Five years after the failed invasion
Judy looked out the shuttle window as they cleared the atmosphere and the flames from friction died away. They were in space now, officially they had left Zootopia, not just the city she had grown up admiring and enthusiastically emigrated to half a dozen years previous, but also the planet that many mammals were using the same name for. As the planet’s curvature receded below them she wondered what would become of her life now. For nearly seven years her life had been a series of upheavals. Becoming a police officer, moving to the big city, uncovering a conspiracy to destroy the foundations of Zootopia, an attack by aliens! And now she was going into space itself.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a hand resting on her shoulder, she turned to see her constant companion of the past half-decade leaning over her. “Something on your mind, my sly bunny?” Nick was strapped into the seat next to her, wearing a flight suit similar to her own like all the passengers on the shuttle that left only his head and hands uncovered.
With a glance at the gold band encircling his middle finger, Judy answered. “Just thinking, it’s been a hectic past few years. So many changes, some for the better, others for the worse. Which category might this fall under?”
Her husband snorted. “What? Afraid that Chief, sorry, Admiral Buffalo Butt will draft us into a galactic war for our survival?”
“Don’t kid about that!” She snapped, “you know the Militarists have been pushing for mandatory service ever since the Army and Navy were revived.” With a sigh, Judy continued. “I can understand their arguments, but you went through the crisis militia training with me too and you know how hard it was. I wouldn’t expect most bunnies or foxes, to say nothing of the rodent species, to make it through them. It would effectively be denying entire species the right to vote.”
“Alright, fine, no jokes about the draft. Bogo’s probably just going to ask us to transfer to a police department on one of the new mining stations they’re building in the Asteroid Belt.” Nick laid back in his chair and closed his eyes for a nap, they still had hours to go before reaching the Spaceport. Before falling asleep he remarked, “that attitude is why I married your fluffy butt.”
Judy half-snorted, half-giggled at that comment. “I thought it was because we weren’t certain either of us would live through these uncertain times? And you wanted to make sure you kept the apartment if I got squished on duty?”
Nick may have mumbled something along the lines of “not on its own.”
“Now, I just want to say, that I’m not going to force you to do this.” Admiral Mason Bogo sat down at his desk in the Spaceport administration across from the fox and bunny. “However, there are state secrets involved that I cannot tell you until you agree to the job. So now’s your last chance to back out.”
Nick raised an eyebrow and quipped, “what that’s it? Not even going to give us any hints? Like is the Bellwether/Xenomorph connection involved?”
Bogo glared at the impudent fox, snorted, and to both their surprise, answered. “Yes.”
The fox’s eyes widened and his ears slicked back in wild astonishment. “Wait, seriously? I thought that was just some crazy conspiracy theory?”
“I cannot say whether the theory is proven or refuted unless you agree to serve first.” The cape buffalo picked up a paper folder and started to rifle through the contents as he spoke. “What I can tell you is that we want you to command a survey mission.”
“Command?!” Judy spoke up, excited. “As in, commanding spaceships?”
“One laboratory ship, one armed escort. We were thinking that Wilde could apply his charms to keep the eggheads in line while Hopps keeps them out of trouble.” Bogo slapped the file shut with considerably more noise than necessary. “That is all I’m cleared to tell you now.”
The couple looked at each other expectantly. Nick, as usual, was the first to speak up. “So, Carrots, what do you think? Seeking out new worlds, boldly going where no mammal has gone before? Sure beats a boring picket fence and 2.5 dozen kits?”
Judy had to take a moment to consider. “I’ll admit, that does sound interesting. But, I also want to know whether there really was some link between Bellwether and the aliens. Was it really mammals who tried to undo everything Zootopia stood for?”
“I’ll take that as a “yes” then.” The fox turned to the buffalo. “Alright, Chief Admiral Bogo, we accept. Tell us those state secrets.”
Bogo sighed. “I thought you’d say that. Now, tell me, how familiar are you with the Bellwether/Xeno theory as you called it?”
“Well,” Nick replied. “There’s a hundred variants, but they all think there was some reason why the aliens destroyed the prisons where Dawn Bellwether and her goons were incarcerated. Some claim that Bellwether was working for them but was exposed and they had to silence her, others think she was an alien, others think that the aliens were eliminating the only leader who could marshal a resistance to their invasion or that the aliens were laying down their own idea of justice.”
“Right,” the Admiral replied. “You are aware that we found bodies in the wreckage of the destroyed ships, correct?”
Judy was first to speak up. “The articles I saw mentioned two species were found. One that resembled insects and another that were more reptilian. I think they were tentatively being named Xenos arthropoda and Xenos chelonidae by biologists.”
“Or Bugs and Leatherfaces as they’re called on the street.” Judy shot her mate a dirty look at his unprofessionalism.
“Accurate enough.” Bogo groaned. “The thing is, Bellwether and her crew were given medical examinations when they were incarcerated. Nothing invasive, but blood samples were taken. As it so happened the samples were stored outside the blast radii, and the DNA was compared to what was recovered from the Xenos carcasses.” He laid his hands on the desk to either side and leaned in close on the two mammals. “Bellwether’s blood carried markers in common with the Xenos arthropoda samples, while her hench-rams; Doug, Woolter, Jesse, and the two crooked officers, were Leatherfaces.”
Nick and Judy felt a strange mixture of horror and relief. Their assorted species had just barely avoided a takeover by strange beings from another world. Yet, now they knew that it wasn’t their fellow mammals who were responsible for the riots and discord that had nearly torn their civilization apart.
Noticing their mixed expressions, Bogo interjected. “Don’t get your hopes up just yet. We haven’t found any Xeno DNA in any of the other mammals we’ve arrested for hate crimes since the conspiracy. And that’s not all that was classified. You probably heard that the alien ships were driven off by the pre-salvage space program with rockets full of explosives.”
“I did think it a little odd that aliens who could vaporize city blocks from orbit could be convinced to retreat by what we had.”
“Exactly, the reality is, we could do nothing to stop them. The truth is, there was a second fleet. Around the time that the first fleet started to leave, our satellites spotted another group of unidentified flying objects appearing out of nowhere at the edge of our solar system. After which they proceeded to pulverise the first fleet from halfway across the system and then moved on to the station here.”
“We didn’t even build this space station?” Judy asked, tentatively.
“To be fair, the second fleet didn’t really leave much intact.” Bogo pressed a button on his desk and a panel in the wall off to the side began to slide upwards, revealing a window into another section of the station. It appeared to be a large hallway of some sort, the floor covered with shattered chunks of hull and boxes that might have been cargo containers, a couple mammals in spacesuits were busy sorting through the detritus. The reason for the protection became obvious as the cover reached the ceiling. With a wave at the massive hole in the canopy of the external room he continued. “We have yet to find any derelicts, debris, or bodies from the aggressors. As such, we have no idea what their motives in destroying the Xenos presence in our system may have been. Personally, I hope they were some sort of galactic police, but for all I know they wanted to conquer us themselves.”
“Wow,” Nick gasped. “Have any other world-shattering surprises for us sir?”
“Yes.” Bogo turned the monitor on his desk towards them, showing a schematic of two spaceships with one particular component highlighted on the both of them. “We were able to reverse-engineer the faster-than-light drives on the Xenos ships. Hopps, Wilde, you’re leaving the Zol system.”
It was a full five minutes before either one of the couple could muster the will to respond.