplessly as a wire loop on the end of a pole was extended and wrapped around his throat.
“Wolford, hold her!”
“Let go! Get your paws off him! You’re hurting him! Nick! Nick!”
Her scream was desperate, full of fear and anguish. The second the pulses from the Taser stopped, he tried to move again. Feeling weak and a little lightheaded, the rage and panic combined when he could turn his head and see that Judy was struggling to get away from the larger predator holding her back. While he didn’t feel fear that she was being held, the fact that more of the guns in the room had been turned in her direction. Forcing himself to all fours, he tried to move towards her. Protect. Shield her with his own body if he had to. He stumbled forward only to feel the noose around his neck tighten and drag him back towards the entrance to the bar.
“Take Wilde to the transport,” came the feminine voice again, drawing his gaze to the source. The snow-white vixen, dressed in a dark gray one-piece bodysuit, stood at the center of the mass of armed mammals. “Control your bunnyfriend, Jack. It would be a shame if we had to shoot her.”
The fox’s lips pulled back as a strangled but loud growl escaped him. He tried to yank himself forward, desperate to escape now as he tried to twist free of the noose by thrashing his body towards the offensive bitch who had threatened his mate. When that failed, his struggles became crazed twists. The pain in his neck meant nothing, the tightening of wire making it hard to breathe only made him angry and desperate and the cry of his mate had him clawing at his own throat in an attempt to cut himself free.
The sharp pain in his arm was hardly noticed amid the fear and desperation to escape, but the effects were swift. Strength fled his limbs as he felt a numbness roll through his body, a numbness that settled over his mind as his struggles died down to weak squirming as his vision swam. Rolling his head towards his mate as his breathing evened and sensation of any kind fled, his last vision of her were the tears shimmering in her eyes before darkness consumed him.
The tears, and the anguish that caused them, only lasted for a few seconds before a numb anger settled over her. Watching the now limp, motionless body of her partner being dragged out of the bar caused a seething and sudden hatred for the vixen. The vixen who was still holding the long-barreled, silenced sniper rifle, which she had just used to dart Nick, at the ready on her shoulder when she turned her attention to Jack.
“A pleasure to finally meet you, Jack,” she said, her voice coolly pleasant somehow. It only made Judy, who was still being restrained by Wolford, want to kick her until that smug fox smile was nothing but a mass of broken teeth and dislocated jaw. “I’m afraid I’ll be taking Wilde. I must admit, I am surprised that you have taken interest in this case. But this is ZIA territory.”
Too furious to be surprised that the vixen knew who Jack was, Judy stopped her struggles against Wolford as she turned her eyes to the agent. He saved himself a good deal of grief with the gaze he had leveled on the artic fox: ice blues were cold and dangerous even though he kept his paws well away from the weapon slung over his chest. He might have seemed expressionless to most, but she would see the flare of his nostrils and the slight quiver that race through his ears now and then. He was a very angry bunny who was hiding it very well.
“Special Agent Skye,” was his reply, his voice many degrees lower than the already icy blue eyes that didn’t waver from the vixen. Judy could see the surprise in the hesitant waiver of the weapon she held and the twitch of her ears as they tried to lay back. “I suppose you’ve been watching Muste longer than I have.”
“We’ve been waiting for some development, though Muste is too stubborn to talk,” she said, waving her paw in a dismissive gesture towards the still unconscious badger. “Maybe you can get something out of him and pass it along. We’re on the same side, after all.”
“Hand over Wilde and we’ll see about that,” Jack replied, his tone anything but easy. He never raised it, never even changed his tone really. But something in it now made Judy’s fur prickle. A feeling that seemed to be shared as the vixen’s thick coat of fur seemed to ripple and rise before she managed to contain the reaction. “He is under my protection.”
“Mm. No no, Jack.” She clucked her tongue once as she glanced around the room at the armed mammals around them. “These large, heavily armed individuals around us tell me that he is now under my protection. Don’t worry so much. We’re just going to contain him until a cure can be found. We’re not monsters.”
“That remains to be seen, but it changes nothing. If you leave here with Wilde, I will get him back by any and all means available to me.”
Judy watched her eyes narrow and her grip on the rifle tighten for a moment as she held Jack’s eyes. While some of her fear had ebbed when this Skye had promised that Nick wouldn’t be harmed, that did not mean that she was ready to let him go into the paws of an agency that Jack didn’t trust. She wouldn’t have been willing to let him go into the paws of someone she trusted for that matter. Not if she wasn’t there to watch over him.
“Are you really going to take on the ZIA for one fox?”
“The question is,” Jack said, drawing her gaze back to him with the ice dripping from every word, “is the ZIA ready to stop me?”
The uncomfortable silence that fell over the room was only broken by the sounds of gloved paws squeezing down on SMG grips, the shuffle of uneasy movement and the beat of her own heart. For the first time, the vixen looked spooked. The smug expression, which just might have been a fox trait, wavered for a moment as her ears flicked and her tail stilled behind her. She looked ready to answer before she paused and raised her paw to one ear. After listening for a moment, she returned her eyes to the three of them, looking for the most part like she had shaken off the momentary hesitation.
“Understood. We’re withdrawing. The doc is ready for our newest patient,” she said, one paw raised to motion her units to withdraw. Which they did, filing out of the bar in a neatly practiced backward retreat formation that allowed them to keep their eyes and their guns leveled on Jack for as long as possible.
Jack didn’t reply. He simply kept his eyes on her as she backed towards the door herself. Judy felt the need to pull against Wolford again as the ache in her gut deepened. They were taking Nick away from her and there was nothing she could do to stop them. How long? How long before Jack acted? How many days would they be apart? Would the vixen keep her word that no harm would come to him? If they hurt him, hurt Her Fox…
“Oh, one question before I go, Jack,” the vixen asked as she and a single rhino paused at the exit. Her smile was almost playful, almost flirtatious as she focused her eyes on him. “How did such a cute little bunny end up with the call sign ‘Savage?’”
The fact that the smug question and the use of the term ‘cute little bunny’ reminded her of her first meetings with Nick made Judy want to break that muzzle all over again. So much so that she yanked against Wolford’s paws, prompting him to squeeze her almost reassuringly. Which only managed to irritate her, because she didn’t want to be reassured. She wanted to punch the bitch who smiled pleasantly and waited for a reply.
None came. Jack simply stood where he was, unmoving with a small smile barely perceptible at the corners of his mouth. There was a long moment of silence between them again before the fox huffed and looked deflated.
“No answer, huh?” She sighed, a bit dramatically before she shrugged and jerked her head for the rhino to take his leave. “Ah well. Be seeing you, Jack.”
Judy held her tongue as she listened to the multiple doors slam and engines come to life outside, her teeth grinding together as she resisted the desire to give in to the ache in her chest and break down. It would have been easy enough to do, with Wolford holding her like he was. Instead, she waited as the sounds of the vehicles faded into the distance before she opened her mouth. Opened it, just as Jack motioned for the wolf to release her.
“We’re going after them,” she demanded, her ears pinned back as she stalked towards the door in a reflexive move that had her looking out into the dark night after the convoy she could no longer see.
“Yes,” Jack replied simply, his tone as calm as it had been during his conversation with the vixen. “Sniper team, keep visual on them as long as possible and tell me if you can judge their direction.”
“Roger, Alpha. They are headed west.”
“We’re going after them now,” she demanded, narrowing the window.
“Yes,” he replied again, surprising her slightly when he moved to stand beside her. “Right now. Nightingale, I need the package on the ground five minutes ago. Swift, get back to the vans and make sure recordings are in one piece. If they noticed them on their way in, they may have been smart enough to wipe them.”
“Right now, Jack.”
“Yes, right now,” he said, turning to face her as he unclipped the rifle from his chest and passed it over to Wolford who looked ready to take off down the street on foot if needed. “I promise you that I would not let you and Wilde be separated. I break a lot of promises, I won’t deny that. Comes with the job. But when someone tries to break one of my promises for me? That just pisses me off.”
She was eased by his now obvious anger as he unsnapped and stripped the armored vest off, carelessly flinging it back into the bar with more force than was needed. “So, what do we do?”
“You and Wolford are going to ride with Nightingale to the ZPD,” he said and held up a paw when she prepared to protest. “We need a heavy vehicle and the ZPD is the closest place to find them. Just tell Bogo… Whatever you need to tell him and get your paws on the heaviest SWAT vehicle you can handle at high speeds.”
The hum of the helicopter drew her eyes to the sky for a moment, where she saw the same black beast of a machine that had carried them to the Agency the day before. The fact that she had not been aware of it, had not heard it, told her that it was capable of running far quieter than a normal helicopter despite its size. When she turned her eyes back to Jack, she was surprised to find that he was pulling the tactical shirt off as well. There was half a second of interest in the bare rabbit for a moment when she realized that he had the same black stripes running down his shoulders and arms. But it only lasted for a moment as Nightingale touched down.
“And what will you be doing?”
“I’m going after them,” he replied, turning blue eyes to her with the same odd grin that he had given Skye moments ago before moving towards the rear of the chopper. “She asked me a question. It’s only fair that I give her the answer.”