Another morning at the ZPD Precinct 1, Chief Bogo was handing out assignments with his usual enthusiasm. "Delgado, Fangmeyer: traffic patrol. Wolfard, Grizzoli: break in at Savannah Central. Hopps, Wilde: I don't know why but some foreign dignitary has requested you two as a police escort."
Judy looked confused at the announcement of their new assignment, whereas Nick simply rolled his eyes in exasperation. "How much you wanna bet it's some ambassadorial prima donna who only asked for the two cops she could name just because she could?" He threw in. "Should be entertaining at least."
"Don't know, don't care, the details are on your desks." Bogo dismissed the precinct to their duties without further ceremony.
Nick and Judy ran back to their desk and quickly flipped through the file they'd been given. "Huh," the vulpine officer commented, "haven't seen a file this sparse in a while, have we?"
Judy held up the sole sheet of paper in the file. "Not since the Otterton case, actually." The photo showed a middle-aged female snow leopard wearing a green sari. It gave her name as "Gudrun Korba" and said she was a trade representative from "the Federation of Centaurus" but not much else. "Hmm," she thought, "have you ever heard of this 'Centaurus Federation' Nick?"
Nick shrugged, "can't say that geography was ever my strong suit." He started to pull out his phone. "Here's a thought, since we're not meeting her until noon, why don't we try to look up whatever we can about these people in the meantime."
Frustratingly, there was sparse enough information available on the internet concerning the so-called Federation. There was a stub of a WikiPawdia article stating that Centaurus was the capital of a small chain of islands somewhere in the middle of the ocean. It said that the islands were settled thousands of years ago by a variety of species cast off from all over the world, and they had been unified under a dynasty of silver foxes some 800 years ago while the present government was a constitutional monarchy but little else. There weren't even latitude and longitude coordinates listed. Though the reason for the ridiculous lack of information soon became apparent.
"Thirty-two years?" Judy stared in amazement at one of the few bits of trivia available. "They last contacted us thirty-two years ago?"
"Talk about isolationism." Nick added. "I know some people don't like their neighbors, nations especially, but I just been born when our Gudrun's predecessor was here last. Still," he said jokingly, "a kingdom ruled by foxes. Maybe they'll accept immigrants?"
Judy shot him a look of incredulity and went back to work.
Three hours later the two officers were at the airport terminal meeting with their charge. The trade rep was a bit tall for her species, over five and a half feet, and approached with careful, measured steps. "Ah," she said, craning her neck to look down at them, "you two must be Officer Hopps and Officer Wilde. I've heard so much about you two." Her Zoolish was perfectly enunciated but with a slight accent neither officer could identify.
Judy was instantly at attention. "Good afternoon Ms. Korba. How may we be of service?"
Korba chuckled lightly to herself. "Did they tell you to act so stiffly? Call me Gudrun, you'll be watching me for a few days so try not to strain yourself."
Nick shot his partner a knowing glance and stepped forward. "So, Gudrun, what need do you have for Zootopia's finest?" Somehow he managed to say it with a straight face.
"Why don't we talk someplace more comfortable." The snow leopard suggested, gesturing to a bar over by the terminal's entrance. The officers went ahead and found a booth with adjustable seating, enabling everyone to sit at each other's eye level. After ordering (sunflower soda for the officers on duty, an elaborate fruity cocktail for the dignitary), she began to speak again with a more somber tone. "I heard about that incident with that specieist demagogue, Bellwether was it?"
Judy sighed audibly. "Trust me, we're not going to forget that name anytime soon."
"Yes," Gudrun contemplated, "you two were the ones who solved that case, correct?" Both the bunny and the fox nodded at once. "Well, for one thing I wanted to hear the facts of the matter straight from the two most familiar with the incident." A waiter passed her a drink and she waved it in their vague direction. "If it's not against regulations I would most like to hear the whole thing from your perspective."
Nick and Judy shared a look of surprise before Nick spoke up. "Well, I was plying my trade as a perfectly reputable Pawpsicle vendor..."
Judy elbowed him sharply and he stopped for a second. "Okay, as a legal Pawpsicle vendor, when this bunny dressed like a cop comes to accost me..."
The two of them related the whole Night Howler incident from their perspectives: the missing mammals, how they were found in an old mental hospital absent their ability to reason, and much to Judy's shame the flubbed press conference that led to temporarily raised prejudices against predators before the true cause of the outbreak was revealed. They left out any mention of blackmail or mob ties.
"Hmm." Gudrun commented when the story was complete. "Sounds like you accomplished quite the feat there. Deposing not one, but two corrupt mayors who had muscle backing them." Judy thought it a bit odd that she had chosen that part to focus on, but let it slip to the back of her mind. "So, you say that speciesism in this city-state has gone back down to its prior levels after Bellwether's arrest?"
"Well..." Judy looked a bit nervous. "Actually, I think it's gotten better a bit now. We have two small mammals in the ZPD, both valued members of the force. Though, I don't think I've seen a sloth who didn't work in government yet..."
"Hey, look at that." Nick interrupted, pointing at the TV over the bar. "Isn't that interesting?"
The moose anchor on ZNN was talking about the space program. "...For the first time in the nearly 20 years since the first modules were launched, the space station lies uninhabited and will continue to be so for the next eight months. The Zootopia Air and Space Administration or ZASA has so far refused to comment but rumors of recent budget cuts have many space enthusiasts concerned about the future of the program..."
"Oh yes," Gudrun glanced over at the TV with little interest. "Shame about those budget cuts, there's so much potential out there but you wouldn't know it without trying." She absently swirled the remains of her cocktail. "Now, I was wondering about something else. Judy, you don't mind if I call you Judy do you?" The bunny cop nodded her assent. "Good, now it sounded to me like you were doing both investigative work and... parking duties?"
Judy groaned. "Apparently, meter maids are normally a different department of the Precinct. But when Chief Bogo heard that a little bunny was being assigned to his patrol unit by Mayor Lionhart he assumed that the posting was solely for political reasons and arranged with the supervisor to have me work parking."
"And were you, as you worded it, appointed for political reasons in your own opinion?"
"No!" Judy shouted back. "Sorry, I mean maybe he put me in Precinct 1 as part of his Mammal Inclusion Initiative but I graduated valedictorian at the Academy."
"Rumor has it," Nick threw in, "that after she solved all the missing mammals' cases at once Bogo called up her instructor. She gave him an earful about "assuming that she'd pass anyone who couldn't cut it" and he was forced to admit to himself that he'd screwed up." The fox grimaced at a recent memory. "And believe me Sergeant Polar is one hell of a teacher. I barely managed to pass her course myself."
"Okay then." Gudrun acceded. "In my homeland, the civil protection authorities further specialize by separating out the uniformed patrolbeings from the investigators. Unlike the police meant to look conspicuous, investigators largely wear civilian clothes and only show their badges when necessary."
"What do you know." Nick said. "Someone else around here agrees with me about the police's fashion sense." Judy, remembering Nick's garish floral-patterned shirt and tie, groaned and buried her face in one of her forepaws.
"Well," the trade rep continued. "I wanted to have a chance to see your city from a completely civilian perspective. It might look odd for me to be escorted by two police in uniform so I was wondering if you were required to be in uniform the whole time or if you could wear anything a bit less conspicuous."
"Rules out most of your wardrobe." Judy muttered under her breath in Nick's direction. To Gudrun she said "we'll have to check with the Chief. Would you like to go to your hotel room now?"
"Yes, I have been traveling a long time and it would be good to rest." The snow leopard got to her feet, stumbling almost imperceptibly before lifting her purse, followed by her escort.
Gudrun Korba, negotiator for the Federation of Parahuman Species-registered Free Trader Undutiful Son closed the door to her hotel room behind her and examined her luggage. The two suitcases of clothes had been delivered to the room while she was chatting with Nick and Judy, she had expected them to be rifled through by the Zootopian Intelligence Agency but there was nothing of real value in there. This group had been professional enough to leave everything and make an attempt to conceal their investigations, but she noticed the signs regardless.
Satisfied, she withdrew what looked like an early smartphone with a physical keyboard from her purse and set it on the windowsill. Seconds later it reconfigured itself into an optical sensor dish and a laser projector. It searched the dimming sky for a few minutes before focusing on a small bright star coming just over the horizon. Connection established, Gudrun commanded her implant to open a short-range link with the laser communicator.
I've spoken with a couple of the natives. She sent. Two officers who recently thwarted a demagogue spreading an intolerance meme directed at predatory species.
The mental voice of her captain came back over the laser stream. Were they able to contain the outbreak? Shigeto Terryn asked.
From what I gathered they were able to bring the infection back down to previous levels, with a possible reduction in the general population but normally I would expect some individuals to retain the more severe strain. Anyone observing her in her room would have noticed her sigh. I do not believe they will be ready for admittance in less than a generation.
A third voice joined the conversation. My cousins will not be pleased to hear that. Jarlin Fairhold de Argentum, the Silver House's representation on board their ship. These outcasts have developed some novel genotypes, they're halfway between conventional Parahumans and Uplifts. Think of the perspective they could bring to the Federation.
It's unfortunate that we won't be able to share our cure for aging with these people. Gudrun added. And given our deal with their government, that we wouldn't reveal our true origin unless we were ready to admit them to the Federation, what we can sell to them is severely curtailed. She stood up cautiously, her legs lengthening as she leaned off of the mattress. I for one will be glad when I can use proper legs again, I'm surprised these people are even bipedal.